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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Free Voice- Activated Phone Services

Technology | David Pogue

    Technology | David Pogue

    Free Voice- Activated Phone Services

    David Pogue tests three free cellphone information services.

    10 Rare HTML Tags You Really Should Know

    Web developers these days are often expected to know and work in multiple languages. As a result, it's tricky to learn everything a language has to offer and easy to find yourself not utilizing the full potential of some more specialized but very useful tags.

    read more | digg story

    Double atomic bomb survivor found in Japan

    A 93-year-old Japanese man has become the first person to be officially recognised as a survivor of both atomic bombs dropped on Japan by the United States at the end of the Second World War.

    Cloud of smoke, nuclear bomb explodes: Double atomic bomb survivor found in Japan
    A giant column of smoke rises, after the nuclear bomb explodes over the Japanese port and town of Nagasaki, on August 9, 1945 Photo: AP

    Tsutomu Yamaguchi had already been a certified hibakusha, or radiation survivor, of the Aug 9, 1945, atomic bombing in Nagasaki. But officials have now confirmed that he also survived the attack on Hiroshima three days earlier.

    Mr Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on a business trip on Aug 6, 1945, when a US B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on the city. He then returned to his home in Nagasaki just in time for the second attack, officials said.

    "As far as we know, he is the first one to be officially recognised as a survivor of atomic bombings in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki," said Toshiro Miyamoto, a Nagasaki city official. "It's such an unfortunate case, but it is possible that there are more people like him."

    Certification qualifies survivors for government compensation - including monthly allowances, free medical checkups and funeral costs - but Mr Yamaguchi's compensation will not increase, Mr Miyamoto said.

    Mr Yamaguchi is one of about 260,000 people who survived the attacks, which killed 140,000 in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki.

    Survivors of the bombs have developed various illnesses from radiation exposure, including cancer and liver illnesses.

    Details of Mr Yamaguchi's health problems were not released.

    Thousands of survivors continue to seek official recognition after the government rejected their eligibility for compensation.

    The government last year eased the requirements for being certified as a survivor, following criticism the rules were too strict and neglected many who had developed illnesses that doctors have linked to radiation.

    Rapper P.O.S.' unique cover of Pearl Jam's "Why Go"

    by Matthew Fiander


    As part of a celebration for the deluxe reissue of Pearl Jam's debut album Ten , which was released today, MTV2 asked a number of groups to cover their favorite tracks from the grunge classic. Perhaps the strangest among them is Midwestern rapper P.O.S., who takes on "Why Go" in this video. He's an even more surprising choice when you consider the other bands tapped for the project are the boring whiners of Staind and the equally pretentious and plain The Academy Is…

    But even though P.O.S. warns us about his voice at the beginning, stating that "There's no auto-tune in Grunge Music, guys," he actually proves a very able stand-in for Mr. Vedder. He lays some nice keyboard lines over his reprogrammed version of the song, and though at its base this cover is pretty faithful to the original, it's still pretty damn good. P.O.S. pays irony-free homage and puts his own spin on the song at the same time. Not bad for an MTV2 project that is, in about every other way, a dull failure.

    Here's the YouTube version below if you can't view MTV's videos or wish to skip the pre-roll advertisement.


    Posted in: P.O.S. , VIDEO

    Obama's Gift to British PM Ruined by DVD Zone Restrictions


    The DVD zones from around the world are seen here. Many players will not play "out of zone" DVDs as President Barack Obama and Britsh PM Gordon Brown discovered in a humorous botched gifting. Britain is in Zone 2, while the U.S. is in Zone 1. (Source: Flickr)
    Here's some classic American movies... psych!

    President Barack Obama hasn't just been working hard to right the American automotive ship, he's also been looking to foster better international relations, meeting with PMs and Presidents of many nations. However, on one of those recent meetings he made a humorous technical snafu, that's something most of us can relate to.

    Gordon Brown, British Prime Minister, paid President Obama a visit, and as a gracious gesture, President Obama gave him a gift set of 25 classic American movies, including the timeless thriller "Psycho."

