Tuesday, June 24, 2008

You know your pets really want to get married, right?

My brother has selected a puppy for his family's pet—a Parson Russell terrier pup he'll call Wrigley (he's a Cubs fan)—but even before all the kids play with it I'm wondering how I'll feel the day Wrigley gets married.

Will the "bride" wear white? Will I begin to cry, like a big fat baby?

When the "reverend" performing the pet marriage says, "By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you dog and . . ."—is that when Satan pops out of the wedding cake and takes us all straight to hell?

Also, how much for the Pet Wedding Consultant?

"It varies," said famed pet counselor-wedding consultant Shirley Scott, from Walla Walla, Wash. "It could be between $500 to $1,500. But that's just an estimate."

I found Scott's name in a recent, and terrifying, news report on the American pet wedding phenomenon. Americans spend $40 billion a year on their pets, and the pet wedding industry wants its cut. There are fees for clerics to say the rites and blessings, and black tuxedos for four-legged grooms, and cakes and caterers, and beaded satin wedding gowns.

"Your little bride will be so beautiful walking down the aisle wearing this elegant, fully-lined white satin and lace wedding gown set," promises one pet wedding Web site I won't name in the hopes of staving off damnation. "The six layers of tulle can be separated to make this beautiful wedding veil very full and elegant. This set also includes a matching white satin leash."

Another dog wedding Web Site, for My Uptown Pooch, offers beaded wedding gowns for up to $10,000, tips for measuring for dog couture and also offers these suggestions:

1) Call where the ceremony will be held to be sure that your dog will be allowed. 2) Have someone standing by, in the event your dog needs to leave the ceremony. 3) Realize there is a lot of activity at a reception. Maybe your dog should be taken home where he or she can settle down. You don't want him/her trampled at the reception while everyone is dancing. 4) Do you want your dog to match your maid of honors [sic] dress or bridesmaids?

Remember when Americans were asking why Islamofascists hate us so much? Now you know.

"Marriage for an animal is almost like marriage for a human," Scott was quoted as saying in the pet wedding article. "An animal union is more like a blessing under God."

I'm always on the lookout for another sign of the Apocalypse. The last one involved reports of Americans craving $400 per pound gourmet coffee beans from the behind of a cat. Now dog unions are considered blessed events.

"Yes, an animal union is a blessing," Scott told me. "It is."

A blessing?

"Well, I am a reverend," Scott said. "If you're in a family with two animals and they want to unite in a wedding, what difference does it make? It is not a sign of the Apocalypse. It is a sign that animals often seek to form a lasting bond and have deep commitment."

When I was a kid, we owned a male cocker spaniel. He formed a lasting bond with a vinyl beanbag chair in the basement—nobody dared ever sit in it—but at least he had the decency not to propose marriage. But I didn't have the heart to tell Scott.

I also didn't have the heart to tell her what would have happened to her eyeballs if Rev. Scott could travel back in time and bring her dog marriage theology to 8th Century Constantinople, when the Empress Irene was busy battling the Iconoclasts.

Instead, we talked pet marriage. Turns out the pet marriage community isn't as tolerant as some might think. Dogs may marry other dogs, but human pet clerics frown on cross-species marriage.

"You must consider what's in their DNA first," Scott said. "It is the DNA that drives them. I have several friends who have cougars. They love their cougars. Their cougars love them. But they wouldn't turn their backs on their cougars or they'd be prey. You must respect the DNA."

So I guess that rules out the cougar-baby goat marriages, eh?

"Cougars wouldn't get married to goats, for that reason, the DNA," she said. "That union wouldn't work."

We had the same problem at our house a few years ago. It involved a pet crawfish named Boeby. He lived like a lonely bachelor in an aquarium in the kitchen. But he seemed sad, and we humans thought he needed companionship. So we tossed a goldfish in there, to live with him, in sin, just as we were having our own dinner.

