Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Oprah Winfrey top of Forbes celebrity power list

Oprah WinfreyUS TV host Oprah Winfrey has has been named the most powerful celebrity in the world by Forbes magazine.

Winfrey knocked film star Angelina Jolie off the top spot of Forbes's annual Celebrity 100 list, which is based on earnings and media exposure.

Singer Beyonce came second, while film director James Cameron re-entered the chart at number three following his success with Avatar.

Lady Gaga was the highest new entry on the list at number four.

Like Beyonce, her earnings and profile have been boosted in the past 12 months by a global tour and endorsement deals.

Jolie, meanwhile, slipped from the top spot to a lowly 18th place.

Beleaguered golf star Tiger Woods was the only sports star to make the top 10.

Britney Spears was at six, followed by U2 in seventh place, making a return to the top 100. ...

via BBC News - Oprah Winfrey top of Forbes celebrity power list.

Methane Release From the Gulf, How Bad Could it Get?

Tremendous quantities of methane are being emitted by the Gulf oil spill.

The methane could kill all life in large areas of the Gulf.

However, rumors being spread widely around the Web claiming that the methane could bring on a doomsday catastrophe are not credible.

This essay will attempt to clear up the confusion and convey the facts regarding methane and the oil spill. ...

But most people don't know that the government has actively encouraged drilling for methane in the Gulf of Mexico as well.

For example, Congress passed the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000 "to promote the research, identification, assessment, exploration, and development of methane hydrate resources...."

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 also providedgovernment support for methane hydrate research, exploration and development - including in deep water.

The Department of Energy has actively encouraged deepwater drilling for methane hydrates. See this and this.

Indeed, this has specifically included support for deepwater drilling for methane in the Gulf of Mexico. See this, this, this, this, this,

In fact, the government, oil industry and academia have been exploring the high methane content in the Mississippi Canyon area of the Gulf of Mexico - where the spill is occurring - for years.

Unprecedented Release of Methane

As CBS notes:

The oil emanating from the seafloor contains about 40 percent methane, compared with about 5 percent found in typical oil deposits, said John Kessler, a Texas A&M University oceanographer who is studying the impact of methane from the spill.As Kessler also points out:

This is the most vigorous methane eruption in modern human history.
A U.S. scientist says that methane levels in the Gulf are "astonishingly high", that 1 million times the normal level of methane gas has been found in some regions near the oil spill, high enough to create "dead zones" devoid of life. Methane depletes oxygen, and the scientist noted:

At some locations, we saw depletions of up to 30 percent of oxygen based on its natural concentration in the waters. Another scientist writes:

Researchers studying the [plumes] have found concentrations of methane up to 10,000 times greater than normal and oxygen levels depleted by 40 percent below normal.This unprecedented release of methane into the ocean kill all life within large swaths of the Gulf of Mexico. ...

There is speculation on the Web that the methane being released from the oil spill will cause a tsunami or a firestorm.

It is true that one scientist speculates that methane bubbles released from the seafloor have caused extinction-level events in the past.

But the odds that the release of methane from the leaking oil will cause a tidal wave or a firestorm are infinitesimally small.

There are many real things to worry about - such as the destruction of the Gulf ecosystem, and the threat to human health from toxic chemicals in the oil and dispersants.

Tidal waves and firestorms are not worth worrying about. And - unlike the destruction of the ecosystems and the threat to human health which we can do something about (by stopping the use of Corexit dispersant and using proven clean-up and containment methods) - there's nothing much we can do about such low-probability Armageddon scenarios. ...

washington's blog

Gulf Seafood After the Oil Spill: Who Decides How Safe Is Safe?

... "Fresh. Wild Gulf Shrimp. Never Frozen. $16.99 lb." read the sign.

"They're my favorites, but are they safe?" the woman asked the fishmonger.

"We couldn't and wouldn't sell them if they weren't," he answered, and quickly added that someone is testing the hell out of everything coming from the gulf.

He was telling the truth.

But several questions remain to be answered for consumers:

  • Petroleum contamination is known to cause cancer and brain damage. But how much oil and gas does it take to make seafood dangerous?

  • Who's in charge of determining how safe is safe?

  • The Food and Drug Administration is supposedly the nation's food protector. What exactly is FDA's role in this process?

  • How can you really tell where seafood is coming from? Is there any way to distinguish a gulf shrimp from a Pacific one?

AOL News spent the past two weeks chasing down precisely who is doing that testing and how they decide what is safe to eat.

The analysis is important. Public health experts say they are not concerned about E. coli or salmonella coming from seafood heavily tainted with oil. What they fear is the possibility of cancer or neurologic impact.

Dr. Dickhoff (left) and crew examining frozen samples flown in from NOAA  ships in the GulfAnalyzing whether dangerous contaminants are in the seafood is an intricate process that uses a complex array of CSI-like instruments that can find bad things down to the parts per billion level.

But these are everyday tasks for marine biologists, toxicologists and other technical wizards in Louisiana state laboratories in Baton Rouge and in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. These are the two primary sites scrutinizing thousands of samples of shrimp, crab and fin fish gathered from the Gulf of Mexico.

The multiple chemical analyses have detected no harmful level of contaminants, both labs say. ...

The bible that most risk assessors seem to be relying on is a lengthy 2002 NOAA report, "Managing Seafood Safety After an Oil Spill," issued after the Valdez spill. It explains that the acceptable cancer risk assessment is derived from how much seafood a person eats, over what period of time and the level of contamination found.

What that means is the seafood is deemed safe if it doesn't increase a person's lifetime cancer rate by more than one additional case in a million people. Some states like Maine use a higher risk levels, such as a lifetime cancer risk of no greater than 1 in 100,000 people, NOAA says. ...

As far as determining whether the shrimp, crab and fish came from the gulf or were farmed in foreign waters, the best advice is to know your fishmonger because buying seafood today clearly demands that the buyer beware.

via Gulf Seafood After the Oil Spill: Who Decides How Safe Is Safe?.

The Government can kill anyone covertly without a trial?

If you think the kill switch on the Internet is bad, that's nothing... it seems there is also a kill switch the government has for US citizens. How long will it take for these two God powers to go from being rarely to frequently used? If the two powers are used together, you'll never know the answer to that. Accidents happen every day.

June 29, 2010. Methods used will be poisoning, road traffic accidents, lethal vaccinations, being shot in the head, being abducted and tortured, disappearance and anyway that makes out it was accidental death thus saving on paperwork and inquiries. U.S. intelligence will covertly assess your behavior and movements then base the assassination around your everyday activities. This law will be abused and no one will know ;)

Ladies and Gentleman, the U.S. Government has just declared war on the general public.

But seriously, "the U.S. Government" is not the problem. We are the US government. We pay for it, we own it and we can change it. Well, that was true once. But in our laziness, we gave away our power. Now the lack of checks and balances is the problem. How do we fix this? Just put anyone in Government in jail who is on record violating their oath to uphold and defend the constitution. It is that simple.

Illegal Ghana gold mine owner arrested after collapse

Informal sector gold miners (BBC's Peter Lewenstein) Police in Ghana have arrested the owner of an illegal gold mine which collapsed on Sunday after heavy rains, burying large numbers of miners.

There are fears that an estimated 100 people have been killed in the accident in Dunkwa-on-Offin, central Ghana.

At least 15 people survived. Rescue workers are continuing search efforts, but have been hampered by flooding.

The West African nation is one of the continent's largest gold exporters.

Municipal chief Peter Owusu-Eshia said the owner had allegedly hired 136 people to work in the mine.

As the mine was being run illegally, it is unclear how many were in the mine at the time of the incident.

Local fire official DO Adusa said survivors were withholding information about the operation.

Pumps and divers

Faced with flooding, rescue teams are using water pumps and divers to look for bodies and survivors.

"At this stage I don't think we can get any survivors, those who are already trapped, I believe they may be dead now," local police commander Supt SK Buabeng was quoted as saying by the Joy Online website.

"We are trying our best to get the bodies recovered."

Last year, the death of 15 miners was said to be Ghana's worst such disaster.

Ghana, previously known as the Gold Coast, remains one of Africa's biggest producers of the precious metal.

Multinationals operate in the country but villagers often dig their own pits or hope to strike it rich in abandoned mines.

In such cases, there are few, if any, safety precautions.

via BBC News - Illegal Ghana gold mine owner arrested after collapse.

Larry King to end long-running US TV chat show

Larry King, Nov 2004Veteran broadcaster Larry King has announced that he will be ending his nightly show on CNN in the autumn.

Over 25 years of the show, King, famous for wearing braces, has conducted more than 40,000 interviews.

Larry King Live recently made it into in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running show with the same host in the same time slot.

The news comes at a time of falling ratings for the show. King, 76, said he would spend more time with his family.

His marriage to seventh wife Shawn Southwick had appeared to be on the point of breaking up earlier this year when King filed for divorce.

The couple have since reconciled their differences.

On his blog, King wrote that CNN had agreed to his request to wrap up the show in the autumn "giving me more time for my wife and I to get to the kids' little league games".

He said he would "still be a part of the CNN family" and planned to host special programmes on major national and international events.

