Wedding Ring Found After Toilet Flush

Wedding Ring Found After Toilet Flush - An Idaho woman was reunited with her diamond wedding ring just in time for her 25th anniversary.

Mechelle Rieger, 44, set her wedding ring on a privacy wall in her bathroom 18 months ago as she stood up to flush the toilet.

"It was slow motion. That ring bounced off, landed in the toilet just as it was flushing down and it just took off," she told ABC News. "It was long gone."

Rieger said her husband took apart the toilet and pipes, but her ring was nowhere to be found. The next day she called the Kuna, Idaho, city offices.

"I was just hysterical and the guy said my chances of getting it back were very slim," she said.

Rieger's $6,000 ring was insured and she was able to get a replacement, but it just wasn't the same.

"I started out with a tiny one-third diamond cut ring when I got married and I gradually updated it and this ring was it," she said.

Sewage workers found the ring this week and returned it to Kuna City Hall.

Local news stations picked up the report and Rieger received an excited call from a friend telling her a ring was found in her old neighborhood.

After printing her original appraisal report and a photo of the ring, Rieger visited Kuna City Hall. The ring was a match.

"Poor thing is in bad shape but the diamonds are still as sparkly as ever," she said. "I'm hoping I can get it wearable before my anniversary." ( ABC News Blogs )

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Swedish Woman Finds Lost Wedding Ring on a Carrot

Swedish Woman Finds Lost Wedding Ring on a Carrot - A Swedish woman got the surprise of a lifetime when she pulled a small carrot out of her garden at home. Fit snugly around the carrot was the wedding ring she had lost 16 years ago.

Lena Paahlsson told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter that she "had given up hope" that she would ever find the ring she had lost in 1995, according to the BBC.

The ring, a white gold band with seven small diamonds, had been designed by Paahlsson herself. She had been doing some Christmas baking with her daughters when the ring disappeared so many years ago, the BBC reports.

The family looked everywhere and eventually even had the kitchen floor pulled up during renovations in the hope of finding the ring.

It wasn't until recently, while Paahlsson was gardening at her farm in central Sweden, that she found the long-lost ring around a carrot.

"The carrot was sprouting in the middle of the ring. It was quite incredible," Paahlsson's husband, Ola Paahlsson, told the paper.

The couple believes the ring could have been lost in vegetable peelings that were turned into compost, according to the BBC. The ring no longer fits Paahlsson, but she is planning to have it resized.

"Now that I have found the ring again, I want to be able to use it," Lena Paahlsson told the paper. ( ABC News Blogs )

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Why ‘The Heat’ Is Depressing

Why ‘The Heat’ Is Depressing — It’s the first time that two women are top-lining a buddy cop movie— and ‘The Heat,’ starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, is expected to be a huge hit. But don’t expect it to change Hollywood.

Dozens upon dozens of buddy cop comedies have come and gone at the box office over the years, mostly starring gruff straight men cracking wise while chasing outlandish criminals. We’ve even had one buddy cop flick, Turner & Hooch, that starred a man and his dog. Yet, until now, there’s never been one featuring two female leads. Enter The Heat.

Gemma La Mana/Twentieth Century Fox

This weekend’s major release stars Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as a buttoned-up FBI agent (in other words, the Bullock role) and an outspoken, outlandish, crass-in-the-lovable-way Boston detective (in other words, the McCarthy role) paired up to crack a drug ring. Bullock, coming off the successes of The Proposal and The Blind Side, is as bankable as ever, and she’s in her element here. McCarthy is Hollywood’s fastest rising star, parlaying her Bridesmaids Oscar nomination into her first top-lined No. 1 hit with Identity Thief.

If either actress was one half of a buddy comedy opening just before the Independence Day weekend, it would be a big deal and box-office projections would be huge. Of course, traditionally the second half of that duo would be a man—Hugh Grant, Benjamin Bratt, Jason Bateman. That the two actresses are starring in a buddy cop movie together and box-office expectations are still massive is a big deal, even if it’s a depressing one. 

