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October 26, 2003 Odds and Ends

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Minor items you would have found on the Reuters news wire, Thursday, October 23, 2003 ...
Embarrassed GM to Rename Car with Risqué Overtones

MAKUHARI, Japan (Reuters) - General Motors Corp will rename its Buick LaCrosse in Canada because the name for the car is slang for masturbation in Quebec, embarrassed officials with the U.S. automaker said Thursday.

GM officials, who declined to be named, said it had been unaware that LaCrosse was a term for self-gratification among teenagers in French-speaking Quebec.
The story goes on with the story of how the Chevrolet Nova got laughs Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries because Nova translated into "doesn't go."   I used to teach a course in socio-linguistics.  We spent time on the oddities of language and culture.  This would have been worth discussing.
Tree Stump Virgin Mary Draws Faithful

PASSAIC, N.J. (Reuters) - Believers are flocking to a rundown street in New Jersey to see a tree stump they say has the form of the Virgin Mary and is a divine sign of hope for the impoverished neighborhood.

"Miracle on Madison Street, that's what I would have called it," said Hector Cruz, who visited the roughly two-foot-high stump on Wednesday in Passaic, New Jersey, a largely Hispanic city about 15 miles west of New York.

The piece of wood, whose shape believers say resembles a veiled Virgin Mary with a bowed head, was noticed by passers-by over the weekend on state-owned land alongside a street that residents say is a hangout for illegal drug users.
Not being very religious myself, I have little to say here.  It has been said that God works in mysterious ways.  But a tree stump in New Jersey?  Well, perhaps.  Five years ago, in Jersey City, word of an image of the Virgin Mary on a freezer door drew people to a supermarket. That image, said to be a silhouette of a woman in a hooded garment, lasted four days.

I would guess the people in central New Jersey need something to keep their spirits up.  I was there in mid-June.  I can understand that.  William Carlos Williams turned the everydayness of Patterson, New Jersey into amazing poetry.  These folks turn that everydayness into faith.   And one can admire that.
Fish on Prozac Pose a Problem

DALLAS (Reuters) - What could be more peaceful, more restful or more relaxing than dropping a line into a quiet Texas lake and trying to hook a fish that is on Prozac.

According to a study by a Baylor University toxicologist, fluoxetine - the active ingredient in the antidepressant Prozac - is making its way to a lake in the Dallas area and into the tissue of the fresh water blue gill fish.  

Bryan Brooks, an assistant professor of environmental studies at Baylor said the fluoxetine most likely made its way through a waste water treatment plant and into a river that feeds into Lake Lewisville, northwest of Dallas.

Brooks will present his findings next month at a conference of the Geological Society of America in Seattle.

While he has been asked several times about whether fish on Prozac find pleasure in floating aimlessly and no pain when hooked by a fisherman, Brooks said the most important part of his findings are that some pharmaceuticals can make their way through water treatment plants and back into waterways.
Brooks is then quoted as deflecting question after question regarding the emotional state of these fish, and questions regarding their behavior and affect.  He kept trying to discuss water treatment and public safety.  He didn't get very far.  The press covering the news conference had an different idea of what the "real story" was, something clever and cute for the ratings.
Brooks did finally concede that the exposure of the fish to fluoxetine was below therapeutic levels but he was actually studying how current exposure might affect the ability of the fish to find food, fight off predators and find a mate.  He added that if the blue gills were exposed to enough of the antidepressant, the drug would likely have similar effects in the fish that it does in humans.

"They would be happy fish," Brooks said.   Good to know.