Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In Flanders fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
—By John McCrae

PNG Aids victims 'buried alive'

Last Updated: Monday, 27 August 2007, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
PNG Aids victims 'buried alive'
Woman walks by an Aids awareness billboard in PNG - 18/08/07
Raising awareness of HIV/Aids in PNG is a difficult task
Some people with HIV/Aids in Papua New Guinea are being buried alive by their relatives, a health worker says.

Margaret Marabe said families were taking the extreme action because they could no longer look after sufferers or feared catching the disease themselves.

Ms Marabe said she saw the "live burials" with her own eyes during a five-month trip to PNG's remote Southern Highlands.

PNG is in the grip of an HIV/Aids epidemic - the worst in the region.

Officials estimate that 2% of the six million population are infected, but campaigners believe the figure is much higher.

HIV diagnoses have been rising by around 30% each year since 1997, according to a UN Aids report.


Margaret Marabe, a known local activist in PNG, carried out an awareness campaign in the Tari area of the Southern Highlands earlier this year.

"I saw three people with my own eyes. When they got very sick and people could not look after them, they buried them," she told reporters.


She described how one person called out "mama, mama" as the soil was being shovelled over their head.

Villagers told her that such action was common, she said.

HIV/Aids is mostly spread in the country through heterosexual intercourse, and polygamy, rape and sexual violence are widespread.

Those caught up in the epidemic are often thought to be the victims of witchcraft.

Women accused of being witches have been tortured and murdered by mobs holding them responsible for the epidemic, according to officials and researchers.

Church leaders have described Aids patients being thrown off bridges or left to starve in back gardens in the past, the BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney reports.

Ms Marabe, who works for the Igat Hope organisation in the capital, Port Moresby, said people in remote parts of the country remained ignorant about HIV/Aids and urged the government to take action.

"There are no voluntary counselling training centres in Tari. There are also no training programmes on HIV," she was quoted by PNG's Post-Courier newspaper as saying.

PNG's Secretary for Health Dr Nicholas Mann admitted to the BBC in an interview last year that the multitude of cultures and languages in the country made it difficult to get the HIV/Aids message across.

But he said Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare had brought the issue under his remit, and the government was working with agencies on a co-ordinated approach to tackling the crisis.

China girl completes 3,500km run

Last Updated: Monday, 27 August 2007, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
China girl completes 3,500km run
Zhang Huimin, Chinese eight-year-old runner, and her father
The girl's father denies abusing his daughter by forcing her to run

A Chinese girl has arrived in Beijing after running more than 3,550km (2,200 miles) from the southern province of Hainan in less than two months.

Zhang Huimin, eight, rose each day at 0230 and ran about 1.5 marathons (64km, 40 miles), Xinhua news agency said. Her father accompanied her on a bicycle.

He said the feat was aimed at drawing attention to her Olympic potential ahead of the Beijing games next year.

He denied forcing her to run, but some experts have said it amounted to abuse.

The girl arrived in the Chinese capital on Sunday after starting out in Hainan on 3 July.

She loves to run. Many people don't understand us
Zhang Jianmin

Zhang Huimin, who is 1.22m (4ft) tall and weighs 21kg (46lb), is too young to compete in the 2008 Olympics but her father, Zhang Jianmin, believes she can compete in the 2016 games, when she will be 17.

Domestic media and some experts have accused her father of abuse, saying running such long distances could damage the girl's body and affect her growth.

"I make the training fun for her. I don't push her," Mr Zhang told the Beijing News.

"She loves to run. Many people don't understand us," he said.

Zhang and his wife have separated, mainly because she opposed his way of training their daughter, the newspaper reported.

"Whether people oppose it or not, we will soldier on," Mr Zhang said.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dead Like Me Reapercussions (1.4)

George: I was just calling you, to see if there was anything I could do to help.
George: [voiceover] I became aware of the words only after they left my mouth.
Dolores: I like the way you show initiative, Millie. I like it a lot. I'd better watch my back, pretty soon you'll have my job.
George: Only after you get a promotion.
Dolores: Oh.
George: [voiceover] I felt dirty.

