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Old 3rd June 2009, 14:26   #1
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Default Whacky, Offbeat and Interesting News

I'm starting this thread as I often come across news articles that I like to share but do not have a thread to share them in.

I welcome and request others to share any news that are interesting, amusing or plain wacky!


Merciful storekeeper changes robber's mind, religion


Source: CNN

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A potential victim became a compassionate counselor during a recent robbery attempt, changing the would-be criminal's mind -- and apparently his religion.

Storekeeper Mohammad Sohail was closing up his Long Island convenience store just after midnight on May 21 when -- as shown on the store's surveillance video -- a man came in wielding a baseball bat and demanding money.

"He said, 'Hurry up and give me the money, give me the money!' and I said, 'Hold on'," Sohail recalled in a phone interview with CNN on Tuesday, after the store video and his story was carried on local TV.

Sohail said he reached under the counter, grabbed his shotgun and told the robber to drop the bat and get down on his knees.

"He's crying like a baby," Sohail said. "He says, 'Don't call police, don't shoot me, I have no money, I have no food in my house.' "

Amidst the man's apologies and pleas, Sohail said he felt a surge of compassion.

He made the man promise never to rob anyone again and when he agreed, Sohail gave him $40 and a loaf of bread.

"When he gets $40, he's very impressed, he says, 'I want to be a Muslim just like you,' " Sohail said, adding he had the would-be criminal recite an Islamic oath.

"I said 'Congratulations. You are now a Muslim and your name is Nawaz Sharif Zardari.'"

When asked why he chose the hybrid of two Pakistani presidents' names, the Pakistani immigrant laughed and said he had been watching a South Asian news channel moments before the confrontation.

Sohail said the man fled the store when he turned away to get the man some free milk.

He said police might still be looking for the suspect but he doesn't intend to press charges.

"The guy, you know, everybody has a hard time right now, it's too bad for everybody right now in this economy," said the storekeeper.
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Old 5th June 2009, 08:32   #2
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Default Real superheroes patrols the streets

Source: CNN

Mr. Ravenblade, Mr. Xtreme, Dark Guardian and hundreds of others. Some with elaborate costumes, others with haphazardly stitched outfits, they are appearing on city streets worldwide watching over the populace like Superman watched over Metropolis and Batman over Gotham City.

As people become disillusioned from financial woes and a downtrodden economy and look to put new purpose in their lives, everyday folks are taking on new personas to perform community service, help the homeless and even fight crime.

"The movement is growing," said Ben Goldman, a real-life superhero historian. Goldman, along with Chaim "Life" Lazaros and David "Civitron" Civitarese, runs the New York-based Web site Superheroes Anonymous as part of an initiative dedicated to organizing and making alliances with superhero groups.

According to Goldman, who goes by the moniker Cameraman because of his prowess in documenting the movement, economic troubles are spawning real life superheroes.

"A lot of them have gone through a sort of existential crisis and have had to discover who they are," Goldman said. People are starting to put value in what they can do rather than what they have, he said. "They realize that money is fleeting, it's in fact imaginary."

Estimates from the few groups that keep tabs put the worldwide total of real-life superheroes between 250 and 300. Goldman said the numbers were around 200 just last summer.

Mr. Ravenblade, laid off after a stint with a huge computer technology corporation, found inspiration for his new avocation a few years ago from an early morning incident in Walla Walla, Washington.

"I literally stepped into a woman's attempted rape/mugging," Mr. Ravenblade said. While details were lost in the fog of the fight, he remembers this much: "I did what I could," he said, adding that he stopped the crime and broke no laws. "And I realized after doing what I did, that people don't really look after people."

Public response to real-life superheroes has been mixed, according to Mr. Xtreme, who founded the Xtreme Justice League in San Diego, California.

"Sometimes it's been really positive with people saying, 'Woohoo, the superheroes are here,' and then the usual barrage, saying 'Oh, these guys are losers.' Other times people will look kind of freaked out, and then sometimes people just don't know what to think about us."

Like Peter Parker kept his Spider-Man identity from his editor boss, Mr. Extreme and Mr. Ravenblade have asked CNN editors to keep their identities secret.

