Wednesday, September 30, 2020

A disaster has been declared in a Texan city after a brain-eating amoeba was found in their local water supply after tested after a six-year-old boy died as a result of playing in the water

Lake Jackson, Texas Officials believe the amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, either entered his body at a splash pad in the city, or from a hose in the family home. His hospitalization, and subsequent death on September 8th, prompted an investigation of the Brazosport Water Authority system. According to health experts, the amoeba is rare but 90 to 95 percent of people who are infected die. The splash pad was immediately shutdown September 8th and the city began testing for the amoeba, sending the samples to a private lab. The initial results came back negative.  Lake Jackson officials talked with the Center for Disease Control, the Brazoria County health department and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on Septembre 17th about conducting a more elaborate test that was delayed because of Tropical Storm Beta. The state finally collected new samples September 22nd at multiple sites in Lake Jackson. CDC preliminary results came back positive Sept. 25 at three of the 11 locations tested. Those positive samples included water from the Lake Jackson Civic Center Splash Pad, the family’s home hose bib and a dead end fire hydrant close to the splash pad in downtown. The results were also sent to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and after reviewing, TCEQ required Brazosport Water Authority to issue a “Do Not Use” water advisory for their customer base, which includes Lake Jackson. (KCEN)


Oregon man plunges to his death posing for picture near cliff

Oregon State Troopers said a 43-year-old man fell to his death after climbing a tree to pose for a picture on a cliff along the state’s coast. The man fell 100 feet into the Pacific Ocean while visiting Devil’s Cauldron Overlook Trail in Oswald West Park. An investigation revealed that two people had walked down the Devil’s Cauldron trail to take a photograph at a cliff side viewpoint. OSP said the man climbed a tree on the cliff’s edge to pose for a photograph when a limb broke, causing him to fall into the ocean. A United States Coast Guard helicopter assisted in the search, and he was recovered and taken to Tillamook Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.  (The Oregonian)


Science shows watching cute animals is good for your health

A study conducted by the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, in partnership with Western Australia Tourism, has found evidence to suggest that watching cute animals may contribute to a reduction in stress and anxiety. The study examined how watching images and videos of cute animals for 30 minutes affects blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety. In all cases, the study saw blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety go down in participants, 30 minutes after watching the video. The study recorded that average blood pressure dropped from 136/88 to 115/71, which the study pointed out is “within ideal blood pressure range.” Average heart rates were lowered to 67.4 bpm, a reduction of 6.5%. Anxiety rates also went down by 35%, measured using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, a self-assessment method often used in clinical settings to diagnose anxiety. (WESH)


A Utah man allegedly stole a truck he said he needed to rendezvous with aliens but felt bad for stealing it and returned it to a 7 Eleven store

The man is accused of theft of a vehicle and three attempts to escape from official custody after he returned a red pickup truck that he later told police he needed so that he could “get to the Colosseum to get on a flight with alien diplomats.” According to court documents, he intended to drive the truck all the way to the Colosseum but felt bad for stealing it so he returned to the 7 Eleven he took it from to give it back. The truck had been reported stolen when the owner who left his truck unlocked with the keys inside while he stopped into the store. Police responded and investigated and when an officer arrived at the convenience store he was met by the truck’s owner who said the man suspected of taking it returned it and was running from the location. The officer used his radio and another officer took the suspect into custody. The suspect was taken to a hospital for an injury sustained when the truck owner allegedly punched him in the face. Once in hospital care, police said the man tried to slip past officers three times. The man allegedly apologized to police and told them aliens needed him to get to the Colosseum. He was booked into the Utah County jail on suspicion of theft of a motor vehicle and police and three counts of attempted escape. (KUTV)


The Internal Revenue Service is considering adding a question to Form 1040 asking tax filers if they dealt in virtual currency in 2020