Mason: I feel like I've been poisoned. Have you been poisoned?
Rube: No, not on purpose. I had some bad salmon once. I don't touch the stuff anymore.
Mason: Was it salmon mousse?
Rube: I don't know. It was canned.
[This is a reference to Monty Python's Meaning of Life where the Grim Reaper tells some snobs that they all died from eating bad salmon mousse made with canned salmon]

Rube: You pulled the wrong piece out of the Jenga tower little girl. You know what a hiccup is?
George: Yes.
Rube: You got yourself a hiccup. Something happens that's not supposed to happen. System has to figure out what that something is and fix it. P. J. Monroe.
George: I'm sorry.
Rube: What'd you do? Slash his tires? Have him arrested?
George: I just talked to him.
Rube: Must have been some conversation.
George: I guess.
Rube: I hope it was worth it. What, you got the hots for the guy or something?
George: No!
Rube: What, he give you some money?
George: No! (Looks away.)
Rube: Help me out.
George: I just wanted to see if I could do it?
Rube: I need somebody to give me lessons on how to communicate with you, Peanut, cuz I'm at a loss. The coin's in the slot, the gumball's on its way, and I'm plum out of wisdom. I'd start sleeping with the lights on if I were you.
George[voiceover]: I didn't know if that was a threat or a warning... Rube washed his hands of me. But that didn't mean I was off the hook. It only got worse. I broke the rules. The gravelings declared hunting season on my ass.

Mason: Heed his advice, and stay on his good side. He's like a volcano, George, he erupts and he spews lava on all the little villages, they run around and, they run around for their lives. But, you know, he stops, and you can go back to the safety of your own home.

Dead Like Me Curious George (1.3)

George: Do you really care how it's going with me?
Rube: Sure, I make my face look like this and the concerned words come out.

George: [voice over] One desperate attempt after another to find something in common with someone else and then cling. “Hey, you have ten fingers, I have ten fingers, let's be friends. We'll make rules and slogans. Then if we find someone with nine fingers, we can beat the crap out of them.”

George: What would happen if everybody died?
Mason: What do you mean?
George: Like if we were the only ones left
Mason: Oh, like if the frogs ate everyone on the planet?
George: Yeah.
Mason: I reckon we'd be shoveling a lot of frog shit.

George: So... my whole life, everything... All I get to keep are thoughts and memories?
Rube: That's all we ever have, Peanut.

Mason: Where's Betty?
Roxy: Babysitting.
Mason: I never had a babysitter.
Roxy: It doesn't mean you didn't need one... I'm gonna get a pet bird.
Mason: Don't get a bird.
Roxy: Why not?
Mason: Because they're weird. Man, I can't relate to a bird, they're so far removed and got different... chromosomes. And they come from eggs.
Roxy: They got faces.
Mason: So do cockroaches. ... What're you gonna do with a bird?
Roxy: Stick it in a cage and feed it, what do you think I'm gonna do with it?
Mason: Well I think you should at least get one you can eat.
Roxy: I'm gonna get a friend. I'm not gonna eat my friend!
Mason: They have brains the size of pistachios, it's not smart enough to be a friend.
Roxy: You don't know what you're talking about. I saw this special on PBS called Animal Miracles, and they did a dramatic reenactment about a guy being robbed and he had a parrot or a cockatiel or something, and that bird lost its shit when its owner was attacked. It opened up its cage--
Mason: Why would you put a bird in a cage if it can open the door?
Roxy: Where else are you gonna put it?! It opened up its cage and went crazy. Pet dabbed the robber's eyes, scratched his face up like he was Tippy Hedren or some shit, and don't you tell me that's not friendship.
Mason: How big was his parrot?
Roxy: I don't know, parrot size.
Mason: Well, a parrot can't take on a full grown man unless that man is a big pussy.
Roxy: I didn't say the parrot won. The robber stabbed it with a fork and killed its owner. The bird's dead.
Mason: So why are you getting a bird?
Roxy: It's not about homeland security you stupid motherfucker, I'm gonna get a friend!
Mason: Jesus.

