Archive for the ‘Maryland’ Category

A dramatic video posted on YouTube shows several cars being swallowed by a Baltimore landslide on Wednesday.

YouTube user ToddTesla posted the 90-second clip, which consists mostly of residents reacting to cars that appear to be tipping into a crevice at the edge of 26th St. in the city’s Charles Village neighborhood. At the 1:12 mark, one of them notices that the road is splitting apart, and then the street’s entire retaining wall gives way in a deafening crash as the bystanders scream in disbelief. No one was injured.

The cars fell onto train tracks used by the freight railroad company CSX, suspending service indefinitely. In a statement, the company said it was working with authorities to respond to to the incident.

The Baltimore Sun reported that the collapsed wall was 120 years old, and that 19 homes near the site of the landslide were evacuated.

Heavy rains in the Baltimore area on Wednesday caused widespread flooding, which led to the collapse. CBS Baltimore reported that Charles Village residents had also made numerous complaints about the “crumbling” street over the past year.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/01/baltimore-landslide-video_n_5249782.html

Thanks to Ray Gaudette for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

renoir

A napkin-size Renoir painting bought for $7 at a flea market but valued at up to $100,000 must be returned to the museum it was stolen from in 1951, a federal judge ordered on Friday.

The 1879 Impressionist painting “Paysage Bords de Seine,” dashed off for his mistress by Pierre-Auguste Renoir at a riverside restaurant, has been at the center of a legal tug-of-war between Marcia “Martha” Fuqua, a former physical education teacher from Lovettsville, Virginia, and the Baltimore Museum of Art in Maryland.

Judge Leonie Brinkema, in a hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, dismissed Fuqua’s claim of ownership, noting that a property title cannot be transferred if it resulted from a theft.

“The museum has put forth an extensive amount of documentary evidence that the painting was stolen,” Brinkema said, citing a 1951 police report and museum records.

“All the evidence is on the Baltimore museum’s side. You still have no evidence – no evidence – that this wasn’t stolen,” said Brinkema to Fuqua’s attorney before ruling in favor of the museum.

Fuqua bought the unsigned “Paysage Bords de Seine,” or “Landscape on the Banks of the Seine,” at a Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, flea market in late 2009 because she liked the frame, she said in a court filing. She paid $7 for the painting, along with a box of trinkets.

Although the frame carried the nameplate “Renoir 1841-1919,” Fuqua was unaware the 5-1/2-by-9-inch oil painting was genuine and stored it in a garbage bag for 2-1/2 years, she said.

Her mother, an art teacher and painter, urged her in July 2012 to get the painting appraised. Fuqua took it to the Potomack Co, an Alexandria, Virginia, auction house, which verified it was as an authentic Renoir.

After media reports about the painting, the Baltimore Museum of Art said in September 2012 it had been stolen while on loan to it. The Federal Bureau of Investigation then took custody of it.

What happened to the painting in the time after the theft in November 1951 and the time it surfaced at a flea market is not known.

Fuqua had contended that “Paysage Bords de Seine” should be returned to her since she was unaware of it having been stolen or of it being genuine.

The Potomack Co had estimated the painting’s value at $75,000 to $100,000, but an appraisal done for the FBI said it was worth about $22,000.

The painting is soiled and “there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm for paintings by Renoir now considered a more old-fashioned taste,” appraiser Ted Cooper said, quoting an art market report.

Renoir painted the work for his mistress on a linen napkin, while at a restaurant near the Seine River, Cooper said, quoting museum curatorial notes.

Questions about its ownership also have diminished the painting’s value, said the appraisal, which is part of court filings.

“Paysage Bords de Seine” came to the Baltimore museum through one of its leading benefactors, collector Saidie May. Her family bought the painting from the Bernheim-Jeune gallery in Paris in 1926 and May lent it, along with other works, to the museum in 1937.