Overjoyed with his new friend, Boeby immediately climbed into the green waterweeds, claws up, swaying along with the vegetation. It only took about 30 seconds for Boeby to grab the fish and snip a gigantic chunk out of its belly. Boeby kept half of it in his claws. So much for mixed marriage.

"That's why I brought up the DNA," Scott said. "You have to respect the animal differences. You have to consider the DNA of the pets, to look inside to the center, to determine if they're compatible."

And when they're not compatible, we'll have a new trend: dog divorce lawyers, ready to clean up.

Special Thanks to The Chicago Tribune

Schools to open sexual health clinics to hand out contraception and abortion advice without parents' knowledge

Sexual health clinics are to be opened in secondary schools to hand out contraception and help arrange abortions.

Pupils as young as 11 will be able to drop in for free condoms, contraceptive pills, morning-after pills, pregnancy testing and screening for sexually-transmitted diseases.

Parents will be made aware of the clinics but will not be told if their children have attended.

Hundreds of schools already run sexual health clinics but many more are expected to follow suit after researchers praised a pilot scheme involving 16 schools in deprived parts of Bristol.

A research team from the University of the West of England concluded that pupils are more likely to use sex advice services if they are based at school. According to their report, the 16 clinics, catering for 11,805 pupils, received around 500 visits a month from pupils, most aged between 14 and 16 but some as young as 11.

The researchers tracked 515 youngsters over 15 months and found that nurses gave 55 girls the morning-after pill, with one receiving it three times.

Nurses also carried out 213 pregnancy tests for 137 girls and found that nine were pregnant.

One girl became pregnant three times and was referred each time to an abortion advisory service.

More than 100 girls were given the oral contraceptive pill or long-acting contraception injections, with 29 being referred for contraceptive implants.

The study also revealed that nurses advised just 26 per cent of youngsters in the sample - 136 - to consider delaying sex.

School-based health clinics are a cornerstone of the Government's strategy for reducing teenage pregnancies. More than 50 per cent of secondary schools in some areas already have them.

However, David Paton, professor of economics at Nottingham University's Business School, said: 'Pretty much all the research on school-based family planning clinics suggests they have little or no impact on teenage pregnancy rates.

'There is a possibility that such services change the behaviour of some young people and may increase risk-taking sexual behaviour.'

Chris Gardner, head teacher at Ashton Park School, one of the schools involved, said: 'Every parent I have spoken to has been nothing but supportive.'

Special Thanks to The Daily Mail

Obama sock puppet called racist

West Jordan company says it is a 'cute and cuddly toy'

Yes we can . . .create very offensive toys.

The Internet has erupted this week with indignation directed toward a West Jordan couple who apparently created "The Sock Obama," a traditional sock monkey with black hair and a suit, a take-off on presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

The company selling the monkey is registered to David and Elizabeth Lawson of West Jordan, according to Utah Department of Commerce records.

According to the Web site, its makers created the "cute and cuddly toy" because they were proud of Obama's achievements and to introduce children to the political process.

"We hope you love the Obama toy as much as we do," the site says.

But love is not the reaction many are having.

"I was really very surprised to see something like that because it is pure racism and it's extreme," said Jeanetta Williams, president of the regional chapter of the NAACP. "We thought racism was being healed with a viable candidate who happens to be African-American. But then to see him mocked with that kind of caricature is surprising . . .I just hope other people, not just African-Americans, would be as outraged by this."

No number was listed for the couple and there was no response to an e-mail sent through the company's Web site on Friday.

However, in a statement released to various outlets, the creators of The Sock Obama said they were "saddened that some individuals have chosen to misinterpret our plush toy."

"It is not, nor has it ever been our objective to hurt, dismay or anger anyone. We guess there is an element of naivete on our part," they wrote. "We simply made a casual and affectionate observation one night, and a charming association between a candidate and a toy we had when we were little. We wonder now if this might be a great opportunity to take this moment to really try and transcend still existing racial biases."