"With this chapter closing I'm looking forward to the future and what my next chapter will bring, but for now it's time to hang up my nightly suspenders (braces)," he concluded.

via BBC News - Larry King to end long-running US TV chat show.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Neuroscientist Uncovers A Dark Secret

Fallon's brain scanThe criminal brain has always held a fascination for James Fallon. For nearly 20 years, the neuroscientist at the University of California-Irvine has studied the brains of psychopaths. He studies the biological basis for behavior, and one of his specialties is to try to figure out how a killer's brain differs from yours and mine.

About four years ago, Fallon made a startling discovery. It happened during a conversation with his then 88-year-old mother, Jenny, at a family barbecue.

"I said, 'Jim, why don't you find out about your father's relatives?' " Jenny Fallon recalls. "I think there were some cuckoos back there."

Fallon investigated.

"There's a whole lineage of very violent people — killers," he says.

One of his direct great-grandfathers, Thomas Cornell, was hanged in 1667 for murdering his mother. That line of Cornells produced seven other alleged murderers, including Lizzy Borden. "Cousin Lizzy," as Fallon wryly calls her, was accused (and controversially acquitted) of killing her father and stepmother with an ax in Fall River, Mass., in 1882.

A little spooked by his ancestry, Fallon set out to see whether anyone in his family possesses the brain of a serial killer. Because he has studied the brains of dozens of psychopaths, he knew precisely what to look for. To demonstrate, he opened his laptop and called up an image of a brain on his computer screen.

"Here is a brain that's not normal," he says. There are patches of yellow and red. Then he points to another section of the brain, in the front part of the brain, just behind the eyes.

"Look at that — there's almost nothing here," Fallon says.

This is the orbital cortex, the area that Fallon and other scientists believe is involved with ethical behavior, moral decision-making and impulse control.

"People with low activity [in the orbital cortex] are either free-wheeling types or sociopaths," he says.

He's clearly oversimplifying, but Fallon says the orbital cortex puts a brake on another part of the brain called the amygdala, which is involved with aggression and appetites. But in some people, there's an imbalance — the orbital cortex isn't doing its job — perhaps because the person had a brain injury or was born that way.

"What's left? What takes over?" he asks. "The area of the brain that drives your id-type behaviors, which is rage, violence, eating, sex, drinking."

Fallon says nobody in his family has real problems with those behaviors. But he wanted to be sure. Conveniently, he had everything he needed: Previously, he had persuaded 10 of his close relatives to submit to a PET brain scan and give a blood sample as part of a project to see whether his family had a risk for developing Alzheimer's disease.

After learning his violent family history, he examined the images and compared them with the brains of psychopaths. His wife's scan was normal. His mother: normal. His siblings: normal. His children: normal.

"And I took a look at my own PET scan and saw something disturbing that I did not talk about," he says.

What he didn't want to reveal was that his orbital cortex looks inactive.

"If you look at the PET scan, I look just like one of those killers."

Fallon cautions that this is a young field. Scientists are just beginning to study this area of the brain — much less the brains of criminals. Still, he says the evidence is accumulating that some people's brains predispose them toward violence and that psychopathic tendencies may be passed down from one generation to another.

And that brings us to the next part of Jim Fallon's family experiment. Along with brain scans, Fallon also tested each family member's DNA for genes that are associated with violence. He looked at 12 genes related to aggression and violence and zeroed in on the MAO-A gene (monoamine oxidase A). This gene, which has been the target of considerable research, is also known as the "warrior gene" because it regulates serotonin in the brain. Serotonin affects your mood — think Prozac — and many scientists believe that if you have a certain version of the warrior gene, your brain won't respond to the calming effects of serotonin.

Fallon calls up another slide on his computer. It has a list of family members' names, and next to them, the results of the genotyping. Everyone in his family has the low-aggression variant of the MAO-A gene, except for one person.

"You see that? I'm 100 percent. I have the pattern, the risky pattern," he says, then pauses. "In a sense, I'm a born killer."

Fallon's being tongue-in-cheek — sort of. He doesn't believe his fate or anyone else's is entirely determined by genes. They merely tip you in one direction or another.

And yet: "When I put the two together, it was frankly a little disturbing," Fallon says with a laugh. "You start to look at yourself and you say, 'I may be a sociopath.' I don't think I am, but this looks exactly like [the brains of] the psychopaths, the sociopaths, that I've seen before."

I asked his wife, Diane, what she thought of the result.

Fallon and his mother, Jenny Fallon"I wasn't too concerned," she says, laughing. "I mean, I've known him since I was 12."

Diane probably does not need to worry, according to scientists who study this area. They believe that brain patterns and genetic makeup are not enough to make anyone a psychopath. You need a third ingredient: abuse or violence in one's childhood.

"And fortunately, he wasn't abused as a young person," Diane says, "so I've lived to be a ripe old age so far." ...

via A Neuroscientist Uncovers A Dark Secret : NPR.

Firefox addressbar search hijacked by Microsoft Bing

Previously, whenever I type something in Firefox addressbar and press enter, the search engine used is Google. Nowadays whenever I type something in the Firefox addressbar and pressed enter, the search engine used have changed to Microsoft’s Bing! I never recalled changing it so I did a search and found the following solution….

1. Type about:config in Firefox’s address bar.

2. In the Filter box, type keyword.

3. You should find a few keyword entries. Make sure that keyword.enabled is set to true.

4. Look for keyword.url and right click on it to modify. Copy this string value and enter it in the box.

Restart Firefox.

Source: Mozilla Support

via Firefox addressbar search hijacked by Microsoft Bing « Troubleshooting PC Problems.

Military Mulls New Name for Psychological Operations: MISO

“Psychological Operations” sounds awesomely creepy. In actuality, the military discipline can be pretty mundane: designing leaflets and driving sound trucks around, not plying your enemies with LSD.

Now the Pentagon brass is mulling a name change that would make the cadre seem even more humdrum. If the switch goes through. Psychological Operations would become Military Information Support and/to Operations. PSYOP would become MISO.

Judging by the online reaction,the PSYOP community is none-too-pleased with the idea of a watery new acronym.

“Some of us joined Psychological Operations because it sounded awesome for it’s name alone,” notes one anonymous commenter on the Small Wars Journal blog. “Today, we fall under people who get to dictate and control what we do without knowing fully what our capabilities are. To now have the name changed from PSYOP to MISO is a slap in the face. The intimidation factor brought on by the words alone are what attracts many recruits to the MOS [Military Occupation Specialty]. Now when you hear MISO you might as well just join admin or supply.”

“One can only imagine the hue and cry that would arise if a proposal were made to change the name of the infantry, the artillery, or armor,” PSYOP historian Alfred Paddock writes in Joint Force Quarterly. “These are combat arms units that use lethal means to accomplish their missions. Thus, it is particularly ironic that some would change the name of PSYOP units that employ nonlethal means to support these combat arms. Apparently, undermining the morale of the enemy is more politically incorrect than killing them.”

But I think my favorite comment comes from “Alex,” a rather sensitive officer posting on the PSYOP Regimental Blog. To illustrate the acronym switch, the blog posted a picture of a bowl of miso soup. Well, that was too much for Alex. “Sir, I found your comments and a photo in your article totally inappropriate and distasteful,” he huffs. Apparently, some PSYOP guys are awfully easy to influence.

via Military Mulls New Name for Psychological Operations: MISO | Danger Room |

Military Intelligence Snake-like Objective?

Homeland Security Committee Passes "Kill Switch" Legislation a brief follow-up to Adam's post earlier this week, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs passed the "Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010", S.3480 by voice vote. The bill grants the authority to the President to declare a national "cyber emergency".

A website called wrote:

Under the amended bill, a national cyber emergency could last for up to 30 days, and the president could renew it up to three times. It could only be renewed beyond 120 days with the approval of Congress. The bill limits the presidential action to only the most critical IT systems.

Senator Susan Collins had this to say:

The fact is: We cannot fail to act. We can't wait until there is a cyber 9/11 and say, ‘Why didn't we act? We knew this was coming.' The attacks are ongoing even as we meet. So we must act, and I believe we have drafted a responsible bill to do so. [emphasis added]

A cyber 9/11? Really, Senator? (I think someone watched "Live Free or Die Hard" too many times...)

via Campaign For Liberty — Homeland Security Committee Passes "Kill Switch" Legislation.

Here is what this is really about:

54:51 "... or we need you to put this part of your network DOWN for uh 12 hours or a day or whatever..." - video

In other words, if you have information about a crime inside the government, the government, thanks to this "protection," could tell your network provider to shut YOU DOWN for a day while thugs go in and confiscate the evidence against them.

And the government guarantees that you can't sue your network provider for doing that.

Why not just give the government a switch that makes everyone deaf and blind?

"Red alert! Red alert! Citizens of the USA, open your wallets and put these bags over your heads while we protect you from criminals you can not see! (us, heh heh)"

Cyber 9/11? Give me a break. Jesus, just get a firewall.

Just don't hire idiots to secure your network and you won't have to worry about being hacked. If something major could happen, it would have already happened!

The proof is in their own argument, billions of "attacks" and NOTHING has happened other than a some people being tricked into loading fake "windows anti-virus" malware that tells them to give their credit card to a scam site.

Authority already exists to go after these criminals.

