Archive for May, 2011


Friday, May 27th, 2011


The Deadly Murray Valley encephalitis

A mosquito-borne virus which killed a Canadian tourist and left a toddler critically ill has prompted a widespread warning for people to cover up and protect themselves from mosquito bites in Australia’s north.

A 19-year-old Canadian woman died after contracting Murray Valley encephalitis following a trip through the Northern Territory this month. She returned home where she became unwell, and yesterday died in a hospital in Calgary, Alberta.

A Northern Territory Health Department spokesman said it was not known where in the NT the Canadian woman had contracted the disease.

In the meantime, a two-year-old remains in Royal Darwin Hospital Australia after also contracting the potentially fatal mosquito-borne virus in the Kimberley region of WA.

A WA police officer who contracted MVE while on a two-week relief stint at an Aboriginal community remains in a Perth hospital.

Constable Ryan Marron, 29, has come out of a coma but is still unable to communicate.

It is not known if the police officer or the toddler will fully recover.

Last month, a man who had been travelling in WA’s northwest became the first person in the state to die from the disease in three years.

So far this year there have been three confirmed cases of MVE in the Northern Territory and one report of the closely related Kunjin virus.

In WA there have been nine reports of MVE, leaving one dead and several hospitalised.

The WA Health Department last week issued its fifth warning in three months, following the death of a man in WA last month.

The viruses, which have no cure and no vaccination, kill 25 per cent of people who contract them while another 25 per cent have residual neurological effects.

People infected in WA so far this year had been travelling through the Kimberley, Pilbara, Gascoyne and eastern Goldfields regions.

Department entomologist Sue Harrington said while there was no suggestion the MVE virus would reach Perth, the fact it had already hit the Wheatbelt and Mid-West regions was of a concern.

“It seems to have activated independently this season,” she said.

“There has been an extension of that area, so a large proportion of West Australia is now affected by MVE.”

The death of a man in the north-west of the state last month and a South Australian man two weeks ago led the Department to issue another stern warning about the virus.

“It causes inflammation of the brain,” she said.

“People have suffered paralysis and brain damage of varying degrees.

“Often people in the north just accept that mosquitoes are a fact of life.

“A lot of people might have been bitten and have developed the antibodies.

“Every year we have activity in the region. It’s still the same disease, with the same drastic symptoms.”

Ms Harrington warned as there was no cure doctors were only able to treat the symptoms of the virus so people living and travelling outside the metropolitan area should take measures to avoid mosquito bites by applying mosquito repellents and wearing long-sleeved clothing.

In addition to MVE and Kunjin viruses, Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses were still causing dramas across the south of the state with more infections reported to the Department.

The latter two viruses cause similar symptoms including painful joints, aching muscles, lethargy, fever, headaches and skin rashes and can last from days to months.

The symptoms of Kunjin and MVE are similar. While the latter is more severe, both cause fever, drowsiness, stiff neck, nausea and dizziness. Young children can experience drowsiness, floppiness, irritability, poor feeding or general distress.

– with AAP


Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Europe approves

new blood thinner

from Pfizer, BMS

Associated Press, 05.20.11, 11:27 AM EDT

NEW YORK — Drugmaker Pfizer says European regulators have approved its highly-anticipated blood thinner Eliquis to prevent blood clots in patients who have had hip or knee replacement surgery.

The approval by the European commission means the drug, known as apixaban, will be available in the 27 countries of the European Union.

The drug was approved based on two studies that showed better outcomes for patients taking Eliquis rather than receiving an injection of the typical current treatment.

The drug has been promoted as a potential blockbuster drug for its ability to prevent blood clots with no bleeding side effects of older drugs like warfarin. However, last year the companies halted a 10,000-patient study due to excessive bleeding

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Associated Press

FDA expands Pfizer drug

approval for rare cancer

Associated Press, 05.20.11, 06:23 PM EDT

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration said Friday it expanded approval of a Pfizer drug to treat a rare form of pancreatic cancer.