Dead Like Me Dead Girl Walking (1.2)

Roxy: You know what your problem is? You wake up every morning wondering what the world's gonna do for you, wondering who's gonna bend over backwards, kiss your ass and make you happy when you should just thank God for another day and leave it the fuck at that.

Roxy: Sir, I'm going to say this as politely as possible. I will fuck you up.

Rube: You like spaghetti, George? I like spaghetti. I like board games. I like grabbing a trifecta with that long shot on top... that ozone smell you get from air purifiers... and I like knowing the space between my ears is immeasurable... Mahler's first, Bernstein conducting. You've got to think about all the things you like and decide whether they're worth sticking around for. And if they are, you'll find a way to do this.
George: And what if I don’t?
Rube: Then you go away, and you don't get to like anything anymore.

Dead Like Me Pilot (1.1)

[The camera closes in on cubicle land, where a teenage girl with a dull expression listens to her headset.]
George: [voiceover] That's me. I'd say I'm sorry to disappoint you… but I'm not. I excel at not giving a shit. Experience has taught me that interest begets expectation, and expectation begets disappointment, so the key to avoiding disappointment is to avoid interest. A equals B equals C equals A, or… whatever. I also don't have a lot of interest in being a good person or a bad person. From what I can tell, either way, you're screwed.
[Cut to a guy robbing a convenience store…]
George: [voiceover] Bad people are punished by society's law.
[… only to find the police outside. Bad guy is shot dead. Cut to a woman, standing precariously on a picket fence to lure a treed cat with food.]
George: [voiceover] And good people…
Cat Woman: Who's the pretty kitty? Ooh, you are. Come on, sweetheart.
[The woman falls off the fence. Pan down to the dead woman…]
George: [voiceover] … are punished by Murphy's Law.
[… then over to the cat on the ground, eating the food. Cut back to the office.]
George: [voiceover] So you see my dilemma.

[George is laying on her bed.]
George: [voiceover] When I was little my mom told me Santa Claus didn't exist, neither did the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy or the Great Pumpkin. Even though she didn't say so specifically, I just sort of assumed that God didn't either.

[As a toilet seat from the re-entering Mir station plummets through the sky, George is awkwardly moving through a city plaza.]
George: [voiceover] They say your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the moment before you die? That might be true if you're terminally ill, or your parachute doesn't open…
[She looks up to see the fireball heading straight for her.]
George: [voiceover] … but if death sneaks up on you, the only thing you have time to think is…
George: Aw, shit.

[George, going through the 5 stages of posthumous grief, asks two mysterious people if they're angels.]
Rube: We have the unfortunate distinction of being called… Grim Reapers.
George: [voiceover] Number three… is bargaining.
George: Well… then, can you take somebody else, like, uh, uh… an old person? Or… that homeless guy? I won't tell, I promise!
[Rube looks thoughtful, then turns to Betty, who shrugs, then nods.]
Betty: Alright.
George: Really?!
Betty: No.
George: Well, I want my life back!
Betty: It's not like you were doing anything with it.
George: [voiceover] And then, there's depression.
[George turns away from them and sits down on a park bench.]
Rube: I know what might cheer you up.
George: What?
Rube: Your autopsy.
[Cut to Rube and George observing a doctor working on George's remains.]
George: [voiceover] There's something about seeing your body all empty and cold — or, in my case, in little chunks and pieces. Rube says, it's like looking at a bowl of peach cobbler you just dropped on the floor. As good as it might have been, you just don't want it anymore.

George: I don't know what was more disturbing - Being dead or the fact that the first man to touch my naked body was the coroner.

Rube: Well, you gotta stick around until your body's been laid to rest.
George: I'm meat in a Zip-Lock. How much more rest do I need?

George: So what's next? Onward and upward?
Rube: Onward not upward. No pearly gates for you, no choirs of angels neither.
George: You dick! You're sending me to hell?!
Rube: Don't flatter yourself. You're not that interesting.

George: I think for me, death was just a wake-up call.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The secret history of the Nazi mascot

The secret history of the Nazi mascot
By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Melbourne

Alex Kurzem came to Australia in 1949 carrying just a small brown briefcase, but weighed down by some harrowing psychological and emotional baggage.

