Sunday, August 31, 2008

State Fair Pics 2008

You have new Picture Mail!, originally uploaded by xeno735.

State Fair Pics 2008

You have new Picture Mail!, originally uploaded by xeno735.

State Fair Pics 2008

You have new Picture Mail!, originally uploaded by xeno735.

State Fair Pics

You have new Picture Mail!, originally uploaded by xeno735.

State Fair

State Fair, originally uploaded by xeno735.

Wikipedia on Love

Biological models of love tend to see it as a mammalian drive, similar to hunger or thirst. Psychology sees love as more of a social and cultural phenomenon. There are probably elements of truth in both views — certainly love is influenced by hormones (such as oxytocin), neurotrophins (such as NGF), and pheromones, and how people think and behave in love is influenced by their conceptions of love. The conventional view in biology is that there are two major drives in love — sexual attraction and attachment. Attachment between adults is presumed to work on the same principles that lead an infant to become attached to its mother. The traditional psychological view sees love as being a combination of companionate love and passionate love. Passionate love is intense longing, and is often accompanied by physiological arousal (shortness of breath, rapid heart rate). Companionate love is affection and a feeling of intimacy not accompanied by physiological arousal.

Studies have shown that brain scans of those infatuated by love display a resemblance to those with a mental illness. Love creates activity in the same area of the brain that hunger, thirst, and drug cravings create activity in. New love, therefore, could possibly be more physical than emotional. Over time, this reaction to love mellows, and different areas of the brain are activated, primarily ones involving long-term commitments. Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist, suggests that this reaction to love is so similar to that of drugs because without love, humanity would die out. - wiki

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Study says eyes evolved for X-Ray vision

Humans and other large mammals — primates and large carnivores like tigers, for example — exist in cluttered environments like forests or jungles, and their eyes have evolved to point in the same direction. While animals with forward-facing eyes lose the ability to see what's behind them, they gain X-ray vision, according to Mark Changizi, assistant professor of cognitive science at Rensselaer, who says eyes facing the same direction have been selected for maximizing our ability to see in leafy environments like forests.

All animals have a binocular region — parts of the world that both eyes can see simultaneously — which allows for X-ray vision and grows as eyes become more forward facing.

Demonstrating our X-ray ability is fairly simple: hold a pen vertically and look at something far beyond it. If you first close one eye, and then the other, you'll see that in each case the pen blocks your view. If you open both eyes, however, you can see through the pen to the world behind it.

To demonstrate how our eyes allow us to see through clutter, hold up all of your fingers in random directions, and note how much of the world you can see beyond them when only one eye is open compared to both. You miss out on a lot with only one eye open, but can see nearly everything behind the clutter with both.

"Our binocular region is a kind of 'spotlight' shining through the clutter, allowing us to visually sweep out a cluttered region to recognize the objects beyond it," says Changizi, who is principal investigator on the project. "As long as the separation between our eyes is wider than - the width of the objects causing clutter — as is the case with our fingers, or would be the case with the leaves in the forest — then we can tend to see through it." - pysorg

Terror Trackers.

When al-Qaida was founded, Josh Devon was nine years old. Ben Venzke was 15. ... Now, ... Venzke and Devon have both become fascinated in terrorism and have turned that interest into careers. And al-Qaida now takes careful note of their work.

Venzke and Devon are two of the most prominent "terror trackers" worldwide. ... IntelCenter and SITE Intelgroup are the companies that Venzke and Devon, respectively, have founded. They enjoy a strong reputation within the relatively small community of terrorism experts ...

Bin Laden's Words

The two companies exert tremendous influence, worldwide and around the clock. News agencies, intelligence services and law enforcement organizations from the entire Western world are among Devon's and Venzke's clients. SITE and IntelCenter deliver their product -- information -- via e-mail, telephone or fax, or directly to clients' PDAs or mobile phones.

Almost every statement by Osama bin Laden published on the Internet, to name only one example, is first made public by SITE and IntelCenter. They find the statements in the confusion of Web sites associated with al-Qaida, and within seconds they have sent the first screen shots to their subscribers. It takes the companies only minutes to summarize bin Laden's speeches and within hours, they will have provided full translations, analysis included.

Barack Obama DNC Acceptance Speech Denver August 28th, 2008

McCain's Running Mate, Sarah Palin's husband: BP Oil Connection

Did you know Sarah Palin's husband works for BP offshore oil co who has been trying to increase taxes on oil?

What a conflict of interest. I am so friggin sick of Republicans who do nothing but raise oil prices. First the Bush and Cheney oil clan, Condaleeza used to be an executive at Shell, and now the VP is a little devil in disguise, whose husband has been giving the green light to do offshore oil drilling in Northern Alaska and who has helped contribute to the rise in oil prices. I guess it really is true that gas will go to $7/gallon with Republicans in office. Wake up! Don't let the economy take a further dive, not that I like Obama, but I don't want to be robbed further by these oil theives either who are driving record inflation.

... Todd Palin, who took college courses, but does not have a degree, said he is grateful for the training he received from the multinational oil company BP starting in 1989.

Until recently, he earned hourly wages as a production operator in a BP-run facility that separates oil from gas and water. Palin was making between $100,000 and $120,000 a year before he went on leave in December to make more time for his family and avoid potential conflicts of interest. London-based BP is heavily involved in the gas pipeline negotiations with his wife's administration. - yahooanswers

Duchovny in Rehab. Walk it off?

David Duchovny, who plays a novelist whose libido often leads him into trouble on "Californication," is having trouble with sex in real life. The star of the big-screen "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" has entered a rehabilitation center for sex addiction, People reported. "I have voluntarily entered a facility for the treatment of sex addiction," he told the magazine. "I ask for respect and privacy for my wife and children as we deal with this situation as a family." Duchovny, 48, is married to actress Tea Leoni. They live in Malibu, Calif., with their two children, daughter Madelaine, 9, and son Kyd, 6. On Showtime's "Californication," Duchovny plays the troubled Hank Moody, a role for which he won a Golden Globe. - ctrib

Way back in 1990, when no one outside the English departments at Princeton and Yale knew who he was, Duchovny starred in a movie called “Julia Has Two Lovers.” He played a creepy dude who called women he selected randomly from the phone book and pleasured himself during the conversations. On a related note, in the “X-Files” TV series, Fox Mulder had very little actual sex, but it is widely known that the character had a major porn addiction. In at least one episode he gets turned on watching a tape of a Bigfoot sighting. - moviesblog

Ironically, the treatment follows closely Duchovny’s 2008 Golden Globe for his role as an “over-sexed struggling writer” in the Showtime series, Californication. According to E!, the actor has been combating rumors of such an addiction since 1997, the same year he married actress Tea Leoni, who is still his wife... . Duchovny reportedly denied a sex addiction in an interview with Playgirl that year. Leoni backed up her husband’s denial in an interview with Elle a year later. However, according to the New York Daily News, on a press tour in July, Duchovny told the media about a hot sauna scene with his wife while on vacation in Vancouver. “We were just all over each other - the sauna wasn't going to stop me, and I recovered pretty quickly,” he reportedly said. - celebcafe