The agency said it cleared Sutent to treat cancerous tumors of the pancreas that cannot be surgically removed, or have spread to other parts of the body. Such tumors are slow-growing and rare, affecting less than 1,000 U.S. patients each year, according to an FDA estimate.

Earlier this month the FDA approved Novartis ( NVS news people )’ Afinitor for the same disease.

Sutent is a pill-based drug that blocks molecules involved in the growth and spread of tumors. It is already approved as a treatment for kidney cancer and for tumors of the stomach, esophagus, and bowels that do not respond to other treatment. The drug was first cleared by the FDA in 2006.

The FDA approved the drug based on a study of 171 patients in which those taking Sutent lived about five months longer without their disease spreading than patients taking a placebo.

Side effects with the drug include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, high blood pressure, energy loss, stomach pain and changes in hair color.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Friday, May 20th, 2011

Paralysed man stands again

after electrical implant

May 20, 2011 – 1:21PM

After Rob Summers was paralysed below the chest in a car accident in 2006, his doctors told him he would never stand again. They were wrong.

Despite intensive physical therapy for three years, Mr Summers’s condition had not improved. So in 2009, doctors implanted an electrical stimulator on to the lining of his spinal cord to try waking up his damaged nervous system.

Within days, Mr Summers, 25, stood without help. Months later, he wiggled his toes, moved his knees, ankles and hips and was able to take a few steps on a treadmill.

Walking again ... Rob SummersA few steps … Rob Summers. Photo: AFP / Courtesy of Rob Summers

“It was the most incredible feeling,” said Mr Summers, of Portland, Oregon. “After not being able to move for four years, I thought things could finally change.”

Still, despite his renewed optimism, Mr Summers cannot stand when he is not in a therapy session with the stimulator turned on, and he normally gets around in a wheelchair. Doctors are limiting his use of the device to several hours at a time.

His case is described in a paper published today in the journal Lancet. The research was paid for by the US National Institutes of Health and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

Building up his strength ... Rob Summers.Building up his strength … Rob Summers. Photo: AFP / Courtesy of Rob Summers

For years, certain people with incomplete spinal cord injuries, who have some control of their limbs, have experienced some improvement after experiments to stimulate their muscles electrically. But such progress had not been seen before in someone with a complete spinal cord injury.

“This is not a cure, but it could lead to improved functionality in some patients,” said Gregoire Courtine, head of experimental neurorehabilitation at the University of Zurich. He was not connected to Mr Summers’s case.

He cautioned that Mr Summers’s recovery so far had not make any difference to his daily life and that more research was needed to help paralysed people regain enough mobility to make a difference in their normal routines.

Before the accident ... Rob Summers.Before the accident … Rob Summers. Photo: AFP / Courtesy of Rob Summers

The electrical stimulator surgeons implanted on to Mr Summers’s spinal cord is usually used to relieve pain and can cost up to $US20,000.

Mr Summers’s doctors implanted it lower than normal, on to the very bottom of his vertebrae.

“The stimulator sends a general signal to the spinal cord to walk or stand,” said Susan Harkema, rehabilitation research director at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Centre in Louisville and the Lancet study’s lead author.

Dr Harkema and her colleagues were surprised that Mr Summers was able to move his legs voluntarily. “That tells us we can access the circuitry of the nervous system, which opens up a whole new avenue for us to address paralysis,” Dr Harkema said. She said prescribing drugs might also speed recovery.

John McDonald, director of the International Centre for Spinal Cord Injury at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, said the strategy could be adopted rapidly for the 10 to 15 per cent of paralysed patients who might benefit. He was not connected to the Summers case.

“There is no question we will do this for our patients,” Dr McDonald said.

He added that, since the electrical stimulators were already approved for pain relief, it should not be difficult to study them to help some patients regain movement.

For now, Mr Summers does about two hours a day of physical therapy.

“My ultimate goal is to walk and run again,” he said. “I believe anything is possible and that I will get out of my wheelchair one day.”

AP  Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Salvia Divinorum. A relative of the  mint plant getting you stoned

Holy Shit, Really?

