Traditional Danish pasties threatened by EU cinnamon ban

Proposals for an EU ban on cinnamon rolls have put a dampener on Denmark’s Christmas festivities

Cinnamon rolls

“It’s the end of the cinnamon roll as we know it,” said Hardy Christensen, the head of the Danish Baker’s Association Photo: ANDREW CROWLEY
Bruno Waterfield

By , Brussels

2:27PM GMT 26 Dec 2013

The season’s festivities in Denmark have been overshadowed by the prospect that it could be the last Danish Christmas before a European Union ban on their beloved kanelsnegler or cinnamon rolls. Continue reading “Traditional Danish pasties threatened by EU cinnamon ban”

Was ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ really communist propaganda? FBI investigated classic Christmas film because it portrayed banker Mr Potter as greedy and evil

  • FBI informants claimed the movie was a vessel for communist messages
  • Claimed screenwriters Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich associated with known communists
  • Report was part of 2,000 page document compiled about communist ‘influence’ in Hollywood

By Michael Zennie

PUBLISHED:          21:40 EST, 23 December 2013       | UPDATED:          02:16 EST, 24 December 2013

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is a Christmas classic – adored by families and praised by critics as one of the best American movies ever made.

But in 1946, when the movie came out, the FBI labelled it as subversive – a vessel for communist propaganda.

During the Red Scare after World War II, FBI informants claimed the film’s portrayal of wealthy banker Mr Potter as a greedy villain was a sure sign of communist influence.

Recently-published FBI documents also reveal that investigators had their eye on ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and screenwriters Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, a husband and wife duo who were accused of associating with known communists.

This FBI document details the case against 'It's a Wonderful Life' that was compiled in the days of the 'Red Scare' Continue reading “Was ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ really communist propaganda? FBI investigated classic Christmas film because it portrayed banker Mr Potter as greedy and evil”

The gathering storm: A look back on middle-class Europe’s last carefree Christmas before the onset of World War One

From the following summer, Britain, mainland Europe and a large part of the rest of the world changed for ever

” There are “striking and unsettling parallels”, Emmerson says, with the “geopolitics of the world today”. He does not go there, but try casting today’s China as the impatient, rising Germany of 1913; or today’s America as the already declining Britain of that time; or today’s well-meaning, stumbling European Union as a fracturing Austria-Hungary whose collapse unleashed vicious, nationalist hatreds and rivalries”

John Lichfield

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Wilfred Owen spent a lonely Christmas teaching in Bordeaux. He complained that he had received no Christmas cards from his favourite, former pupils in England.

Raymond Asquith spent Christmas Day with his father, Herbert, at the family home at Easton Gray in Wiltshire, “a typical example of dignified English domestic architecture”.

Sandy Turnbull played inside left for Manchester United on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Turnbull was a leading player in the first great United team, which was beginning to fall apart. United suffered two defeats by Everton that Christmas, 0-1 and 0-5.

Jack Kipling went to the Christmas shows in London with his famous writer father, Rudyard, and then travelled with him to a chateau in France owned by the American railroad lawyer, Chauncey Mitchell Depew II. Continue reading “The gathering storm: A look back on middle-class Europe’s last carefree Christmas before the onset of World War One”

Is laughter really the best medicine?

Contact: Stephanie Burns 44-020-738-36920 BMJ-British Medical Journal

Food for thought: Laughter and MIRTH (methodical investigation of risibility, therapeutic and harmful): Narrative synthesis

Laughter may not be the best medicine after all and can even be harmful to some patients, suggests the authors of a paper published in the Christmas edition of The BMJ.

Researchers from Birmingham and Oxford, in the UK, reviewed the reported benefits and harms of laughter. They used data published between 1946 and 2013. They concluded that laughter is a serious matter.

They identified benefits from laughter; harms from laughter; and conditions causing pathological laughter. Continue reading “Is laughter really the best medicine?”

2.5m people will have to take out a loan just to afford central heating this Christmas (U.K.)

Shocking figures revealed as winter fuel costs are hiked by up to £120

Simon Read

Monday, 9 December 2013

Some 2.5 million people will have to borrow money to heat their homes this Christmas. The shock statistics are published as energy users are hit this month with winter fuel hikes of up to £120.

Research published today by affordable property group Circle Housing suggests that around seven million people will be forced to take out a loan to cover extra costs this Christmas.