“It’s the first big movie about female buddies since Bridesmaids, which was supposed to change the world,” Lynda Obst, producer of Sleepless in Seattle and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and author of Hello, He Lied—and Other Tales From the Hollywood Trenches, tells The Daily Beast. “But it didn’t. Basically it made Melissa McCarthy a star, which allowed for The Heat and Identity Thief, but that’s the only thing.”

Certainly, “buddy movies” with two females in the lead are hardly new. Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey starred in Beaches, but that wasn’t exactly a laugh riot. Thelma and Louise found its title characters, played by Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, on the other side of the law. Even as far as buddy comedies go, films like Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion (starring Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino) and Baby Mama (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) were decidedly feminine as far as subject matter goes.

Then there’s the string of female-ensemble successes, as few and far between as they’ve been over the decades: Bridesmaids, Pitch Perfect, and The Help, recently; and then Sex and the City, 9 to 5, and Steel Magnolias, which continue to resonate in pop culture. But like Romy & Michelle and Baby Mama, those movies, by and large, are easy to describe as, well, girlie.

The Heat breaks into, for the first time, the male-driven buddy cop genre, and does so without obsessing over or even focusing on the gender of its leads. Still, it’s telling that the Wikipedia page for “Buddy Cop Films,” which lists, essentially, every buddy cop movie ever made with a six- or seven-word plot synopsis, describes The Heat merely as “female FBI Special Agent teamed with female detective.” You won’t be surprised to hear that no other film on the list specifies the gender of the main character, and most provide more insight into what the movie is about besides, basically, “stars chicks!”

The concept of The Heat isn’t revolutionary. Law enforcement officials with wildly different temperaments paired together for the case—The Odd Couple in a patrol car—is the tried-and-true conceit that powered 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon all the way up to, most recently, The Other Guys starring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell. The Heat, while not reinventing the wheel, reinvents the genre entirely simply by making the leads two women. Until now, as John Anderson of Newsday notes, “The closets the buddy-cop genre has come to that was White Chicks, in which Shawn and Marlon Wayans played women in whiteface drag.” (Interestingly enough, the latter Wayans has a small role in The Heat.)

“This was it, a pairing where everyone was equal and you had these storylines that weren’t girly,” Bullock told the Los Angeles Times. “It had depth and humor and balls and action. It was just something I saw the boys getting to do.”

Early coverage of the film compares it to Bridesmaids, which is fair to a degree. It’s directed by Paul Feig, who helmed the Kristen Wiig-led hit, and it earns its R rating, allowing Bullock and McCarthy to curse and talk crudely about sex in the same gleeful way that earned the litany of think pieces about Wiig, who cowrote the Bridesmaids script, and her co-stars as female comedy trailblazers when the film came out.

“The story became that ‘Bridesmaids’ overperformed. Like 50,000 scripts turned up on managers’ desks for two weeks, but no one was willing to take a shot on them.”

But the better comparison is to those male buddy cop comedies. The Heat’s plot doesn’t revolve around weddings. Unlike Miss Congeniality and its sequel, in which Bullock plays an FBI agent, this is definitely not a romantic comedy. Like Lethal Weapon, 48 Hours, and The Other Guys, the movie is about two partners fighting crime and the friendship that grows between them.

Sure, just as those other buddy cop flicks include witty banter about girls and boobs and beer, there’s believable and appropriate bickering about the female counterparts to those things in The Heat. There’s a joke about Spanx, and the long line of broken-hearted men loved-and-left by McCarthy’s character becomes a running gag in the movie. But they’re just that—jokes, not the film’s preoccupation. It seems like a silly thing to praise for a major summer release starring two Hollywood A-listers, but it’s a serious achievement.

