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Kara Menini

Brown Recluse Spider almost left Texas student blind

Media hype says brown recluse spider populations are rising and some fear a rise in bite cases

 A brown recluse spider bit 21-year-old Nikki Perez on the back of the neck while she was at Amarillo airport in Texas last September.  The Daily Mail reported that Perez needed to be hospitalized for five days to counter the effects of the bite.  The brown recluse spider almost caused Perez to loose her ear from necrosis; the student required a skin graft to repair her rotting ear. She also suffered swelling of the face and head- and at times was not able to see because the bite had caused one of her eyes to swell shut.  

The brown recluse spider bite was documented by Perez, as doctors initially told her to wait to see what would happen. The Daily Mail shows the progression of the symptoms of the bite including the advancement of rot on her ear and her head swelling to almost twice its normal size.  After she lost sight in one of her eyes due to the swelling, Perez said, “Then it started spreading to my other eye. I was going blind…it was terrifying.  It was spreading all over my head, which actually felt like a bit of a relief as the pain was so concentrated behind my ear.” 

The brown recluse spider that put Perez in agonizing pain for over a week has been rumored to be rapidly spreading around the country due to global warming. Reports of brown recluse spider bites have surfaced all over the country, but Rick Vetter, the expert on the brown recluse spider, say it’s just media hype and scare tactics.  Vetter claims a bite from the loxosceles reclusa most often only causes a red mark and says doctors are blaming the spider bites for other, more serious, diseases that are causing symptoms like necrosis. MRSA, diabetes and lymphoma all cause necrosis and Vetter believes the “stupidity in the medical community” is causing the majority of brown recluse spider bites to be misdiagnosed. ABC reported, “Vetter was so tired of doctors blaming the much-maligned spider, he started the Brown Recluse Challenge. Of 1,800 specimens sent to him, only 350 turned out to be the real deal. And all were from the Midwest.” 

The brown recluse spider bite is rarely life threatening, only in 10 percent of cases, and Vetter says the bite only causes one or two deaths a year.

Pi Day is finally here!

Museums and schools around the globe are celebrating Pi Day

Pi Day is an international celebration of the number that has made civilization possible.  The number 3.14 has been honored on 3/14 (get it?) since 1989 when Larry Shaw, a physicist at the Exploratorium in San Francisco decided the Grecian number wasn’t getting enough respect. Now, schools around the world use Pi Day to spike interest in math and science with various Pi Day activities including pie making and “piem” writing.  A piem is a poem in which the number of letters in the words correlates with the numbers of Pi. The Huffington Post gives a great example: “How I need a drink, alcoholic of course” represents 3.1415926.

Pi Day, also Albert Einstein’s birthday, is not only a celebration for math and science geeks around the globe, but it raises awareness to non-geeks just how important such a small, and after junior high mostly forgotten, number is to our society.  Pi Day is possible thanks to the people of Babylon and Egypt, who were among some of the earliest communities known to use the number to deal with flooding, to study astronomy and to build pyramids. If ancient civilizations had not played around with the number 4,000 years ago, we would not have an understanding of geometry, nor would we have been able to come up with a theory of motion. 

Pi Day also celebrates advancements in how we understand π.  Though Chao Lu of China holds the Guinness World Record for memorizing 61,890 digits of pi, scientists are constantly calculating pi to never-ending decimal places.  Shigeru Kondo, a Japanese systems engineer, used “an $18,000 homemade computer running software developed by American grad student Alex Yee,” wrote the Huffington Post, in order to set the current world record of ten trillion (10,000,000,000,000) decimal digits. 

Pi Day isn’t all serious, though, and museums around the world are scheduled to host a variety of activities, including the most delicious activity, pi pie making.  Check out the creative baking genius’ that are inspired by Pi Day.

Heather Morris nude photos leaked on internet

Glee star is the next celebrity to fall victim to phone hacking

Heather Morris is the next celebrity who has fallen victim to cell phone hacking. The 25-year-old Glee actress hasn’t yet commented on whether the pictures are real or not, but it’s hard to deny that the woman pictured does look exactly like Heather Morris.

Heather Morris, who plays Britney S. Pears on Glee, is definitely comfortable in her body; it wouldn’t be a surprise for her to admit to the pictures if they turn out to be real. Before her Glee success, Heather Morris posed nude for professional photographers. When those surfaced, she openly admitted to them and told Extra, “For me, I think they are beautiful. It’s not something I’m ashamed of. Everybody should do tasteful beautiful nudes so when you get older you’re gonna be like, ‘Oh that’s when my body looked so great!’”