May died in May 1951 and the collection was willed to the museum. As its ownership was going through legal transfer, the painting was stolen while still listed as being on loan.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/10/us-usa-renoir-idUSBREA0910K20140110

JN2_2846a1360362374

Daniel Yuan, pictured at his home in Laurel, raised doubts for years about the work of his colleagues in a Johns Hopkins medical research lab. “The denial that I am hearing from almost everyone in the group as a consensus is troubling to me,” he wrote in one e-mail. In December 2011, after 10 years at the lab, he was fired.

By Peter Whoriskey
The Washington Post Published: March 11
The numbers didn’t add up.

Over and over, Daniel Yuan, a medical doctor and statistician, couldn’t understand the results coming out of the lab, a prestigious facility at Johns Hopkins Medical School funded by millions from the National Institutes of Health.

He raised questions with the lab’s director. He reran the calculations on his own. He looked askance at the articles arising from the research, which were published in distinguished journals. He told his colleagues: This doesn’t make sense.

“At first, it was like, ‘Okay — but I don’t really see it,’ ” Yuan recalled. “Then it started to smell bad.”

His suspicions arose as reports of scientific misconduct have become more frequent and critics have questioned the willingness of universities, academic journals and the federal government, which pays for much of the work, to confront the problem.

Eventually, the Hopkins research, which focused on detecting interactions between genes, would win wide acclaim and, in a coup for the researchers, space in the pages of Nature, arguably the field’s most prestigious journal. The medical school even issued a news release when the article appeared last year: “Studies Linked To Better Understanding of Cancer Drugs.”

What very few readers of the Nature paper could know, however, was that behind the scenes, Yuan’s doubts seemed to be having profound effects.

In August, Yu-yi Lin, the lead author of the paper, was found dead in his new lab in Taiwan, a puncture mark in his left arm and empty vials of sedatives and muscle relaxants around him, according to local news accounts — an apparent suicide.

And within hours of this discovery, a note was sent from Lin’s e-mail account to Yuan. The e-mail, which Yuan saved, essentially blamed him for driving Lin to suicide. Yuan had written to Nature’s editors, saying that the paper’s results were overstated and that he found no evidence that the analyses described had actually been conducted. On the day of his death, Lin, 38, the father of three young daughters, was supposed to have finished writing a response to Yuan’s criticisms.

The subject line of the e-mail to Yuan, sent by an unknown person, said “your happy ending.”

“Yu-yi passed away this morning. Now you must be very satisfied with your success,” the e-mail said.

Yuan said he was shocked by the note, so much so that he began to shake.

But in the seven months since, he has wondered why no one — not the other investigators on the project, not the esteemed journal, not the federal government — has responded publicly to the problems he raised about the research.

The passions of scientific debate are probably not much different from those that drive achievement in other fields, so a tragic, even deadly dispute might not be surprising.

But science, creeping ahead experiment by experiment, paper by paper, depends also on institutions investigating errors and correcting them if need be, especially if they are made in its most respected journals.

If the apparent suicide and Yuan’s detailed complaints provoked second thoughts about the Nature paper, though, there were scant signs of it.

The journal initially showed interest in publishing Yuan’s criticism and told him that a correction was “probably” going to be written, according to e-mail rec­ords. That was almost six months ago. The paper has not been corrected.

The university had already fired Yuan in December 2011, after 10 years at the lab. He had been raising questions about the research for years. He was escorted from his desk by two security guards.

More recently, a few weeks after a Washington Post reporter began asking questions, a university spokeswoman said that a correction had been submitted to Nature and that it was under review.

“Your questions will be addressed with that publication,” a spokeswoman for the Hopkins medical school, Kim Hoppe, wrote in an e-mail.

Neither the journal nor the university would disclose the nature of the correction.

Hoppe declined an opportunity to have university personnel sit for interviews.

In the meantime, the paper has been cited 11 times by other published papers building on the findings.

