Watercooler Stories

By ALEX CUKAN, United Press International  |  Aug. 18, 2003 at 8:18 AM
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With temperatures topping 104 F in France finding a fan is next to impossible, the New York Times reports.

Room air-conditioners exist -- they involve hoses of air -- but window units such as those found in the United States are rare because most French windows open like a book.

Air conditioning in restaurants isn't common because many French think the wild temperature swings can cause sore throats and cultivate germs.

However, one type of public building in France that does seem to have air conditioning is the department store so many people have been shopping -- or at least browsing -- during the current heat wave.


Television often is blamed for causing childhood obesity but two children's acts in Australia want to be part of the solution.

"Hi-Energy" is aimed at getting young bodies off the couch and on the move in Australia's first TV aerobics show for children.

Self-confessed former fat kid Scott Ehler and exercise physiology graduate Amy Wilkins are set to be the next big thing in the lucrative kids' entertainment genre with their blend of musical fun and fitness messages, the Sydney Morning Sun-Herald reports.

The duo will soon be seen twice each week day, in both the morning and afternoon children's programming slots.


After several weeks of fire, aggravated by a heat wave and a prolonged drought, a plague of silkworms is threatening a Russian forest.

Efforts to combat the onslaught of the silkworms through traditional pest control methods have failed, so foresters around Lake Baykal, in Siberia, have had to devise new measures.

The foresters are resorting to flame-throwers to contain the threat by burning the eggs before they hatch into the Siberian Gypsy moth, which gorges on the vegetation around the lake, the BBC reports.

Fedor Gerasimov, a tree doctor in the region, tells the BBC this method appears to be the only option left in the environmentally clean area of Lake Baykal, where there is a ban on applying chemicals to tackle pests.


Catalogues generate online sales but catalogues have been generating retail business for more than 130 years.

Most people now get several catalogues each year in the mail -- some get hundreds.

The first catalog was sent by Montgomery Ward in 1872. It consisted of only one page but the idea was so successful that by 1904 the Ward's catalog weighed 4 pounds.

It sparked so many dreams, it was called "The Wish Book."

Today the mail order business is thriving, as catalogs generate Internet sales and together they are a $108 billion a year business, with almost 1-in-5 dollars being spent on orders placed on the Internet, according to the U.S. Census.

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