Tucked away in his briefcase were the secrets of his past - fragments of his life that he kept hidden for decades.

Black and white image of young Alex Kurzem in uniform, sitting on a soldier's knee
Alex was forced to keep his Jewish identity hidden

In 1997, after raising a family in Melbourne with his Australian bride, he finally revealed himself. He told how, at the age of five, he had been adopted by the SS and became a Nazi mascot.

His personal history, one of the most remarkable stories to emerge from World War II, was published recently in a book entitled The Mascot.

"They gave me a uniform, a little gun and little pistol," Alex told the BBC.

"They gave me little jobs to do - to polish shoes, carry water or light a fire. But my main job was to entertain the soldiers. To make them feel a bit happier."

Painful memories

In newsreels, he was paraded as 'the Reich's youngest Nazi' and he witnessed some unspeakable atrocities.

But his SS masters never discovered the most essential detail about his life: their little Nazi mascot was Jewish.

"They didn't know that I was a Jewish boy who had escaped a Nazi death squad. They thought I was a Russian orphan."

His story starts where his childhood memories begin - in a village in Belarus on 20 October 1941, the day it was invaded by the German army.

Black and white image of young Alex Kurzem in uniform
When the shooting stopped I had no idea where to go so I went to live in the forests, because I couldn't go back. I was the only one left

"I remember the German army invading the village, lining up all the men in the city square and shooting them. My mother told me that my father had been killed, and that we would all be killed."

"I didn't want to die, so in the middle of the night I tried to escape. I went to kiss my mother goodbye, and ran up into the hill overlooking the village until the morning came."

That was the day his family was massacred - his mother, his brother, his sister.

"I was very traumatised. I remember biting my hand so I couldn't cry out loud, because if I did they would have seen me hiding in the forest. I can't remember exactly what happened. I think I must have passed out a few times. It was terrible."

False identity

"When the shooting stopped I had no idea where to go so I went to live in the forests, because I couldn't go back. I was the only one left. I must have been five or six."

"I went into the forest but no-one wanted me. I knocked on peoples' doors and they gave me bits of bread but they told me to move on. Nobody took me in."

He survived by scavenging clothes from the bodies of dead soldiers.

After about nine months in the forest, a local man handed him over to the Latvian police brigade, which later became incorporated in the Nazi SS.

That very day, people were being lined up for execution, and Alex thought he, too, was about to die.

"There was a soldier near me and I said, 'Before you kill me, can you give me a bit of bread?' He looked at me, and took me around the back of the school. He examined me and saw that I was Jewish. "No good, no good," he said. 'Look I don't want to kill, but I can't leave you here because you will perish.

"'I'll take you with me, give you a new name and tell the other soldiers that you are a Russian orphan.'"

Joining the circus

To this day, Alex Kurzem has no idea why Sergeant Jekabs Kulis took pity on him. Whatever his motives, it certainly helped that Alex had Aryan looks. And together, they kept the secret.

"Every moment I had to remind myself not to let my guard down, because if ever anyone found out, I was dead. I was scared of the Russians shooting me and the Germans discovering I was Jewish. I had no-one to turn to."

Alex Kurzem (l) and his wife
Alex Kurzem kept the secret from his wife and family for decades

Young Alex saw action on the Russian front, and was even used by the SS to lure Jewish people to their deaths.

Outside the cattle trains which carried victims to the concentration camps, he handed out chocolate bars to tempt them in.

Then, in 1944, with the Nazis facing almost certain defeat, the commander of the SS unit sent him to live with a Latvian family.

Five years later, he managed to reach Australia. For a time, he worked in a circus and eventually became a television repair man in Melbourne.

All the time, he kept his past life to himself, not even telling his Australian wife, Patricia.

"When I left Europe I said 'forget about your past. You are going to a new country and a new life. Switch off and don't even think about it.'

"I managed to do it. I told people I lost my parents in the war, but I didn't go into detail. I kept the secret and never told anyone."