Those billions of "attacks" are mostly worthless automated port scans that any hardware or software based stateful firewall stops. Most network administrators aren't morons and don't need your "protection", Mr. Homeland Protection Racket.

There is no National Cyber Emergency. There will be no real National Cyber Emergency. The net is a web. Take down a part of it and connections are re-routed automatically. Dams, electric grids and financial networks have all been attacked for years with no problems.

Screw these lies. Your freedom to communicate is under attack. Democracy is under attack. Fight back. Sink the censorship!

Monday, June 28, 2010

BP's Methane Monster: From the Gulf to the Globe

photoWe hear a lot of talk about carbon dioxide as the most dangerous climate culprit. And we should. So far, loading the atmosphere with CO2 is the single biggest cause of climate disruption. But, in the final analysis, methane may prove to be the most deadly of all greenhouse gases.

Unlike CO2, methane is flammable. BP's Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf was triggered by a bubble of methane gas that escaped from the well and shot up the drill column, expanding quickly as it burst through several seals and barriers before exploding. The fiery blast killed 11 workers and sank the platform. Since then, an estimated 100,000 barrels of oil has spewed into the Gulf every day, making it the biggest oil spill in US history.

Methane is a menace to coal mining. Mines use giant fans to keep this colorless, odorless gas below dangerous concentrations. But if this fails, the tiniest spark can set off a deadly blast. Methane explosions killed 29 miners in the Massey coal mine disaster last month and claimed 12 miners in the Sago mine disaster back in 2006.

However, methane's explosive properties are a miniature menace compared to its heat-trapping capacity. As a greenhouse gas, methane is about 25 times more potent, molecule for molecule, than carbon dioxide. Today, the amount of methane in our atmosphere is spiking at an alarming rate. Scientists studying this situation call methane "a ticking time bomb," and warn that vast stores could be released from frozen deposits on land and under the ocean in the coming decades.

Over the last few years, research ships in Arctic seas have found methane bubbling and foaming on the surface. These "methane chimneys" are caused by 10-degree jumps in temperature over eastern Siberia. Warmer temperatures cause methane to be released from thawing tundra and from melting methane deposits beneath the ocean. "These deposits rival fossil fuels in terms of their size. It's like having a whole additional supply of coal, oil and natural gas out there that we can't control," says James White, a geochemist at the University of Colorado.

The Siberian Shelf alone harbors an estimated 1,400 billion tons of methane - about twice as much carbon as is contained in all the trees, grasses and flowers on the planet. If just one percent of this escaped into the atmosphere within a few decades, it would be enough to cause catastrophic, uncontrollable climate change. This process could initiate a self-reinforcing feedback loop that would spiral out of control even if we cut our greenhouse emissions to zero. Scientists have no idea how close we are to crossing this point of no return, but the signs that we're approaching this tipping point are growing every day. ...

via t r u t h o u t | BP's Methane Monster: From the Gulf to the Globe.

I knew there was some kind of cover up about what actually caused this disaster. I thought perhaps it was foreign terrorists, but the truth is so much worse.

The frozen methane ice under the oceans is a sleeping dragon that will wake and scorch the earth. Our cars and all of our CO2 warming up the earth just a few degrees is like lighting a little tiny match ...  in a room full of gas.

Goce satellite views Earth's gravity in high definition

The geoid defines the horizontal - put a ball on this "surface" and it would not roll anywhere even though it appears to have slopesIt is one of the most exquisite views we have ever had of the Earth.

This colourful new map traces the subtle but all pervasive influence the pull of gravity has across the globe.

Known as a geoid, it essentially defines where the level surface is on our planet; it tells us which way is "up" and which way is "down".

It is drawn from delicate measurements made by Europe's Goce satellite, which flies so low it comes perilously close to falling out of the sky.

Scientists say the data gathered by the spacecraft will have numerous applications.

One key beneficiary will be climate studies because the geoid can help researchers understand better how the great mass of ocean water is moving heat around the world.

The new map was presented here in Norway's second city at a special Earth observation (EO) symposium dedicated to the data being acquired by Goce and other European Space Agency (Esa) missions.

Europe is currently in the midst of a huge programme of EO development which will see it launch some 20 missions worth nearly eight billion euros before the decade's end.

The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (Goce) is at the front of this armada of scientific and environmental monitoring spacecraft.

Imaginary ball

Launched in 2009, the sleek satellite flies pole to pole at an altitude of just 254.9km - the lowest orbit of any research satellite in operation today.

The spacecraft carries three pairs of precision-built platinum blocks inside its gradiometer instrument that sense accelerations which are as small as 1 part in 10,000,000,000,000 of the gravity experienced on Earth.

This has allowed it to map the almost imperceptible differences in the pull exerted by the mass of the planet from one place to the next - from the great mountain ranges to the deepest ocean trenches.

Two months of observations have now been fashioned into what scientists call the geoid.

Goce"I think everyone knows what a level is in relation to construction work, and a geoid is nothing but a level that extends over the entire Earth," explained Professor Reiner Rummel, the chairman of the Goce scientific consortium.

"So with the geoid, I can take two arbitrary points on the globe and decide which one is 'up' and which one is 'down'," the Technische Universitaet Muenchen researcher told BBC News.

In other words, the map on this page defines the horizontal - a surface on which, at any point, the pull of gravity is perpendicular to it.

Put a ball on this hypothetical surface and it will not roll - even though it appears to have "slopes". These slopes can be seen in the colours which mark how the global level diverges from the generalised (an ellipsoid) shape of the Earth. ...

1. Earth is a slightly flattened sphere - it is ellipsoidal in shape

2. Goce senses tiny variations in the pull of gravity over Earth

3. The data is used to construct an idealised surface, or geoid

4. It traces gravity of equal 'potential'; balls won't roll on its 'slopes'

5. It is the shape the oceans would take without winds and currents

6. So, comparing sea level and geoid data reveals ocean behaviour

7. Gravity changes can betray magma movements under volcanoes

8. A precise geoid underpins a universal height system for the world

9. Gravity data can also reveal how much mass is lost by ice sheets ...

The geoid is of paramount interest to oceanographers because it is the shape the world's seas would adopt if there were no tides, no winds and no currents.

If researchers then subtract the geoid from the actual observed behaviour of the oceans, the scale of these other influences becomes apparent.

via BBC News - Goce satellite views Earth's gravity in high definition.

Suspects in bizarre Guatemala murder case surrender

Brothers Francisco and Jose Valdes Paiz leaving the courthouseTwo Guatemalan brothers who allegedly helped a prominent lawyer organise his own murder, and then blame the president of Guatemala for the crime, have turned themselves in.

Francisco and Jose Valdes Paiz were said to have hired a contract killer to murder Rodrigo Rosenberg.

An international commission found in January that Mr Rosenberg had organised his own killing.

He is said to have wanted to highlight unsolved murders in Guatemala.

Before he was shot dead in May 2009, Mr Rosenberg had warned in a video that he would be murdered on the orders of President Alvaro Colom. Mr Colom was later exonerated.

Police had been searching for the two brothers since December, when they first linked them to the murder of Mr Rosenberg.

'Blackmail ruse'

A United Nations investigation found that Mr Rosenberg had told the Valdes Paiz brothers, who were his cousins, he was being blackmailed and needed their help to hire a contract killer to murder the blackmailer.

The pair allegedly hired the killer and, following Mr Rosenberg's instructions, told the killer where and when he could ambush the blackmailer.

But it was Mr Rosenberg who then appeared at the time and place given to the contract killer, and had himself shot, the commission found.

Speaking in January, Director of the UN commission Carlos Castresana said he believed Mr Rosenberg had been depressed and had wanted to highlight the thousands of murders which go unsolved and unpunished in Guatemala every year.

BBC Mundo's Julie Lopez in Guatemala says the allegations Mr Rosenberg made in his video against President Colom threw the government into a deep political crisis.

Our correspondent says that even though President Colom was cleared of any involvement in Mr Rosenberg's murder, the allegations have left a deep rift in Guatemalan society. She says many people believe the brothers Valdes Paiz have been falsely accused. ...

via BBC News - Suspects in bizarre Guatemala murder case surrender.

Marilyn Monroe chest X-rays fetch $45,000

Marilyn MonroeA set of three X-rays of Marilyn Monroe's chest taken during a 1954 hospital visit have sold for $45,000 (£29,900) in Las Vegas.

The X-rays, sold at a movie memorabilia auction at Planet Hollywood, had a $3,000 (£2,000) pre-sale estimate.

A chair from Monroe's final photo shoot sold for $35,000 (£23,250).

Earrings worn by Kate Winslet in Titanic sold for $25,000 (£16,600). A dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in musical Funny Face fetched $56,250 (£37,360).

Other Monroe items up for sale included a prompt book from unfinished film Something's Got to Give and a bottle of Chanel perfume she owned.

A crystal-studded glove which belonged to Michael Jackson fetched $190,000 (£126,000) at an earlier music sale at Julien's Auctions at Planet Hollywood.

via BBC News - Marilyn Monroe chest X-rays fetch $45,000.

"I want a doctor to take your picture, So I can look at you from inside as well. You've got me turning up and turning down, And turning in and turning 'round, I'm turning Japanese, I think I'm turning Japanese, I really think so."