While four million people say the loans will be to pay for festive food and drink, more than a third of borrowers will use the cash to pay their winter energy bills. Continue reading “2.5m people will have to take out a loan just to afford central heating this Christmas (U.K.)”

Scrooged: Wisconsin governor asked parents to make campaign contributions INSTEAD of buying their children gifts on Black Friday

  • Scott Walker campaign fundraising email  said his re-election would be a better gift to children than toys or election  gadgets
  • President Obama’s 2012 campaign pioneered  the idea of a political donation ‘gift registry’ for birthdays, weddings and  anniversaries
  • Conservatives spoofed the Obama effort at  the time with fictitious registries based on funeral cremations and baby  naming
  • Walker is thought of as a likely GOP  presidential candidate in 2016
  • His opponent has her own ethical cloud  related to labor practices when she was a mountain bike company  executive

By  David Martosko, U.s. Political Editor

PUBLISHED: 21:54 EST, 2  December 2013 |  UPDATED: 22:04 EST, 2 December 2013

Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s  re-election campaign risked a Scrooge image last week with a Black Friday  campaign asking parents to make campaign contributions instead of buying their  children Christmas presents.

‘Instead of electronics or toys that will undoubtedly be outdated, broken, or lost by the next Holiday Season,’ a Walker  re-election campaign email instructed, ‘help give your children the gift of a  Wisconsin that we can all be proud of.’

It was ‘a Black Friday special that is better  than any deal  found in stores,’ the campaign claimed: ‘Donate $5, $10 or $25 to  help Governor Walker get  reelected and save your children from a future of  double-digit tax  increases and billion dollar budget deficits.’

Walker is riding a wave of popularity in his  home state that has political wags speculating about a presidential run in  2016.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's re-election campaign asked moms and dads to raid their children's Christmas gift funds for political contributionsWisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s re-election campaign  asked moms and dads to raid their children’s Christmas gift funds for political  contributions

Continue reading “Scrooged: Wisconsin governor asked parents to make campaign contributions INSTEAD of buying their children gifts on Black Friday”

‘Revolution!’ Thousands pour in for pro-EU rally in Ukraine, storm govt buildings

Published time: December 01, 2013 10:09

Thousands of demonstrators chanting ‘Revolution!’ have flocked into ‘Maidan’ square in Kiev despite a court-imposed ban on rallies. The protesters have reportedly taken several government buildings.

Follow RT’s LIVE UPDATES on protests in Kiev.

Chanting protesters displaced metal barriers that were installed  by police on Independence Square, also known as Maidan (Ukrainian  for “square”), as more are expected to flock into the capital  from the regions. Ukrainian media said that some 700,000 people  have gathered, calling for the Ukrainian government and the  president to resign over rejecting EU association earlier this  week.

The Kiev City State Administration has been vandalized with a  sign saying “Revolution Headquarters.”

View image on Twitter

The raging crowd, which split into several columns, also stormed  the Mayor’s offices, breaking windows and opening the doors from  the inside, Itar-Tass reports, citing local media.The protesters  set up what they described as the temporary headquarters of the  united opposition. The Trade Union building near ‘Maidan’ square  has also been taken by the ‘provocateurs’ bearing emblems of the  opposition parties. Other reports claim that the Ukrainian  Cabinet of Ministers building was stormed.

  Teargas, stun grenades as police clash with protesters at  Ukrainian Presidential HQ

Continue reading “‘Revolution!’ Thousands pour in for pro-EU rally in Ukraine, storm govt buildings”

McDonald’s to employees: Break your food into small pieces to feel full and sell your Christmas presents for cash

A worker cleans a sidewalk outside of a McDonald's restaurant on July 22, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (AFP)

By Travis Gettys

The fast-food giant McDonald’s is urging employees to break up food into smaller pieces to feel full or sell their Christmas presents for extra money.

The restaurant chain made the recommendations on its “McResource” employee website to help workers manage stress, health and finances.

Continue reading “McDonald’s to employees: Break your food into small pieces to feel full and sell your Christmas presents for cash”

Family’s outrage as Ivy League professor set to be released after serving FIVE YEARS for brutally beating wife to death as she wrapped Christmas presents

By  Michael Zennie

PUBLISHED: 11:24 EST, 17  January 2013 |  UPDATED: 13:47 EST, 17 January 2013


The family of a woman brutally beaten to  death by her Ivy League professor husband is furious that he is being released  after serving just five years behind bars.

