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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What’d you catch? ‘Little fat dog’
Pair fishing in Florida Bay haul in Tigger the terrier, who’d fallen from boat

The Associated Press

KEY LARGO, Fla. - Ray Truche Jr. and Lisa Largrassa fished for hours and didn't catch anything — except a drowning dog. Motoring their 23-foot fishing boat earlier this month on Florida Bay, the two hit something unusual and turned around to check.

"As we came back upon it, I realized it was a little fat dog," said Truche, of Manchester, Mass. "It was having trouble keeping its head above water. Its big eyes were looking at us. It was almost as if it was saying, 'Don't leave me here!'"

The couple leaned over the boat and made their only catch of the day: a 5-year-old cairn terrier named Tigger, The Key West Citizen reported Monday.

Tigger was apparently thrown from Diane and Richard Beckman's boat on their way from Key Largo to Marathon.

The Beckmans searched frantically for 2 1/2 hours with no sign of the dog.

"We went back and forth, back and forth," Diane said. "Finally we just gave up, because we thought he couldn't have survived in the water for that long. I was just heartbroken. "

Since there was no answer at the home listed on Tigger's tag, Truche and Largrassa dropped him off at the Upper Keys Animal Shelter.

Diane was elated when she got home and listened to her messages. She went quickly to pick up Tigger.

"He didn't know me. He was so terrified. As soon as he realized it was me, he jumped in my arms and wouldn't let go," she said.

Frugal woman dies at 100, donates $35.6M
Florida native's fortune goes to local diabetes and cancer research

The Associated Press

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - A 100-year-old woman who quietly amassed a vast fortune before her death last year left $35.6 million to local diabetes and cancer research.

Eugenia Dodson donated two-thirds of the money to the University of Miami’s Diabetes Research Institute, the largest gift in its 35-year history. The rest goes to the university’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“She didn’t want any recognition in her lifetime, so she directed her lawyer to keep it confidential,” said Dr. W. Jarrard Goodwin, director of the Sylvester Center. “I told her people would be grateful. She said, ’No, I don’t want anyone to know.”’

Dodson lost part of a lung to cancer, and her two brothers died from complications to diabetes, according to Donald Kubit, co-trustee of her fund.

Dodson’s husband had held a stake in a limestone quarry, which went to her after his death in 1949. While she could have afforded a more lavish lifestyle, she instead saved money by living in a small condo and refusing in-home care until she was nearly 100, Kubit said.

“She denied herself the trappings of wealth. She was dead-set on doing good for humankind,” Kubit said. “She had a big heart.”

Man with amnesia reunited with family, friends
Sufferer diagnosed with dissociative fugue still doesn’t remember past life

The Associated Press

DENVER - An amnesia sufferer who had been searching for his identity for more than a month was back in Washington state with his fiancee on Tuesday, but he still doesn’t remember his past life or what happened, his mother said.

Jeffrey Alan Ingram, 40, was diagnosed in Denver with dissociative fugue, a type of amnesia.

He has had similar bouts of amnesia in the past, likely triggered by stress, once disappearing for nine months. When he went missing this time, on Sept. 6, he had been on his way to Canada to visit a friend who was dying of cancer, said his fiancee, Penny Hansen.

“I think that the stress, the sadness, the grief of facing a best friend dying was enough, and leaving me was enough to send him into an amnesia state,” Hansen told KCNC-TV.

When Ingram found himself in Denver on Sept. 10, he didn’t know who he was. He said he walked around for about six hours asking people for help, then ended up at a hospital, where police spokeswoman Virginia Quinones said Ingram was diagnosed with a type of amnesia known as dissociative fugue.

People with dissociative fugue typically appear fine but have temporarily lost their sense of identity, are confused and impulsively travel away from home. Experts say it is rare and typically linked to severe stress.

Searched for his identity
Ingram’s identity came to light last weekend after he appeared on several news shows asking the public for help: “If anybody recognizes me, knows who I am, please let somebody know.”

“Penny’s brother called her right away and told her ‘Did you watch this newscast?’ and ‘I think that’s Jeff that they’re showing on television,”’ said Marilyn Meehan, a spokeswoman for Hansen.

Hansen had filed a missing person report after Ingram failed to show up at her mother’s home in Bellingham, Wash., on his way to Canada, but officials searching for him had turned up nothing.

On Monday night, two Denver police detectives accompanied Ingram on a flight to Seattle, where he was reunited with his fiancee.

His mother, Doreen Tompkins of Slave Lake, Alberta, was in tears as she talked about the struggle her son and the family still face.

“It’s going to be very difficult again, but you know what, I can do it,” she told CTV news of Edmonton, Alberta. “I did it before, I can do it again. I’ll do it as many times as I have to just so I can have my son.”

Memory never fully regained
Ingram had experienced an episode of amnesia in 1995 when he disappeared during a trip to a grocery store. Nine months later, he was found in a Seattle hospital, according to Thurston County, Wash., officials. His mother said he never fully regained his memory.

Meehan, who works with Hansen at the state Utilities and Transportation Commission, said the couple would not give interviews because they want to concentrate on Ingram’s effort to regain his memory.

“They’re taking it one step at a time,” Meehan said.

“He said that while her face wasn’t familiar to him, her heart was familiar to him,” she said. “He can’t remember his home, but he said their home felt like home to him.”

Car Safety for Dogs advertisement
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Tips to help prepare you and your pet before taking those long road trips.

For millions of dog owners, family vacations often begin after a trip to the boarding kennel. With proper planning, preparation, and training, however, your dog can enjoy getaways by car with the entire family. There are countless hotels, parks, recreation spots, and even amusement parks across the country that welcome pets. And kids often enjoy having the family dog along for companionship and entertainment.

Before the trip

Taking a trip with your favorite canine might not be so charming if the pooch gets carsick on short rides, or if the animal's only automotive travel experience has involved a visit to the vet's office. Such animals may become panicked or anxious when put into the car. This can result in vomiting, noisy protests, or chewing the upholstery.

If this is a problem, you should plan ahead by desensitizing your canine friend to riding in a vehicle. Take short trips with fun, positive consequences, such as visits to friends and walks in a park, so that your dog learns to associate something positive with a car ride. Get the pet used to traveling restrained—whether by harness, barrier, or crate—to reduce travel anxiety during the big trip and increase safety for all.

If your pet continues to be prone to car sickness, it's probably better to leave it at home. If that's not an option, ask a veterinarian if a medication for anxiety and/or motion sickness would be appropriate. There are both prescription and homeopathic aids that can settle sensitive stomachs or minimize the effects of stress.

Pack mentality

Whether you're taking an hour's drive or a two-day trip, you'll need to pack accordingly for the furry traveler. Just as at home, the most important supplies are food and water. Your local pet store carries an assortment of collapsible and disposable bowls designed for the travel enthusiast, and even bottles of water with built-in bowls.

To reduce your dog's anxiety (and chance of destructive chewing) while on the road, give him an appropriate chew toy. There are a number of hollow rubber or plastic toys available that are perfect for stuffing with treats to keep your dog entertained.

Car safety

The final, critical component for responsible travel with a pet is to properly secure the animal. In an accident, an unrestrained dog becomes a projectile, risking serious injury to the animal and human passengers.

To protect all passengers in a vehicle, it is recommended that pets be restrained by one of three methods. Each type of restraint is available at major pet stores and online supply houses, but there are varying levels of protection and risk.

For crate-trained animals, a plastic or collapsible crate is a natural choice for transportation. A crate offers familiar surroundings, a secure space, and the added convenience of having a place for your dog to sleep once you reach your destination. Unfortunately, many owners make the mistake of loading the crate—and the pet—into the vehicle without restraining the crate itself. Unsecured crates can move during sudden emergency maneuvers and accidents, and the dog might be injured within the crate.

Make the crate a comfy environment. Place a towel or crate mat in the crate for the dog to lie on, according to Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Give the dog some toys to keep him occupied. Make sure your dog has a water supply to stay cool.

An alternative is to secure the animal using a restraint harness that locks into a seat-belt receptacle, though the safety of these devices has not been tested, according to Dr. Beaver. A harness fitted around the animal's chest may allow the pet to move (sit, lay down, look out the window) within the vehicle while keeping the animal secure in the seat in case of a sudden stop. Look for harnesses with metal buckles, since plastic may break during a collision. A drawback to the restraint harness: If the dog vomits, it will likely get on the seats and carpet instead of being contained in a crate.

For SUVs and wagons, you can also install a wire or nylon mesh pet barrier between the rear cargo compartment and the rear seat. But from a safety perspective, this is the least desirable alternative. While the barrier effectively confines the animal to the cargo area allowing it to stretch and move around, the animal could fly around during a sudden maneuver or accident if it is not secured. In addition, if the rear-window glass should break or pop out in an accident, the dog could get loose on the highway.

Another concern: Before you buy such a barrier, check how it is secured in the vehicle. The installation should be strong enough that it won't become dislodged in a collision, allowing the animal to fly forward and possibly injuring rear passengers. Gates that rely on tension against the vehicle headliner for vertical stability, for instance, might carry an increased risk of becoming dislodged during an accident.