Suspected Russian spies charged in US

Map of USATen people have been arrested in the US and charged with spying for Russia.

They were allegedly part of an operation where agents posed as ordinary citizens, some living together as couples for years.

They are accused of conspiracy to act as unlawful agents of a foreign government, a crime which carries up to five years in prison.

Nine of them also face a charge of conspiracy to launder money, which carries a 20-year prison sentence.

An 11th suspect remains at large, according to the US justice department.

Alleged intercepted messages in court documents suggest they were asked to find information on topics including nuclear weapons, US arms control positions, Iran, White House rumours, CIA leadership turnover, and political parties.

The US Department of Justice says eight of the suspects allegedly carried out "long-term, 'deep-cover' assignments" on US soil, working in civilian jobs so as not to arouse suspicion.

In this courtroom sketch, Anna Chapman, left, Vicky Pelaez, second  from left, the defendant known as "Richard Murphy", center,  the defendant known as "Cynthia Murphy", second from right,  and the defendant known as "Juan Lazaro" are seen in federal  court in New York on June 28, 2010.They were allegedly trained by the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) to infiltrate policy-making circles and collect information, according to court papers filed in the US court for the southern district of New York.

They were told to befriend US officials and send information using various methods to Russian government handlers.

US officials said the spy-ring was discovered in a "multi-year investigation" by FBI agents who posed as Russian handlers and gleaned information from two of the suspects.

Investigators say some of the agents had been using false identities since the early 1990s, using codes and engaging in advanced computer operations, including posting apparently innocent pictures on the internet which contained hidden text.

The FBI also reported observing older techniques, such as money being buried next to a beer-bottle marker and "brush pasts" in parks, where agents swap identical bags as they pass each other.

"You were sent to USA for long-term service trip," says one purported message to two of the suspects that was intercepted by US intelligence.

"Your education, bank accounts, car, house etc - all these serve one goal: fulfil your main mission, ie to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US and send intels."

Generally, spies were allegedly tasked with becoming "Americanised" to be able to do this, with some pursuing university degrees, holding jobs, and joining relevant professional associations, court documents said.

The group allegedly got close to a scientist involved in designing bunker-busting bombs and a top former intelligence official.  ...

Five of the suspects briefly appeared in a Manhattan federal court on Monday, where a judge ordered them to remain in prison until a preliminary hearing set for 27 July.

These included a couple known as "Richard Murphy" and "Cynthia Murphy", who were arrested in Montclair, New Jersey; Vicky Pelaez and a man known as "Juan Lazaro," who were arrested in Yonkers, New York state; and Anna Chapman, who was arrested in Manhattan, New York City.

Another three - Mikhail Semenko and a couple known as "Michael Zottoli" and "Patricia Mills" - appeared in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, after being arrested in Arlington, Virginia.

The final two people - a couple known as "Donald Howard Heathfield" and "Tracey Lee Ann Foley" - were arrested in Boston, Massachusetts, and appeared in a federal court in the city.

A suspect known as "Christopher R Metsos" remains at large. ...

via BBC News - Suspected Russian spies charged in US.

Comment on WRH:
"...why such a hurry with the arrests? Uncovered foreign spy equals to winning a lottery! You could pass through this person any information or rather disinformation you want. They are arrested only in some sort of extreme conditions. This story is rather political anti-Russian hype. Maybe the pres looked into Medvedev's eyes and saw there something, he did not expect."

Russian spies are everywhere and the period at the end of this sentence is a microphone.

PS. Steganography is the art and science of writing hidden messages in such a way that no one, apart from the sender and intended recipient, suspects the existence of the message, a form of security through obscurity.

Short Sale: Green Tree releases me completely, finally

Yesterday was a good day. I got a letter from a Green Tree "Document Release Representative" stating that my loan account,
" ... has been settled in full. Green Tree Servicing LLC will be issuing a satisfaction of mortgage. The property described as follows: ___. A satisfaction of mortgage has been processed and sent to the ___ county recorder's office on 5/21/10. This process usually takes four to six weeks. Please be advised the county may provide this information verbally upon request. If you have any questions, please contact our office at ___. "

Tax consequences: None.

Credit score damage: I still have to check on that.

How did I go from owing GT $60,000 to owing  nothing?

Bought a house in California as my primary residence, lived in it for a few years, signed both the first and the second loans on the same day for the purpose of purchasing a home (purchase money debt), was honest about my income during the loan application and kept the proof of that, got sold a "Pay Option ARM" type loan along with a HELOC, never borrowed against the HELOC, the housing market collapsed, could not refinance, tried every workout option, the finally paid a real estate finance attorney $300 to review my loan documents to verify that I was not open to a deficiency judgment on either the 1st or 2nd (HELOC) loans. Consulted a CPA to be sure I would not owe extra taxes on debt forgiveness. Then  stopped paying the bank. For a year. After a year the short sale was finally accepted a week before a looming foreclosure.  This waiting a whole year was surprising. I expected to be kicked out after a few months of not paying the bank. I could have saved a year's rent if I'd known, but instead I paid rent on an apartment expecting to have to move at any time. During the short sale, my real estate agent got Green Tree to release the lien for 3%, but in their letter they stated that I would still be liable for the remaining debt.  When it was all over and the sale closed  Green Tree a few months later called and said they would keep trying to collect, even though the law was on my side. After the collection calls started up, I called them every morning for two weeks and patiently and politely explained the situation. Eventually I got a fax number and sent them a letter. They'd given me the wrong fax number, but I found the right one and faxed them. I called to verify, nope they didn't get it. My confirmation said they did. Got a different fax number and faxed again, emailed, kept at it. Gave it a month break, then started my campaign again. I always tried to stay calm, clear, firm and polite even when the person I was speaking to was a complete a-hole. The wheels turn slowly at Green Tree, but they do, eventually, turn.  Now my life feels very clean. No more loose ends.  It's even a little boring after all the stress I went through with my home... but I think I can get used to this calm feeling.

Rare Hole In the Moon Photographed

New photos of the moon have revealed the most detailed views yet of a rare hole in the lunar surface — a pit large enough to swallow an entire football field whole.

High-resolution cameras aboard the Japanese Kaguya spacecraft first spotted the irregularly shaped chasm, located in Mare Ingenii on the moon's southern hemisphere. Now, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken a new, up-close photo of the moon pit from lunar orbit.

"Only three have been discovered thus far, so I believe it is safe to state that skylights (pits) are rare at the 100-meter scale," Mark Robinson, principal investigator for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) at Arizona State University, told in an e-mail.

Mare Ingenii, also called the "sea of cleverness," is best known for its prominent lunar swirls, which are highly reflective surface features that are associated with magnetic anomalies. The new images of the region from LROC show a giant pit measuring about 427 feet (130 meters) in diameter.

The boulders and debris resting on the floor of the cavity are partially illuminated and likely originated at the surface, falling through the pit opening during its collapse. The hole is thought to be the result of a partially collapsed lava tube.

A similar moon pit, which was believed to be a skylight into a lava tube, was previously discovered by the Kaguya mission in the Marius Hills region of the moon. The new pit in Mare Ingenii, however, lacks the numerous volcanic features that were found in the Marius Hills region.

"The existence of lava tubes and thus skylights had long been postulated," Robinson said. "However it is a surprise to me how large and beautifully preserved are the three that we have seen thus far."

Closer examination of Mare Ingenii could help scientists understand the differences between the two areas of the lunar surface, and such discoveries could also spur on further exploration of the moon, said Robinson.

"Imagine how fantastic it would be to land in one of these skylights and explore underground on the moon!" he said.

via -- Rare Hole In the Moon Photographed.

Man dies from heart attack after receiving receipt for his own cremation service

AN elderly Indian man was so shocked to receive a bogus receipt for his own cremation service that he suffered a heart attack and died, The Times of India reported overnight.

Frail Than Singh, 70, was left aghast after reading that he had supposedly been cremated the week before.

But before the anxious dairy farmer could get to the bottom of what had happened he started complaining of chest pains.

Relatives rushed him to the hospital but Singh suffered a massive heart attack and died, The Times reported.

In a macabre twist, his body was subsequently delivered to the same crematorium in Ghaziabad, northeastern India.

And in another apparent coincidence, it was issued with the serial number 89 -- the same number listed on the mysterious letter.

Suspicious relatives called in police who believe his death was the result of a sick prank rather than an administrative mistake.

"The element of mischief is apparent and obvious," said senior superintendent of police, Ghaziabad Raghubir Lal.

"What remains to be deciphered is if the person behind it wanted to shock the old man to the extent that he may collapse and if so then why, or if it was merely a prank that took a serious turn."

via Man dies from heart attack after receiving receipt for his own cremation service |

Motorcyclist Collides With Bear On NJ Highway motorcyclist escaped serious injury Saturday when he collided with a black bear that unexpectedly ran across a northwestern New Jersey highway.

Sgt. Julian Castellanos, a state police spokesman, said the man was northbound on Route 94 in the Sussex County community of Fredon when the accident occurred around 9:30 a.m.

The motorcyclist, whose name was not released, was taken to Newton Memorial Hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries and later released.

