In Oakland, California, Dan Stevenson has managed to virtually eliminate crime in his neighborhood with nothing more than a 2-foot tall statue of Buddha he bought from a local hardware store. The neighborhood of 11th Avenue and East 19th Street used to be considered a rough part of Oakland, riddled with a variety of illegal activities including prostitution, drug dealings, assaults and prostitution. People were constantly dumping mattresses, couches and other junk there, and all kinds of shady characters would hang around, so Dan, who doesn't consider himself particularly religious, figured the statue would be an improvement. He said, "I would have stuck Christ up there if he would have kept the mattresses off," except Christ is so controversial with people. Buddha is a neutral dude." Initially, he had merely hoped that the presence of the figure would bring a sense of serenity to the troubled neighborhood, or, at the very least, make people think twice before littering. What he didn't expect was for the Buddha statue to create a ripple effect that would result in the utter transformation of his neighborhood. Police statistics show the crime rate in the neighborhood has dropped an incredible 82%. In particular, reported cases of drug dealers and prostitutes have dropped to zero. Dan says, "It's become this icon for the whole neighborhood. There's a lot of people that are not Buddhist that really come and just talk in front of him, they walk their dogs, they stand there-it's a place where people meet and talk. It's just cool." (Oddity Central)
Got Cancer? This Beer's For You!
Surely you've heard how chemotherapy has many nasty side effects, including dysgeusia - which causes all food and drink to taste bland, bitter, or metallic. To combat the issue, a Prague-based cancer advocacy group has come up with a non-alcoholic beer called Mama Beer. The formula was specifically created to help breast cancer patients overcome the symptoms of dysgeusia. Its flavor profile has been engineered to make it taste good to those undergoing chemotherapy, but also contains a range of vitamins and minerals. Jana Drexlerova, CEO of Prague-based breast cancer advocacy group Mamma Help, said, "We thought it would be great to develop beer specifically for women undergoing chemo-beer that has all the vitamins and nutrients, but has no alcohol and is made sweeter to kill the bitterness. We approached nine breweries, but just one said yes: Zatec. It took them half a year to develop the beer. Those who tasted Mamma Beer have found it to be great. That's the biggest reward." Unfortunately, for the time being, Mamma Beer will most likely remain a Czech-only phenomenon. Czechs consume a massive 142.6 liters of beer per capita, so even a niche beer such as Mamma Beer is likely to become a success. And yes, it comes in a pink can. (Oddity Central)
Drive Thru Sex?
Legal brothels are nothing new. We've got ‘em in Nevada and many countries have legalized them. However, Zurich, Switzerland has taken the concept to a new level. For the last five years they've been experimenting with "drive up sex booths" where customers can meet prostitutes in their cars - something that has now been deemed a "resounding success" by city officials. Kind of looks like one of those self-service car wash places. You drive your car into a private enclosure, and get busy. Prostitution has been legal in Switzerland since the 1940s and the booths opened in 2013. Before this, most sex workers stayed on the city's riverfront, but many moved following complaints from locals over traffic and noise. The legal areas help in preventing human trafficking and violent attacks against sex workers, most of whom are eastern European. The government spends $800,000 each year maintaining the booths, which includes security and on-site social services. The sex workers pay taxes, have regular health checks and are healthier overall, officials say. In 2014, more improvements were made to the booths, including 'plank beds' for people who wanted to leave their cars. (Daily Mail)
Turns Out Money Does Buy You Happiness
It's often said that money can't buy happiness - but new research now suggests that it kind of does. Surveys of thousands of Swedish lottery winners have found that they were substantially more satisfied with their lives than lottery losers. And those who won prizes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars reported being more satisfied than winners of mere tens of thousands. More importantly, the effects are long lasting. The winners continued to report more happiness even two decades after a big win. The findings appear in a research report, "Long-Run Effects of Lottery Wealth on Psychological Well-Being," by Erik Lindqvist from the Stockholm School of Economics, Robert Ostling from Stockholm University and David Cesarini from New York University. One surprising outcome is that the sudden increase in wealth caused by winning the lottery has few effects on the physical health of the winners or their children. However, it seems possible that family wealth might have quite different effects in a less egalitarian society, like the United States. Another interesting note is that Mr. Cesarini said it was a "widespread misperception that science has proved that winning the lottery often makes people miserable." In fact the research has revealed a more reliable but less romantic truth: Money really does help people lead a more satisfying life. (New York Times)
Friday Night Lights Tragedy Down South
Tragedy in Mississippi during Byhalia High School's Friday Night Lights. Sophomore Dennis Mitchell, 16, died in the middle of the game. He had been standing on the sidelines in the second quarter when he fell face-first and then began shaking. Players immediately called for help and the game was stopped. Emergency workers began to treat the 5-foot-11-inch, 260-pound Mitchell. Coaches could be heard calling out, "Stay with me, Dennis. Stay with me." He was rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. In a post on Byhalia High School's Facebook page Saturday, the school announced Mitchell's death and asked that people keep Mitchell's family and school community in their prayers. An autopsy will be performed but Coahoma County Coroner Scotty Meredith said Mitchell had no prior health problems and heat was not a factor. Head coach John Danley tells the Press Register he has been playing and coaching football 30 years and never experienced a moment like Friday's. Byhalia would go on to win the game, 28-7. The school is located in northern Mississippi, about 30 miles southeast of Memphis, Tennessee. (Press Register)
Stay Alive in the Wild
If you ever find yourself stranded in the wilderness, there's no reason to starve. Thanks to Live Science we have for you seven regular old plants that also double as food! These are some of the most common edible plants found in the continental US. Luckily, they cover a variety of landscapes, from marshes to deserts:
Cattails: Found nationwide, it has white shoots that apparently taste like a cucumber. You can also eat the sprouts at the end of the roots, but they're best in fall and winter.
Clovers: These plants are identifiable by their trefoil leaves and can be eaten from blossom to root, cooked or uncooked.
Dandelions: You can eat the entire thing cooked or raw. Sometimes people dry and roast their roots to create a coffee-like drink.
Redwood sorrel: They're found mostly in redwood forests from the San Francisco Bay Area to British Columbia. They're also mildly toxic but usually OK in small doses. Prickly pear cactus: Watch out for thorns, but you can eat the cactus pads any time of the year.
Pickleweed: Found in coastal areas, it has a salty taste and is sometimes used as a vegetable in Europe. OK to ingest raw or cooked.
Arrowleaf balsamroot: Easy to find in the West and Northwest, it's entirely edible but be careful-it resembles the Arnica montana flower, which is toxic. (Live Science)
What the What?
In Salt Lake City, impatience and apparently sheer stupidity drove a man waiting for a passing freight train to make an epically bad decision! It appears he tried to cross the tracks by rolling under the moving train. As you might have guessed, it was the last thing he ever did. A video of the incident, shot by a nearby railroad camera, shows the man, believed to be in his 30s, trying to time his move to roll between the wheels of the 15 mph train, but instead he was caught up in the train's wheels and killed between 4:30 and 5 p.m. Saturday. The guy had no ID on him so police are still trying to identify him. Based on their review of the video, police do not suspect suicide. (Sacramento Bee)