(April 21, 2003, ArcaMax, Inc., United Press International.)
Another Sport Bicycle Recall Announced
Dynacraft Industries of San Rafael, Calif., is working with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in the recall of 52,900 BMX bicycles.
The concern is some of the stems can loosen during use, causing riders to lose control and fall.
So far the company reports it's received more than 35 complaints about stems coming loose. One injury was reported, a broken finger.
Two models of the bikes are involved in the recall. Both are 20-inch models. One of the models is called Next Voltage. It is metallic green with the model number 8535-99, built between March 2002 and June of that year.
The other model is called the Vertical Street Blade. Those bikes are dark blue and chrome-colored with the model number 8527-99. They were produced in early spring of 2002.
The company says the model name is written on the bicycle frame. A label on the frame near the crank housing shows the model number and manufacture date. The bikes were sold at Wal-Mart in 2002 and until recently and were priced at just under $80.
Consumers should stop using these bicycles and contact Dynacraft Industries for information on receiving a replacement stem. For more information, call Dynacraft Industries at (800) 288-1560, or check out dynacraftbike.com on the Internet.
Home Audio Amps On Recall List
The folks at Thomson Inc., based in Indianapolis, say more than 50,000 home entertainment amplifiers are being recalled. The problem is these units can overheat if not properly ventilated, which could cause the front plastic cover to melt and expose consumers to a possible shock hazard.
The CPSC says the company has received a dozen reports of overheating. No injuries have been reported.
The amps were sold under the RCA brand name and were rated as 650-Watt Home Entertainment amplifiers. The model numbers listed in the recall notice are RT2600, RT2600DVD and RT2600DVD5; serial numbers begin with 220 through 230. The model and serial numbers can be found on a label on the back of the unit in the lower left corner. The recalled units also could have an "A" as the last character in the model number.
The amplifier units are silver and are about 17 inches wide, 16 inches deep, and 5 inches high. The amplifiers were manufactured in China.
The amps were sold nationally from May of last year until just last month. Major chains, including Radio Shack and Best Buy, sold the units for between $300 and $380.
Consumers should unplug the units and contact Thomson at (800) 613-0897 for information on how to receive a free repair. Customers with Internet access can find more information at rca.com/recall in cyberspace.
Car Ads Pitched To Younger Audience
A new look at TV ads for cars shows the themes and music used are tailored to attract younger buyers -- using loud dance-club music, trash and flash graphics and twentysomething people in designer clothing.
The Detroit Free Press notes one "new generation" auto being pitched mostly to young car buyers is the Honda Element.
Sales have increased steadily since the car debuted in December. It's a boxy but economical model and Honda says the target audience is the 16-29 age group.
Auto companies are not the only firms using younger motifs to sell their products. A recent ad for a major car rental company showed the firm's "think tank" -- all appearing to be under 30 -- sitting around, groping for new ideas on how to increase rentals.
'Permanent' Highway Paving Fails Test
Pennsylvania highway officials say a special paving mixture touted as being "super pavement" is much less than advertised.
The pavement was used on several parkways in the Philadelphia area -- at a cost of $4.5 million -- and the Philadelphia Inquirer says inventors told state officials "super pavement" would last 15 years. It's only been five years since Parkway West was paved and it's crumbling.
The current condition of the chuckhole-marked parkway means portions will have to be shut down and lanes closed while workers do repairs.
Airports Hiking Van Fees
The Memphis airport is increasing fees paid by hotel vans to pick up passengers on Aug. 1. The Commercial Appeal reports hotels are not happy about it.
For the past three years negotiations have been ongoing between the umbrella group that lobbies for the hotels and the agency that oversees the Memphis International Airport.
The yearly fee for use of van parking spaces at the airport was set in 1962 and is based on the size of the hotel, using the formula of $2 per room. The new fee will be $3.
The original use for the new monies was construction of a rental car transportation center that would be some distance from the main terminal. That concept is still "on hold."
Internet Getting Faster
The old system of sending information via the Internet is being replaced by a new transfer protocol that is markedly faster.
Space.com says the protocol used today to send digital information dates from 1988. In Internet terms, that's the Stone Age.