Castellanos said the bear also survived and walked into the woods.

via Motorcyclist Collides With Bear On NJ Highway - .

Rare Male 'Torbie' Kitten Up for Adoption at Atlanta Humane Society

The odds aren't quite one in a million, but when you weigh all of the factors that brought Right -- a male tortoiseshell and tabby mix called a "torbie" -- to the Atlanta Humane Society, they might as well be.

One look at Right's orange and black coloring and striped markings and it's obvious the cat's a torbie, which in itself isn't very shocking. The surprise came when Right was sent to be altered (or fixed, as it's commonly known).

"His intake paperwork said Right was a female," said Dana Widmer, supervisor of spaying and neutering at AHS. "When we shaved the area for surgery, we discovered he was a male. With his coloring, I immediately knew he was extremely rare."Instead of spaying Right -- who was named in a group of rescue kittens from Coweta County in Georgia that also featured Left, Up and Down -- veterinarians neutered the kitty, verifying beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was, in fact, a rarity.

When asked how rare male tortoiseshell cats are, Widmer responded, "I've worked in animal welfare for eight years, mostly with cats, and I've never seen a male torbie, or any tortoiseshell."

Torbies got their name by mixing tortie, a nickname for tortoiseshell cats with orange and black coloration, and tabby, which describes a striped cat.

Along with torties and calicoes -- which are tortoiseshell orange and black mixed with white patches -- torbies are one of only three kinds of cats with orange and black colorations.

While female torbies aren't uncommon, male tortoiseshells are few and far between.

According to, the reason male tortoiseshell-colored cats are so rare is because feline coat colors are determined by which allele (gene) is present on the X chromosome. Both black and orange colorations are "co-dominant" genes -- if they exist together, they will both show, but if only one is present, the coloration will be either orange or black.

Females have two X chromosomes, which allows both orange and black colorations to show. But males typically have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome -- allowing only one color to show.

For a male cat to have a tortoiseshell coloration, it must have an extra X chromosome, making it XXY. In humans, this is known as Klinefelter's syndrome. As with humans, these cats are almost always sterile because of the imbalance in sex chromosomes. ...

via Rare Male 'Torbie' Kitten Up for Adoption at Atlanta Humane Society.

Mexican singer El Shaka killed after denying his murder

Sergio Vega in a 2006 promotional photoMexican singer Sergio Vega has been shot dead only hours after he had denied reports he had been murdered.

The 40-year-old singer, known as El Shaka, told a website he had increased security measures after a number of Mexican musicians were killed.

Musicians performing narcocorridos, songs celebrating the lives of drug barons, often become the targets of rival drug gangs.

Gunmen opened fire on Mr Vega on his way to a concert in Sinaloa state.

Mexican media reported Mr Vega was driving his red Cadillac on Saturday night when a truck started following him.

Shortly afterwards, shots were fired at the car, injuring Mr Vega and making him lose control of the vehicle and crashing it, his passenger told El Debate newspaper.

Deadly rumours

The gunmen then "finished Mr Vega off" with shots to the head and chest, El Debate reported the passenger as saying.

Police confirmed they found spent bullet shells next to the driver's door.

The BBC's Julian Miglierini in Mexico City said rumours had been circulating among fans of the Grupero genre of music that Mr Vega had been killed.

Only hours before the shooting, he told the entertainment website La Oreja that reports of his murder had been mistaken.

"It's happened to me for years now, someone tells a radio station or a newspaper I've been killed, or suffered an accident," Mr Vega said.

"And then I have to call my dear mum, who has heart trouble, to reassure her," he explained.

He told the site that musicians performing Grupero music were worried, but that he had entrusted himself to God. ...

via BBC News - Mexican singer El Shaka killed after denying his murder.

Cops: Woman falls out window, lands on car, sleeps

Police said a 30-year-old woman apparently fell out of a third-story window, landed on her parked car, and then walked into a neighbor's house, where she fell asleep on a couch for two hours. Lakemoor Police Chief Mike Marchese said family members believe the woman woke up before dawn Thursday and fell through the screen while opening a third-floor window.

Marchese said the woman bounced off the hood of her car, walked through a neighbor's open garage door and went into the house.

The neighbor found her asleep two hours later and called 911.

The woman, whom police have not identified, was taken by ambulance to Centegra Hospital-McHenry. Marchese said she was not suffering from any life-threatening injuries, but he did not know her condition.

via Cops: Woman falls out window, lands on car, sleeps - Yahoo! News.

New 'fix' for cosmic clocks could help uncover ripples in space-time

An international team of scientists have developed a promising new technique which could turn pulsars -- superb natural cosmic clocks -- into even more accurate time-keepers.

This important advance, led by scientists at The University of Manchester and appearing June 24 in the journal Science Express, could improve the search for gravitational waves and help studies into the origins of the universe.

The direct discovery of gravitational waves, which pass over cosmic clocks and cause them to change, could allow scientists to study violent events such as the merging of super-massive black holes and help understand the universe shortly after its formation in the Big Bang.

The scientists made their breakthrough using decades-long observations from the 76-m Lovell radio telescope at The University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory to track the radio signals of extreme stars known as pulsars.

Pulsars are spinning collapsed stars which have been studied in great detail since their discovery in 1967. The extremely stable rotation of these cosmic fly-wheels has previously led to the discovery of the first planets orbiting other stars and provided stringent tests for theories of gravity that shape the Universe.

However, this rotational stability is not perfect and, until now, slight irregularities in their spin have significantly reduced their usefulness as precision tools.

The team, led by the University of Manchester's Professor Andrew Lyne, has used observations from the Lovell telescope to explain these variations and to demonstrate a method by which they may be corrected.

Professor Lyne explains: "Mankind's best clocks all need corrections, perhaps for the effects of changing temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity or local magnetic field. Here, we have found a potential means of correcting an astrophysical clock."

The rate at which all pulsars spin is known to be decreasing very slowly. What the team has found is that the deviations arise because there are actually two spin-down rates and not one, and that the pulsar switches between them, abruptly and rather unpredictably.

These changes are associated with a change in the shape of the pulse, or tick, emitted by the pulsar. Because of this, precision measurements of the pulse shape at any particular time indicate exactly what the slowdown rate is and allow the calculation of a "correction." This significantly improves their properties as clocks.

The results give a completely new insight into the extreme conditions near neutron stars and also offer the potential for improving already very precise experiments in gravitation.

It is hoped that this new understanding of pulsar spin-down will improve the chances that the fastest spinning pulsars will be used to make the first direct detection of ripples, known as gravitational waves, in the fabric of space-time. ...

via New 'fix' for cosmic clocks could help uncover ripples in space-time.

Shape-shifting sheets automatically fold into multiple shapes

"More than meets the eye" may soon become more than just a tagline for a line of popular robotic toys.

Researchers at Harvard and MIT have reshaped the landscape of programmable matter by devising self-folding sheets that rely on the ancient art of origami.

Called programmable matter by folding, the team demonstrated how a single thin sheet composed of interconnected triangular sections could transform itself into a boat- or plane-shape—all without the help of skilled fingers.

Published in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) during the week of June 28, lead authors Robert Wood, associate professor of electrical engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and a core faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, and Daniela Rus, a professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department at MIT and co-director of the CSAIL Center for Robotics, envision creating "smart" cups that could adjust based upon the amount of liquid needed or even a "Swiss army knife" that could form into tools ranging from wrenches to tripods.

"The process begins when we first create an algorithm for folding," explains Wood. "Similar to a set of instructions in an origami book, we determine, based upon the desired end shapes, where to crease the sheet."

The sheet, a thin composite of rigid tiles and elastomer joints, is studded with thin foil actuators (motorized switches) and flexible electronics. The demonstration material contains twenty-five total actuators, divided into five groupings. A shape is produced by triggering the proper actuator groups in sequence.

To initiate the on-demand folding, the team devised a series of stickers, thin materials that contain the circuitry able to prompt the actuators to make the folds. This can be done without a user having to access a computer, reducing "programming" to merely placing the stickers in the appropriate places. When the sheet receives the proper jolt of current, it begins to fold, staying in place thanks to magnetic closures.

"Smart sheets are Origami Robots that will make any shape on demand for their user," says Rus. "A big achievement was discovering the theoretical foundations and universality of folding and fold planning, which provide the brain and the decision making system for the smart sheet."

The fancy folding techniques were inspired in part by the work of co-author Erik Dermaine, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and one of the world's most recognized experts on computational origami.

While the Harvard and MIT engineers only demonstrated two simple shapes, the proof of concept holds promise. The long-term aim is to make programmable matter more robust and practical, leading to materials that can perform multiple tasks, such as an entire dining utensil set derived from one piece of foldable material.

"The Shape-Shifting Sheets demonstrate an end-to-end process that is a first step towards making everyday objects whose mechanical properties can be programmed," concludes Wood.

via Shape-shifting sheets automatically fold into multiple shapes.

A Pacemaker for Your Brain

By stimulating certain areas of the brain, scientists can alleviate the effects of disorders such as depression or Parkinson's disease. That's the good news. But because controlling that stimulation currently lacks precision, over-stimulation is a serious concern — losing some of its therapeutic benefits for the patient over time.