Salvia divinorum is a member of the Lamiaceae family, which makes it a cousin of the mint plant. When properly prepared, salvia can be smoked in order to bring on incredibly intense, at times paralyzing, hallucinations. Most salvia trips are short in duration, but very powerful and jarring. All side effects of salvia are gone within an hour, and it doesn’t show up on standard drug tests.

Depending on the amount of smoke inhaled, users of salvia may experience hallucinations on par in intensity with those caused by drugs like LSD or DMT. Since most users lose consciousness and drift off into a world of fractal shapes and green women as soon as they hit the pipe, it has not gained much popularity as a ‘party’ drug.

It kind of makes the world look like this for about six minutes.

Where Can I Get One?

Salvia is still legal in most US states. You can pick it up at most well-stocked ‘head’ shops, but the cheapest and highest quality salvia is usually found online. Make sure to check your local laws to see if you can legally purchase and possess it in your state. If not, at least you still have your flamethrower.

What Should I do With it?

Here at Cracked, the only “high” we’re interested in is the natural high we get from bringing comedy to the world (and sometimes crystal meth), so we have no advice here. However there are a number of educational videos that recommend gardening, writing letters to congressmen, and driving while on salvia.

Also, we do not recommend teaching while on salvia.

Holy Balls, Why is it Legal?

Salvia is actually pretty harmless, as intoxicants go. There have been a few accusations of its involvement in causing a suicidal mindset, but evidence is spurious at best. In fact a number of scientists believe that salvia may act as an anti-depressant, and its effective use in ending cocaine addiction has been noticed as well. Dr. Bryan Roth believes the drug has the potential to help those suffering from schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s and has urged the government not to ban salvia. With the potential to cure depression, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and cocaine addictions, it’s a wonder salvia isn’t a mandatory side dish in high school cafeterias across America. We’re going to go ahead and say that last one is a bad idea.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

7 Basic Things

You Won’t Believe

You’re All Doing Wrong

By: C. Coville, Crystal Beran

April 04, 2011 3,268,922 views

If you’re like us, you might sometimes have a problem with complex tasks, like trying to drive an ambulance and send a text message at the same time. But hey, at least most of us have figured out the simplest things that get us through the day, right?

Except, you know, some of the simple things we’ve done every day of our lives, like …


What could be simpler than taking a good crap? Even babies are good at it. You might be surprised, then, to find out that even those of us who can burp without throwing up get this wrong every single day.

The one who just threw up on the other one’s shoulder is better at pooping.

Chances are the pooping facility nearest you is a sitting toilet, a relatively recent invention that flushed its way into mankind’s heart with the advent of indoor plumbing in the 19th century. Indoor plumbing has turned out pretty well for the most part, but the pooping style that came with it definitely has not. Pooping on a modern sitting toilet is a big part of where hemorrhoids come from, and it can also cause diverticular disease, an age-related condition that pretty much only occurs in parts of the world where sitting toilets are used, and which can lead to a range of pleasantries up to and including colonic obstruction. And things aren’t getting better: The last few decades have seen a rise in popularity of “comfort height” toilets that sit two to four inches higher off the ground than older models and that make our pooping predicament even worse.

Future toilets will exist just to kill us.

So how the hell are we meant to do it?

Luckily, there’s a relatively simple way to end this poop dilemma. A 2003 study observed 28 people pooping in three positions: sitting on a high toilet, sitting on a lower one and squatting like they were catchers at a baseball game (catcher’s mitt optional, but encouraged). After initially being mistaken for a German porn company, the researchers found that pooping took about a minute less when done squatting and that participants rated the experience as “easier” (God, we hope they were getting paid).

In fact, toilets that require you to squat that way have been the standard for most of human history and are still widely used in the non-Western world.

And urban centers of the Western world.

According to proctologists, “We were not meant to sit on toilets, we were meant to squat in the field.” When you’re in a sitting or standing position, you’re forming an angle between the where the poop is and where the poop’s gotta come out. There’s even a muscle that’s purpose is to tighten things up when we’re sitting or standing to prevent accidents. Squatting straightens out this angle and removes the chokehold.