No matter what restraint method you choose, get your animal accustomed to traveling that way before the big family trip. Training, a little preparation, and the right restraint will make for a fun and safe holiday even the four-legged family members will enjoy!

More tips for pet car travel

Here, some additional important information to keep in mind:

Although a dog may love to have the wind in his face, an animal can suffer eye damage and even vision loss from road debris and insects.

Be aware of the temperature where the animal is positioned. If necessary, open a window or adjust the air conditioning to prevent overheating and/or dehydration. Direct sun might adversely affect dark-colored dogs, particularly in the summer, even when the car is moving and the air is cooler. You may need to install sunshades on the side windows.

Don't leave the dog in the car if you will be away from it for a while. Cars can heat up fast when left in the sun. If you're going to an amusement park, zoo, or other place where your dog is unwelcome, try to find a nearby kennel to board the dog while you're occupied. Always have the dog's rabies and other vaccination records with you so that you can show them to the kennel staff. Plan ahead, though, because many kennels are booked in advance for the summer. And if you plan to spend many days where the dog can't visit, consider leaving the dog in a kennel closer to home.

When you're traveling put a piece of tape on the dog's tags with a local phone number or cell-phone number in case the dog gets loose. Your home number won't be much help to someone who finds the dog while you're traveling.

If shopping for a new vehicle, inquire about available pet travel aids. Some carmakers might offer customized accessories for owners who travel with their pets.

Man separates from wife — and his ring finger
Austrian doesn’t regret presenting digit to his ex-wife after divorce


VIENNA - A Viennese man cut off his ring finger and presented the digit, still holding his wedding band, to his ex-wife after an acrimonious divorce, Austrian news agency APA reported Tuesday.

Charged with dangerous harassment and assault for the act, he told a preliminary hearing he did not regret having cut off the finger and had chosen deliberately not to reattached it.

“It was an act of breaking free,” the man was quoted as saying. He did not miss his finger, could work well without it and did not plan on getting married again anyway, he said.

Immigrants from Laos win $55 million lottery
Couple plans to give part of jackpot to orphanage where wife was raised

The Associated Press

SEATTLE - A woman who grew up in a Laotian orphanage in the turbulent 1960s and ’70s says she plans to donate part of a $55 million lottery jackpot she and her husband won to the people who raised her.

Xia Rattanakone said she also plans to return to Laos to search for her birth family.

“I don’t know my parents,” she said after the couple claimed their winnings on Monday. “That is my wish, to find them.”

Rattanakone, 44, came to the United States in 1979 after being adopted by an American family.

She and her husband, Sommay Rattanakone, 52, said they plan to retire from their jobs, his as an aide in the Seattle Public Schools and hers as a temporary worker at Nintendo of America, and travel.

Now able to make a trip home
Neither has been back to Laos since they moved to the United States, and returning for a visit is a top priority, they said. During that visit, they plan to donate some of the money to the Catholic orphanage where Xia Rattanakone was raised.

They also plan to buy a new home and car and put aside college money for their two sons, ages 20 and 14.

The couple bought the winning Mega Millions ticket last week at a supermarket and opted for a lump-sum payment. They stand to receive about $23 million after taxes.

Sommay Rattanakone picked up the list of winning numbers on Wednesday, a day after the drawing, but decided to take a nap before checking the ticket. His wife couldn’t wait.

“I heard her scream, ‘We won,”’ he recalled.

“We couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I prayed for this. It is a dream come true.”

Friday, October 20, 2006

I Sing the Body Eccentric
Twitches, starts and other body oddities explained

by Rich Maloof
for MSN Health & Fitness

Our bodies are like houses, the working parts all strung together with pipes and wires. Gastroenterologists are plumbers, neurologists are electricians, and we are the homeowners who keep up the maintenance and hope nothing goes awry. Yet something always does. Here’s a look at some of the strange things we can’t avoid while living in these odd bods.


We are all a little spastic sometimes, and there’s nothing to make you feel more like a spazz than the uncontrollable twitch of an eye or a thigh or a thumb. These little jumps under the skin, called fasciculations, are not well understood but apparently result from nerve abnormalities, which in turn trigger a response in muscle groups associated with that nerve. According to the National Institutes of Health, fasciculations can be prompted by caffeine intake, stress, lack of sleep and even by healthy exercise. You can get a twitch just about anywhere you have a muscle, and it’s not uncommon to feel them—and see them—in a calf, in the small muscle between the thumb and forefinger, or in the tongue.

Ear wax

Skin inside the ear is lined with cerumen glands, which are similar to sweat glands except that they excrete wax. The wax coats the walls of the ear canal and traps dirt on its way through, not entirely unlike a Roach Motel.

The wax usually works its way out of the ear naturally, taking the trapped dirt along with it, but sometimes it builds up. There are several home remedies and wax-irrigation products, but if your problem is getting sticky, consult a doctor. The process known as “ear candling,” where a hollow candle is inserted in the ear, lit and used to draw out wax buildup, is not recommended without a doctor's consent—and makes for very gross candles.

Funny bone

Smacking the so-called funny bone is amusing only to other people. The pain and numbness that follows is due to hitting the ulnar nerve, which is protected by nothing other than a thin layer of skin where it passes around the outside of the elbow. The same nerve gives sensation all the way down the arm, and if you press on it hard enough you will feel your pinky and ring fingers go numb.

Toe cheese

Toe cheese is named for both its fetid smell (c’mon…you smelled it) and the white, cakey glop reminiscent of the crumbled cheese you get on a $15 salad. If the odor is very similar to the aroma of food you’ve been served, you should a) wash your feet thoroughly and scrub between toes, and b) seek other places to dine. The white color is due to the fact that the main ingredient is sock lint, which combines with dead skin, dirt and bacteria. Black, blue and other sock-colored cheeses are common in people who dress a little nicer.


Hiccups are caused by spasms of the diaphragm, and like other spasms they are impossible to turn on voluntarily and troublesome to turn off. The diaphragm is the muscle at the base of the lungs, and a spasm causes a sharp intake of air. The characteristic sound is the glottis (the opening between the vocal chords) closing reflexively. All this can make it difficult to eat, talk, sleep or sneak up on anyone.

The Merck Manual of Medical Information explains that home remedies are based on raising the level of carbon dioxide in the blood (breathing into a paper bag, holding your breath) or stimulating the vagus nerve (drinking water through a washcloth, pulling gently on the tongue, rubbing eyeballs), which runs from the brain to the stomach and may be responsible for the spasms.

Shivers and chatters

Just like rubbing two sticks together creates friction and fire, the body shakes to generate more heat. Shivering hands, trembling legs and chattering teeth are all localized reactions to the body’s attempt at raising the temperature.

Shivers are a common symptom of the flu. Raising body temperature helps mobilize the antibodies that fight infections and viruses, which is why the body also creates a fever.

Brain freeze

No one understands exactly why we experience acute (though short-lived) brain pain from swallowing something too cold too quickly. In truth, the sensation is around our sinuses and face; there are no pain receptors in the brain, so we can’t feel pain there. According to Dr. David Biondi, a headache expert from Massachusetts General Hospital, the ice headache may be due to chilling the trigeminal nerve, which is located near the back of the mouth and is responsible for all sensation to the head and face. He explains, “In people with migraines, the threshold at which the trigeminal nerve is activated is lower than it should be. So we can speculate that anything that stimulates the face or other areas of the trigeminal nerve—dental work, getting hit in the head or face, or maybe drinking something that’s too cold and stimulates the trigeminal nerve through the throat—all can be potential triggers.”

Sleep starts

One moment you’re drifting off to la-la land, and the next instant—whoa!—you’re dropping off a cliff. Sleep experts believe the brain sometimes gets the wrong message from the body during the transition into sleep, and associates the lack of muscle tension with being in midair. “The usual explanation for sleep starts is that the loss of muscle tone at sleep onset is sometimes accompanied by the feeling of falling,” says Dr. Rosalind Cartwright, chairman of Behavioral Sciences at Rush-Presbyterian-St.Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago. “So it is reacted to by a sudden jerking of arms and legs to ‘save’ oneself.”

Jumping when startled

A useful leftover from our primal fight-or-flight days is how we instinctively defend ourselves from unforeseen conflict in a split second. The body prepares to deal with a threat in several ways before the brain even has time to assess the situation. When surprised, we instantly distance ourselves by jumping away and facing the threat. Muscles stiffen and we steady our feet in a fighting stance. Adrenaline surges, increasing our strength, speed and heart rate. Other reactions to sudden fear or surprise include widening of the eyes, clenching of the fists and jaw and, in men, the retreat of genitalia—kind of a “first things first” response.

Hair standing on end

Each hair on your body is held in place by a follicle, which is like a tiny tube in the skin. Sometimes, in response to fear, cold or even a light touch, muscle fibers connected to the follicle contract and cause the follicle to stiffen—making the hair in there stand up straight. Now imagine hundreds of those little follicles standing up straight and what do you have? Goose bumps.

