Welcome to The Funny/Alerts Newsletter. As I write this, FUD is rampant on the web. Translated, that's Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Every media outlet is pounding the anthrax scare into our brains until it seems certain that we're all going to die. Well, I've had enough and in this issue I hope to clear the air for you. They say that the cure for fear is understanding, so in an effort to remove my doubts (and yours) I've educated myself about Anthrax. I hope that it helps you to become more certain about your safety concerning this threat.

Games for when we're older

1. Sag, You're it
2. Pin the Toupee on the bald guy.
3. 20 questions shouted into your good ear.
4. Kick the bucket
5. Red Rover, Red Rover, the nurse says Bend Over.
6. Doc Goose.
7. Simon says something incoherent.
8. Hide and go pee.
9. Spin the Bottle of Mylanta
10. Musical recliners.

[thanks to Roy Howard for this one]

Anthrax scared?
If you're worried about getting anthrax from your snail mail, here are some things to keep in mind. Unless you work for an employer that could be "targeted" (such as the government or media) or you're in the path of such an objective, your chances of being infected are very nearly nil.

If you ARE living near an office or postal facility that might be handling tainted mail, you can buy boxes of inexpensive surgical gloves at the local drug store to handle your mail with. Remember, simply washing your hands with soap and water is supposed to be enough to protect you unless you have open wounds. Use alcohol or anti-bacterial soap if you're really worried.

Checking the mail
Experts keep pointing out that you should be suspicious of letters and packages that are stained, dusty, don't have a return address, contain too much postage, come from out of the country or are packaged strangely (plain brown wrapper, string or extra tape holding it closed, etc). Anne and I have always been leery of anything without a return address because it's nearly always a scam. 9 times out of 10 the postal stamp indicates "pre-sort" and it gets circular filed. If anything as scary as what they describe ever arrived in our mail, we'd be truly frightened!

Mail handler
If you DID get a dubious piece of mail, I'd suggest that you immediately stop and close all doors and windows. Then shut off any heat or air conditioning that could spread it through the ventilation system. Grab a cordless phone, get out of the area and clear it of anyone else that could be exposed. PS: don't forget your pets! They're suspectable too! Then call the police. Do NOT call 911. That number is for emergencies and anthrax is not going to kill you unless it takes you days or weeks to get help and, also, because they have been inundated with other people freaking out over nothing. Try getting the operator to connect you to the PD's dispatch desk.

Want to be prepared?
Get a small plastic tub with a snap-on lid, such as the Tupperware kind, or a gallon size Ziplock baggie. If a questionable letter arrives, put it in your container and seal it shut before leaving. Do NOT fold, bend, shake or do anything to it that could disturb any spores that might be on the outside of the package and don't take it with you, just leave it for the experts.

How is anthrax transmitted?
Anthrax infection can occur in three forms: cutaneous (skin), inhalation, and gastrointestinal. Bacillus anthracis spores can live in the soil for many years and humans can become infected with anthrax by handling animal products from infected animals or by inhaling anthrax spores from contaminated animal products. Anthrax can also be spread by eating undercooked meat from infected animals. It is rare to find infected animals in the United States.

What are the symptoms of anthrax?
Symptoms of disease vary depending on how the disease was contracted, but symptoms usually occur within seven days. 

Most anthrax infections occur when the bacterium enters a cut or abrasion on the skin, such as when handling contaminated wool, hides, leather or hair products (especially goat hair) of infected animals. Skin infection begins as a raised itchy bump that resembles an insect bite but within 1-2 days develops into a vesicle and then a painless ulcer, usually 1-3 cm in diameter, with a characteristic black necrotic (dying) area in the center. Lymph glands in the adjacent area may swell. About 20% of untreated cases of cutaneous anthrax will result in death. Deaths are rare with appropriate antimicrobial therapy.

Initial symptoms may resemble a common cold. About 1-6 days after inhaling Bacillus anthracis spores there would be a gradual onset of vague symptoms of illness such as fatigue, fever, mild discomfort in the chest and a possibly a dry cough. The symptoms would improve for a few hours or 2-3 days. Then, there would be sudden onset of difficulty in breathing, profuse sweating, cyanosis (blue colored skin), shock and death in 24-36 hours.

