Thursday, May 8, 2008

Pictured: X-ray of the python who swallowed a pussy

This amazing X-ray picture shows the skeleton of a kitten inside a python's stomach after being devoured in one gulp by the predator.

Eight-week-old tabby Kohl was seized by the slithering assassin while in the garden of her owner's home in Australia's tropical Northern Territory.

The snake was found with a "bulging belly" by 14-year-old Taara McLaren after she ventured out to feed her pets at 7am yesterday.

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X-ray: The picture clearly shows the kitten, Kohl, inside the python's stomach

Despite Kohl having a skull three times the size of the 5ft-long python, the reptile was able to dislocate its jaw to swallow the kitten after wrapping itself around and strangling its prey.

Three other kittens from the same litter and five adult cats were unable to stop the savage attack in Darwin suburb of Tiwi.

Cat owner Asha McLaren told The Australian newspaper: "It wasn't a very nice feeling to think that this happened in our back yard.

"My daughter went out to feed the cats and they normally all come running at the sound of the dish, but Kohl was missing.

"She then looked around and saw the snake. She called out to me, saying there was a big snake and that she thought it had eaten Kohl.

"When I went out I couldn't believe it. It had a bulging belly and when we couldn't find Kohl anywhere it was obvious he'd been eaten.

"It was very sad as he was my favourite. He was just gorgeous."

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Bulging: Handler Gordon Canning holds the snake who will take a week to digest its prey

Ms McLaren said they quickly put their other cats in the house and snake catcher Gordon Canning was called out to collect the python.

He said it was unusual for a python to target a cat, but the kitten did not have a chance against the reptile.

He said pythons usually strike at their prey and squeeze it to death before devouring it whole.

"The cat would have been suffocated within minutes," he explained.

"The snake did well - usually it is the other way around with snakes falling victim to cats."

Mr Canning said the snake would be kept at the Ark Animal Hospital in Yarrawonga until it digested its feed.

"At the moment it cannot move very quickly so it could easily be targeted by predators," Mr Canning said.

"Once it has finished digesting the cat, which will probably take about a week, we will release it back into the wild."

Mr Canning urged people to be cautious in their back yards as snakes were on the move as the breeding season nears.

He has been called out to catch more than 100 snakes since becoming Darwin's first 24-hour snake catcher three weeks ago.

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US Prison Finds Something New to Deter Escapes - a Bear Living on the Grounds

US Prison Finds Something New to Deter Escapes - a Bear Living on the Grounds

The way the warden sees it, the more than 400-pound (180-kilogram) black bear living in the middle of the sprawling Louisiana State Penitentiary is an extra layer of security.

"I love that bear being right where it is," Warden Burl Cain said Monday. "I tell you what, none of our inmates are going to try to get out after dark and wander around when they might run into a big old bear. It's like having another guard at no cost to the taxpayer."

The bear was first seen by an inmate crossing a road in the prison on Friday. It was taking a stroll near the center of the state's only maximum security prison, which is about 115 miles (185 kilometers) northwest of New Orleans. Most of the roughly 28-square-mile (73-square-kilometer) prison is run as a farm, but about 5.5 square miles (14 square kilometers) is mostly untouched piney woods.

Prison workers measured the bear's footprints, which were 6 inches (15 centimeters) in diameter, Cain said.

"Every inch equals 75 pounds, so that would make it about 450 pounds," Cain said. "The wildlife people told us they think it's a big female they've been tracking for a while."

Prison officials believe they have eight to 10 bears on the grounds, said Gary Young, head of the executive management office at the prison.

Maria Davidson, manager of the Large Carnivore Program for the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, doubts there are that many, but marvels that even one was spotted in an area of high activity such as the center of the prison.

"Bears are actually very shy, their tendency is to run and hide," Davidson said.

As for acting as an unpaid prison guard, Davidson doubts that the bear would provide much of a deterrent to a fleeing prisoner.

"We've never had a predatory attack by a black bear in Louisiana, to our knowledge, on pets or livestock," she said. "As for a bear coming out and rushing an inmate, I don't see that happening."