This little body oddity is most likely another component of the fight-or-flight response, but no one is sure what good it actually does. If something intends to eat you, it probably won’t be stopped by the sight of a thousand tiny hairs standing on end. Although, it works for porcupines.

Medical Mysteries
Conditions and cases that have baffled doctors.
By Rich Maloof
for MSN Health Fitness

The human body is a fantastically intricate system. Even with some of the finest minds on the planet exploring the depths of its complexity, our anatomy still holds many secrets. We are reminded of how little we really understand when strange abnormalities arise. Here is a brief look at nine remarkable—and tragic—mysteries that have stymied modern medicine.

Phineas Gage
A View Into the Brain

In September 1848, railroad foreman Phineas Gage was packing sticks of dynamite into a rock with a heavy tamping rod. The dynamite exploded, sending the 3-foot 7-inch iron rod through his left cheekbone—and out the top of his head. Incredibly, his crewmen found him fully conscious and coherent, eager to get on his feet. He was rushed to Dr. John Marlow, who inserted fingers through Gage’s head and face, touching them together, before patching up the scalp and cheek flesh of his miracle patient. Gage recovered completely.

Doctors marveled that he survived at all. But the great contribution to science came with the realization that Gage later became a more violent and angry man after the front part of his brain had been traumatized. Never before had personality been identified with a specific part of the brain. The discovery paved the way for future understanding of brain functions.

Gage ran through our minds again in 2005 when construction worker Patrick Lawler fell down a staircase carrying a nail gun. Talk show audiences were amazed to see a fully recovered Lawler describing X-ray images of a 4-inch nail standing upright above his jaw. Lawler had used Advil to put off a “toothache” for six days before he realized there was a nail in his face.

Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva
The Second Skeleton

Though FOP is extremely rare, cases have been documented as far back as the 17th century. More than 300 years later, physicians are still at a loss to explain what causes soft tissue in FOP patients to turn to bone.

The earliest sign of FOP is malformed toes, such as the toes of a little girl shown here. But the real damage is done in the coming years as muscles, tendons and ligaments in the neck, back and shoulder ossify. Connective tissue in the knees, hip and elbow can also turn to bone, locking limbs permanently in position. Attempts to surgically remove the new bones results in even more bone formation.

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Although people with FOP can live into their 70s, the disease is progressive, as the "progressiva" part of the name indicates. More FOP bones grow over time, often in response to injury. With an “extra skeleton” growing in the body, the FOP patient finds it ever more difficult to move.

Sensorial Crossroads

To be expressive with language, we often use metaphors that borrow from the senses: Earth tones are “warm,” and a brass section sounds “bright.” For people with synesthesia, the crossing of senses is not metaphorical but literal. Synesthetics may hear colors, see sound or smell numbers. Dr. Richard Cytowic, author of The Man Who Tasted Shapes, undertook his study after a friend cooking dinner exclaimed that “there aren’t enough points on the chicken.”

Synesthesia is not considered to be a disease (though it has not been well studied, either) and tends to affect people who are bright and colorful—er, that is, people who are intelligent and creative.

Congenital Erythropoietic Porphyria
Hypersensitivity to Light

Fewer than 200 cases of congenital erythropoietic porphyria have ever been documented, and not just because physicians can’t pronounce the name. Due to a gene mutation, the skin becomes extremely sensitive to sunlight. Areas of exposed skin can become blistered and infected. Sunlight exposure can also lead to scarring, changes in skin pigmentation and increased hair growth. Such symptoms have unfairly linked people suffering from the condition with the lore of vampires and werewolves. On overcast or very cold winter days, the symptoms of congenital erythropoietic porphyria (also called erythropoietic protoporphyria) are sometimes attenuated, allowing some safe exposure to indirect sunlight.

The Stone Baby

It sounds horribly tragic, but the rare medical phenomenon of the stone baby results from a process that protects a woman after a failed pregnancy.

When a fertilized egg attaches anywhere outside the uterus (an abdominal or ectopic pregnancy), the fetus may begin to grow but cannot survive. Under very rare conditions the miscarried fetus is neither expelled nor reabsorbed. Instead, it calcifies—effectively turning to “stone”—which protects the mother from infection.

Lithopedions have been mistaken for benign tumors or ignored by mothers who may not even have known they’d been pregnant. In one case, surgeons found a stone baby in a 76-year-old woman who had apparently been carrying it for 50 years.

Fish Odor Syndrome (a.k.a. Stale Fish Syndrome or TMAU)

If you think the odor of rotting fish is offensive down on the docks, imagine it on your breath. The same chemical that causes stale fish to smell bad, trimethylamine, is naturally derived from our diet, and the body’s normal metabolism is supposed to break the chemical down. When it does not, as is the case with TMAU sufferers, the buildup is eventually excreted through urine, saliva and perspiration. Cruelly, the chronic condition tends to worsen around puberty. While there are no inherent physical dangers associated with TMAU, there’s no cure and the social and psychological toll on adolescents and adults can be devastating.

A Real Case of Creepy Crawlies?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have yet to recognize Morgellons as a legitimate disease, but there is no doubt for the 7,500 people nationwide who are plagued by a crawling sensation on their skin and intensely itchy lesions. The description of Morgellons is not entirely unlike scabies or lice, both of which are parasitic conditions. But the real head-scratcher is the appearance of mysterious fibers that seem to grow under the skin. Skeptics, noting that most Morgellons sufferers also experience cognitive or behavioral problems, have suggested the condition is psychological. But they’re at a loss to explain the documented finding of these strange fibers (shown here at the tip of a pen) that apparently bear no relation to cotton, wool or synthetic fibers. The Morgellons Research Foundation continues to urge the CDC to assign an investigative task force.

Fatal Familial Insomnia
When Can’t Sleep Kills

Lose just a single night’s sleep and you can expect a day of blurred vision, difficulty concentrating and gastrointestinal distress. In 1959, disc jockey Peter Tripp deprived himself of sleep for more than eight days as part of a publicity stunt, and he became paranoid, incoherent and believed he saw kittens and bunnies at his feet.

For the world’s handful of families with this type of insomnia, the symptoms are progressively and exponentially worse. Their continued lack of sleep leads first to panic attacks, then to hallucinations, then to full-on dementia. Eventually, they die from lack of sleep.

In the 28 families identified, a dominant gene leaves offspring with a 50 percent chance of acquiring the disease. FFI was first diagnosed by an Italian doctor in 1979, and it was nearly 20 years before scientists understood that it was caused by a mutated protein. The mutation leads to a buildup of plaque in the part of the brain that regulates sleep.

5-Alpha Reductase Deficiency
Nature’s Sex Change

The Intersex Society of America estimates that one of every 2,000 American children are born with an intersex disorder, so defined when one’s sexual anatomy does not fall neatly into the male or female category. 5-ARD is one such condition, and is due to an in utero complication with how a male fetus’ system uses testosterone. As a result, the newborn baby has male chromosomes but tends either to have “ambiguous genitalia” (male pseudohermaphroditism) or the genitalia appear to be that of a baby girl. During puberty, however, testosterone rages through the body and the male characteristics emerge: The voice drops, shoulders broaden and an Adam’s apple may start to develop. What appeared to be labia turn out be testicles, and what appeared to be a clitoris turns out to be a penis.

* Talk About It: What Other Medical Mysteries Are Out There?

Bear cubs trapped in bear-proof Dumpster
Cubs were found after agitated mother was seen patrolling Dumpsters

Two cubs caught dumpster diving in Zephyr Cove Campground
in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. (Wildlife Conservation Society)

A pair of black bear cubs got more than they bargained for when they went digging for food inside a dumpster at a Nevada campground.

The Dumpster's bear-proof lid, which someone had left open, closed on the cubs after they climbed inside.

The cubs were discovered after their agitated mother and a third cub were seen patrolling various dumpsters on the site and calls were made to scientists at the Wildlife Conservation Society and Nevada Division of Wildlife.

Previous studies by the agencies showed that black bears with access to human leftovers will readily become "couch potatoes" that neglect foraging for their natural foods, which include grasses, berries and pine nuts. To avoid potential conflicts between human and bears, legislation was passed that required human trash be deposited in bear-resistant containers.

"Obviously, when the lids are left open, the dumpsters won't keep the bears out," said Jon Beckmann of WCS. The Zephyr Cove Campground in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, where the cubs were discovered, will be cited for having other dumpsters on site that were not bear-proofed.

The entire bear family was tranquilized and released together in a mountain region near the campsite. Scientists fitted the mother bear with a radio collar so they could track her movements.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Coffins to Bear Logos of Baseball Teams
The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Baseball fanatics won't have to leave behind their beloved teams when they finally go to that big stadium in the sky. Instead, they'll soon be able to rest in peace inside a coffin with team colors and insignia.

Major League Baseball has a marketing deal with a company called Eternal Image. It'll put team logos on caskets and urns. The effort begins next season with the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Phillies, Cubs and Dodgers. It could eventually include all 30 teams.

Each urn will be stamped with a message saying Major League Baseball officially recognizes the deceased as a lifelong fan of that team.

After starting with baseball, Eternal Image hopes to branch out by making similar deals with the NFL, the NHL and NASCAR.

