Thursday, April 30, 2009

No Crackdown on Las Vegas Sex Clubs clubs offer nearly anything you want with anyone who's willing. They operate in a world of loose regulation, weak enforcement and an anything goes attitude.

Technically they are illegal. From wife-swapping to whips and chains, it's yours if you want it. There is a huge market for clubs that offer every fantasy imaginable for just an entrance fee. County code says that won't fly. So, why hasn't there been a crackdown? The answer is more complicated than you've heard before. It's where money, power and sex all come together.

"From bondage, to transgender to Bi to whatever else, we're the 'everybody else' club," said Mike Powers, Power Exchange. Powers is the owner and operator of Power Exchange, the newest sex club in Las Vegas. His sprawling two-level complex off Highland Drive is a fetish fantasy.

"It's part of an open-minded alternative aspect of society. Powers calls it a social club for like- minded people," Powers said, adding, "It's like the Elks Club or the Lions, kind of club for extreme interests, perverse interests or bizarre interests."

"None of them are licensed to be sex clubs," said David Cooper, who used to be in the sex club business until the county shut him down last year. Since then, he's been waging a one man war against sex clubs. "Sex clubs apparently are legal in Clark County because they are not prosecuting them, they're not going after them, they're not doing anything," said Cooper.

Clark County code calls sex clubs a "public nuisance." It defines them as places for "adult social sexual encounters", where patrons can "voluntarily engage in and/or view" live sex. So, if the county prohibits it, how do the clubs stay in business? "I think the ordinance itself is a mess," said Allen Lichenstein, a prominent attorney. He is Cooper's former lawyer and he currently works for Power Exchange and other adult clubs.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it. There really isn't a problem," Lichenstein said. He says the county's code is confusing and up for interpretation. Read one way, it could lead to moral crusades.

"It's not prostitution, it's not drugs, it's not violence. Why should anyone else care?" Lichenstein does counsel potential clubs to find unique ways to work within the county code. They are licensed as nearly everything but a sex club because which would be illegal. There are licenses for tanning salons, clothing and accessories shops, and restaurants. Club owners do operate those on site too but it's only a small portion of the bottom line.

via I-Team: Tricks of the Trade in Las Vegas Sex Clubs - Las Vegas Now.

People are such freaks.  I didn't know there was anything like this in Vegas. Not surprised, I guess.  The reason the cops there leave these places open is anyone's guess. Vegas is it's own little world.

The philosophical question--which applies to the rest of the world--that caught my attention with this is:  Why do we have so many unenforced laws?

Should we have laws which can not be enforced? I suppose so, but it's an odd way to run things.  I think of speeding, for example.  If they suddenly locked everyone up who had ever gone faster than the speed limit, would anyone still be on the road? Probably not. Just me. ;-) But if you got rid of the speed limit, people would go nuts and you'd have way more fatalities.  So, it seems that our society is filled with people who are always breaking the law, always getting away with something.  Fuzzy math. Approximation of correctness. Is this human nature?

Man Jumps Off Casino Ship On $15 Dare

An 18-year-old man jumped off a gambling cruise ship near Port Canaveral on a $15 dare and swam to Jetty Park, deputies said. James Raynor jumped off the Sun Cruz Casino ship at about 4 p.m. after accepting the dare from his friends, according to the Brevard County Sheriff's Office.

Raynor was not injured and had not been drinking, deputies said.

"The ship was already at the port. It was moving to the berthing area," Brevard County Sheriff's Office Lt. Vic DeSantis told Local 6 News partner Florida Today.

The Brevard County Sheriff's Office said a referral will be sent to the state attorney's office for a possible misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.

via Man Jumps Off Casino Ship On $15 Dare - Orlando News Story - WKMG Orlando.

Justice David Souter has decided to retire

Is Souter StayingJustice David Souter has decided to retire from the Supreme Court when the current term ends, NPR is reporting:

Souter is expected to remain on the bench until a successor has been chosen and confirmed, which may or may not be accomplished before the court reconvenes in October.

Reached at home, Supreme Court spokesperson Kathy Arberg repeatedly declined comment to Huffington Post on the report of Souter's resignation. Asked specifically if the report of Souter's planned resignation was inaccurate, Arberg repeated, "All I can tell you is no comment."

NPR's Nina Totenberg adds that Souter 69, has informed the White House of his decision and reports that President Obama intends to appoint a woman:

At 69, Souter is nowhere near the oldest member of the court, but he has made clear to friends for some time now that he wanted to leave Washington, a city he has never liked, and return to his native New Hampshire.

For more about Obama's potential Supreme Court picks, click here.


Who appointed him?
Souter was a Republican appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, largely on the recommendation of New Hampshire's former Gov. John Sununu, who had become the first President Bush's chief of staff. - npr

Helicopter sabotage targets Indian billionaire

Indian billionaire Anil Ambani leaves after casting his vote at a polling Anil Ambani does not wait in traffic.

The billionaire industrialist often commutes by helicopter, soaring far above the traffic jams that clog his sprawling hometown of Mumbai.

But Ambani's high-flying life could have ended last week — a complaint filed with police said pebbles and gravel were found in the chopper's engine — debris that could have caused the craft to crash.

The case took a bizarre twist this week: the technician who discovered the suspected sabotage turned up dead. Bharat Borge's body was discovered on suburban Mumbai railway tracks after he was apparently hit by a train — a death police are calling suicide but Borge's family believes was murder.

The intrigue is only the latest chapter in the Ambani saga, a multigenerational tale that began with an ambitious patriarch and includes warring brothers, Bollywood starlets, and egos that match their multibillion dollar fortunes.

The latest developments have gripped the country, with newspapers splashing the story across their front pages and TV news channels giving repeated updates.

Whoever placed the pebbles in the engine understood helicopters, senior pilot R.N. Joshi of Reliance Transport & Travels — one of Anil Ambani's companies — said in the police complaint. The chopper likely would have been able to take off, he said, but the debris would have entered the gear box and cut the power, bringing down the aircraft.

"Some persons, possible business rivals, were attempting to take away the life of Anil Ambani," said Joshi.

The alleged sabotage would not have been possible "without active involvement" of someone at the Mumbai company that maintained the Ambani helicopter, he said.

via Helicopter sabotage targets Indian billionaire.

Man asks to join brother in jail and gets his wish

Police said a man wanted to go to jail with his arrested brother, so he shoved an officer and got his wish. David Jacob Ginnis, 35, pleaded guilty Wednesday to assault on a police officer and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, with the full sentence suspended.

Ginnis' brother got into a fight on Monday night and was arrested on a criminal trespass charge.

Police said Ginnis, who appeared intoxicated, approached the arresting officer and asked if he could speak with his brother, who was in the back of a patrol car.

After five minutes, Ginnis asked if he could join his brother in jail if he assaulted the officer.

The officer told him that would "not go well" for him, but Ginnis shoved the officer with his fist. He was arrested.

via Man asks to join brother in jail and gets his wish.

NASA to begin layoffs as shuttle retirement nears

The U.S. space agency NASA plans to eliminate 900 manufacturing jobs over the next five months as it prepares to retire its space shuttle fleet in 2010, NASA officials said on Thursday.

Space shuttles Atlantis and Endeavour sit on launch pads at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida The first 160 layoff notices go out on Friday, primarily to contractors producing the space shuttle fuel tanks outside New Orleans and the shuttle solid rocket boosters in Utah.

The prime contractors for those components are Lockheed Martin Corp and ATK Thiokol.

"This is the first significant loss of manufacturing capability," shuttle program manager John Shannon told reporters.

The three-ship shuttle fleet is due to be retired after eight more flights to finish building and equipping the International Space Station and a final servicing call to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Managers on Thursday settled on a May 11 launch date for shuttle Atlantis' 11-day mission to Hubble. Liftoff is set for 2:01 p.m. EDT (1801 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA officials said that they were monitoring the nationwide alert over the new swine flu, or influenza A (H1N1) flu virus, but so far the disease was not affecting any of its operations.