The current superhero movement started a few years ago on MySpace, as people interested in comics and cool caped crusaders joined forces, Goldman said. It goes beyond the Guardian Angel citizen patrols of the early 1980s, as the real-life superheroes of today apply themselves to a broadly defined ethos of simply doing good works.

Chris Pollak, 24, of Brooklyn, New York, can attest to the appeal. "A lot more people are either following it or wanting to go out and do it," Pollack, who goes by the name Dark Guardian, said. By "do it," he means patrol the harrowing streets late at night.

"A lot of kids say they're real-life superheroes [on MySpace]," Mr. Ravenblade said. "But what are you doing? Being in front of a computer is not helping anybody."

Comic book legend Stan Lee, the brain behind heroes such as Spider-Man and the X-Men, said in his comic books doing good -- and availing one's self -- was indeed the calling card for superheroes.

"If somebody is committing a crime, if somebody is hurting some innocent person, that's when the superhero has to take over."

"I think it's a good thing that people are eager enough to want to help their community. They think to do it is to emulate the superheroes," Lee said. "Now if they had said they had super powers [that would be another thing]."

Without super powers, real life superheroes confess to a mere-mortal workload, including helping the homeless, handing out fliers in high-crime areas and patrolling areas known for drug-dealing.

Mr. Ravenblade said he and some of his superfriends would soon be trying to organize a Walk for Babies fundraiser in Portland, Oregon.

"We work with charities that help children," he said. "We think a lot of crimes happen because of people who didn't get a lot of love when they were younger. We do what we can to help that there."

"Homeless outreach is the main thing I like to do," said Chaim "Life" Lazaros, of Superheroes Anonymous. "We give out food, water, vitamins, toothbrushes. A lot of homeless people in my area know me, and they tell us about what they need. One homeless guy said 'I need a couple pair of clean underwear.'"

For Christmas, Lazaros said his group raised $700 in gifts and brought them to kids at St. Mary's Children's Hospital in New York. "They were so excited to see real-life superheroes," Lazaros said.

Many of the real-life superheroes even initiate citizen's arrests, but what's legal varies by state. And in North Carolina citizen's arrests are illegal. Real-life superheroes who grab a suspected villain may find themselves under a specter of trouble.

"Not a good idea," said Katy Parker, legal director for the ACLU of North Carolina. "Seeing as how there's no citizen's arrest statute [in the state], people who do this are running a serious risk of getting arrested for kidnapping, and being liable for false imprisonment."

"Vigilantism is never a good thing," said Bernard Gonzales, public information officer for the Chula Vista, California, Police Department. He's had some interactions with real-life superheroes. "The very best thing a private citizen can do is be a good witness."

Mr. Ravenblade said he's just that.

"If you're a real-life superhero you follow the law. If you catch somebody you can't just tie them up and leave them for the cops, that's for the comics. You have to wait for the cops and give them a statement," Mr. Ravenblade said.

While citizens helping out in the community is encouraged, Gonzales said the costumes can go.

"Where these people are out in public, and there's children around and everything, and these people are not revealing their identities, it's not a safe thing."

But the costumes go with the gig, right down to the do-it-yourself approach to good deeds, including, apparently, recycling.

"The costume I have is simple," said Mr. Xtreme. "I made it myself. I had a graphic designer design it for me and just took it down to the swap meet and had somebody imprint it on for me."

"The mask," an old bullfighter's piece, "I got from Tijuana."
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Old 5th June 2009, 08:40   #3
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Default 'Kidnapped son' found on Facebook

Source - BBC

A mother has been reunited with her son, 27 years after she claims he was kidnapped, after her sister saw him on the social networking site Facebook.

Avril Grube, 62, who lives in Poole, Dorset, says she was given custody of her son Gavin Paros after her marriage to a Hungarian man broke down in 1982.

His father, who died in 2006, had visiting rights but took him to Hungary and Ms Grube has not seen him since.

But Mr Paros, 29, met his mother this week after being found on Facebook.

Ms Grube, who was only discharged from hospital a week ago, said: "I would love it so much to have Gavin back living in Britain."