"We have been receiving these requests either directly or through our clubs for several years," said Susan Goodenow, an MLB spokeswoman. "Passionate fans express their love of their team in a number of different ways."

The National Funeral Directors Association is meeting in Philadelphia this week and giving its members a sneak peak of what the urns will look like. Eternal Image says urns for the six teams should be available by Opening Day 2007, and caskets for those teams should be ready later in the year. The products have not been made yet and the exact cost has not been set.

Kurt Soffe, a spokesman for the funeral association, said the MLB caskets are part of a trend of trying to capture "the life and the passions of the person that has passed away." At this year's convention, for instance, there was a Harley Davidson-themed casket and one featuring Betty Boop.

"More and more families are wanting to have something that respects the personalities," Soffe said.

Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Eternal Image, which also makes a line of Vatican-themed products, "wanted to break into a sports venue of some kind," said Clint Mytych, the company's CEO. "It is the all-American sport."

He said he has gotten at least 1,000 inquiries since June.

The Phillies urn was the first of the MLB products to be designed. Each urn will feature recognition of the deceased's passionate support, stamped with a message that says "Major League Baseball officially recognizes (person's name) as a lifelong fan of (team)."

The league, the manufacturer and funeral directors are trying to fill a need with the products. But they acknowledge that the sales will have to be done with respect, like all transactions in the sensitive world of funerals and burials.

David Griffin, funeral director at L.J. Griffin Funeral Home in suburban Detroit, said fans in many blue-collar cities have undying loyalty to their teams, which could make the MLB caskets and urns a hot commodity.

"Looking at it as a consumer, I was thinking this is some pretty interesting, unique stuff," Griffin said.

Nevertheless, funeral homes will have to be very careful so as not to offend their clients, many of whom will surely be scared off by the idea.

"They are a little bit hesitant because of what others might think," Soffe said.

The manufacturer also will have to make sure the products aren't too expensive. People who opt for cremation, for example, often do so partly because it is cheaper.

"I guess it's going to be interesting to see how it's accepted," Griffin said.

On the Net:

Friday, October 13, 2006

Users wonder about the future of YouTube
Community concerned that Google acquisition will crowd out the 'little guy'

By Jake Coyle

After landing a $1.65 billion deal to sell their video sharing Web site to Google Inc., the co-founders of YouTube, Steve Chen (left) and Chad Hurley (right) posted a thank-you video.

NEW YORK - After landing a $1.65 billion deal to sell their video sharing Web site to Google Inc., the co-founders of YouTube did the obvious: They posted a goofy, unrehearsed video, thanking the YouTube community for its support.

But the cameraman poses a question to Chad Hurley, 29, and Steve Chen, 27, that goes unanswered: “What does (the deal) mean for the user community?”

That’s what thousands of YouTubers are wondering. Will YouTube 2.0 still have room for the bedroom video makers that created the site’s billion-dollar identity? Or will the little guy be crowded out by advertising and corporate involvement?

“We could have never built this without the community. That is what we’re fiercely protecting,” Julie Supan, the senior director of marketing at YouTube, said Wednesday.

The YouTube community is also very protective — including Richard Stern, better known as LazyDork, a rapping, dancing, opinion-spewing defender of the site’s grass-roots nature.

“The Wild West feel of YouTube is already slipping away, and within a few weeks it likely will be gone altogether,” says Stern.

YouTube isn’t as lawless as the old West, but it has served as the gateway to a new online frontier. Since its start in February 2005, YouTube has become the pre-eminent site for Internet video, drawing a worldwide audience of 72.1 million in August.

Though enormously expansive, YouTube nevertheless has a distinct community of users who communicate by video and posted comments. This motley crew is made up of bloggers, vloggers and other users, many of whom bristled when stars like Paris Hilton and Diddy attempted to promote albums with YouTube video channels.

Now, some are expecting other, larger entities to shake up the YouTube democracy, where amateurs stand on equal footing with the professionals. The pros are growing in number: YouTube has recently reached agreements with CBS Corp., Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, NBC Universal and Warner Music Group Corp.

“What we’ve seen over the last year is, it doesn’t matter if it’s professional content or if it’s user-generated content,” says Supan. “What the community decides by is how entertaining is the content.”

Hurley and Chen’s thank-you video has been viewed by more than 1.3 million people and has a rating of 4 1/2 stars out of 5. It also has yielded the most discussion of any recent video by far. Many of the comments urge the founders well and congratulate them on their tremendous payday. Many, however, have voiced skepticism.

“Since it was the ‘people’ that made YouTube, why aren’t they being paid billions?” wrote a user named winofiend. “Good for you guys. Please don’t let our community be destroyed!” wrote Pookieftw. “Preserve the freeness of this site. Please,” wrote Poloinspace.

A frequent poster of videos named Renetto replied with sarcasm: “You actually learned how to post a video on your own Web site. This is breaking news.”

Others have faith in Google, which is generally known for innovation and Internet savvy. A prominent figure of the YouTube community, boh3m3 said, “Come on, man. Google is good. If it had to be bought by any company, I have to say Google is a ... great choice.”

“The community is very honest,” says Supan, laughing at her understatement. “That’s the beauty of the community — everyone has a voice.”

As part of the deal, Hurley, Chen and the other 65 YouTube employees will continue to work independently at their new offices in San Bruno, Calif. Google is expected to give YouTube a considerable marketing boost, increasing the number of ads on the site.

Luke Barats, who with his comedy partner Joe Bereta has parlayed their popular YouTube sketch videos into a pilot deal with NBC, is happy for YouTube’s creators. His concern, though, lies with increased advertising.

“If the advertising is kept as unobtrusive as possible, I doubt there will be much backlash from the YouTube community,” says Barats. “The fact of the matter is that YouTube still offers a great product — a widely used embeddable player that works on both PC and Mac.”

Stern fears an increase in advertising will take up precious space on YouTube’s home page, which lists featured videos.

“In order to become widely popular on YouTube, it’s almost imperative that you get featured on the front page,” says Stern, 28. “YouTube has already begun selling off its top front page real estate to advertisers and Google, one of the top Internet advertising brokers, is not going to make matters any better.”

Supan, though, says that pre-roll ads aren’t going to be added to the front of videos, and notes that the video advertisement on YouTube’s home page is participatory: you have to press play.

“(Advertisers) are very concerned with coming into this community in the right way,” she says. “They don’t want to come in and muck up the site. They want to do what fits with the environment.”

The future of YouTube has been much speculated upon practically since its inception — and doomsayers have been a constant. In particular, Mark Cuban, the outspoken dot-com billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks pro basketball team, has blogged that copyright issues will eventually ruin YouTube just as they did Napster.

Legal experts generally dispute that view since YouTube has consistently relied on the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 as a shield against lawsuits. However, that doesn’t mean individual users who post copyrighted material won’t be sued. YouTube explicitly states that such users are liable.

“We may see fewer postings of copyrighted works, but only if the content providers start suing YouTube users,” says Jennifer Rothman, an associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “And I suspect they may do that because they’re not going to be able to go after YouTube direct.”

Juggling the wants and needs of its user community with YouTube’s rapid growth — be it ads propelled by Google or copyright concerns from media companies — will likely remain an ongoing dance for YouTube.

Barats’ partner, Bereta, recalls that the comedy duo were certain to include as part of their deal with NBC the continued freedom to post videos on YouTube.

Echoing the sentiment suggested in Hurley and Chen’s bare-bones video, Barats explains, “It’s kind of that whole don’t-forget-where-you-came-from thing.”

Anti-piracy system could hurt YouTube
Agreements require video site to deploy an audio-signature technology

By Alex Veiga

LOS ANGELES - A technology designed to detect copyright material could give YouTube a needed dose of legal legitimacy and calm any concerns Google Inc. has about spending $1.65 billion on the Internet video site. But that same technology could hurt YouTube's edgy appeal.

While YouTube is known as the place to find almost any kind of video clip, recent agreements with high-profile content creators require YouTube to deploy an audio-signature technology that can spot a low-quality copy of a licensed music video or other content. YouTube would have to substitute an approved version of the clip or take the material down automatically.

Analysts said that stepped-up monitoring by entertainment companies raises the likelihood that YouTube fans won't find what they're used to getting — and will go searching for the next online video rebel.

"There's very little that holds YouTube's audience to YouTube except the belief that whatever they want to see, there is a very good chance YouTube will have it," said Joe Laszlo, senior analyst with Jupiter Research.

"If the video migrates to other places, I fear the audience will too, so YouTube needs to be really careful about how it does this," he said.

YouTube offers a gold mine of clips depicting all manner of amateur hijinks and tons of unauthorized commercial videos. Kevin Davis, a 16-year-old from Torrance, Calif., likes to peruse YouTube for music videos by R&B singer Chris Brown and rappers Lil Wayne and The Game.

"I find what I'm looking for most of the time," he said.

YouTube, based in San Mateo, Calif., has licensing deals with CBS Corp. and three major recording companies — Warner Music Group, Vivendi's Universal Music Group and Sony BMG Music Entertainment. The entertainment companies will get a cut of YouTube ad revenue each time someone views a video licensed by them.

