SOCIAL STUDIES
A Daily Miscellany of Information by Michael Kesterton
Thursday, June 27, 2002  Print Edition, Page A20

The unexplained
Scotland has become the top choice for UFOs, according to a new survey. Every year, 300 sightings are made in Scotland -- four times as many as in France and Italy, the next-favourite spots for aliens.

In an average year, Colin Andrews inspects hundreds of crop circles. The electrical engineer, a resident of Connecticut, is the world's best-known cerealogist (student of crop circles), reports The Hartford (Conn.) Courant. He believes most circles have been made by people, but estimates 20 per cent arise from some unknown force, possibly shifts in the Earth's magnetic field or natural energies within humanity. "Man has changed the planet and we're looking desperately to steer the ship in a different direction."

World o' eating
Danny Partner, 26, a cab driver in Los Angeles, eats about 12 iceberg lettuces every day, smothered in chocolate sauce, reports The Daily Mail.

In San Francisco, the Public Utilities Commission has hired a herd of 400 goats to eat dense brush and weeds from the slopes of its rights-of-way, reports The San Francisco Chronicle. The animals, rented from Goats-R-Us, can consume about an acre a day. "Their little legs take them where no man or mower can go," says Jane Herman, a commission manager.

With little left in the ocean to catch, the fishing industry in Gloucester, Mass., has found a new commodity to market: the slime eel, which feeds off dead and dying fish. Fisheries are now selling seven million pounds a year of the pinkish-grey eels to South Korea, reports The Boston Globe. The South Koreans say the eels taste like clams.

Working world
A hard hat for building workers that allows employers to see what they are doing is to go on trial on British construction sites, reports The Sunday Telegraph. The "hatcam" is fitted with a camera and a radio transmitter.

To free up money under a tightened municipal budget, Yvonne Thomas, head librarian of the Berlin (N.H.) Public Library, has announced that she would retire from the post after 28 years. However, she will continue in her position on a volunteer basis until the city can get back on its feet, reports American Libraries magazine.

Kids' health
A kiss is still a kiss -- but it can send you to the hospital if you're allergic to nuts, reports Reuters. According to a study in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, an unexpectedly large number of people with nut allergies became itchy when kissed by someone who had eaten nuts up to six hours earlier. In one of the cases, involving a kiss on the cheek of a three-year-old boy, the reaction was severe enough to require a trip to the emergency room.

A controversial condition first described in the mid-1990s, Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS), involves the emergence of an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or tic after an untreated strep infection in pre-pubertal children. A new study, presented recently at a meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, suggests that quick antibiotic treatment of strep throat in children who suddenly develop OCD or tic may prevent these behaviours from becoming chronic lifelong problems, says The Washington Post. While acknowledging his study is small, co-author Michael Pichichero, director of the Elmwood Pediatric Center in Rochester, N.Y., said the findings are exciting because there is no known cure from either OCD or Tourette's syndrome.

Thought du jour
"The masses have never thirsted after truth. They turn aside from evidence that is not to their taste, preferring to deify error, if error seduce[s] them. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim." -- Gustave Le Bon in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind.

Here is another couple of pages: same but different

MKesterton@globeandmail.ca