The truth is out there: 10/04/2010

A weekly look at the world

*Counterfeit peas covered in toxic colourants have been found on sale at markets in the Chinese province of Hunan. Police raided workshops where gangs were filmed adding green colourant to dried-up old snow peas and soybeans to give them a fresh ripe look. According to reports in China Daily, the colourant used is believed to cause cancer.

*Indian authorities have come up with an innovative way to combat dangerous driving: build more temples. The roads into Shimla are notoriously dangerous, and traffic signs have done little to lessen the problem, said Freakonomics blogger Karan Talwar. So local authorities constructed temple shrines at hot spots. The nudge worked perfectly as reckless drivers slow down before places of worship to ask for blessings.

*At $200m per arrest, the value of the US Air Marshal Service has been called into question by Republican congressman John J Duncan Jnr. According to the Boing Boing blog, Duncan said more air marshals have been arrested since 9/11 than the number of people arrested by them. The $860m spent on the service amounts to about 4.2 arrests per year.

*Traditional Ayurvedic medicine faces an uncertain future as 93 per cent of the wild plants used in the practice are threatened with extinction because of exploitation, The Times of India reports. The Botanical Survey of India recently assessed the health of 359 wild medicinal plant species: of the total, 335 made the red list, categorised as critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable or near-threatened.

*Slovenian scientists believe they have uncovered the cause of the mysterious near death experiences had by about 18 per cent of people who suffer heart attacks. In a paper reported by the New Scientist, Zalika Klemenc-Ketis and colleagues attributed the bright lights, tunnels and mysterious voices to high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. A previous paper in The Lancet disputes physiological explanations but the Slovenian report said carbon dioxide was a key factor among many.

*A Florida man narrowly escaped jail this week after accruing debts of a penny. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Luis Gomez for failing properly to pay a speeding ticket he received a year ago. Gomez tried to call the court to resolve the problem, and then tried to pay online but had no luck. He eventually settled the matter by driving to the clerk's office to pay the bill. According to Eyewitness News he declined the offer of a payment plan but had to pay $6 to park outside the office.

*A new report into the effects of fishing on sea turtles has revised casualty numbers from thousands to millions. The study in Conservation Letters said previous estimates had wildly understated the numbers of sea turtles accidentally caught by fishing operations. A similar study showed eight million sharks are accidentally killed on African coastlines every year, said National Geographic.