... Hoping to keep the new spaceships, named Orion, on track for a 2015 debut, NASA said earlier this week it had decided to produce only one version of the capsule with room for four astronauts, rather than the six-seater version that had been planned for flights to the station.

via NASA to begin layoffs as shuttle retirement nears.

Philippines threatens to deport foreign protesters

A Filipino policeman stops scantily-clad members of the People ...

A Filipino policeman stops scantily-clad members of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, as they tried to enter Manila Zoo, Philippines on Tuesday, April 28, 2009. The animal rights group is calling for a boycott of the zoo for allegedly making animals live like prisoners behind bars.

(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

The Philippine immigration chief warned foreign activists on Thursday that they can be deported for taking part in protests after a demonstration by bikini-clad members of the animal rights group PETA.

Protesters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals went to the Manila Zoo on Tuesday and posed for photographers while wearing heart-shaped signs that read "Have a Heart, Boycott the Zoo" over their bathing suits.

Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan said the activists — from Canada, Australia and Argentina — violated the conditions of their tourist visas and would be deported if they did not stop.

"They cannot just protest here, especially if it violates the culture of Filipinos," he said. "Foreigners should have no business joining these mass actions because it is tantamount to meddling in our country's internal affairs."

via Philippines threatens to deport foreign protesters.

There are many kinds of cages.

WHO to stop using term 'swine flu' to protect pigs

The World Health Organization announced Thursday it will would stop using the term "swine flu" to avoid confusion over the danger posed by pigs. The policy shift came a day after Egypt began slaughtering thousands of pigs in a misguided effort to prevent swine flu.

WHO spokesman Dick Thompson said the agriculture industry and the U.N. food agency had expressed concerns that the term "swine flu" was misleading consumers and needlessly causing countries to ban pork products and order the slaughter of pigs.

"Rather than calling this swine flu ... we're going to stick with the technical scientific name H1N1 influenza A," Thompson said.

The swine flu virus originated in pigs, and has genes from human, bird and pig viruses. Scientists don't know exactly how it jumped to humans. In the current outbreak, WHO says the virus is being spread from human to human, not from contact with infected pigs.

Egypt began slaughtering its roughly 300,000 pigs Wednesday even though experts said swine flu is not linked to pigs and not spread by eating pork. Angry farmers protested the government decree.

In Paris, the World Organization for Animal Health said Thursday "there is no evidence of infection in pigs, nor of humans acquiring infection directly from pigs."

Killing pigs "will not help to guard against public or animal health risks" presented by the virus and "is inappropriate," the group said in a statement.

via WHO to stop using term 'swine flu' to protect pigs.

Former 'enemy combatant' pleads guilty in Illinois

FILE - In this Jan. 16, 2009 photo released by the International Committee of A man who was locked up without charges for years pleaded guilty Thursday to training in al-Qaida camps and coming to the United States on a mission for the terrorist group the day before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Ali al-Marri, 43, admitted to one count of conspiring to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization. A second charge of providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization was dropped.

Al-Marri faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at his July 30 sentencing, though he will be credited for 18 months spent in civilian custody. His attorneys say they'll argue that he should get credit for the time spent in military custody, too — more than five years.

"Without a doubt, this case is a grim reminder of the seriousness of the threat we, as a nation, still face," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement Thursday. "But it also reflects what we can achieve when we have faith in our criminal justice system and are unwavering in our commitment to the values upon which this nation was founded and the rule of law."

Al-Marri's attorneys said their client, a married father of five from Qatar, chose to plead guilty to avoid the risk, if found guilty, of spending 30 years in prison.

"We thought (the plea) was the right approach to take based on the evidence the government allowed us to review over the last several weeks," attorney Andy Savage said outside the federal courthouse in Peoria.

When the judge asked al-Marri how would plead, the diminutive Bradley University graduate, seated at a table with his lawyers, paused briefly before answering without emotion, "guilty."

Al-Marri admitted he trained in al-Qaida camps and stayed in al-Qaida safe houses in Pakistan between 1998 and 2001, where he learned how to handle weapons and how to communicate by phone and e-mail using a code.

He also admitted meeting and having regular contact with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and with Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, who allegedly helped the Sept. 11 hijackers with money and Western-style clothing.

Al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident, was arrested in late 2001 while studying at Bradley in Peoria after federal authorities alleged he was tied to organizers of the 2001 attacks.

The Bush administration declared al-Marri an "enemy combatant" in 2003 and held him without charges for more than five years at a Navy brig in South Carolina. His attorneys say he was tortured there. ...

via Former 'enemy combatant' pleads guilty in Illinois.

Alabama man sleeps with gun and shoots himself

A 24-year-old man likely will rethink his habit of sleeping with a gun after police said his 40-caliber pistol discharged and hit him in the shoulder on Wednesday. A police detective said the wound was not life threatening.

The shooting at his apartment complex was ruled an accident.

via Alabama man sleeps with gun and shoots himself.

If he recently moved from California, I may know him.

Africans have world's greatest genetic variation have more genetic variation than anyone else on Earth, according to a new study that helps narrow the location where humans first evolved, probably near the South Africa-Namibia border.

The largest study of African genetics ever undertaken also found that nearly three-fourths of African-Americans can trace their ancestry to West Africa. The new analysis published Thursday in the online edition of the journal Science.

"Given the fact that modern humans arose in Africa, they have had time to accumulate dramatic changes" in their genes, explained lead researcher Sarah Tishkoff, a geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania.

People have been adapting to very diverse environmental niches in Africa, she explained in a briefing.

Over 10 years, Tishkoff and an international team of researchers trekked across Africa collecting samples to compare the genes of various peoples. Often working in primitive conditions, the researchers sometimes had to resort to using a car battery to power their equipment, Tishkoff explained.

The reason for their work? Very little was known about the genetic variation in Africans, knowledge that is vital to understanding why diseases have a greater impact in some groups than others and in designing ways to counter those illnesses.

Scott M. Williams of Vanderbilt University noted that constructing patterns of disease variations can help determine which genes predispose a group to a particular illness.

This study "provides a critical piece in the puzzle," he said. For example, there are clear differences in prevalence of diseases such as hypertension and prostate cancer across populations, Williams said.

"The human genome describes the complexity of our species," added Muntaser Ibrahim of the department of molecular biology at the University of Khartoum, Sudan. "Now we have spectacular insight into the history of the African population ... the oldest history of mankind.

"Everybody's history is part of African history because everybody came out of Africa," Ibrahim said.

via Africans have world's greatest genetic variation.

Mice attack nursing home war veteran

Nursing home residents chewed by mice A BEDRIDDEN war veteran was found on Anzac Day with bloody ears, hands, face and neck after being "severely chewed" by swarming mice at a southwest Queensland nursing home.

Opposition MP Ray Hopper said Queensland Health had been slow to respond to a mice plague at the Dalby Hospital, which includes a nursing home, leading to the attack on the 89-year-old man.

The man's daughter said staff found her father bleeding from bites to his head, neck, ears and hands on Anzac Day, Mr Hopper said.

"The top of his ears were severely chewed and he had bites to his head and neck,'' Mr Hopper said.

"His hands were covered in blood because he was trying to get the mice off him.

"We are talking about a health facility overrun by vermin. It's atrocious.''

Mr Hopper said the man was so distressed that doctors had put him on morphine to calm him down.

via Mice attack nursing home war veteran | National Breaking News |

For one, they should stop using peanut butter flavored shampoo at the nursing home.  ;-)

Evolution In A Test Tube: Scientists Make Molecules That Evolve And Compete, Mimicking Behavior Of Darwin's Finches

A group of scientists at The Scripps Research Institute has set up the microscopic equivalent of the Galapagos Islands—an artificial ecosystem inside a test tube where molecules evolve to exploit distinct ecological niches, similar to the finches that Charles Darwin famously described in "The Origin of Species" 150 years ago.