Now a Tel Aviv University team, part of a European consortium, is delving deep into human behavior, neurophysiology and engineering to create a chip that can help doctors wire computer applications and sensors to the brain. The chip will provide deep brain stimulation precisely where and when it's needed.

Prof. Matti Mintz of Tel Aviv University's Psychobiology Research Unit in its Department of Psychology is focusing on the behavioral-physiological aspects of the research. He and the rest of the international research team are working toward a chip that could help treat some diseases of the mind in just a few years. The platform, says Prof. Mintz, is flexible enough to provide a basis for a variety of clinical experiments, and tools which can be programmed for specific disorders. For example, the chip could restore lost functions of the brain after a traumatic brain injury from a car accident or stroke.

The team's methodology is straightforward — they record activity using electrodes implanted in diseased areas of the brain. Based on an analysis of this activity, they develop algorithms to simulate healthy neuronal activity which are programmed into a microchip and fed back into the brain.

For now, the chip, called the Rehabilitation Nano Chip (or ReNaChip), is hooked up to tiny electrodes which are implanted in the brain. But as chips become smaller, the ReNaChip could be made small enough to be "etched" right onto the electrodes themselves.

For therapeutic purposes, though, only the electrodes will be inserted into the brain. "The chip itself can be implanted just under the skin, like pacemakers for the heart," says Prof. Mintz, who is currently conducting experiments on animal models, "ensuring that the brain is stimulated only when it needs to be." ...

via American Friends of Tel Aviv University: A Pacemaker for Your Brain.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Jackson glove sells for $190,000

Michael Jackson's gloveA crystal-studded glove belonging to the late pop star Michael Jackson has sold at a US auction for $190,000 (£126,000).

The glove, worn during the Jacksons' 1984 Victory tour, was among over 200 items on offer, which sold for just under $1m (£664,055) in total.

The sale took place at Julien's Auctions at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas at the weekend.

Some items fetched more than 10 times their estimated value.

"It just shows you Michael Jackson is the most sought after and most collectible celebrity of all time. It was just phenomenal," Darren Julien, who ran the auction, told the Las Vegas Review Journal.

"People flew in from Asia, Russia, all over. Now that he's gone, we now realise the true legend we lost," he added.

The value of Jackson memorabilia appears to be rising. The first of his gloves to go on auction after his death went for $49,000 (£29,900), back in September 2009.

Elvis's hair

A pair of Jackson's loafers, which he wore on stage, were expected to fetch between $2,000 (£1,328) and $3,000 (£1,990) but went for $90,000 (£59,764).

One of his jackets fetched $120,000 (£79,686), even though its estimate was between $6,000 (£3,984) and $8,000 (£5,312).

A white fedora hat sold for $56,250 (£37,353).

Other memorabilia from the likes of Elvis Presley, Prince, Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix was also up for grabs.

A lock of Presley's hair was sold for $20,000 (£13,281), while Prince's handwritten lyrics for Purple Rain fetched $67,650 (£44,900). ...

via BBC News - Jackson glove sells for $190,000.

Medical Myths Even Doctors Believe

medinaIndiana University School of Medicine researchers explored seven commonly held medical beliefs. selected seven medical beliefs, espoused by both physicians and members of the general public, for critical review. They then searched for evidence to support or refute each of these claims.

The researchers explored various myths including:

* People only use 10 percent of their brains

* Hair and fingernails continue to grow after we die

* Eating turkey makes you sleepy

* People should drink at least eight glasses of water a day

* Shaving hair cause it to grow back faster or coarser

* Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight

These beliefs are commonly accepted, not only by the general population, but also by many physicians. The authors' surprising findings, when they reviewed medical literature -- all the beliefs were unproven or untrue.

"We got fired up about this because we knew that physicians accepted these beliefs and were passing this information along to their patients. And these beliefs are frequently cited in the popular media. We didn't set out to become myth busters," said co-author Aaron Carroll, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of pediatrics and a Regenstrief Institute, Inc. affiliated scientist.

"Whenever we talk about this work, doctors at first express disbelief that these things are not true. But after we carefully lay out medical evidence, they are very willing to accept that these beliefs are actually false," said co-author Rachel Vreeman, M.D., a pediatrics research fellow.

The first belief they explored -- people should drink at least eight glasses of water a day. This advice has been promoted as healthful as well as a useful dieting or weight control strategy.

"When we examined this belief, we found that there is no medical evidence to suggest that you need that much water," said Dr. Vreeman. She thinks this myth can be traced back to a 1945 recommendation from the Nutrition Council that a person consume the equivalent of 8 glasses (64 ounces) of fluid a day. But an important part of the Council's recommendation has been lost over the years -- the large amount of fluid contained in food, especially fruits and vegetables, as well as in the coffee and soda people drink each day should be included in the recommended 64- ounce total. Drinking excess water can be dangerous, resulting in water intoxication and even death, the study authors note.

Dr. Vreeman and Dr. Carroll also explored the popular belief that we use only 10 percent of our brains. Frequently cited by everyone from physicians to comedians (Jerry Seinfeld) and erroneously credited to Albert Einstein, the authors found that there are a lot of ways to disprove this belief. MRI scans, PET scans and other imaging studies show no dormant areas of the brain, and even viewing individual neurons or cells reveals no inactive areas of the brain. Metabolic studies of how brain cells process chemicals show no nonfunctioning areas.

Dr. Carroll and Dr. Vreeman think this myth probably originated with self improvement experts in the early 1900s who wanted to convince people that they had yet not reached their full potential. With the help of these self proclaimed experts (perhaps the descendents of snake oil salesmen), one could tap into the 90 percent of the brain supposedly not being used....

via Medical Myths Even Doctors Believe.

There are several different origins of the 10% myth which is why, along with the fact that we simply choose believe things we like to believe,  it refuses to die.
No, for the Umpteenth Time, Your Brain Isn’t Hiding Superpowers From You ...

But Discover blogger and columnist Carl Zimmer has a piece this month that offers one possible  explanation for the phenomenon:
In the mid-1800s researchers discovered cells in the brain that are not like neurons (the presumed active players of the brain) and called them glia, the Greek word for “glue.” Even though the brain contains about a trillion glia—10 times as many as there are neurons—the assumption was that those cells were nothing more than a passive support system. Today we know the name could not be more wrong.

So, roughly 150 years ago, scientists studying the brain wrote off 91 percent of our brain as mere glue for the more important neurons that do the actual thinking. We now understand that they were wrong, but this strikes me as the sort of fact that can seep into the general culture and then become very difficult to dislodge.  The fact that psychics and TV shows through the years have propagated the myth surely can’t help. - discoverblogs 10% statement may have been started with a misquote of Albert Einstein or the misinterpretation of the work of Pierre Flourens in the 1800s. It may have been William James who wrote in 1908: "We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources" (from The Energies of Men, p. 12). - link

... the belief is derived from debates during the early 1800s between those who believed that brain function could be localized to particular regions of the brain and those who believed that the brain acted as a whole. These debates centered around Franz Joseph Gall (1757-1828) and Johann Spurzheim (1776-1832) who developed the field of phrenology: the idea that specific human behaviors and characteristics could be deduced by the pattern and size of bumps on the skull. Not everyone agreed with Gall and Spurzheim. Marie-Jean-Pierre Flourens (1794-1867), an outspoken critic of phrenology, believed that although the cerebral cortex, cerebellum and brainstem had separate functions, each of these areas functioned globally as a whole ("equipotential"). Flourens supported his theories with experiments in which he removed areas of the brain (mostly in pigeons) and showed that behavioral deficits increased with size of the ablation. Although the work of Gustav Fritsch (1838-1927), Eduard Hitzig (1838-1907), Paul Broca (1824-1888) and Karl Wernicke (1848-1904) in the late 1800s provided strong datato counter the theory of equipotentiality, some scientists in the early 1900s appeared to once again favor the notion that the brain acted as a whole. - abuk

The above is likely the root of the self-improvement people in the early 1900s spreading the idea that we use only a small part of our brains.

One of the most important later sources of this myth is the work of Karl Lashley in the 1920's and 1930's. He taught a rat to run a maze, then systematically destroyed parts of its brain. The brain-damaged rat could still re-learn to run the maze. Lashley was looking for the brain's memory centers, but he what didn't know then was that the rat used various senses: sight, smell, & feeling, to navigate the maze.

Lashley destroyed the part of the brain that let the rat see, and the unfortunate creature still learned to find the cheese by smell and feel. He cauterized the part of the brain that let the rat smell, and it could still find the cheese by feeling its way.  This is a classic example of how wrong assumptions can lead to bad experimental design and wrong conclusions which take many years to correct. This is also another example of how much scientists hate rats. ;-)

"Karl Lashley was a stimulus-response behaviorist. He theorized that physical memory traces (engrams) must be made in the brain when learning occurs. These new connections of neurons were assumed to involve the cerebral cortex, as proven by studies conducted by Pavlov. In 1929, Karl Lashley wrote his famous monograph, "Brain mechanisms and intelligence." This work consisted of studies with rats and mazes. Lashley removed portions of the cerebral cortex, varying from 10-50% in an effort to study the role the cerebral cortex played in learning. - link

Lashley removed large areas of the cerebral cortex in rats and found that these animals could still relearn specific tasks. Lashley [wrongly] concluded that it was the amount of the brain – not the place that was important. - link

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ben Franklin and the seeds of a Shadow Government

In the preceding article on the Roswell crash, Hillary Clinton is quoted as saying “There is a government inside the government, and I don’t control it.”  Of course, Hillary herself does not control the visible government either,  but that aside, to some people this is a very surprising statement. It may sound like a conspiracy theory, but the evidence for secret groups within the government goes all the way back to Ben Franklin.