For no reason, here’s an icing pipe.

If the thought of squatting awkwardly on top of your toilet seat isn’t for you, you can produce a similar poop-enhancing angle by resting your feet on a footstool (or anything handy) and leaning the top half of your body forward.

Demonstrated here.


From a young age, we’re taught that the daily use of a hot shower, copious amounts of soap and a scratchy washcloth are necessary to rid ourselves of dangerous microorganisms and the putrid smell of human skin. And if you aren’t squeaky-clean, you can forget about dating, career advancement and the promise of a future that doesn’t involve dying alone in a den of your own filth.

That’s what college is for.

As it turns out, showering or bathing daily, while it may make us more socially acceptable, wreaks havoc on something hilariously called the horny layer. Hot water, soap and abrasive surfaces strip off the horny layer, exposing living cells to the elements. And although we’ve just used the words “strip,” “exposing” and “horny” in the same sentence, we assure you that this is not the making of a sexy situation. On the contrary, damaging this protective layer of skin makes us more susceptible to disease.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Sexy disease.

Before recent modern conveniences, people bathed less often, and frequently in the same water. Even nowadays, showering doesn’t kill bacteria or other microorganisms, though it does move them around. A colony of bacteria living on your shower wall might move to your leg; a colony from your leg might move to your head; a colony from your groin might even take up residence on your hands. For this reason, surgeons in many hospitals are not allowed to shower right before operating.

Not even you, Doctor McPenishands!

Studies have shown that there are no measurable differences in the number of microorganism colonies a person is host to regardless of how frequently that person showers. Of course, using antibacterial soaps can kill microorganisms, though in an effort not to create too many super bacteria, medical experts generally recommend not using these soaps daily.

“Say what you like, but you have to admit my bones are super shiny!”

So how the hell are we meant to do it?

The most important thing to do to keep the skin healthy is to preserve the horny layer. There’s no magic number of showers each week, though it’s generally agreed that the number would fall somewhat shy of seven. Skipping showers, or, if you’d like a fancy French term, celebrating sans douche days, gives your skin time to repair some of the damage that the last shower caused.

Any more than a day and there’s no amount of French that’ll get rid of Eau de Sewer.

When you shower, use warm or cool water and a mild soap (if at all), and rehydrate the horny layer by rubbing on some moisturizer afterward. Better yet, convince an attractive friend to help with this. Once you’ve cleaned up, you’ll want to make sure you air dry. Ignore protesting roommates or family members and remind them, as you’re drip-drying at the breakfast table, that they should be grateful you’re showering only a couple of times a week.

“Kids, ignore your father while I try to remember why I married him.”


Congratulations: Chances are that if you’re reading this, and you’re not a ghost, you’ve managed to figure out breathing. On the other hand, chances are you’re also doing it wrong.

You’re also suddenly aware that you’re breathing now.

Take a deep breath right now. We’ll wait. If you’re anything like most people, you raised your shoulders a little and puffed out your chest like a pigeon in heat. You probably don’t see anything wrong with using your chest to breathe, since after all, that’s where your lungs are. What the hell else are you going to use? Your thighs? Well, smartass, it turns out that the muscle you’re supposed to use to breathe, your diaphragm, is under your lungs and closer to your belly.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Shown here as the white mass on the bottom of this X-ray of Tom Cruise (may not actually be Tom Cruise).

When upright, most people are habitual chest breathers: We use a shallow form of respiration that makes use of only the top part of the lungs. In reality, most of the blood vessels that take up oxygen are in the bottom, neglected half. Since so much lung power is going to waste, we get less oxygen, and as a result, we’re all breathing more rapidly than nature intended us to.

Chest breathing also tends to upset the blood’s oxygen/carbon dioxide balance and can lead to headaches, fatigue, anxiety and even panic attacks. According to one expert, you’re also potentially suffering from sweaty palms, difficulty relaxing, heightened pain perception and general fatigue.
Or as most people call it — a “first date.”

So how the hell are we meant to do it?