YouTube stressed that it won't be filtering content itself.

Instead, the technology it's developing will allow copyright owners "to identify their content, locate it and then make a decision based on whether they want to remove it," said spokeswoman Julie Supan.

The new technology will be designed to scan a digital audio file, such as an MP3 or video, and compare the electronic "fingerprints" to databases of copyright material.

But copyrights can be tricky on sites like YouTube. Even a homemade video can run afoul of the law if it has a professional song playing in the background. Amateur concert footage and other video may be pulled from sites as a precaution simply because it's unclear who owns the rights.

"We're going to probably see a lot of instances like that," said Michael McGuire, a technology analyst for Gartner Inc. "It's going to be a constant game of cat and mouse."

YouTube did not provide further details on the technology, which it expects to roll out by the end of the year.

Some analysts doubt the screening technology will be foolproof. For example, detecting someone singing a copyright song on a homemade video could be difficult because the sound would not exactly match the original recording.
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"It's impossible to be completely effective," said Josh Bernoff, a digital video analyst with Forrester Research. "The devil's in the details."

YouTube's final product could resemble a system developed by Audible Magic Inc., which has compiled electronic fingerprints for more than 4 million recordings to compare to content posted on iMesh, an online file-sharing application.

Another video-sharing site, Guba LLC, which hosts user-generated videos as well as Hollywood movies that can be streamed or downloaded for a fee, uses a different content filtering technology dubbed "Johnny" that has been endorsed by major film studios.

The application tracks the transition of images in a video, like a series of snapshots, to build a signature used as a basis for comparison.

Banned content can be matched against Guba's video database and flagged, regardless of whether its format, resolution or file size are different than the original, said Bart Myers, Guba's senior vice president of product development.

"The beauty of Johnny is that Johnny doesn't care," he said.

The company claims the technology is more than 90 percent accurate with video clips that exceed three minutes. But the shorter the clip, the harder it is to spot a match.

Some sites such as Microsoft Corp.'s video-sharing hub Soapbox don't use any technology to filter what gets uploaded. But that appears to be changing.

In a statement, Rob Bennett, general manager of MSN's entertainment and video services unit, said the company is developing technologies to protect content owners.

Other sites fgure to follow.

"We expect that all of our partners in this space are going to implement state-of-the-art content-filtering technology," said Michael Nash, a senior vice president at Warner Music Group.

Woman tries to sell mummy on eBay
Officials trying to track down the origins of the mummified human skeleton

Associated Press

Mummified skeletal remains sit on an examining table at Port Huron Hospital in Port Huron, Mich. The Port Huron Police confiscated the remains from a woman's home Wednesday after getting a tip that someone was selling the remains on eBay.

PORT HURON, Mich. - Officials are trying to track down the origins of a mummified human skeleton that a Michigan woman tried to sell on eBay.

The St. Clair County medical examiner’s office confiscated the mummified remains Tuesday from the home of Lynn Sterling.

Sterling, 45, told police she got the remains from a friend who works in demolition and said he found them in a Detroit school he helped tear down nearly 30 years ago, police said. She said she had contacted an attorney before posting the remains for sale.
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“It’s an anatomical, medical-use skeleton,” Sterling told The Times Herald of Port Huron. “I would never have put it on (eBay) if I thought it was anything other than an anatomical, medical thing.”

Sterling likely won’t face charges, Port Huron Police Capt. Don Porrett said, though officials said the remains will be sent to an anthropologist at Michigan State University for further examination.

St. Clair County Medical Examiner Daniel Spitz described the remains as an intact skeleton with mummified tissue. He said age, sex and race could not yet be determined, but said the remains appeared to be those of a child.

“It’s very, very old. It’s probably some type of anatomical dissection that was part of an anatomy class that over time got into the hands of somebody in the general public,” Spitz said.

Port Huron police were notified about the eBay posting by a caller from North Carolina who spotted the item on the online auction site, Porrett said.

EBay spokeswoman Catherine England said the posting was removed Wednesday because it violated a policy against selling human remains. The Web site allows the sale of skeletons for medical use, but not mummified remains.

Curiosity did attract at least one bid before the posting was removed.

“There was a bid on it for $500 from ‘Satan’s Child,”’ Porrett said.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Site of Amish schoolhouse shooting razed
Associated Press Writer
13 minutes ago

NICKEL MINES, Pa. - Workers with heavy machinery rather than hand tools moved in before dawn Thursday and demolished the one-room Amish schoolhouse where a gunman fatally shot five girls and wounded five others.

Construction lights glared in the mist as a large backhoe tore into the overhang of the school's porch around 4:45 a.m., then knocked down the bell tower and toppled the walls. Within 15 minutes, the building was reduced to a pile of rubble. By 7:30 a.m., the debris was gone, leaving just a bare patch of earth.

The schoolhouse had been boarded up since the killings 10 days earlier, with classes moved to a nearby farm. The Amish planned to leave a quiet pasture where the schoolhouse stood.

"I thought there was widespread feeling in the community that it was important to remove the building," said Herman Bontrager, a Mennonite businessman who is serving as a spokesman. "Especially for the children, but not only for the children."

The Amish are known for constructing buildings by hand, without the aid of modern technology, but for this job they relied on an outside demolition crew to bring closure to a painful chapter for their peaceful community.

A group of 20 to 30 people, many of them in traditional Amish dress, gathered nearby to watch as the schoolhouse was leveled. One Amish man shook his head when asked if he would comment on the demolition.

"It seems this is a type of closure for them," Mike Hart, a spokesman for the Bart Fire Company, said as loaders lifted debris into dump trucks to be hauled away.

The destruction of the West Nickel Mines Amish School came a week after the solemn funerals of the five girls killed by gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV. Roberts came heavily armed and apparently prepared for a long standoff. He held the 10 girls hostage for about an hour before shooting them and killing himself as police closed in.

The five girls wounded in the Oct. 2 shooting are still believed to be hospitalized. The hospitals are no longer providing any information about the patients at the request of their families.

Hart, who has been coordinating activities with the Amish community and whose company will help provide security, said private contractors were handling the demolition, and the debris would be hauled to a landfill.

He has said classes were expected to resume for the school this week at a makeshift schoolhouse in a garage on an Amish farm in the Nickel Mines area.

Damsels in distress
If you’re missing, it helps to be young, white and female
By Alex Johnson

Shelton Sanders called his father the night of June 19, 2001, to let him know he was driving home later than usual after helping out with planning for a bachelor party. It was the last his father, an influential county magistrate, ever heard from him.

Sanders, 25, was on track to earn his degree from the University of South Carolina in December. Although school was out for the summer, he still made the 82-mile round trip each day from his parents’ home in Rembert to Columbia, where he was a systems manager at the USC medical school. But this night, he never made it home. He remains listed by the Sumter and Richland county sheriffs as a missing person, likely the victim of foul play.

Dail Dinwiddie, 23, was preparing to enter graduate school at USC when she vanished the morning of Sept. 24, 1992. The bouncer at a bar was probably the last person to talk to her, at about 1:30 a.m.; she was last seen walking home from one of Columbia’s popular club districts. She remains listed by the Columbia police as a missing person, likely the victim of foul play.

What is known about Shelton John Sanders must be reconstructed from police reports, interviews and articles in his hometown newspaper, The Sumter Item; no other newspaper has ever written about him, except for passing mentions and the occasional brief roundup note.

In a case like Laci Peterson’s, ‘people within the media ... have been embarrassed by how they’re covering this story so much,’ said David Hazinski, a University of Georgia journalism professor

Dail Dinwiddie had already been missing for nine years when Sanders disappeared in June 2001; her case was about as cold as cold cases get. But just since that day — never mind the previous nine years — at least six full-length articles examining her disappearance have appeared in South Carolina’s biggest newspapers, one of them 3,200 words long.

During those same three years, her decade-old story has also been retold by newspapers in Michigan, Minnesota, Georgia, Florida and Wisconsin. It was featured in U.S. News & World Report. CNBC and National Public Radio did pieces.

The attention to Dinwiddie “is kind of mind-boggling,” said Chip Chase, managing editor of the Item, which has regularly published updates on the Sanders investigation.

Two bright, ambitious students at the main state university disappear in the same town, under similar circumstances. One of them becomes “an inescapable name and face,” in the words of The Greenville News. The other is largely forgotten. No one can say why with absolute certainty.

But there is one unavoidable difference between the two cases:

Dail Dinwiddie is a white woman. Shelton Sanders is a black man.

What about everybody else?
It’s the same in the national media, too. Whenever a missing person becomes a continuing news story, she is almost certain to be an attractive white girl or young woman:

Molly Bish. Carly Brucia. Rachel Cooke. Audrey Herron. Polly Klaas. Chandra Levy.

Kristen Modafferi. Kimberley Pandelios. Laci Peterson. JonBenet Ramsey. Audrey Seiler.

Dru Sjodin. Elizabeth Smart. Linda Sobek. Danielle van Dam. Brooke Wilberger.

More than 800,000 missing persons cases are on file with the FBI. Most of those are children, many of whom show up within hours of having wandered off.