She and her sister Beryl Wilson, 59, who lives in Liverpool, had spent years trying to trace their relative, even contacting the Hungarian Embassy and taking their case to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Ms Wilson told BBC Radio Solent: "[Mr Paros' father] had visitation rights, he said he was going to the zoo or somewhere and when he didn't arrive back we found out he had taken him back to Hungary.

"My sister was devastated, her health suffered.

"I tried everything... but no-one wanted to know."

In March, Ms Wilson typed her nephew's name into an internet search engine and could not believe it when his Facebook profile came up correctly showing he had been born in Liverpool and naming his mother.

"I was so relieved, it took me 27 years but I never gave up," Ms Wilson said.

'On cloud nine'

He had not logged into the site since October last year and did not respond to initial emails, but after Ms Wilson messaged his children Mr Paros emailed back.

Ms Wilson said: "My sister would phone him on a Sunday and speak to him through an interpreter.

"She is just absolutely on cloud nine.

"They have been hugging, really, really happy.

"At Christmas my sister had a stroke, she suffers from angina, diabetes and chronic nose bleeds... but it is very important that now is the time she spends with her son because she is not a well lady."

Plasterer Gavin, who turns 30 on Saturday, is now married with three children and had also been trying to trace his family for the past five years.
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Old 5th June 2009, 08:49   #4
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Default Ten mystery diseases you've never heard of

Source - CNN

Mad cow disease, SARS and now swine flu: some diseases grab the headlines. But thousands of people worldwide suffer from very rare conditions, many of which few people have ever heard of.

From the Alice in Wonderland syndrome that might have inspired Lewis Carroll, to the disease that may have sent an English King mad, we take a look at some of these obscure illnesses.


1. Morgellons

According to the Morgellons Research Foundation, crawling, biting and stinging sensations, and the emergence of strange blue, black or red fibers from the skin, characterize a disease that nearly 14,000 people suffer from, according to the Foundation.

This is often accompanied by exhaustion, short-term memory loss, joint pain and changes in vision. The condition was named Morgellons in 2002 by a mother who believed her two-year-old son was suffering from the disease. The name comes from a 17th century skin condition found in France, in which children died after the emergence of 'dark hair.'

However there is much debate over whether the condition actually exists.

In March 2008, the Journal of Dermatologic Therapy reported that most doctors believe it to be form of delusion, in which sufferers falsely believe they are infected with parasites. Consequently, the fibers in the skin are thought to be textile-based, picked up by oozing scabs resulting from more common conditions such as eczema or scabies.

The U.S. based Center For Disease Control and Prevention recently announced it would investigate the disease after an increased number of inquiries from the public.


2. Progeria

Progeria is congenital, meaning a defect or damage to a fetus. Sufferers of this fatal illness have a striking appearance resembling premature ageing, but die at an average age of 13.

Profound growth delays begin at between nine and 24 months, leading to abnormal facial developments such as a disproportionately small face, bulging, prominent eyes and an underdeveloped jaw. By the age of two, hair from the scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes is lost.

The U.S. National Organization of Rare Disorders (NORD)says sufferers eventually lose the layer of fat beneath the skin and, in time, elasticity is lost in artery walls, leading to fatality via heart attack or stroke in 90 percent of sufferers.


3. Water allergy

Known to have ever affected only 30 people, water allergy or "aquagenic urticaria" is extremely rare, but its existence has been confirmed by the Medical Review Board. Sufferers appear to be allergic to water. It usually occurs late in life, and often as a consequence of a hormonal imbalance brought about by giving birth.

A case emerged in the UK in April this year, leaving a 21-year-old mother unable to drink water or get caught in the rain because her skin develops a painful burning rash. She can shower for a maximum of 10 seconds per week and can drink only Diet Coke. It is not strictly an allergy, but a hyper-sensitivity to the ions found in non-distilled water.


4. Foreign accent syndrome

Sufferers of foreign accent syndrome inexplicably find themselves talking in an unrecognizable dialect. Only 60 cases have ever been recorded.

Doctors initially dismissed it as a psychiatric problem, but in 2002, scientists at Oxford University, England, observed that sufferers shared the same brain abnormalities, which led to changes in speech pitch, lengthening of vowel sounds and other irregularities.

