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China claims first 'royal flush'

BEIJING - China was the first to invent paper money, the compass, kites, gunpowder, and perhaps even ice cream. Now add toilets to the list.

Archeologists have discovered a 2,000-year-old toilet complete with running water, a stone seat, and a comfortable armrest in the tomb of a king of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC to AD 24). The king believed his soul would utilize it after death.

London plumber Thomas Crapper later patented a flushing U-bend siphoning system in the late 19th century, and installed them for another monarch, Queen Victoria.


Plant chemical-warfare tactic

KYOTO, JAPAN - Plants in distress produce chemicals to defend themselves, according to a report in this week's Nature.

Scientists at Kyoto University found that when lima beans are attacked by mites, they release a chemical that makes them less tasty and activates the defense genes of neighboring plants. Similar, yet distinct chemical alarm calls produced when plants suffer physical damage - by trampling, for example - are ignored by other plants. The researchers have identified the signal chemicals, that could lead to protection of plants from pests.


AOL, blind settle out of court

BALTIMORE - The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and America Online (AOL) announced that, working together, they have made "real progress in achieving their mutual goal of making the AOL service accessible to the blind" (see story Dec. 9, 1999).

NFB also announced that it has withdrawn its suit, which charged that AOL's Internet service is inaccessible to the blind, thereby violating the American With Disabilities Act.

According to the agreement, AOL will ensure that the next version of AOL's software, to be released this fall, is compatible with "screen reader assistive technology," which would make it accessible to blind users.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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