Sociability in the genes
Are you a social butterfly, or do you prefer being at the edge of a group of friends? Either way, your genes and evolution may play a major role, researchers reported on Monday. “Some of the things we find are frankly bizarre,” said Nicholas Christakis of Harvard University, who helped conduct the study. “We find that how interconnected your friends are depends on your genes. Some people have four friends who know each other and some people have four friends who don’t know each other. Whether Dick and Harry know each other depends on Tom’s genes,” Christakis said. “We found there appears to be a genetic tendency to introduce your friends to each other,” Christakis said. There could be good, evolutionary reasons for this. People in the middle of a social network could be privy to useful gossip, such as the location of food or good investment choices. But they would also be at risk of catching germs from all sides — in which case the advantage would lie in more cautious social behavior, the researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Giant Xmas tree stranded
The international financial crisis and its devastating impact on state revenues has stranded a 40m Christmas tree in the central square of the capital Kiev, the Interfax news agency reported on Tuesday. Near-empty city hall accounts and outstanding debt have left the Kiev city government without funds to dismantle the evergreen, said Oleksandr Brihinets, a Kiev city deputy. The tree is still standing, is shedding needles and becoming barer by the day, eyewitnesses said. The tree’s trunk is a steel pole some 40m high, onto which workers bolt dozens of live firs to form branches. Kiev mayor Leonid Chernovitsky faced with a deficit budget at the end of last year ordered the tree built on credit, but falling tax revenues have left city hall unable to pay, forcing contractors to refuse to take down the structure, Brihunets said.
Thieves target shoes
Thieves managed to evade four security guards and six guard dogs to break into the home of a former Cabinet member, only to make away with three pairs of shoes, a news report said yesterday. One of the security guards at the home of former finance minister Daim Zainuddin noticed the missing shoes late on Sunday and lodged a police report, the Star daily said. Police said nothing else was reported missing from the home.
Ships to join piracy fight
The government yesterday ordered its ships to join the international fight against pirates off the shores of Somalia — a move that has drawn criticism from opposition lawmakers who fear it could draw the country into military operations prohibited by its pacifist Constitution. Ruling party members have argued that the battle against piracy is more a crime-fighting operation than a military one. But opposition lawmakers have expressed concern that Japanese ships could be pressed into protecting foreign ships in an emergency.
Athens pledges museum aid
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyanni said on Tuesday that Athens will give Iraq financial aid and expertise to help reconstruct its looted and war-stricken museums. “Greece, with its great sensitivity to this issue, will offer its expertise and financial help to Iraq to restore its museums,” Bakoyannis said, according to a ministry statement.
Manners ruled on ‘Titanic’
Many British victims of the Titanic disaster in 1912 may have sunk with the ship because of their gentlemanly behavior, Swiss and Australian researchers said. After examining the economic and social backgrounds of the 2,200 passengers and crew onboard the fated ocean liner, University of Zurich economist Bruno Frey and colleagues from Queensland University of Technology found that the Britons on board were 10 percent less likely to have survived than all other nationalities. The researchers suggested that good manners — allowing “women and children first” — might have had something to do with that in the rush for the lifeboats, the Swiss news agency ATS reported. The as yet unpublished study also found that Americans had a higher survival rate than all the others when the Titanic sank in icy Atlantic waters.
‘Knifeman’ heard voices
The suspect in a deadly knife attack at a nursery suffered from “psychological problems” as a teenager and heard “voices in his head,” his lawyer said on Tuesday. But a psychiatrist nonetheless concluded two years ago that it was not necessary to commit Kim De Gelder to a mental institution, his court-appointed lawyer, Jaak Haentjens, told reporters. De Gelder, 20, has been charged with killing two babies, aged six and nine months, and a 54-year-old nurse in a macabre knife attack at a nursery in Dendermonde, southwest of Antwerp, on Friday. He was also charged on Monday with the stabbing murder of a 73-year-old woman at her home in Beveren, near Antwerp, earlier this month.
An Ohio firefighter has been given a six-month suspension from his pipe and drum band because he nodded to President Barack Obama during last week’s inaugural parade in Washington. Video shows Drum Major John Coleman giving the nod along with a fleeting wave as the Cleveland Firefighter’s Memorial Pipes & Drums marched past the president, the Plain Dealer newspaper said. The band leader, Pipe Major Mike Engle, said the firefighter from Cleveland Heights violated the proper decorum required in a military parade.
Man survives on whisky
A man survived more than two days trapped under his sofa by sipping from a bottle of whisky, the BBC reported on Tuesday. Joe Galliott, 65, fell against the sofa during a power cut at his home in Somerset, southern England, and could not free himself because of back problems. He remained stuck for 60 hours in that position — during which time a bottle of whisky rolled close enough for him to open it — until a neighbor became concerned that Galliott’s curtains had not been drawn for two days. Galliot spent five days in hospital recovering.
Doner kebabs high in fat
Doner kebabs, standard takeaway fare for thousands of Britons following a night out, contain “shocking” amounts of salt and fat, and many include meat that is not listed as an ingredient. A survey by food standards officers found the average kebab contained 98 percent of a person’s daily recommended salt intake, nearly 1,000 calories, equivalent to half a woman’s daily food intake, and almost 150 percent of the daily amount of saturated fat. The worst offending kebabs had 1,990 calories before salad and sauces were added, the Local Authority Coordinators of Regulatory Services said.