Archive for May 2009
A woman whose three-year-old son was abducted and taken to live in Hungary has been reunited with him 27 years later after finding his name on Facebook.
Avril Grube last saw Gavin when his father took him on an outing to Blackpool Zoo. That was in 1982.
Instead of going to the zoo, however, Joseph Paros took the boy to Budapest in defiance of a court order.
Despite appeals via the Hungarian Embassy in London and the British Embassy in Budapest, and an appeal to Margaret Thatcher, then the Prime Minister, Mrs Grube heard nothing more of her son.
Then last October, her sister, Beryl Wilson, typed the name Gavin Paros into Google and found a link to someone of that name on the social networking site Facebook.
A frustrating wait followed. With more than 200 million users, there was a possibility that the Facebook member merely shared the name with Mrs Grube’s son.
It was several weeks before Mr Paros, now a 30-year-old father of three, checked his Facebook page and found the message from his aunt. Mother and son were reunited at 4am on Thursday after her husband Jeff picked him up from Gatwick and drove him to their home in Poole, Dorset. Mrs Grube, 61, who is partially disabled after a stroke, said: “I couldn’t sleep, I just sat waiting for him to arrive. Even though it has been nearly 30 years, when I first saw him I recognised him. He has my eyes.
“I was so overcome and just said ‘my beautiful son’ over and over again. He was very quiet and overwhelmed. We just hugged each other. It is the happiest day of my life, there are almost no words to describe it.”
The pair managed to communicate, although Mr Paros has forgotten all the English he knew as a boy and Mrs Grube does not speak Hungarian.
Mrs Grube, who has three other children, has yet to meet her daughter-in-law, Sylvia, and three grandchildren Anastasia, 10, Thomas, 7, and Angelina, 6. She hopes they will decide to move to Britain.
Mrs Wilson, 59, had spent the best part of three decades helping her sister trace her son. Because Hungary was a Communist state in 1982 on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain it made the task of tracing a three-year-old boy virtually impossible for a single mother in Liverpool. Appeals for help through official channels fell on deaf ears.
Mrs Wilson, who still lives in Liverpool, said: “Gavin’s father had visitation rights and said he was going to the zoo. Naturally, my sister was devastated. We didn’t have people around us to tell us where to go or who to speak to. We tried our MP and wrote to Margaret Thatcher but nobody was interested or wanted to help.
“Avril endured many sleepless nights, not knowing if Gavin was alive or dead. She didn’t cope very well and had a terrible time. She has a big heart and loves her children very much. As a result her own health has suffered.”
While Mrs Wilson was trying to trace Mr Paros through the internet, he had been trying to find his English family after the death of his father in 2006. Mrs Wilson said: “I tried online electoral rolls to check if Gavin had moved back to Britain, and I tried Friends Reunited, but didn’t get anywhere.
“Then one day last October I put his name into Facebook and found him. I e-mailed him but it took a while for him to respond and when he did he gave me his phone numbers.
“I called my sister when I heard back from Gavin and told her to sit down as I had some news. All I heard after that was screaming.”
Voting has ended in what is being touted as the nation’s first all-digital election, and city officials say it has been a success.
Some 115,000 voters in Honolulu’s neighborhood council election were able to pick winners entirely online or via telephone. The voting, which started May 6, ended Friday.
City officials say the experiment appears to have generated few problems; it has even saved the financially strapped city around $100,000.
“It is kind of the wave of the future,” said Bryan Mick, a community relations specialist with the city Neighborhood Commission, “so we’re kind of glad in a way that we got to be the ones who initiated it.”
Web voting, which produces no paper record, cannot be used in city council or state elections because state law bars voting systems that do not include a vote verification process, said Warren Stewart, legislative policy director for Verified Voting Foundation, a nonpartisan advocacy group.
Lori Steele, head of Everyone Counts, the San Diego-based firm chosen by the commission to run the election, said Web voting will make it easier for civilian and military voters who live overseas or those who just don’t have time in their busy days to visit a polling place.
The commission’s move to digital voting was dictated more by a lack of money than a strong desire to use the Internet in new ways.
For at least two decades, the agency conducted mail-only voting, paying the postage to send the ballots to voters and to get them back. In a moneysaving effort two years ago, the commission gave voters the option of choosing candidates by mail or through the Web, but most voters chose mail ballots, Mick said.