Charles Henderson, a black Democrat running for the Utah House of Representatives, was amazed that the makers could claim ignorance to the racial undertones of their toy.

"When have you ever seen another presidential candidate depicted in such a manner? This has been around for 100-plus years, how can you not be aware of that?" he said. "It just blows me away that this would happen. Here we are in 2008 and some people still haven't gotten it."

Misty Fowler, the chairwoman of the grassroots group Utah for Obama, said she doesn't believe the portrayal of Obama represents the average Utahn's views.

"The sock monkey as Senator Obama is obviously a racist thing, but whether their motivation was a racist one or is unintentional naivete, I don't know," she said. "I've talked to quite a few other Obama supporters here locally, but it's something we're just trying to ignore because it's not worth our time."

Special Thanks to The Denver Post

‘Dead’ patient comes around as organs are being removed

France may have to reconsider its medical definition of death after a heart-attack victim came alive in the operating theatre as doctors were about to remove his organs for transplant.

The patient, whose identity has not been revealed, recovered after a long period in intensive care and is now able to walk and talk.

The 45-year-old man owes his life to the fact that surgeons authorised to remove organs for transplant operations were not immediately available. Under experimental rules adopted in France last year, to make more organ transplants possible, the man had already reached the point where he could be officially regarded as dead. Similar rules – allowing the removal of organs when a patient's heart has stopped and fails to respond to prolonged massage – already apply in several other European countries, including Britain.

The case occurred at the Pitié-Salpêtriere hospital in Paris in January but was not revealed at the time. The organisation that runs state-owned hospitals in the Paris area – Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP) – referred the case to its ethical committee on transplants. A summary of the committee's debate, which came to no firm conclusion, has now been published on the AP-HP website. "This situation [illustrates] the questions that remain in reanimation ... and what criteria can be used to determine that a reanimation has failed," says the report.

The ethical questions raised are complex, as the committee acknowledges that doctors – and the state – have an obligation to the 13,000 people waiting for transplanted organs in France. Last year 231 of these patients died because organs did not become available. It was for this reason that France introduced experimental rules allowing the removal of organs in nine hospitals from so-called "stopped heart" patients.

The 45-year-old at the centre of the controversy collapsed close to the La Pitié-Salpêtriere hospital. Efforts were made to revive him at the scene, and more elaborate procedures continued at the hospital for 90 minutes. As surgeons were preparing to remove his vital organs, the man began to breathe unaided. His pupils moved and he showed signs of pain. His heart started to beat again. After several weeks during which he was gravely ill, the man can now walk and talk. He has yet to be told that doctors were ready to remove his organs.

Otherdoctors have seen similar incidents, according to the ethics committee report. "During the meeting, other reanimators ... spoke of situations in which a person whom everyone was sure had died in fact survived after reanimation efforts that went on much longer than usual," the report said. "Participants conceded that these were exceptional cases, but ones that were nevertheless seen in the course of a career."

Le Monde said doctors had feared the new transplant rules would confront them with cases of this kind. They believe the existing rules are imprecise and could undermine public support for the removal of organs for transplant. They are pushing for the issue to be discussed as part of a consultation next year on a proposed, new law on medical ethics.

Professor Alain Tenaillon, the organ transplant specialist at the French government's agency of bio-medicine, told Le Monde: "All the specialist literature suggests that anyone whose heart has stopped and has been massaged correctly for more than 30 minutes, is probably brain dead. But we have to accept that there are exceptions.... There are no absolute rules in this area."

Special Thanks to The Belfast Telegraph

Prime minister apologizes to native Canadians

In a historic speech, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized Wednesday to Canada's native peoples for the longtime government policy of forcing their children to attend state-funded schools aimed at assimilating them.

The treatment of children at the schools where they were often physically and sexually abused was a sad chapter in the country's history, he said from the House of Commons in an address carried live across Canada.

"Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm and has no place in our country," he said, as 11 aboriginal leaders looked on just feet away.