The work also demonstrates how, when given a variety of resources, the different species will evolve to become increasingly specialized, each filling different niches within their common ecosystem.

Conducted by Sarah Voytek, Ph.D., a recent graduate of the Scripps Research Kellogg School of Science and Technology, the work is intended to advance understanding of Darwinian evolution. Using molecules rather than living species offers a robust way to do this because it allows the forces of evolution to work over the course of mere days, with a trillion molecules in a test tube replicating every few minutes.


When Voytek and Joyce pitted the two RNA molecules in a head-to-head competition for a single food source, they found that the molecules that were better adapted to use a particular food won out. The less fit RNA disappeared over time. Then they placed the two RNA molecules together in a pot with five different food sources, none of which they had encountered previously. At the beginning of the experiment each RNA could utilize all five types of food — but none of these were utilized particularly well. After hundreds of generations of evolution, however, the two molecules each became independently adapted to use a different one of the five food sources. Their preferences were mutually exclusive — each highly preferred its own food source and shunned the other molecule's food source.

In the process, the molecules evolved different evolutionary approaches to achieving their ends. One became super efficient at gobbling up its food, doing so at a rate that was about a hundred times faster than the other. The other was slower at acquiring food, but produced about three times more progeny per generation. These are both examples of classic evolutionary strategies for survival, says Joyce.

via Evolution In A Test Tube: Scientists Make Molecules That Evolve And Compete, Mimicking Behavior Of Darwin's Finches.

Invisibility cloak edges closer

Invisibility cloak Scientists have rendered objects invisible under near-infrared light.

Unlike previous such "cloaks", the new work does not employ metals, which introduce losses of light and result in imperfect cloaking.

Because the approach can be scaled down further in size, researchers say this is a major step towards a cloak that would work for visible light.

One of the research teams describes its miniature "carpet cloak" in the journal Nature Materials.

This "carpet" design was based on a theory first described by John Pendry, from Imperial College London, in 2008.

Michal Lipson and her team at Cornell University demonstrated a cloak based on the concept.

Xiang Zhang, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, led the other team.

"Essentially, we are transforming a straight line of light into a curved line around the cloak, so you don't perceive any change in its pathway," he explained.

This is not the first time an invisibility cloak has been made, but previous designs have used metals, whereas the carpet cloak is built using a dielectric - or insulating material - which absorbs far less light.

"Metals introduce a lot of loss, or reduce the light intensity," said Professor Zhang. This loss can leave a darkened spot in the place of the cloaked object.

So using silicon, a material that absorbs very little light, is a "big step forward," he says.

via BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Invisibility cloak edges closer.

Court climax premature for Madonna of Orgasm Church church’s founder, artist Carlos Bebeacua who resides in Lövestad in southern Sweden, has been fighting a lengthy legal battle in his bid to have the Madonna of Orgasm Church registered as a faith community in Sweden.

Founded by Bebeacua in the early 1990s, the Madonna of Orgasm Church is centered on a similarly named painting by Bebeacua which sparked protests during the 1992 World’s Fair in Seville, Spain. “The orgasm is God, the orgasm should be worshiped,” Bebeacua once told the Kvällsposten newspaper.

... the court took issue with juxtaposition of the words “Madonna”, “orgasm”, and “church”.

“In the opinion of the administrative court of appeal, the intention of such a combination of words, even in relation to the registration of a community for religious activities, must be to offend, not only for those within the wider circles of the general public who have Christian leanings, but also in society in general,” wrote the court.

via Court climax premature for Madonna of Orgasm Church - The Local.

Humans are so crazy.

Judge won't let inmate change name to 'Sinner'

No, the judge said to a 23-year-old Nebraska prison inmate. You can't call yourself "Sinner Lawrence Bilskirnir." Court documents said Jonathan L. Thomas cited his Norse religion in seeking the name change, saying he "is a heathen and Thor is his 'High God.'"

But Lancaster County District Judge Steve Burns says government agencies need to closely track Thomas because of his criminal record and because there are three child-support cases against him.

Burns says Thomas' reasons do not satisfy the legal requirements.

In his ruling, Burns said that "simply because a person is a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim, they do not change their name to Moses."

via Judge won't let inmate change name to 'Sinner'.

Absurd. It's odd, yes, but he should be able to change his name to Sinner if he wants.  There are many people with the last name of "Sinner".

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sept. 11 Image For Kids Causes Furor

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has come under fire for a controversial Sept. 11 image that was placed in a disaster-preparedness coloring book for children.

The book shows children various disasters, including hurricanes and floods, but one of the pages displayed an illustration of the World Trade Center twin towers in New York. One of the towers has smoke and fire coming out of it, while an airplane is shown heading toward the other tower.

FEMA pulled the coloring book from its Web site on Tuesday after receiving complaints from parents.

via Sept. 11 Image For Kids Causes Furor - Orlando News Story - WKMG Orlando.

Should FEMA be in the business of teaching kids about the history of disasters (man made and natural) in the USA?

NewsDaily: New DNA coding to track mosquitoes, fight disease"DNA barcoding" -- a technique that quickly obtains a unique genetic code -- would be used to help identify mosquitoes that spread Elephantiasis, a disease formally known as lymphatic filariasis (LF).

It will be the first time that the genetic coding is deployed against a major world disease, backers of the plan said. DNA barcoding is inspired by the black lines on products that are scanned at supermarket checkouts.

"The problem is that there are a whole series of similar-looking mosquito species," said James Edwards, board president of the Philadelphia-based JRS Biodiversity Foundation which is working with the University of Ghana on the project.

"This will help identify them," he told Reuters in a telephone interview. Mosquitoes have widely differing abilities to transmit LF so identifying species can help refine use of insecticides.

"The ability to precisely identify mosquito species in this way is a promising advance in the battle against LF, an often disfiguring disease that today threatens 1 billion people across roughly 80 countries," a statement said.

"Over 120 million people have the parasitic infection and more than 40 million have been permanently disabled or disfigured," it said.

Elephantiasis results from a microscopic, thread-like worm spread between humans by a mosquito bite. The worm larvae can clog the lymph system and cause grotesque swellings.

via NewsDaily: New DNA coding to track mosquitoes, fight disease.

Identifying Hyenas By Their Giggle

To human ears, the laughs of individual hyenas in a pack all sound the same: high-pitched and staccato, eerie and maniacal. But every hyena makes a different call that encodes information about its age and status in the pack, according to behavioral neurologists from the University of California, Berkeley and the Université de Saint-Etienne, France. They have developed a way to identify a hyena by picking out specific features of its giggle.

The hyena does not laugh when it is having a good time. Rather, field biologists have noticed that hyenas make the sound when competing for food. The giggle is a sign of frustration, a call made by a subordinate animal when dominated by one of its peers.

To find meaning in the giggle, Nicolas Mathevon and his colleagues analyzed sounds made by 17 spotted hyenas kept in captivity. They developed an algorithm that can successfully identity an individual in the pack about half the time, by looking at the timbre and quality of a single note in its giggle. "It's like telling singers apart by having them sing one note and listening to the quality of that note," says Mathevon.

Their analysis also shows that the pitch of the giggle drops for older animals, and the giggles of animals that tend to be dominant are less variable. The next step will be to play different kinds of giggles to hyenas and test how the animals respond.

via Identifying Hyenas By Their Giggle.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine Trailer

Critics aren't very X-cited about it, but I love even bad science fiction.

Taliban threatens wave of attacks against US surge

Pakistan's battle for controlThe Taliban vowed Wednesday to launch a wave of attacks in a spring offensive as a surge of American troops arrives in Afghanistan, a threat delivered on the same day that 42 militants were reported killed in clashes.

Taliban leaders regularly boast of impending attacks that never materialize — such as proclaiming that hundreds or thousands of suicide bombers were waiting to attack around the country — but the new threat from a top-tier commander could signal a more aggressive stance.