History organized a group of friends to provide a structured forum for discussion about money. The group, initially composed of twelve members, called itself the Junto (the word is a mistaken use of the masculine singular Spanish adjective "joined", mistaken for the feminine singular noun "junta", "a meeting". Both derive from Latin "iunct-", past participle of "iungere", "to join"). The members of the Junto were drawn from diverse occupations and backgrounds, but they all shared a spirit of inquiry and a desire to improve themselves, their community, and to help others. Among the original members were printers, surveyors, a cabinetmaker, a clerk, and a bartender. Although most of the members were older than Franklin, he was clearly their leader.

At just 21 he oversaw five men, including Hugh Meredith, Stephen Potts, and George Webb, who were soon to form the core of the Junto. Franklin was an outgoing, social individual and had become acquainted with some of the businessmen at a club called the Every Night Club. This gathering included prominent merchants who met informally to drink and discuss the business of the day. Franklin’s congenial ways attracted many unique and learned individuals, and from these, he selected the members for the Junto.

All members lived in Philadelphia and came from diverse areas of interest and business. Along with Meredith, Potts and Webb, they included Joseph Breintnall, merchant and scrivener, who also loved poetry and natural history. Thomas Godfrey was a glazier, mathematician and inventor, and Nicholas Scull and William Parsons were both surveyors. Scull was also a bibliophile and Parsons a cobbler and astrologer. William Maugridge was a cabinetmaker, William Coleman a merchant’s clerk, and Robert Grace a gentleman. Grace’s wealth meant he did not have to work, but apparently he brought an intellectual element to the group, plus a fine library. The twelfth member of the Junto remained a mystery until 2007, when Professor George Boudreau of Penn State discovered a long-forgotten account of the club's refreshments, and verified that shoemaker John Jones, Jr. was an original member. Jones was a Philadelphia Quaker, a neighbor of Franklin's, and later a founding member of the Library Company of Philadelphia. The club met Friday nights, first in a tavern and later in a house, to discuss moral, political and scientific topics of the day.

Franklin describes the formation and purpose of the Junto in his autobiography:

I should have mentioned before, that, in the autumn of the preceding year, [1727] I had form'd most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement, which we called the Junto; we met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss'd by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased.

Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute or desire of victory; and to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.

The Questions

The Junto's Friday evening meetings were organized around a series of questions that Franklin devised, covering a range of intellectual, personal, business, and community topics. These questions were used as a springboard for discussion and community action. In fact, through the Junto, Franklin promoted such concepts as volunteer fire-fighting clubs, improved security (night watchmen), and a public hospital.

This is the list of questions Franklin devised to guide the discussions at Junto meetings (from Franklin's papers, dated 1728, and included in some editions of his autobiography):

  1. Have you met with any thing in the author you last read, remarkable, or suitable to be communicated to the Junto? particularly in history, morality, poetry, physics, travels, mechanic arts, or other parts of knowledge?

  2. What new story have you lately heard agreeable for telling in conversation?

  3. Hath any citizen in your knowledge failed in his business lately, and what have you heard of the cause?

  4. Have you lately heard of any citizen’s thriving well, and by what means?

  5. Have you lately heard how any present rich man, here or elsewhere, got his estate?

  6. Do you know of any fellow citizen, who has lately done a worthy action, deserving praise and imitation? or who has committed an error proper for us to be warned against and avoid?

  7. What unhappy effects of intemperance have you lately observed or heard? of imprudence? of passion? or of any other vice or folly?

  8. What happy effects of temperance? of prudence? of moderation? or of any other virtue?

  9. Have you or any of your acquaintance been lately sick or wounded? If so, what remedies were used, and what were their effects?

  10. Who do you know that are shortly going [on] voyages or journeys, if one should have occasion to send by them?

  11. Do you think of any thing at present, in which the Junto may be serviceable to mankind? to their country, to their friends, or to themselves?

  12. Hath any deserving stranger arrived in town since last meeting, that you heard of? and what have you heard or observed of his character or merits? and whether think you, it lies in the power of the Junto to oblige him, or encourage him as he deserves?

  13. Do you know of any deserving young beginner lately set up, whom it lies in the power of the Junto any way to encourage?

  14. Have you lately observed any defect in the laws, of which it would be proper to move the legislature an amendment? Or do you know of any beneficial law that is wanting?

  15. Have you lately observed any encroachment on the just liberties of the people?

  16. Hath any body attacked your reputation lately? and what can the Junto do towards securing it?

  17. Is there any man whose friendship you want, and which the Junto, or any of them, can procure for you?

  18. Have you lately heard any member’s character attacked, and how have you defended it?

  19. Hath any man injured you, from whom it is in the power of the Junto to procure redress?

  20. In what manner can the Junto, or any of them, assist you in any of your honourable designs?

  21. Have you any weighty affair in hand, in which you think the advice of the Junto may be of service?

  22. What benefits have you lately received from any man not present?

  23. Is there any difficulty in matters of opinion, of justice, and injustice, which you would gladly have discussed at this time?

  24. Do you see any thing amiss in the present customs or proceedings of the Junto, which might be amended?

Any person to be qualified as a member was to stand up, lay his hand upon his breast, and be asked the following questions, viz.

  1. Have you any particular disrespect to any present members? Answer. I have not.

  2. Do you sincerely declare that you love mankind in general, of what profession or religion soever? Answer. I do.

  3. Do you think any person ought to be harmed in his body, name, or goods, for mere speculative opinions, or his external way of worship? Answer. No.

  4. Do you love truth for truth's sake, and will you endeavor impartially to find and receive it yourself, and communicate it to others? Answer. Yes.- wikipedia

After my grandfather passed away, I learned that he was a member of  a secret society and some of the things he told me privately remind me of the above questions. I do think Franklin was brilliant and I can't help but admire the way he set things up. Even today, the questions make a powerful blueprint for anyone wanting to start a secret  club.

Dick D'Amato Unveiled as The Government Offical Who Met with Jesse Marcel Jr; Verifies Roswell Event & Government Cover-Up!



Many politicians and office holders -especially today- are held in public disdain for their lies about so many things. But some rise above the rest as genuine public servants. They have spoken of the need for truth about the ultimate deceit- the coverup of fallen extraterrestrials at Roswell. A review of their telling statements and actions -and a newly uncovered revealing photo- show a deep concern about the event throughout the years. From Senators and DC insiders to U.S. Governors - up to the highest office- there have been those who are in power who wish to empower us with the knowledge that we are not alone in the Universe. They provide clues to the greatest secret: that craft and bodies from another world were made known to man many decades ago.

Of course the politician most closely associated with investigation into the crash is the late New Mexico US Congressman Steven Schiff. Schiff pressed the US GAO (General Accounting Office) to conduct an independent audit of any extant records or materials that the govenment may have had that related to the crash. Though he passed in 1998, his call to truth on Roswell continues to echo through the hintful voices of several prominent and valiant civil servants:

Multi-term US Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico was the former US Energy Secretary. He was also a former US Presidential Candidate. Most recently Richardson was offered a U.S. Cabinet role with the Obama Administration, though he declined. Popular and a populist, Richardson is an affable man that is personally liked by many on both sides of the aisle. Richardson arrived in New Mexico in the late 1970s when the first mentions of Roswell were rumbling. He is very serious about Roswell and is very candid when he says that the government continues to lie to the public about the incident. Richardson is surely privy to many things that many are not. He has carefully considered the history and evidence of Roswell. And he may well himself be privy to the ET nature of the event.

So compelled is Richardson on the subject that he even wrote the foreward to a book on the subject. Richardson has stated publicly that "it would help everyone if the U.S. Government disclosed everything it knows." He adds, "The American people can handle the truth." Richardson believes that "with full disclosure" that "we should be able to find out what happened that fateful day in July 1947." This is an extraordinary choice of words. ...

According to a 2007 AP news story, when Richardson was asked by a Dell employee in TX about Roswell, Richardson responded that he understands that "the data on Roswell remains classified" and that he was not happy about it.

And still another New Mexico Governor, Gary Johnson, gave hints about the true nature of the Roswell crash. On June 22, 1997 on a local Albuquerque, NM evening broadcast program, Johnson indicated that Roswell was not ours, that he is privy to information that the general public is not- and that more than that he could not say. ...

Dick D'Amato (C. Richard D'Amato) is -by any standard- a classic "DC insider." He apparently also knows far more about what happened at Roswell than most in DC. After attending Cornell and the Fletcher School of Diplomacy, D'Amato earned his JD from Georgetown. He was a Professor at the US Naval Academy. Entering the world of politics, he rose quickly through various appointments. He served on many high-level US congressional advisory bodies (including on defense appropriations, national security and on international relations matters) and attained Top Secret clearances. He was named the Chief Counsel and Investigator to the US Senate Appropriations Committee. He later became National Security Specialist for Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd and a liasion member of the National Security Council. Today a private consultant, D'Amato remains active in politics in Maryland.