It may be impossible for anyone from outside to know the extent of the problems in the Nature paper. But the incident comes amid a phenomenon that some call a “retraction epidemic.”

Last year, research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the percentage of scientific articles retracted because of fraud had increased tenfold since 1975.

The same analysis reviewed more than 2,000 retracted biomedical papers and found that 67 percent of the retractions were attributable to misconduct, mainly fraud or suspected fraud.

“You have a lot of people who want to do the right thing, but they get in a position where their job is on the line or their funding will get cut, and they need to get a paper published,” said Ferric C. Fang, one of the authors of the analysis and a medical professor at the University of Washington. “Then they have this tempting thought: If only the data points would line up . . . ”

Fang said retractions may be rising because it is simply easier to cheat in an era of digital images, which can be easily manipulated. But he said the increase is caused at least in part by the growing competition for publication and for NIH grant money.

He noted that in the 1960s, about two out of three NIH grant requests were funded; today, the success rate for applicants for research funding is about one in five. At the same time, getting work published in the most esteemed journals, such as Nature, has become a “fetish” for some scientists, Fang said.

In one sense, the rise in retractions may mean that the scientific enterprise is working — bad work is being discovered and tossed out. But many observers note that universities and journals, while sometimes agreeable to admitting small mistakes, are at times loath to reveal that the essence of published work was simply wrong.

“The reader of scientific information is at the mercy of the scientific institution to investigate or not,” said Adam Marcus, who with Ivan Oransky founded the blog Retraction Watch in 2010. In this case, Marcus said, “if Hopkins doesn’t want to move, we may not find out what is happening for two or three years.”

The trouble is that a delayed response — or none at all — leaves other scientists to build upon shaky work. Fang said he has talked to researchers who have lost months by relying on results that proved impossible to reproduce.

Moreover, as Marcus and Oransky have noted, much of the research is funded by taxpayers. Yet when retractions are done, they are done quietly and “live in obscurity,” meaning taxpayers are unlikely to find out that their money may have been wasted.

Johns Hopkins University typically receives more than $600 million a year from NIH, according to NIH figures.

For someone who has taken on a battle with Johns Hopkins and Nature, Yuan is strikingly soft-spoken.

He grew up in Gainesville, Fla., and attended MIT and then medical school at Johns Hopkins. He worked briefly as a pediatrician and an assistant professor of pediatrics before deciding that he preferred pure research. He has a wife and two kids and is an accomplished violinist.

In 2001, he joined the lab of Jef Boeke, a Hopkins professor of molecular biology and genetics. Boeke’s work on the yeast genome is, as academics put it, “highly cited” — that is, other papers have used some of his articles numerous times for support. Last year, he was named a member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sci­ences.

The lab’s research focused on developing a methodology for finding evidence of genes interacting, primarily in the yeast genome and then in the human genome. Genetic interactions are prized because they yield insights into the traits of the genes involved.

During Yuan’s time there, the lab received millions in NIH funding, and according to internal e-mails, the people in the lab were under pressure to show results. Yuan felt the pressure, too, he says, but as the point person for analyzing the statistical data emerging from the experiments, he felt compelled to raise his concerns.

As far back as 2007, as the group was developing the methodology that would eventually form the basis of the Nature paper, Yuan wrote an anguished e-mail to another senior member of the lab, Pamela Meluh.

“I continue to be in a state of chronic alarm,” he wrote in August 2007. “The denial that I am hearing from almost everyone in the group as a consensus is troubling to me.”

Meluh quickly wrote back: “I have the same level of concern as you in terms of data quality, but I have less basis to think it can be better. . . . I’m always torn between addressing your and my own concerns and being ‘productive.’ ”

Then Boeke weighed in, telling Yuan that if he could improve the data analysis, he should, but that “the clock is ticking.”

“NIH has already given us way more time than we thought we needed and at some point we’ve got to suck it up and run with what we have,” Boeke wrote to Meluh and Yuan.