A U.S. military spokesman said the Taliban's warning showed the militants are worried by the rising number of international troops. Mullah Berader, a top deputy to Taliban commander Mullah Omar, said the Taliban would unleash ambushes, roadside bombings and suicide attacks Thursday against foreign and Afghan troops, government officials and "whoever is supporting invaders in our country."

"As American and NATO countries plan to send more troops to Afghanistan, it is necessary for the Afghans and Afghan mujahedeen to defend their country," militant spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press in a statement that he attributed to Berader. Taliban fighters have increased attacks the last three years in a resurgence following the toppling of their radical Islamist regime by a U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.

President Barack Obama has ordered 21,000 more U.S. troops to the country to bolster the 38,000 American and 32,000 allied troops already in the country. Given the influx, U.S. commanders have long said they expect a spike in violence this summer, the season when Taliban attacks are most numerous. Many of the new troops will deploy to southern Afghanistan, the Taliban's stronghold. Col. Greg Julian, spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, called Berader's threat a sign that the U.S. is making the right move by pouring troops into the militants' southern strongholds, where they fund their operations with profits from opium poppies and heroin.

"This is a demonstration that this is the worst possible thing that could happen in their mind. They don't want to see an increase in troops because they know they will be forced away from their source of income and it could lead to their demise," Julian said.

The U.S. and other NATO countries now have some 70,000 soldiers in Afghanistan — a record level.

via Taliban threatens wave of attacks against US surge.

Tysabri May Treat Myelin Sheath Damage From MS

The drug Tysabri natalizumab appears to regenerate and stabilize damage done to the myelin sheath in people with multiple sclerosis MS, a study from drug makers Biogen Idec and Elan Corp shows.

MS is nervous system disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms experienced by MS patients are caused by damage to the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects nerve cells.

In this study, researchers used advanced MRI technology to measure lesions and normal brain tissue in patients who took either Tysabri, interferon beta-1a, or no drugs. After 12 months of follow-up, the 62 patients who took Tysabri showed remyelination when compared to the 26 who took inteferon beta-1a or the 22 patients in the control group.

The findings were presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, in Seattle.

"What we have seen in these MRI data suggest that Tysabri may have the capacity to repair and possibly restore some of the damaged myelin sheath that protects nerve fibers. Results from this study support the continued investigation of the potential effects of Tysabri on this process," lead investigator Dr. Robert Zivadinov, of the Jacobs Neurological Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., said in a news release.

Tysabri is approved for treatment of relapsing forms of MS in the United States and for relapsing-remitting MS in the European Union.

via - Yahoo

Evidence Of The 'Lost World': Did Dinosaurs Survive The End Cretaceous Extinctions? Lost World, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's account of an isolated community of dinosaurs that survived the catastrophic extinction event 65 million years ago, has no less appeal now than it did when it was written a century ago. Various Hollywood versions have tried to recreate the lost world of dinosaurs, but today the fiction seems just a little closer to reality.

New scientific evidence suggests that dinosaur bones from the Ojo Alamo Sandstone in the San Juan Basin, USA, date from after the extinction, and that dinosaurs may have survived in a remote area of what is now New Mexico and Colorado for up to half a million years. This controversial new research, published today in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica, is based on detailed chemical investigations of the dinosaur bones, and evidence for the age of the rocks in which they are found.

"The great difficulty with this hypothesis -- that these are the remains of dinosaurs that survived -- is ruling out the possibility that the bones date from before the extinction," says Jim Fassett, author of the research.

"After being killed and deposited in sands and muds, it is possible for bones to be exhumed by rivers and then incorporated into younger rocks" he explains. This is not the usual way in which fossil deposits of this kind form, but it has been shown to explain some other post-extinction dinosaur bones. Fassett has amassed a range of evidence that indicates that these fossils from the Ojo Alamo Sandstone were not exhumed and redeposited and that these dinosaurs really did live after the end Cretaceous extinction event.

via Evidence Of The 'Lost World': Did Dinosaurs Survive The End Cretaceous Extinctions?.

White House will probe presidential plane PR stunt

This undated image provided by the U.S. Air Force shows the current publicity The taxpayer bill for Monday's presidential plane flight over Manhattan was $328,835. The political cost to the Obama White House will be harder to calculate.

"It was a mistake ... and it will not happen again," President Barack Obama said.

But the origins of the government public relations stunt that went awry remained a mystery — and a potential political problem for Obama. The White House military office approved the photo op, which cost $35,000 in fuel alone for the plane and two jet fighter escorts.

"I think this is one of those rare cases where we can all agree it was a mistake," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said of Monday's "unfortunate" flight low over the Hudson River that for many on the ground evoked chilling memories of 9/11.

The sight of the huge passenger jet and an F-16 fighter plane whizzing past the Statue of Liberty and the lower Manhattan financial district sent panicked office workers streaming into the streets.

WCBS-TV in New York reported Tuesday that it had obtained a Federal Aviation Administration memo outlining the photo op. The memo acknowledged "the possibility of public concern regarding (Defense Department) aircraft flying at low altitudes" around Manhattan, but the TV station reported that the FAA demanded secrecy from the New York Police Department, the mayor's office, the Secret Service and the FBI.

A White House official has said the New York City mayor's office and other New York and New Jersey police agencies were told about the Boeing 747's flight. The official said the FAA, at the military's request, told local agencies that the information was classified and asked them not to publicize it.

White House officials did not say why new photos were needed of the plane that is sometimes used as Air Force One — Obama wasn't aboard the flight — or who the presumed audience of the planned photographs were.

via White House will probe presidential plane PR stunt - Yahoo! News.

The New Straits Times Online: Schoolgirls who claim to 'see' ghost spooked with hysterics ghostly apparition which spooked some 50 schoolgirls in Langgar here on Sunday made an appearance again this morning.

Another 17 girls from Forms One to Four of SMK Langgar became hysterical after they claimed they saw the apparition in the school canteen at 9.30am.

Kedah Education director Shahidan Abdul Rahman, in an immediate reaction, advised those affected by the incidents to stay home.

"We are still investigating the matter and I advise those still disturbed from the incidents to stay home," he said.

One of students, Nasroh Abdul Rahim, 14, said she fainted after seeing the apparition of a long-haired woman in a flowing white gown hovering in the canteen.

"I screamed and then blacked out after seeing the figure," she said when met at the school.

Incidentally, she was also one of the 50 girls who became hysterical when the 'ghost' appeared the first time.

Nasroh and her friends along with a few teachers were reciting the Yassin in the school surau when the 'ghost' reappeared. Her screaming sparked some of the others to become hysterical.

A bomoh, called in by the school to help check the problem, claimed he had caught a blur image of the 'ghost' on his handphone.

He said he was treating his daughter, Nur Fatihah Nani, who was among the 50 girls spooked in the first incident.

"Like Nasroh, my daughter is still very weak," he said.

via The New Straits Times Online: Schoolgirls who claim to 'see' ghost spooked with hysterics.

NKorea threatens nuke test if UN doesn't apologize

A mock North Korean Scud-B missile, left, and other South Korean ...North Korea warned Wednesday it will fire an intercontinental ballistic missile — or even carry out another nuclear test — unless the U.N. apologizes for condemning the regime's April 5 rocket launch.

By flaunting its rogue nuclear and missile programs, Pyongyang has raised the stakes in the escalating diplomatic tit for tat with the outside world. North Korea also said it would start generating nuclear fuel — an indication the regime will begin enriching uranium, another material used to make an atomic bomb.

North Korea is known for its use of brinksmanship and harsh rhetoric to force the West to react, but the threat of a nuclear test is significant.

Pyongyang conducted its first atomic test in 2006, and is thought to have enough plutonium to make at least half a dozen nuclear bombs. There are no indications, however, that scientists in the North have mastered the technology needed to make a nuclear warhead small enough to fit onto a missile.