The prison, known as Angola, is isolated and has plenty of other kinds of dangerous wildlife, including alligators, rattlesnakes and wild pigs, Young said. The last recorded escape was nearly three years ago, and the inmate was quickly recaptured before leaving the grounds.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Why are Broken Bones Lethal to Horses?

After a four-race winning streak, Eight Belles galloped past the Kentucky Derby's finish line to snag second place. The glory was shattered as the racehorse collapsed on the track. She had broken bones in both front ankles — a lethal injury for a horse.

Unlike us, couch-potato life is not an option for horses like Eight Belles. Immobility can cut off vital circulation within a horse's body, leading to a cascade of health compromises.

"When [Eight Belles] switched leads to her right front, apparently she landed awkwardly under fatigue, and that was the initiating problem," said equine veterinarian Celeste Kunz, a spokesperson for the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Kunz is referring to the rhythm of a horse's gallop: First the right hind-hoof hits the ground, followed by the left hind-hoof, then the left fore-hoof and right fore-hoof. The right front leg in this instance is the "lead," and after this hoof touches down there is a moment when the horse is suspended with all four legs in the air.

The injury to the right leg caused the horse to transfer more weight to the left leg, which was overload for the left leg bones.

Horses can tip the scales at more than 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms). They can carry up to 70 percent of that weight on their two front limbs, according to John Hermanson, a zoologist who studies horses at Cornell University in New York.

Eight Belles' shattered ankles were ill-equipped to support her standing weight. So the horse couldn't walk. Every step a horse takes keeps blood pumping from their legs back up to the heart and back again.

"A horse's hoof is designed like a passive mechanical pump," Hermanson told LiveScience. "Every time they take a step, it provides a little assist in driving blood back to the heart."

That's why horses are rarely caught lounging, with their naps lasting seconds to minutes.

"We have reports of horses standing up for twenty-four hours a day," Hermanson said. "Unlike us, they can sleep on their feet."

Another injury that can ground a horse, and often lead to death, is so-called laminitis. This happens when the horse's hoof tissue called the lamina separates from the end of its leg limb.

Hermanson describes the pain from such laminitis as comparable to a human ripping a fingernail off with a wrench. "When you have a horse with laminitis, you're dealing with that magnitude of pain." That leads to myriad health issues, one of which is the inability to stand up.

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The Largest Insects on Planet Earth

Cannibals, dancers, and pheromone emitters—some of the largest (and endangered) insects in the world are nurturing mothers in the wild, wearing poison as perfume, and crawling up human backs as friendly pets.

Giant Walking Stick

Photo courtesy of tajai (cc)

Considered one of the best tropical insects to keep as a pet, the stick insect (Phasmatodea) derives from the Greek word, “phasma” (meaning phantom), which refers to its ability to disguise itself as varied species of sticks and leaves. The longest in the insect kingdom, it can measure up to almost two feet long. Many species of female stick insects live alone, reproducing asexually. Stick bugs are vegetarian but also molt numerous times to eat their own shed skin. When they perceive a threat, they fall to the ground and play dead or dance for hours, swaying back and forth.

Goliath Beetle

Photo courtesy of Conservation International

Native to the African rainforest, the Goliath Beetle is one of the largest insects on earth according to its size, weight, and mass. They measure up to five inches in length and can reach up to four ounces while in their larval stage, before reducing their weight to half as adults. Equipped with an armored shell, adult Goliaths produce a toy helicopter sound once their two pairs of wings emerge and they take flight. Male Goliath beetles have a Y-shaped horn on their heads to battle other males for feeding sites or females, while females have a wedge-shaped head to assist them in burrowing when they lay eggs. Though they feed on ripe fruit and tree sap in the wild, they enjoy cat and dog food when raised in captivity.