    Arriving back home, PM Brown settled in to watch "Psycho" only to receive a far greater horror than the movie itself could bring -- none of his DVDs would play, due to zone restrictions. While saddened and shocked, the PM maintains that American and Britain still have a "special partnership".

    PM Brown presented President Obama with a working gift, a penholder carved from the timbers of an anti-slavery ship. The ship was the sister ship of the one that was broken up and the timber used to form the current desk at the Oval Office.

    While the DVD mistake is no big deal, obviously, it serves a humorous reminder at the frustrations caused by industry that insists on using region coding as a means of fighting piracy. Many argue that such restrictions do little to stop actual pirates, and instead merely hinder cultural exchange, by making it harder to play foreign movies and TV programs.

    What Could be Better than Vintage Babes in Space? [PICS]


    Vintage babes in space ... with robots, of course!

    read more | digg story

    Dude's about to do a disappearing act -- Dude is a magician!



    bighugelabs.com — "Caught this guy [Oreamnos americanus, North America's only rupicaprid] as I was hiking along the Beartooth Pass in Montana," writes photographer John Hamilton, "just outside the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park (technically inside Custer National Forest). Took one frame and then he was gone."

    Prince turns a brilliant sonic triple play: 3 albums in 1 day


    Prince's LOtusFLOW3R is one of three albums His Royal Badness is releasing today. The others are MPLSoUND and Elixer.
    Prince's LOtusFLOW3R is one of three albums His Royal Badness is releasing today. The others are MPLSoUND and Elixer.

    Prince likes defying conventions, and this time he's doing it with a 3-D sonic assault. He strikes out in several creative directions on a trio of new albums — the rock-guitar-fueled LOtUSFLOW3R (* * * ½ out of four), electronic-infused MPLSoUND (* * *) and pop-flavored Elixer, featuring protégé Bria Valente (* *).

    The albums are available today as free downloads to fans who pay the $77 annual membership fee for his new LotusFlow3r.com website, marking Prince's official return to cyberspace since shutting down his pioneering NPG Music Club in 2006. The three discs will be sold exclusively at Target starting Sunday in an $11.98 bundle.


    This isn't the first time the major-label-averse artist has bypassed traditional retail. He gave away 2007's Planet Earth as an insert in the U.K. national newspaper The Mail. Ticket buyers for 2004's Musicology tour got copies of that album with their purchase.

    The new records are a bargain both in terms of the nearly three hours of listening time and audio treasures. LOtUSFLOW3R is loaded with rip-roaring guitar riffs and booty-agitating grooves as he explores love, politics and love's politics. Feel Good, Feel Better, Feel Wonderful is an orgiastic funk workout, while the hypnotic Colonized Mind and anthemic Dreamer share his worldviews.

    MPLSoUND finds Prince revisiting the synth vibe of the '80s with his outsize ego intact on tracks like (There'll Never B) Another Like Me and Ol' Skool Company, which reunites some of his Minneapolis cohorts. The sly Valentina, bouncy Q-Tip-assisted Chocolate Box and wicked No More Candy 4 U also stand out.

    Prince has toned down his music's Dirty Mind raunchiness since becoming a Jehovah's Witness in 2001. Still, the pop-lite Elixer, showcasing Valente's sensual yet indistinct vocals, could have really used a whiff of Prince's old Do Me Baby spice. Though there are a few tantalizing moments, the overall effect is more tepid than torrid — even with Prince producing and playing guitar.

    Taken together, the three albums confirm that the eccentric genius still has his creative passion. And even if everything he tries doesn't hit a high note, it's still a pleasure to hear the Purple One work out.

    Women more attracted to men in expensive cars

    Men who drive expensive cars really are more attractive to women, according to a study by university researchers.

    A Bentley will vastly improve a man's chances with women
    A Bentley will vastly improve a man's chances with women

    Psychologists proved what car-dealers have boasted for generations the car one drives is key when it comes to turning a woman's head.

