Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hiding spot becomes riding spot for cat

The used couch that Vickie Mendenhall bought for $27 came with a furry surprise – a calico cat who’d hidden inside it for more than two weeks.
On Thursday afternoon, the feline was reunited with her overjoyed owner who saw a media report about the cat’s improbable saga.
Mendenhall, who bought the couch at Value Village for her new home on North Madison Street in Spokane, said she and the other residents had been hearing a faint meowing, but they could never find the source. Every time they searched for a cat, the sound stopped.
“We thought it was coming through the vents into the house,” said the 32-year-old mother, who happens to work in the cat room at SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. Her son, Tyler, 9, theorized the house was haunted by a cat.
Then, on Tuesday, Mendenhall’s boyfriend, Chris Lund, was watching TV and felt something move under him, inside the couch. He pulled the couch away from the wall, lifted it up and voila! There was the cat, who’d apparently crawled through a small hole. She was hungry and dehydrated.
Mendenhall called Value Village, but the staff there had no information about who’d donated the couch. She took the cat to SpokAnimal, so it could recover, and contacted media outlets in hope of finding the owner.
The strategy worked – Bob Killion, of Spokane, went to SpokAnimal to claim the cat after an acquaintance saw the story and alerted him. Killion had donated a couch Feb. 19, and 9-year-old cat Callie disappeared about the same time.
Killion, a retired Air Force master sergeant, said he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in May 2001 and given a year and a half to live. He credits Callie, along with his other cat, Tiger, and his Pomeranian, Lola, for helping him through that difficult time.
Mendenhall said the cat seemed glad to be rescued. “When we got her out, she was giving me that look: ‘Thanks for getting me out of there.’

Agent Orange linked to heart disease, Parkinson's

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Agent Orange, used by U.S. forces to strip Vietnamese and Cambodian jungles during the Vietnam War, may raise the risk of heart disease and Parkinson's disease, U.S. health advisers said on Friday.
But the evidence is only limited and far from definitive, the Institute of Medicine panel said.
"The report strongly recommends that studies examining the relationship between Parkinson's incidence and exposures in the veteran population be performed," the institute, an independent academy that guides federal policy, said in a statement.
The findings add to a growing list of conditions that could be linked to the defoliants, including leukemia, prostate cancer, type II diabetes and birth defects in the children of the veterans exposed.
The herbicides, nicknamed "Agent Orange" from the orange stripe on the barrels in which they were stored, include chemicals such as 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid.
Between 1962 and 1971, an estimated 20 million gallons (75 million liters) of these chemicals were used to strip Vietnam's thick forests to make bombing easier.
Veterans exposed to the chemicals have complained for years about a variety of health problems, and in the late 1970s the government started to investigate them systematically. Each finding brings veterans one step closer to getting government-paid medical services for these conditions.
In March, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand the dismissal of lawsuits by Vietnamese nationals and U.S. veterans against Dow Chemical Co, Monsanto Co and other chemical makers over the use of Agent Orange .
In 1984, seven chemical companies, including Dow and Monsanto, agreed to a $180 million settlement with veterans