Good luck to him, but I'm not seeing the problem with wanting to have sex with his wife a lot... especially Tea. ( Here is the Tea Leoni fan site.)
You might wonder if you have a sexual addiction when you actually have normal behavior. ... Sexual addiction comes in many different forms. There is no single type of behavior or even amount of behavior that will indicate you are a sexual addict. - sexualrecovery

Sex drive varies naturally from person to person. A "twice a week" person should not marry a "twice a day" person.
"The biggest problem I encounter in sex and marital counseling is an imbalance in sexual interest -- one partner wants more, one wants less," says Richard Driscoll, PhD, a marriage therapist in Knoxville, Tenn. for 34 years, and author of Intimate Masquerades: A Survival Guide for Those Who Know Too Much. "The average American married five years has sex once or twice a week. That's your average. It's not a problem if you vary from that average -- you only have a problem when you cannot agree," says Driscoll.

Many couples cannot agree. Driscoll says half of all marriages experience some discrepancy in desire at some point, and it's usually men who have a higher sex drive. About one in five women report that their husbands have turned them down for sex, Driscoll says, while half of all men say their wives have turned them down.

Sex and Happiness Are Strongly Linked

"For men, we know one thing: The absence of sex makes them unhappy. For women, it is not as problematic," says Edward Laumann, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago and lead author of The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, the most comprehensive survey of sexual practices since the Kinsey Report. - webmed

Sex drive depends on things like age, life circumstances and overall health. The key questions seem to be: Have you lost control of the behavior? Are you experiencing significant consequences due to the behavior? Are you constantly thinking about the behavior, even when you don't want to? If the answer is "no" to these questions, congratulations, you do not have an addiction!

Here is some information showing the brain link between sexual pleasure seeking and depression.
.. In a 1969 study published in Science, a scientist shoots up some rats with parachlorophenylalanine, a compound that lowers serotonin levels in both blood and brain. Within minutes of its administration there's a veritable drought of serotonin. What happens to the rats? They become sexually aroused. They mount each other compulsively. Conversely, feed rats a serotonin-laced snack, thereby raising their levels, and almost all sexual appetite disappears. ''In other words, this isn't just about testosterone,'' Kafka says. ''It used to be thought sexual deviants had just testosterone abnormalities, but they may really have serotonin abnormalities. It may be that the lower the serotonin, the higher the sex drive, or it may be something much more complex, that sexual deviance is linked to an as-yet-unidentified disregulation affecting the serotonin system.''

Other studies on male animals bear this hypothesis out: before copulation, there is an increase in dopamine and a decrease in serotonin. Post-copulation, the opposite occurs. If this proves to be the case in the human species as well, afterward, when the man is smoking his cigarette or snoring as if he had chowed down a turkey dinner, he may be experiencing a serotonin surge. In a culture in love with the idea of ''high'' serotonin, it might surprise us to know that passion, and its distant cousin lewdness, may lie not in the dosed-up but in the dosed-down version of being.

Kafka calls his theory of sexual-impulse disorders ''the monoamine hypothesis'' because he is looking at the central role our monoamines -- dopamine, norepinephrine and, specifically, serotonin -- play in mediating desire. One of the more interesting studies he cites involves castrated rats that are injected with parachlorophenylalanine, which depletes central nervous system serotonin, and are subsequently able to resume normal mounting behavior with little or no testosterone additives. In other words, at least as far as animal analogues go, serotonin deprivation and its hypothesized partner, depression, appear to be powerful aphrodisiacs.

... Drugs like Prozac and Paxil specifically target the serotonin systems, thereby avoiding the widespread side effects of the older generations of antidepressants. ... Kafka claims that the drugs are capable of reducing or eradicating pathological desire while preserving or enhancing what are culturally considered ''normal'' sexual urges. ...

''You give a man with sexual problems Prozac,'' I ask, ''and his deviance disappears while his affiliative sexuality emerges?''

''I've seen it happen, over and over again,'' he says.

But this part is debatable. S.S.R.I.'s like Prozac cause sexual dysfunction and Prozac may be approved some day for chemical castration. As one addict seeing Dr. Kafka put it, "sex is dead''.  And sex, affiliative sex, with his wife? "I'm good for maybe a minute, if at all.'' So, Dr. Kafka is likely mistaken. Still, it is hopeful that there is indeed a cure that works, as a starting point.

What about the abuse theory?
... Common wisdom has it that the sexually compulsive or the sexually deviant were often themselves victims of abuse. ''The fact is,'' Kafka says, ''only one-quarter to one-third of my patient population suffered physical or sexual abuse, and many of them had unremarkable childhoods, as far as I can see.'' Which is why Kafka, who acknowledges the need for a multimodal approach and does refer men for psychotherapy, treats his patients with medication. In Morrill's case, the pill was Celexa, a newer version of Prozac. 

In one case Celexa removes a cross dresser's behaviors which had continued for 28 years and also restores normal sex with his wife.
The difference between Vince and Bill Morrill is that Vince enjoys what sounds like a very ''normal'' sex life with his wife. ''Three times a week,'' he says. ''I have no trouble. My orgasms are actually better on the Celexa than they were off. It's because on the Celexa I can really concentrate on my wife's body and not on the fantasies and fetishes. My wife is gorgeous. She's petite, five-three, 110 pounds. We take our time.''

He goes on to describe his recovery in still more detail. ''The fetishisms were like all this static,'' he says. ''Now the static's cleared away, and what's left is my real desire. My head feels like a whole new thing.

... "it is interesting to speculate that normal male sexual arousal resides in one area of the brain, deviant sexual arousal in another, and that the S.S.R.I.'s work by targeting one arousal system while sparing another,'' he says. ''That's an interesting, plausible hypothesis, and one that wouldn't surprise me.''

Another possibility is this: the higher the intensity of any drive, the more polymorphous its manifestations. The S.S.R.I.'s may work in paraphilias and sexual addiction not by deleting but by pruning, so that the person's core sexuality is finally free to emerge. This hypothesis lies close to the idea some psychiatrists hold that the paraphilias are simply another form of obsessive compulsive disorder (O.C.D.) and that the S.S.R.I.'s work not because they target sexual arousal but because they reduce ruminative thoughts and repetitive behaviors in all kinds of conditions. ''I hate that idea,'' Kafka says. ''The paraphilias and P.R.D.'s are not a form of O.C.D. People who have O.C.D. do not have an appetite-disregulation disorder. O.C.D. is not about appetite. Sexual-impulse disorders are all about appetite.''