Indians packed into the public galleries and gathered on the lawn of Parliament Hill.

From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 Indian children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into Canadian society.

Hundreds of former students witnessed what native leaders call a pivotal moment for Canada's more than 1 million Indians, who remain the country's poorest and most disadvantaged group. There are more than 80,000 surviving students.

"The government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we apologize," Harper said.

"We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions, and that it created a void in many lives and communities and we apologize," Harper said.

Harper also apologized for failing to prevent the children from being physically and sexually abused at the schools.

Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations and one of the leaders seated near Harper, wore a traditional native headdress and was allowed to speak from the floor after opposition parties demanded it.

"Finally, we heard Canada say it is sorry," Fontaine said.

"Never again will this House consider us an Indian problem for just being who we are," Fontaine said. "We heard the government of Canada take full responsibility."

He said the apology will go a long way toward repairing the relationship between aboriginals and the rest of Canada.

The federal government admitted 10 years ago that physical and sexual abuse in the schools was rampant. Many students recall being beaten for speaking their native languages and losing touch with their parents and customs.

That legacy of abuse and isolation has been cited by Indian leaders as the root cause of epidemic rates of alcoholism and drug addiction on reservations.

Fontaine was one of the first to go public with his past experiences of physical and sexual abuse.

The apology comes months after Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a similar gesture to the so-called Stolen Generations — thousands of Aborigines forcibly taken from their families as children under assimilation policies that lasted from 1910 to 1970.

But Canada has gone a step farther, offering those who were taken from their families compensation for the years they attended the residential schools. The offer was part of a lawsuit settlement.

A truth and reconciliation commission will also examine government policy and take testimony from survivors. The goal is to give survivors a forum to tell their stories and educate Canadians about a grim period in the country's history.

Special Thanks to The Associated Press

Nickels bans concealed weapons at parks, festivals

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has signed an executive order that asks all departments to come up with a plan within 30 days to ban guns at all property owned by the city.

Nickels signed the executive order after the recent shooting at the NW Folklife Festival at Seattle Center that wounded two people.

"At many of our properties, including City Hall, you can bring a gun if you have a concealed weapons permit. Under this order, people with concealed weapons will be asked to leave or hand over their gun."

It's a city rule that cannot trump state law. The only thing the city and police can do is kick someone with a gun out of a building or an event.

Nickels says they still need to come up with an enforcement plan, whether it's pat downs or metal detectors at events like Bumbershoot.

Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske says the mayor's order will help protect people at civic events.

The mayor's office says a public hearing will be held to gather comment on Monday's order but it does not require city council approval.

Health and safety red tape has produced a generation of 'bland' children scared of risk, headteacher warns

Our health and safety culture is producing a generation of 'bland' children who do not know how to evaluate risks, a headmaster has warned.

Jonathan Hughes-D'Aeth said that pupils' development was being "stifled".

He told a conference of independent school heads in London about an incident last year where two children assumed that it must be safe to leap into the sea from a harbour wall - because there were no warning signs.

He said: "They exemplify a generation of young children who have not been given the chance to evaluate for themselves the risks of the dangers which are around them."

His warning came as insurance firms warned that parents were increasingly suing over bruises and other minor injuries.

Mr Hughes-D'Aeth, head of Milton Abbey School in Dorset, said: "They need to learn at an early age about trips and falls.

"How do they learn about hot fires, things that can be sharp or blunt? How do they learn about traffic?

"Without uncertainty, without a fear of failure, we will merely produce an anodyne and bland set of children.

"Health and safety legislation is designed to save lives, not to stifle and control it.

"We are in danger of using health and safety to replace judgment and personal responsibility."

He also criticised a trend for children's friendships to be closely supervised by adults.

"We could have an adult present with children 24 hours a day, checking that all is well and no unpleasant behaviour is taking place," he said.

"However, that would not be right.

"They need to learn how to get on with the young boy who shares the dormitory whose socks smell or that person in the dormitory who snores.