Rafael Robb, 62, admitted to bludgeoning his  wife Ellen with a metal pull-up bar until she was ‘unrecognizable’ as she  wrapped Christmas presents at their home in suburban Philadelphia in December  2006.

Prosecutors say the University of  Pennsylvania economics professor was hoping to avoid a costly divorce. He claims  he snapped in a ‘moment of madness.’

Outrage: Rafael Robb, seen here in 2007, has served just five years behind bars after beating his wife until she was 'unrecognizable' 

Outrage: Rafael Robb, seen here in 2007, has served just  five years behind bars after beating his wife until she was  ‘unrecognizable’

Horrific: Ellen Robb was wrapping Christmas presents  when her husband attacked. Her family says authorities told them it was the  ‘most horrific crime ever’ in the county

Robb will be released on January 28 after he  was granted parole during his first appeal hearing.

Ellen Robb’s family is outraged and the  Montgomery County District Attorney has asked the parole board to reconsider its  decision.

‘Rafael Robb has shown zero indication of  remorse throughout all the time following his murder of Ellen,’ the family said  in a statement to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The parole board said in a statement that  Robb has show good behavior in prison and that he has taken responsibility for  his crime.

That has not appeased Ellen’s family, who say  Robb has not truly been punished for the viciousness of his crime.

Horrific: The murder occurred at Christmas time after the husband and wife began fighting about their holiday vacation plans 

Horrific: The murder occurred at Christmas time after  the husband and wife began fighting about their holiday vacation plans

‘The judge said this is the most horrific  crime ever in Montgomery County. Now he’s being set free,’ Gary Gregory told NBC Philadelphia.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa  Vetri Ferman says she recently learned that Robb is set to be released on parole  later this month. She says she’s asked the state parole board to reconsider the  decision.

Ferman says she thinks the board didn’t  consider all issues surrounding the case.

Robb, who initially denied the attack,  pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in December 2007 and was sentenced to  five to 10 years in prison

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Are Santa’s Visits Legal?

  by Jill  Harness – December 25, 2012 – 9:30 AM


Sometime between when you went to bed last night and when the sun came up  this morning, a fat man in a red suit shimmied down your chimney to leave  presents (or, if you were naughty, coal) under your tree. Though you’re not  likely to raise a fuss because the only thing Santa takes from your home is that  plate of cookies, you might wonder: Is old Saint Nick actually breaking the law  by coming into your house?

According to San  Diego criminal lawyer Peter Liss, Santa has nothing to worry about—at least  in California. That’s because trespassing involves entering a property without  consent, but by wishing for presents on mall Santas’ laps, sending letters to  the North Pole, and leaving out milk and cookies, people across the world have  implied that Mr. Claus is, in fact, welcome in their homes.

That doesn’t mean you should go around playing Santa Claus, though.  Gaining entry into someone’s property through impersonation of a celebrity is  fraud. In fact, The Legal Geeks argue  that Jack  Skellington, the most famous Santa impersonator of all, could be left facing  all kinds of criminal charges, including: conspiracy; kidnapping; false  impersonation; torture (at the “hands” of Mr. Oogie Boogie); breaking and  entering; and assault and battery on an unknown number of families.

So remember, everyone: Leave out your milk and cookies for Mr. Claus, but  don’t get into the Christmas spirit by pretending to be St. Nicholas.  You could get in a heap of trouble.

Merry Christmas!

Read the full text here: –brought to you by mental_floss!

Experts discover why Rudolph’s nose is red

Contact: Emma Dickinson 44-020-738-36529 BMJ-British Medical Journal

Researchers solve the age-old mystery of why Rudolph has a bright red nose

Rudolph’s nose is red because it is richly supplied with red blood cells which help to protect it from freezing and to regulate brain temperature.

This superior “nasal microcirculation” is essential for pulling Santa Claus’s sleigh under extreme temperatures, reveals a study in the Christmas issue published on today.

Tiny blood cells (known as micro-vessels) in the nose are vital for delivering oxygen, controlling inflammation, and regulating temperature, but few studies have assessed their function in detail.