There’s a metric in Hollywood called the Bechdel Test, which was created by ’80s cartoonist Alison Bechdel to judge gender bias in films. To pass, the movie much star at least two women in prominent roles, they must talk to each other, and they must discuss something besides a man.

You think passing the Bechdel Test is easy? Think again. Here’s just a few movies that do not pass the test, despite featuring well-rounded, strong female characters: The Princess Bride, The Wedding Singer, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Run Lola Run, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II, and the entire Lord of the Rings and original Star Wars trilogy. Alien, which features one of the most multidimensional, inspirational female characters in cinema history, only passes because of one brief conversation Ripley and Lambert have about the alien.

A deeper dive into this summer’s other major comedy hits’ scripts is needed to determine if the likes of The Hangover Part 3, This Is the End, or Pain and Gain pass the test. Let’s just say it would not be surprising if all three fail.

But maybe we shouldn’t be celebrating the stars’ gender being painted as inconsequential to The Heat’s expected success. “What’s interesting about the way they’re selling this film is that they’re selling it as a male comedy,” Obst says. “You sell a movie to men because women will go anyway—you won’t lose a single female viewer. The advertising is selling it as a classic buddy cop movie with only a couple winks at the fact that it stars women.”

So if the film’s a hit—and it will be—the starved female audience who will turn up to The Heat because they’re clamoring for a film for them won’t be given credit, and therefore more female-driven comedies won’t be greenlit. “There will be more McCarthy movies, more Bullock movies,” Obst says. “Look back to Bridesmaids. It was really funny and did well internationally and created new stars. It proved that there was a female market. Instead, the story became that the movie overperformed. Like 50,000 scripts turned up on managers’ desks for two weeks, but no one was willing to take a shot on them.”

In other words, expect the only careers to get hot off The Heat to be Bullock’s and McCarthy’s themselves. Obst says it best: “It’s pretty bloody depressing, isn’t?” ( )

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Female Flies Expel Sperm and Eat It

Female Flies Expel Sperm and Eat ItFemale Ulidiid flies have a kinky habit: After mating with a male, they expel his sperm and eat it.

The odd behavior may help these lady flies choose which guy flies will father their young, researchers reported online today (April 11) in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

Studying a species of "picture-winged fly," known as Euxesta bilimeki, researchers found that 100 percent of the 74 fly couples they studied spewed out ejaculate after mating. Further study revealed that 25 percent of females harbored no sperm afterward. The findings suggest the fly dames were able to control how much sperm to expel in order to select which males fertilized their eggs.

Expelling and eating sperm may be the female fly's way of choosing the father of her babies.

And these fly gals are no romantics — long periods of courtship before mating made females more likely to expel all the ejaculate, results showed. The researchers suggest that the female may simply be giving in to a determined male in order to stave off future advances, but dispensing with his sperm before he can father her babies.

Another possibility is that the sperm provides nutrition for the female flies when food is scarce. To test this theory, the researchers fed female flies a diet of: protein, sugar and water; sugar and water; just water; or nothing (fasting flies). Then they put the flies with males that could ejaculate or males that could not.

Flies that were fed nutrients (sugar or proteins) or plain water seemed to derive no benefit from eating the sperm. But the fasting flies that ate sperm lived longer than those that were prevented from eating it, suggesting the ejaculate provided a needed source of fluids. These flies live in dry regions where evolution may have favored such behavior.

But studies reveal that females of many insect species receive no nutritional benefit from such "nuptial gifts," the researchers say. The sperm-eating practice may simply be part of the mating effort.

Many questions remain, and the researchers note that more experiments are needed before making conclusive statements about the function of the sperm-spewing-and-scarfing behavior. ( )

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The Happiest Tech Companies

The Happiest Tech Companies  Tech companies are already well known for some of the extra benefits they offer their employees, but several companies stand head and shoulders above others in keeping their workers happy, a new poll has found.

The survey, based on reviews on the site CareerBliss, ranked and rated the happiest tech companies in the United States. Overall, workers at Intuit were found to be the happiest employees in tech. Texas Instruments (No. 2) and Avaya (No. 3) rounded out the top three.