Still, North Korea's April 5 rocket launch drew widespread international concern. Pyongyang claims the liftoff was a peaceful bid to send a communications satellite into space, but the U.S., Japan and others saw it as a furtive test of a delivery system capable of sending a long-range missile within striking range of Alaska.

The U.N. Council denounced the launch as a violation of 2006 resolutions barring the North from missile-related activity, and later imposed new sanctions on three North Korean firms.

Within hours of the sanctions, the North claimed it had begun reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods at its Yongbyon nuclear complex to harvest weapons-grade plutonium — a clear setback to years of negotiations on disarming the communist country.

The Security Council must apologize for infringing on the North's sovereignty and "withdraw all its unreasonable and discriminative resolutions and decisions" against the North, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Otherwise, the regime "will be compelled to take additional self-defensive measures," including "nuclear tests and test-firings of intercontinental ballistic missiles," the ministry said.

The U.S. criticized North Korea's latest maneuver.

"Let me just say very clearly that these threats only further isolate the North," said U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood. "We again call on the North Koreans to come back to the (negotiating) table ... We've heard these types of threats before."

via NKorea threatens nuke test if UN doesn't apologize.

Radio Shack employee punches customer

A Radio Shack employee faces disorderly conduct and battery charges for punching a customer. Police said the customer was trying to return an item Sunday, but the employee wouldn't let him. The customer then asked to talk to a manager.

That's when the 52-year-old male employee began punching the man. A bystander called 911.

The employee is due in court May 19.

- via AP

Swine flu is a man made virus ?

Investigative journalist from Washington Wayne Madsen says the outbreak of the swine flu virus is raising suspicions. The sources quoted by him say it could be manmade.

Gene splicing or not, this is not a time to be looking backward into the past. We just need to get on with the business of having our population reduced. ;-)

Another look at Two Lake Erie UFOs from Aug 18, 2006

What do you think about this? Some comments from the poster on Youtube:
Lake Erie UFO: A Closer Examination

What is depicted in the picture above?
Is it two jets several miles apart from each other?
Or two police cars several yards apart from each other?
Or is it what each of us want it to be?

UFO NEWS - On February 6th we posted Michael Lee Hill's UFO video captured on August 18th, 2006 on the shores of Lake Erie. Six days later it has generated a heated debate in the post's comments.

Many skeptics believe the lights pictured above are two distant jets coming at us in a landing pattern - appearing to hover. Other skeptics say these are two police cars driving across a hill at night - on parallel roads with distance forcing the perspective.

We don't think so.

1) Michael Lee Hill tells us he shot this in Eastlake, Ohio. In this topo map of the area you will see no hills near or across the shoreline.

2) If these aircraft are flying towards Eastlake then we can only find two destinations, Lost Nation Municipal Airport and Cuyahoga County Airport. Neither of these airports look the part for what would be obviously BIG planes on approach.

3) If these aircraft were coming in to Cleveland Airport they would be traveling from right to left.

4) In the frame grab above shouldn't there be an appreciable size difference between two aircraft of this size, miles apart — even with the alleged mirage affect?

UFO NEWS believes these two 'things' are flying about 20 feet apart from each other.

If anyone would like to further debunk this sighting I believe we must begin with these new ideas. - UFO NEWS

This footage is from the FOX News UFO segment 2/3/07. They cut out the good parts so I thought you might want to see the whole clip.


Best Video I've Seen Today - Songs around the world

I love this concept, bringing musicians all around the world together with technology. Great project. Worth watching!

By Jesus Diaz

If this video doesn't bring a tear to your eyes and makes you smile for the rest of the day, you are a cold hearted bastard. Watch it from beginning to end—you won't regret it.

This cover of Stand By Me was recorded by completely unknown artists in a street virtual studio all around the world. It all started with a base track—vocals and guitar—recorded on the streets of Santa Monica, California, by a street musician called Roger Ridley. The base track was then taken to New Orleans, Louisiana, where Grandpa Elliott—a blind singer from the French Quarter—added vocals and harmonica while listening to Ridley's base track on headphones. In the same city, Washboard Chaz's added some metal percussion to it.

And from there, it just gets rock 'n' rolling bananas: The producers took the resulting mix all through Europe, Africa, and South America, adding new tracks with multiple instruments and vocals that were assembled in the final version you are seeing in this video. All done with a simple laptop and some microphones.

I don't know about you, but it blew me away. Best version of Ben E. King's classic I've ever heard in my life. And I've probably heard between five and two billion of them. [Thanks to my friend Fernand

via as described on  Gizmodo - Best Video I've Seen Today Will Make You Smile - Songs around the world.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Trio acquitted of London 7/7 charges

A British jury has cleared three men of charges of conspiring with four suicide bombers who killed 52 people in London's 2005 suicide bombings.

Waheed Ali, Sadeer Saleem, and Mohammed Shakil were acquitted of the most serious offenses at the Kingston Crown Court Tuesday, but two of them were found guilty for lesser charges. The carefully collected evidence against them was largely circumstantial, and could not finally persuade the British jurors of their alleged guilt.

Four bombers and 52 commuters died in the attacks on July 7, 2005 when bombers set off bombs they carried in sacks on three subway trains and a double-decker bus.

Ali and Shakil will be jailed Wednesday for a second charge of "conspiring to attend a terror training camp".

Ali, 25, Shakil, 32, and Saleem, 28, who had been accused of collaborating with the suicide bombers, were the only people ever charged for the deadly bombings, and their acquittals mean that no one has been legally held accountable for the attacks.

In a statement, Saleem accused police and prosecutors of charging him based on "guilt by association".

"I am indebted to these 12 courageous individuals who have now cleared my name and allowed me the opportunity of seeing my children grow up," he said in the statement.

This is the latest blow to British authorities who have been forced to release Muslims after arresting them on terrorism charges amid much publicity, only to be forced to release them - often quietly - for lack of evidence.

The latest manifestation of what many describe as 'Islamophobia' was the much publicized arrest of eleven Muslim students in Manchester on April 8. ...

via Trio acquitted of London 7/7 charges.

Quantum Ghosts Are Helpful

The idea that far distant particles can somehow 'talk' to each other worried Einstein so much that he called it 'spooky action at a distance'.

Having confirmed its existence, scientists today are learning how to use this 'spooky action' as a helpful tool. Now a team of physicists at the University of Bristol and Imperial College London have harnessed this phenomenon to shed light on another unusual and previously difficult aspect of quantum physics - that of distinguishing between two similar quantum devices.

In the everyday world any process can be considered as a black box device with an input and an output; if you wish to identify the device you simply apply inputs, measure the outputs and determine what must have happened in between.

But quantum black boxes are different. Distinguishing between them is impossible using only single particle inputs because the outputs are not distinguishable: a fundamental consequence of the laws of quantum mechanics is that only very few states of a quantum particle can be reliably distinguished from one another.

The Bristol-Imperial team has shown how to get around this problem using 'spooky action'.

Anthony Laing, PhD student in the Department of Physics, who performed the study, said: "Apart from providing insight into the fundamentals of quantum physics, this work may be crucial for future quantum technologies.

via Quantum Ghosts Are Helpful.

Mr. T called for jury duty showed up for jury duty, then was dismissed after hours of down time — which he used to sign autographs and pose for pictures.

Mr. T was called for jury duty at Cook County Circuit Court on Monday. The Chicago native said he enjoyed fulfilling his civic responsibilities, even though he found — like countless others — that hours can pass before a judge decides to dismiss you.

He showed up for jury duty in camouflage pants, a T-shirt and a longer version of his usual Mohawk haircut.

Mr. T is best remembered for the 1980s TV series "The A-Team" and as Clubber Lang in "Rocky III," which his catch phrase come from: "I pity the fool."

via Mr. T called for jury duty.

He created such a great character.