The intestinal disease form of anthrax may follow the consumption of contaminated meat and is characterized by an acute inflammation of the intestinal tract. Initial signs of nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever are followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe diarrhea. Intestinal anthrax results in death in 25% to 60% of cases.

Is there a treatment for anthrax?
Doctors can prescribe effective antibiotics. Usually, penicillin is preferred, but erythromycin, tetracycline, or chloramphenicol can also be used. To be effective, treatment should be initiated early. If left untreated, the disease can be fatal.

Something to remember
Biological terrorists are nortorious for their failures. In 1946 a group of anti-Nazi partisans and Holocaust survivors calling themselves "Avenging Israel's Blood" poisoned the bread of thousands of Nazi SS storm troopers held at a prisoner-of-war camp near Nuremberg. Death toll: none. In 1995 the terrorist sect Aleph (formerly Aum Shinrikyo), an organization endowed with vast wealth and technical expertise, released Sarin gas in the enclosed space of the Tokyo subway with thousands of potential victims trapped underground. Death toll: 12.

If you actually get exposed to Anthrax, a prescription for antiboitics is all you're likely to need.

Food for Body and Soul
by Maida Landau-Bruck
Riverdale, New York, USA

My husband, Alex, was diagnosed with leukemia in October 2000. When we received the news it felt as if the earth had opened and we were falling. Incredibly, my brother's wife had been diagnosed with acute leukemia a few years before. Because of that we knew all too clearly the difficulties that lay ahead.

The doctor told me the diagnosis first, so we could tell Alex together. When Alex heard the news, he turned to me, took my hand, and said, "You'll see, good things will come out of this." Neither of us could have imagined how true his words would be.

Our boys go to school outside of our local area. Both boys had wonderful friends in their third and sixth grade classes, but we didn't feel as connected to the school community as some parents did. We could not imagine how the administrators, teachers and parents of the school would open their hearts to us. They made us part of their community, and cared for us with grace.

In particular, MaryPaul and her husband Benjamin took it upon themselves to help us. MaryPaul remembered a time years before when her family had had troubles. She had promised herself that if she saw another family in distress, she would do something about it. She contacted other parents via e-mail, and organized dinner and shopping for us. Every other day for the first six months of my husband's illness, cooked food and "incidentals" were delivered to our door. Parents and teachers shopped, cooked and delivered to us.

It's hard to express how much these deliveries of dinners meant to us. They sustained us body and soul through long months. During most of that time Alex was hospitalized. Each day when food arrived the boys and I were amazed again that we were thought of and helped. The food became an anchor, helping to set the pace of our days as well as providing stability. As you may imagine, stability was in short supply for those eight months, so it was doubly appreciated.

Although I told these wonderful parents and teachers several times that we were coping, the food didn't stop until I firmly asked them to discontinue it. Even then, they told us that they would resume any time we needed it.

Many times in my life I've wished that I had done more in a given situation. The actions of MaryPaul, Benjamin and the other parents and teachers overwhelmed us with their ability to translate caring into action.

In helping us, MaryPaul did something for the entire community -- she gave others a vehicle by which they could contribute in a meaningful way. Many parents thanked me for allowing them to be part of a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts.

My boys and I had the extraordinary joy of seeing people at their best. I learned, and I hope they did too, not to underestimate the power of each individual act of kindness.

I've seen a lot of memorial sites since Sep.11 and I must say that this is one of the best. Although it is rather large (1.2 Megs) and takes some time to load, you will not be disappointed. The site was put together by Rob Kamphausen from his own pictures mixed in with images from AP and Yahoo. Theme music is "Crimson Tide" by Hans Zimmer (very appropriate). All together it is VERY well done. Take a few minutes to be inspired.

[thanks to Neal and Dot Wilson for this one]


Multiple dictionaries

I've been searching for something like this ever since All-In-One shut down. They don't have the massive variety or subjects that AIO had, but it's still one of the best online sources you'll find. Included in just the Dictionary collection are Standard, Law, Rhyming and Computing dictionaries. On the unique side: Crossword, Scrabble, Thesaurus, Quotation, Cliches, Pig Latin and Anagram De-scrambler look ups!

Beside the Reference section, you'll also find Phone (with reverse directory), Geographic (including a great Zip Code section), Search, Business, Products (check here for anti-virus info) and Media areas.

Bookmark score: 5/5



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