Employees at Google — which is often recognized for its comprehensive benefits package that includes everything from free food and haircuts to on-site doctors and fitness centers — were rated the fourth happiest workers in tech. EMC Corp and Intel followed Google on the CareerBliss list, at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively. The rest of the top-10 list included Unisys, Yahoo!, HCL Technologies and Advanced Micro Devices. 

Heidi Golledge, CEO and co-founder of CareerBliss, said the findings highlight the importance of company culture in keeping workers happy. 

"When it comes to happy tech companies, factors such as one’s relationship with their peers and their company’s culture have the greatest influence on overall happiness," said Golledge. "Employees at Intuit rated company culture and the work they do as key factors in their overall happiness."

The survey also found that tech-company employees do not place as much value on salary as a factor influencing their happiness.

"CareerBliss also found salary was not a huge factor in determining employee satisfaction," Golledge said. "For example, Yahoo, which ranked eighth on our list, has one of the highest average salary listings — $87,000 a year, whereas Intuit’s average salary is $77,000 a year — once again proving money does not necessarily buy happiness at work. When it comes to tech, folks feel happy creating the latest technology and being part of a cool culture with friends at work." ( )

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A Spleen Gene-and a Ribosomal Surprise

A Spleen Gene-and a Ribosomal Surprise - The spleen is a very unappreciated body part. The Talmud considered it the "organ of laughter," whereas the ancient Greeks equated it with melancholy. Today it's sometimes used to mean anger.

When a spleen bursts, spewing all manner of blood cells, we simply take it out - as happened to Katniss Everdeen in the third installment of The Hunger Games and to Jack Ryan's daughter in Tom Clancy's Patriot Games. But starting life without a spleen is a whole different story. It's deadly.

"The spleen is not the brain. No one thinks it's very important," says Alexandre Bolze, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at Rockefeller University. His discovery of what causes a person to lack a spleen, reported today in Science Express, has implications far beyond a ridiculed body part.

Dots in red blood cells indicate a missing or malfunctioning spleen.

A Spleen Gene-and a Ribosomal Surprise

Anatomy of a spleen

A spleen is like a giant lymph node, an oblong organ in the upper left abdomen. Its white pulp teems with lymphocytes and monocytes, and the red pulp houses more lymphocytes, red blood cells, and macrophages, which mop up debris -- old red blood cells and bacteria. All of us vertebrates have spleens, except for lampreys and hagfishes, which have smidgeons of spleen-like matter.

The spleen is a big blood filter. It enables a baby to clear infections after the maternal antibody supply has petered out but before the baby's has matured. By adulthood, the bloodstream has accrued enough antibody types to handle most infections, with the spleen releasing more B cells as needed.

Only 1 out of 2 million newborns has isolated congenital asplenia - lack of a spleen, with no other anomalies. Most don't survive to see their first birthdays, due to overwhelming bacterial infections.

I found one unusual case described in a forensics journal. Of 1763 autopsies conducted over a 5-year period at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, Canada, 293 were of kids. Four of them lacked spleens, but in only one was the splenic deficit the lone abnormality. The previously healthy 4-year-old had been sick for 8 hours and then taken to the hospital, dying of Pneumococcus infection 4 hours later. (Presumably the rapid demise was suspicious, hence the forensics journal.)

That case led to recommendations to do a blood smear on previously healthy young children with sudden deterioration, to look for Howell-Jolly bodies. These are specks in old red blood cells that are lingering bits of DNA from before the cells jettisoned their nuclei when maturing from reticulocytes. Like dirty plates piled in a kitchen sink, the specks in the red cells mean a failure to clean up. Imaging the abdomen then reveals the absence of a spleen.

