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EHEC bacteria (enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli) killed several people in Europe last spring. (HO/REUTERS)
EHEC bacteria (enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli) killed several people in Europe last spring. (HO/REUTERS)

World-travelling superbugs worry scientists Add to ...

Superbugs in Antarctica

“The discovery of bacteria that are massively resistant to antibiotics won’t make the front page these days – but when it happens in Antarctica, it is time to sit up and take notice,” says an editorial in the New Scientist. “The superbugs aren’t infecting penguins – yet – or even troubling the researchers who carried them there in their intestines and unwittingly deposited them in the sea via their sewage outfalls. But the discovery is further evidence that antibiotic resistance is no longer just a medical problem – it is an environmental one, too. And that makes fighting it much harder.”

Fending off wolves

“In the new Liam Neeson movie The Grey, a group of oil-rig workers must defend themselves from a pack of vicious wolves after their plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness,” writes L.V. Anderson for Slate.com. “In a scene from the trailer, Neeson’s character threatens one of the animals by brandishing two fistfuls of broken miniature liquor bottles at it. What’s the best way to fend off aggressive wolves? Intimidate them. Yelling, throwing sticks or stones, waving your arms and generally making yourself look as big as possible can deter predatory wolves, which tend to become submissive when other animals demonstrate dominance. Short or immobilized people and children are more vulnerable to wolf attacks than tall, able-bodied adults, since wolves are more likely to see them as potential prey.”

Ancestral exercise

“When it’s workout time at Core Fitness Chicago, out comes the sledgehammer,” says the Chicago Tribune. “And the 80-pound bag of mulch. And the 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee – for pushing across a rooftop parking lot while someone steps lightly on the brake. As if it even needs to be said: Don’t even bother looking for a treadmill. If such exercise sounds ambitiously modern, it’s not; those tools are meant to imitate the way humans stayed healthy 10,000 years ago. Called Paleo, primal, caveman or – the umbrella term of the moment – ancestral, the regimen replaces contemporary ‘working out’ with real-life movements that our Paleolithic ancestors used to survive: pushing, pulling, lifting, squatting, bending, walking and the occasional high-intensity sprint. ... Ancestral exercise, which for many people includes a diet component heavy on meats and vegetables and forsaking dairy and grain, slowly has crept into the mainstream in recent years.”

Dangerously monotonous diet

A teenager in Birmingham, England, has been warned about her diet – after eating practically nothing but chicken nuggets since the age of two. “Horrified doctors learned of the teenager’s chronic 15-year-addiction after she collapsed and was rushed to hospital struggling to breathe,” reports The Sun. “Factory worker Stacey, who has never touched greens or fruit, was found to have anemia and swollen veins in her tongue. [Last week]she was recovering at home after being put on an urgent course of vitamins – which started in hospital with injections. But despite medics begging her to change her diet she still cannot get enough of chicken nuggets. Stacey [said] ‘I am starting to realize this is really bad for me.’” Her mother, Evonne, 39, said: “I’m at my wit’s end. I’m praying she can be helped before it’s too late. … She’s been told in no uncertain terms that she’ll die if she carries on like this. But she says she can’t eat anything else.”

First cellphones, now a baby

“When he sensed that the baby’s cries were distracting the musicians, conductor Neal Gittleman decided something needed to be done,” says the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. “The youngster had been wailing for quite some time when Gittleman stopped the music, turned to the audience, and asked that the child be removed. Some audience members applauded. It was the first piece in the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s classical concert on Saturday evening, Jan. 7, and the orchestra had just started to play Claude Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. ... [Maestro]Gittleman said he’s had to stop concerts due to cellphones in the past, but this was the first time a child had caused enough commotion to require him to stop and begin a piece again.”

The rise of the rags

From The Daily Telegraph: In Britain, “an Act of 1666 designed only to promote the wool industry ended up stimulating the rise of the newspaper industry. People were generally buried in linen at the time. The statute of 1666 insisted everyone be buried in a woollen shroud. However, newspapers were made from recycled cloth until about 1870 (hence the use of the word ‘rag’ as a term of derision). By demanding the use of wool, the Act saved 200,000 pounds of linen rags, which were promptly recycled into the rapidly expanding market for newspapers.”

Thought du jour

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

– Albert Camus (1913-60), French-Algerian author and philosopher

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