In the photos, a woman who certainly looks like Heather Morris, is seen in various poses. In one, she is bent over, with her face in the forefront with her breasts and buttocks in full view. Other shots show full-frontal nudity but with her face out of the shot.

Heather Morris joins Olivia Mum and Christina Hendricks as the next celebrity victim of phone hacking. Both Mum and Hendricks denied that the nude pictures were real, but Hendricks did admit that the other, more tasteful pictures, of her were real.

Crystal Church Ministries slowly disintegrating

Mega-church is bankrupt, founding Schuller family decides to leave ministry

The Crystal Cathedral, which has been home to the televangelist ministry founded by Robert Schuller, will no longer house the same congregation. Due to bankruptcy in the Crystal Cathedral Ministries, two big announcements have been made this past weekend: Robert Schuller and his wife Arvella have stepped down from the board over failed attempts at negotiations related to finances, and their daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman announced that she will be stepping down as senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral and will move her congregation to a new location. She announced that she will start a new ministry, away from the mega-church, called Hope Center of Christ. It is rumored that some of the Crystal Cathedral congregation with follow Coleman, but some are happy to see her leave.

The Crystal Cathedral is a 10,000-pane glass church that was sold in February to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange for $57.5 million to try and emerge from federal bankruptcy protection. Donations made to the church fell almost 70% from last year, which has caused the Crystal Cathedral Ministries to fail to pay back vendors. According to the LA Times, the church owes $12.5 million in payments to creditors, but the church is also being sued by various Schullar family members who claim the church owes money for things like copyright infringement, intellectual property rights violations and unpaid contracts. The combination of decreased donations, increased debt and lawsuits has put the Crystal Cathedral Ministries in a tight spot.

Founder Robert Schuller retired from the organization in 2006 after the ministry had reached mega-church status. Since then, he and his wife have had financial issues with the company and members of their family have reportedly not been treated kindly. Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman saw her brother-in-law, Jim Penner, receive the pink slip from his position as executive produer of the “Hour of Power”, the churches TV ministry. The events surrounding the firing have cause controversy.

Tiger Woods withdraws from tournament in Doral, Florida

Woods suffered from soreness in Achilles heel

Tiger Woods withdrew from the Cadillac Championship in Doral, Florida on Sunday due to soreness in his left Achilles tendon.

Tiger Woods made a statement after he left the course yesterday, “I felt tightness in my left Achilles warming up this morning, and it continued to get progressively worse. After hitting my tee shot at 12, I decided it was necessary to withdraw. In the past, I may have tried to continue to play, but this time, I decided to do what I thought was necessary.” According to CBS, Tiger Woods “was 3-over par in the final round at Doral, 10 shots out of the lead, when he hit a 321-yar tee shot on the par-5 12th hole, shook hands with Webb Simpson and left in a cart.” ESPN and other sports channels, while covering Tiger Woods’ abrupt absence, showed the golfer being driven in a cart to a black sedan and then driving off of the property.

Webb Simpson later commented on how Tiger Woods was playing, “I didn’t really notice anything. I wasn’t paying much attention, but it looked like he made a swing on 12 that really hurt. But didn’t say a whole lot. Class act. Shook my hand. Off he went.”
Rory McIlroy also commented on Tiger Woods leaving early, “It’s a shame because he looked like he was coming out this year, swinging it really well, playing good, getting himself into contention. It’s probably just precautionary, but I really hope he’s healthy for the Masters, because obviously it would be a great week with him there. He can spark an interest in gold that no one else can.”

Tiger Woods has withdrawn from a tournament twice before; most recently at The Players Championship last May after playing nine holes. CBS reported that Tiger Woods, “then took three months off to let his leg fully heal, returning at the Bridgestone Invitational. Woods said he wanted to make sure he wanted to make sure he didn’t come back until he knew there would be now more issues with his leg.”

Tiger Woods also apparently attracted a chunk of the crowds this week, and when he left, so did they. Webb Simpson said, “I was a bit weird. It went from one extreme to the other, from playing with all the people to playing with no people. I wasn’t playing too good, so I didn’t really care.”