It was not until 1997 that he finally told his family, and along with his son, Mark, set about discovering more about his past life.

After visiting the village where he was born, they found out his real name was Ilya Galperin, and even uncovered a film in a Latvian archive of Alex in full SS regalia.

Sunday, August 19, 2007





朱熹(1130--1200),南宋理学家,教育家。字元晦,又字仲晦,晚号晦翁,云谷老人,沧洲病叟,遁翁,别称紫阳。祖籍微州婺源(今江西婺源县)。 宋建炎四年(1130年)九月十五日诞生于南剑州(南平)尤溪郑氏草堂。幼年从父朱松学,绍兴十三年(1143年),朱松病逝,朱熹遵父遗命,到崇安(今 武夷山市)五夫里,依附朱松生前挚友刘子羽,子羽视朱熹如已子,建紫阳楼,以供朱熹母子居住,朱熹遂定居武夷。



朱熹一生宦途坎坷,仕宦七载,立朝仅46天,任祠官达23年,待职、无职或罢职16年。仕宦虽短,政绩却十分斐然。他在一生中与武夷山结下不解之缘。自 14岁定居武夷山市,至64岁迁居建阳考亭的五十年里,武夷山几为他的后花园。他不但童年、少年时期常随其师刘子翬来武夷山讲读,入仕后的四十余年中,除 去外地为官七载和各地论道外,其余时间多在武夷山。





诸葛草庐中门联:淡泊以明志 宁静而致远 此联出自第37回二顾草庐中。刘、关、张三人跟童子进诸葛草庐,至中门,刘备见门上大书一联。其大意是:不追求名利,生活简单朴素,才能显示出自己的志 趣;不追求热闹,心境安宁清静,才能达到远大目标。通过此联揭示了诸葛亮的高尚德操。诸葛亮的《诫子书》中有这样两句话:“非淡泊无以明志,非宁静无以致 远。”本来是排阀句,小说作者以肯定句的形式取代了原来的否定之否定的形式,而用作诸葛草庐的门联。但它仍然还是排偶句而非对偶句,干仄极不和谐。

译文:有道德修养的人,是这样进行修养锻炼的,他们以静思反省来使自己尽善尽美,以俭朴节约财物来培养自己高尚的品德。不清心寡欲就不能使自己的志向明确 坚定,不安定清静就不能实现远大理想而长期刻苦学习。要学得真知必须使身心在宁静中研究探讨,人们的才能是从不断的学习中积累起来的;如果不下苦工学习就 不能增长与发扬自己的才干;如果没有坚定不移的意志就不能使学业成功。纵欲放荡、消极怠慢就不能勉励心志使精神振作;冒险草率、急燥不安就不能陶治性情使 节操高尚。如果年华与岁月虚度,志愿时日消磨,最终就会像枯枝落叶般一天天衰老下去。这样的人不会为社会所用而有益于社会,只有悲伤地困守在自己的穷家破 舍里,到那时再悔也来不及了。(兰溪诸葛村)[注:应网友 武春森要求.
“非淡泊无以明志,非宁静无以致远。”出自诸葛亮54岁时写给他8岁儿子诸葛瞻的《诫子书》。这既是诸葛亮一生经历的总结,更是对他儿子的要求。在这里诸 葛亮用的是“双重否定”的句式,以强烈而委婉的语气表现了他对儿子的教诲与无限的期望。用现代话来说:“不把眼前的名利看得轻淡就不会有明确的志向,不能 平静安详全神贯注的学习,就不能实现远大的目标”。
通过上述分析,我们可以看出诸葛亮运用了《逻辑学》中的“否定之否定规律”来强调他要表达的“淡泊以明志,宁静而志远”。这是一句富含哲理的话。这同“要 想取之,必先与之”,“欲达目的,需先迂回曲折”的道理一样,现在的“淡泊”、“宁静”求清净,不想有什么作为,而是要通过学习“明志”,树立远大的志 向,待时机成熟就可以“致远”,轰轰烈烈干一番事业。





