Monday, February 28, 2011

Astronauts begin spacewalk

Stephen Bowen and Alvin Drew carry out maintenance on the International Space Station, 220 miles above the earth.

YouTube - Astronauts begin spacewalk.

I like the Point of View camera that makes it seem like you are there. I wish this video was a bit longer. Here is what it is like to ride up:

Space Shuttle Discovery Launch at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
July 4, 2006 headed the STS-121 crew toward the International Space Station.

Just stopping to enjoy the human accomplishment of the Space Shuttle. Amazing.

Last U.S. WWI Veteran Dies

Frank Buckles at age 16America’s last surviving veteran of World War I, Frank Buckles, has died aged 110.

Mr Buckles, who joined the US army in 1917, at the age of 16, lying about his age to get enlisted, died of natural causes at his home near Charles Town, West Virginia, on Sunday.

He was one of more than 4.7m Americans who signed up to fight in the Great War between 1917-18.

Frank Buckles, born in 1901, outlived everyone from his generation who went off to what was then called the Great War and returned home from the battlefields of France and the trench warfare from 1914-1918.He served in England and France, as a driver and a warehouse clerk.

Mr Buckles was turned down by the marines and the navy for being too young to serve, but managed to convince an army recruiter he was 21.

“A knowledgeable old sergeant said if you want to get to France right away, go into the ambulance corps,” he said in a 2001 interview with the Library of Congress.

BBC | BreakingNewsNetwork

He served as an ambulance driver during the war in France.

Mr. Buckles later spent more than three years in a Japanese POW camp as a civilian in the Philippines during World War II.


Wow.  One hundred and ten years old! Rest in peace Mr. Buckles.

France sends aid to Libya opposition

... "In a few hours two French planes will leave for Benghazi on behalf of the French government with doctors, nurses, medical equipment and medicine," Prime Minister Fillon said in an interview with France's RTL radio - referring to the eastern Libyan town that has been at the centre of the Libyan uprising and is now in opposition hands.

"This will be the start of a massive humanitarian aid operation to the populations of liberated areas," he declared.

He said France had not ruled out backing a Nato-enforced "no-fly zone" over Libya - one way it has been suggested that foreign governments could help defend Libyan rebels against the remaining air power of Col Muammar Gaddafi. ...

via BBC News - Criticism-hit France sends aid to Libya opposition.

Interesting times.  I believe China has deals for resources with countries like Libya where the West does not.

Sacramento man given prison sentence for trafficking underage girls

United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that Deandre Lornell Brown, 25, of Sacramento, was convicted today of five counts of conspiracy, sex trafficking of children and using force, fraud, or coercion, and participating in a venture that engaged in sex trafficking of children. The guilty verdict was returned by a federal court jury in Sacramento after a five-day trial before United States District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr.According to testimony presented at trial, Brown met and recruited two underage girls to work for him as prostitutes in and around the Sacramento area. Brown recruited the first minor (Victim #1) in 2005, and she continued to work for him until his arrest in September 2009.

Brown used force, threats of force, and coercion to force Victim #1 to prostitute for him. These acts included rape, pistol-whipping, and putting a pistol into Victim #1’s mouth and fingering the trigger. Brown also regularly assaulted Victim #1, slapping, punching, and kicking her. In one incident described during the trial, Brown inflicted wounds on Victim #1 that were so severe, including pouring bleach into open wounds on Victim #1’s body, that emergency medical treatment was required. In another incident, Brown described for Victim #1 how he would kill her and her family if she ever tried to leave him. According to Victim #1, the only person that Brown would spare during his murderous rampage was Victim #1’s infant daughter, whom Brown would leave on the doorstep of a stranger.

Brown recruited the second minor (Victim #2) on September 2, 2009, as she was walking near Arden Fair Mall. Victim #2 worked for Brown until September 13, 2009, when she ran away following a beating that Brown inflicted in an apartment used by Brown off Stockton Boulevard. During the time that she was with him, Victim #2 was anally raped, forced to engage in sexual acts with other prostitutes that worked for Brown, and assaulted.

Brown forced Victims #1 and #2, along with a third prostitute, his co-defendant in the case, Brittney Beacham, to work for him primarily in the Stockton Boulevard area of South Sacramento. Brown drove the girls to the “Stockton blade,” posted online advertisements on prostitution websites advertising the girls’ services, monitored and supervised their activities, and collected the money that they earned from prostitution. Brown also violently enforced his pimping rules in order to maintain control of the girls. Those rules included forcing the girls to refer to him as “Poppa,” requiring them to work nearly every day of the year, and not permitting them to speak with any African-American males.

For her role in prostituting Victim #2, Beacham pled guilty to misprision of a felony on April 19, 2010.

Judge Damrell stated that the jurors had been exposed to a “cesspool” of activities not seen by most residents of the Eastern District of California that turned 15- and 16-year-old girls into 40-year-old women in a matter of weeks, leaving scars that would last a lifetime. This case is the product of an extensive joint investigation by the Sacramento Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working together as part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost Task Force. Assistant United States Attorneys Kyle Reardon and Michael Beckwith are prosecuting the case.

Brown is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Damrell on November 29, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. He faces a sentence of no less than 15 years, and up to life in prison, a lifetime period of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.


Hats off to the FBI for getting this pimp filth off of our streets. I don't understand how this could go on for four years almost every night of the year before he was caught. Don't people call the police from their car cell phones when they see underage girls walking the streets?

An Alzheimer's Vaccine in a Nasal Spray

One in eight Americans will fall prey to Alzheimer's disease at some point in their life, current statistics say. Because Alzheimer's is associated with vascular damage in the brain, many of them will succumb through a painful and potentially fatal stroke.

But researchers led by Dr. Dan Frenkel of Tel Aviv University's Department of Neurobiology at the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences are working on a nasally-delivered 2-in-1 vaccine that promises to protect against both Alzheimer's and stroke. The new vaccine repairs vascular damage in the brain by rounding up "troops" from the body's own immune system.