Almost 29,000 of them, however, are adults and juveniles who are “missing under circumstances indicating that the disappearance was not voluntary; i.e., abduction or kidnapping,” according to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. White women are just one of the many demographic subsets you can break out of the data.

But “when was the last time you heard something about a 23-year-old black female who was missing on NBC or ‘World News Tonight’?” asked David Hazinski, a former NBC News correspondent who teaches broadcast journalism at the University of Georgia.

“I think in general we just really don’t hear about Latin or black or Asian people who are missing,” he said. “I’m not sure why.”

Catnip for TV types
Roy Peter Clark thinks he knows why.

“It’s all about sex,” said Clark, vice president of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Fla. Young white women give editors and television producers what they want.

“There are several common threads,” Clark said. “The victims that get the most coverage are female rather than male. They are white, in general, rather than young people of color. They are at least middle class, if not upper middle class.”

‘White is good; black is bad. Blonde is good; dark is bad. Young is good; old is bad,’ said Roy Peter Clark of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies

Such cases fit a convenient narrative pattern that storytellers have used for more than a century, a pattern whose design still incorporates remnants of an outmoded view of women and black people and their roles in society.

“In many, many cities going back 50, 75 years or more, journalists would refer to ‘good murders’ and ‘bad murders,’” Clark said, explaining how editors and reporters choose what police stories to cover.

“The example of a bad murder would be the murder of an African-American person from a poor neighborhood,” he said. “The definition of a good murder is a socialite killed by her jealous husband, the debutante murdered by her angry boyfriend.”

When it comes to police stories, Clark said, there is “this perverted, racist view of the world. White is good; black is bad. Blonde is good; dark is bad. Young is good; old is bad. And I think we can find versions of this story going back to the tabloid wars of more than a hundred years ago.”

Women are supposed to be safe
“I don’t think anybody intellectualizes it,” said Jack Kuenzie, who covered both the Dinwiddie and the Sanders stories during his 20 years as a reporter at WIS-TV in Columbia. He acknowledged that Dinwiddie received much greater attention.

Kuenzie (pronounced KIN-zey) noted that Dinwiddie was last seen very near the USC campus, while Sanders was last seen farther away at a non-school-related function.

“There’s thousands of families out there who send their kids to USC every year expecting them to be safe,” he said. “... The Dail Dinwiddie case resonated because it was this cute young girl who vanished in a place where everybody thought she was going to be safe.”

With Sanders, “I don’t know,” said Kuenzie, who suggested that newsroom managers could have thought that “maybe he just decided to leave, or maybe he was doing something he shouldn’t have been doing.”

But that description doesn’t appear to fit.

“You’ve got a young man who was following the straight and narrow, so to speak, and something happens to him, and I would think there would be as much interest to anybody as any other missing persons case,” said Chase of The Sumter Item. “We’re not talking about a guy down by the corner buying drugs.”

‘Every situation is a little different’
It is a topic journalists are reluctant to talk about. Other than Chase, for whose paper Sanders is a local story, Jack Kuenzie was the only South Carolina journalist willing to to be interviewed for this article.

In addition to WIS-TV, requested interviews with newsroom executives at each of the major news organizations in South Carolina. The State newspaper declined. WOLO-TV declined. The Greenville News did not respond to numerous e-mail and telephone requests for comment. Neither did WLTX-TV. also sought interviews with the national television news divisions. CNN declined. Despite receiving more than a half-dozen e-mail and telephone requests over 3½ weeks, ABC News was not able to find someone to speak for the network. Neither was CBS News.

Often, missing persons get coverage only when little else is going on, said NBC News Vice President William Wheatley. Chandra Levy dominated the news for five months, but then came the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I think they’re afraid,” said Hazinski, the University of Georgia professor. “News managers don’t want to say they’re underreporting the news.”

One executive who is not afraid, however, is Bill Shine, executive producer of Fox News Channel.

“We don’t have a formal policy in relationship to missing people or missing children,” Shine said. But FNC has aired numerous reports on missing children who did not fit the profile of young white women, he said, most commonly on Greta van Susteren’s program, “On the Record.”

“Greta focuses a lot ... on missing people, and often those people are children, and she’s looked for children of every age, size, creed and color and religion and everything else,” he said.

During the interview Tuesday with Shine, the lead story on was about the search for Lori Kay Hacking, a 27-year-old white woman who was reported missing in Salt Lake City. But network executives submitted a list of six African-American missing persons and those from other minority groups it had covered, who it said were representative of the cases van Susteren commonly reported on.

William Wheatley, vice president of news at NBC News, also cautioned against making too much of the demographics of story subjects, saying decisions about who became prominent were usually not made by the networks. (MSNBC is a joint venture of NBC News and Microsoft Corp.)

“It may be a function of the fact that, at the network level, we often pick up stories that are already playing prominently at the local level,” Wheatley said.

“What else is going on in the world when [a story] occurs” can make a big difference, too, Wheatley said. He noted that Chandra Levy, the congressional intern whose body was found more than a year after she disappeared in April 2001, monopolized coverage during a period when news was especially slow, in the five months before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Then she dropped off the radar.

For families, no differences
Advocates for missing persons say they struggle with the stereotypes daily.

‘If we were really interested in real news,
we would probably look overall at numbers
of missing persons and women and [conduct]
a more in-depth analysis of who’s missing and why.’

— Kristal Brent Zook
Columbia University journalism professor

“We can’t get a young girl who may be suffering substance abuse and may be prostituting on the national news because they feel she’s not worth the time,” said Kym Pasqualini, president of the National Center for Missing Adults in Phoenix. “But these individuals are no less important to their families, and their families are entitled to the same help” in getting their cases before the public.

“We have found that it’s far easier for our agency to obtain national coverage on an individual who society, I think, identifies with,” she said.

Kristal Brent Zook, a journalism professor at Columbia University, said the disparity in coverage had very real human consequences.

“So many ... are missing women who are 60, 70, 80, who are white and black — all races,” she said. “They may be handicapped; they’re missing their medication; they’re working-class. They’re not as glamorous as other kinds of missing women. It is very disproportionate racially, but also in terms of class.”

Beyond the human impact, the disparity in coverage reflects a basic failure of journalism itself, Zook said.

“If we were really interested in real news, we would probably look overall at numbers of missing persons and women and [conduct] a more in-depth analysis of who’s missing and why,” she said. “I don’t think we’re really interested in that. I think we’re interested in the sexy, sensationalist stories.”

Sandman speaks
Shelton Sanders’ story is neither sexy nor sensationalist. It is merely tragic.

Sanders had started a Web site shortly before he vanished. “Beyond college, I would like to work for a company for 3 years, then I would like to start and run my own computer company,” he writes, a dream frozen in time.

He reveals that he is sometimes called Sandman and that he is a fan of “Star Wars,” Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Al Green, Emmitt Smith, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Laila Ali, the women’s super-middleweight world boxing champion and daughter of The Greatest.

On his home page, he invites questions.

There are no answers.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Interview: Body Language Do's and Don'ts
Body Language Do's and Don'ts for Interviews

By Candace Corner

Your heart feels ready to leap out of your chest. Beads of sweat build on your forehead. Your mind is racing.

It's not a full-blown interrogation -- although it may feel like it -- it's just a job interview. While it's no secret that job interviews can be nerve-racking, a lot of job candidates spend a significant amount of time worrying about what they will say during their interview, only to blow it all with their body language. The old adage, "It's not what you say, it's how you say it," still holds meaning, even if you're not talking. You need to effectively communicate your professionalism both verbally and nonverbally.

Because watching your nonverbal cues, delivering concise answers and expressing your enthusiasm at once can be difficult when you're nervous, here's a guide to walk you through it:

Have them at "hello"

Before you walk into the interview, it's assumed that you will have done the following: prepared yourself by reading up on the company and recent company news; practiced what you'll say to some of the more common interview questions; and followed the "what to wear on your interview" advice. So you're ready, right?

Some hiring managers claim they can spot a possible candidate for a job within 30 seconds or less, and while a lot of that has to do with the way you look, it's also in your body language. Don't walk in pulling up your pantyhose or readjusting your tie; pull yourself together before you stand up to greet the hiring manager or enter their office. Avoid a "dead fish" handshake and confidently -- but not too firmly -- grasp your interviewer's hand and make eye contact while saying hello.

Shake your hand, watch yourself

If you are rocking back in your chair, shaking your foot, drumming your fingers or scratching your... anything, you're going to look like your going to look the type of future employee who wouldn't be able to stay focused, if even for a few minutes. It's a not a game of charades, it's a job interview. Here's what to do (and not do):


Rub the back of your head or neck. Even if you really do just have a cramp in your neck, these gestures make you look disinterested.

Rub or touch your nose. This suggests that you're not being completely honest, and it's gross.

Sit with your armed folded across your chest. You'll appear unfriendly and disengaged.

Cross your legs and idly shake one over the other. It's distracting and shows how uncomfortable you are.

Lean your body towards the door. You'll appear ready to make a mad dash for the door.

Slouch back in your seat. This will make you appear disinterested and unprepared.