"These are essential skills as to how to survive in society."

Meanwhile, Norwich Union experts have said a U.S.- style compensation culture is sweeping through Britain.

Parents were now less likely to accept minor injuries to their children - such as cuts, grazes and bruises - as accidents and instead sued for personal injury, they said.

Dominic Clayden, director of claims at Norwich Union, said the compensation culture costs state schools about £200million per year - enough to pay for 8,000 teachers.

Some 42 per cent of claims made against schools concerned slips and trips, he said.
"Certainly there is a risk-averse culture. People are taking down hanging baskets," he told the conference.

"There isn't tolerance for minor injuries."

But Mr Hughes-D'Aeth added: "If we take drowning as an example, the best form of protection is actually to teach children how to swim, not putting up large numbers of notices banning swimming.

"Systems themselves do not create safety. Competent people do."


* Children at Cummersdale Primary School in Carlisle were told to wear goggles when playing conkers

* Youngsters taking beach donkey rides in Bogor Regis were told to wear hard hats

* Councillors in Bristol ordered 100 yew trees next to a playground to be chopped down in case children poison themselves by eating the leaves

* Three swings at Great Somerford in Wiltshire were taken down because they were slightly too high under EU regulations

* Derby City Council told schools to cancel trips in sunny weather in case the pupils were sunburned

Special Thanks to The Daily Mail

World Environment Day calls for end to carbon addiction

The United Nations urged the world on Thursday to kick an all-consuming addiction to carbon dioxide and said everyone must take steps to fight climate change.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said global warming was becoming the defining issue of the era and will hurt rich and poor alike.

"Our world is in the grip of a dangerous carbon habit," Ban said in a statement to mark World Environment Day, which is being marked by events around the globe and hosted by the New Zealand city of Wellington.

"Addiction is a terrible thing. It consumes and controls us, makes us deny important truths and blinds us to the consequences of our actions," he said in the speech to reinforce this year's World Environment Day theme of "CO2 Kick the Habit."

"Whether you are an individual, an organization, a business or a government, there are many steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint. It is a message we all must take to heart," he said.

World Environment Day, conceived in 1972, is the United Nations' principal day to mark global green issues and aims to give a human face to environmental problems and solutions.

New Zealand, which boasts snow-capped mountains, pristine fjords and isolated beaches used as the backdrop for the "Lord of the Rings" film trilogy, has pledged to become carbon-neutral.

"We take pride in our clean, green identity as a nation and we are determined to take action to protect it. We appreciate that protecting the climate means behavior change by each and every one of us," said New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

New Zealand, like many countries, staged art and street festivals to spread the message on how people can reduce carbon usage. New Zealand Post has asked staff to bring a magazine or book to work and swap it to reduce their carbon footprint.

In Australia, Adelaide Zoo staged a wild breakfast for corporate leaders to focus on how carbon emissions threaten animal habitats.


In Bangladesh's capital Dhaka, people plan to clean up Gulshan Baridhara Lake that has become badly polluted, and in Kathmandu the Bagmati River Festival will focus on cleaning up the river there.

Many Asian cities, such as Bangalore and Mumbai, plan tree-planting campaigns, while the Indian town of Pune will open a "Temple of Environment" to help spread green awareness.

Global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels are rising quickly and scientists say the world faces rising seas, melting glaciers and more intense storms, droughts and floods as the planet warms.

A summit of G8 nations in Hokkaido, Japan, next month, is due to formalize a goal agreed a year ago that global carbon emissions should be reduced by 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

But some nations think the cuts should be deeper, leading to a reduction of 80 percent of carbon emissions by 2050 to try to stabilize CO2 concentrations in the air to limit global warming.

The U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) said the cost of greening of the world's economy would cost as little as a few tenths of global GDP annually over 30 years and would be a driving force for innovation, new businesses and employment.