In search of the missing spleen

Dr. Bolze works in a good place to find the ultra-rare asplenia -- the laboratory of Jean-Laurent Casanova at the St. Giles Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases. (Another project from the lab is in my DNA Science blog at Public Library of Science.) Dr. Bolze's project has solved part of the mystery of the missing spleen, while raising more questions.

The culprit is quite a surprise - too little of a protein that's part of the small subunit of the ribosome, the organelle on which messenger RNAs are translated into the amino acid sequences of proteins.

The Casanova lab investigates life-threatening infectious diseases in children. "I bumped into a subgroup of patients with lethal bacterial infections, and also without a spleen. We'd recruited them initially because of the very severe bacterial infection, not because they lack spleens. Why didn't they have them?" Dr. Bolze asked. And so pursuit of infectious disease led to a developmental defect that led to a deficit of a critical organelle component. Science works in strange ways.

With the help of international collaborators, the Rockefeller researchers sequenced the exomes of 33 asplenic patients from 23 families ("kindreds"). Then they rounded up the usual suspects for a very rare disease: a mutation not in public databases, overrepresented among the families but extremely rare or non-existent in control exomes, and with a large effect. They weren't looking for a relatively meaningless SNP that denotes a vague association, but a hardcore nonsense mutation that shortens or even deletes the gene and protein, or a single-base change that alters the encoded amino acid (a "nonsynonymous" change).

With those criteria, the researchers whittled down the 764 candidate genes until one stood out - serious mutations in the ribosomal protein SA (RPSA) lurked in 18 patients from 8 of the families. Only 1 of 508 control exomes had a mutation in the gene, and that child had severe viral infection, so might not have actually been a control.

Alas, the RPSA gene is riddled with 61 pseudogenes. These are similarly-sequenced copies of the working gene nestled near it on the chromosome, genetic ghosts of past, active versions. (The globin genes include the best-known pseudogenes - they're echoing evidence for evolution.) Pseudogenes are similar enough in sequence to functioning genes for us to know what they are, or once were, but just different enough to not work, while obscuring sequencing studies.

The researchers circumvented the pseudogene roadblocks by focusing only on the coding exons, the important retained sequences. And these experiments confirmed that RPSA, when mutant, is indeed responsible for failure of the spleen to develop.

The mutation is dominant - that is, each person without a spleen makes half the normal amount of the encoded protein, a condition called haploinsufficiency. And the mutation is completely penetrant, a nice certainty to balance out the pesky pseudogenes. "All ICA patients in these 8 kindreds carried a mutation in RPSA and all individuals carrying RPSA mutations displayed ICA," Dr. Bolze explained. Complete penetrance is rare.

"A surprise"

The finding of a mutation in a clearly essential gene is always puzzling - how could an individual survive? Such discoveries can reveal redundancies built into the genome, genes that can step in when another is disabled. That doesn't appear to be the case with the isolated spleen, yet.

The evidence, so far, just doesn't add up. All cells make RPSA protein, whose known function is to process pre-RNA into mature mRNA. Mice missing the gene have spleens. And other diseases that have missing ribosomal proteins are syndromic - not a single missing body part. "Ten other ribosomal proteins have been associated with disease, such as Diamond-Blackfan anemia and its bone marrow failure. For each of these diseases, patients have developmental defects, such as of the face. It's never as clear as lack of a spleen," Dr. Bolze said.

How can a part of a ribosome tell the body which transcription factors to turn on to sculpt a spleen? Why not an ovary or a toenail? Dr. Bolze has an idea. "Maybe the ribosome has a special function in development. It's important for translation, but not simply 'I'm gonna translate everything that comes to me.' Some ribosomal proteins may regulate translation of specific mRNAs so the haploinsufficiency will not affect overall translation, but the specificity of translation of some genes."

As usual, I have an opinion on this work. I love it! Finding something totally unexpected, and not initially making sense, then trying to explain it, is the challenge of doing science. It is a refreshing counterpoint to expecting certain results and gearing experiments to show them, or writing grant proposals to support findings already in hand, ensuring "success." Exome and genome sequencing will continue to surprise us for a long time.