And in addition to its prophylactic effect, it can work even when Alzheimer's symptoms are already present. The research on this new technology was recently accepted for publication in the journal Neurobiology of Aging. ...

"Using part of a drug that was previously tested as an influenza drug, we've managed to successfully induce an immune response against amyloid proteins in the blood vessels," says Dr. Frenkel, who collaborated on this project with Prof. Howard L. Weiner of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School. "In early pre-clinical studies, we've found it can prevent both brain tissue damage and restore cognitive impairment," he adds.

Modifying a vaccine technology owned by Glaxo Smith Kline, a multinational drug company, Tel Aviv University's new therapeutic approach activates a natural mechanism in our bodies that fights against vascular damage in the brain.

The vaccine, Dr. Frenkel explains, activates macrophages — large proteins in the body that swallow foreign antigens. When the vaccine activates large numbers of these macrophages, they clear away the damaging build-up of waxy amyloid proteins in our brain's vascular system.

Animal models showed that once these proteins are cleared from the brain, further damage can be prevented, and existing damage due to a previous stroke can be repaired. ...

via American Friends of Tel Aviv University: An Alzheimer's Vaccine in a Nasal Spray.

Sounds promising. I hope they get it working before I need it.

Free radicals maybe good for you

Fear of free radicals may be exaggerated, according to scientists from Karolinska Institutet. A new study, published in The Journal of Physiology, shows that free radicals act as signal substances that cause the heart to beat with the correct force.

Free radicals are molecules that react readily with other substances in the body, and this can have negative effects on health in certain circumstances, through the damage caused to cells. Free radicals can be counteracted by substances known as 'antioxidants', which are common ingredients in many dietary supplements. The idea that free radicals are generally dangerous and must be counteracted is, however, a myth, according to scientists who have conducted a new study of the role that free radicals play in heart physiology.

"As usual, it's a case of everything in moderation. In normal conditions, free radicals act as important signal substances, but very high levels or long-lasting increases can lead to disease", says Professor Håkan Westerblad, who has led the study.

When the body is subject to different types of stress, the sympathetic nervous system stimulates receptors known as beta-adrenergic receptors on the surface of heart muscle cells. This leads to several changes inside the cells, one of which is the phosphorylation of proteins. This leads to the contractions of the cells becoming stronger and the heart beats with greater force.

In the current study, the scientists show that stimulation of the beta-adrenergic receptors also leads to increased production of free radicals in the mitochondria of the cells, and these then contribute to stronger contractions of the cells. When the scientists exposed the cells to antioxidants, a major part of the effect of beta-adrenergic stimulation of the heart muscle cells disappeared.

The results reveal a previously unknown regulatory mechanism of the force production in the heart, and may lead to a better understanding of various types of heart deficiency.

"Free radicals play an important role, since they contribute to the heart being able to pump more blood in stress-filled situations", says Håkan Westerblad. "On the other hand, persistent stress can lead to heart failure, and chronically increased levels of free radicals may be part of the problem here." ...

via Free radicals maybe good for you - Startpage - Karolinska Institutet.

Full Bladder, Better Decisions? Controlling Your Bladder Decreases Impulsive Choices

Keri Chiodo - What should you do when you really, REALLY have to “go”? Make important life decisions, maybe. Controlling your bladder makes you better at controlling yourself when making decisions about your future, too, according to a study to be published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Sexual excitement, hunger, thirst—psychological scientists have found that activation of just one of these bodily desires can actually make people want other, seemingly unrelated, rewards more. Take, for example, a man who finds himself searching for a bag of potato chips after looking at sexy photos of women. If this man were able to suppress his sexual desire in this situation, would his hunger also subside? This is the sort of question Mirjam Tuk, of the University of Twente in the Netherlands, sought to answer in the laboratory.

Tuk came up with the idea for the study while attending a long lecture. In an effort to stay alert, she drank several cups of coffee. By the end of the talk, she says, “All the coffee had reached my bladder. And that raised the question: What happens when people experience higher levels of bladder control?” With her colleagues, Debra Trampe of the University of Groningen and Luk Warlop of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Tuk designed experiments to test whether self-control over one bodily desire can generalize to other domains as well.

In one experiment, participants either drank five cups of water (about 750 milliliters), or took small sips of water from five separate cups. Then, after about 40 minutes—the amount of time it takes for water to reach the bladder—the researchers assessed participants’ self-control. Participants were asked to make eight choices; each was between receiving a small, but immediate, reward and a larger, but delayed, reward. For example, they could choose to receive either $16 tomorrow or $30 in 35 days.

The researchers found that the people with full bladders were better at holding out for the larger reward later. Other experiments reinforced this link; for example, in one, just thinking about words related to urination triggered the same effect.

“You seem to make better decisions when you have a full bladder,” Tuk says. So maybe you should drink a bottle of water before making a decision about your stock portfolio, for example. Or perhaps stores that count on impulse buys should keep a bathroom available to customers, since they might be more willing to go for the television with a bigger screen when they have an empty bladder.

The results were a little surprising from a theoretical point of view; a lot of research in psychology has supported the concept of “ego depletion”—that having to restrain yourself wears out your brain and makes it harder to exert self-control over something else. But Tuk says this seems to work in a different way, maybe because bladder control is largely an automatic, unconscious process.

via Full Bladder, Better Decisions? Controlling Your Bladder Decreases Impulsive Choices - Association for Psychological Science.

Hearing loss rate in older adults climbs to more than 60 percent in national survey

Nearly two-thirds of Americans age 70 and older have hearing loss, but those who are of black race seem to have a protective effect against this loss, according to a new study led by Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging researchers. These findings, published online Feb. 28 in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, provide what is believed to be the first nationally representative survey in older adults on this often ignored and underreported condition.