Cold War-type tensions rise in Latin America

Caracas (AFP) July 28, 2009Cold War-style tensions are developing in Latin America following a Russian deal with Venezuela on military cooperation and a US pact with Colombia to use three of its bases.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a longtime antagonist of the United States, on Monday signed an accord with visiting Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin giving him access to more arms purchases, training and military technology.
Diplomatic sources in Caracas told AFP the agreement was not simply Russia supplying Venezuela with materiel, "but a more official level of bilateral cooperation."
Russia was given an opportunity to increase military ties with Venezuela after the former US government of president George W. Bush reduced arms sales to the South American oil exporter in 2006 because Caracas was not seen doing enough to help in the US "war on terrorism."
Between 2005 and 2007, Moscow and Caracas have signed 12 arms deals worth a total 4.4 billion dollars. Venezuela has acquired 24 Sukhoi fighter planes, 50 combat helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles under their terms.
Chavez, who is leading a leftist surge in Latin America and repeatedly lambasts the United States for perceived "imperialist" policies in the region, in March also offered Venezuelan air bases for use by Russian long-range bombers.
In November last year, the navies of Venezuela and Russia pointedly held joint exercises in the Caribbean -- traditionally considered a US domain.
Most recently, Chavez has confirmed the purchase of Russian-made BMP3, MPR and T-72 tanks to replace its obsolete fleet of armored vehicles and to reinforce Venezuela's border with Colombia.
"We have no plans to attack anyone. We only want to defend ourselves," Chavez said Monday.
But there was no mistaking an increasingly dangerous friction between Venezuela and US ally Colombia.
Sparks went flying on July 15, when Bogota announced that the United States was to open three bases in Colombia as part of Washington's anti-drug operations.
They were partly to compensate for a decision by Ecuador, an ally of Venezuela's, to close a US base.
Ecuador raged against Bogota's move and warned "an increase in military tension" was a possibility.
Chavez last week alleged "a Yankee military force" was planning to invade his country from Colombia. He earlier announced that he would review ties with Bogota over the base agreement.
Venezuela and Colombia nearly went to war last year after Colombian forces raided a camp belonging to leftist guerillas with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) just across the border with Ecuador in late March 2008.
Bogota claims computer hard drives and flash drives recovered in the raid showed Chavez had links to both the FARC and the illegal drug trade.
Quito and Caracas broke diplomatic ties with Bogota over the action. Chavez has since restored ties with Colombia, but Ecuador has not. Distrust remains.
Two weeks ago, Colombian television aired a video appearing to show a FARC chief saying the rebels financed Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa's 2006 presidential campaign.
Then on Monday, Colombia said it had discovered arms sold by Venezuela were in FARC hands. Caracas denied the accusation.
Analysts saw belligerence brewing -- and Washington contributing to the situation.
The US use of the Colombian bases "renews antagonistic relations" between Washington and several Latin American governments President Barack Obama "was hoping to overcome," said Carlos Espinosa, an international relations professor at the Universidad of San Francisco de Quito.
"The bases do concentrate all US military activity in Colombia ... it makes Colombia isolated in the region," said Peter Hakim, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue.
Coupled with Chavez's anti-US "propaganda," there was a "circus atmosphere (that)... is not good for Latin-America overall," he said.
"These things can get out of hands -- look at Honduras, nobody thought Honduras was a real crisis," he said.

Nile countries delay water sharing pact for six months

Alexandria, Egypt (AFP) July 28, 2009Water ministers from Nile Basin countries on Tuesday delayed signing a water-sharing pact already rejected by Egypt and Sudan, who oppose any reduction in their traditional quotas.
Ministers from nine Nile Basin countries and Eritrea, which had observer status at the four-day meeting held in the Egyptian Mediterranean city of Alexandria, put off finalising the treaty for six months.
"Six months was allocated to solve the problem," Ethiopian Minister of Water Resources Asfaw Dingamo told reporters at the end of the meeting.
"Before that our technical advisers will sit down and come up with a technical agreement to be signed," he said.
Other Nile Basin countries, some of which suffer periodic droughts, drafted the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) in June at a Democratic Republic of Congo summit that omitted mention of Egypt and Sudan's historic claims.
"It is a big victory," a Sudanese official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said. "They were going to sign the agreement beginning August 1 regardless of Egypt and Sudan."
At the heart of the dispute is a 1929 agreement between Egypt and Great Britain, acting on behalf of its African colonies along the 5,584 kilometre (3,470 mile) river, which gave Egypt veto power over upstream projects.
An between Egypt and Sudan in 1959 allowed Egypt 55.5 billion cubic metres of water each year -- 87 percent of the Nile's flow -- and Sudan 18.5 billion cubic metres.
Some of the Nile Basin countries, which include Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and the DRC, say past treaties are unfair and they want an equitable water-sharing agreement that would allow for more irrigation and power projects.
Egypt, a mostly arid country that relies on the Nile for the majority of its water, argues that up-stream countries could make better use of rainfall and have other sources of water.
With almost 80 million people, Egypt's water demands are projected to exceed its supply by 2017, according to a government reported published earlier this month.
There is "no way" Egypt would allow a reduction of its quota, Mona Omar, Egyptian deputy foreign minister for African affairs, told reporters.
Egypt sought to downplay the differences after the summit, and said it is proposing economic incentives to the countries.
"It's normal that there are disagreements," cabinet spokesman Magdi Riyad said at a press conference. "(But) there was a unanimous agreement that the resources of the Nile Basin were more than enough if managed properly."
He said Egypt proposes widening the scope of the Nile Basin Initiative, the World Bank funded umbrella group of Nile Basin countries, to include other natural resources.