    The university team showed women pictures of the same man sitting in two cars - a £70,000 silver Bentley Continental and a battered Ford Fiesta.

    The women, who were aged between 21 to 40, picked the man sitting in the Bentley ahead of the same man in the Ford.

    Dr Michael Dunn, of the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff, said it shows women rate a man higher if he is behind the wheels of a "fancy motor rather than in an old banger".

    His research, in the latest edition of the British Journal of Psychology, also shows that men are more interested in a women's looks not her motor.

    The researchers say the men tested in the same way are not impressed by whatever car a woman drives because they judge purely on her face and figure.

    Dr Dunn said his findings confirmed that women judge a man by his wealth and status whereas men are primarily concerned with what a woman looks like.

    He said he was spurred by his own interest in evolutionary psychology along with the increasing number of women buying so-called "high end" motors.

    He said: "There's a wide variety of evidence that does suggest that females are more influenced by wealth and status.

    "It's not a recent phenomenon. It is very ingrained and the evidence is not just anecdotal.

    "Females focus on questions of wealth and status because if the male possesses those, that male would be in a better condition to rear healthy offspring."

    Dr Dunn believes this basic human trait will not change in the future - even as women become more independent and wealthy in their own rights.

    He said: "It appears that the stereotype of women being positively influenced by a man's status is true and, evolutionarily speaking, this makes sense.

    "However, even with the growing number of women in high-paid careers and the fact that they can be highly successful has no effect on how attractive they are to men.

    "What you find is that these new, wealthy women still show a preferment for high-status males."

    Now his researchers plan to carry out further studies - to guide men buying expensive cars in their mid-life crisis.

    Dr Dunn, who admits to driving an old Ford Ka, will examine if high-status items like expensive cars can help make up for "the attractiveness-diminishing effects of age."

    In other words, do middle-aged men in expensive cars seem more attractive to women despite their grey hair and expanding waistline.

    Dr Dunn admitted that his research could also be interpreted as evidence that women are shallower than men. He said: "Let's face it - there's evidence to support it."

    Biting Off More Than You Can Chew, Bird-Style? Awesome Pic


    ngm.nationalgeographic.com — Close-up of egret attempting to grab a large trout. According to photographer, bird struggled, then lost the fish. From pic, bird seems lucky not to have snapped its own neck. [Pic is enlargeable, wallpaper.]

    10 Cars for More than Commuting

    By: Matt Hardigree

    They're called extreme commutes. Spending 90 minutes or more getting to and from work is no one's idea of a good time. What if you could while away the traffic doing email or playing Parcheesi with your family? The Japanese already treat the car like a mobile office or living room, and automakers, in their latest attempt to actually sell some cars, are encouraging customers to "hang out" on wheels, offering amenities such as Wi-Fi, satellite TV, and seating cushier than what you have at home. Let's face it, if the economy doesn't improve soon, we're all going to be living out of our cars, so think of these vehicles as a down payment on our dystopian, post-apocalyptic future.

    Nissan Cube

    Nissan Cube
    The Cube answers the burning question, what if Ikea designed furniture for your first car the same way it outfits your first apartment? This aesthetic is most evident in the funky Cube's "sofa-style" rear seat and cubbyholes galore for storing electronics, clothing, and toiletries. Already popular in Japan, the economical Cube enters the U.S. market later this year. Although it's highly customizable, much like Toyota's Scion vehicles, thankfully there's no assembly required.

    Ford SYNUS

    Ford SYNUS
    Had Ford commercialized this Brinks truck-like vehicle, it surely would have kept any driver's virginity secure. This fanciful but tough-looking concept notably included a "lockdown mode" for when passengers wanted to ignore the outside world and watch a movie, play a game, or relax. (Ask any dog: Nothing screams relaxation like being locked in an automobile.) As hard as it is to believe this car was never made, take heart: Its portable "lounge" eventually found its way into Ford Flex vehicles, and newer compact SUVs carry over SYNUS's smaller windows and muscular look to make the driver feel secure and comfortable.