Stare back blankly. This is a look people naturally adapt when they are trying to distance themselves.


Sit up straight, and lean slightly forward in your chair. In addition to projecting interest and engagement in the interaction, aligning your body's position to that of the interviewer's shows admiration and agreement.

Show your enthusiasm by keeping an interested expression. Nod and make positive gestures in moderation to avoid looking like a bobblehead.

Establish a comfortable amount of personal space between you and the interviewer. Invading personal space (anything more than 20 inches) could make the interviewer feel uncomfortable and take the focus away from your conversation.

Limit your application of colognes and perfumes. Invading aromas can arouse allergies. Being the candidate that gave the interviewer a headache isn't going to do anything in your favor.

If you have more than one person interviewing you at once, make sure you briefly address both people with your gaze (without looking like a tennis spectator) and return your attention to the person who has asked you a question.

Interruptions can happen. If they do, refrain from staring at your interviewer while they address their immediate business and motion your willingness to leave if they need privacy.

Stand up and smile even if you are on a phone interview. Standing increases your level of alertness and allows you to become more engaged in the conversation.

Say Goodbye Gracefully

After a few well-thought-out questions and answers with your interviewer, it's almost over, but don't lose your cool just yet. Make sure your goodbye handshake is just as confident now as it was going in. Keep that going while you walk through the office building, into the elevator and onto the street. Once safely in your car, a cab or some other measurable safe distance from the scene of your interview, it's safe to let go. You may have aced it, but the last thing you want is some elaborate end-zone dance type of routine killing all your hard work at the last moment.

'Real Man' Stereotypes Keep Depressed Men From Treatment
Older males have an 8-fold higher suicide risk than women, experts note

By Robert Preidt

FRIDAY, Oct. 6 (HealthDay News) -- The "strong, silent type" of self-image cherished by many men, combined with social stigma, are major reasons why older American males are less likely than women to seek and receive treatment for depression, researchers say.

The findings from a team at the University of California, Davis, are important because the rate of completed suicide among American men aged 65 and older is nearly 32 per 100,000, compared with about four per 100,000 for women in the same age group.

The researchers examined data from 1,800 adults aged 60 and older with major depression or a related disorder who took part in a national study on depression. They also interviewed 30 people connected to the study -- including doctors, depression-care managers, and study recruiters -- in order to get their views about the challenges in recruiting and treating older men with depression.

The study found that, compared with older women, older men were much less likely to recognize and describe symptoms of depression and to have received prior treatment for depression.

The interviews with the people connected to the study revealed factors that contributed to the differences between men and women, including the way that men experience and express their depression, traditional male attitudes, and the stigma of depression.

"Because older men tend not to endorse depressed mood or sadness, they were often felt to be more reluctant to accept the diagnosis of depression and the treatment recommendations," the study authors noted.

The findings suggest new ways to educate and help older men with depression, such as using less direct or clinical (i.e. threatening) language to discuss depression; involving family in all phases of treatment; and de-emphasizing professional labels and placing more emphasis on symptoms and sources of stress.

The study was published in the October issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

More information

* The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about men and depression..
** Talk About It: Real Men Don't Get Treated for Depression?
*** Male depression: Don't ignore the symptoms
**** Men At Work and Under Pressure
***** Reality Check: Depression

'Real Man' Stereotypes Keep Depressed Men From Treatment
Older males have an 8-fold higher suicide risk than women, experts note

By Robert Preidt

FRIDAY, Oct. 6 (HealthDay News) -- The "strong, silent type" of self-image cherished by many men, combined with social stigma, are major reasons why older American males are less likely than women to seek and receive treatment for depression, researchers say.

The findings from a team at the University of California, Davis, are important because the rate of completed suicide among American men aged 65 and older is nearly 32 per 100,000, compared with about four per 100,000 for women in the same age group.

The researchers examined data from 1,800 adults aged 60 and older with major depression or a related disorder who took part in a national study on depression. They also interviewed 30 people connected to the study -- including doctors, depression-care managers, and study recruiters -- in order to get their views about the challenges in recruiting and treating older men with depression.

The study found that, compared with older women, older men were much less likely to recognize and describe symptoms of depression and to have received prior treatment for depression.

The interviews with the people connected to the study revealed factors that contributed to the differences between men and women, including the way that men experience and express their depression, traditional male attitudes, and the stigma of depression.

"Because older men tend not to endorse depressed mood or sadness, they were often felt to be more reluctant to accept the diagnosis of depression and the treatment recommendations," the study authors noted.

The findings suggest new ways to educate and help older men with depression, such as using less direct or clinical (i.e. threatening) language to discuss depression; involving family in all phases of treatment; and de-emphasizing professional labels and placing more emphasis on symptoms and sources of stress.

The study was published in the October issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

More information

* The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about men and depression..
** Talk About It: Real Men Don't Get Treated for Depression?
*** Male depression: Don't ignore the symptoms
**** Men At Work and Under Pressure
***** Reality Check: Depression

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Security Watch: The myth of online anonymity
Robert Vamosi,
Senior Editor

One truism in forensics is that every contact leaves evidence. That's true at a crime screen in the real world and also true on the Internet. You might think you can get away with posting an anonymous message somewhere, or even sending an anonymous e-mail via a bogus Web mail account, or perhaps writing anonymous malicious code. You can't. Not entirely.

At this year's Black Hat Briefings in Las Vegas, Dr. Neal Krawetz, of Hacker Factor Solutions, demonstrated how he and others have started to use nonclassical digital forensics techniques. By analyzing the words used or the keyboard characters typed, he can tell a lot about these supposedly anonymous online authors.

Surf anonymously? Think again
Recently I reviewed Torpark, an Internet browser designed to disguise your originating IP address. Whenever you connect to the Internet, your ISP assigns you an IP address. This IP address tells sites such as Google what country you're in.

This is important if you live in a country where free speech is tightly controlled. Torpark, which is based on Mozilla's Firefox 1.5, uses a worldwide network of encrypted routers to randomly choose a different IP address for you. So, when you launch Torpark, you're likely to see the Firefox-like browser default to Google Denmark instead of the Google U.S. screen.

Torpark is designed primarily to keep your online search requests from being censored or subpoenaed in the future by some court. But even if you were to use Torpark to disguise your IP address from law enforcement for malicious intent, the e-mails you send, the posts you make, even the code you upload still says a lot about you--probably more than you intended.

As hard as it is to change or alter the whorls of your physical fingerprints, it is just as hard to alter the way we think about and use language or the way our fingers naturally hit the keyboard. Dr. Krawetz showed how information about gender, country of origin, handedness, and even whether or not you play the guitar can all be determined from sample text.

Vocabulary and gender
In his talk, Kazwetz mentioned several studies on gender use of keywords which, when weighted--with specific numerical values for male and different numerical values for female--can determine the gender of the author. Sounds too simple to be true, but research (including Gender, Genre, and Writing Style in Formal Written Texts by Shlomo Argamon, et al., and Sexed Texts by Charles McGrath) has shown that some words are more likely to be written by one gender or the other. In informal writing, men are more likely to write "some," "this", and "as" while women are more likely to write "actually," "everything," and "because." In formal writing, men write "around," "more," and "what" while women write "if," "with," and "where." By determining the point totals in a given document, Dr. Krawetz can predict the gender of the author.

Dr. Krawetz admits upfront that this method is only 60 to 70 percent accurate, but it is far better than guessing, which is only 50 percent accurate. He further cautions that text including citations from poetry, quotes from others, and even the influence of copy editors on the original can all skew the results. It is best to collect a large number of examples, then average the point totals.

Who are you--really?
The New Yorker cartoon states: On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.

Well, Dr. Krawetz has applied his tests to several Web site examples. The most interesting case study involved soft-porn sites where he determined that a few of the "women" who write fantasies for men tested out to be men. So much for believing all those sultry blogs.

Want to see for yourself? Dr. Krawetz's Gender Guesser is available online from Hacker Factor Solutions.
By analyzing text, Dr. Krawetz can also learn something of a person's nationality. For example, when analyzing multiple documents, patterns emerge in word choice, punctuation, and sentence length. Americans choose words from a small core vocabulary, while Europeans draw from a much larger vocabulary and use alternative spelling choices to some equivalent American English words. Australians are a hybrid, using a smaller core vocabulary but choosing European spellings. Shorter sentences with simple punctuation are more likely to be American, and longer sentences with complex punctuation are more likely to be European.

What randomness can teach us
But most of us don't publish in large online publications, so blogs and even online chats can also reveal a lot of who we are online. Out of frustration, have you ever typed and posted some gibberish in an online post or chat? Like this: asdfasjfdj. Your dominant hand is likely to hit more adjacent keys faster than your other hand.

In this example, assuming the author used a standard QWERTY keyboard, you might determine that the author--myself, in this case--is left-handed, which would be true. Research shows that the ratio of right-handed individuals to left-handed is roughly a 70/30 split worldwide.

Again some disclaimers: This method is also only 70 percent accurate and doesn't include such factors as whether the person is an online game player, has carpal tunnel syndrome, or is employed as a typist (or at a job where typing is required).