It would be the agency’s latest attempt to crack down on underreporting of cryptocurrency profits. If an American buys bitcoin, ether, or another cryptocurrency and then sells it later at a profit, she or he will typically owe capital gains tax on the difference. But blockchains do not have the tax reporting infrastructure that has become standard for conventional financial institutions. On the 2020 version of the 1040, the cryptocurrency question could be the very first one taxpayers answer after giving their name and other identifying information. A draft of the 1040 posted to the IRS website asks taxpayers: “at any time during 2020, did you receive, sell, send, exchange, or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?” If taxpayers check “yes,” the agency can double-check that virtual currency transactions were reported correctly. If taxpayers check “no,” they could be prosecuted for tax evasion if the IRS later discovers they were lying. The prominent placement of the question will make it harder for a taxpayer to convince a jury that a failure to report cryptocurrency profits was an honest mistake. (IRS)


A rat named Magawa has won an award for bravery after discovering 39 landmines and 28 explosive devices in Cambodia

Magawa works for APOPO, a Belgian organization that trains rats to search for unexploded mines in Cambodia, Angola, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. The award he won is called the PDA’s Gold Medal, which was created in 1943 by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a British charity, as a way to honor heroic animals. According to PDA, Magawa is “quick and decisive” and enjoys “looking for landmines, knowing he’ll be rewarded with bananas.” All the previous winners were dogs. (Associated Press)


Universal Health Services was hit by a ransomware attack that has shut down its IT systems

The hack is believed to have originated from a Russian cybercrime group known as Wizard Spider. The hack happened on Sunday morning and locked computers and phone systems at UHS facilities across the country. UHS is one of the largest healthcare providers in the U.S. and has 400 hospitals and healthcare facilities in the United States and the United Kingdom. UHS said that no patient or employee data was accessed or copied so far. (Crowd Strike)


A man has found a 9-carat diamond at Crater of Diamonds State Park, in Arkansas

The 33-year-old has been going to the park to search for diamonds since primary school but always left empty-handed. On Labor Day, he visited the park with friends and decided to grab whatever looked like a crystal. On his way out, he dropped his bounty at the Diamond Discovery Center to have the stones checked. Park officials found a 9.07-carat diamond among his rocks, the second-largest diamond found in the park’s history. “I honestly teared up when they told me. I was in complete shock,” he said. More than 75,000 diamonds have been found at the park since 1906. (CNN)


Most American parents can’t help kids with math, science homework beyond 6th grade: study

The average American adult doesn’t think they would be the greatest tutor for their child beyond early middle school, according to a survey of 2,000 parents of school-aged children in the United States. Mongoose and the USA BMX Foundation partnered for the poll, with the average respondent reporting that they would be placed into sixth grade if tested for math and science today, according to the research. With that being said, 42% of participants admitted they’d feel “lost” in teaching math to their kiddo at their respective grade level, while 35% said the same about the science curriculum. Back in their own school days, over half of the respondents reported that they found math challenging, while four in 10 struggled with science, according to the research. When it comes to must-know lessons, one in five said they weren’t sure about the formula for calculating speed, while just 36% were “very confident” in listing circumference and diameter on a circle diagram. From there, less than one-third of people were certain they could identify an example of potential energy, like a stretched rubber band. As the coronavirus pandemic has upended the traditional academic school year for millions of students, 62% of parents said they were worried that remote and hybrid classes would hinder hands-on opportunities for learning STEM subjects. Despite such hybrid models of education and their own trepidations, 72% of parents said they’re prepared to patiently learn more about math and science along with their child, in order to encourage their kid’s confidence during this unusual school year. (Fox News)



Study Ranks Importance of Sex to Women as They Age

It’s often thought that older women lose interest in sex, but many women continue to rate sex as important, a new study finds. More than 3,200 women took part in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation. For 45%, sex was important early in midlife and became less so over time, the study found. For 27%, sex remained important throughout midlife and for 28% sex was of low importance. Black women were more likely to say sex was important throughout midlife, but Chinese and Japanese women were more likely to regard sex as not important or of less importance. Women with depression symptoms also were more likely to regard sex as unimportant. Sexual satisfaction was linked with high levels of importance of sex, as was higher education, the researchers found. The findings are to be presented earlier this week at the 2020 virtual meeting of the North American Menopause Society. (NewsMax)


