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Otherwise healthy man suddenly dies from overdose of Black Licorice candy

A 54-year-old man in Massachusetts died after his heart stopped beating from eating too much black licorice candy.

Elias Marat

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(TMU) – In a tragic and unpredictable turn of events, a 54-year-old man in Massachusetts died after his heart stopped beating from eating too much black licorice candy. The man’s sudden death at a McDonald’s in 2019 had doctors clueless, and became the focus of a study by senior medical researchers.

We all have our guilty pleasures and vices: it could be that we like to butter our toast on both sides, drink a pot of coffee daily, snack on moonshine cherries, or the common problem of compulsive eating as we sit in front of the TV. And no doubt, these vices do carry a health cost – but the cost of this man’s black licorice habit turned out to be far beyond anything imaginable.

According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the 54-year-old man didn’t have a history of heart problems. His doctors attested that he regularly took his dog out on walks and was fit enough to meet the physical demands of his job as a construction worker.

However, his relative fitness wasn’t enough to contend with his fatal habit of consuming one to two large bags of black licorice every day for three weeks – a problem which, without any warning, had a massively detrimental impact on his health.

According to the report, the habit resulted in a precipitous drop in his potassium levels, causing his sudden heart failure at the McDonald’s. After suffering cardiac arrest and collapsing, the man never regained consciousness and died 24 hours after arriving at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“We almost didn’t believe it when we figured it out,” Dr. Jacqueline B. Henson, who treated the man while she worked at the hospital, told New York Times. “We were all shocked and surprised.”

Doctors soon discovered that the man had a generally poor diet and consumed at least a pack of cigarettes a day, according to friends and family. Yet none of those factors could explain his death. As it turned out, his death could be traced to his sudden switch from red to black licorice three weeks prior to his death.

Officials of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have announced that consuming two ounces of black licorice for 12 days can result in an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia for people aged 40 and over, as well as high blood pressure, edema (swelling), lethargy, and congestive heart failure.

Medical practitioners are generally taught that black licorice contains glycyrrhizic acid, a common plant extract used to sweeten candies and other foods that can dangerously reduce potassium levels when consumed in high doses.

The ingredient is also common in other foods and drinks that contain licorice root, such as jelly beans, licorice tea, certain types of chewing gum, popular anise liquors like ouzo, raki, arak, and anisette, and a number of Belgian beers. Sweet-flavored chewing tobaccos also commonly contain licorice.

However, overconsuming these products cause our potassium levels to plunge, throwing off the balance of sodium and potassium that’s necessary for a healthy functioning heart. When our potassium levels drop, sodium levels skyrocket – resulting in arrhythmia and boosting our blood pressure.

The Massachusetts case, however, is an extreme one and far from the norm, noted Dr. Henson, who said that the occasional licorice treat shouldn’t be confused with poison.

“It’s fine taken in sort of small amounts, infrequently,” Henson said. “But when taken on a regular basis, it can lead to these issues.”

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Cop Gave Children Weapons During Exorcism and Told Them To Shoot Demons And Intruders

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A police officer from Florida was recently arrested after he was caught performing a strange exorcism on a child holding a taser, while another child was given a gun and instructed to shoot anyone who entered the home. 37-year-old Christopher Dougherty reportedly told the two children that there were demons in the house. According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Dougherty was fired from the department on an unrelated matter on the same day of his arrest, but he had worked with the sheriff’s office since 2006.

Someone tripped an alarm at the house where the incident was occurring, which prompted police to arrive on the scene. Once they got there, they saw evidence of child abuse, and decided to enter the home. Upon entering they found a young girl wearing body armor and a Kevlar helmet, lying on the ground with a rifle in a shooting position. There was also a young boy in the house who had a taser. The boy is believed to be the subject of an exorcism. Dougherty was armed with a handgun when police arrived.

The children said that Dougherty was performing an exorcism on the young boy, and told the girl that there were demons in the house, and instructed her to shoot anyone that entered.

Dougherty was detained and taken to a hospital where he was held under the Baker Act, and then arrested after he was released from the hospital a few days later. On the same day as his arrest, he was fired from the sheriff’s office, but the agency insists that his termination was related to “an unsatisfactory performance finding in a separate matter,” and had nothing to do with the exorcism. 

In a statement to Fox News, Orange County Sheriff John Mina said that he was concerned about the officer’s mental health. 

“While this deputy was terminated for a pattern of unsatisfactory performance, these are very serious criminal allegations. As law enforcement officers, we are held to the highest standards of conduct whether on duty or off duty. But we are also concerned about the deputy’s mental health,” Mina said.

It is still not entirely clear what Dougherty’s relationship was with the two children that were in his care.

The 2014 horror film “Deliver Us From Evil” is based on the true-life story of New York City Police Sgt Ralph Sarchie, who was an exorcist in his spare time. Sarchie described himself as a “demonologist” and claimed to have taken part in at least 20 exorcisms, but says that he investigated over 50 paranormal cases. “I’m a demonologist, and I’m going head to head with the devil,” Sarchie once said in an interview.