Saturday, August 18, 2007

非礼三女学生 教师坐牢挨鞭

Pub Date: 15/08/2007
Headline: 非礼三女学生 教师坐牢挨鞭
By: 林晓玲
Page Heading: 新加坡新闻





  法官下判时说,被告是初犯,他事后立刻认罪,让受害人免去上庭供证及受审问的过程。被告的心理报告显示,他患有反应性抑郁症(reactive depression),其中两项控状也是在他母亲病逝后的两星期犯下的。

Teacher gets jail, caning for molesting teenage students

Offender, 32, abused his position of trust, says judge
By Elena Chong, Court Correspondent

THE school teacher lured his 16-year-old student to his home on the pretext that they watch taped American basketball games together, but he ended up molesting her.

Yesterday, the 32-year-old father of one was packed off to jail for 19 months. With the teacher's wife sobbing in the background, the judge also ordered that the bespectacled man be given six strokes of the cane after he pleaded guilty to molesting the girl three times.

Seven other similar charges involving the victim and two other girls were considered. The teacher cannot be named in order to protect the identity of his victims.

The court heard that the teacher had invited the 16-year-old victim to his house in December 2005.

He is believed to have been working with her basketball team in school. But when she arrived, he claimed there was a 'blackout'. He then suggested that he try out a new massage technique he had read about on the Internet.

He told her to change into a T-shirt. She complied, but baulked and refused when he suggested that she remove her shorts.

The student lay face down while he applied an analgesic cream - meant to relieve pain - and started massaging her legs and thighs.

Suddenly, he pulled down her shorts and continued to massage her. The student reported that she was too afraid to protest.

After the massage, both of them headed for the sofa where he pulled her onto his lap and molested her by touching her breast and crotch.

Later when she tried changing back into her school uniform, he pulled down her blouse and touched her breast again.

A few months later, in March last year, the court heard that the teacher met the victim in a classroom after her basketball game and complained about her performance.

He then pulled her onto his lap, kissed her several times, making her cry. While leading her to the door, he hugged her and touched her right breast a few times.

Yesterday, the teacher's lawyer pleaded for a minimum sentence. She told the court he had been depressed and had to have treatment to deal with stress and the deaths of his parents. His mother died some two weeks before he molested the victim on Dec 9, 2005.

She also pointed out that he had written a letter of apology and made out a $5,000 cheque to the victim. But Assistant Public Prosecutor Eugene Kwang pressed for a deterrent sentence, saying this was a clear case of abuse of trust.

District Judge Wong Choon Ning agreed. She lambasted him for abusing his position of trust and said these were 'very serious crimes' against 'very young victims'.

Each charge carries a maximum jail term of up to two years or a fine or caning, or any two such punishments.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Coffee may help relieve gym pain

Coffee may help relieve gym pain
Coffee beans
Moderate amounts of coffee could help reduce post-exercise soreness
Drinking coffee could help reduce the post-workout pain that puts many people off exercise, a small study suggests.

The study found moderate doses of caffeine, roughly equivalent to two cups of coffee, can cut muscle pain by up to 48%.

But researchers at the University of Georgia warned their findings may not be applicable to regular caffeine users who are less sensitive to its effects.

The report was published in The Journal of Pain.

The researchers studied nine female college students who were not regular caffeine users and did not engage in regular strength-building training.

One or two days after an exercise session that caused moderate muscle soreness, the volunteers took either caffeine or a placebo and performed thigh exercises.

Volunteers that consumed caffeine had a 48% reduction in pain compared to the placebo group when performing maximum force thigh exercise, and a 26% reduction in sub-maximal force exercises.

Lead author Victor Maridakis said: "If you can use caffeine to reduce pain, it may make it easier to transition from that first week into a much longer exercise program."

Professor Patrick O'Connor who co-authored the study said caffeine may work to reduce pain by blocking the body's receptors for adenosine, a chemical released in response to inflammation.

Caffeine molecule
Caffeine may alleviate pain by blocking adenosine receptors


The researchers warned there were limitations to their findings though.

For example, the small size of the study means it will need to be replicated on a larger scale, and the findings may not be applicable to regular coffee users, or to men.

