Reader Information

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fortean / Oddball News - 9/24/2010: Invasive Chipmunks, Witches / Wizards and Pain Relief

Witches, Wizards Banned From Advertising In Russia - Russian lawmakers have backed a bill that bans witches and wizards from advertising in the media amid concerns that they give false hope to cancer victims.

Nearly one million practitioners of the occult advertise their services in Russia, offering to cure anything from cancer to missing husbands for a fee, London's Daily Telegraph reported today.

According to one report, almost one in five Russians consult the self-professed "faith healers," in a trend that has alarmed lawmakers.

"Citizens, if they have the money, are even sometimes promised elevation to a new level of evolution,” lawmaker Tatyana Yakovleva told the daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper.

“Only last year in Moscow 300,000 people turned to the services of wizards and healers according to the Interior Ministry.”

Cancer specialists have warned that patients waste valuable time on consulting with witches or wizards, only to be told that there is nothing that can be done when the client runs out of money for a "cure."

The bill would require anyone claiming to be able to solve people’s health problems to get a licence to operate from the health ministry. It needs two more votes to become law.


Siberian Chipmunks Invade Ireland

irishtimes - Wildlife experts have issued an “invasive species alert” following sightings of Siberian chipmunks on the loose in Co Waterford. The striped rodents, native to northern Asia, are regarded as a “significant threat” to the survival of the Irish red squirrel, which is already imperilled by the grey squirrel.

Colette O’Flynn, manager of the National Invasive Species Database, explained that “Co Waterford remains a stronghold for red squirrels as the invasive grey squirrel has not as yet, penetrated into the heart of the county” but the chipmunk has “similar habitats and food requirements”.

She said the authorities were “alarmed” by sightings of chipmunks last month in Colligan Woods near Dungarvan. It is believed the creatures were bought as pets and escaped or were deliberately released into the wild. The first sighting occurred on August 10th when a member of the public spotted and photographed a chipmunk crossing a road.

The sighting sparked concern among officials at the National Biodiversity Data Centre and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. There was relief three days later when a dead chipmunk was found in the area. Officials hoped the sighting was “a one off”. However, a fresh sighting occurred on August 15th when a local resident, Dina Walshe saw and photographed another chipmunk whose behaviour suggested it might have been a former pet “as it did not shy away from close human contact”.

She submitted photographs to the National Biodiversity Data Centre, which then issued the invasive species alert. The Siberian chipmunk (Eutamias sibiricus) is normally found in woodlands in northern Russia, China, Korea and Japan and is distinguished by five longitudinal stripes along its back. The rodent can grow to a length of 25cm and lives on a diet of shrubs, mushrooms, berries, birds and other small animals.

Chipmunks can spread rabies and also carry the ticks which harbour Lyme disease. In Russia, they are regarded as pests which cause widespread destruction of nut and grain crops and can also threaten ground-nesting birds.

Ms O’Flynn confirmed it was “illegal to release any non-native species into the wild in Ireland without a licence” and that it was also “cruel to release a pet into the wild”. She pointed out that “Siberian chipmunks do not make ideal pets” as they “do not suit confinement and are difficult to contain”.

She also appealed to people who spot a chipmunk in the wild to take a photograph if possible and report the sighting. Ms O’Flynn added, “during 2009 and 2010, we have seen a number of species associated with the pet trade end up in the wild in Ireland”.


American Angler Bitten By Fish With Human-Like Teeth

orangeAn angler had a shock - when a mystery fish bit him back with distinctly human-looking teeth.

Frank Yarborough was fishing in Lake Wylie, South Carolina, when he hooked the fish which was 5lb and nearly 1ft 8ins long.

Assuming it was a catfish, he scooped his hand in the water to pull it out, only to find his fingers clamped between what appeared to be a set of dentures.

Robert Stroud, a freshwater fisheries biologist with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, has confirmed that samples from the fish have been sent off to determine the fish's species.

Stroud told WBTV: "This fish is more than likely a common species of Pacu, Colossama macropomum, originating from the Amazon River basin of South America and is quite common in the aquarium trade."