Dr. Jesse Marcel Jr. has a strange story to tell about Dick D'Amato. Dr. Marcel is the namesake son of Major Jesse Marcel, Army Intelligence Officer who was the first to reveal the ET truth about Roswell. Dr. Marcel relates that in 1991 he received a call from D'Amato out of the blue. D'Amato knew that Marcel had planned to attend a meeting in D.C. He invited Marcel to meet with him to discuss the Roswell event in what D'Amato called a "Secure Room" at the Capitol. Dr. Marcel (who as a child himself saw some of the ET debris) told D'Amato that would not be necessary -he had already said all that he... knows- and that he was not going to say anything that he hadn't said before. But D'Amato explained to Marcel that the fact was that he himself wanted to relate to Marcel something important about the crash incident. Marcel agreed to meet. What would this DC insider tell him?

Marcel said that he was told to meet in the Capitol Building, Room 228. Marcel indicates that D'Amato greeted him warmly. Marcel then noticed something displayed in the room. D'Amato had prominently placed on his desk a book on Roswell that explained it as an ET event. D'Amato pointed to the book and told Marcel: "This is not fiction." Marcel replied that of course he knew it was not fiction. He then looked at D'Amato and directly asked: Why doesn't the government tell the people? D'Amato told Marcel "if it were up to him" he would, but that it is of course not up to him. He agreed with Marcel that the information needed be officially released.

D'Amato then told Marcel that he had known of instances where "people have been threatened" about their involvement in Roswell. He asked if Marcel himself had ever been threatened. When told that he had not, D'Amato offered assistance and protection Marcel if such a thing should ever occur.

It is known that D'Amato has had private discussions with select researchers where he has detailed that there is a black arm of secrecy over the subject- and that money is being secretly appropriated to projects related to Roswell. D'Amato indicates that he does not know where the wreckage is now, and that it is such a covert project that even with subpoena power he could not penetrate these operations. ...

Barry Goldwater was a multi-term US Senator and a former US Presidential Candidate. He was a retired and highly decorated Major General in the Air Force who had led highly classified US Senate intelligence and military committees over many years. Though known as "Mr. Conservative," Goldwater was someone who had a strong interest in Roswell and ET.

In 1994, not long before his death, Goldwater confessed something he knew to be definitive about Roswell and UFOs. He revealed to a worldwide audience on CNN: "I think at Wright Patterson, if you could get into certain places, you'll find that the government knows about UFOs." Asked specifically about Roswell, Goldwater replied, "Reportedly a spaceship landed." He then stunned host Larry King and added to this remark by declaring (as if he knew it personally): "It was all hushed up." King then asked if he tried to find out about it. Goldwater said that he most assuredly did.

And Goldwater was in a unique position to have found out. Goldwater was a highly decorated Command Pilot in the Army Air Force in the 1940s. He was very close to General Curtis LeMay, the Air Force's Chief of Development in the 1940s (including when the Roswell crash occurred.) He was also a friend of the Base Commander of Roswell Army Air Field at the time of the crash, Butch Blanchard (whom he knew through General LeMay.) Goldwater had heard much first-hand testimony about the Roswell crash. But now he wanted confirmation- to see the extraterrestrial himself.

Goldwater then told Larry King that some years later, he went to LeMay to discuss the matter. Possessing the highest of our nation's clearances, Goldwater sought permission to access the documentation and physical evidence of the crashed disc materials that he knew to exist at Wright, in what Goldwater has referred to as a "Blue Room." Goldwater recounted to King that he said to LeMay: "General, I know that we have a room at Wright where you put all the "secret stuff." Could I go there?" Goldwater continued his interview with King: "I've never heard LeMay get mad, but he got madder than hell at me, cussed me out and said 'Don't ever ask me that question again." Goldwater wanted to but never did. ...

US Representative from Massachusetts William Delahunt replied to his constituent Robert F. Brown in 2005 in response to a letter from Brown about Roswell. He replied with a startlingly candid but brief comment: "After looking into the matter, I have found that the debris from that is still being analyzed and is not open to the public at this time." A US Congressmen from Virginia, Rep.Virgil Goode, told a Roswell researcher some years ago, "I have been reading about what you've been doing for a long time- a lot of us have. But you know, there's a group that really runs the show. Very shadowy. The US Congress is just window dressing."

Other such hints and confirmations about Roswell's importance have come from other politicians over the years. And even a two-time President of the United States and the current US Secretary of State have held deep personal and professional interest in resolving the Roswell mystery. ...

Many know that former President Bill Clinton had replied to a Belfast boy in 1995 when asked about Roswell, "Ryan, if the US Air Force did recover alien bodies, I want to know." Clinton certainly did "want to know," as did his wife former First Lady and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

- Found in the President Clinton's personal library inventory (taken by Ken Starr's impeachment investigators) was a copy of a book on the Roswell crash incident.

- John Podesta was Clinton's former Chief of Staff who later as a private citizen, organized the Coalition for Freedom of Information initiative in DC. This included a call for public disclosure about many issues, including UFOs. Mentioned specifically was a need to reveal all about Project Moon Dust and Operation Blue Fly. These projects are classified US military projects that relate to the retrieval of crashed flying objects requiring identification. Podesta obviously does not believe his own government has been forthcoming to the people on this vital matter. He states: "It is time for the government to de-classify records and provide scientists with data on the real nature of the phenomenon."

- Webster Hubbell, Clinton's former Associate Attorney General, was the third highest ranking member of the US Department of Justice. In his autobiography, Hubbell revealed that President Clinton held extreme interest in the subjects of UFOs and ET. Hubbell relates that Clinton distrusted many within government who would know the truth, as he sensed that they would hold back from him. Clinton decided to do his own covert Roswell investigation. He had asked Hubbell to make private approaches and inquiries and research to find out what really happened. Hubbell reported back to Clinton that, despite his best efforts, the subject was impenetrable.

- Laurance Rockefeller, world-famous industrialist, billionaire and prominent member of the political and philanthopic Rockefeller dynasty, was also a UFO researcher. He believed Roswell represented the crash of ET. He used his influence and ties to brief President Clinton's Science Advisor, Jack Gibbons, on the subject. In fact, Rockefeller briefed the First Lady herself, in person:

n an incredibly revealing photo known now to exist (thanks to the eagle eyes of researchers including the noted investigator Grant Cameron) the world can see graphically what the ET question means to those in power. Pictured in a rare and little-circulated photo taken some years ago, we see Roswell-proponent Laurance Rockefeller and First Lady Hillary Clinton strolling through Rockefeller's sprawling ranch.

Blowups of this photo show that Mrs. Clinton (now the US Secretary of State) is holding a copy of the book "Are We Alone?" authored by awarded physicist Dr. Paul Davies. The back cover has been conclusively determined to match the back cover of Davies 1995 book. She no doubt knew that there was a photographer because other, posed photos show her walking with Rockefeller around the grounds. Was the First Lady trying to coyly provide a clue to the world that We Are Not Alone? Did she discuss her ET concerns with her husband, the President of the United States?

In this remarkable and deeply thought-provoking book (a copy of which I own) Davies examines the implications to society about the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Below is a photo showing the First Lady (who is interestingly wearing a stylized Holy Cross) drawing the ET book close to her as she reflects with Rockefeller...

In 1996, Sr. White House Correspondent Sarah McClendon reports that she had asked the President privately why he does not demand disclosure on the UFO subject. Echoing the thoughts of US Rep. Goode and DC insider Dick D'Amato, Clinton unguardedly replied, "There is a government inside the government, and I don't control it."

via Dick D'Amato Unveiled as The Government Offical Who Met with Jesse Marcel Jr; Verifies Roswell Event & Government Cover-Up! | UFOBlogspot

"Are we alone?"  is not a book that reveals any UFO/alien secrets.
"The authentic discovery of extraterrestrial life would usher in a scientific revolution on par with Copernicus or Darwin, says Paul Davies. Just as these ideas sparked religious and philosophical controversy when they were first offered, so would proof of life arising away from Earth. With this brief book (160 pages, including two appendices and an index), Davies tries to get ahead of the curve and begin to sort out the metaphysical mess before it happens. Many science fiction writers have preceded him, of course, but here the matter is plainly put. This is a very good introduction to a compelling subject. ...

Paul Davies' book Are We Alone? is deceptively simple. While its purported topic is the possibility of alien life, it also covers and covers more extensively the various theories of sentience, what it is, why it is, and how common it might be. It also explains the anthropic principle, which uses the fact that we exist to explain why the universe is as it is. The volume is a little too short to cover the topics well, but it is definitely very lucid. ....

If you are the kind of person who thinks that little green men are a scientific certainty and that you have seen flying saucers yourself on at least a dozen occasions, well this ... book ... does not add a gram of proof ... to your ... beliefs.

This book turned out to be a philosophy book that discusses the origin of life, the evolution of technology and the subsequent advancement of this civilization across space. It is well written, very entertaining and yes, it makes you think.