Foreclosure Prevention Plan Expanded to 2nd Mortgages Obama administration unveiled an expansion of its $75 billion foreclosure prevention plan yesterday, providing new subsidies to mortgage lenders and investors.

Under the expanded plan, some homeowners could see their payments fall significantly and the interest rate on their second mortgage pushed down to 1 percent. The announcement comes nearly two months after the administration launched the housing program, called Making Home Affordable. While officials said some borrowers have already received help, the foreclosure rate is rising and it could be months before the program begins to have an impact.

The new efforts address, in part, criticisms from consumer advocates that the administration's housing plan did not go far enough and that borrowers still face too many barriers to receiving help.

"Ensuring that responsible homeowners can afford to stay in their homes is critical to stabilizing the housing market, which is in turn critical to stabilizing our financial system overall. Every step we take forward is done with that imperative in mind," Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said in a statement.

via Foreclosure Prevention Plan Expanded to 2nd Mortgages -

Countrywide (now B of A) won't foreclose on my property ... yet ... because they are waiting to see if they can offer me this new plan.  I seriously doubt this $1000 per year will help me because I am about $140,000 under water.  Sure, many people have lost a lot more value than this in their homes, but in my case I was talked into an adjustable rate mortgage when I asked for a 30 year fixed rate.  Next year in 2010 when my rate adjusts, I won't be able to make the payments.

Knowing that, I stopped paying early and rented an apartment... without moving into it.

In my view, my credit should not even be negatively impacted by any of this because I was duped by a predatory lender. Since this was my first home, I had to trust the loan expert when she told me that there were many ways I could refinance even if my home's value dropped. That was a lie and, although I was very careful about everything along the way, to the point of being very annoying to everyone in trying to understand every detail... the Countrywide loan expert's mis-information resulted in what has become the worst financial decision of my life.

Why didn't I insist on the fixed 30 year loan? "Why would you want to pay more?" she asked.  Because I'd have a guarantee that my rates will not go up.  The worst part is waiting to be kicked out of my house and not knowing exactly what the tax consequences will be. Will I owe $30,000 in debt forgiveness to the Federal Govt. because I have too much retirement savings to be considered bankrupt?

New York City-sized ice collapses off Antarctica

A handout satellite image taken April 27, 2009 of the Wilkins ...An area of an Antarctic ice shelf almost the size of New York City has broken into icebergs this month after the collapse of an ice bridge widely blamed on global warming, a scientist said Tuesday.

"The northern ice front of the Wilkins Ice Shelf has become unstable and the first icebergs have been released," Angelika Humbert, glaciologist at the University of Muenster in Germany, said of European Space Agency satellite images of the shelf.

Humbert told Reuters about 700 sq km (270.3 sq mile) of ice -- bigger than Singapore or Bahrain and almost the size of New York City -- has broken off the Wilkins this month and shattered into a mass of icebergs.

She said 370 sq kms of ice had cracked up in recent days from the Shelf, the latest of about 10 shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula to retreat in a trend linked by the U.N. Climate Panel to global warming.

The new icebergs added to 330 sq kms of ice that broke up earlier this month with the shattering of an ice bridge apparently pinning the Wilkins in place between Charcot island and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Nine other shelves -- ice floating on the sea and linked to the coast -- have receded or collapsed around the Antarctic peninsula in the past 50 years, often abruptly like the Larsen A in 1995 or the Larsen B in 2002.

The trend is widely blamed on climate change caused by heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels, according to David Vaughan, a British Antarctic Survey scientist who landed by plane on the Wilkins ice bridge with two Reuters reporters in January.

Humbert said by telephone her estimates were that the Wilkins could lose a total of 800 to 3,000 sq kms of area after the ice bridge shattered.

via New York City-sized ice collapses off Antarctica.

Rare coin could get more than $2M at Ohio auction

These undated photos provided by Heritage Auction Galleries show the front and The coin world is abuzz over the auction of a rare silver dollar, one of the most valuable in the world and one of only 15 known to exist from a never-circulated group made for the likes of the King of Siam and the Sultan of Muscat.

The 1804 Adams-Carter silver dollar fetched more than $2 million in a private sale two years ago and is expected to top that again this week. The coin has been owned by a Boston banker, a Texas publishing mogul and by a collector who sold everything to help build a church school in Ohio.

The auction is a major happening for collectors — even ones who can't afford the expected price tag — partly because it will be a rare opportunity to see the coin. It's the highlight of the Central States Numismatic Society Convention that runs Wednesday through Saturday in Cincinnati. Anyone registered to bid on any item in the auction may view the coin, and that could number in the thousands, said Todd Imhof of Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas.

Joe Barrett, co-owner of three Rare Coin Gallery shops in the Cincinnati area, compared the convention to a movie buff's visit to a film museum, with Kevin Costner as tour guide.

"For coin people, it doesn't get any better than this," Barrett said. "For young collectors, this is an opportunity to see things they wouldn't get a chance to see otherwise."

Beth Deisher, editor of Coin World magazine, suggested the valuable coin may not be seen in public for another 50 years.

"It's a rare coin that has a great story," she said.

via Rare coin could get more than $2M at Ohio auction.

Meet a Woman with a 100 Mile-Per-Hour Sneeze


Meet Sharyn Alfonsi, a reporter from ABC News New York. She says that she was to sneeze the air from her nose would rush out at 100 miles per hour and her bacteria could travel anywhere from 3 feet to 150 feet away.

How did she get this amazing sneezing power? Just by being human. This is true for all of us. Actually, the speed may be even faster according to wikipedia:
While generally harmless in healthy individuals, sneezes are capable of spreading disease through the potentially infectious aerosol droplets that they can expel, which commonly range from 0.5 to 5 µm in diameter. About 40,000 such droplets can be produced by a single sneeze.[2]

The speed of human sternal release has been the source of much speculation, with the most conservative estimates placing it around 150 kilometers/hour (42 meters/second) or roughly 95 mph (135 feet/second), and the highest estimates -such as the Health World Museum in Barrington, Illinois- which propose a speed as fast as 85% of the speed of sound, corresponding to approximately 1045 kilometers per hour (290 meters/second) or roughly 650 mph (950 feet/second).

Do masks help? Some, but you have to replace them every few hours.

No happily ever after yet for 'Slumdog' kid stars

Rubina Ali, child star of the hit movie 'Slumdog Millionaire,' ...Rubina Ali's house is flooded with sewer water, and her feet itch. She's discovered a world of creepy-crawlies in the opaque gray water: scorpions, rats and slithery creatures with lots of legs.

Two months ago, the child star of the hit movie "Slumdog Millionaire" was worrying about what to wear to the Oscars. Now she has come home to a very different problem: How to get the fetid water out of her family's one-room shack.

The 9-year-old picked up a plastic bucket Monday and began to scoop, but it was hopeless. "There are a lot of rats," she told the Associated Press with a shudder, standing in water above her ankles. "In the night also."

Eight Oscars and $326 million in box office receipts have so far done little to improve the lives of the film's two impoverished child stars.

Rubina and co-star Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail have been showered with gifts and brief bursts of fame, but their day-to-day lives are little changed. In some ways, things have gotten worse: Azhar's neighborhood has grown crowded and tense. Rubina's house is flooded. And fame has brought both opportunity and shame.

If there is a happily ever after, Azhar and Rubina haven't found it yet.

"Slumdog" filmmakers insist they've done their best to help. They set up a trust, called Jai Ho, after the hit song from the film, to ensure the children get proper homes, a good education and a nest egg when they finish high school. They also donated $747,500 to a charity to help slum kids in Mumbai.


via No happily ever after yet for 'Slumdog' kid stars.

Read the whole article. Disturbing. What can I do to help the most? Fly there? And what then?

Otter-like fossil reveals early seal evolution

An undated artists rendering released Wednesday, April 22, 2009 by the Canadian Scientists say they've found a "missing link" in the early evolution of seals and walruses — the skeleton of a web-footed, otter-like creature that was evolving away from a life on land. Those feet and other anatomical features show an early step on the way to developing flippers and other adaptations for a life in the sea, the scientists said.