The new way, the FAST test-bed system, has been developed with the help of experts at Caltech. The new protocol was first demonstrated at a conference on superconducting held in Baltimore.
Attendees were shown it was possible to transfer data nearly 3,000 miles at the rate of about 8.6 gigabits per second. At speeds like that, the entire contents of the Library of Congress could be transferred around the world via the Internet in about three hours. The transfer would be the equivalent of some 9 billion pages of densely typed text.
The new system uses 10 parallel routes at the same time but the key is the old-fashioned way of sending packets of information doesn't change, just the rates at which the information moves.
Voice Recordings Easy to Fake
It is easy to fake a voice recording and hard to detect, Oregon researchers have found. "Many places in the world are developing technologies that can quickly and easily transform voices," said Jan van Santen, mathematical psychologist at Oregon Health and Science University. Because of this, distinguishing a faker from the real thing is becoming more difficult. To fake a voice recording, an actor mimics someone else's voice, dialect and rhythm. Then a system transforms the actor's speech to sound just like the original person. This is one of many methods, researchers noted. Although the owner of the original voice could detect a copycat, newer and better techniques are being developed, each one with its own signature, researchers said, adding this proliferation will make voice identification more and more difficult -- and perhaps impossible.
Disinfectant Turns Toxic in Sunlight
Some of the toxins in the environment could be coming from the interaction between sunlight and a common ingredient in anti-bacterial soaps, new research has found. In a cascade of events, starting at someone's sink, the transformation could become an environmental threat. At the Mississippi River, researchers added triclosan to the water and shined ultraviolet light on it. The light converted between 1 and 12 percent of the triclosan to dioxin, an extremely toxic chemical. Although not immediately threatening -- because the dioxin variety formed was relatively benign -- the authors said treatment of this water with chlorine could lead to the production of more toxic dioxins. Researchers took on this study, funded by the U.S. Geological Survey, after reading reports of pharmaceutical compounds in surface waters around the country. The USGS reported last year triclosan is in 58 percent of natural waters tested.
Premature Aging Gene Found
Researchers have identified the gene that causes Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria, a rare but fatal disorder that accelerates the aging process. The chromosomal culprit is the LMNA gene, which programs the Lamin A and Lamin C proteins. With a third protein, they create a mesh lining around a cell's nucleus. Researchers determined that a LMNA mutation interferes with the proper making of Lamin A proteins. Defective proteins can cause cells to divide improperly and die early, which hinders tissue regeneration. The genetic problems within give children with HGP the outward appearance and health problems of older age -- baldness, aged-looking skin, joint stiffness and cardiovascular problems. The key discovery, described in Science, could help researchers eventually come up with a therapy for the currently incurable disease.
Nanotech Aids Gene Therapy Efforts
Researchers have attached bits of DNA to a scaffold of nano proportions, a development that could revolutionize treatments of cancer and other diseases. The hybrid device is made of titanium oxide nanocrystals and DNA. The nanocrystals could allow gene therapy to overcome its current hurdles. For example, one of the problems facing the emerging field is negative reactions to modified viruses that act as gene couriers. Instead of using viruses, researchers at Northwestern University and Argonne National Laboratory suggest the DNA-laced scaffold could be used to introduce "good" DNA into cells with "bad" DNA. Titanium oxide also can attach to other molecules, such as proteins, for other kinds of therapy. Research still is in the early phases and testing could be two or more years away.
Mass Produced Therapeutic Proteins On Horizon
The barrier to mass producing therapeutic proteins could be knocked down soon. Researchers report limited production has served as a bottleneck to churning out biological drugs based on proteins. With genetic tweaking, however, they have manipulated yeast to produce human-like glycosylation structures, a part of protein processing in humans. "The glycolsylation structures we are seeing in our yeast are of a purity and uniformity unprecedented in biopharmaceutical manufacturing," said Stefan Wildt, director of strain development at GlycoFi, a bioengineering startup. He said their goal is to eliminate the bottleneck and clear the pipeline for "better and safer drugs."