The researchers recommended that people are cautious about using caffeine before a workout, as too much caffeine can cause side-effects such as jitteriness and sleep disturbance.

Mr Maridakis said: "It can reduce pain, but you have to apply some common sense and not go overboard."

We should not get too excited just yet
Zoe Wheeldon

Greg Whyte, a physiologist at the British Association of Sport and Exercise Science, said the soreness felt after exercise is normal and actually a sign that muscles are responding to the exercise.

He said if caffeine is merely reducing the symptoms but not the underlying causes of the pain then it could be useful, but as it can have a diuretic effect it "may cause other problems" after exercise when rehydration is important.

He added that the muscle soreness could also be helped by methods such as stretching, ice-bathing or massage.

More research

Zoë Wheeldon, spokesperson for the British Coffee Association said coffee has been shown in many studies to increase drinkers' capacity to exercise harder and for longer.

But on the new research she said: "This is very interesting, but we should not get too excited just yet and we would like to see more research."

She said the small size of the study in particular meant the results should not yet be extrapolated, for instance to regular coffee users.

However she added that there were many health benefits to drinking moderate amounts of coffee, as it is a source of antioxidants, improves alertness and performance, and can be used to aid sports training.

Coffee 'protects female memory'

Coffee 'protects female memory'
Cup of coffee
Coffee is known to act on the brain
Caffeine may help older women ward off mental decline, research suggests.

French researchers compared women aged 65 and older who drank more than three cups of coffee per day with those who drank one cup or less per day.

Those who drank more caffeine showed less decline in memory tests over a four year period.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, raises the possibility that caffeine may even protect against the development of dementia.

It might be that caffeine could slow the dementia process
Dr Karen Ritchie
French National Institute for Health and Medical Research

The results held up even after factors such as education, high blood pressure and disease were taken into account.

Caffeine is a known psychostimulant, but this study appears to suggest its effects may be more profound.

However, lead researcher Dr Karen Ritchie of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research warned against jumping to premature conclusions.

She said: "While we have some ideas as to how this works biologically, we need to have a better understanding of how caffeine affects the brain before we can start promoting caffeine intake as a way to reduce cognitive decline.

"But the results are interesting - caffeine use is already widespread and it has fewer side effects than other treatments for cognitive decline, and it requires a relatively small amount for a beneficial effect."

The study, which involved 7,000 women, did not find that caffeine consumers had lower rates of dementia.

Women 'more sensitive'

Dr Ritchie said: "We really need a longer study to look at whether caffeine prevents dementia; it might be that caffeine could slow the dementia process rather than preventing it."

She said it was not clear why the protective effect did not seem to apply to men.

"Women may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine. Their bodies may react differently to the stimulant, or they may metabolize caffeine differently."

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said that with no cure for Alzheimer's disease yet available, research into possible protective factors was important, particularly as the disease is expected to become more common.

She said: "This study does not suggest that caffeine actually lowers rates of dementia in women, but since memory seems improved, it may be that it is slowing it down.

"However, research over a much longer period is still needed to establish fully what the affects of caffeine are in both men and women and whether it could reduce a person's risk of dementia or slow down its progress."

Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said drinking coffee and tea had both been tipped as possible ways of delaying the onset of dementia.

However, she said: "These types of studies are complex because coffee and tea drinking can be linked to so many other social and life style factors."

Girl overdoses on espresso coffee

Girl overdoses on espresso coffee
A teenager was taken to hospital after overdosing on espresso coffee.

Jasmine Willis, 17, developed a fever and began hyperventilating after downing seven double espressos while working at her family's sandwich shop.

The student, of Stanley, County Durham, was taken to the University Hospital of North Durham, where doctors confirmed she had overdosed on caffeine.

She has since made a full recovery and is now warning others about the dangers of excessive coffee drinking.

Ms Willis, who had thought the coffees were single measures, said the effects were so severe that she began laughing and crying for no reason while serving customers at the shop.

I was having palpitations, my heart was beating so fast and I thought I was going into shock
Jasmine Willis

She developed a fever and began struggling to breathe after being sent home by her father.