Atlas Moth

Photos courtesy of Sean Dockery (cc) and Lionoche (cc)

Found only in Southeast Asia, the Atlas Moth is the largest of the moth species with the largest wing surface area—close to sixty-five square inches—and a wingspan of up to a foot long. Named after wing patterns that resemble maps, the moth’s wing tips resemble a snake’s head in order to ward off predators. With no mouth, it feeds off fat reserves built up during their caterpillar stage. Females secrete a pheromone through a gland at the end of the abdomen that males can detect several miles downwind. Adults mate quickly, since a total lifespan of a female is only one to two weeks. Females lay their eggs, use up their fat reserves to feed themselves, and then quickly die.

Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing

Photo courtesy of khasan

Named after Queen Alexandra of England (1844-1925), the Queen Alexandra Birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae) is the largest butterfly in the world. Found in Oro Province in eastern Papua New Guinea, females are predominately larger than males and have a wingspan of up to fourteen inches. Birdwings feed on the aristolochia plant (Aristolochia schlecteri) to lay their eggs, which contains a poisonous substance that when digested by the caterpillar makes it distasteful to predators. Endangered since 1989, the Birdwing has experienced habitat loss caused by agriculture, logging, and human advancement.

Giant Weta

Photos courtesy of Dr Paddy Ryan-Ryan Photographic

The Giant Weta, New Zealand’s largest insect, can be four inches long and weigh almost three ounces, while a pregnant Weta can weigh more than a small sparrow. Nocturnal and flightless, the Weta raises its hind legs when frightened, flicking its legs down in hope of “spiking” a predator’s face. Other times Wetas lie on their backs to play dead, exhibiting their vulnerability. One tagged and researched male Weta walked over nine miles in one night in search of a female (females tend to stick closer to home, moving at an average of thirty-three meters at night). Since becoming extinct from New Zealand’s mainland one hundred years ago, the Giant Wetas now live on offshore islands. Its decline stems from predatory mammals, and habitat destruction/modification.

Chinese Mantis

Photo courtesy of GRBerry (cc) and Mark Williamson (cc)

Introduced to North America in the late 1800s as a form of pest control, the Chinese believed the mantis may cure conditions ranging from impotence to goiters. They also believed roasting the mantis’ egg cases and feeding them to children could stop bed-wetting. Chinese mantis can grow up to four inches in length and are the largest mantis species on the continent. Though they mainly eat insects, most are cannibals. Females can capture and digest small reptiles and amphibians, as well as hummingbirds. When hunting, they assume a “praying” position and fold their legs under their head, until they unfold to strike and capture their prey. When mating, a smaller male usually jumps on the back of a large female, and eventually may become her meal. During copulation, the female may turn and consume the male’s head, keeping his body to complete mating until finished, when she can eat the rest of his body.

Giant Dragonfly

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Recently placed on the Endangered Species list in Australia from degradation of wetland habitats, the Giant Dragonfly (Petalura gigantean) is considered a terrestrial species throughout most of its life. As true carnivores, dragonflies fly over and grab the insects they consume. Females tend to be larger, reaching a wingspan of almost six inches. Males patrol swamps while females fly in from a surrounding area to mate. If the female does not accept the male, she will curve her abdomen downward, but if accepted, the male grasps and clasps her, commencing their tandem mating flight. Just before copulation, sperm moves from the male’s first genitalia into his secondary genitalia, then the female will lay her eggs one-by-one deep into the swamp’s peat moss.

Giant Burrowing Cockroach

Photo courtesy of Natural History Museum-London

Native to North Queensland, Australia, the Giant Burrowing cockroach is the world’s heaviest cockroach species. They can weigh over one ounce and grow to over three-inches long. Since they don’t have wings, they are not considered a pest and can live up to ten years in the bush. Some believe the species to be great pets due to their cleanliness, odorlessness, and inability to crawl out of a tank. The name “burrowing” comes from the burrows they dig, three feet deep, making them the only cockroach species to construct underground burrows to live in. Eating dead eucalyptus leaves to prepare for yearly reproduction, females birth one litter of five and thirty young nymphs that stay with their mother for up to nine months before constructing burrows of their own.