When two things in nature don't seem to go together - like the curious relationship of the spleen and the ribosome - it means we're missing something. And that's what scientific inquiry is all about. ( Scientific American )

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Breakfast cereal tied to lower BMI for kids

Breakfast cereal tied to lower BMI for kids - Regularly eating cereal for breakfast is tied to healthy weight for kids, according to a new study that endorses making breakfast cereal accessible to low-income kids to help fight childhood obesity.

One in every four American children lives in a food insecure household where breakfast isn't a sure thing, lead author Dr. Lana Frantzen told Reuters Health.

"(Cereal) is an excellent breakfast choice, it's simple, and gets those essential nutrients that children need, especially low income minority children," who tend to be hit hardest by childhood obesity and related health problems, said Frantzen, who is employed by Dairy MAX, a regional dairy council in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Previous studies have linked eating breakfast with maintaining a lower body mass index (BMI) over time. The new study looked at the role that breakfast, specifically cereal, plays in both weight and nutrition among low-income kids.

Frantzen and her coauthors interviewed 625 schoolchildren as they progressed from fourth to sixth grades in San Antonio. Once a year they asked the children to remember what they had had to eat over the previous three days and calculated their BMI, a measure of weight relative to height.

As fourth graders, 64 percent of the kids said they'd eaten breakfast on each of the last three days, compared to 42 percent by the time they were sixth graders.

With data for three days per year for three years in a row, the researchers ended up with nine days of breakfast analysis for each child. Kids who ate cereal four out of the nine days tended to be in the 95th percentile for BMI, which is considered overweight, compared to kids who ate cereal all nine days, whose measurements were in the 65th percentile, in the healthy weight range.

Thirty-two percent of fourth graders did not eat breakfast at all, 25 percent had something other than cereal and about 43 percent had cereal.

Cereals, like Frosted flakes, Cheerios and Kix, were the most common breakfast items. Children who didn't eat cereal but did have breakfast reported having foods ranging from scrambled eggs, white bread and sausage to granola bars, tortillas and breakfast tacos.

Only 70 kids had cereal on every one of the three days, but for each time they had cereal, their intake of certain nutrients was higher than that of other kids, Frantzen's group reports in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Kids who ate more cereal got more vitamin D, B-3, B-12, riboflavin, calcium, iron, zinc and potassium in their diets than kids who ate less cereal or none at all. They also got slightly more calories, fat, fiber and sugar.

Cereals are fortified with a variety of vitamins and minerals, and the milk that usually comes with cereals is a good source of calcium, potassium and vitamin D, Frantzen said.

"I think it was a nice advancement in knowledge overall about the importance of eating breakfast," according to Dr. Matthew Haemer, medical director of the nutrition and fitness clinic at Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora.

"But the analysis that they do didn't separate out kids who only ate cereal compared to those who ate something else," said Haemer, who was not involved in the study.

Policies like the School Breakfast Program are already in place to provide a low cost or free meal to kids who qualify, but the issue demands more attention and resources, since generations of kids are starting out the day without a healthy breakfast, he said.

Haemer told Reuters Health he was particularly struck by the fact that for the three days surveyed, each additional day that included cereal was associated with a 2 percentile decrease in BMI.

"Moving BMI percentile down 2 percentage points, that's not going to cure the obesity epidemic, but it is a significant difference," he said.

There is an association between cereal and healthier BMI, but it's still unclear how it works, Haemer said. He recommends that if parents choose cereal as a quick, easy option, they go for one high in fiber and low in sugar and fat.

"They didn't really look thoughtfully at the other types of breakfasts that could be eaten, for example there may be benefits of including oatmeal and low fat turkey sausage that could be part of a healthy breakfast," he said.

"There's still a lot of science to be done," he said. "Cereal appears to be part of the picture but it's not the complete picture." ( Reuters Health )

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