7 Things You Didn't Know About Aspirin

You may have needed a couple after a stressful day at work or one too many dirty martinis. The bottle of ibuprofen has saved you from many a headache, but can aspirin help in other ways? Could it be that your go to for pain relief is so much more than previously thought? The following are seven things you may not have known about this medicine cabinet staple.Prevent cancer. A study designed by a research team at Washington University and posted in The Journal of Cellular Biochemistry shows that aspirin's blood thinning property helps slow the spread of cancer cells. People who take aspirin regularly may have a decreased chance of developing some forms of cancer. It's best to get a doctors opinion before starting any new regimen, so ask your doctor during your next check-up.
Soothe bug bites. You may have heard that it helps to put salt on a mosquito bite to stop it from itching. But, moistening the site of an insect sting and rubbing it with an uncoated aspirin can ease pain and discomfort. Remember this following your next run in with the business end of a bumble bee.Jump your car. If you find yourself stranded and without jumper cables, check your purse or glove compartment for some aspirin. If you're in luck, you may be able to get moving again. Adding aspirin to a car battery may help to recharge it enough for one last start of the engine. When it does, be sure to head to the nearest gas station

Remove stains. From grass to perspiration stains, restoring dirtied clothing to its original condition is a frustrating task. Remove pesky stains by dissolving two crushed aspirin in enough warm water to soak the area.Clear up pimples. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, aspirin reduces the redness of breakouts. Crush two aspirin and mix it with enough water to make a thick paste. Apply this mixture before bed and you should awake to find that your pimple has cleared up dramatically

Restore hair color. Blondes, natural and highlighted alike, can attest to the disaster that is hair dyed green after a swim in a chlorinated pool. If you find yourself sporting a less than desirable hue, dissolve eight aspirin enough water to saturate your hair. After about 15-20 minutes, rinse and wash and condition as usual. You're now free to go back out in public.Cause Reye's syndrome. A potentially life-threatening illness, Reye's syndrome usually occurs when a person is recovering from another viral infection such as influenza. While most people assume taking aspirin is a safe and effective way to relieve a headache, it could prove disastrous for children and teens. Reye's syndrome, marked by fat accumulations in the liver, leads to organ failure and extreme swelling of the brain. While it can affect adults without the use of aspirin, children and teens seem to have a more marked vulnerability when aspirin is involved.For one little pill, it contains a lot of potential. You may need aspirin for more than your next headache. Next time you leave the house, think about tossing a bottle in with the rest of your essentials.Thanks Brent McNutt for this post. He enjoys talking about cheap scrubs and landau pants and networking with healthcare professionals online

Mile-High Club: Do Oxygen Tents Boost Athletic Performance?