"My nerves were all over the place.

"I was drenched. I was burning up and hyperventilating.

"I was having palpitations, my heart was beating so fast and I thought I was going into shock.

"I did not realise this could happen to you and I only hope other people learn from my mistake."

The teenager, who was allowed home after a few hours of observation, suffered side effects for days afterwards and now says she cannot stand the sight of coffee.

Her father Gary, who runs The Sandwich Bar in Stanley, said: "She did not realise she was drinking double measures.

"I have always stressed to my children the importance of moderation but Jasmine got caught out on this occasion."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ancient forest found in Hungary

Ancient forest found in Hungary
Eight-million-year-old forest of cypresses in Hungary
Urgent measures are being taken to preserve the ancient trees

An ancient forest of cypress trees, estimated to be eight million years old, has been discovered in Hungary.

Archaeologists found the 16 preserved trunks in an open cast coal mine in the north-eastern city of Bukkabrany.

The specimens were preserved intact while most of the forest turned to coal thanks to a casing of sand, which was perhaps the result of a sandstorm.

It is hoped the trees may offer experts a valuable insight into Earth's climate eight million years ago.

The massive trunks are of a species known as swamp cypresses, which grew for 200-300 years.

The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Budapest says the wood of the trees is still brown in photographs taken by the archaeologists, giving the impression that it has only just been split.

The stumps, 2-3m (10ft) in diameter and 6m (19ft) high, stand uncovered on the lowest level of the mine.

However, now that the protective material around them has been stripped there is a danger that the trunks could turn to dust before the scientists' eyes.

Urgent measures are being taken to preserve them after an attempt to move one of the trunks failed.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Thai cops punished by Hello Kitty

Thai cops punished by Hello Kitty
Hello Kitty, in handbag form (file image)
The Hello Kitty cartoon character is known across Asia
Police chiefs in the Thai capital, Bangkok, have come up with a new way of punishing officers who break the rules - an eye-catching Hello Kitty armband.

The armband is large, bright pink and has a Hello Kitty motif with two hearts embroidered on it.

From today, officers who are late, park in the wrong place or commit other minor transgressions will have to wear it for several days.

The armband is designed to shame the wearer, police officials said.

"This is to help build discipline. We should not let small offences go unnoticed," Police Colonel Pongpat Chayapan told Reuters news agency.

"Guilty officers will be made to wear the armbands in the office for a few days, with instructions not to disclose their offences. Let people guess what they have done," he said.

Further offences would be dealt with using a more traditional disciplinary panel, he said.

The cartoon character Hello Kitty was first introduced by Japanese company Sanrio in 1974.

The cute round-faced cat has become an Asia-wide marketing phenomenon, with Hello Kitty products such as stationery, hair accessories and kitchen appliances available across the region.

Giant cross to mark Stalin terror

Giant cross to mark Stalin terror
The Great Memorial Cross passes the Moscow Kremlin on 6 August

A giant cross commemorating the victims of Stalin's terror 70 years after the worst of the purges has reached Moscow after a journey from northern Russia.

It was taken by boat from the Solovetsky Islands, site of a prison camp, and will be erected at a former execution ground outside the capital.

An estimated 20,000 people, 1,000 of them Christians, were executed at the Butovo range between 1937 and 1938.

The Siberian cedar cross is 12.5m (41 feet) high and 7.6 (25 feet) wide.

Here's a new regime that wants heroes, not victims
Tatyana Voronina
researcher at the Russian human rights organisation Memorial

Its journey from the islands began on 25 June and part of its route followed the White Sea Canal, a Stalinist construction project which claimed the lives of thousands of convicts.

It was constructed at the Solovetsky Monastery over six months.

Russian human rights activists fear that the Gulag and Stalin's crimes are not being properly commemorated by the Russian authorities, and the memory of the victims may be lost to future generations.

"There's a new regime that wants heroes, not victims," Tatyana Voronina, a researcher at the human rights organisation Memorial, told AFP news agency.

"They prefer to celebrate the victory in World War II. It doesn't make you feel proud when you know that it's your own people who did this."