It turns out that breathing is one area in which babies are much smarter than you. Babies use a deeper type of respiration called abdominal breathing, which strengthens and makes full use of their diaphragms. It’s only as we grow older that we revert to the more inefficient style. Luckily, you can train your body to go back to breathing properly, and over time, you can even breathe abdominally in your sleep.
Not to be confused with snoring, which is just breathing abominably.

To practice it, try to “inflate” your stomach as you breathe in, while keeping your chest relatively still. Then contract your abdominal muscles on the exhale. Not only will this give you more oxygen per breath, it will eventually strengthen the diaphragm. A stronger diaphragm means you get more oxygen with each breath, so your brain won’t need to divert any away from your muscles, meaning that you get tired less easily.
Try this now at work, and observe as people kindly give you more breathing space!

A study on cardiac patients showed that this type of breathing leads to improved exercise performance and decreased shortness of breath, and it’s also been linked to lower blood pressure. This is the reason that so many coaches recommend breathing practice as a shortcut to sports-based superpowers.

“I’ll have you know this exercise is recommended by my doctor.”


OK, so maybe you can’t handle pooping, breathing or much else that you’d think would come naturally. But surely just lying in bed every night is OK, right? So why the hell do you keep waking up at 3 a.m.? You lie there, wondering what the hell is wrong with you. Will I oversleep? you wonder. How will I find the time to sit down and poop in the morning?

“I have to remember to breathe, too. I can’t deal with all this.

If this happens to you often, you’re not alone. Chances are, if you mention waking up like this to your doctor, it’ll be diagnosed as a “sleep disorder,” and you’ll be given one of the tens of millions of prescriptions for sleeping pills handed out to Americans each year. You’ll pop some Ambien, only to awaken a few hours later beating up a police officer. What on earth went wrong?

To be fair, you couldn’t have known that wasn’t a real truncheon.

So how the hell are we meant to do it?

In this case, you’re already doing it right. It’s your reaction that’s wrong.

The idea that an uninterrupted eight hours is the only sleep pattern natural to mankind is surprisingly recent. Before someone who wasn’t Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, people in areas with more than eight hours of darkness usually slept in segments: three to five hours of sleep, an hour of wakefulness and then another three to five hour nap. The hour or so of awake time was used for quiet reflection, sex, smoking and pretty much everything except staring at the wall terrified of insomnia. In fact, this small window of consciousness was renowned as the best time for boning, as the tranquility between the first and second sleep was known as being uniquely suited to getting up to mischief with the person lying bored beside you.

This isn’t compulsory.

In recent times, artificial light has pushed our normal bedtime back later and later, and this segmented sleep has been compressed into a single eight hours. Still, our brains are naturally wired for pre-light-bulb days. In a monthlong experiment, healthy subjects were given a long artificial “night” lasting 14 hours. They quickly reverted to the segmented pattern, waking up for an hour or two of “peaceful wakefulness” between two three to five hour stretches.

By the end of the experiment, all the women were pregnant.

So why do we still wake up even when we’ve been up until midnight watching Deadliest Warrior marathons? Well, some people tend to revert to this natural sleep cycle despite all the artificial light, especially during dark winter months. Fortunately, having this sort of technology-resistant superbrain doesn’t necessarily spell disaster. According to experts, if you stay calm and allow yourself to fall back to sleep naturally rather than lying there wondering why you’re awake, you usually won’t see any negative effects the next day.

Unless you leave the TV on while you sleep.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

The 6 Creepiest Things

Hiding in Your DNA

By: C. Coville

April 28, 2011 1,054,500 views

Grandparent-Based Death Time Bombs

We’ve mentioned before that your father’s smoking could have made you fat. What we didn’t mention, though, was that your grandparents’ actions could also have doomed you to a short and unhappy life. Man, what did you do to piss off all of history? ‘Cause it sure seems to hate the crap out of you.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Do you owe Napoleon money? Dude, just pay it already.

