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Thanks, Houdini

This week, a 911 dispatcher in Florida had to tell a caller how to unlock her car. A woman called police in Kissimmee to say she was locked inside her car at a suburban drug store. "My car will not start. I'm locked inside my car," the unidentified woman said. "Nothing electrical works. And it's getting very hot in here, and I'm not feeling well." The dispatcher asked the woman if she was able to manually pull the lock up on the door. The woman said she would try, and then, she said, "Yes, I got the door open."

Source: McClatchy-Tribune news

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Pet allergies

"Pet allergies are more common than you think," Steve Almasy of CNN writes. "About 10 per cent of dogs have allergies, said Sandra Diaz, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. She said good data don't exist for cats. 'Allergies we cannot cure. We just manage them and keep them under control so the animal can have a good quality of life,' she said. Diaz said the most common kind of allergies, especially in dogs, is a reaction to fleas. … Animals typically don't get runny noses or watery eyes. Instead, they get itchy skin that they will bite or lick."

Happiness is sisters

"Sisters spread happiness," BBC News reports, "while brothers breed distress, experts believe. Researchers quizzed 571 people aged 17 to 25 about their lives and found those who grew up with sisters were more likely to be happy and balanced. The University of Ulster said having daughters made a family more open and willing to discuss feelings. They said the influence of girls was particularly important after distressing family events such as marital breakups." The findings are to be presented this week at the British Psychological Society.

Make 'em. Laugh

Men really can laugh women into bed, psychologists have found. "A new study shows that women think that funny men are smarter and more likely to be honest than more dour counterparts," Kate Devlin reports in The Daily Telegraph. "Although studies have shown that humour is not linked to intelligence, researchers believe that the findings could be the reason why so many lonely heart ads placed by women list GSOH (good sense of humour) as a prerequisite for a partner. Women have evolved to find intelligence an attractive quality because it suggests that a man will be a good provider for her and her children, the researchers believe. Kristofor McCarty, from Northumbria University, who led the study, said: 'A quick browse of lonely hearts ads will confirm that women look for a good sense of humour in a potential partner - our research may explain why this is the case.'"

Libraries as refuges

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"As the [U.S.]national economic crisis has deepened and social services have become casualties of budget cuts, libraries have come to fill a void for more people, particularly job seekers and those who have fallen on hard times," Susan Saulny and Karen Ann Cullotta write in The New York Times. "Libraries across the country are seeing double-digit increases in patronage, often from 10 per cent to 30 per cent, over previous years. … Urban ills like homelessness have affected libraries in many cities for years, but librarians here [in Arlington Heights, Ill.]and elsewhere say they are seeing new challenges. They find people asleep more often at cubicles. Patrons who cannot read or write ask for help filling out job applications. Some people sit at computers trying to use the Internet, even though they have no idea what the Internet is. … Here in Arlington Heights, newly homeless patrons are showing up in their business suits, said Paula Moore, the library's director. 'They are living in their cars after losing a job they had for a number of years,' Ms. Moore said."

Finding a specialist

A sick loggerhead turtle swam to the dock of the only licensed veterinary facility in the world that treats just sea turtles, NBCMiami.com reports. The 33-kilogram turtle arrived at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital Sunday morning and wasn't immediately treated, because staff thought it may have just been lost. But the loggerhead stuck around for several hours and was eventually treated for a bacterial infection.

A robot that sits

The iCub, a humanoid robot based on a 3½-year-old toddler, can crawl, visually perceive and sense its surroundings, and use its hands to grip and manipulate. It was designed by a consortium of top universities, Ananova news reports. Project leader Prof. Darwin Caldwell, of the Italian Institute of Technology, said, "Our robot is mechanically comparable to the Japanese robots." However, "The Japanese have had 10 years to develop the general control of software. They can walk, get toward running and do very clever dances," he said. "Ours sits down and moves its limbs, but it doesn't do the really interesting stuff and that's where we're behind."

Thought du jour

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"The intelligence is proved not by ease of learning but by understanding what we learn."

- Joseph Whitney

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