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Louie Palu/The Globe and Mail

Thieves reading meters?

"Burglars may no longer need to lurk outside a home to know when to break in, but could instead be able to monitor owners' movements by spying on their electricity and gas usage," The Sunday Times of London reports. "Detailed information about residents' lifestyles collected by energy smart meters is vulnerable to being hacked and exploited by criminals, an official report has warned. … Hackers could intercept the data during transmission from the home to the energy company, the report by the U.S. Congress has warned. 'Criminals could use it to time a burglary and figure out which appliances they would like to steal,' said the Congressional Research Service."

Going far for English

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"In Malaysia's southernmost city of Johor Bahru, the desire to speak good English has driven some children to make a remarkable two-hour journey to school every day," says BBC News. "Nine-year-old Aw Yee Han hops on a yellow minivan at 4:30 a.m. His passport is tucked inside a small pouch hung around his neck. This makes it easier for him to show it to immigration officials when he reaches the Malaysian border. His school is located on the other side, in Singapore, where unlike in Malaysia, English is the main language. It's not your typical school run, but his mother, Shirley Chua, thinks it's worth it. 'Science and maths are all written in English so it's essential for my son to be fluent in the language,' she says. An estimated 15,000 students from southern Johor state make the same bus journey across the border every day. It may seem like a drastic measure, but some parents don't trust the education system in Malaysia – they worry that the value of English is declining in the country."

Hospital gardens

Gardens can promote healing, says Scientific American. "Scientists around the world are now digging into the data to find out which features of gardens account for the effect."

– Lush, layered landscapes with shade trees, flowers and shrubs at various heights should take up roughly 70 per cent of the space.

– Abstract sculptures do not soothe people who are sick or worried.

– Gardens that can be seen, touched, smelled and listened to soothe best. But avoid strongly fragrant flowers or other odours for patients undergoing chemotherapy.

– Fountains that sound like dripping faucets do not soothe anyone.

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Porsche stuck in traffic

"The hapless motorist was trying to beat the traffic by driving his 911 Carrera S around a line of stationary cars," reports London's The Sun. "But the lane he pulled into had only just been laid and the [$120,000]car got stuck deep in the wet cement. The man had to stay in his Porsche while workmen tried to shovel around the wheels before it set any further. And passersby in San Francisco stopped to point and laugh at the driver. … Cyclist Robert Etzler, who photographed the car, said it was stuck for around an hour."

Body piercing has a use?

"Thinking about getting a body piercing? Who hasn't, right? Well, one thing to consider is that about 20 per cent of the time there are complications from the procedure, such as infection or scarring, a fresh review of the medical literature finds," National Public Radio reports. "Piercings of the belly button and upper ear are especially prone to problems. 'I think piercing can be quite dangerous, actually,' says Anne Laumann, a professor of dermatology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, who was a co-author of the review. 'I would not encourage it in a teenager.' … Despite her warnings, Laumann is philosophical about the fact that the fad for piercing shows no sign of abating. And her paper suggests that body piercers take a careful history of their customers to help identify factors, such as some allergies, that may predispose someone to have complications. And she does see some positive applications. Right now, she's working on using tongue-piercing jewellery to help quadriplegics drive wheelchairs and computer cursors."

India's railway toll

"About 15,000 people are killed each year while crossing the tracks on India's mammoth railway network, according to a government safety panel that recommended more bridges and overpasses should be built as a matter of urgency," reports The Guardian. "Most of the deaths occur at unmanned railway crossings, the panel said in a report. About 6,000 people die on Mumbai's crowded suburban rail network alone, it said. Another 1,000 die when they fall from crowded coaches, when trains collide or coaches derail."

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Thought du jour

"Looking out a hospital window is different from looking out of any other. Somehow, you do not see outside."

Carol Matthau (1924-2003)

American actress and author

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