    Dodge Caravan

    Dodge Caravan
    Soccer moms, rejoice! The first true minivan is back with innovations even cooler than tummy-control jeans. The latest generation turns the van into a portable game room, featuring its own satellite hookup and flat-screen TVs waiting to be plugged into your DVD player and game console of choice. The middle row of seats can be turned backwards, and the kids can fold out a table for a round of Monopoly.

    Ford Transit Connect W/ Work Solutions

    Ford Transit Connect W/ Work Solutions
    When Hollywood makes The A-Team: The Movie (and it's just a matter of time), if the gang doesn't drive the Ford Transit Connect, they should. The setup includes an integrated computer system equipped with a portable keyboard and GPS. It's also configurable to include printers, inventory scanners, and other equipment. The van is also taller, easier to park, and cheaper to operate than a full-size van. If your job involves spending more time driving to see customers than sitting at your desk, this mobile office sure beats Starbucks. Available later this year.

    Maserati Quattroporte Collezione Cento

    Maserati Quattroporte Collezione Cento
    You can take the CEO out of his renovated $10 million office, but you can't take the $10 million office out of the CEO. Enter the Maserati Quattroporte Collezione Cento. For merely $142,500 of taxpayer bailout money, the already loaded sedan includes a built-in rear-seat computer system (what? You think he's giving up his driver?) with wireless mouse and keyboard. Between the rear passenger seats is a foldout table for important documents and/or a cappuccino. Check your plummeting stock, fire thousands, and still make it to lunch at the club in style.


    Honda Airwave

    Honda Airwave
    Carpooling in Japan must be different than in the United States. Rather than pull over to pick up doughnuts, when you park the Airwave (similar to the Honda Fit), the seats can be moved to form a small seating area for groups in need of a quick meeting space.

    Mobile Mini House

    Mobile Mini House
    Living in a car has heretofore been limited to camping families, RVing retirees, and folk singers down-on-their-luck. Stephanie Bellanger, Amaury Watine, François Gustin, and David Dethoor hope to change that with this accordion-style trailer. Rather than just a large rectangular room, the
    Mobile Mini House is like a fold-out Airstream trailer. Unpack this small, sustainable package to get a five-room abode, including bathroom and office. Perfect for hometown-displaced employees sick of Residence Inns or hipster drifters tired of couchsurfing.

    Honda Element Ursa Minor Camper

    Honda Element Ursa Minor Camper
    This perfect accessory for the Honda Element "lifestyle" consumers interested in extending a rock climbing or mountain-biking adventure into a weekend-long excursion. The Ursa Minor ECamper turns the little Honda into a portable basecamp. The conversion folds outwards from the roof, creating a sleeping tent for up to two people. It's small enough to still work as a convenient city car but large enough to live in temporarily in the woods.

    Kia Soul

    Kia Soul
    If James Brown taught us anything, it was that you've got to have soul. (Also, don't do angel dust.) The Kia Soul is a boxy little compact like the Scion xB, except that it's tricked out for Burning Man. The audio system is connected to bright red lights in the speakers, pulsing to the beat and reflecting off the glow-in-the-dark seats. It's also jammed with tech-friendly goodies such as hands-free Bluetooth connectivity, USB/Aux input, satellite radio, and power in the front and back.

    Nissan NV2500 Concept

    Nissan NV2500 Concept
    If Nissan makes its NV2500 large commercial truck, its slogan should be, If you worked here, you'd be working by now. The truck is divided into three parts: driver and passenger zone, work/design station, and conference center/cargo bay. The showstopper within the workspace is the laser-projected keyboard. The car of the future can't get here soon enough.

    Everyone Gets a Bonus from Obama's Net Neutrality Plan

    Timothy Karr: Campaign Director, Free Press and SaveTheInternet.com

    Buried deep in President Barack Obama's American Reinvestment and Recovery Act is a line that should bring a smile to your face -- and a scowl to phone and cable industry lobbyists.