Doonesbury stirs up controversy for its themed comics this week

Creator comments on recent Texas law that forces women to undergo sonogram before terminating a pregnancy

Doonesbury this week will not just be another “funny” in the local newspaper, and depending on where you live, it simply might not be there. Doonesbury will feature a series of six strips that will comment on the right-wing abortion policies, namely, the policy that women who seek to have an abortion must first undergo a “transvaginal scan,” or ultrasound, before undergoing any procedure.

Doonesbury debuted the first of the six strips that will appear this week.  Made of four panels, each panel involves two characters, a woman patient and a woman secretary. The patient asks if she is in the right place to get a sonogram.  The secretary continues by asking the patient if this is her first pregnancy termination and then hands her a clipboard and tells her to fill it out in the “shaming room.”  Confused, the patient asks, “In the what?” as she holds the clipboard with the Scarlet Letter “A” on it and the secretary replies, “A middle-aged, male state legislator will be with you in a moment.” 

Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau is known for using his comic strip to express political issues, but the upcoming strips are being taken out of a number of local newspapers who feel the language of Doonesbury is too graphic for its young readers or that the content is too much of a sensitive subject.

The sonogram law, which had gone into effect early this year in Texas, requires that all women who seek to terminate their pregnancy must first have a sonogram. During the sonogram, it is required that the doctor explain the procedure, play sounds of the fetus’ heartbeat, show images of the fetus and explain and describe the images of the sonogram.  Apparently, women are allowed to decline to hear the heartbeat or see the images but must listen to the doctor’s descriptions of the exam.  The “logic” behind the law is that women, after seeing and hearing their pregnancy will think twice about an abortion. 

The upcoming Doonesbury comics have been reported to get more “graphic” or “over the top” and are the reason why so many papers are refusing to print it.  Lines from the next comics have been reported. and one line, which has caused some of the most controversy, is explained by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau.  Before inserting the probe necessary to perform a sonogram, the doctor tells the patient, “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”  Trudeau explains, “Texas’s HB-15 isn’t hard to explain: The bill says that in order for a woman to obtain a perfectly legal medical procedure, she is first compelled by law to endure a vaginal probe with a hard, plastic 10-inch wand.  The World Health Organization defines rape as ‘physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration- even if slight- of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object.’ You tell me the difference.”

A new Doonesbury comic will be printed every day until Saturday with this theme, and if they aren’t in the local newspaper, plenty of blogs have promised to put them up.

Girl Scouts celebrates its 100th birthday today

Founder Juliette Gordon Low is remembered for creating such an important organization for girls around the globe

The Girl Scouts turn 100 today, and troops all over the country are celebrating the centennial of a unique group that was started by a woman who saw the potential in all girls.  From founder Juliette Gordon Low to current CEO Anna Maria Chavez, the Girl Scouts have given girls the tools to become confident and courageous members of society who constantly work to make the world a better place. 

The Girl Scouts, founded by a deaf, childless and widowed 51-year-old woman in 1912, started with a small group of just 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia.  Low created the Girl Scouts when she saw the vision from a similar organization, the Boy Scouts and knew it was something that girls all over the country could benefit from.  “She adapted Boy Scouting but emphasized vocational and domestic training equally.  She embraced the self-sufficiency that camping and outdoor activities taught,” wrote a WSJ blog.  In a time where women still didn’t have the right to vote, Low saw the potential in the Girl Scouts to better broaden an already limited future that most girls saw.  At the start of WWI, Low “anticipated the usefulness of women to the war effort.  She sent out legions of uniformed girls and women to march in preparedness parades, sell Liberty Bonds, make trench candles and roll bandages,” wrote the WSJ. 

The Girl Scouts have carried Juliette Gordon Low’s core values through the last 100 years, including the commitment to diversity.  That first group, created in Savannah, included Catholic, Protestant and Jewish girls; troops that followed included orphans, factory workers, disabled girls as well as girls from the most elite families of Savannah.  Within the first decade, African-American and Latina troops were established, and in the 1940’s, Japanese-American girls were supported by the Girl Scouts while imprisoned in internment camps.  This commitment is still seen today: while the Boy Scouts are rejecting the gay community, the Girl Scouts welcome the LGBTQ community with open arms. 

With over fifty million alumnae world-wide, The Girl Scouts have a lot to celebrate today.  Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chavez said, “Our 100th anniversary is our moment in time to bring the nation together to make a difference in the lives of girls. Girls represent an incredible resource for our country, and Girl Scouts has always provided them a platform for success, and during our centennial we want everyone—men and women alike—to join us in making sure that every girls achieves her full leadership potential.”

