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Dec. 19, 2012 at 6:30 AM   |   Comments

NASA scientist works to debunk apocalypse

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Dec. 18 (UPI) -- A California scientist who has been working to debunk Dec. 21 apocalypse theories on his website is appearing in NASA videos on the same subject.

David Morrison, 72, of Mountain View, senior scientist at the Astrobiology Institute at NASA Ames Research Center and a former student of famed scientist Carl Sagan, said he has been debunking theories about the apocalypse for about four years on his website, "Ask an Astrobiologist," the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News reported Tuesday.

"I got my first doomsday question four years ago and wondered what the heck it was," he said. "Perhaps I made the mistake of answering them, but since then I've gotten a little over 2,000 emails. I got 200 last weekend."

Morrison has also been appearing in NASA-produced videos on scientific subjects, and he said the doomsday-related videos have been getting more hits than any subject other than the Mars rover.

Morrison said the theories, which include a giant planet being bound to collide with Earth and solar flares destroying life on the planet, can be damaging to those who fear them to be true.

"I get questions from people saying, 'I'm 11 years old, and I can't sleep, I can't eat.' I have had kids saying they are considering suicide, mothers emailing me saying they are considering killing their children before the end of times," he said.

Rosemary Joyce, a professor of anthropology at the University of California-Berkeley, said the Dec. 21 hysteria stems from a misunderstanding of the ancient Mayan calendar. She said the date marks the end of the 13th 394-year cycle in the calendar.

"It's not the end of the calendar," Joyce said. "It's the end of a cycle. It rolls over, like an odometer."


Man pleads guilty to Nativity play biting

NEWCASTLE, England, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- A British man pleaded guilty to biting off another man's finger in a love triangle dispute at his child's Nativity play.

Lee Wilkinson, 40, pleaded guilty in Newcastle Crown Court to unlawful wounding and a separate public order offense and Judge Simon Hickey warned Wilkinson to expect jail when he is sentenced Jan. 25, Sky News reported Tuesday.

"A custodial sentence is almost inevitable for such a serious offense as this, in my judgment," Hickey said.

Wilkinson was accused of biting the tip off Michael Dent's finger Dec. 6, 2011, during a fight at Harton Primary School in South Shields, England. Police said Wilkinson had previously been in a relationship with Dent's ex-wife.

More serious charges of wounding with intent and affray were dropped after Wilkinson agreed to plead guilty.


Christmas lights removed from inside dog

SOUTHAMPTON, England, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- A British woman said surgeons saved her 7-year-old dog's life after he swallowed a foot-long string of Christmas fairy lights.

Sharon Fay, 45, of Southampton, England, said she became concerned when she spotted bits of wire sticking out of her mixed breed canine Charlie's droppings, The Mirror reported Tuesday.

"I hadn't even noticed that the lights had been chewed at this stage but it quickly became clear what had happened," Fay said. "Back in March he ate one of my scarves and needed an operation to remove it, but I thought it was just a one-off incident as he hadn't shown any signs that he was going to be a repeat offender. I've had dogs all my life and have never known a dog act like this before."

Veterinarians took an X-ray of Charlie's stomach and discovered a foot-long string of Christmas fairy lights and a shoelace.

Surgeons said the lights would have been fatal if not swiftly removed.

"A foreign body of this nature could easily have caused severe internal injuries so Charlie was very, very lucky. He was also fortunate that the glass didn't cut his mouth or throat. And he could have been electrocuted if he'd bitten through the wire when the lights were switched on," senior veterinary surgeon Sophie Bell said.

Fay said Charlie was recovering well from surgery and was back at home -- where she has taken precautions to keep him from eating other dangerous items.


$1 condo fails to get offers

LAGUNA WOODS, Calif., Dec. 18 (UPI) -- A California condo being listed for $1 is proving hard to sell due to its location in a retirement community and $1,718 a month in homeowners association dues.

Cathy Flores, the listing agent for the condo in The Towers complex in Laguna Woods, said the sellers want only $1 for the 500-square-foot condo and are offering to pay $1,500 for new paint and carpeting but she has yet to receive an offer for the property, the Orange County (Calif.) Register reported Tuesday.

The fourth-floor condo features dinner service, maid service and utilities included, but Flores said potential buyers are put off by the condo being in a retirement community -- which means no residents under the age of 55 are allowed -- and charging $1,718 a month in dues to the homeowners association.

"It is a good deal, but it's not a good investment," Flores said. "It's really for someone looking to enjoy the amenities in Laguna Woods."

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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