Giant Water Bug

Photo courtesy of NoiseCollusion (cc)

Not a loofah for a human’s back, but eggs carried on the back of the male Giant Water Bug. The largest bug in the cicada family, the Giant Water Bug can grow to five inches and will painfully bite that which dips beneath the water’s surface. Considered one of the worst bites in the insect kingdom—and a delicacy for humans in Thailand—the Giant Water Bug feeds on fish, amphibians, and crustaceans. Their saliva stuns their prey while they suck out the prey’s liquefied remains. When the prey resembles a human, the water bug plays dead, emitting fluid from its anus. Females deposit their eggs onto the males, who raise the eggs by exposing them to air (to avoid the growth of fungus) until the eggs hatch into the nymphs three weeks later, proving that a mother’s work (even when not carrying the child) is still never done.

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Nine Extremely Odd Jobs

Sometimes, while sitting in a cubicle in a tall office building with re-circulated air and fluorescent lighting, it is fun to imagine the jobs of others, whose day-to-day encompasses the challenging, the arduous, the unsavory, and the random. These jobs make you happy to be in a cubicle.

If parachuting near the heart of a burning fire doesn’t sound challenging enough, smokejumpers, who combat wild fires in remote locations, must traverse over mountainous terrain, carry supplies on their backs, and be self-sufficient for multiple days. Job requirements include a high level of fitness, mental stability, and extensive safety and technical training. Long, unpredictable hours are offset by rewarding manual labor in awesome settings. Median income for firefighters is $40,000 but varies widely based on location, experience, and overtime.

Antarctic Swimmer
Lynne Cox’s job is to test the limits of endurance and temperature by swimming long distances in cold water. She was first person to swim across the Strait of Magellan (42° F) and the eight miles around the Cape of Good Hope. Most recently, she defied the limits of human physiology by swimming 1.2 miles in the 32° Antarctic water, wearing only a swimsuit. In addition to a Tyr sponsorship and participation in numerous scientific experiments, she has also written two books about her adventures. Swimming for a living would be fun—but glaciers, polar bears, jellyfish, and heart stopping water temperatures make this a job most mortals couldn’t hack.

Dairy Cow Midwife
Midwifes don’t just assist insemination, they actually do it. An entire arm is shoved inside a cow to drop off semen. Of course, that semen had to come from somewhere, leading to another unsavory bovine job—the bull masturbator.

Full Time Guinea Pig
For human guinea pigs, being paid to participate in a clinical trial isn’t just a one-time source of funds, it’s a career. Sleep deprivation, tubes up your nose and lungs, altered diets, poop examinations, and frequent blood draws are some on-the-job threats, not to mention long-term consequences of potentially dangerous drugs. And as more and more clinical trials are outsourced to private companies, ethical standards are sometimes questionable. However, lengthy trials can pay in the thousands; industrious guinea pigs have reported making upwards of $80,000 a year.

Podiatrist for the Indigent
Podiatrists make good money—averaging $108,220 in 2006 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—but it is a job few people can stomach: treating toenails gone wrong, banishing plantar warts, cutting off bunions, and dealing with problem feet, all day, every day. There is one population of clientele who categorically have the most troubled feet of all: the homeless. Substance abuse problems coupled with chronic disease (like diabetes) and lack of proper (or any) footwear can lead to unchecked infections, tinea eating away at the flesh between toes, and other oozing, pussing maladies. The podiatrists treating this population often volunteer their time at free clinics, making their commitment to dealing with troubled tootsies all that more admirable.

Oil Patch Roughneck
A roughneck, the lowest person on the oilrig totem pole, is the person tasked to deal with the general grunt work of oil drilling—connecting pipes, fixing rigs, and heavy labor. The job is dirty, loud, and demanding, requiring long hours in difficult conditions. According to roughnecks can make around $47,000 and because they often must go to remote places to drill, room and board is often included. Plus, once you’ve served your time (and learned new skills), there is nowhere to go but up.

Port-a-Potty Pumper
When defining the worst job in the world, dealing with sewage and human fecal matter seems like a requirement. Plumbers, sewer inspectors, and sanitation consultants all have to do it, but there’s something about cleaning a port-a-potty, which most people tried to avoid having to use in the first place, that ranks it the worst of the worst. But, according to, they are compensated fairly well—annual wages are around $50,000.