Then the Honolulu City Council cut the Neighborhood Commission’s election budget from $220,000 to $180,000. That prompted the agency to shift to all-digital voting for this year’s races. Preliminary calculations show Web voting may cost only $80,000, Mick said.
Before the first day of balloting, voters living in 22 neighborhood board districts with contested races received a passcode that, along with the last four digits of their Social Security number, gave them access to an election Web site created by Everyone Counts.
Voting also was conducted by phone, with results electronically fed into the same computer system that collected the Web votes.
The results should be ready Tuesday.
Everyone Counts has used the system for numerous private and foreign elections, such as the presidential primary held last year by Democrats Abroad, an arm of the Democratic Party that represents overseas voters.
Steele said the computer codes in her firm’s system are available for auditing, and that each completed ballot is heavily encrypted, as is the overall system. The process is more secure than that used in Internet banking, she added.
Twelve-year-old Nicholas Rossi was lucky to have seen his 13th birthday on Tuesday, after a bicycle accident in a country town left him with bleeding on the brain.
Nicholas’ mother Karen, a nurse, took him to the district hospital when he complained of a headache. There he experienced seizures and lapsed in and out of consciousness. Doctor Rob Carson recognized the symptoms of a brain hemorrhage, realized he had minutes to act and quickly called Melbourne neurosurgeon David Wallace for procedural advice.
With no neurological drills in the district hospital, Dr. Carson had to improvise. Nicholas was anesthetized while Dr. Carson retrieved an electric drill from the maintenance room. He drilled a hole in Nicholas’ skull just below a bruise mark above his ear and a blood clot soon emerged. He then widened the hole to approximately 1cm in diameter with forceps to allow for the insertion of a drainage tube.
An hour after the makeshift surgery that Nicholas’ father Michael likened to a “military operation,” Nicholas was airlifted to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital, where he remained under observation until was released yesterday (Tuesday), which also happened to be his 13th birthday.
Champion cheese carver Troy Landwehr recently transformed a 1200 pound block of cheddar cheese into the Statue of Liberty. The entire process is captured with time-lapse.
Who’s the guy across the street? Turns out it was Candace Eloph’s brother, who had been given up for adoption 32 years ago.
Jamie Wheat was born at Barksdale Air Force Base’s hospital. His birth mother, Joellen Cottrell, eventually moved from Louisiana and had other children, but did not keep her son a secret.
“My girls always knew that they had a brother,” she said. “I’ve always looked for him.”
Eloph, who is one of those daughters, found her brother by chance.
She had moved into a Shreveport neighborhood, across the street from a couple who had a 32-year-old son. Eight months ago, that 32-year-old son, Jamie Wheat, moved back in with his parents.
He and Eloph became friends — and one day started talking about family.
“We were sitting one day and talking and she said, ‘I had a brother born Jan. 27, 1977, that was adopted,’” Wheat recalled. “I was like — I was adopted. My mom was 16 when she gave me up for adoption.”
Candace called her mother, who drove all night to meet Wheat.
They knew in their hearts he was the son Joellen Cottrell had been looking for, but they wanted confirmation. DNA testing did it.
Wheat was with his families when he opened the letter from the lab. His adoptive parents said they are thrilled about the new stage in their son’s life.
“It was just surprising that they lived across the street from us for two and a half years,” Ted Wheat said. “When they told us, we said this is the greatest news it could be.”
Strict parents have the perfect way of making sure their kids do their homework – a ball and chain has been created that counts down a reasonable study time before unlocking.
Parents just put in a desired study time on the “Study Ball” and attach the more than 20 pound ball to their kids’ ankle.
A red digital display counts down the time and the chain unlocks and beeps when time is up.
The ball can’t be locked on for more than four hours and there is a safety key that lets parents open the chain at anytime.
The ball’s designer says he came up with the idea after a friend compared studying to jail.
The item is for sale online for about $90.
Coffee drinkers, rejoice! The heavenly brew, once deemed harmful to health, is turning out to be, if not quite a health food, at least a low-risk drink, and in many ways a beneficial one. It could protect against diabetes, liver cancer, cirrhosis and Parkinson’s disease.
What happened? Lots of new research, and the recognition that older, negative studies often failed to tease apart the effects of coffee and those of smoking because so many coffee drinkers were also smokers.