The UNEP urged greater energy efficiency in buildings and appliances and a switch towards cleaner and renewable forms of electricity generation and transport systems.

It said more than 20 percent of new investment in renewable energy was in developing countries, with China, India and Brazil taking the lion's share. Renewables now provide over 5 percent of global power generation and 18 percent of new investment in power.

But the U.N. body said an estimated 20 percent of carbon emissions came from deforestation and urged developing nations to save their forests as carbon sinks.

Special Thanks to Reuters

UN food chief roasts 'overfed' West

UN food agency chief Jacques Diouf said today that billions of dollars are being wasted on feeding obese people in the West while millions starve around the world.

"No one understands... how over-consumption by obese people in the world costs $20 billion each year," the head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation told an international summit on the food price crisis.

On top of this, he added, there are "$100 billion in indirect costs resulting from premature deaths and associated diseases."

Diouf also highlighted how an estimated $1.2 trillion was spent on weapons in 2006 while aid to agriculture fell by more than half, from $8 billion in 1984 to $3.4 billion in 2004.

"In real terms, the share of agriculture in public aid to development has fallen from 17 per cent in 1980 to three per cent in 2006," he said.

Recent food riots "are but the chronicle of a catastrophe that was foreseen," said Diouf, whose agency has been harshly criticised.

Diouf lamented the failure to reach a goal set by the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome of reducing the number of hungry by half by 2015.

"With current trends the summit's goal will be attained in 2150 instead of 2015," he added.

Diouf said "the international community reacts, unfortunately, only when the media bring into the living rooms of wealthy countries the sad spectacle of those who suffer in the world."

Special Thanks toLive News

PETA proposes Lobster Empathy Center for Skowhegan jail

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has sent a proposal to the Somerset County commissioners to lease their jail for the world’s first Lobster Empathy Center.

The central Maine county is constructing a new jail and has put the century-old jail in downtown Skowhegan up for sale. The Realtor handling the sale called the offer "likely a publicity stunt."

"A prison is the perfect setting to demonstrate how lobsters suffer when they are caught in traps or confined to cramped, filthy supermarket tanks," PETA wrote in a June 2 letter to the commissioners. "The center will teach visitors to have compassion for these interesting, sensitive animals while also commemorating the millions of lobsters who are ripped from their homes in the ocean off the coast of Maine each year before being boiled alive."

Commissioner Chairman Phil Roy, who doesn’t care for lobster, was at a loss for words Monday afternoon.

"I’m shocked and I don’t know what to say. I didn’t realize Skowhegan was the coastal community PETA was looking for," Roy said, with tongue in cheek.

As the crow flies, the distance from Skowhegan to Rockland, home of the Maine Lobster Festival and a lobster fishing port, is approximately 53 miles.

"The lobster capital of the state of Maine certainly isn’t here," Roy said. He said it was odd that PETA would object to the jail conditions for lobsters but had never filed a complaint on behalf of the human inmates incarcerated there.

PETA said the center would include educational displays and "testimonials from top independent scientists confirming that lobsters feel pain just like other animals."

PETA said the center would feature interactive exhibits such as a human-size lobster trap where visitors can have their fingers wrapped in large rubber bands that will remain on for their entire visit.

"At that point, visitors can be moved to a small, filth-strewn glass tank where they will be crammed together and confined for up to an hour," the proposal states.

The center also would include a concession stand that would include faux lobster treats, and children would receive free stuffed toy lobsters labeled "Lobster Are Friends, Not Food."

"Mainers have been dragging lobsters from their ocean homes for generations," said PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. "It’s time for them to learn that these fascinating animals deserve more than being treated as mere commodities."

Roy said that even if the offer is a publicity stunt and a waste of the commissioners’ time, it would be treated the same as any other and has been forwarded to the Realtor handling the jail’s sale.

Amy McLellan of Dawson Commercial Realty said all offers would be considered although the county has no interest in leasing the jail. "The property needs to be sold," she said. "Leasing is not an option, but we will look at everything. However, our big thing is not so much the price as the use. The county wants to provide jobs and get the property back on the tax rolls."