    It requires that billions of dollars directed to connect more Americans to broadband be spent on services that meet "nondiscrimination and network interconnection obligations."

    What this really means is the good guys have won one battle in the fight for an open Internet. According to Obama's plan, government must now require that the $4.7 billion in federal grants for high-speed services be spent the right way: building networks that abide by Net Neutrality.

    In other words, this money -- your money -- cannot be used by powerful companies like AT&T and Comcast to implement plans to "manage," filter or re-route you whenever you traverse the Web.

    They have been angling to do so since it became clear that people wanted to use the Internet for more than simple email, ecommerce and search.

    No Blank Checks

    The good news is that this stimulus money isn't going to be a blank check to big phone and cable. It comes with strings attached, requiring that all networks built with our money leave control over the Internet in the hands of the people who use it every day -- people like you and me.

    AT&T and Verizon can't use our money to invest in content filtering tools similar to the Deep Packet Inspection software now being used by China and Burma to sift through Web traffic. Comcast and Cox Cable can't block file-sharing software or other popular and legal Web applications. None of them can use taxpayer funds to decide how and when we watch videos, from whom we purchase goods and services, and where we can or cannot go online.

    The only bonus being handed out here is Net Neutrality, a benefit for the millions of Americans who rely daily upon the Internet to improve their economic status, better educate their children, connect with friends and family, and participate more fully in our democracy.

    A Bid to Undercut Neutrality

    But get this: Just as Washington is deciding how to spend your tax dollars on an open Internet, phone and cable company lobbyists are trying to water down the Net Neutrality requirements, and stamp out consumer choice.

    They came out into the open during a public meeting Monday in Washington.

    "The idea that we should lay additional and unknown regulations on top of the task of the people getting this grant money is, I think, troubling at best," said Jonathan Banks of the U.S. Telecom Association during a meeting at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

    James Assey, of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association said that Net Neutrality requirements could create "uncertainty" in the marketplace. Chris Guttman-McCabe, speaking on behalf of the largest wireless carriers, said openness rules take away from the central focus of the stimulus package, which is "creating the most jobs and helping reverse the recession."

    The Internet's Bedrock Principle

    Such misleading statements are designed to make people think its in everybody's interest to hand over control of the Internet to the same companies that pay the salaries of these three lobbyists.

    But what Banks, Assey and Guttman-McCabe failed to note is that Net Neutrality rules have always governed their profitable clients, such as when AT&T agreed to run a neutral network as a condition of its merger with BellSouth in 2007; or in 2008 when the FCC decided to sanction Comcast for throttling peer-to-peer protocols such as BitTorrent.

    The only "uncertainty" in this marketplace would result from giving mighty network providers new powers to fiddle with our content. To do so would undercut the level playing field that has always made the Internet a great engine for free speech and commerce.

    Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott just delivered 15,000 letters to the administration demanding that this basic freedom -- the right to connect to anyone, anywhere -- remains the bedrock principle of any new networks built with federal funds.

    The voices of Internet users are clear and unequivocal on this, Scott told the agencies in charge of distributing the Internet stimulus. If you want to use our billions, we need to know that we're getting online freedom in exchange.

    O2 offers iPhone free on £35, new Apple phone imminent?

    Is O2 is clearing stock ahead of a new model of the iPhone?

    Nick Spence


    O2, Apple's mobile phone partner in the UK, is to offer the iPhone 3G for free as part of a new contract deal available from next month.

    The move is thought to help encourage new users to sign up and shift stock of 3G phones in preparation for a new iPhone rumoured to be available in the next few months including speculation on a new mid-range ‘nano-style’ device.

    Earlier this week Apple introduced iPhone 3.0– the next generation operating system for the iPhone – promising over 100 new features.

    From 3 April, customers who sign up to the 24 month tariff can get the 8GB iPhone 3G for free at £34.26 per month and the 16GB iPhone 3G for free at £44.05 per month.

    On the 18 month contract the 8GB iPhone 3G costs £96.89 for the £34.26 per month, 16GB iPhone 3G costs £155.61 for the £34.26 per month, or £57.74 for the £44.05 per month.