According to the Journal of Neurolinguistics, sufferers don't necessarily have to have been exposed to the accent they adopt: their new voice is not, strictly speaking, a foreign accent, but the changes in speech often bear a striking resemblance to other world accents.

The first case concerned a Norwegian woman in 1941, who developed a strong German accent and was ostracized from her community.


5. Laughing Death

Laughing Death, more commonly known as Kuru, was exclusive to the tribal Fore people of New Guinea. The disease, which was characterized by sudden bursts of maniacal laughter, hit the headlines in the 1950s, and drew in doctors from around the world.

U.S. and Australian physicians observed men and women with shaking limbs, which subsided with rest, but a month to three months later sufferers would begin to sway and stumble, lost the ability to stand, become cross-eyed, and lose the power of coherent speech before eventually dying.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reported that tests on the deceased showed death had been caused by the emergence of holes in the brain, known as "swiss-cheesing."

Eventually the American physician Carleton Gajdusek worked out that the infection was being passed on through the village custom of eating family members after death. When cannibalism was eliminated, the epidemic came to an end. In 1976, Gajdusek was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work.


6. Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP)

In 1938, when American Harry Eastlack was five-years-old, he broke his leg. The fracture didn't set properly, his hip and knee stiffened up and, bizarrely, bone growths developed on the muscles of his thigh. By his mid 20s, the vertebrae of his back had begun to fuse together. When he died aged 39 in 1973, he was able to move only his lips.

He suffered from fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), a rare disease affecting some 1 in 2 million people, in which the body's tendons and ligaments undergo a strange metamorphosis, essentially a transformation into bone.

The condition is congenital and characterized by a malformation of the big toe that is present at birth. Eastlack donated his skeleton to research of the disease, and it is on display at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. The International FOP Association continues to research this extremely rare condition.


7. Alice in Wonderland syndrome

According to the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine, sufferers of Alice in Wonderland syndrome perceive objects as being far smaller than they are. The condition, also known as micropsia or Lillliput sight, can also affect the sense of hearing, touch and perceptions of one's own body image. Learn more about rare disorders

The syndrome is associated with migraine headaches and named after Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, in which Alice goes through many bizarre experiences similar to those which might be experienced by a micropsia sufferer. The fact that Carroll suffered from migraines is well documented, and some speculate that his suffering may have prompted many passages in the work.


8. Porphyria

Purple urine and feces make porphyria infamous, as does the fact that the "mad" 18th century English King George III may have suffered from it. Porphyria leads to complications in the production of 'heme,' a protein vital to red blood cells, and affects the skin and nervous system. Attacks lead to abdominal pain, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and constipation.

NORD lists other symptoms including increasing sensitivity to the sun, itching and swelling. Increased hair growth on the forehead may also occur.

Toxins resulting from the failed heme production can affect the coloring of other areas, especially after exposure to sunlight. Sometimes the teeth and fingernails can adopt a reddish appearance. It is these toxins that lead to the dark urine and feces.

Mary Queen of Scots, Vincent Van Gogh, and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon may have suffered from this disease.


9. Pica

The magpie, Latin name pica, will eat anything, and so will sufferers of pica syndrome. Almost always pregnant women or children, sufferers develop an appetite for non-nutritive substances, such as paint, clay, plaster or dirt, or alternatively items that are more commonly considered to be food ingredients, such as raw rice, flour or salt.

It can only be considered pica if the appetite persists for over a month and the sufferer is of an age where eating these objects is considered developmentally inappropriate. Medical researchers have tenuously linked pica with a mineral deficiency, but according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, experts have yet to nail down a real, firm cause or cure for this strange disorder.


10. Moebius syndrome

Moebius is extremely rare, genetic and characterized by complete facial paralysis. Sufferers cannot close their eyes, look from side to side, or form facial expressions. Limb abnormalities such as clubbed feet and missing fingers are often also present.

According to the Moebius Syndrome Foundation, most cases are isolated, with no notable family history, and sufferers go on to lead long and healthy lives.

Family members often learn to recognize body language, posture and vocal tone as communicators of emotion, and sometimes claim they forget the person has facial paralysis altogether.
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