Notes and shorts from around the world


Why driers spread germs
Automatic jet hand driers blast bacteria and faecal traces around the room, making them significantly less hygienic than old-fashioned paper dispensers, researchers have warned. The team sampled hospital toilets in the UK, Italy and France. All contained a hand drier and a towel dispenser, but during their 12-week study, only one of these was in use on any given day. When researchers analysed swabs in the rooms, they found that potentially harmful microbes – including E. coli – were up to five times as plentiful on floors on the days when jet driers were in use, and were more concentrated in the air, in dust and on sinks and mirrors. Professor Mark Wilcox, a microbiologist at the University of Leeds who led the study, said the problem arises because some people do not wash their hands well enough. Whereas paper towels will usually absorb much of the bacteria left behind on the skin, jet driers aerosolise them. Writing in the Journal of Hospital Infection, the team calls for jet driers to be eliminated from hospital bathrooms. Earlier this summer, researchers in the USA found that jet driers suck in bacteria from the air, and blast it out again through the nozzle.
Judicial bias
The long-awaited trial of the eight men accused of murdering an environmental activist in Honduras descended into chaos recently when lawyers for the victim’s family accused the presiding judges of a cover up. Berta Cáceres, an indigenous leader who won international acclaim for her years long campaign against the construction of a hydroelectric power plant, was shot dead at her home in 2016 by armed intruders. On the first day of the trial, her family’s lawyers accused the three judges of showing clear bias in pre-trial hearings by arbitrarily rejecting witnesses, experts and documentary evidence pointing to a wider criminal conspiracy. The trial has been suspended, and the appeal court will now decide if the judges can remain in place.
The Congress of Nicoles
An unlikely sisterhood was formed when a student in Canada who got talking to
a woman named Nicole in a bar, and took her number down wrongly, decided to find her by emailing all 246 Nicoles at the University of Calgary. “If your name is Nicole and you’re from Holland and you think Nietzsche is depressing then text me,” Carlos Zetina wrote to a list which included professors and an assistant dean. The Nicoles then began to talk among themselves, formed a Facebook group and met up for drinks. Although the original Nicole has now come forward, the Congress of Nicoles is still planning regular get togethers.
Bons mots
“I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learnt how to swim.” Frida Kahlo, Mexican artist.

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