    A break down of price plans is available on the O2 Digital News Centre blog.

    "The iPhone has been hugely popular with over one million units sold in the UK," said Peter Rampling, Marketing Director at Telefónica O2 UK.

    "This new 24 month tariff option will meet the demand of customers who are looking for added value in exchange for committing to a longer contract."

    Meanwhile AT&T will begin selling iPhones without requiring a two-year contract also from next week, although at a price point – the 8GB iPhone for $599 and the 16GB iPhone for $699 - that makes a contract appear more attractive.


    20 Unusual and Creative Ice Cube Trays

    20 Unusual and Creative Ice Cube Trays

    Collection of unusual and creative ice cube trays from all over the world.

    Alphabet Ice Cube Tray

    Float subtle messages in your friends drinks, or if you are feeling really creative, go crazy and make letters out of jelly or butter. [link]

    Alphabet Ice Cube Tray

    Ice Invaders Ice Cube Tray

    Did you spend a good portion of your childhood (and your allowance) blasting 2-dimensional aliens to smithereens? Now you can freeze those precious moments in time with Ice Invaders. [link]

    Ice Invaders Ice Cube Tray

    Bone Chillers Ice Cube Tray

    Chilling ice cube tray. Chill your beverages to the bone! [link]

    Bone Chillers Ice Cube Tray

    Golf Ball Ice Cube Tray

    A fun way to cool your drink, perfectly formed Ice Gold Balls. [link]

    Golf Ball Ice Cube Tray

    Titanic Ice Cube Tray

    You get 4 ocean liners and 4 icebergs — just add gin, Leo DiCaprio, and Kate Winslet for a perfect party. [link]

    Titanic Ice Cube Tray

    Pi Symbol Ice Cube Tray

    Your favorite irrational number chills your beverage of choice. [link]

    Pi Symbol Ice Cube Tray

    Tipsy Toes Ice Cube Tray

    Stylish ice cubes that won’t dilute your drink and can be used over and over. Put a pair in your punch, or dip your toes into a gin and tonic. [link]

    Tipsy Toes Ice Cube Tray

    AK Bullet Ice Cube Tray

    Show James Bond how it’s done and add a little sophistication to your parties with this amazing ice cube tray. [link]

    AK Bullet Ice Cube Tray

    Strawberry Ice Cube Tray

    These soft rubber ice cube trays allow you to have strawberry-shaped blocks of ice in your drinks. [link]

    Strawberry Ice Cube Tray

    Frozen Smiles Ice Cube Tray

    Freeze up a batch of Frozen Smiles and drop them into any glass - they’re the ice cubes that grin right back at you. [link]

    Frozen Smiles Ice Cube Tray

    Tetris Ice Cube Tray

    Iceblox Ice Cube Puzzle Tray - the only ice cube tray that makes special puzzle shaped pieces which you can use to play a chilly version of the old classic. [link]

    Tetris Ice Cube Tray

    FOSSILICED Ice Cube Tray

    Need to dig up a clever party accessory? Look no further than ice-cold fossils - these two assorted dinos will add the perfect Ice Age touch to your modern drinks. [link]

    FOSSILICED Ice Cube Tray

    Fishbone Ice Cube Tray

    Guaranteed to keep your drinks cool in more ways than one. Use them as a party piece, an icebreaker, or simply to keep your drink cold. [link]

    Fishbone Ice Cube Tray

    Ice Princess Ice Cube Tray

    This unique ice tray creates magic wands fit for a fairy princess - sparkly glittery reusable drinking straws with star-shaped ice cubes at the tip. [link]

    Ice Princess Ice Cube Tray

    Jewels Ice Cube Tray

    Just fill this food-grade flexi ice tray with water or any kind of juice, and freeze. Then pop out the three-dimensional Cool Jewels and bling out your beverage. [link]

    Jewels Ice Cube Tray

    Snowflake Ice Cube Tray

    Creative ice cube tray designed by Ignacio Pilotto. [link]