Knowing how important this regulation is for flying reindeer, who have to deal with extremes of temperature while pulling a sleigh, researchers in the Netherlands and Norway set out to test whether Rudolph’s infamous red nose was due to “a highly dense and rich nasal microcirculation” compared with human noses.

Using a hand-held video microscope, they first assessed the noses of five healthy human volunteers and found a circulating blood vessel density of 15 mm/mm2.

When the technique was applied to two reindeer noses, the researchers found a 25% higher density of blood vessels, carrying a super-rich concentration of red blood cells.

They also found a high density of mucous glands scattered throughout the reindeer noses, which they say helps “maintain an optimal nasal climate during changing weather conditions and extremes of temperature as well as being responsible for fluid transport and acting as a barrier.”

Infrared thermal images showed that reindeer do indeed have red noses.

“The microcirculation of the nasal mucosa in reindeer is richly vascularised and 25% denser than that in humans,” say the authors. “These factors explain why the nose of Rudolph, the lead flying reindeer employed by Santa Claus to pull his sleigh, is red and well adapted to carrying out his duties in extreme temperatures.”


Experts warn of misbehaving tooth fairy

Contact: Stephanie Burns 44-020-738-36920 BMJ-British Medical Journal

Teeth discovered in children’s ears and wind pipe

The tooth fairy and malpractice

Opinions of the tooth fairy as kind and giving may need to be revised following “mounting reports of less child-friendly activity”, says a paper published in the BMJ Christmas edition and appearing online today.

Researchers from across London became concerned following misdemeanours of the mythical character and a worrying trend in malpractice. One boy in particular became extremely distressed because the tooth fairy “had put a tooth in his left ear” after he left it under his pillow. Further investigation turned out he was right.

Further supporting their evidence are another two cases showing teeth being found in the oesophagus (causing “a trauma situation”) and a man who developed an abscess after placing his child’s tooth in his nipple piercing so it could be “near to his heart”.

The researchers conclude that as there is no clear guidance on how to avoid such complications, they suggest that clinicians have a “high index of suspicion with tooth related presenting complaints”.

They add: “As far as we are aware there is no revalidation procedure for the tooth fairy and no clear guidance or standard operating procedures in place to ensure outcomes are avoided”.

Could mistletoe give the kiss of death to cancer?

Contact: Gordon Howarth 61-883-137-885 University of Adelaide

      IMAGE:   Health Sciences student Zahra Lotfollahi with a sample of mistletoe extract at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus.Click here for more information.


Mistletoe has become an important symbol of Christmas but it also has the potential to play a vital role as an alternative therapy for sufferers of colon cancer.

At the University of Adelaide in Australia, scientists are interested in how the extract of mistletoe could either assist chemotherapy or act as an alternative to chemotherapy as a treatment for colon cancer.

Colon cancer is the second greatest cause of cancer death in the Western world.  Mistletoe extract is already authorized for use by sufferers of colon cancer in Europe, but not in some countries such as Australia and the United States due to a lack of scientific testing.

For her Honours research project recently completed at the University of Adelaide, Health Sciences student Zahra Lotfollahi compared the effectiveness of three different types of mistletoe extract and chemotherapy on colon cancer cells.  She also compared the impact of mistletoe extract and chemotherapy on healthy intestinal cells.

In her laboratory studies, she found that one of the mistletoe extracts – from a species known as Fraxini (which grows on ash trees) – was highly effective against colon cancer cells in cell culture and was gentler on healthy intestinal cells compared with chemotherapy.

Significantly, Fraxini extract was found to be more potent against cancer cells than the chemotherapy drug.

“This is an important result because we know that chemotherapy is effective at killing healthy cells as well as cancer cells.  This can result in severe side effects for the patient, such as oral mucositis (ulcers in the mouth) and hair loss,” Ms Lotfollahi says.

      IMAGE:   A sample of the mistletoe extract Fraxini, which has shown the most promise in early laboratory tests at the University of Adelaide.Click here for more information.


“Our laboratory studies have shown Fraxini mistletoe extract by itself to be highly effective at reducing the viability of colon cancer cells.  At certain concentrations, Fraxini also increased the potency of chemotherapy against the cancer cells.

“Of the three extracts tested, and compared with chemotherapy, Fraxini was the only one that showed a reduced impact on healthy intestinal cells.  This might mean that Fraxini is a potential candidate for increased toxicity against cancer, while also reducing potential side effects.  However, more laboratory testing is needed to further validate this work,” Ms Lotfollahi says.