Contrary to the view that hearing loss is of only minor importance in old age, study leader Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Otology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a core faculty member in the Johns Hopkins Center of Aging and Health, says studies including his own have strongly linked it to other health problems, such as cognitive decline, dementia, and poorer physical functioning. And he notes that relatively little is known about risk factors that drive hearing loss.

To fill in some of the blanks, Lin and his colleagues analyzed data from the 2005-2006 cycle of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a research program that has periodically gathered health data from thousands of Americans since 1971. In the 2005-2006 cycle, the hearing of participants 70 years or older was checked using a test that determined whether they could detect tones in frequencies used in speech.

When the researchers analyzed the numbers from 717 volunteers, they found that about 63 percent had hearing loss that ranged from mild to severe. Mixing in demographic data showed that those who were older or male were more likely to have hearing loss or more severe hearing loss than younger or female subjects. The researchers also found that being black appeared to be protective. While about 64 percent of white subjects had hearing loss, only about 43 percent of black subjects did. After accounting for other factors that are associated with hearing loss like age and previous noise exposure, black participants had only a third of the chance of having hearing loss when compared with white participants. ..

via Hearing loss rate in older adults climbs to more than 60 percent in national survey.

A Grudge Match between Humanity and Death—Who Wins?

Death can be terrifying. Recognizing that death is inescapable and unpredictable makes us incredibly vulnerable, and can invoke feelings of anxiety, hatred and fear. But new research by George Mason University psychology professor Todd Kashdan shows that being a mindful person not only makes you generally more tolerant and less defensive, but it can also actually neutralize fears of dying and death.

“Mindfulness is being open, receptive, and attentive to whatever is unfolding in the present moment,” says Kashdan. In his latest research, Kashdan and his colleagues wanted to find out if mindful people had different attitudes about death and dying.

“Generally, when reminded of our mortality, we are extremely defensive. Like little kids who nearly suffocate under blanket protection to fend off the monster in the closet, the first thing we try to do is purge any death-related thoughts or feelings from our mind,” says Kashdan.

“On the fringes of this conscious awareness, we try another attempt to ward off death anxiety. We violently defend beliefs and practices that provide a sense of stability and meaning in our lives.”

Kashdan says this practice often has an ugly side—intolerance and abuse. “When people are reminded that death is impending, their racist tendencies increase,” he says. In a series of experiments conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia, for example, white people asked to read about a crime committed by another person give harsher penalties for black compared with white defendants after being reminded of their mortality.

Kashdan wondered what might prevent these defensive, intolerant reactions from occurring. In a recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, he and his colleagues looked at what might happen when mindfulness and the terror of death collide.

“A grudge match between humanity and death,” says Kashdan.

If mindful people are more willing to explore whatever happens in the present, even if it uncomfortable, will they show less defensiveness when their sense of self is threatened by a confrontation with their own mortality?

Based on the results of 7 different experiments, the answer appears to be yes. When reminded about their death and asked to write about what will happen when their bodies decompose (in grisly detail), less mindful people showed an intense dislike for foreigners that mention what’s wrong with the United States (pro-U.S. bias), greater prejudice against black managers who discriminated against a white employee in a promotion decision (pro-white bias), and harsher penalties for social transgressions such as prostitution, marital infidelities, and drug use by physicians that led to surgical mishaps.

Across these various situations, on the contrast, mindful people showed a lack of defensiveness toward people that didn’t share their worldview. Mindful people were diplomatic and tolerant regardless of whether they were prompted to think about their slow, systematic decline toward obliteration.

“What we found was that when asked to deeply contemplate their death, mindful people spent more time writing (as opposed to avoiding) and used more death-related words when reflecting on the experience. This suggests that a greater openness to processing the threat of death allows compassion and fairness to reign. In this laboratory staged battle, mindfulness alters the power that death holds over us,” Kashdan says.

via Mason Media Blog » Blog Archive » A Grudge Match between Humanity and Death—Who Wins?.

Human stem cells from fat tissue fuse with rat heart cells and beat

Cody Mooneyhan - New research in the FASEB Journal suggests that intraspecies communication exists on a cellular level, as demonstrated by rats communicating with human stem cells in the same genetic language

If Dr. Doolittle is famous for talking to animals, then here's a story that might make him hold his tongue: According to new research published online in The FASEB Journal (, scientists have successfully fused human stem cells derived from subcutaneous adipose (fat) tissue with muscle cells from rat hearts. Not only did these cells "talk" to form new muscle cells altogether, but they actually beat.

"Recovery of regenerative cells located in the stromal vascular fraction of a patient's own subcutaneous tissue is relatively simple and can be used for self-healing," said Christopher Alt, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Molecular Pathology at the University of Texas in Houston. "A patient's quality of life can be improved by application of those recovered regenerative cells to the heart, as well as to bone, tendons, non-healing wounds and joints."

Using newborn rats, scientists studied the combination of rat heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) and human adipose (fat) stem cells derived from human subcutaneous adipose tissue. They found that the two fused and formed new heart muscle cells with several nuclei. When kept in a culture environment, these cells beat. These new cells exhibited an ability to compensate for a loss of cardiomyocytes as following a myocardial infarction, via fusion with cardiomyocytes. Furthermore, this study shows that contrary to previous findings suggesting that genetic modification of certain embryonic genes in adult stem cells is required as a prerequisite for turning into heart cells, the human stem cells used in this study were not genetically modified.

"Much work is still ahead before this method can be applied to humans, but the hope is that this technique might eventually make heart transplants unnecessary," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "This study not only shows the power of stem cell fusion technology, but also that cardiac regeneration is on the horizon." ...

via Human stem cells from fat tissue fuse with rat heart cells and beat.

Dark matter theory challenged by gassy galaxies result

Gas-rich galaxy F549-1A controversial theory that challenges the existence of dark matter has been buoyed by studies of gas-rich galaxies.