    Snowflake Ice Cube Tray

    Guitar Ice Cube Tray

    Drop one of these groovy guitars into your drink, and give it a stir. Just the thing for jazzing up your favorite beverage. [link]

    Guitar Ice Cube Tray

    LEGO Ice Cube Tray

    Serve the coolest drinks around with ice that looks like LEGO bricks, or build your own LEGO ice “sculpture!”. [link]

    Official LEGO Ice Cube Tray

    Homemade LEGO Ice Cubes

    Learn how you can make your own LEGO ice cube trays at home. [link]

    LEGO Ice Cube Tray

    Cool Shooters Ice Cube Tray

    What’s cooler than a shot glass made of ice? [link]

    Cool Shooters Ice Cube Tray

    Spider Bite Cures Paralyzed Man: Miracle or Bad Reporting?

    By Christopher Wanjek, LiveScience's Bad Medicine Columnist

    posted: 24 March 2009 02:48 pm ET

    It sounds like something out of the pages of The Weekly World News, right next to an alien abduction story: Paralyzed California man bit by brown recluse spider walks again. Only it was reported for real last week on CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS.

    Yes, a miracle — a miracle this could make the evening news, for this was a phenomenally poorly reported story bereft of the simplest of fact-checking. Of the three basic facts reported by these apparently professional journalists — paralyzed man, brown recluse spider, and walking — two are surely false.

    Yet more than just another example of lousy broadcast journalism, such stories bring false hopes and even danger to those desperate enough to experiment with venom to cure their paralysis.

    Talk to a doctor

    Here's the full story as sort-of reported: A man named David Blancarte of either Modesto or Manteca, Calif. (reports vary), who was either paralyzed or confined to a wheelchair (reports vary) after a motorcycle accident either 20 or 21 years ago (reports vary), was bitten by a brown recluse spider two years ago and sought treatment in a hospital. An unnamed nurse there noticed muscle spasms; concluded his nerves were just "asleep"; ordered tests; got him to rehab; and got him walking again.

    "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," the late astronomer Carl Sagan liked to say. None of the news reports, however, included a doctor or scientist commenting on the possibility of a spider curing paralysis, let alone confirming Blancarte's recollection of the medical facts.

    I'm not saying this guy wasn't in a bad way for 20-some years. What likely happened was that Blancarte's legs weren't completely paralyzed and, in fact, were slowly healing. A bite of some sort — more on this below — got him to a hospital, where medical professionals realized that there was nerve and muscle activity unrelated to the bite. Through physical therapy he slowly regained the ability to walk, albeit with a walker.

    Good for him. What a great stroke of luck. But that's a far cry from headlines such as "NorCal Paraplegic Cured by Spider Bite."

    Talk to your local arachnologists

    There's a touch of Spider-Man in this tale, with the venom of a spider imparting superhuman powers. But the journalists' spider senses weren't tingling enough to understand that there are no brown recluse spiders in California. These tiny spiders — no bigger than a quarter, legs and all — are rarely seen west of the Rockies, inhabiting the Midwest from Texas up to Canada.

    Chances are, it wasn't even a spider that bit Blancarte. As reported in a 2005 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, 80 percent of patients seeking medical care for a spider bite were actually bitten by something far more benign, such as a tick, flea or beetle.

    The brown recluse spider, in particular, gets a bum rap. As the name implies, these spiders aren't aggressive and don't like to be around anyone. In the states that do have lots of them, reports of bites are rare or non-existent. Yet in states that don't have them, such as California or Colorado, reports of bites number in the hundreds, according to a study in the journal Toxicon led by Rick Vetter of University of California, Riverside, who seems to be on a crusade to stop myths about spider bites.

    Alas, there's a new twist to this strange story. Blancarte can walk but apparently he can't run from the law. With his sudden fame alerting police to his whereabouts, Blancarte was arrested last week on a contempt-of-court charge stemming from a domestic violence case — that is if you believe the news reports.

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