McLellan said there is extraordinary interest in the jail. "We are currently working on 22 leads," she said.

One recent offer was made by entrepreneur Amber Lambke of Skowhegan, who has proposed purchasing the jail for a gristmill, artists colony, bakery and other cultural uses.

Special Thanks to Bangor News

Speed up bathing and save energy

Speedier family baths could help Japanese cut their burgeoning energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a government report said on Tuesday.

Japanese households consume less energy than their U.S. and European counterparts, but consumption has been sharply increasing --jumping 44 percent between 1990 and 2005 -- a big reason the environment white paper zeroed in on ways for people to save energy.

Families should not only shorten their daily showers by a minute -- a common recommendation in the West -- but should try to take baths in quick succession, the report said.

Japanese usually wash outside the tub and then soak in hot water, which is then reused by the next family member. That means the water must be reheated each time if the next person in line dawdles.

Hot water use in bathrooms and kitchens accounted for 39 percent of energy consumed in Japanese homes, a stark contrast to European households, where energy is mainly used for air-conditioning and heating, the report said.

Japan is one of the world's most energy-efficient countries, but greenhouse gas emissions from companies and households have been on the rise in recent years, prompting the government to raise public awareness for global warming.

Climate change will be a major agenda on at the G8 summit Japan will be hosting in early July.

Special Thanks to Reuters

Just the cricket: Eating insects is good for us and for the environment, scientists claim

It might be a while before they appear on the shelf at Tesco.

But scientists claim adding insects to our diet would be good for us and the environment.

Crunching into crickets or snacking on grilled caterpillar is apparently a means to a nutrient-rich diet that also helps reduce pests and puts less strain on the planet than eating conventional meat.

Some insects in their dried form are said to have twice the protein of raw meat and fish, while others are rich in unsaturated fat and contain important vitamins and minerals.

Experts believe they could one day be marketed as a healthy alternative to fatty snacks.

In most of Europe, bug-eating is largely restricted to the belated realisation that there has been an unwelcome addition to the salad.

It is common elsewhere, however, with some 1,700 species of bug eaten in 113 countries.

In Taiwan, stir-fried crickets or sauteed caterpillars are delicacies. A plate of maguey worms - larvae of a giant butterfly - sells for £12.50 in smart Mexican restaurants.

Sago grubs wrapped in banana leaves go down well in Papua New Guinea, as does dragonfly in Bali.

In many parts of south-east Asia market stalls sell insects by the pound and deep-fried snacks are served up as street food.

Insects are arthropods, much like crab, shrimps and lobster which are all accepted by the European palate. In North Africa locusts are sometimes called sky prawns.

But Patrick Durst, of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, said that if consumers were to be tempted to broaden their culinary horizons the trick might be to make the bugs look more palatable.

'You need to get the food into a form where someone doesn't have to look the bug in the eye when they eat it,' he said.

Earlier this year the Food and Agriculture Organisation held a conference to discuss how entomophagy - eating insects as food - could contribute to sustainable development.

Bug-farming preserves forests - which are needed to attract insects - and is encouraged in some countries.

As for pesticides, some experts have pointed out the irony of using chemicals to get rid of bugs that are more nutritious than the crops they prey on.

In Thailand when pesticides failed to control locusts, the government urged locals to eat them and distributed recipes.

Chef Paul Cook, who supplies exotic and unusual food through his Bristol-based business Osgrow, has sold a range of insects including locusts.

He said: 'You have to get past your feeling when you look at a whole locust or cricket. They are very clean and nutritious.

'But I don't think we are going to see Jamie Oliver encouraging us to have sky prawns on the school menu.'

Guns campaigner stabbed to death

The grandson of prominent anti-gun campaigner Pat Regan has been arrested on suspicion of stabbing her to death.