Instead of invoking dark matter, the Modified Newtonian Dynamics theory says that the effects of gravity change in places where its pull is very low.

The new paper suggests that Mond better predicts the relationship between gassy galaxies' rotation speeds and masses.

However, critics maintain that dark matter theory is a better general description of the Universe we see.

The study, available online, will be published in Physical Review Letters.

The theory that first proposed dark matter was developed in large part to account for mass that, if everything else we think about gravity is correct, seemed to be missing in rotating galaxies.

Standard formulations of gravity have it that matter circling, for instance, spiral galaxies, should rotate more slowly with increasing distance from the centre of the galaxy - much as the outer planets in our Solar System orbit more slowly than their innermost counterparts.

But the matter in rotating galaxies seems consistently to rotate with roughly equal speed near their cores and at their edges.

In the standard dark matter theory, cosmologists proposed a massive yet invisible quantity of material in order to solve this "flat rotation curve" problem.

This dark matter is imagined to exist in a "halo" around galaxies, providing the extra gravitational pull necessary to speed up those outlying bodies. ...

via BBC News - Dark matter theory challenged by gassy galaxies result.

Nation of Islam convention to include talk of UFOs

The Nation of Islam, long known for its promotion of black nationalism and self-reliance, now is calling attention to another core belief that perhaps isn't so well-known: the existence of UFOs.

When thousands of followers gather in suburban Chicago this weekend for the group's annual Saviours' Day convention, one of the main events will include a panel of scientists discussing worldwide UFO sightings, which they claim are on the rise.

The idea of seeking the divine in the skies is deeply rooted in the Chicago-based Nation of Islam, whose late leader Elijah Muhammad detailed in speeches and writings a massive hovering object loaded with weapons he called "The Mother Plane" - although religion experts, Nation of Islam leaders and believers offer very different interpretations of what exactly happens aboard the plane, its role or how it fits into religious teachings.

It's one of the group's more misunderstood - and ridiculed - beliefs, something organizers took into account when planning the convention, which starts Friday and ends Sunday with Minister Louis Farrakhan's keynote address.

"There's enough evidence that has been put before the world and public," Ishmael Muhammad, the religion's national assistant minister, told The Associated Press. "There have been enough accounts and sightings and enough movies (documentaries) made, I don't think you would find too many people that would call it crazy."

During last year's Saviours' Day speech, Farrakhan for the first time in years discussed in detail a vision he had in Mexico in 1985 involving an object he calls "the wheel." Using charts, photos and drawings, he spent almost four hours describing how he was invited aboard and heard Elijah Muhammad speak to him. Farrakhan says that experience led him to inklings about future events.

Farrakhan, 77, has said the wheel, with its great capacity for destruction, contains the "wisdom to purify the planet," but has harmed no one so far. He also claimed there have been governmental attempts to cover-up proof of the wheel, which he says many call UFOs.

Nation of Islam leaders often quote Biblical references to the prophet Ezekiel - along with Elijah Muhammad's teachings - when it comes to the wheel. In his book of articles on the subject, Muhammad described a planet-sized manmade vessel that orbits earth and is purported to be loaded with 1,500 planes or wheels, words that have since been used interchangeably. Their purpose is unclear. ...

via Nation of Islam convention to include talk of UFOs.

Gold Teeth Deflect Bullet, Save a Life, But Still Get Banned From School

These glittering grills could become even more popular after Walter Davis, a New Orleans man allegedly shot in the mouth by his younger brother, was saved when the dental accessory stopped the bullet.

Davis escaped with only minor gum damage and a cut upper lip because of his gold front teeth, the Uptown Messenger reported.

The metallic chompers likely deflected the .22 caliber bullet his brother allegedly fired into his face from a Smith and Wesson revolver, giving new meaning to the expression good as gold.

The brothers got into an argument on Feb. 7 after Walter and his girlfriend had reportedly smoked Waltdell's marijuana, which angered the younger brother. Police arrested Waltdell and charged him with aggravated battery, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and parole violation. ...

via Gold Teeth Deflect Bullet, Save a Life, But Still Get Banned From School.

Cumbrian man claims Lake District's Bownessie brushed past him as he swam

Bownessie search photoThe hotelier had thought he and colleague Andrew Tighe were alone on the lake when, out of the blue, he suddenly realised something powerful was going past him.

Early morning conditions couldn’t have been calmer – with waters mirror-like – as the managing director of Windermere’s Langdale Chase Hotel continued his training for an English Channel swim, accompanied by Mr Tighe in a rowing boat.

“We were going across the deeps, the deepest part of the lake,” he recalls.

“It was really calm. Then, all of a sudden, I felt something go past the back of my legs. It felt like a cruiser had gone past.

“Suddenly, this wave then lifted me up. I stopped and asked ‘what the hell was that? Get me out of here’.”

Mr Tighe, the Langdale’s general manager, feared for his friend as the follow-up ‘bow wave’ rose.

He said: “Looking back at that morning it is all a bit surreal. I was most concerned about Thomas. I didn’t know what it was.”

The whole experience, between 6.45am and 7am on July 29, 2009, lasted about 30 seconds.

After the drama unfolded, the lake went back to being completely flat – with the men confused as to what had just happened.

At first, Mr Noblett, 48, thought a submarine had passed him – with the Ministry of Defence perhaps doing some kind of secret testing. He described the feeling as “awful”.

It was only after another colleague at the hotel overheard them talking afterwards, that the realisation that it could be something else struck.

“We didn’t know what it could be. We were chatting about it in the kitchen and our chef said there was a report of something being sighted in the lake,” said Mr Tighe, 35.

Their experience, along with other sightings, have left the pair convinced there is something in the waters.

“One hundred per cent. There is something in there,” Mr Tighe said.

His colleague added: “We were non-believers beforehand. We didn’t give it a thought before. I was more concerned that a pike would bite me.”