One expert called it "a fantastic discovery" that fills a crucial gap in the fossil record.

The 23 million-year-old creature was not a direct ancestor of today's seals, sea lions and walruses, a group known collectively as pinnipeds. It's from a different branch. But it does show what an early direct ancestor looked like, said researcher Natalia Rybczynski.

The fossil was found on Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic, bolstering the notion that the far north was an early center of pinniped evolution, she said.

Rybczynski, a researcher at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, and colleagues from the United States report the find in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

They named the creature Puijila darwini ("pew-YEE-lah dar-WIN-eye"). That combines an Inuit word for "young sea mammal," often a seal, with an homage to Charles Darwin. The famed naturalist had written that a land animal "by occasionally hunting for food in shallow water, then in streams or lakes, might at last be converted into an animal so thoroughly aquatic as to brave the open ocean."

Scientists already knew that pinnipeds evolved from land animals. But the earliest known fossil from that group already had flippers. So Puijila shows an earlier stage of evolution, the researchers said.

via Otter-like fossil reveals early seal evolution.

Iraqis display photo of alleged al-Qaida leader

This image made from a photograph obtained by the Iraqi government in Baghdad, The Iraqi government presented the first image of the alleged leader of an al-Qaida front group Tuesday in a bid to prove the right suspect was in custody despite skepticism that he even exists.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called Abu Omar al-Baghdadi "the head of evil" and accused him of trying to incite a sectarian civil war and working with other insurgents who remained loyal to Saddam Hussein.

"This criminal had close relations with the former regime and maintained a sinister alliance with Saddam's followers," he said in a statement released by his office.

Authorities described al-Baghdadi's capture, which was announced last week, as a major setback for Sunni insurgents trying to intensify attacks after a relative lull. ...

The U.S. military has even said al-Baghdadi could be a fictitious character used to give an Iraqi face to an organization dominated by foreign al-Qaida fighters. Even if he does exist, it was unclear what his role is in the terror group — whether he really runs it or whether he's a figurehead.

Iraqi officials also have reported al-Baghdadi's arrest or killing before, only to later say they were wrong.

via Iraqis display photo of alleged al-Qaida leader.

Swine flu's ground zero? Townspeople are convinced

A woman stands outside the home of a child who, according to Veracruz state Local health officials and Federal Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova downplay claims that the swine flu epidemic could have started in La Gloria, noting that of 35 mucous samples taken from respiratory patients there, only Edgar's came back positive.

Confirmation that the boy was infected with H1N1 — a strange new mix of pig, bird and human flu virus that has killed as many as 152 people in Mexico and now spread across the world — wasn't made until last week, when signs of the outbreak elsewhere prompted a second look at his sample. ....

Townspeople blame their ills on pig waste from farms that lie upwind, five miles (8.5 kilometers) to the north. The toxins blow through other towns, only to get trapped by mountains in La Gloria, they say. They suspect their water and air has been contaminated by waste. ...

When Associated Press journalists on Monday entered a Granjas Carroll farm that has been the focus of community complaints, the cars were sprayed with water. Victor Ochoa, the general director, required the visitors to shower and don white overalls, rubber boots, goggles and masks and step through disinfectant before entering any of the 18 warehouses where 15,000 pigs are kept.

Ochoa showed the journalists a black plastic lid that covered a swimming pool-size cement container of pig feces to prevent exposure to the outside air.

"All of our pigs have been adequately vaccinated and they are all taken care of according to current sanitation rules," Ochoa said. "What happened in La Gloria was an unfortunate coincidence with a big and serious problem that is happening now with this new flu virus."

Mexican Agriculture Department inspectors found no sign of swine flu among pigs around the farm in Veracruz, and say that no infected pigs have been found yet anywhere in Mexico.

via Swine flu's ground zero? Townspeople are convinced.

Astronomers see oldest object in universe yet

Astronomers have spotted a burst of energy from a dying star, setting a record for the oldest and most distant object seen by Earth yet.

The 10-second blast was from when the universe was only 630 million years old.

NASA's Swift satellite spotted the gamma-ray burst, an explosion of high-powered radiation, on April 23. Then ground telescopes watched the afterglow and calculated it had traveled about 13.1 billion light years to get here. It beat old records by 100 or 200 hundred million light years.

NASA astrophysicist Neil Gehrels said the star's fiery death gave birth to a black hole. The star was only 1 million years old or so and was about 30 times the size of our sun.

via Yahoo

Deputy quits after wife, mom-in-law take squad car Polk County deputy has turned in his badge after his wife and mother-in-law took his patrol car out for a joyride. Officials said the 44-year-old deputy resigned Monday after serving 21 years with the sheriff's office.

The arrest report said his wife and mother-in-law face charges of vehicle theft, theft of a firearm and impersonating a law-enforcement officer. His wife also faces charges of possession of a firearm of a convicted felon.

A third person riding in the back seat also was arrested.

Witnesses reporting seeing the patrol car driving erratically in Lakeland on Sunday morning. The deputy apparently didn't know the car was taken.

via Deputy quits after wife, mom-in-law take squad car.

It would be interesting to hear what the motive was. Did his family perhaps not want him risking his life as a cop? If so, they got what they wanted.

SKorean experts claim to have cloned glowing dogs

In this undated fluorescence photo released by the Seoul National ...In this undated photo released by the Seoul National University ...

South Korean scientists say they have engineered four beagles that glow red using cloning techniques that could help develop cures for human diseases. The four dogs, all named "Ruppy" — a combination of the words "ruby" and "puppy" — look like typical beagles by daylight.

But they glow red under ultraviolet light, and the dogs' nails and abdomens, which have thin skins, look red even to the naked eye.

Seoul National University professor Lee Byeong-chun, head of the research team, called them the world's first transgenic dogs carrying fluorescent genes, an achievement that goes beyond just the glowing novelty.

"What's significant in this work is not the dogs expressing red colors but that we planted genes into them," Lee told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

His team identified the dogs as clones of a cell donor through DNA tests and earlier this month introduced the achievement in a paper on the Web site of the journal "Genesis."

Scientists in the U.S., Japan and in Europe previously have cloned fluorescent mice and pigs, but this would be the first time dogs with modified genes have been cloned successfully, Lee said.

He said his team took skin cells from a beagle, inserted fluorescent genes into them and put them into eggs before implanted them into the womb of a surrogate mother, a local mixed breed.

Six female beagles were born in December 2007 through a cloning with a gene that produces a red fluorescent protein that make them glow, he said. Two died, but the four others survived.

The glowing dogs show that it is possible to successfully insert genes with a specific trait, which could lead to implanting other, non-fluorescent genes that could help treat specific diseases, Lee said.

via SKorean experts claim to have cloned glowing dogs.

Who wants a glowing puppy?

Gov't revokes rule limiting species protections agencies again will have to consult with government wildlife experts before taking actions that could have an impact on threatened or endangered species.

The Obama administration said Tuesday it was overturning a rule change made in the final weeks of the Bush presidency.

Officials at the Interior and Commerce departments said they have reimposed the consultation requirement that assured the government's top biologists involved in species protection will have a say in federal action that could harm plants, animals and fish that are at risk of extinction.

Such consultation had been required for more than two decades until the Bush administration made it optional in rules issued last December, just weeks before the change in administrations. Environmentalists argued that the change severely reduced the protection afforded under the federal Endangered Species Act.

"By rolling back this eleventh-hour regulation, we are ensuring that threatened and endangered species continue to receive the full protection of the law" and that top science will be the foundation of the decision making, said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke added: "Our decision affirms the administration's commitment to using sound science to promote conservation and protect the environment."

via Gov't revokes rule limiting species protections.

Good. Most people do not understand that life on Earth is a fairly fragile interconnected web. We need biodiversity long term to survive and thrive.