... However, reductive or not, Kafka is doing something right. He appears to have ''cured,'' or restored to better balance, hundreds of men, many of whom are dangerous, all of whom are, by their own standards at least, terribly twisted. Kafka's patients love him. ''He is the guy,'' Jim says. ''He saved my life,'' Bob says. - nytimes

Great article, Lauren Slater. Many depressed people self medicating with sex may be just one Celexa prescription away from a more healthy happy life.
Citalopram is an antidepressant drug used to treat major depression associated with mood disorders. It is also used on occasion in the treatment of body dysmorphic disorder and anxiety. Citalopram belongs to a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It is sold under the brand-names Celexa... Citalopram is generally considered safe and well-tolerated in the therapeutic dose range of 20 to 60 mg/day.

Side effects of citalopram include weight gain and possible increased suicidal thoughts in people under 24 years old, plus a few others:
... Citalopram can have a number of adverse effects. In clinical trials, over 10% of patients reported one or more of the following side effects: fatigue, drowsiness, dry mouth, increased sweating (hyperhidrosis), trembling, headache, dizziness, sleep disturbances, insomnia, cardiac arrhythmia, hallucinations, blood pressure changes, nausea and/or vomiting, diarrhea, heightened anorgasmia in females, impotence and ejaculatory problems in males. In rare cases (around over 1% of cases), some allergic reactions, convulsions, mood swings, anxiety and confusion have been reported. Also sedation may be present during treatment of citalopram. If this occurs it is advisable to take the dose at bedtime instead of in the morning.

If you know someone with this problem, the risks may be worth it. Or perhaps certain foods, natural supplements or behaviors such as exercise can have the same benefits without the side effects?
There is actually quite a lot of recent research regarding the effects of antidepressants compared to the effect of walking for 30 minutes every day. Walking has the same if not better results after a few weeks, but in the long run and studying relapses of depression, walking seems to be a better treatment. The problem is that doctors find it hard to prescribe walking, as the patients doesn't take this seriously and may also feel as if they haven't been heard. Walking has next to no bad side effects, antidepressants do - they mess up our whole system. - yahoo

If you have a sexual compulsion, depression or anxiety, start simple: Form a new habit: 30 to 45 minutes of exercise per day. Try this for a week, and note any improvements. If you still have symptoms, try natural anti-depressants.
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a third natural antidepressant shown by clinical research to treat depression effectively. 5-HTP, an amino acid, allows your body to increase levels of serotonin, a mood-related neurotransmitter, in the brain. Low serotonin levels have been linked to depression, and many prescription antidepressants work by increasing serotonin activity. For most people, taking 50-300mg of 5-HTP per day helps improve mood in just a few weeks without causing side effects. Some websites discuss concerns over the safety of 5-HTP, but these misconceptions are unfounded. In fact, 5-HTP has an excellent safety record, and extensive research has shown it to be one of the safest natural antidepressants available. 5-HTP is a good choice for a natural antidepressant when used alone, but it may work best as a natural antidepressant when combined with St. John's Wort.- amoryn

Here is the pathway from tryptophan to serotonin

Most supplement providers recommend 50 mg or 100 mg 5-HTP, one to three times per day. Most clinical studies have tested doses of 200-300 mg/day. - wiki

An Indonesian woman with metal wires "growing" out of her?


Her name is NOORSYAIDAH. A 40 years old kindergarten teacher from Sangatta, East Kutai. Her first symptoms started manifestating in 1991. The metal wires grew out of her chest and her belly. There was no explanation then (or even now). During the first week wires kept falling off from her body and were gone. A month later, the wires grew back again and from that time onward the wires did not fall. They kept growing!

One of her sisters said that she tried to help by trimming the wires. Alas, whenever she trimmed the wires, the wire retreated as if it were hiding and then popped up in another part of Noorsyaidah’s body. -myterytopia

Her attempt for recovery, from modern medics, alternative treatment to paranormals have been done, but still these wires that grew from within her stomach and chest does not dissapear.
Noorsyaidah had also tried going for treatment out of her hometown to the reknown hospital in her town. However, fate is not on this 40 year old woman from Kalimantan, Indonesia, as after these wires were pulled out of her body, they grew again in the next few days. “It’s up to God now” she said softly resigning to her fate. ... Wires shape is just like any other wire that easily oxydized, length varying from 10-20 cm and they come in many colors from black, yellow and brown.- myinteretingfiles

This article is poorly written. What type of metal is this wire? Saying "just like any other wire" is not useful.
"There have been 4 Medical Specialists taking this matter seriously and have treated her in several ways."

A real article would give at least the lead doctor's name as well. Bad reporting. My guess is that she has some serious mental problems and is sticking these wires in herself.  Can anyone translate what is actually being said in the video? Are the doctors actually confused about her condition, or does she just have a personality disorder?

Mysterytopia had this to say:
000004048100120459501... They looks like a living phenomenon. The wires are able mobile and therefore can change location at will, Thus the doctors are forced to use a magnet to scan the exact position of the wires. The wires bursted out without any symptoms of Tetanus, but she said that they’re hurting her like when needles sting."

The most logical explanation is that she does this self mutilation for attention. If I'm wrong, I'd like to know.
She says the wire-hanger-like metal has grown, fallen out and grown anew on her body for the last 17 years. She said she had given many of the wires to researchers, doctors, or visitors for research, diagnostic purposes or as curios. The hospital, which conducted an X-ray photo earlier this month, diagnosed the symptoms as “unusual in the medical world”. “We call the wires alien things…. This is really a very unusual case,” hospital director Sirafuddin said. Sirafuddin said the hospital suggested surgery to remove the wires, but Noor declined, despite having pursued a number of alternative treatments to no avail. Noor said that last week three more wires came out, two on her chest and the other on her belly. The hospital reports there are currently a total of 35 wires protruding from Noor’s body. “God probably wants to show His Almightiness through this odd disease,” Noor. -alliancetable

Realm of the Bizzare: How to become invisible

Is the ability to make objects invisible already in the hands of scientists at Stanford? Dr. Ruehl has the answers for his viewers, and a few less-than-scientific thoughts on the subject. He also has some information about new facials being given in Japan. If you’re squeamish about the subject of bird poop, maybe you should wait for episode 36. Lastly, we have a disturbing tale of revenge, and an odd account of what can, but shouldn’t, get you evicted.

Video here. This guy is wild.

British Military UFOs

...The current electric saucer, which formed part of Team MIRA at the recent MoD "Grand Challenge" ambush-sniffing tech contest, can normally stay up for just two and a half minutes. The new Fenstar 50 is expected to manage up to an hour, carrying a payload of 5kg - a quarter of its all-up weight. GFS aims to keep the total weight under 20kg, as this is the most that the CAA allows under model aircraft rules. Any more would take the company into the hugely more onerous certification regime for full-sized aircraft.