Drug Dealer
The Bureau of Labor Statistics rates fishing—in particular crab fishing in Alaska—as the most dangerous job in America. But that’s only counting legal jobs. Being a member of a drug dealing gang, for instance, is much, much more dangerous. According to a research paper by the economists Steven Levitt and Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh, the per person likelihood of death in the gang under study was 1 to 2 percent a month; gang members active year round had a one in four chance of being killed. This is far higher than the rate for the commercial fishers, which is 1.42 for every 1,000 people. And risk doesn’t always confer reward. In both professions, rank and bounty largely determine earnings. The average hourly wage for gang members was $11, ranging from $7 for foot soldiers to $97 for the leaders. Fishers make an average of $19,000 a year, but can reap up to $60,000 in a few months for a big crab haul.

Breath Odor Evaluator
While some people with good senses of smell become sommeliers or perfume testers, others take their noses to the extremes by becoming bad odor arbiters. To test the efficacy of mouthwashes or breath mints, they have to smell bad breath before and after treatment with the supposed neutralizer.

This is just the short list for odd jobs; the long list would obviously include prostitutes, mink farmers, porn stars, bounty hunters, and psychics. And while few kids grow up wanting to be condom manufacturers or crime scene cleaners, it’s nice to know there’s a job out there for everyone.

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Police: Prospective juror in Houston pot trial caught smoking it

Cornelia Turner Mayo went from prospective juror in a marijuana possession trial to a prospective defendant in her own case after authorities accused her of smoking a joint outside the courthouse
Harris County Sheriff's Office


Judge Sherman Ross tried to assemble a jury of peers for a woman accused of possession of a marijuana on trial Tuesday.

But authorities say prospective juror Cornelia Mayo might have taken that concept a bit too far after she was caught smoking a joint outside the courthouse during a break.

The 49-year-old Houston woman was one of 20 people in a jury pool in Criminal Court at Law No. 10.

Ross said he realized something was wrong when juror No. 2, Mayo, didn't return from a 45-minute break. Before the judge could file a bench warrant for the missing juror, his bailiff got a call from police notifying him that Mayo was being booked on a charge of smoking marijuana outside the criminal courthouse.

"I've had prospective jurors get lost before, but it never occurred to me that they might be getting ready for a marijuana trial by, allegedly, smoking marijuana," Ross said.

He also said it was a strange coincidence for a court that also sees trials for DWI's, family violence and many other misdemeanors.

"It's the first weed case I've tried in years," Ross said. "People usually plead out."

The former juror was charged with possession of marijuana. She is scheduled to be arraigned next week in Criminal Court at Law No. 11 —across the hall from Ross' courtroom.

Mayo remained in the Harris County Jail on a $500 bail Tuesday night and could not be reached for comment.

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If You Put That Picture On The Internet I’ll Call My Lawyer

This guy was on the corner of Stockton and Columbus in San Francisco yelling at a homeless man. Anger, conflict, drama — sounds like a great shot to me. I crossed the street but was unable to get anything interesting, since I only had my 50mm lens on the camera and I was just too far away.

However, Mr. Angry Overreaction Man decided that he now had a problem with me. He confronted me, demanding my camera. Of course, I refused. He got in my face and started threatening me, telling me that I cannot take his photo without his permission. I told him that yes, in fact, I can. He then walked up and bumped into me, trying to act tough. I told him that one more touch and I would call the police.

Of course, he didn’t like that very much, and at that point told me that if I put his picture on the internet, he would call his laywer. I assured him that his photo would be on the internet, and he then walked up and grabbed my camera lens. Well, that’s just not something that I will put up with, so I pulled the camera away from him and reached for my phone and started dialing. Once he saw that he turned away, still yelling threats, and continued on his way.

I felt bad for his daughter, who was with him, because she was obviously embarrassed by his antics and kept pleading with him to stop. I have a great shot showing her looking up as if saying “Oh boy, here he goes again”. But I’m not going to post that one, as she was not acting like an idiot and I don’t want to embarrass her. Mr. Angry Overreaction Man seems to do enough of that.