When a zipper shows up in a mid-life crisis, there’s usually a private investigator outside a motel window with a telephoto lens.
But the only thing I was cheating on was my athletic destiny. Or I thought I was.
The zipper in this case was of the floor-to-ceiling variety, enclosing me in the oxygen-starved weirdness of an altitude simulation tent from Colorado Altitude Training. There, in the basement, wedged between the bookcase and my 7-year-old’s wooden railroad empire, I spent four weeks of not-so-restful nights trying to sherpa-charge my cardiovascular system for a road bike race up Colorado’s 14,420-foot Mount Evans.
Altitude-simulation tents are enclosures hooked to the back end of an oxygen generator, so they suck O2 out of your air instead of pumping it in. They don’t duplicate the air pressure difference — you would need a steel tank for that — but an athlete’s cardiovascular systems is still forced to work as if it were at altitude, causing the proportion of oxygen-carrying red blood cells to rise. The tents, which start at $4,000, are thus sold as a quick ticket to the “live high, train low” regimen.
“This is certainly the way to prepare for it!” Colorado Altitude Training CEO Larry Kutt told me. Kutt has no medical training, but he quickly sketched out a program for me. Already acclimated to Boulder, I could ramp up the elevation quickly. He told me to start at 6 or 7 thousand feet and work my way up to 11 or 12 thousand. I would practically fly up Mount Evans. “The entire podium at the Tour de France [in 2008] was people using CAT equipment,” he exclaimed.
The tent CAT loaned me was one of the company’s higher-end models. Setup was simple but controlling the “low-oxygen environment” was trickier. The unit delivers the oxygen-thin air in liters per minute. A hand-held meter gives the percentage of oxygen while a graph keyed to the starting elevation matches that percentage to an approximate altitude. But there is no gauge that measures oxygen level. Keeping it right meant waking up several times a night to check the meter and adjust the flow.
I took some “before” numbers into the tent with me. After a trip, the Boulder performance Lab, I found my wattage at lactate threshold, the point where your body can’t clear lactic acid from the bloodstream, was 248, high enough to qualify me as “elite,” at least among 45-year-olds.
My VO2 Max (the amount of oxygen the body can process) was a respectable 51 liters per minute. If the tent increased the proportion of red blood cells, those numbers, and my performance, should go up.

After 10 nights in tent, I upped my average speed on one 8-mile uphill ride by 1 mph, to 15.4 mph, shaving 1:32 off my best time, but that was perhaps due more to favorable tailwinds than anything else. On another climb, my best pre-tent speed had been 11.9 mph. A week before the race, after two weeks in the tent, I spun a disappointing 11.4 mph.
I went into the last week with growing doubts. I wasn’t sleeping well. With the iffy oxygen-level controls, I would wake in the middle of some nights at the elevation equivalent of 13,000 feet. The next morning I’d wade through pedal strokes in a hangover-like stupor.
Two nights before the race, I decided to sleep tent-free. I wanted as much quality sleep and oxygen-aided recovery as possible. Turns out I needed it.
The Bob Cook Memorial Mount Evans Hillclimb starts at 7,555 feet and follows the highest paved road in North America, past the timberline and into the gasp zone above 14,000 feet. Pilots are required to carry supplemental oxygen a 12,500. And I’d been sleeping at 12,000.

didn’t start feeling better until a week later when I went back to the Boulder Performance Lab. We were looking for the “after” results and we found them. They just weren’t what we expected. The difference was one watt out of 248. My VO2 max was up, climbing from 51 to 58, but my legs weren’t using that oxygen to any effect. I wasn’t faster. I wasn’t stronger.
But I was surprised.
Rick Crawford wasn’t. A Durango-based coach at Colorado Premium Training, Crawford has worked with ultra-elite athletes like Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Mount Evans record holder Tom Danielson. Crawford has “a lot of experience with tents” but says he doesn’t recommend them. “I have never asked an athlete to buy a tent,” Crawford says. “They just end up having them.”
Crawford discounts anything beyond a placebo effect, claiming that the low-oxygen environment hampers recovery and robs the athlete of sleep, a primary component of any training program. “Why am I starving my athlete of oxygen that he needs to recover?” Crawford asks.
And even believers can be cautious.
Karen Rishel, a 44-year-old family practice physician, who races road and mountain bikes on weekends, had a custom tent made. She sleeps in it with her husband in their El Paso home. “All the advertisements say four weeks and it should make a real difference,” she notes. “I think it is cumulative and takes longer.”
Her experience in the first month matched my own. “For the first month that I was in the tent I would wake up in the morning and feel like crap, every day,” Rishel says, though in the end, she says, she got stronger and faster.
“A lot of people end up having an expectation that you are going to get tremendous results right away,” Rishel says. “It’s a long-term journey with cumulative effects.”
That may be true, but I’m not sticking around long enough to find out. I bid farewell to the tent and returned to restful sleep. Turns out neither science nor body hacking nor a generous dose of tech were going to help me achieve a single minded two-wheeled fantasy.
I just couldn’t cheat on my athletic reality.
(Images by Beth’s Gallery/ Picassa, Colorado Altitude Training, and