“Mistletoe extract has been considered a viable alternative therapy overseas for many years, but it’s important for us to understand the science behind it,” says one of Ms Lotfollahi’s supervisors, the University of Adelaide’s Professor Gordon Howarth, a Cancer Council Senior Research Fellow.

“Although mistletoe grown on the ash tree was the most effective of the three extracts tested, there is a possibility that mistletoe grown on other, as yet untested, trees or plants could be even more effective.

“This is just the first important step in what we hope will lead to further research, and eventually clinical trials, of mistletoe extract in Australia,” Professor Howarth says.


Zahra Lotfollahi Health Sciences Honours student School of Medical Sciences The University of Adelaide

Professor Gordon Howarth Cancer Council Senior Research Fellow School of Animal & Veterinary Sciences The University of Adelaide Phone: +61 8 8313 7885

Around three thousand Spanish police rally against loss of Christmas bonus

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Around three thousand off-duty police officers rallied outside the Interior Ministry in the Spanish capital to protest austerity measures and budget cuts that will see their Christmas bonuses hit the chopping block.

Plain-clothes police donning blue caps blocked the central Paseo de la Castellana Boulevard in Madrid on Saturday as they demonstrated against the latest round of cuts outside the Interior Ministry.

Their on-duty colleagues looked on as the protesters, some wrapped up in the Spanish flag, chanted and lobbed fireworks into the air.

One protester needed medical treatment after a firework he had intended to throw went off in his hand.

Like all Spanish civil service workers, police are on the front line of the country’s battle to get the debt crisis under control.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government revealed a 2013 austerity budget earlier this month as the country remains mired in its second recession in three years.

Starting the first of January, police will see a reduction in supplementary holidays and a wage cuts when they take sick leave, along with the elimination of their Christmas bonus.

“We came to express our anger at the way the government treats us, not only because they have removed Christmas bonuses, but also because they are eliminating our rights,” Fran Estacio, a 33-year-old officer from Valencia, in eastern Spain, told AFP.

Unemployment hit a record 25 per cent this week, the highest rate since the Franco dictatorship ended nearly four decades ago. The government further expects the economy to contract by 0.5 per cent next year, though independent estimates put that figure much higher.

Cod liver oil outperforms standard drugs for tuberculosis

Could cod liver oil help combat tuberculosis?

Repost from Dec 2011

A review of a historical study from 1848 reveals that cod liver oil was an effective treatment for tuberculosis, says Professor Sir Malcolm Green in the Christmas issue published on today.

In the study, carried out by physicians at the Hospital for Consumption, Chelsea (now the Royal Brompton Hospital), 542 patients with consumption (tuberculosis) received standard treatment with cod liver oil. These patients were compared with 535 ‘control’ patients who received standard treatment alone (without cod liver oil).

While improvement rates were similar in the two groups, the disease was stabilised in 18% of the patients given cod liver oil, compared with only 6% of those in the control group. Deterioration or death occurred in 33% of patients given standard treatment alone, but in only 19% of those given cod liver oil, a reduction of 14%.

Professor Green says that some children are still given cod liver oil today and perhaps this relates back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when cod liver oil was widely used to treat and prevent tuberculosis.

He adds that the steady fall in tuberculosis deaths in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is often attributed to better living conditions. While a reduction in overcrowded living might have reduced transmission, Green believes improved nutrition was probably as important. “It could well be that the widespread use of cod liver oil encouraged by doctors played a significant part,” he writes.

Cod liver oil is a rich source of Vitamin D, which we now know is important in fighting infections, as well as preventing conditions such as rickets, says the author.

He says: “A role for vitamin D in combating tuberculosis gives a rational basis for sunshine therapy, which was widely practised for patients in sanatoriums before chemotherapy became available, as vitamin D is synthesised in the skin when exposed to the sun. Patients were put out on their beds to lie in the sun in summer and winter, and many were sent to Switzerland and other sunny countries for treatment.”  He adds that today many patients who develop TB in the UK are found to be Vitamin D deficient.

Green concludes that since tuberculosis is still a common infection, accounting for  millions of deaths annually across the world, there may yet be a role for vitamin D supplements in combating this terrible killer.