Drumming for fun
But here's where it really gets fun. Try drumming your fingers on the keyboard. Does the pattern radiate out from the center of the keyboard or in from the outside? Research shows that the Out to In ratio is also a 70/30 split. And if one hand is mostly In and the other is mostly Out, the result is asymmetrical drumming, which might mean the author is a musician (usually a piano or a stringed instrument player). When no clear pattern emerges from this drumming exercise, that can be seen as a possible sign of Attention Deficit Disorder.

Also if the letters are adjacent to each other, such as in my above example, we can infer that I'm using a QWERTY-based keyboard, and not a Dvorak keyboard. Dr. Krawetz can further tell whether a person is using an ergonomic setup or not by which rows of keys are used more.

All this might sound crazy, but check out Dr. Krawetz's slides from his Black Hat talk where he uses the above techniques in a few real-world hacking examples. With one case study, he attempts to identify "TheUntouchable," a member of DutchMafia, a phishing group that has since disbanded.

In the end, Dr. Krawetz narrowed down the possible candidates for TheUntouchable from a list that included everyone on the planet to just one: a right-handed male, possibly a musician, whose profile matched only 3.5 percent of the population. It wasn't a direct match but it's better than nothing. Dr. Krawetz's Gender Guesser is available online from Hacker Factor Solutions, or try the Gender Genie by BookBlog.

You can run but…
Research such as this should help investigators zero in on online criminals. Virus writers have in the past enjoyed some anonymity--until they bragged about their exploits in online chats. Now investigators have a means of fingerprinting text and code.

Dating a single dad?
By Lambeth Hochwald

For single dads, life isn’t exactly like Sleepless in Seattle, in which Tom Hanks has a son who is so determined to set him up that Dad ends up on a first date atop the Empire State Building with Meg Ryan. Fabulous in fiction but not exactly true in real life. Instead, single dads say they spend far more time explaining their custody agreements and kids’ soccer schedules to the women they see. To help you navigate the idiosyncrasies of dating a single dad, we put together a panel of five fathers and asked them to be 100% honest about what they’re looking for in a woman.

The Dads:
Robert Grand
, 39, special education teacher; Phelan, California
Divorced for three and a half years; has a daughter, age 10; now engaged to a single mom
Dan Grogan, 42, engineer; Albany, New York
Divorced for less than a year; has a 12-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son
Mark Kasserman, 47, video producer; San Rafael, California
Divorced for 11 years; has two sons, ages 11 and 13
Patrick Morris, 43, public relations director; Saratoga, New York
Separated for two years; has a son, age 6
Darryl Wooten, 50, actor; Boston, Massachusetts
Divorced three years ago; has four children, ages 16, 14, 12 and 9

Q: What’s the most important thing for a woman to know when dating a single dad?
Darryl Wooten:
Any woman who dates me must know that my kids are everything to me, so if a woman isn’t into my children, it’s never going to work out. But she also has to be genuine about them—I don’t want her pretending that she likes them only to get me to go on another date. Believe me, I can tell if she’s sincere.
Patrick Morris: I want a woman to know that I’m going to talk about my kids on a first date. I once went out for a date with a woman who didn’t want to know a thing about my son. Every time I brought him up, she changed the subject. I’d never go out with her again. When you’re a parent, your life revolves around your child.
Robert Grand: Any woman who dates a single dad needs to scale down her expectations and not expect to meet a single dad’s kids right away. Also, a lot of people, including single dads, have crazy exes. I personally have broken away from my old life with my ex-wife, but there is a lot of stress when it comes to dealing with an ex, and any woman dating a single dad needs to know that.

Q: Do you prefer to date another single parent and why?
Mark Kasserman:
I’d go out with both but there are pros and cons for each scenario. If a woman has kids, she knows that you can’t just bail and go out for sushi whenever you want—a single woman without kids might not understand that. On the other hand, it’s harder to get together with a single mom because you both have households to run, and it’s often hard to find time in your schedules that works for both of you.
Robert: Let’s not forget about the fact that when you’re dating a single mom, she understands what the dynamic is about. For example, she may be dealing with the same issues as you are — like custody or trying to organize schedules — and she’s likely to be more empathetic.
Dan Grogan: I think what might be a sticking point with a single woman without kids is the fact that I don’t know if I want to have more kids. So, if she wants kids, that’s going to be an automatic conflict. On the flip side, most single moms are done having children so that makes dating them a lot easier for a guy like me.
Patrick: If I'm looking for a long-term relationship, I would prefer another single parent because she has a better understanding of what your own life is like. She gets the fact that sometimes you really do need to cancel something at the last minute because something really did come up with your child—and you understand that the same thing can and does happen on her end. She also understands that sometimes, you've been running with your child all day and you really want to see her but would it be OK if we just ordered in a pizza and cuddled up on the couch with a movie.

Q: At what point do you introduce a woman you’re dating to your children?
I think it’s important for women to know that we as single dads want women to let us figure out when the timing is right to introduce them. It’s not that we’re keeping you a secret from our kids but we want to be sure we’re going to be serious. I usually introduce a woman when I think things are going to work out long-term.
Mark: I used to introduce my kids to my dates but now I wait a little longer because my kids are at an age where they bond really quickly to people. I also think it’s not a good thing to keep bringing people in and out of their lives.
Dan: Right; I wouldn’t just bring a date over to say hello. I’d have to be going out with her for at least six months before I’d invite her to meet my kids—I just think it’s best that way.

Q: Should your date take on any kind of parent/mothering role?
I think it’s important for a woman to start slow when it comes to mothering a single dad’s kids. It’s good to show that you’re interested and that you’d be a good mom but you don’t want to take on too much too fast.
Dan: And another thing—I think any woman who dates a single dad needs to keep in mind that there’s also a real mom in the picture and if you take on the mothering role too much, that’s not going to play well with the kids. You absolutely have to ease into that role.

Q: Let’s talk about public displays of affection. What, if any, is appropriate and when?
I think showing your affection is the best thing you can do in front of kids, but my situation is different because their mother isn’t involved in their lives at all. Sons tend to be very possessive about their moms and, obviously, I don’t have that dynamic. I really believe most kids want their parents to be with someone.
Robert: I don’t have a problem with PDA as long as it’s not inappropriate. I kiss my fiancé all the time in front of the kids but that only started once I knew we were going to be getting married. In fact, before I proposed, we always slept in separate bedrooms—I thought that was the right message to send to my daughter and my fiancée’s son.

Q: What should women know about sleeping over? What works and what doesn’t when it comes to the kids?
I think you incorporate that into your relationship. I’m very much into the fact that this is normal and healthy. It’s only bad if you traipse seven women into your house over a two-week period. That’s not healthy.
Robert: Honestly, I didn’t ever have a sleepover in the beginning of my relationship with my now-fiancée, Lisa. We slept in separate rooms until we got engaged. Once we got engaged, we explained to the kids that sleeping in the same bed was OK. It also helped break in her son and my daughter in stages. You don’t want to shock them.

Q: Should a woman you’re dating ever approach your child on her own and make plans?
I think it would be OK for a woman I was dating to invite one of my kids to do something together. I’d have to trust her and, fortunately, my kids are old enough to decide for themselves if it’s something they feel comfortable doing.
Robert: Yes, but I don’t think a woman should make plans directly with the kids. When this woman I once dated started approaching my daughter to make plans, I had to talk to her and remind her that we’re casually dating and that we have to see where the relationship is going. She was way too overzealous for my taste.
Mark: One last thing: It’s also crucial for a woman to watch out for potentially hot-button topics. For example, I was getting to know this woman and had brought my kids along with us for dinner. Right in the middle of dinner, she started talking about her younger partying days and how she used to smoke pot. I’m as open-minded as they come, but no one should ever talk about anything that’s politically questionable in front of my kids. She was off the list right away. It bothered me because you first need to know the parent’s take on a subject before you bring it up. For example, a parent might not think that watching a movie that has two people kissing in it is appropriate, but the person you’re out with might not think of anything of it. You should know what your date’s feelings are on these subjects and you shouldn’t try to buddy up to the kids.

Q: How do you handle a situation when your kids just don’t warm up to your girlfriend? What can the woman do to ease into a relationship with them?
If my kids don’t warm up to a girl I’m seeing then she’s out. I’d certainly ask my kids why they don’t like her, but if they don’t like her, there’s something wrong that I don’t see.
Robert: But a lot of times kids are trying to manipulate you or test you. So my biggest advice to women is that if you see that a kid isn’t warming up, be yourself. I think that if you almost ignore it, eventually the kids come around. Also, I think it’s important to note that you shouldn’t take it personally. Kids are coming in with their own baggage and they may be afraid of being hurt or getting close.
Patrick: What I would do right away is sit down with my son and find out specifically what his issues were and if they were real issues or was he just feeling insecure. If it was insecurity, I would do whatever I could to reassure him that I love him more than anyone in the world and that I want him to get to know my girlfriend before he decides that he really doesn’t like her. At that point, we’d have to play it by ear. You need to listen to your heart but you need to listen to your kids, too.