Speculation as to whether Cumbria could have its own Loch Ness monster-type creature in Windermere has grown in the past week after a photograph emerged of what looks to be a four-humped creature in the water. ...

via News & Star | News | Focus | Cumbrian man claims Lake District's Bownessie brushed past him as he swam.

Man Accused of Prank Calling 911 More Than 18,000 Times

Lauren Frayer - A Los Angeles man has been arrested after allegedly making more than 18,000 prank calls to the 911 emergency hotline.

Maurice Cruz, 43, was arrested Friday on suspicion of misusing 911 emergency lines to annoy or harass, the Los Angeles Times reported. That charge is a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to six months in prison. He was released later the same day on bail.

The California Highway Patrol says it believes Cruz used a deactivated cell phone -- which has no service plan but still works for emergency numbers -- to make the prank calls over the past six months. There's no word on a motive or details of what he said in the calls.

Because he used a deactivated phone, the calls were difficult to trace. But the California Highway Patrol, with help from the Secret Service, eventually tracked the phone calls to Cruz's home in East Los Angeles, where he was arrested. They also seized several cell phones and chargers from his home, local KABC TV reported.

In a separate case, another California man was also arrested Friday for allegedly making more than 2,000 obscene phone calls to female dispatchers on several emergency hotlines.

Investigators say Israel Vasquez, 34, would frequently call his local sheriff's department, police and highway patrol in the town of Stanton. If a male dispatcher answered the call, he would remain quiet, but if a female answered, he would allegedly unleash a mouthful of obscenities. ...

via Man Accused of Prank Calling 911 More Than 18,000 Times.

Mouse heart 're-grows when cut', study shows

Scientists in the United States have found newborn mice can re-grow their own hearts.

The mice had a large chunk of their heart removed a day after birth, only for the heart to restore itself within three weeks.

Fish and amphibians are known to have the power to re-grow heart tissue, but the study in Science is the first time the process has been seen in mammals.

British experts said understanding the process could help human heart care. ...

The researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center surgically removed what is known as the left ventricular apex of the heart (about 15% of the heart muscle) from mice just a day after birth.

The heart was then quickly seen to regenerate and was fully restored after 21 days. After two months, the organ still appeared to be functioning normally.

But when the same procedure was tested on mice aged one week, the heart failed to regenerate, suggesting this power of self-repair is extremely short-lived in mice.

The belief is that heart cells within the mouse have a narrow window after birth within which they can continue to replicate and repair. Subsequent tests suggested that these repair cells were coming from within the heart muscle. ...

via BBC News - Mouse heart 're-grows when cut', study shows.

Former Canadian Defense Official Blasts US on UFO Cover-Up

Former Canadian defense minister Paul HellyerFormer Canadian Minister of National Defense Paul Hellyer is very outspoken on the reality of UFOs and has criticized the U.S. government for reportedly covering up UFO information.

If a previous minister of national defense of a big country started talking publicly about his belief that some UFOs are interplanetary vehicles carrying visitors to Earth, would you believe him or not?

Well, stepping up to the plate is the Honorable Paul Hellyer, a former deputy prime minister of Canada and the longest serving current member -- ahead of Prince Philip -- of the Queen's Privy Council, which is made up of "prominent Canadians appointed to advise the queen on issues of importance to the country."

As Canadian minister of national defense in 1963, Hellyer was responsible for integrating and unifying the Royal Canadian army, navy and air force into a single organization, the Canadian Armed Forces.

And yes, he is extremely outspoken about UFOs and alien visitors to Earth.

"Oh, I'm absolutely convinced of it. These things were not invented here. And I think people have to get accustomed to this new reality," Hellyer told AOL News.

"We lived too long in a sense of isolation, thinking that Earth was the center of the cosmos, that we were the only species and, therefore, probably the most advanced. And when we come to the realization that we're not any of those things, then I think we should be aware of it, learn to live with it and certainly try to take advantage of anything that we can learn from visitors from anywhere."

Hellyer, 87, is also known for his activities involving world issues, including monetary reform, the Middle East and environmental concerns.

This week, he's presenting his views on UFOs at the International UFO Congress in Scottsdale, Ariz. ...

via Former Canadian Defense Official Blasts US on UFO Cover-Up.

Water trapped inside rocks for billions of years

Barbara Sherwood Lollar says there are competing theories about where the ancient water originally came from.Scientists have found evidence that water was trapped for up to billions of years inside rocks deep in an African gold mine.

"It's really exciting," said Barbara Sherwood Lollar, a University of Toronto geologist who co-authored the study published in the February issue of Chemical Geology. "Nobody has ever identified a billion-year-old component within water before."

She noted that the Earth itself has only existed for around 4.5 billion years.

The study led by Johanna Lippmann-Pipke of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf in Leipzig, Germany, looked at groundwater in crevices deep under South Africa's Witwatersrand Basin.

"They are like pockets of water that are interconnected," Sherwood Lollar told CBC's Quirks & Quarks in an interview that was to air Saturday.

The researchers analyzed the water and the elements dissolved in it and found that on average, they were 25 million years old.

But the very oldest was the dissolved neon gas.

"By looking at both how much is there and at the nature of the neon — in particular something called the isotope composition — we can get sense of how long these systems have been there," Sherwood Lollar said.

The neon showed evidence of having been there since the last time the rocks were heated to an extremely high temperature by geologic activity two billion to 2.7 billion years ago. ...

The researchers were looking for water deep underground in hopes of finding life there, and they succeeded in that goal also. They discovered that microbes living in the rock three kilometres underground show many similarities to microbes that live at the bottom of the ocean, Sherwood Lollar said. According to the paper, the life found in the mine represents the deepest microbial ecosystems on Earth ever described by scientists. ...

via Water trapped inside rocks for billions of years - Technology & Science - CBC News.