Even at 20kg, however, the Fenstar 50 will be significantly bigger and more capable than one of its main rivals, the Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) from Honeywell. The MAV uses a ducted fan rather than a GFS-style Coanda surface, but this offers similar advantages - neither vehicle has projecting helicopter-style rotors. Both of them can thus fly about happily in between buildings, and perhaps in and out of doors and windows etc. Both could be very useful as reconnaissance machines for soldiers, especially in dangerous urban combat - indeed Honeywell's machine has already seen action in Iraq. The MAV runs on a two-stroke petrol engine like the Fenstar, and offers similar endurance, though it weighs just 7.25 kg and can barely lift a pair of cameras. - theregister

Amber Kloss in a Music Video

My friend Amber had a little part in a Bryan Hawn music video (she's the blonde judge near the end.) I can't say that Bryan's is my type of music, but it is always a kick in the pants to see what Amber is up to after moving from Sacramento down to LA.

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain's veep choice is historic and hardly known

In two short years, Sarah Palin moved from small-town mayor with a taste for mooseburgers to the governor's office and now — making history — to John McCain's side as the first female running mate on a Republican presidential ticket.

She has more experience catching fish than dealing with foreign policy or national affairs.

Talk about a rocketing ascent.

In turning to her, McCain picked an independent figure in his own mold, one who has taken on Alaska's powerful oil industry and, at age 44, is three years younger than Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and a generation younger than McCain, 72.

Palin's selection was a jaw-dropper, as McCain passed over many other better known prospects, some of whom had been the subject of intense speculation for weeks or months. "Holy cow," said her father, Chuck Heath, who got word something was up while driving to his remote hunting camp.

Palin had been in the running-mate field but as a distinct long shot.

She brings a strong anti-abortion stance to the ticket and opposes gay marriage — constitutionally banned in Alaska before her time — but exercised a veto that essentially granted benefits to gay state employees and their partners.

"She knows where she comes from, and she knows who she works for," McCain said in introducing her to an Ohio rally. "She stands up for what's right, and she doesn't let anyone tell her to sit down." He said: "She's exactly who I need."

Said Palin: "I didn't get into government to do the safe and easy things. A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not why the ship is built."

Democrats seized on the gaping experience gap and said McCain now has no business questioning the seasoning of their nominee. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said McCain was taking a "roll of the dice" and declared that Palin's "lack of experience makes the thought of her assuming the presidency troubling."

What the heck? Weird.  I would not have predicted this choice. Perhaps that's the point. McCain is sending a message that he has a few surprises in store if elected. Obama is still my pick. Palin as president?

Here is some video of Palin.

What is great is that we will now definitely have either the first black President or the first female Vice President of the USA in about 144 days!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Putin says suspects U.S. provoked Georgia crisis

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he suspected unnamed persons in the United States had provoked the conflict in Georgia in an attempt to help a candidate in the U.S. presidential election.

Putin said Moscow suspected that U.S. nationals were present in the war zone in Georgia and the Russian military produced a copy of a U.S. passport it said had been retrieved after a bloody clash between Russian troops and Georgian special forces.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Putin's allegations, made in an interview on CNN, were "patently false" and the U.S. State Department said it was "ludicrous" for the Russians to say they were not responsible for what had happened in Georgia.

In extracts of the interview broadcast on Russian state television, Putin did not say who may have been involved or which of the candidates -- Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain -- was to have been the beneficiary. ...

At a news briefing in Moscow, Russia's deputy chief of the General Staff, Col. General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, said Moscow's forces had retrieved from a battlefield in Georgia a U.S. national's passport.

He showed an enlarged, color photocopy of the document which was in the name of a Michael Lee White, born in 1967. The passport, issued in the Texas city of Houston, bore a current visa from Kazakhstan. U.S. citizens do not require a visa for Georgia. - reuters, iht

Some hawkish pro-Kremlin politicians have claimed US Republicans could have provoked the war to keep Democratic candidate Barack Obama out of the White House by fomenting concern among US voters over security, an area in which they say Americans trust Republican John McCain more. - gmanews

Wow. Interesting.

First Extraterrestrial (computer) Virus Discovered on Space Station?

Could this be the first space-borne computer virus ever discovered? It would appear that the International Space Station, orbiting at over 330 km (180 miles) above the planet, is not immune to software problems more commonly associated with computers down here on Earth. Over the last few days, astronauts on board the ISS have been tracking down a fairly benign gaming worm used by hackers to gather personal information. Although this type of virus is not considered a threat to space station operations, it does raise some questions about how the virus got up there and why the station's computers were not protected.

The virus in question is the W32.Gammima.AG worm and it is used to automatically gather user information of people accessing online games. According to Symantec, the W32.Gammima.AG worm has a "risk level" of 1, or "very low." Once infected with this worm, it will copy itself onto several files on the host computer, modify the operating system's registry and then steal user data from a number of installed online games. The main point to remember about a computer worm, is that it embeds itself into a computer's software, executes its task and then transmits sensitive data via the Internet to a remote attacker. It is not intended to do obvious harm to the host computer, it is intended to hide in the background, waiting to carry out its task.

Unless the ISS crew have been connecting to the Internet to play online games recently, it is very doubtful the personal information of the astronauts will be at risk. But this isn't the main concern; how did the virus get there in the first place? Is the ISS vulnerable to future infection (whether it is an accidental or malicious attack)?

According to the transcript released by NASA at a space operations meeting last week (ISS 30P SORR), they very briefly outline the situation and offer some explanation as to how the infection may have happened:
Special Topic on Virus detected onboard

- W32.Gammima.AG worm. This is a level 0 gaming virus intended to gather personal information.
- Virus was never a threat to any of the computers used for cmd and cntl and no adverse effect on ISS Ops.
- Theory is virus either in initial software load or possibly transferred from personal compact flash card.
- Working with Russians (and other partners) regarding ground procedures to protect flown equipment in the future.
- It was noted that most of the IP laptops and some of the payload laptops do NOT provide virus protection/detection software

What I find surprising is that most of the computers on board the ISS do not carry basic anti-virus software. Although space is at a premium on the station, surely provision should be made to protect against viruses from Earth, especially if personal compact flash cards are coming close to operational systems?

NASA may have dodged a bullet on this one. There are many more malicious and aggressive viruses on terrestrial computers that could cause serious damage in space, especially on unprotected station systems, the crew were lucky the W32.Gammima.AG worm was not a more virile entity.

On briefly looking through the space station daily reports from the NASA operation web pages, it would appear that cosmonaut Sergey Volkov has taken charge of purging the ISS computers of any trace of the worm using Norton AntiVirus:

  • Working on the Russian RSS-2 laptop, Sergey Volkov ran digital photo flash cards from stowage through a virus check with the Norton AntiVirus application. - ISS Daily Reports (Aug. 14th)

  • Sergey checked another Russian laptop, today RSK-1, for software virus by scanning its hard drives and a photo disk with the Norton AntiVirus application. - ISS Daily Reports (Aug. 21st)

  • CDR Volkov began his day by downlinking yesterday’s Norton AntiVirus (NAV) data from the RSK-1 laptop scan. Later in the day, FE-2 Chamitoff also ran the scan on the SSC (Station Support Computer) to be used for downloading today’s 1553-bus comm files of the JEMRMS (Japanese Experiment Module/Robotic Manipulator System) Checkout #4 from the RLT (RMS Laptop Terminal) to the OpsLAN for downlinking. [All A31p laptops onboard are currently being loaded with latest NAV software and updated definition files for increased protection.] - ISS Daily Reports (Aug. 22nd)

Let's hope this will be a lesson to space station operations to tighten up the use of unregulated personal software (i.e. personal compact flash cards) and install basic anti-virus software the combat this problem from happening in the future.