Mrs Regan, 53, was discovered at the property on Marlborough Grange in the Hyde Park area of Leeds on Sunday.

The mother-of-six started campaigning against gun crime when her son Danny was shot dead in 2002.

The 20-year-old man was being held on suspicion of murder, police said. It is thought he had been arrested earlier in the day over another stabbing.

A 45-year-old railway worker was treated in hospital for a stab wound to his arm after challenging a man for trespassing at Leeds station on Sunday morning, British Transport Police said.

Mrs Regan set up a Leeds branch of Mothers Against Guns after her son Danny, 25, was shot at his home in Haydock, near St Helens, Merseyside in December 2002. His killer has not been found.

She had met government officials to discuss how to tackle the problems of guns and gang-related crime.

Dee Edwards, co-founder of campaign group Mothers Against Murder and Manslaughter, said Mrs Regan would visit schools and give talks about the dangers and consequences of getting involved in crime.

She said: "She made such a big difference to so many people's lives. This is an absolute tragedy for so many people."

Mrs Edwards said she had known Mrs Regan for about six years and described her as the "most incredible woman".

"It's just the most dreadful news for everyone. She's just an amazing woman," she added.

'No grudges'

Mrs Regan's friend Sylvester Johnson, 74, said: "She didn't want any young people to get caught up in the trouble that her son got caught up in.

"She was very brave and I don't know of anyone who would have a grudge against her."

In February, Mrs Regan was involved with the launch of a DVD warning about the dangers of gun and knife gang culture.

Speaking at the time, she said: "Things are reaching a critical point. Kids are dying before us, but we shouldn't have to bury our own children."

In the same month, Mrs Regan was at the then Prime Minister Tony Blair's side at a Downing Street summit on tackling problems relating to gang-related crime.

Her campaigning work was also praised by Princess Anne during a visit to the city earlier this year.

Labour minister Hilary Benn, who is the MP for Leeds Central and knew Pat Regan, said he was upset by the news of her death.

"I'm shocked, and greatly saddened to hear of Pat's death," he said.

"She made a huge impression on me and on many people that she met. She was determined to do all that she could so that other mothers didn't go through the experience that she went through when her son, Danny, was killed."

Special Thanks to The BBC

Machine to clean up greenhouse gas is breakthrough in war on global warming, say scientists

Scientists say they have invented a machine that can suck carbon dioxide out of the air – potentially creating a vital weapon in the war against global warming.

The blueprint for the CO2 'scrubber' raises the prospect of a generation of machines which would help reduce the billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere by the use of fossil fuels.

The team of US scientists now plans to build a prototype which would capture one tonne of CO2 from the air every day.

Though the idea is considered a holy grail in the battle against climate change – and Sir Richard Branson has put up £12.6 million for anyone who makes it a reality – the machines would fall far short of a quick fix.

The prototype, being built at a laboratory in Tucson, Arizona, by a company called Global Research Technologies, will cost about £100,000 and take about two years to construct.

The devices – each nearly the size of a shipping container - would have to be produced in their millions to soak up human carbon emissions.

But physicist Klaus Lackner, who led the U.S. team behind the invention, said the CO2 scrubber offered more hope than current efforts to cut carbon emissions by reducing fossil fuel use.

' I'd rather have a technology that allows us to use fossil fuels without destroying the planet, because people are going to use them anyway,' he said.

Scientists say it is not difficult to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by absorbing it in various chemical filters. But the problem has been how to clean those filters of CO2 so they can then be reused to carry on the job.

Professor Lackner, of New York's Columbia University, says the solution lies in a newly discovered property of absorbent plastic sheets known as 'ion exchange membranes' which are routinely used to purify water.

It turns out that humid air can make these membranes 'exhale' the CO2 they have trapped – leaving them clean and ready to absorb another load.

The Lackner team says the captured carbon dioxide could then be pumped into greenhouses to boost plant growth.

Special Thanks to The Daily Mail