A few years later, another deadline was looming, and Elise Feingold, an NIH administrator, wanted to know what the lab had accomplished.

“I do need some kind of progress report on what you have been doing the past two years . . . and what you think you can accomplish with these funds,” she wrote to Boeke.

Citing Feingold’s message, ­Meluh wrote to Yuan, asking for help in explaining what the lab had produced. Its members had worked diligently, Yuan says, but hadn’t arrived at the kind of significant findings that generally produce scientific papers.

“I want to make it look like we’ve been busy despite lack of publications,” Meluh wrote.

Meluh did not respond to a request for an interview. Boeke referred questions to the university’s public relations team, which declined to comment further. An NIH official declined to comment.

While Yuan was growing increasingly skeptical of the lab’s methodology, Yu-yi Lin, who was also working at the lab, was trying to extend it. In the past, it had been applied to the yeast genome; Lin would extend it to the human genome — and this would become the basis of the Nature paper.

Lin, who was from Taiwan, was an up-and-comer. As a graduate student at Johns Hopkins just a few years before, he’d won an award for his work in cell metabolism and aging. He was also arranging for a prestigious spot at National Taiwan University.

At one point, when he was still at the Boeke lab at Hopkins, Lin asked Yuan to help analyze the data that would become the basis for the Nature paper, Yuan says. Yuan said he declined to get involved because he thought the methodology still had deep flaws.

Interactions between Lin and Yuan at the lab were few, Yuan said, and at any rate, Yuan had other things to worry about. He was slowly being forced out. He was demoted in 2011 from research associate to an entry-level position. A disagreement over whether Yuan should have asked Boeke if he wanted a byline on a paper erupted into further trouble, e-mail and other records show.

The Johns Hopkins spokeswoman, Hoppe, declined to discuss Yuan’s job termination.

On Dec. 15, 2011, Yuan was forced to leave the lab. He wasn’t allowed to make copies of his cell collection. He spent the next month trying to keep his mind busy. He read books about JavaScript and Photoshop, which he thought would enrich his research abilities. As he looked for other research jobs, he sensed that he had been blackballed.

Then, in February 2012, the Nature paper was published.

The research was a “profound achievement” that would “definitely be a great help to solve and to treat many severe diseases,” according to a news release from National Taiwan University, where Lin was now working.

Upon reading it, Yuan said, he was astonished that Lin had used what he considered a flawed method for finding genetic interactions. It had proved troublesome in the yeast genome, he thought. Could it have possibly been more reliable as it was extended to the human genome?

Lin, Boeke and their co-authors reported discovering 878 genetic interactions, or “hits.”

But Yuan, who was familiar with the data and the statistics, reanalyzed the data in the paper and concluded that there was essentially no evidence for any more than a handful of the 878 genetic interactions.

One of the key problems, Yuan wrote to the Nature editors, was that the numerical threshold the investigators used for determining when a hit had arisen was too low. This meant they would report far more hits than there actually were.

Yuan also calculated that, given the wide variability in the data and the relative precision required to find a true hit, it would have been impossible to arrive at any conclusions at all. By analogy, it would be like a pollster declaring a winner in an election when the margin of error was larger than the difference in the polling results.

“The overwhelming noise in the . . . data and the overstated strength of the genetic interactions together make it difficult to reconstruct any scientific process by which the authors could have inferred valid results from these data,” Yuan wrote to the editors of Nature in July.

His analysis attacks only the first portion of the paper; even if he is correct, the second part of the paper could be true.

Nevertheless, Yuan wanted Nature to publish his criticism, and following instructions from the journal, he forwarded his letter to Boeke and Lin, giving them two weeks to respond.

Just as the two weeks were to elapse, Boeke wrote to Nature asking for an extension of time — “a couple weeks or more” — to address Yuan’s criticism. Boeke explained that end-of-summer schedules and the multiple co-authors made it difficult to respond on time.