A study in Sweden revealed a strange pattern in a rural community that had gone through periods of both famine and abundance in the 19th century. The study found that the grandsons of men who’d had childhoods coinciding with abundant years — i.e., the ones who had stuffed their faces with grain for a season or two — had a life expectancy of 32 years less than the grandsons of those who had experienced famine, with the deaths caused mainly by diabetes, heart disease and presumably the shame of having extremely fat grandparents. Daughters with gluttonous grandmothers suffered a similar fate.
Though we admit that eating enough to kill future generations is pretty damn impressive.

Luckily, this delayed-reaction DNA sabotage doesn’t always have to be negative: Mice exposed to “enriched” learning environments developed an improved memory that was passed on to offspring that had never experienced it. Man, it seems like just about anything you do with your life now has a serious impact on the genetics of later generations. So it’s a good thing you’re snacking on broccoli and stimulating your mind with such an esteemed source of learning on your way to save that orphanage, right?


Bug Poop

The assassin bug of South America lands on the faces of sleeping humans and sucks their blood while pooping on them at the same time, proving once again that nature is a sick and murderous pervert. Wait, did you just have a seizure? Weren’t you reading an article on DNA? What the hell are we doing talking about bugs? Oh, God, there aren’t bugs in your DNA, are there?! Relax, relax, it’s nothing like that: It’s just a parasite that lives in the poop floating in your bloodstream.

Above: Ew.

See, when the bug’s victim scratches the bite, the crap sitting on the wound enters his system. And since assassin bugs carry the parasite T. cruzi, you get a free bonus prize with your shit-blood: Chagas disease. This condition can severely damage the heart and digestive system, producing, among other things, a symptom known as “enlarged colon.” It’s responsible for about 20,000 deaths a year, mostly in South America, but it occasionally pops up in the U.S. as well. Researchers who deliberately infected chicken eggs with T. cruzi and then tested the offspring of the infected chickens that emerged found that not only did those chickens have the parasite DNA, but so did their offspring, and so on.
And all of their omelets tasted like shit.

But keep in mind that T. cruzi isn’t necessarily the only parasite in our DNA, just the first we’ve discovered. Your cells might literally be swarming with the stuff. Hey, it’s survival of the fittest. You know the old saying: If you can’t beat ’em, take a dump in their veins and live forever in their children. If you don’t believe us, just ask Charles Darwin. Oh, wait, you can’t: Chagas disease is thought to have been the illness that killed him.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Also, he died over a hundred years ago

The Twin That You Murdered as a Fetus

Regular Cracked readers probably know by now that babies are capable of murder in the womb, because that’s our end goal: teaching you things that you can never un-know. But even womb murder isn’t the end of the story. In some cases, you can end up absorbing your newly dead twin and having its DNA live on inside you, a condition known formally as “chimerism” and informally as “what happens when God stays up late watching movies by David Lynch.”

Who just happens to be a Chimera himself.

In 2002, a woman named Lydia Fairchild submitted DNA tests for her three children as part of a welfare claim, only to have the results prove that genetically, she wasn’t the mother. Since DNA is considered the gold standard of medical evidence, she was accused of somehow stealing the children, even after the poor woman gave birth to another “nonrelated” child right in front of a social worker. Finally, more extensive testing unlocked the mystery: Her ovaries had a different set of DNA than her bloodstream. In other words, she’d given birth to her dead sister’s children. And then, presumably, she never stopped screaming.
“And where’s your ‘friend’ at now, sweetie?” “She’s inside me, Mommy. She’s inside me.”

Again, that’s no fluke: In another case, a woman getting typed for a kidney transplant found out that one son was genetically hers, while two more belonged to her similarly dead sibling. A teenage boy being treated for an undescended testicle turned out to be carrying an ovary on that side from a twin sister — as if an undescended testicle wasn’t going to get him made fun of enough, now he’s half ghost-woman as well? Jesus, screw you too, genetics. Chimerism is thought to be rare but also massively underdiagnosed, since it’s undetectable outside of DNA testing, which doesn’t happen to normal folks all that often. Potential symptoms can include slightly different-colored eyes, uneven skin pigmentation and waking up at night to find ‘YOU KILLED ME’ written on the bathroom mirror just before being strangled by your own reflection.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Sunday, May 1st, 2011