So, Mr. Angry Overreaction Man, your photo is now on the internet. Call your lawyer. Tell him somebody on a public sidewalk took your photo while you were on a public sidewalk. Then tell him you physically assaulted the photographer. See what he says.

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Mom arrested in Calif. after 32 years on the lam

This undated image provided by the Michigan Department of Corrections shows a booking photograph of Susan Lefevre, now known as Marie Walsh.

SAN DIEGO - A woman who escaped from a Detroit prison 32 years ago has been arrested in San Diego, where she was married with three children and living under a false name, authorities said.

Susan LeFevre, who had been using the name Marie Walsh, was arrested April 24 by federal marshals at her home in the posh Carmel Valley neighborhood of San Diego. An anonymous caller tipped Michigan officials to her location.

Her husband said Wednesday that the wife he knew was kind and compassionate.

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3 accused of using corpse head to smoke pot

The Kingwood teenager's story of decapitating a corpse and using the head to smoke marijuana was so outlandish that at first Houston Police Department senior police officer Jim Adkins did not believe it.

Yet, Kevin Wade Jones Jr., 17, appeared almost indifferent as he relayed the bizarre description of his and two friends' activities at an Humble area graveyard, Adkins said.

"I just doubted it because it's very morbid, and I couldn't see anybody doing something like this," Adkins said Thursday.

Not until police went to the home of another Kingwood 17-year-old, Matthew Richard Gonzalez, did the officer believe the tale.

"He regurgitated in his plate of food when I asked him about it," Adkins said. "So I knew there was some truth to the story."

Now, Jones, Gonzalez and a juvenile whose name has not been released are each charged with abuse of a corpse, a misdemeanor. All three were arrested Wednesday night.

Police said a fourth suspect is wanted for questioning.

Houston police believe the teens disturbed the grave of an 11-year-old boy who died in 1921.

The child was buried at an unmarked cemetery believed to be reserved for black veterans and their families, Adkins said.

Under the law, a person can be charged with abuse of a corpse simply by vandalizing, damaging or treating a gravesite offensively — even if the human remains buried there are not touched, Adkins said.

The child's skull has not been found. If recovered later, however, such a discovery will not change the charges filed against the three suspects, Adkins said.

The teens first came to police's attention during a vehicle burglary investigation. While being questioned, Jones told of desecrating the gravesite a month or two ago. Adkins said he believes the tale was intended to distract police from the vehicle break-in.

Jones claimed he and his friends used shovels to dig up the body and removed the corpse's head with a garden tool, Adkins said. Jones also revealed he and the other two boys took the severed head to the juvenile's home, where they used the skull as a "bong" to smoke marijuana, the officer said.

Police made three trips to the heavily wooded, snake-infested graveyard near the Eastex Freeway feeder road and FM 1960 before finding the disturbed grave several days ago.

"The grave was uncovered, and the headstone had been thrown off the grave and broken," Adkins said.

Because the grave is flooded with murky water from recent heavy rains, police have been unable to determine if the child's casket is still in the ground.

All three teens gave written and verbal confessions admitting they tried to dig up a body over a two-day period, Adkins said.

But the boys told conflicting stories about whether they actually severed the head — so police aren't sure if that gruesome detail really happened.

Even so, HPD is working closely with Humble police to try and find any surviving relatives of the child whose grave was disturbed. According to court papers, the grave belonged to Willie Simms.

"The ultimate goal will be to put this body back to rest," Adkins said.

Little is known about the graveyard. The Humble Bicentennial Museum could not confirm that it was reserved for black veterans, but Adkins said he observed "many, many headstones" for black soldiers killed during World War I and World War II.

The three boys, all home-schooled, have also been charged in connection with the vehicle break-in. Jones and the juvenile are charged with credit card abuse, while Gonzalez pleaded guilty to a charge of misdemeanor theft between $50 and $500.

Chronicle reporter Brian Rogers contributed.