A day later, Lin was discovered dead in his office at National Taiwan University.

“Renowned scientist found dead, next to drug bottles,” the headline in the Taipei Times said.

Even in his death, the Nature paper was a kind of shorthand for Lin’s scientific success.

“A research team [Lin] led was featured in the scientific journal Nature in February for their discovery of the key mechanism for maintaining cell energy balance — believed to be linked to cellular aging and cancer,” the newspaper said.

If there was a suicide note, it has not been made public, and it is difficult to know what went through Lin’s mind at the end of his life. The apparent suicide and the e-mail to Yuan suggest only that Lin may have been distraught over the dispute; they do not prove that he acted improperly.

Shortly after the Nature paper appeared, Yuan hired lawyer Lynne Bernabei to challenge the way he was terminated at Hopkins.

In late August, Yuan asked the Nature editors again whether they would publish his criticism. Lin was dead, but Boeke and the others had had a month to respond, and Yuan hadn’t heard a thing.

On Sept. 28, a Nature editor informed Yuan by e-mail that the journal was still waiting on a fuller response from Boeke and that “experiments are being done and probably a Correction written.”

Such a correction has not appeared.

So as a last attempt, he figured he’d try the federal government, which paid for much of the research. But the government suggested that the threat to the federal research, if there was any, ended with Lin’s death.

“It is our understanding that these allegations are being investigated by Johns Hopkins University,” said the letter from the Office of Research Integrity.

Besides, it noted, the person responsible for the paper was Lin.

“Deceased respondents no longer pose a risk,” the letter said.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/doubts-about-johns-hopkins-research-have-gone-unanswered-scientist-says/2013/03/11/52822cba-7c84-11e2-82e8-61a46c2cde3d_story_4.html

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

 

Many people find speed cameras frustrating, and some in the region are taking their rage out on the cameras themselves.

But now there’s a new solution: cameras to watch the cameras.

One is already in place, and Prince George’s County Police Maj. Robert V. Liberati hopes to have up to a dozen more before the end of the year.

“It’s not worth going to jail over a $40 ticket or an arson or destruction of property charge,” says Liberati.

Liberati is the Commander of the Automated Enforcement Section, which covers speed and red-light cameras.

Since April, six people have damaged speed cameras.

On April 6, someone pulled a gun out and shot a camera on the 11400 block of Duley Station Road near U.S. 301 in Upper Marlboro, Md.

Two weeks later, a speed camera was flipped over at 500 Harry S. Truman Drive, near Prince George’s Community College. Police believe several people were involved because of the weight of the camera itself.

Then in May, someone walked up to a camera on Brightseat Road near FedEx Field, cut off one of the four legs, and left.

“I guess that makes a statement, but we were able to just attach another leg,” says Liberati.

But when someone burned down a speed camera on Race Track Road near Bowie State College on July 3, Liberati and his colleagues began to rethink their strategy.

“It costs us $30,000 to $100,000 to replace a camera. That’s a significant loss in the program. Plus it also takes a camera off the street that operates and slows people down. So there’s a loss of safety for the community,” says Liberati

The Prince George’s County Police Department decided it needed to catch the vandals, or at least deter them.

“The roads are choked, there are lots of drivers on them. I think traffic itself is the cause of frustration (towards speed cameras). But, we have a duty to make the roads safe, even if takes a couple extra minutes to get to your destination. Unfortunately, that’s the Washington area, the place we live in,” says Liberati.

Speed cameras themselves can’t be used for security because under Maryland law speed cameras can only take pictures of speeding, says Liberati.

“We’ve taken the additional step of marking our cameras to let people know that there is surveillance.”

Liberati says the cameras aren’t a case of Big Brother nor a cash grab, police are simply trying to keep the public safe from reckless drivers.

http://www.wtop.com/41/3034979/New-cameras-to-watch-cameras-that-watch-you

 

A Delmar man faces several criminal charges after his alleged actions caused the deaths of almost 70,000 chickens.