New form of sulfur discovered in geological fluids

Artist's impression of the S3- molecule in a diamond anvil cell.

Sulfur is the sixth most abundant element on Earth and plays a key role in many geological and biological processes. A French-German team including CNRS1 and the Université Paul Sabatier has identified, on the basis of laboratory measurements, a novel form of sulfur present in geological fluids: the S3- ion. The discovery calls existing theories about the geological transport of sulfur into question, and could provide ways of identifying new deposits of precious metals such as gold and copper.

These findings are published in the Feb. 25, 2011 issue of the journal Science.

Until now, geochemists believed that inside Earth, only two forms of molecules contained sulfur: sulfides (based on H2S or S2-) and sulfates (based on H2SO4 or SO42-). Yet they had no way of directly plunging a probe into the hydrothermal fluids2 that flow through rocks to verify this theory. To get round this problem and test their hypothesis, the French-German team first created fluids similar to those in Earth's crust and mantle, i.e. aqueous solutions containing elementary sulfur (S) and thiosulfates (molecules containing the S2O32− ion). They then used a diamond anvil cell to bring the fluids to the temperatures and pressures found at depths of several kilometers (several hundred degrees and tens of thousands of atmospheres).

The researchers used an optical method known as Raman spectroscopy to identify the chemical species, and they were astounded to discover not two, but three forms of sulfur, the third being the trisulfur ion S3-. This was a double surprise: although S3- was already known to chemists (it is found in sulfur-containing silicate glass and ultramarine pigments for instance), it had never been observed in an aqueous solution.

The detection of S3- during these experiments means that sulfur must be considerably more mobile in hydrothermal fluids in Earth's crust than was previously thought. ...

via New form of sulfur discovered in geological fluids.

Arvada boy, 11, arrested over violent stick figure drawing

An 11-year-old Arvada boy was arrested and hauled away in handcuffs for drawing stick figures in school - something his therapist told him to do.

The boy’s parents say they understand what he did was inappropriate, but are outraged by the way Arvada Police handled the case.

The parents do not want their real names used. “Tim” is being treated for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and his therapist told him to draw pictures when got upset, rather than disrupt the class. So that’s what he did.

Last October, he drew stick figures of himself with a gun, pointed at four other stick figures with the words “teacher must die.” He felt calmer and was throwing the picture away when the teacher saw it and sent him to the principal’s office.

The school was aware that the boy was in treatment, determined the drawing was not an actual threat, notified his parents and sent him back to class.

His mother, “Jane,” however, was shocked when Arvada Police showed up at their home later that night. She says she told her son to cooperate and tell the truth, but was horrified when they told her they were arresting him and then handcuffed him and hauled him away in a patrol car.

Tim’s mother says she begged police to let her drive her son to the police department and to let her stay with him through the booking process but they refused. Instead, they put him in a cell, took his mug shot and fingerprinted him.

He thought he was going to jail and would never be able to go home again.

According to the police report, “Tim” explained he made the drawing to release anger and would never hurt teachers or anyone. At first, the school did not want to press charges, but changed their mind when police called them later that night.

A juvenile assessment report shows Tim has never been in legal trouble before and is at low risk to reoffend. Regardless, he is charged with a third degree misdemeanor, interfering with staff and students at an educational facility.

The system says it’s doing what’s in the best interest of the child. But Tim’s therapist says handcuffing an 11-year-old and putting him in a cell over something like this is “quite an overreaction” and does much more harm than good.

Tim is on probation and, if he completes that successfully, the criminal charges will be dropped. But his parents say its cost them thousands of dollars so far. And if they had known that their son’s cooperation would be used as evidence against him, they would have hired a lawyer at the beginning and exercised their right to remain silent. ...

via Arvada boy, 11, arrested over violent stick figure drawing - KDVR.

SSDs prove difficult to securely erase

SSD kitAt this week's Usenix FAST 11 conference on File and Storage Technologies in San Jose, California researchers published a paper examining the effectiveness of different secure erasure methodologies on Solid State Disks (SSDs).

The researchers, Michael Wei, Laura M. Grupp, Frederick E. Spada and Steven Swanson of the University of California at San Diego, came to several interesting conclusions:

* ATA and SCSI command set features for securely destroying data on SSDs ("ERASE UNIT") were available on only 8 of the 12 drives tested and were only successful on 4 of the drives.

* Repeatedly overwriting the entire disk with multiple repetitions can successfully destroy data, but because of the Firmware Translation Layer (FTL), this is considerably more complicated and time-consuming than on traditional hard disk drives. Based on their results, it is an unattractive option for most organizations.

* Degaussing SSDs does not erase any of the data stored on them. While SSDs do not use magnetic storage, there was some hope that the electromagnetism might destroy the electronics in the flash chips.

* Single file sanitization, the ability to securely destroy one file on an unencrypted disk, is nearly impossible on SSDs. The paper claims that even the most effective file destruction methods may leave behind more than 4 percent of the original data.

* Drives that are encrypted provide the most practical form of protection. Disks can be safely decommissioned by deleting the encryption keys from the Key Storage Area (KSA) and then running a full DoD compliant erasure to ensure the keys are non-recoverable.

via SSDs prove difficult to securely erase | Naked Security.

Xeno's Daily Strange News Awards Blog

Welcome. There are about 10,000 posts here and  7,600 comments. Note: Content in a dotted line box is a quoted excerpt. Click the link to view the entire original article. Click « Previous Entries or browse the calendar.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Can two dreamers communicate over the Internet?

Daniel Oldis, whose seminal work in the science of lucid dreams is widely quoted in academic circles writes an introduction to his acclaimed Lucid Dream Manifesto in which he suggests that a lucid dreamer can signal another dreamer using dream masks and the internet.