Original Source: SpaceRef - From UniverseToday

From papyrus to cyberspace: Israel to make Dead Sea Scrolls available online

Scientists and scholars in Jerusalem have begun a programme to take the first high-resolution, digital photographs of the Dead Sea Scrolls so they can be made available to the public on the internet.

The Israel Antiquities Authority this week ends a pilot project that prepares the way for a much larger operation to photograph the 15-20,000 fragments that make up the 900 scrolls which were discovered 60 years ago by shepherds in caves close to the Dead Sea.

The scrolls were first photographed in the 1950s, after their discovery, and have since then been kept in specially monitored conditions in a vault in Jerusalem. Only four specially-trained curators are allowed to handle them.

Now, in a project that could take five years and will cost millions of dollars, the fragments will be photographed first by a 39-megapixel colour digital camera, then by another digital camera in infra-red light and finally some will be photographed using a sophisticated multi-spectral imaging camera, which can distinguish the ink from the parchment and papyrus on which the scrolls were written. - garduk

Hacker loses extradition appeal

A Briton accused of hacking into secret military computers has lost his appeal against extradition to the US.

Glasgow-born Gary McKinnon was said to be "distraught" after losing the appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. He faces extradition within two weeks.

The unemployed man could face life in jail if convicted of accessing 97 US military and Nasa computers.

The 42-year-old admitted breaking into the computers from his London home but said he sought information on UFOs. - bbc

The wheels of justice move slowly. He claims he found photo evidence of UFOs.  It seems more likely that he found some false information set up to catch snoopers. Sometimes it seems to me that the US government actually wants everyone to believe it is hiding information about aliens and UFOs.
In 2006, a Freedom of Information Act request was filed to NASA for all documents pertaining to Gary McKinnon. NASA's documents consisted of printed news articles from the Slashdot website, but no other related documents. This is consistent with NASA employees browsing internet articles about Gary McKinnon, the records of which are public domain. The records have been uploaded to the internet for review, and can be downloaded from

New technique finds a faster way to change one cell type into another

Harvard researchers have transformed one type of pancreas cell in living mice into another - the insulin- producing cells that are destroyed in type 1 diabetes - potentially giving stem cell scientists a powerful new way to one day grow replacement tissues for patients.

The technique, which the researchers said improved diabetic symptoms in the mice, is faster than another pioneering method, in which scientists turn mature adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells that have the capacity to become any cell in the body.

The new technique, reported online yesterday in the journal Nature, is years away from having benefits for diabetic patients, according to Douglas Melton, a co-author and co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. But other researchers said it was an exciting demonstration that could spur scientists to think more broadly about converting mature cells of all types into another type in the same organ - taking, for example, a bit of heart tissue and transforming it into cardiac muscle.  ...

Two years ago, Japanese scientists altered stem cell science with their report that it was possible to reprogram a cell, turning it into an embryonic-like stem cell called an iPS cell, which was capable of turning into any cell in the human body. Melton's team has shown it's possible to skip that stem cell-like state altogether.

Melton and colleagues painstakingly identified which genes were likely to trigger the cell switch by sorting through more than 1,000 genes and winnowing them down to ones that played a role in the development of insulin-producing cells. They found that by injecting viruses carrying three genes into mice, they could turn the pancreatic cells into beta cells that produce insulin. - boston

Nice bit of bio hacking.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Solar plane makes record flight

A UK-built solar-powered plane has set an unofficial world endurance record for a flight by an unmanned aircraft.

The Zephyr-6, as it is known, stayed aloft for more than three days, running through the night on batteries it had recharged in sunlight.

The flight was a demonstration for the US military, which is looking for new types of technology to support its troops on the ground.

Craft like Zephyr might make ideal platforms for reconnaissance.

They could also be used to relay battlefield communications.

Chris Kelleher, from UK defence and research firm QinetiQ, said Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) offer advantages over traditional aircraft and even satellites.

"The principal advantage is persistence - that you would be there all the time," he told BBC News. "A satellite goes over the same part of the Earth twice a day - and one of those is at night - so it's only really getting a snapshot of activity. Zephyr would be watching all day." - bbc

Quit smoking, but avoid Chantix

Read this. Suicide, freaky dreams, violent behavior... not good.
The drug would appear to be at a crossroads—perhaps the worst, rarest adverse reactions have been reported, perhaps more cases are still to come. Pfizer says no lawsuits have been filed, but there are certainly injury lawyers hungrily putting up Chantix Webpages. Smokers who want to quit are left with a more difficult decision—and the strong advice, if they do take the drug, to be on the lookout for mood changes.

After a few weeks on Chantix, I had managed to stop smoking altogether—but it didn’t feel like a triumphant turn of events. I’d become rather reclusive, avoiding calls from friends, and basically just shuttling back and forth between my office and my apartment. I began to dread six o’clock; it meant I had to walk through the streets again. The subway was now out of the question; it made me too nervous. I stopped going to the gym, too.

I wondered whether Chantix was zapping my brain’s pleasure-delivery system to such a degree that not only did I find no reward in cigarettes, but I also found no reward in socializing, exercising, writing, or any of my usual self-stimulating tricks. I’d pace the floor, sit on the bed, channel surf, pace some more, try to read, but the room had a stale, sinking feeling. - nymag

New Cervical Cancer Treatment

Cervical cancer kills nearly 4,000 American women annually, and about 11,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2008. Treatments up to this time have included chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Now a new means of delivering radiation called “Gynocyte” is in the final stages of launch. Gynocyte improves on the old method of radiation treatment, in which a clumsy and painful metal device was inserted in the vagina for a three-day period. According to Aaron Wolfson, M.D., from the University of Miami, the old device could fall out and was not capable of delivering a high dose of radiation. ... Gynocyte [is] a simple plastic cylinder about seven to ten inches long that conducts radiation pellets to the cancer site and holds them in place for two to three days. According to Wolfson, “It allows us to give a very intense amount of radiation to the tumor with little damage to the nearby and normal tissues. You can give enough dose to cure the cancer without harming the patient.” Wolfson says it’s safer than the old device and can often be used without pain medication. Also, while the old device was only 60 to 70 percent effective, clinical trials show that Gynocyte has a success rate approaching 90 percent. - newsmax

Some basic information about this disease:
Cervical cancer accounts for 2.5% of all cancers diagnosed in American women today. The cervix is the narrow neck of a woman's uterus, found just above the vagina. Nine out of ten cervical cancers initiate in the surface cells that line the cervix. In some women, the healthy cells enter a phase called dysplasia. These cells are not always cancerous but they can easily become so. Dysplasia is most likely to occur in women ages 25-35. Women who began having sexual intercourse before the age of 18, have had multiple partners, have had several pregnancies or have a history of sexually transmitted disease are more likely to develop dysplasia or cervical cancer.