Joshua D. Shelton, 21, was charged in connection with the incident. Police said Shelton reportedly shut off the power to three chickenhouses.

“The theory is that he may have been in there looking for a light switch,” said Lt. Tim Robinson of the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office.

The value of these chickens, belonging to Mark Shockley of the 32000 block of E. Line Road in Delmar, is reported to be about $20,000, and damage also includes an unknown amount of cleanup costs, according to charging documents. After the incident, only about 100 chickens remained, charging documents state.

Shockley found the chickens Saturday morning and the flock, which had been deprived of food, water and cooling fans, was supposed to be delivered on Sunday.

“Shockley advised that without power, the chickens will begin to die within 15 minutes,” according to charging documents.

Shelton was found lying in the power control shed by the circuit breakers, wearing a T-shirt and boxers, the sheriff’s office reported.

He smelled of alcohol and did not know how he got into the shed or remember touching the breakers, according to charging documents.

Shelton is charged with second-and fourth-degree burglary, malicious destruction of property, trespassing on private property and animal cruelty.

Shelton was at a gathering outside the home with a few people — including Shockley’s daughter — according to charging documents. After his daughter told everyone to go home, she thought Shelton had left.

“Instead of leaving, he wandered into the shed where the power controls were and ended up turning off the power,” Robinson said.

Crimes involving the death of a mass number of chickens are not common, Robinson said.

“This is a first for me in my almost 20-year career,” Robinson said.

An incident like this is also surprising to Bill Satterfield, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc.

“I have never heard of a drunkard going in and killing chickens,” he said. “This is a new one on me, and it’s unfortunate that it occurred.”

Satterfield said occasionally there will be reminders in a newsletter that goes out about protecting chickens from intrusion, but the problem is more likely to be people bringing in bacteria, or potentially animal rights people.

He recommended growers install locks and gates, lock the doors on chickenhouses and put up “No trespassing” or “No admittance” signs.

While Satterfield wasn’t familiar with this particular case, he said it takes chickens about an average of seven weeks to grow, and a farmer may get five or five-and-a-half flocks per year.

“If he’s losing the entire flock, that would be about one-fifth of his income for the year,” Satterfield said.

http://www.delmarvanow.com/article/20120828/WIC01/208280380/Farmer-finds-nearly-70-000-chickens-dead

 

Women infected with the common cat parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which lurks in litter boxes, may suffer undetected brain changes that lead to personality changes and even mental illness. That’s according to a new study of more than 45,000 women in Denmark published Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry. The parasite, excreted in cat feces, also spreads through undercooked meat and unwashed vegetables. Pregnant women have long been warned to avoid the parasite, because they can pass it onto their fetus, causing brain damage or stillbirth. In the new study, researchers found that women infected by T. gondii were one and a half times more likely to try to take their own lives than those who were not affected. They were also more likely to try to commit suicide violently—with a gun, sharp object, or by jumping, Time reports. Suicide risk increased with the levels of T. gondii antibodies found. “We can’t say with certainty that T. gondii caused the women to try to kill themselves, but we did find a predictive association between the infection and suicide attempts later in life that warrants additional studies,” study author Teodor Postolache, an associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Mood and Anxiety Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said in a press statement.

 

Kevin, a cheery, curled-top boy, extends an invitation to his friend by cell phone, “I’d love to have you come over and play.”

For most children that play date at Magic Crystal Valley in Maryland would be a dream come true: riding a miniature train, a motorized swing and even a hot-air balloon that sweeps them 30 feet in the air.

But Kevin, and his hundreds of friends from around the country, are Cabbage Patch Kids, and their “parents” are humans who are obsessed with the ugly, but cuddly dolls that hit the market by storm in 1983.