Revised Thoughts About Earth'S Blanket
The layer of solid rock that blankets the semi-molten mantle below the Earth's surface is shallower than previously thought, new research reveals. At 125 to 160 miles in depth, researchers found the crust is deep but contradicts earlier findings based on possible misinterpretation of data. Earlier estimates of lithosphere depth had been based on recordings of seismic waves from earthquakes traveling through the Earth's interior. If researchers used only one type of seismic wave to make their measurements, they would have been ignoring half of the picture, the new study suggests. "Overall, (the University of California, Berkeley, seismologists) have provided a satisfying way forward in tackling a long-standing puzzle in earth science," said Brian Kennett of Australian National University.
Roads Let Weeds As Well As Vehicles Invade
Paved roads into wilderness areas bring in more weed traffic, new studies have found. Non-native plants have found their way into territories new to them by hitching rides with cars and trucks. Researchers analyzed 42 roads representing a gradient of conditions from mere vehicle tracks to paved surfaces. They found that with each step of improvement the roadside area harboring non-native weeds increased, pushing native habitat further and further from the road. "These papers are timely in light of the debate concerning protection for roadless habitats in U.S. national forests," said Jonathan Gelbard, doctoral candidate at the University of California, Davis. "They are not only refuges for native biodiversity but also protect against non-native weed invasions, which are costly for ranchers and public agencies."
The Human Factor.
Summer Of The Togas
The summer of 2004 may be termed "the summer of the toga."
The movie "Gladiator" has spawned several movies based in ancient times, The Boston Globe reports.
Brad Pitt will play mythic Greek hero Achilles in "Troy," for Warner Bros., based on from Homer's "Iliad" and the 10-Year War between Greece and Trojan Empire.
Oliver Stone is doing "Alexander" for Warner Bros. based on Alexander the Great while Universal Studios will feature Leonardo DiCaprio also in a movie on Alexander the Great.
"Hannibal the Conqueror" by Revolution Studios will star Vin Diesel, while George Clooney is producing and will likely appear in a movie for Universal Studies on the Battle of Thermopylae.
St. Petersburg Celebrates Birthday
St. Petersburg is celebrating its 300th-birthday and cultural bastions like the Hermitage, with its three million works of art and the Mariinsky Theater are going all out.
However, there are other events.
The European billiards championship will be held the House of Culture of the First Five-Year Plan, The New York Times reports.
For those wishing to escape culture, there are beer festivals, bodybuilding and hairdressing competitions. Animal lovers can attend a huge dog show.
Those struggling to keep their sanity amid the rush can turn to the conference of Russian psychologists that will also convene in the city.
The guayabera -- a casual shirt with pleated stripes down the front and four pockets, two over the chest, two over the hips, side vents and banded bottom -- has been the uniform of Miami folk with the Cuban-with-all-the-trimmings look.
It has not been much of a trendy role model, The Miami Herald reports.
But, Cuban-American pop and rock icons -- like Albita and Nil Lara -- wear guayaberas on stage and now they're hot.
The guayabera has four pockets because it's worn when it's too hot for a jacket but it has long sleeves to protect arms from the Sun.
Cotton is fine, linen is better and white, off-white and pastels are the acceptable colors. But tucks and buttons are the only decoration.
Detectives On Video Kids
Private detectives armed with video cameras are being used to expose Big Apple kids desperate for a better education who illegally attend Long Island schools, The New York Post reports.
Ten students at Valley Stream High School have been busted as not residing in local neighborhoods during the current school year, according to district superintendent Ronald Valenti.
The students, mostly from Queens, will have to leave the school in June.
School officials say some parents who live near the city border use bogus addresses and other tricks to get their kids into better financed and more academically sound Nassau County schools, The Post says.
Things We Don't Understand
A New York City public school teacher, charged with endangering the welfare of a child for punching a student in the arm 13 times for his 12th birthday, says it was just a birthday tradition. Twenty-nine-year old Taisha Gyles, who teaches fifth grade at Public School 15, was charged with the misdemeanor for the incident, the New York Times reports. In her classroom just before lunch, Gyles says she and three other boys each gave the student 13 punches, one for each year and one for good luck. Typically, she said, other students would have added their punches at lunch or after school. Normally, she says, she does not engage in the ritual, but did so this time because she "liked the boy and got drawn in."