In 2001, Sarchie co-wrote the book Beware the Night about his experiences as a part-time demon hunter in New York. His book would eventually inspire the horror movie that came later.

Of course, Sarchie’s “demon hunting” activities seem to be a bit more safe and legitimate than whatever was happening inside the home of Christopher Dougherty.

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Bizarre

Study: 1,000 Potential Alien Star Systems Could Be Watching Us From Afar

Justin MacLachlan

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Motivated by the “Pale Blue Dot” NASA photo researchers are asking the question, could other planets be looking at us just like we’re looking at them? A study of Earth’s “solar neighborhood” has found that over 1,000 different systems have the perfect angle to view Earth.

The infamous “Pale Blue Dot” photograph was suggested by astronomer Carl Sagan who implored that the Voyager 1 space probe take a picture of Earth from nearly four billion miles away. The new study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, seeks to find out how many different exo-planet systems with alien life could be watching us. Ironically, the research comes from the Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute.

The studies co-author Lisa Kaltenegger stated their list focuses on main-sequence stars similar to our own sun. These solar systems may contain exoplanets, Earth-like worlds sitting in the habitable zone for life. All of the prospective systems are within 300 million light-years of Earth, close enough to see our world’s chemical traces according to the researchers.

“Let’s reverse the viewpoint to that of other stars and ask from which vantage point other observers could find Earth as a transiting planet,” Kaltenegger, the director of Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute said in a press release.

“If observers were out there searching, they would be able to see signs of a biosphere in the atmosphere of our Pale Blue Dot… and we can even see some of the brightest of these stars in our night sky without binoculars or telescopes.”

What makes this listing of 1,004 star systems novel and significant is they all sit in Earth’s elliptic orbit or the plane of the planets orbit around our Sun. Exoplanets traveling along this same path would be able to see the Earth according to the researchers.

To foreign observers, Earth would be a transiting planet that passes in front of its sun as the observer looks at distant stars. Theoretically, these exoplanets would be able to see Earth crossing the Sun, which sounds like a marvelous sight.

“Only a very small fraction of planets will just happen to be randomly aligned with our line of sight so we can see them transit,” co-author Joshua Pepper of Lehigh University says. “But all of the thousand stars we identified in our paper in the solar neighborhood could see our Earth transit the sun, calling their attention.”

“If we’re looking for intelligent life in the universe, that could find us and might want to get in touch,” Kaltenegger adds. “We’ve just created the star map of where we should look first.”

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Animals

Scientists Say Species Throughout Earth’s History Keep Inexplicably Evolving Into Crabs

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A paper from 2017 recently resurfaced online and has gone semi-viral because of its weird, and, according to some scientists, somewhat disturbing/amazing conclusion: that life on Earth seems to naturally evolve toward crab-like species.

Originally published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, the paper is titled “One hundred years of carcinization – the evolution of the crab-like habitus in Anomura.” It found a new life in mid-October on Boing Boing under the title “Animals have evolved into a crab-like-shape at least 5 separate times” and has since been the subject of articles on Popular Mechanics and several other websites.

So what are popular science writers – and their readers – so worked up about? The original paper discusses the curious and highly improbable sequence of instances involving convergent and parallel evolution of animals into crab-like species. These instances of carcinization – the scientific term for when a crustacean evolves from a non-crab-like form into a crab-like one – has happened at least five different times in completely different historical contexts.

In the paper, the researchers write:

“The fact that a crab-like habitus did not evolve solely in ‘true’ crabs but also several times independently in the Anomura makes this process ideal for evolutionary research.”

Parallel evolution is certainly no stranger to Earth’s history. For example, marsupials are commonly referred to in this context. Convergent evolution, which refers to species from independent epochs of time developing analogous morphological structures, is also well established by Darwinian principles. Species on separate evolutionary tracks of both habitat and time can end up arriving at the same traits and structures. However, the number of times it happens with the crab-like shape and features seems to baffle more than a few scientists.

Additionally, the researchers point out, the similarities are not just relegated to superficial appearances in shells and claws: the five evolutionary journeys toward carcinization include shared functional traits in neurological processes and circulatory systems.

“Curiously, not only did the crab-like habitus evolve independently from the ‘true’ crabs (Brachyura), it also evolved three times independently within anomurans. […] Although enormous morphological disparity is observed in the internal anatomy of the crab-like taxa, reflecting the fact that the evolution of the crab-like habitus was indeed convergent, various corresponding dependences are found across the different lineages between the external characters of a crab-like habitus/morphotype and inner structures. In other words, as a result of carcinization certain structural coherences led to the specific internal anatomical patterns found in crab-like forms.”

So, what does it all mean? Is life on Earth somehow predisposed to crabs? Does this mean that when we meet aliens someday they will be giant intelligent crabs? Or could there be some strategic evolutionary advantage in the crab-like habitus and internal structures?

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