When dysplastic cells become malignant, carcinoma in situ results. Carconoma in situ normally afflicts women between the ages of 30-40. It usually takes many years for dysplasia to become carcinoma in situ. Each year 55,000 new cases of carcinoma in situ are diagnosed.

When cancer cells multiply and spread to surrounding tissues, the bloodstream or lymphatic system can become infected. It takes months and even years for cervical cancer to become invasive cancer. Invasive cancer appears mostly in women between the ages of 40-60. Cases of invasive cancer have risen to 15,000 new diagnoses a year.

Because the progression of cervical cancer takes so long and with the advent of the Pap Smear, it is the easiest cancer to diagnose and cure. When caught early and even in its advanced stages, the cure rate and liklyhood of surviving at least five years is as high as 60%. Even when the cancer has spread to nearby organs the survival rate stays high.

Four out of every five cervical cancers are linked to sexually transmitted disease. Many women who have sexually transmitted diseases do not go on to develop cervical cancer, but not every woman with cervical cancer has a history of infection. Genetic factors also play a part in the determination of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer also seems more prevalent in women who smoke. Currently there is no scientific evidence that smoking causes cervical cancer. But researchers believe that smoking makes your immune system more susceptible to viral infections and other such illnesses. - essortment

Virtually all deaths from cervical cancer are preventable, yet the disease will kill almost 4,000 women in this country this year. ... "Cervical cancer shouldn't be a cause of death anymore, in fact it shouldn't be a problem anymore," said Dr. Stephen J. McPhee of the University of California-San Francisco. - mindful

A growing list of things that should help.

1) Stop smoking NOW. (but avoid Chantix)
2) Eat spicy foods.

Kiron, A two-headed person born in Bangladesh

Police have been called in to control the crowds after a two-headed baby was born in Bangladesh. More than 150,000 people - almost double the size of the crowds at Wembley Stadium - have surrounded a hospital after news spread that a baby boy had been born with two heads. Police were called in to control the masses as the baby was moved from one hospital to another for security reasons. Officials feared that unless the baby was moved from the clinic in Bangladesh, where he was born, to a more secure hospital, the crowd would force their way in to gaze at the amazing sight.

If that happened, it was feared, mother and baby would be crushed. In the past babies born with physical abnormalities have been viewed in countries such as Bangladesh and India as living gods. Last night the boy, named Kiron, was under police protection as doctors tried to determine whether he had any future. Kiron was born in a caesarean operation on Monday, weighing 5.5kg, in Keshobpur, 100 miles from the capital, Dhaka.

'He has one stomach and he is eating normally with his two mouths,' said gynaecologist Mohamad Abdul Bari.  'He has one genital organ and a full set of limbs.' ... Dr Bari said the baby developed from one embryo 'but there was a developmental anomaly.' ... 'We fear the crowds are going to grow even bigger as word spreads.

'People are desperate to have a look at this baby. 'We had to call the police to control the situation at the clinic and now the police are on 24-hour guard at the hospital.' - dailymail

Kiron, similar to Abby and Britney Hensel, is two distinct people, Dicephalus conjoined twins ... but Krion is even more fused. Amazing.  I hope they make it.  Here is some detail on how and when this happens.
Conjoined twinning, however, only arises when the twinning event occurs at about the primitive streak stage of development, at about 13-14 days after fertilisation in the human, and is exclusively associated with the monoamniotic monochorionic type of placentation. It is believed that the highest incidence of conjoined twinning is encountered in the human. While monozygotic twinning may be induced experimentally following exposure to a variety of agents, the mechanism of induction of spontaneous twinning in the human remains unknown. All agents that are capable of acting as a twinning stimulus are teratogenic, and probably act by interfering with the spindle apparatus. - nih

Would it really be an advantage to have two heads? Could one sleep while the other was awake, for example?

The number of birth defects in India is higher than you think...
The fourth annual meeting of World Alliance of Organisations for the Prevention of Birth Defects (WAOPB) was held here today for the first time outside Europe and America. ... The world-level genetic scientists who participated in this meet were unanimous that every year, half a million babies with birth defects are born in India. The burden of genetic diseases is high in all countries but it is especially so in India and other developing countries, they observed. - expressindia

The number is lower in the US.
About 3% of U.S. babies -- around 120,000 newborns per year -- are born with any of 45 types of birth defects, says the CDC. - medscape

Then again, there are over 1.14 billion people in India and only 303 million in the US. The percentage of birth defects is higher in India, perhaps because it is more polluted or has poorer nutrition.  India's poor has been encouraged to eat rats in one Indian state, Bihar.

Number of birth defects per year / Number of births per year (2008).

44,640 babies are born in India everyday * 365 = 16,365,600 babies in India/yr

(120,000 / 4,318,000) * 100 = 2.78% USA

(500,000 / 16,365,600) * 100 = 3.06 % India

Is this difference "statistically significant"?

Here is a visual comparison of the populations of US and India:

Here is a comparison showing the actual sizes of the land masses.

The population density is much greater in India.

Cinderella, others arrested in Disneyland labor protest

Cinderella, Snow White, Tinkerbell and other fictional fixtures of modern-day childhood were handcuffed, frisked and loaded into police vans Thursday at the culmination of a labor protest that brought a touch of reality to the Happiest Place on Earth. ...

The arrest of the 32 protesters, many of whom wore costumes representing famous Disney characters, came at the end of an hour-long march to Disneyland's gates from one of three Disney-owned hotels at the center of a labor dispute.

Those who were arrested sat in a circle on a busy intersection outside the park holding hands until they were placed in plastic handcuffs and led to two police vans while hundreds of hotel workers cheered and chanted.

The protesters were arrested on a misdemeanor count of failure to obey a police officer and two traffic infractions, said Sgt. Rick Martinez of the Anaheim police. They were cited and released, Sgt. Chris Schneider said. Bewildered tourists in Disney T-shirts and caps, some pushing strollers, filed past the commotion and gawked at the costumed picketers getting hauled away. The protest shut down a major thoroughfare outside Disneyland and California Adventure for nearly an hour.

"It's changing my opinion of Disneyland," said tourist Amanda Kosato ... - cnn

'Complexity' of Neanderthal tools

Early stone tools developed by our species Homo sapiens were no more sophisticated than those used by our extinct relatives the Neanderthals.

That is the conclusion of researchers who recreated and compared tools used by these ancient human groups. The findings cast doubt on suggestions that more advanced stone technologies gave modern humans a competitive edge over the Neanderthals. The work by a US-British team appears in the Journal of Human Evolution. ...