News Of Other Life Forms
The Japanese economy shows no sign of improving, but customers are going potty over a piece of golden excreta. After four years, 2 million of the 1.9-gram real-gold enameled charms that sell for about $2 has been sold, The Gulf Daily News reports. Playing on the Japanese words for feces, "unko," and good fortune, "koun," the Kyoto-based company says the charms are good luck. The company president Koji Fujii says, "I don't think there is anyone who would get angry at receiving a piece of crap as a gift, people appreciate products that have humor and are cute."
Today's Sign The World Is Ending
Shareholders of the Ohio-based Progressive Insurance Company will get a bit of surprise when they open their annual report. Interspersed among the balance sheets and income statement are 20 photos of an 82-year-old naked man. The photos are to symbolize Progressive's "transparency" and commitment to full disclosure, MONEY magazine reports. Usually, annual reports aren't read, but this one won't be thrown away, according to the report's design firm.
Today's Uplifting Story
Blind and nearly blind teens get an opportunity to kayak and experience a world they have been exposed to, thanks to an ex-Green Beret. Erik Shaw heads the Wilderness Education Program in Ventura, Calif. He did covert operations for the military in the Middle East and founded the program 14 years ago. Each month, 220 kids of all ages take part in Shaw's wilderness programs. He has taken blind youngsters hiking and surfing, The Los Angeles Times reports. Children confined to wheelchairs have gone on rock-climbing expeditions in which volunteers carried them up steep inclines while teaching them to use ropes and tie knots.
News of the Weird by Chuck Shepherd
Two American Legion posts and two other veterans' groups in Pleasanton, Calif., sponsored a class on dowsing in March to study whether domestic terrorists could be identified by pointing sticks at suspicious people to see if the sticks move. One of the veterans' leaders (who vouched that "the government" and oil and mining companies regularly use dowsing) told the local Tri-Valley Herald, "You can't wait for the FBI and police to come up with solutions when you have the bad guys living among us." Following the 9-11 attacks, some Pleasanton veterans received training in so-called "remote (psychic) viewing" and are now reportedly bringing local families up to speed on their missing-in-action relatives from past wars. [Tri-Valley Herald, 3-25-03]
In March, London's Daily Telegraph reported that North Korea's Kim Jong Il is so terrified of triplet babies that the government places them all in special orphanages. Quoting diplomats who have visited North Korea, the Telegraph said Kim might feel threatened because the number 3 in Korean mythology is associated with rapid rises to power. However, a North Korean official told the United Nations Human Rights Commission that Kim is actually helping the triplets by raising them in better circumstances than the parents could (because of the country's dire economy). [Herald Sun (Melbourne)-London Daily Telegraph, 3-30-03]
The Things People Believe Brian J. Samdahl, 41, charged with stabbing a stranger 15 times at a Wal-Mart, told police he thought the problem was that his government-implanted computer chip was broken (Bridgeview, Ill., February). [Daily Southtown, 2-13-03]
Jesus Santana, charged with marijuana possession, told the arresting officers, "I guess God got y'all to get me," since Santana had been rolling his joints using pages torn from a Bible (Athens, Ala., February). [Tuscaloosa News, 2-5-03]
William Veach, charged with scamming friends and family members in a securities scheme, insisted that he truly believed (albeit erroneously) that, as per his sales pitch, he had indeed sold a high-tech keyboard idea to Microsoft for $17 million (Provo, Utah, March). [Deseret News, 3-3-03]
Weird News Of The Day
A 73-year-old man who used an air raid siren to stun his wife into submission has had it confiscated by German police. "My wife never lets me get a word in edgeways," the man identified as Vladimir R. told Mannheim police. "So I crank up the siren and let it rip for a few minutes. It works every time. Afterwards, it's real quiet again." A police spokesman said neighbors had complained at the noise from the 220-volt rooftop device, believed to be an old-fashioned air raid siren. Rosina, Vladimir's wife of 32 years, said she sometimes had to yell to get his attention. "My husband is a stubborn mule so I have to get loud."
Go to News of the Weird