“Coffee was seen as very unhealthy,” said Rob van Dam, a coffee researcher and epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health. “Now we have a more balanced view. We’re not telling people to drink it for health. But it is a good beverage choice.”
As you digest the news on coffee, keep in mind that coffee and caffeine are not the same thing. In fact, “they are vastly different,” said coffee researcher Terry Graham, chairman of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. One can be good for you; the other, less so.
“Coffee is a complex beverage with hundreds, if not thousands, of bioactive ingredients,” he said. “A cup of coffee is 2% caffeine, 98% other stuff.”
Before we rhapsodize further, a few caveats:
Caffeine — whether in coffee, tea, soft drinks or pills — can make you jittery and anxious and, in some people, can trigger insomnia. Data are mixed on whether pregnant women who consume caffeine are more likely to miscarry. In general, 200 milligrams a day — the amount in one normal-sized cup of coffee — is believed safe for pregnant women, said Van Dam.
For people with hard-to-control hypertension, a sudden, big dose of caffeine may boost blood pressure because caffeine constricts blood vessels. But decaf is fine in that respect. And even caffeinated coffee doesn’t increase blood pressure much once you drink it for a week or so, said Van Dam. In fact, the caffeine in coffee seems to have less of an effect on blood pressure than the caffeine in colas because there are so many other substances in coffee that have the opposite effect physiologically from caffeine.
One final caveat: The new research heralding coffee’s health benefits is not perfect. Most of the studies are observational; that is, they followed people over time and correlated health outcomes with coffee drinking — based on people’s recollections of how much coffee they consumed. The studies don’t prove that coffee was the cause of improved health outcomes. Still, the sheer volume of the research, and the fact that the conclusions line up so neatly, make it reasonably credible, researchers say.
Read more: Coffee won’t hurt you, research finds
“Titanic” stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet have pledged to help the last survivor of the sinking of the ocean liner.
The stars say they have thrown their support behind a fund that would subsidize Millvina Dean’s nursing home fees.
Dean was 2 months old when the Titanic sank beneath the waves on the night of April 14, 1912. She has been living at a nursing home in the English city of Southampton since she broke her hip about three years ago but has struggled to pay the fees.
In October she sold several Titanic mementoes to raise cash.
DiCaprio and Winslet said in a statement that they hoped Dean could rest easier knowing that her future was secure. The Millvina Fund was launched Monday in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Read more: Kate And Leo help last Titanic survivor
Over the past year, Leson Dunkley and her family have had a tough time. She was diagnosed with breast cancer around the time when her own mother died of the same affliction. But, Saturday they had a moment that may live in history.
“I think it’s beautiful. I think it makes it a more important record to break,” said Alys Hansen, one of Dunkley’s four children.
A total of 690 people turned up at New Vista High School Saturday to form the world’s largest bicycle bell ensemble of all time. They were divided in groups based on the sounds of their bells and played several songs including, “You are my sunshine,” and “She’ll be comin’ ’round the mountain.”
Each participant paid an entry fee which went directly to help Dunkley and her four children ages 10 to 19. Hansen says medical expenses have been mounting and they were in danger of losing their home.
Dunkley is going through her third round of chemotherapy. She is a teacher at the Boulder Community School of Integrated Studies. Last year, one month after she found out about her own breast cancer, her mother passed away.
Hansen says the outpouring of support from the community has been overwhelming.
“There are so many beautiful, loving people and that are so willing to give,” said Hansen.
The previous world record was 503 bicycle bell ringers, set by a small town in Germany. ‘The Guinness Book of World Records’ requires that the ensemble must play a recognizable song for at least five minutes. The effort in Boulder is the unofficial record till it is confirmed by Guinness.
“I think it’s an exciting incentive,” said Hansen. “It’s one of those things when I was a kid, you read the ‘Guinness Book of World Records’ and you never imagine you get to be a part of one. And, then here it is and I’m in the middle of it.”
The event raised a total of $18,298 for the family including a $2,500 grant from a local non-profit group called The Beanstalk Foundation.
“We love our mom so very much and we are so glad that this has happened, so grateful” said Hansen. “I don’t know how to articulate that any more than we are grateful.”
Read more and watch this story: Bike bell ringers break world record for charity