The team analysed the data to compare the number of tools produced, how much cutting edge was created, the efficiency in consuming raw material and how long tools lasted. They found no statistical difference in the efficiency of the two stone technologies. In some respects, the flakes favoured by Neanderthals were even more efficient than the blades adopted by modern humans. ... The Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) appear in the fossil record about 400,000 years ago. At their peak, these squat, physically powerful hunters dominated a wide area spanning Britain and Iberia in the west, Israel in the south and Siberia in the east.

Meanwhile, Homo sapiens evolved in Africa, and displaced the Neanderthals after spreading into Europe about 40,000 years ago. The last known evidence of Neanderthals comes from Gibraltar and is dated to between 28,000 and 24,000 years ago. Lead author Metin Eren, from the University of Exeter, UK, said: "Technologically speaking, there is no clear advantage of one tool over the other. "When we think of Neanderthals, we need to stop thinking in terms of 'stupid' or 'less advanced' and more in terms of 'different'." - bbc

Cats with Wings

While most cats are renowned for having nine lives, these moggies are clearly living on a wing and a prayer. The cute little devils began sprouting bumps on their backs, which later turned into wing-like growths, during a recent spell of hot weather in China's Sichuan province. ... genetic experts claim there is nothing angelic or magical about the condition, which doesn't hinder the cat's quality of life. They say the wings can form through poor grooming, a genetic defect or a hereditary skin condition.

Creepy or Cool? Robo-Rat, the first robot controlled by a biological brain

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Official: Man wasn't a 'credible threat' to Obama

Authorities are investigating whether a man arrested with rifles, ammunition and drugs in his truck made statements threatening Barack Obama, but emphasize he never posed a "credible threat" to the candidate or the Democratic National Convention.

Officials arrested three men and a woman last weekend suspected of plotting to shoot Obama as he gave his acceptance speech for the presidential nomination.

One of the men arrested told KCNC-TV, the CBS affiliate in Denver, that others involved in the case had made racist statements regarding Obama and had discussed killing Obama on the day of the speech.

When asked if he felt there was a plot to kill Obama, Nathan Johnson said, "Looking back at it, I don't want to say yes, but I don't want to say no." Johnson was interviewed while being held in jail on drug charges. He said he wasn't involved in any plot.

Three senior FBI officials said it's unclear whether shooters could have had a clear path to hit the stage from outside the convention hall. At least two of the men may have had white supremacist ties, the officials said, adding that it was unclear whether any of them were serious about carrying out threats. - yahoo

US offers Afghans $29m reward for bin Laden

The US is erecting billboards in Afghanistan offering hefty rewards for Osama bin Laden, Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar and American al-Qa'ida member Adam Gadahn, the embassy said yesterday.

Ten of the Rewards for Justice boards were being erected countrywide, two of them in Kabul, embassy spokeswoman Corina Sanders said. They show a portrait of the turbaned Gadahn flanked by bin Laden and Mullah Omar. The US led an invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, which toppled the extremist Taliban regime, because it did not surrender al-Qa'ida leaders after the September 11 attacks on Washington and New York. The US has tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan searching for the fugitives, who Afghan officials claim are across the border in Pakistan, but they remain elusive.

The US Government's Rewards for Justice website offers up to $US25 million ($28.8 million) for information leading to the arrest of bin Laden, $US10million ($11.5 million) for Mullah Omar and $US1 million ($1.15 million) for Gadahn. - theau

See this:

Incense increases cancer risk

... incense is associated with "an increase in some types of lung cancer, and cancers of the upper respiratory tract, such as throat and mouth cancer", the Guardian reports. In what represents a terrible blow for hippies and Strategy Boutiques*, a 12-year study by Dr Jeppe Friborg and his colleagues of the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen supported previous research showing incense fug "contains cancer-causing chemicals such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons, carbonyls and benzene, which cause mutations to DNA in human cells".

Between 1993 and 1998, Friborg and associates quizzed more than 60,000 ethnic Chinese people in Singapore aged between 45 and 78. They asked "how much they used incense and collected detailed information on their lifestyle including their diet and how much they drank alcohol and smoked", and excluded "all participants who had previously had cancer".

In December 2005, the team checked back in on their original guinea pigs via detailed health records in Singapore's National Cancer Registry, finding that "325 had developed cancer of the upper respiratory tract and 821 had developed lung cancer".

Once they'd adjusted the figures to include other possible cancer-causing factors, such as smoking, the researchers discovered incense did indeed increase the risk of developing the aforementioned cancers. Specifically, for example, "the small risk of developing upper respiratory tract cancers nearly doubled in people who used incense regularly". - register

Burning incense, popular in places of worship and in people's homes, could be a cancer risk. Researchers in Taiwan found that the smoke produced by burning incense is laden with cancer-causing chemicals. Levels of one chemical believed to cause lung cancer were 40 times higher in a badly ventilated temple in Taiwan than in houses where people smoke tobacco. ... A PAH called benzopyrene, which is thought to cause lung cancer in smokers, was found in very high quantities inside the temple. Levels were up to 45 times higher than in homes where residents smoked tobacco, and up to 118 times higher than in areas with no indoor source of combustion, such as cooking fires. - bbc

Grazing cattle display animal magnetism

Researchers have explained why cattle will tend to face the same direction when grazing - a behaviour long known to herdsmen and hunters but previously attributed to either prevailing winds or the sun's position.

In fact, Reuters reports, they align their bodies along a north-south axis, suggesting the Earth's magnetic field is the "polarizing factor".

To prove it, Sabine Begall and colleagues at the University of Duisburg-Essen perused 8,510 Google Earth images encompassing 308 pastures and plains worldwide, plus "deer bed" impressions in snow created by around 3,000 deer in over 225 locations in the Czech Republic.

The team found that "whether grazing or resting, these animals face either magnetic north or south". Since the direction of the wind and sun "varied widely where the images were taken", it's reasonable to suggest they're reacting to the planet's magnetic influence.

Begall and colleagues reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: "Our results call for an in-depth study of this phenomenon and challenge neuroscientists, biochemists and physicists to study the proximate mechanisms and biological significance of magnetic alignment."

As Reuters notes, "birds, turtles and salmon are known to use the Earth's magnetic field to guide their migrations, while rodents and one bat species have been found to possess an internal magnetic compass". This is the first time, however, that large mammals have shown this kind of animal magnetism.

The team's report does, though, suggest that humans and whales are "suspected of having an innate magnetic compass", demonstrated by previous research showing that people who "sleep in an east-west position have far shorter rapid eye movement or REM sleep cycles... compared with north-south sleepers who got more REM sleep" - register

Man shoots himself five times in head and survives

An attempted suicide failed after an 84-year-old Argentine man who shot himself five times in the head miraculously survived.

The man also shot himself once in the stomach, state news agency Telam reported today.

"Despite the serious injuries he was even conscious when we found him. He could not speak, but he sat on a stool and made himself understood through gestures," police officer Herman Ruben Gab was quoted as saying.