GOP Senator Specter's Party Switch Gives Obama a 100-Day Gift

Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., speaks to the media in Washington, on Tuesday, April Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter turned the 111th session of Congress upside down Tuesday, announcing that he will switch parties and become a Democrat. The move was the product of weeks of intensive negotiation between Specter and Democrats in the Senate and the White House, and it favorably alters the balance of power for President Obama as he is facing tough votes in the months ahead on health care, energy and budget bills. "We are thrilled to have you," Obama reportedly told Specter on the phone just a few minutes after he learned of the switch Tuesday morning.

In a statement, Specter said, "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans." (Read Senator Arlen Specter's statement.)

via GOP Senator Specter's Party Switch Gives Obama a 100-Day Gift.

The party system is played out. We have the technology to count people's votes on actual issues and move to a true democracy. That would be interesting, wouldn't it?

Man accused of leading long chase in garbage truck

A 40-year-old man was jailed after leading deputies on a 57-mile chase, in a garbage truck. At one point, a Morrison County sheriff's deputy tried to stop the truck by firing a shotgun into its engine. It all started when authorities got a report Tuesday about an intoxicated man trying to get into a home. The man left, driving the truck, before deputies arrived.

Authorities said the driver swerved at squad cars and accelerated in reverse. Deputies tried stopping the truck with stop sticks, but it kept going with several flat tires. The driver eventually pulled over and was caught by a police dog as he ran into the woods. The suspect was treated for dog bites, then jailed, pending charges.

via Man accused of leading long chase in garbage truck.

Built like  a tank, but not the best get away car.

Dinosaurs Lived in the Arctic

snowdino1You know the scenario: 65 million years ago, a big meteor crash sets off volcanoes galore, dust and smoke fill the air, dinosaurs go belly up.

One theory holds that cold, brought on by the Sun's concealment, is what did them in, but a team of paleontologists led by Pascal Godefroit, of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels, argues otherwise. Some dinosaurs (warm-blooded, perhaps) were surprisingly good at withstanding near-freezing temperatures, they say.

Witness the team's latest find, a diverse stash of dinosaur fossils laid down just a few million years before the big impact, along what's now the Kakanaut River of northeastern Russia. Even accounting for continental drift, the dinos lived at more than 70 degrees of latitude north, well above the Arctic Circle.

And they weren't lost wanderers, either. The fossils include dinosaur eggshells — a first at high latitudes, and evidence of a settled, breeding population.

It's true the Arctic was much warmer back then, but it wasn't any picnic. The size and shape of fossilized leaves found with the bones enabled Godefroit's team to estimate a mean annual temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit, with wintertime lows at freezing.

Yet there is more than one way to skin a dino. All that dust in the atmosphere must have curtailed photosynthesis everywhere, weakening the base of the food chain and inflicting starvation, and finally extinction, upon the dinosaurs.

via Dinosaurs Lived in the Arctic | LiveScience.

Police: Man cut pacemaker from dad's chest

Authorities in northeast Iowa say a man faces charges accusing him of cutting a pacemaker out of his father's chest.

The Delaware County sheriff's office issued a statement Sunday saying 32-year-old Jesse Fierstine struck his 63-year-old father, Charles Fierstine, on the head with a flashlight and a piece of firewood Saturday.

The sheriff's office said Jesse Fierstine then used a pocketknife to cut the pacemaker out of his father's chest.

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The statement said the younger Fierstine was charged with attempted murder.

via Police: Man cut pacemaker from dad's chest - Crime & courts-

Thieves hide behind flu masks

Three armed thieves wore the blue surgical masks now ubiquitous in flu-hit Mexico City to hide their faces as they robbed watches from a department store, Mexican media said Monday.

Employees and security guards at a branch of the Sanborns department store told the daily Excelsior the thieves were able to slip through the shop Sunday without attracting attention as they blended into a sea of masked shoppers.

One of the robbers threatened store assistants with a gun while another guarded the door and the third helped himself to watches from the jewelry department.

Mexico is in the grip of a new strain of flu that has killed up to 149 people and set off a major global health scare after infecting people in the United States, Canada and Europe, raising fears of a flu pandemic.

Banks in the Mexican capital have been forced to abandon normal rules over not letting in customers wearing face coverings as the government took emergency measures over the weekend and advised residents in the crowded city to wear face masks at all times outside their homes.

via Watch thieves hide behind flu masks.

Every brain has a soundtrack.

Every brain has a soundtrack. Its tempo and tone will vary, depending on mood, frame of mind, and other features of the brain itself. When that soundtrack is recorded and played back -- to an emergency responder, or a firefighter -- it may sharpen their reflexes during a crisis, and calm their nerves afterward.

Over the past decade, the influence of music on cognitive development, learning, and emotional well-being has emerged as a hot field of scientific study. To explore music's potential relevance to emergency response, the Dept of Homeland Security's Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) has begun a study into a form of neurotraining called "Brain Music" that uses music created in advance from listeners' own brain waves to help them deal with common ailments like insomnia, fatigue, and headaches stemming from stressful environments. The concept of Brain Music is to use the frequency, amplitude, and duration of musical sounds to move the brain from an anxious state to a more relaxed state.

"Strain comes with an emergency response job, so we are interested in finding ways to help these workers remain at the top of their game when working and get quality rest when they go off a shift," said S&T Program Manager Robert Burns. "Our goal is to find new ways to help first responders perform at the highest level possible, without increasing tasks, training, or stress levels."

If the brain "composes" the music, the first job of scientists is to take down the notes, and that is exactly what Human Bionics LLC of Purcellville, VA does. Each recording is converted into two unique musical compositions designed to trigger the body's natural responses, for example, by improving productivity while at work, or helping adjust to constantly changing work hours.

The compositions are clinically shown to promote one of two mental states in each individual: relaxation – for reduced stress and improved sleep; and alertness – for improved concentration and decision-making. Each 2-6 minute track is a composition performed on a single instrument, usually a piano. The relaxation track may sound like a "melodic, subdued Chopin sonata," while the alertness track may have "more of a Mozart sound," says Burns. (It seems there's a classical genius—or maybe two genii—in all of us. Listen to an instrumental alert track at

via Newswise Science News | Brain Music.

Florida’s Trident Tailed Sea Monster

seamonstertail1It has a large, somewhat mammalian head, clawed fins, and a trident-like tail…so they say of Florida’s sea monster, with sightings dating back to the 1800’s. There’s apparently more than one of these puppies, and they have the potential to move quickly with a lot of power. Hours of video footage exist by a guy named Sowerwine showing bits and pieces of the creature.

MonsterQuest went to an ocean-fed coastal lake in Florida to investigate such legends of a sea monster with a forked tail, but the lake was full of sediment, and the divers couldn’t see diddly. They did, however, have an intriguing sonar hit of something about 14 feet long moving quickly, although murky water conditions made it impossible to find the sucker.

One expert feels that the creature is a manatee, although the snout of the beast is skinnier and its eye and head structure appear different. Others feel that the animal is a seal of some kind following the Gulf Stream, possibly a Hooded seal or a Caribbean Monk seal, thought to be extinct.

- via Vulpesffb

The behavior is the same as mating manatees, but that's not a manatee tail.

Update: According to the Underwater Times, this is a manatee with an injured tail:

Florida Fish and Wildlife biologists believe that the cold weather has helped to uncover a local mystery; the identity of the mysterious sea monster featured on the TV show MonsterQuest which airs on the History Channel.

As hundreds of manatees huddled to stay warm inside the channel of the Florida Power and Light Riviera Beach Power Plant, one of the gentle sea cows stood out due to a distinct feature of its anatomy.

Thought to have been injured by a boat propeller at some point in its life, the manatee's tail grew back into three separate prongs.

Due to the unusual shape, the manatee leaves three separate wakes on the water's surface while swimming just below.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission believes that this is the source of the sea creature shown during a segment last year on Monsterquest....

via under water times