THE DEARLY DEPARTED
An embalming scandal involving bodies meant for cremation being sent by the mortuary to university classrooms so students could learn embalming techniques continues to grow.
Three cases have now surfaced in the Miami-Dade County area, the Miami Herald reports. They include the mishandling of the body of a woman who wished to be cremated but was sent instead to Lynn University in Boca Raton, where students embalmed her.
Madeline Post's husband, Jeffrey Post, is suing the university, contending that it used his wife's body without his permission. In addition, Post's family had explicitly stated that she was not to be embalmed because doing so would violate her Jewish faith.
Levitt-Weinstein Memorial Chapels and its associates are also named in the suit.
A spokeswoman for Lynn University declined to comment, the New York Times said. The funeral home company issued a statement saying it notified Post that his wife's body was mishandled.
Post's lawyer, David Charlip, told the Times that he believes at least 30 and possibly hundreds of bodies had been taken to the university without permission. He said he would seek class-action status for the lawsuit.
THINGS WE DON'T UNDERSTAND
An April Fool's Day gag weighed heavily on the Canadian dollar Monday as financial markets reacted to reports that Finance Minister Paul Martin was quitting politics to breed cattle and ducks.
Author Pierre Bourque posted the prank story on his political gossip site bourque.org, and word quickly reached the markets, where the Canadian dollar dropped to 62.52 cents U.S. from its previous close of 62.73 cents. Once the story was revealed as a gag, Canada's dollar only recovered to 62.55 cents U.S. by the end of the day.
Bourque shrugged off the effects of the prank, according to the National Post newspaper. "It is April 1, after all," he said. "The ducks were the tell-tale sign."
(Thanks to UPI's Joe Warminsky in Washington)
NEWS OF OTHER LIFE FORMS
Shark bite incidents along Florida's coast are off to a quick start this year with five bites already reported. None of the wounds has been serious.
Shark attack expert George Burgess blames the early flurry to a mild winter that sent warm water and the sharks up the coast a few weeks earlier than usual. That coincided this year with spring break for college and high school students, and Easter weekend, which for many people signals the start of the beach season.
"As simplistic as it may sound, the number of attacks depends on the number of people in the water and the number of sharks in the water. The more interaction there is, the greater the chance of an interaction turning into a bite," said Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida.
Murky or turbulent water limiting visibility is often a factor. "Humans are not a normal food item, but sharks sometimes make mistakes," Burgess said. "In the attack Monday at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the victim's arm was in motion and the shark mistook the arm as prey."
The victim -- Matthew May, 29, a science teacher and YMCA swimming coach from Coldwater, Ohio -- suffered arm lacerations that will require skin grafts. His doctor expects a complete recovery.
May's injuries were the most serious of the five. The attacks ranged up Florida's east coast from Fort Lauderdale to New Smyrna Beach.
Last year, there were 37 attacks in Florida -- one less than the year before, despite the label of "The Summer of the Shark," in Time Magazine. Burgess said it was more of a case of "the summer of the media feeding frenzy."
TODAY'S SIGN THE WORLD IS ENDING
U.S. and Afghan officials have doubts about an organization that has solicited dozens of Afghan immigrants in the United States to take in orphans from their homeland. They think the whole thing may be a scam.
The Los Angeles Times reports hundreds of Afghan immigrants recently received an e-mail soliciting families who would be willing to take in 500 Afghan orphans and women who supposedly had been brought to the United States and were currently living in a church.
Public meetings held last weekend in San Jose, Calif., and the Los Angeles areas inspired some 350 families to sign up to shelter the refugees in their homes. Additional meetings were planned in San Diego, San Francisco and Phoenix.
The e-mail and the meetings were organized by an L.A. Muslim organization that was working with another group called International Resources, which bills itself as having worked with orphans in past hot spots such as Somalia, Kosovo and Romania. The head of International Resources, Julie Fahrer, told the Times in an interview that her work was "very classified" and that she could not discuss anything in detail.
Although there have been no reports of the prospective foster parents or hosts being solicited for money, the Afghan Embassy in the United States said neither the embassy nor the FBI had been unable to confirm that the refugees actually exist.
AND FINALLY, TODAY'S UPLIFTING STORY
Encouraged by the success of its test flights, China now plans to build a space station and send a manned mission to the moon by 2010, according to a New Scientist report.
The latest test showed that the Shenzhou craft is "technically suitable for astronauts," said a senior official with the China National Space Administration. The Chinese have just recovered a return capsule from the test craft, which contained dummy astronauts and equipment to monitor life support conditions on board. Another section of the Shenzhou 3 spacecraft will remain in orbit for some months.
The Chinese media is reporting that a Chinese astronaut could be put in orbit by 2005.
(Thanks to Jim Kling, UPI Science News)