Pat and Joe Prosey own 5,000 and they consider them their own children, even though the 64-year-olds have a real-life grown daughter.

“They are kids. We don’t use the word D-O-L-L — they might hear,” said Joe, a former shipyard worker who built this special playground for other enthusiasts.

They are collectors, but say it really isn’t about the money, but an obsession with their “babies.”

The obsession all began with Pat Prosey, a former paint store technician, who had loved baby dolls as a girl. “Mother said one day I would probably collect some type of doll when I was older,” she said.

The soft dolls with the wrinkled faces were created by Xavier Roberts, a 21-year-old art student from Georgia, who adopted a German technique for sculpture with his mother’s quilting skills, according to his the Cabbage Patch Kids website.

His concept — adoptable “Little People” — was developed in 1976. Each doll was different and came with a double-barreled name and a birth certificate.

By the end of 1981, the Cabbage Patch doll had made the cover of Newsweek magazine, and he had sold nearly 3 million kids. By 1990, 65 million had been “adopted,” according to his web site.

Pat Prosey got her first Cabbage Patch Meg in 1985 for $50. “She was kind of cute and when I got her got her home, Joe thought I had lost my mind,” she said.

But soon, she found a boy, named Kevin, and today he is the spokesman for what has become their personal Cabbage Patch empire.

After Meg and Kevin, came the “preemies” and the ones with freckles. “They went from freckles to teeth to glasses and toothbrushes, and before you know it, our whole house in Baltimore was filled with Cabbage Patch Kids,” said Pat Prosey.

But when her father offered the couple a farm two hours south in Leonardstown, Md., they jumped at the chance to find room for their growing collection.

She said she thought, “Now, I could actually build a place for my kids,” and the amusement park was born.

As for Joe Prosey, he got hooked in the 1980s one day when he was at a waterskiing event and saw a miniature sample of a wet suit hanging on a shop wall. “I thought, that’ll fit a Cabbage Patch Kid.”

The following weekend, he dressed Kevin the wetsuit and took him waterskiing — even though has he got strange looks from others.

Soon, Joe Prosey was writing a column in a collectors’ newsletter using Kevin’s voice. “He was a real kid doing real stuff,” he said. “There was such response, a woman phoned us and asked, could I do it again?”

Then, as they met more Cabbage Patch parents, the Proseys sent gifts back and forth — eventually arranging play dates at their dream playground.

Now the couple displays and sells Cabbage Patch originals. Those from the 70s and 80s can sell for as much as $25,000 to $35,000 a piece.

“Xavier Robert told us, “If you want to prosper at this thing, you have to live the fantasy day in and day out,” said Joe Prosey. “The collectors will love you.”

Experts say there is a fine line between collecting and hoarding, which a serious psychological disorder.

“With hoarding, we look at three main behaviors: one, acquiring too many possessions; second, having great difficulty discarding something; and three difficulty organizing,” said Julie Pike, a clinical psychologist from the Anxiety Disorder Treatment Center in Durham, N.C. “But there is a lot of overlap.”

Pike has been featured on TLC’s reality show, “Hoarding: Buried Alive,” and spoke with ABCNews.com last year.

Collectors are usually well-organized and know exactly where each item is and what they have. They are also proud, not ashamed, of their possessions, she said.

“But if collectors get in a place where they are spending so much money that they can’t pay their mortgage, that’s a problem,” Pike said. “Or if they are spending so much time at it that they can’t go to their job or leave their house.”

Pat Prosey insists she loves her “fantasy world” and the couple has always had “a roof over our heads, food in our mouths and clothes on our back.”

“You can walk out of every day life and there is no harm done, no foul play and have a good time,” she said. “People pay $2 million for a painting — is that crazy? I love my Cabbage Patches like another person loves a Rembrandt or a shiny new car.”

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/crazy-obsession-couple-owns-5000-cabbage-patch-kids/story?id=15828541#.T1cbryM2GRC