Check out”Sleep Stream Online” a sleep lab that is studying sleep patterns with the goal of identifying when lucid dreaming is in progress. “Brian” an engineering student at Cornell, is using “Zeo” an easily worn device that records sleep patterns and sends the data to the sleepstream program. The goal is to synchronize lucid dreamers and explore ways to communicate dreamer to dreamer. This study is inspired by Oldis’ writings. Here’s the link:

via Virtually Perfect ends in Babylon Dreams.

I've been excited by lucid dreaming research for many years and have read many different experiments conducted by Stephen LaBerge and others, but I hadn't heard of the Zeo or the above work by Daniel Oldis. Thanks to for pointing out this exciting experiment.

Lucid dreamers can signal the outside world that they are dreaming using eye signals. Eye movements can be measured using electrodes. If you look a direction in your dream, you are really looking in that same direction behind your eyelids. This is used in experiments to have lucid dreamers signal that they have completed certain tasks. Getting information into the dream to the dreamers, however, last time I checked, is hit and miss. I've worn a device called a Nova Dreamer that flashes lights in your eyes. Sometimes the lights are incorporated into your dream, but sometimes you don't see any lights.

I'd like to try a Zeo.
Find out your ZQ — a score of the quantity and quality of your sleep each night. Every morning, Zeo will tell you your ZQ — a number that summarizes your sleep’s quantity and quality — and lots of other information about your sleep. ...

Find out what’s stealing your sleep.

Zeo Personal Sleep Coach will help you understand and minimize the factors that negatively affect sleep, so you can take control of your nights. You can use the visual analytical tools in your personal account to see trends and cause & effect patterns.

- link

Stephen Colberg is Anonymous. ;-)

Stephen Colbert is AnonymousAll the conspiracy folk out there should love this one: a few nights ago, Stephen Colbert had Glenn Greenwald on to discuss the showdown between security firm HBGary and the Wikileaks-supporting internet 'vigilante' hacking group Anonymous which has been making news of late. Towards the end of the interview, keen-eyed viewers may have picked up a little 'video glitch' - and if they were interested enough, they may have investigated further and found this 'subliminal' one-frame overlay on top of Colbert's face...

Yes that's right - Colbert has a Guy Fawkes mask graphic over his face, a symbol intimately associated with 'Anonymous', derived from the Alan Moore comic series 'V for Vendetta'. Here's some video from the interview so you can see the subliminal insert (at around 4:22 into the video):


via Daily Grail Frontpage | TDG - Science, Magick, Myth and History.

This video cracked me up.

Ten Things Americans Waste the Most Money On - 24/7 Wall St.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed how Americans spend money. One of the conclusions of this analysis is that consumer spending is relatively alive and well, despite the recession. This may mean that Americans continue to be over-leveraged. US citizens have, in general, brought down their indebtedness. However, holiday spending rose substantially from last year, and the extent to which Americans feel poor has declined now that the recession has ended. Americans spend about 15% of their household incomes on things that they do not need to satisfy their vices or to keep themselves amused. ...

[% of Total Annual Expenses:]

  1. Apparel Products and Services: 0.5%

  2. Tobacco: 0.8%

  3. Entertainment Equipment,  Nonessential Services: 0.8%

  4. Alcohol:0.9%

  5. Fees and Admissions: 1.3%

  6. Lodging, Vacation Homes and Hotels: 1.4%

  7. Pets, Toys, Hobbies, and Playground Equipment: 1.4%

  8. Television, Radio, and Sound Equipment: 2%

  9. Gifts: 2.2%

  10. Food Away From Home: 5.3%

via Ten Things Americans Waste the Most Money On - 24/7 Wall St..

Aren't you glad to know the recession has ended? I recently found a good free app for my iPhone (CalcNoteLE) to do a quick budget. This made me realize I need to shuffle some things around, pay off my one remaining debt (my car loan) asap, and that my biggest expense after rent is eating out. I'm still working out how to spend the least on the healthiest and most tasty foods. I'm definitely ahead of the game since I don't have pets, don't smoke and don't drink.

There are times when some debt can't be helped, such as when you are in school or if  you lose your job, but the trick is, for most of your life, to spend less than you make, save and invest wisely. The items above are only "wasting" money, in my view, when the people spending money on them can't afford them.  If you work hard and live within your means, you should be able to spend on things that make you happy. Life is short. Enjoy it.

So do the economy a favor: pay an admission fee to get yourself non-essentially serviced, then buy some new clothes and eat away from home while giving a gift of a TV to your pet who is staying in a hotel smoking and drinking.

Man blows himself up near Moscow supermarket

A man who apparently was distraught after an argument with his wife blew himself up near a Moscow supermarket, killing himself, ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

No other injuries were reported in the incident in the city's northeast.

The wife of the man told police that her husband had quarreled with her about three hours earlier, after which he grabbed a gun and left their home, police spokesman Anatoly Lastovetsky was quoted as saying by ITAR-Tass.

Lastovetsky did not specify how the man blew himself up, but the Interfax news agency reported that witnesses said he parked his automobile near the supermarket, went to its entrance while muttering unintelligibly, pulled out a grenade and set it off.

There were no indications the act was intended as terrorism and ITAR-Tass cited the spokesman as saying the domestic quarrel was apparently the motivation.

But the explosion initially sparked fears that it could be a terror attack in a city that experienced one just over a month ago. A suicide bomber killed 37 people in a Jan. 24 blast at Moscow's Domodedovo airport, the country's busiest. A leader of Islamist insurgents in Russia's Caucasus claimed responsibility for ordering that attack. ...

via Man blows himself up near Moscow supermarket | AP Nation / World - The News Tribune.

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. What do you suppose he was muttering?

Friday, February 25, 2011

CHART SHOCK: The REAL Unemployment Rate Is 22%

It remains above 22% with the February update. Details from John William's Shadow Gov't. Stats.

* Shadow Stats

The seasonally-adjusted SGS Alternate Unemployment Rate reflects current unemployment reporting methodology adjusted for SGS-estimated long-term discouraged workers, who were defined out of official existence in 1994. That estimate is added to the BLS estimate of U-6 unemployment, which includes short-term discouraged workers.