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Dead Rabbits & Other Historical Pregnancy Tests

pregnancy-test-1.jpgIn the ubiquitous Baby Mama trailer, Tina Fey looks at a used home pregnancy test that mocks her with a foreboding blue “NO” in the results box. Although the mock factor is optional, home pregnancy tests can lay it out straight: YES or NO. Whether the results are determined by blue lines, a plus or minus sign, or the plain words, the “pee on a stick” method is a popular way to discover if one is with child. Isn’t it interesting that one of life’s greatest achievements (new life) can be diagnosed by one of life’s most common routines (peeing, albeit on a prophetic stick)? Also as fascinating, this dichotomy existed long before the FDA approved the first home pregnancy test in the 1970s.

Knocked up like an Egyptian

The earliest recorded “peeing on a stick” test comes from those innovative Egyptians. In 1350 B.C., in between building pyramids and wrapping sarcophagi, someone produced a document describing how to determine pregnancy. You guessed it; a speculating woman must urinate on wheat and barley seeds, of course! The ancient papyrus read, “If the barley grows, it means a male child. If the wheat grows, it means a female child. If both do not grow, she will not bear at all.” In 1963, testing this theory found it 70 percent accurate, as the urine of pregnant women contains elevated levels of estrogen that may promote growth in these grains. As far as the gender guessing, that was Ra having a chuckle.

The Sample is in the Chamber Pot

Starting in the Middle Ages and up until the 17th century, “piss prophets” diagnosed many different conditions and diseases based on the color of urine. Since proven unscientific and often incorrect, this medical practice known as a “Uroscopy” often referred to a handy Uroscopy Wheel to help with diagnosis. A 1552 European document described pregnancy urine as a “clear pale lemon color leaning toward off-white, having a cloud on its surface.” The aptly named prophets employed another pregnancy test where they mixed urine and wine and watched the alcohol reacting with certain present proteins. In yet another dubious 17th-century test, a ribbon was dipped in a woman’s urine and burned. If the smell nauseated her, baby was on the way!

The Mouse Died

Fast-forward to the early 20th century, when scientists first discovered the role hormones played in female reproduction, they identified a specific hormone found only in pregnant woman, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). In the 1920s and 30s, to recognize the presence of hCG, which indicated pregnancy early on, doctors injected urine into an immature mouse, rat, frog, or even a rabbit. If a woman were pregnant, the test subject would go into heat despite its immaturity. To announce their status, women euphemized, “The mouse died” or “I killed the Easter bunny,” because killing and dissecting the lab animal confirmed the results. A common misconception arose that if the animal died after injection, it pointed to a positive pregnancy test. But in actuality, all tested specimens were disposed of, much to the chagrin of animal rights activists. This test was known as the A-Z test, named after the founding scientists, Selmar Ascheim and Bernhard Zondek.

To e.p.t.and Beyond

In the 1970s, as a result of the sexual revolution and the presence of reproductive choices, Wampole’s two-hour, urine-based pregnancy test became available only to doctors and technicians. The test could be done early on, but the packaging pictured an authoritative man wearing a lab coat, implying that this test was not intended for home use. Other intimidating tools in the box included: test tubes, a plastic rack, three bottles of chemical solutions, a small funnel, pipettes, and a saline solution. What a way to create an atmosphere encouraging relaxation and sample giving!

ept.jpgIn 1977, the e.p.t. (which originally stood for “early pregnancy test,” and is now the more comforting “error proof test”) became the first home pregnancy test on the U.S. market. The test took two hours and was more accurate when dealing with positive results. In 1978, an issue of Mademoiselle described the original e.p.t.: “For your $10, you get pre-measured ingredients consisting of a vial of purified water, a test tube containing, among other things, sheep red blood cells…as well as a medicine dropper and clear plastic support for the test tube, with an angled mirror at the bottom.”

Home pregnancy tests evolved to the stick we know now and are still evolving. In 2003, Clearblue Easy’s digital pregnancy test ushered in a new generation of home pregnancy tests. In place of a thin blue line, the indicator screen says either “pregnant” or “not pregnant.” But if still skeptical, one can always go into a doctor’s office for a blood serum test for a definitive answer. Or maybe he has some barley or wheat that have a second opinion.

Sara Newton is an occasional contributor to mental_floss.