Alabama man reunited with photo of late wife blown away by Hurricane Sally

A man in Alabama recovered a special photo of his late wife that was blown away in the wicked winds of Hurricane Sally, all thanks to the help of strangers on social media. The man said on Facebook the photo of his late wife is usually on the dashboard of his Jeep. The image was taken in April 2017, after what he described as “her first night home from the hospital after her first seizure.” Three years ago, Amy lost her battle with brain cancer. In her memory, the man has kept several photos of her with him, but when he and his daughter were traveling to check on Amy’s grave after Hurricane Sally roared through the region, he said the photo was swept out of his vehicle by gusty winds after he opened the door on September 16th. He thought the photo was gone for good until that Monday, September 20th, when he started getting tagged in comments on a post in the “What’s Happening in Fairhope” Facebook group. A woman had written that her husband found the photo, still in good shape, when they returned to their home to check on damage from the storm. After making direct contact on facebook, the man was reunited with the picture of his late wife in what he described as a “very emotional experience”. (Fox 10)


Bizarre-looking lizards born with bodies almost entirely comprised of their tails

A handful of endangered lizards with bodies nearly entirely comprised of their tails were born at a zoo in the U.K. recently. Four blue tree monitor lizards were born while Bristol Zoo was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The zoo has since reopened. Zookeepers have been caring for the endangered reptile species, which was only discovered in 2001. “This is our second breeding success with the species and it is very important because we are trying to ensure a healthy population is maintained in European zoos,” the senior zookeeper said. At birth, the blue tree monitor lizards were just about 2 inches in length and weighed just half an ounce. When fully grown, they reach 10.6 inches in length, with two-thirds of that in their tail. The Bristol Zoo, which is home to many other endangered animals including lemurs, lions and gorillas, is the only zoo in the U.K. to have successfully bred the lizards. In addition, a pancake tortoise was also born during the lockdown, the zoo added. Pancake tortoises are considered “vulnerable” due in large part to habitat loss and being sold for pets on the international markets. (Fox News)


Scientists in the US have found a way to plant ideas in people’s heads as they sleep to make them have bizarre, abstract dreams

Using so-called targeted dream incubation (TDI), experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have been able to guide people’s dreams toward particular themes by repeating information during the earliest stage of sleep. This stage is known as hypnagogia, and is generally associated with dreams about psychedelic phenomena. The technique uses a basic set-up consisting of a wrist-worn electronic sleep-tracking device called Dormio, which tracks when the wearer is asleep, and an app, which delivers audio prompts. Hypnagogia is similar to the deepest sleep stage, known as REM, in terms of brainwaves and experience. However, unlike REM, individuals can still hear audio during hypnagogia while they dream, which can influence the content of dreams. That’s why the sound of music playing or people talking can often play a part in our dreams during the lightest sleep stages. “This state of mind is trippy, loose, flexible, and divergent”, said co-author at MIT Media Lab. MIT designed and developed their sleep-tracking device that can alter dreams by tracking hypnagogia.  The user decides what they want to dream about, from creative problems they are working on to an experience they want to reflect on or an emotional issue they want to address.  They then record themselves speaking an audio prompt using the app, which gets replayed during multiple stages of consciousness including wake, sleep onset and sleep. These audio prompts can consist of anything the user decides they want to dream about. The hand-worn sleep tracker then monitors the wearer’s heart rate and electrodermal activity, changes in the resistance of the skin to a small electrical current based on sweat gland activity. At this point, the audio prompts were delivered to the sleeper at precise times in the sleep cycle, ascertained by the incoming physiological data. Upon awakening, a person’s guided dream content could be used to complete tasks such as creative story writing. Historical figures like writer Mary Shelley and artist Salvador Dalí, created a memorable dream sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1945 thriller “Spellbound”, were inspired creatively by their dreams. But MIT’s technology could also have more serious uses, such as helping people confront sources of stress and trauma. Apart from benefiting scientists, this work has the potential to lead to new commercial technologies that go beyond sleep tracking to issue interventions that affect sleep onset, sleep quality, sleep-based memory consolidation, and learning, according to the lead researcher. (Science Direct)


Wednesday Busts Out With:

  • Ask A Stupid Question Day (Last School Day in the Month)
  • Banned Websites Awareness Day (Last Wednesday)
  • Blasphemy Day
  • International Podcast Day
  • International Translation Day
  • Love People Day
  • Mud Pack Day
  • Mulled Cider Day
  • Recovery Day
  • Women’s Health & Fitness Day (Last Wednesday)
  • Wrigley Chewing Gum Day

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