Happy birthday, Girl Scouts!

Biggie Smalls lyrics live on 15 years after his death

Notorious B.I.G is remembered through his songs

Biggie Smalls lyrics can still be heard on the radio, though it’s weird to think that they are now classics.  The Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down 15 years ago, today, outside a party at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.  It is widely believed that Biggie Smalls, also known as Christopher Wallace, was shot by Marion “Suge” Knight because of the East Coast vs. West Coast “rap wars” that was prevalent in the early and mid-nineties. 

Biggie Smalls lyrics have lived on not only because of their greatness, but because present rap and hip-hop stars keep them alive.  Jay-Z in his recent song, “The City is Mine”, says he’s keeping Big alive in his own songs.  In a video clip talking about using Biggie Smalls lyrics, Jay-Z said, “It was my way of always keeping him fresh, and keeping his music fresh on everyone’s mind.” 

Biggie Smalls’ lyrics are perfectly explained by a blogger, “Christopher Wallace was noted for his ‘loose, easy flow,’ dark, semi-autobiographical lyrics and storytelling abilities.” Biggie Smalls’ lyrics are so memorable because Biggie’s voice had a certain smoothness to it, which, matched with his lyrics, created a very melodic form of rap. 

It’s hard to believe Big Poppa has been gone for 15 years, but thankfully he left the world with his music.  Biggie Smalls lyrics will continually be played on the radio and used as inspiration for future hip-hop legends for years to come.

Dave Matthews Band summer tour tickets go on sale today

The band took a year off last year, fans have been anticipating this long awaited tour

Dave Matthews Band has taken to the road again after taking 2011 off.  The band announced their North American tour which will begin in Woodlands, Texas in May.  Tickets for the general public for the summer tour are set to go on sale today.  The price of admission can vary from $40 to $75.

Dave Matthews Band, according to the Billboard site, has sold more tickets than any other act, band or singer; selling 11.2 million tickets from 2000-2009. 

The latest album from Dave Matthews Band, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, debuted at number one in 2009 on the Billboard 200.  Their last album made them one of two groups ever to have five consecutive albums enter at the top of charts.   Dave Matthews Band has recently gone back into the studio with the man who produced their first three albums, Under the Table and Dreaming Crash, Crash and Before These Crowded Streets, Steve Lillywhite.  The new album will be released later this year.

Dave Matthews Band tour information, tickets and prices can be found at their website.

Keystone pipeline vote short four votes in the Senate to continue construction

President Obama stands behind Senates decision

The Keystone pipeline has not gained enough support to continue construction. On Thursday, according to NewsMax “The Democrat-led U.S. Senate yesterday narrowly rejected a Republican amendment to a transportation funding bill that would have fast-tracked the project. The measure, which received 56 votes in favor, failed because Senate rules require 60 votes to include the amendment.”

The Keystone pipeline is a cross-country project that, if finished, will allow oil to be transported from tar sands in Alberta, Canada to oil refineries on the coast of the Gulf in Texas. The Keystone pipeline project requires U.S. State Department approval because the pipeline will cross an international border.

TransCanada, the company in charge of the Keystone pipeline, has already started plans for construction in Texas since the project in the U.S. only requires that simple permits be acquired. TransCanada president of enery and oil pipelines division, Alex Pourbaix, is hopeful that the southern tier construction from Cushing, Oklahoma to Texas will start late this spring.

The Keystone pipeline was recently rejected by the State Department because both the department and President Obama say the company needs to find an alternate route that would avoid the Ogallala Aquifer, an important water source for eight states, and the Sandhills, a sensitive region in Nebraska.

Support for the construction of the Keystone pipeline comes because it would create about 20,000 temporary jobs; something that is important for a country struggling with high unemployment rates.

Obama’s rejection of the Keystone pipeline has cause backlash from Republican presidential candidates. “Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich said Obama’s denial of Keystone would cost U.C. construction jobs and lead to higher energy prices. They criticized the move as a sacrifice of jobs and energy supplies to please the president’s political allies,” said News Max.

However, environmental groups praise Obama’s rejection of the projects. Bill McKibben, founder of an environmental group 350.org said that “the vote was a temporary victory and there’s no guarantee that it holds for the long fun.”

Republican Senator John Hoevan, who proposed the amendment to authorize construction of the Keystone pipeline and deem it in compliance with environmental regulations, according to News Max, said that Republicans will seek any other opportunities to have the Keystone pipeline built.