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96 Students, Others Arrested in Massive Drug Raid at San Diego State University

SAN DIEGO — Ninety-six students, local gang members and others were arrested Tuesday in a massive drug raid at San Diego State University.

Drugs including cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana and methamphetamines were confiscated in the sting, which came as the result of a months-long undercover operation, according to officials with the San Diego County District Attorney's Office and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

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Many of the students arrested were members of the Theta Chi and Phi Kappa Psi fraternities. One of the gang members taken into custody allegedly has ties to Mexican drug cartels.

The DEA said a member of the Theta Chi fraternity sent out a mass text message to his "faithful customers" stating that he and his "associates" would be unable to sell cocaine while they were in Las Vegas over one weekend.

In addition to large quantities of narcotics, money and weapons were also seized from sellers and buyers in the bust.

Authorities confiscated two kilograms of cocaine, about 350 ecstasy pills, marijuana, psychedelic mushrooms, hash oil, methamphetamines and illicit prescription drugs, as well as several guns and at least $60,000 in cash.

Undercover officers in "Operation Sudden Fall," as it was called, conducted more than 130 drug purchases with sellers, authorities said.

Officials said they were surprised by the sophistication of the campus smuggling and trafficking network.

Several of the 96 defendants — 75 of whom are students — were appearing in state court to face charges Tuesday afternoon.

Eighteen of the students were arrested Tuesday when nine search warrants were executed at various locations, among them fraternities.

The undercover sting was spawned by the drug-overdose death of a college student last year.

FOX News' Catherine Donaldson-Evans and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Magic trick costs teacher job

Land O' Lakes, Florida -- The stories in the news about inappropriate relationships between teachers and students have been overwhelming. There was even a substitute teacher in New Port Richey who got in trouble after investigators say she had a relationship with an underage student.

Well, another Pasco County substitute teacher's job is on the line, but this time it's because of a magic trick.

The charge from the school district — Wizardry!

Substitute teacher Jim Piculas does a 30-second magic trick where a toothpick disappears then reappears.

But after performing it in front of a classroom at Rushe Middle School in Land O' Lakes, Piculas said his job did a disappearing act of its own.

"I get a call the middle of the day from the supervisor of substitute teachers. He says, 'Jim, we have a huge issue. You can't take any more assignments. You need to come in right away,'" he said.

When Piculas went in, he learned his little magic trick cast a spell that went much farther than he'd hoped.

"I said, 'Well Pat, can you explain this to me?' 'You've been accused of wizardry,' [he said]. Wizardry?" he asked.

Tampa Bay's 10 talked to the assistant superintendent with the Pasco County School District who said it wasn't just the wizardry and that Piculas had other performance issues, including "not following lesson plans" and allowing students to play on unapproved computers.

Piculas said he knew nothing about the accusations.

"That... I think was embellished after the fact to try to cover what initially what they were saying to me," he said.

After the magic trick, Rushe's principal requested Piculas be dismissed. Now, Piculas believes the incident may have bewitched his ability to get a job anywhere else.

"I still have no idea what my discipline involves because I've never received anything from the school district actually saying what it entails," said Piculas.

As a substitute teacher, the Pasco County School District considers Piculas to be an "at will employee." That means the district doesn't need to have cause for not bringing him back at all.

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Economic Stimulus Check Burned For Warmth

HELENA, MT—Saying the extra bit of kindling material couldn't have come at a better time, 43-year-old school teacher Tim Donaldson received his $618 rebate check from the Internal Revenue Service Tuesday, and then immediately burned it to provide warmth for his wife and two sons. "It gets pretty cold here at night," said Donaldson, adding that with 75 percent of his take-home pay going toward car and mortgage payments, his children's schooling, and his wife's medical bills, the rare opportunity to sleep in a warm house for a night was much appreciated. "I just want to thank the government for sending such a large check. It burned for quite a while." Donaldson, who could not afford matches or fuel to light the check, said he made do by placing the envelope's clear plastic address window at an angle underneath the sun to spark the initial flame, which his family then huddled around until they fell asleep
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