The man, who lived alone, reportedly used a very old gun and ammunition. The gunpowder did not explode with as much power as would normally occur, according to police.

"Otherwise the first shot would already have been fatal," Gab said. - livenews

Problems with

All of my recent posts are disappearing. Not sure why... stay tuned.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Company loses data on criminals

A contractor working for the Home Office has lost a computer memory stick containing personal details about tens of thousands of criminals.

The Home Office was first told by private firm PA Consulting on Monday that the data might be missing. The lost data includes details about 10,000 prolific offenders as well as information on all 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales. The Home Office said a full investigation was being conducted. They said the police and the Information Commissioner had been informed. ...

The data on the stick also includes information from the Police National Computer of some 30,000 people with six or more convictions in the last year. Details of serving prisoners included names, addresses, dates of birth and in come cases release dates, said BBC political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg. The transfer of further data to PA Consulting on the project has been suspended pending the investigation. - bbc

Obama: Biden Will Be 'great' Vice-president

F.D.A. Allows Irradiation of Some Produce

The government will allow food producers to zap fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce with enough radiation to kill micro-organisms like E. coli and salmonella that for decades have caused widespread illness among consumers.

It is the first time the Food and Drug Administration has allowed any produce to be irradiated at levels needed to protect against illness.

“This is probably one of the single most significant food safety actions done for fresh produce in many years,” said Robert Brackett, chief scientist for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which petitioned the agency in 2000 to allow manufacturers to irradiate a wide variety of processed meats, fruits and vegetables and prepared foods.

Advocates for food safety condemned the agency’s decision and asserted that irradiation could lower nutritional value, create unsafe chemicals and ruin taste. ...

The government has long allowed food processors to irradiate beef, eggs, poultry, oysters and spices, but the market for irradiated foods is tiny because the government also requires that these foods be labeled as irradiated, labels that scare away most consumers.

“People think the product is radioactive,” said Harlan Clemmons, president of Sadex, a food irradiation company based in Sioux City, Iowa. - nyt

You gotta love that friendly "I've been irradiated" logo. It looks so green and safe. I'm not concerned about the radiation, but what about free radicals and increased risk of liver cancer?
irradiation increases the number of free radicals in the food and decreases the antioxidant vitamins that "neutralize" them.

Here are some concerns about irradiated foods:

  • FDA estimates the amount of Radiolytic Products (RP) in foods irradiated at 100 Krad at 0.3 parts per million (PPM). Source.

  • 100 Krad is the maximum permitted dose of irradiation for fruits and vegetables. Poultry may receive 3 x 100 Krad, red meat may receive 4.5 x 100 Krad, frozen meat may receive 7 x 100 Krad, spices receive 30 x 100 Krad. Therefore this calculation is a low estimate if people eat a diet containing irradiated meat and poultry as well as fruits and vegetables.

  • Assumes consumption of 7.5 ounces of irradiated foods with an average water content of 80% (fruits and vegetables range from 75-90%) with 0.3 PPM of RPs. 7.5 ounces is a large serving of fruit or one piece of fruit and one serving of poultry or meat.

  • If only 1 out of 10,000 RP molecules is a potential carcinogen, co-carcinogen or mutagen, then for every 7.5 ounce meal with 0.3 PPM of RPs, 2,560 potentially carcinogenic or mutagenic RP molecules will contact each cell in the adult liver. See the entire calculation.

  • Irradiation depletes anti-oxidant vitamins in food, which help regenerate the liver.

  • Over a long period of time, the RP assault on the liver combined with fewer anti-oxidants in the diet will create a "fertile field for the ultimate growth of cancer cells" and "almost certainly evolve" to produce liver cancer.

  • "Even at one-tenth the concentration of radiolytic products known by the FDA to be formed by irradiation at 100 Krad, irradiation of foods in the human diet represents predictably unacceptable risks to the public's health." - oc

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bear steals hubcap from car - then gives it back

A black bear surprised visitors to a safari park by stealing a hubcap from a car and then offering it to a woman driver. Azra Noonari, 39, was shocked to encounter pilfering behaviour from the wildlife at Woburn Safari Park, having had her own hubcaps stolen at home in Luton, Beds, just weeks beforehand. She was with her six-year-old daughter and two-year-old son on a day trip to the Bedfordshire park in July, when the bizarre incident took place.

"I was driving us to the bear and wolf area when I saw a car stopped right in front of me," she said. "There was a bear in front of it, so I stopped too and started taking pictures.

"I saw it take a hubcap off the car then start walking towards us. I locked all the doors quickly, we didn't know what it would do. "It put the hubcap down and then banged on the window, as if it was trying to get my attention. "It was almost like it wanted to give me the wheel cap." Mrs Noonari said the strange situation came only weeks after all four of her own hubcaps were taken. She added: "Maybe the bear thought I needed the hubcap.

"My little boy was crying but my daughter was enjoying it. She was saying, 'Oh my God mummy, look what he's doing'. "Quite soon after a park warden came along and shooed the bear away. "She asked me whose the hubcap was so it could be returned to the car in front. "It was very strange, I don't know what the bear was doing. - telegraph

Man-sized grouper declared new species

A man-sized grouper that trolls the tropical waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean for octopuses and crabs has been identified as a new fish species after genetic tests.

Called the goliath grouper, the fish can grow to six feet (1.8 meters) in length and weigh a whopping 1,000 pounds (454 kg). Until now, scientists had grouped this species with an identical looking fish (also called the goliath grouper, or Epinephelus itajara) living in the Atlantic Ocean.

"For more than a century, ichthyologists have thought that Pacific and Atlantic goliath grouper were the same species," said lead researcher Matthew Craig of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, "and the argument was settled before the widespread use of genetic techniques." - msnbc

Red-Light Cameras Just Don’t Work

Well, according to study after study, rather than improving motorist safety, red-light cameras significantly increase crashes and therefore, raise insurance premiums. In fact, the only studies that have shown any benefit to red-light cameras were either done by the IIHS…the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or researchers funded by them. How very strange, don’t you think?
The most recent study revealing the truth about the cameras was done by researchers at the University of South Florida College of Public Health.

“The rigorous studies clearly show red-light cameras don’t work,” said lead author Barbara Langland-Orban, professor and chair of health policy and management at the USF College of Public Health. “Instead, they increase crashes and injuries as drivers attempt to abruptly stop at camera intersections.”

Comprehensive studies from North Carolina, Virginia, and Ontario have all reported cameras are associated with increases in crashes. The study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council also found that cameras were linked to increased crash costs. The only studies that conclude cameras reduced crashes or injuries contained “major research design flaws,” such as incomplete data or inadequate analyses, and were always conducted by researchers with links to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The IIHS, funded by automobile insurance companies, is the leading advocate for red-light cameras since insurance companies can profit from red-light cameras by way of higher premiums due to increased crashes and citations. - ridelust

I hate those things. I too have been freaked out by them and have seen near accidents because of them.