Pacus, a distant relative of the piranha, is a warm water fish, and not native to Lake Wylie. Biologists believe it was probably raised in an exotic fish tank and released when it got too large for the tank.

The fish is currently in a freezer in Mr Yarborough's Clover home, but unsurprisingly he has no plans to cook his catch.


Woman Attempts to Kill the Anti-Christ...Goes to Jail

theweeklyvice - Sandra Clanton, a 39-year-old Elmhurst woman, was arrested Saturday night after she allegedly attempted to kill her 9-month-old grandson because he is the anti-Christ.

According to DuPage police, Clanton placed her 9-month-old grandson on the counter next to the kitchen sink and then apparently lost her mind.

Investigators say Clanton slammed the babies head against the counter and then cut his face with a knife.

DuPage police say the child's mother and a friend were in the home during the attack and they called police.

When investigators questioned Clanton, she reportedly told them that the baby was the anti-Christ.

Clanton was transported to a hospital under police watch. While there, Clanton allegedly tried to commit suicide by slitting her wrists with a plastic cap from a bottle.

Police say that Clanton then repeatedly banged her head on a table when they told her to stop.

Clanton was transported from the hospital to the DuPage County Jail and charged with attempted first degree murder, aggravated battery to a child, and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Her bond was set at $2 million.


Have Pain? Touch It Away

sciencedaily - There may be a very good reason that people naturally clutch their hand after receiving an injury. A new report published online Sept. 23 in Current Biology shows that self-touch offers significant relief for acute pain under experimental conditions. The researchers suggest that the relief comes from a change in the brain's representation of the rest of the body.

"Pain is quite an important, but also complicated, experience and can be caused in many different ways," said Patrick Haggard of University College London. "We show that levels of acute pain depend not just on the signals sent to the brain, but also on how the brain integrates these signals into a coherent representation of the body as a whole."

Haggard and his colleague Marjolein Kammers, also of University College London, made the discovery by studying the effects of self-touch in people who were made to feel pain using an experimental condition known as the thermal grill illusion (TGI). "The TGI is one of the best-established laboratory methods for studying pain perception," Haggard explained. "In our version, the index and ring fingers are placed in warm water and the middle finger in cold water. This generates a paradoxical feeling that the middle finger is painfully hot." That's ideal because it allows scientists to study the experience of pain without actually causing any injury to those who participate in the studies.

When TGI was induced in an individual's two hands and then the three fingers of one hand were touched to the same fingers on the other hand immediately afterwards, the painful heat experienced by the middle finger dropped by 64 percent compared to a condition without self-touch. That relief didn't come when only one hand was placed under TGI conditions. Partial self-touch in which only one or two fingers were pressed against each other didn't work either. Nor did it work to press the affected hand against an experimenter's hand that had also been warmed and cooled in the same way.

"In sum," the researchers wrote, "TGI was reduced only when thermosensory and tactile information from all three fingers was fully integrated. That is, TGI reduction required a highly coherent somatosensory pattern, including coherence between tactile and thermal patterns and coherence of stimuli between the two hands."

Haggard said that earlier studies of chronic pain had suggested the importance of body representation in the experience of pain. For example, the phantom pain that is often felt following amputation of a limb appears to lessen with time as the brain converges on an updated representation of the body. Haggard said the new findings extend the important role of body representation to acute pain and may lead to a better understanding of the brain mechanisms involved in chronic pain as well.

The findings might be put to practical use, the researchers say. "Our work suggests that therapies aimed at strengthening the multisensory representation of the body may be effective in reducing pain," Haggard said.

The researchers include Marjolein P.M. Kammers, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, Alexandra House, London, UK; Frederique de Vignemont, Institut Jean-Nicod, CNRS/EHESS/ENS, Paris, France; Transitions NYU-CNRS, New York, NY; and Patrick Haggard, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, Alexandra House, London, UK.

Fortean / Oddball News - 9/24/2010: Invasive Chipmunks, Witches / Wizards and Pain Relief