The U-3 unemployment rate is the monthly headline number. The U-6 unemployment rate is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) broadest unemployment measure, including short-term discouraged and other marginally-attached workers as well as those forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time employment. ...

via CHART SHOCK: The REAL Unemployment Rate Is 22% - Home - The Daily Bail.

Get rid of the blood sucking leeches and there will be money to hire people again and the economy will recover. Look at where the money is going (2009):

Total Outlays (Federal Funds): $2,650 billion
MILITARY: 54% and $1,449 billion
NON-MILITARY: 46% and $1,210 billion

FY2009 federal piechart

Gaddafi: Follow me or I will burn all of Libya

GaddafiLibyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has warned to "burn all of Libya" if the citizens do not cease protests against him.

In a surprise televised appearance, Gaddafi warned he was ready to unleash further bloodshed and urged his followers: "Prepare to defend Libya," Sky News reports.

"We will defeat any outside attempt to overturn our country,” he told loyalists gathered in Tripoli's Green Square, and adding that "Libyan people love me."

In his fourth bizarre public tirade this week, Col Gaddafi told supporters to "keep dancing, keep chanting", adding: "Libyan people love me."

Later, his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi claimed security forces were holding back in battles with rebels - who referred to as "terrorists" - in western Libya and that he hoped there would be a ceasefire in place by Saturday.

The warnings have come days after the massive anti-government protests in Tripoli, which have left hundreds of people dead. ...

via Gaddafi: Follow me or I will burn all of Libya.

Baghdad wants U.S. to pay $1 billion for damage to city

An Iraqi soldier stands guard as he looks at a damaged concrete wall after a bomb attack in Baghdad March 23, 2010. REUTERS/Saad ShalashIraq's capital wants the United States to apologize and pay $1 billion for the damage done to the city not by bombs but by blast walls and Humvees since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The city's government issued its demands in a statement on Wednesday that said Baghdad's infrastructure and aesthetics have been seriously damaged by the American military.

"The U.S. forces changed this beautiful city to a camp in an ugly and destructive way, which reflected deliberate ignorance and carelessness about the simplest forms of public taste," the statement said.

"Due to the huge damage, leading to a loss the Baghdad municipality cannot afford...we demand the American side apologize to Baghdad's people and pay back these expenses."

The statement made no mention of damage caused by bombing. ...

via Baghdad wants U.S. to pay $1 billion for damage to city | Reuters.

Let's not bicker and argue about who made who's city into a lump of mud. Back in 2007 we were spending $720 million a day on the Iraq war (wash post), so we can certainly spare 2 days of war money to rebuild the city, once we are done knocking it around.

White House pushes Congress to avert shutdown

The White House on Friday warned that a looming US government shutdown "would be bad for the economy" as it urged feuding lawmakers to reach a budget compromise by a March 4 deadline.

"All of us agree that a government shutdown would be bad for the economy," said spokesman Jay Carney, who told reporters "we believe that a compromise can be reached" in hard-fought congressional negotiations.

His comments came as US President Barack Obama's Republican foes, who control the House of Representatives, unveiled a two-week stopgap spending measure that would cut $4 billion dollars by reducing or scrapping programs.

Senate Democrats were reportedly working on their own version, a seven-month extension that would accelerate some $33 billion in spending cuts and program terminations included in Obama's proposed budget for next year. ...

via Activist Post: White House pushes Congress to avert shutdown.

Market Crash 2011: It will hit by Christmas Paul B. Farrell

Paul B. FarrellPaul B. Farrell - Politicians lie. Bankers lie. Yes, they’re liars. But they’re not bad, it’s in their genes, inherited. Their brains are wired that way, warn scientists. Like addicts, they can’t help themselves. They want to sell stuff, get rich.

We want to believe they’re telling us the truth. Silly, huh? Both trapped in this eternal “dance of death” controlled by programs hidden deep in our brains, telling us what to do, telling us to ignore facts to the contrary — till it’s too late, till a new crisis crushes all of us.

Psychology offers us a powerful lesson: Our collective brain is destined to trigger a crash before Christmas 2011. Why? We’re gullible, keep searching for a truth-teller in a world of liars. And they’re so clever, we let them manipulate us into acting against our best interests.

In fact, behavioral science tells us that bankers and politicians are lying to us 93% of the time. It’s 13 times more likely Wall Street is telling you a lie than the truth. That’s why they win. Why we lose. Because our brains are preprogrammed to cooperate in their con game. Yes, we believe most of their lies. ...

if you really want to know how Wall Street’s con game works on you, Barry Ritholtz, the financial genius behind “Bailout Nation,” recently summarized it in the Washington Post: “Humans make all the same mistakes, over and over again. It’s how we are wired, the net result of evolution. That flight-or-fight response might have helped your ancestors deal with hungry saber-toothed tigers and territorial Cro Magnons, but it drives investors to make costly emotional decisions.”

Humans have something “akin to brain damage,” says Ritholtz. “To neurophysiologists, who research cognitive functions, the emotionally driven appear to suffer from cognitive deficits that mimic certain types of brain injuries. … Anyone with an intense emotional interest in a subject loses the ability to observe it objectively: You selectively perceive events. You ignore data and facts that disagree with your main philosophy. Even your memory works to fool you, as you selectively retain what you believe in, and subtly mask any memories that might conflict.”

Worse, there’s no cure. ...

Translation: Get the heck out of Wall Street’s stock market casino soon, maybe as early as July 4th, and definitely get out by Christmas, because soon all the lies, lying and liars will stop working.

via Market Crash 2011: It will hit by Christmas Paul B. Farrell - MarketWatch.

Who can say, but remember when I told you to buy Palladium? That still seems like a good idea to me.  If the market crashes, metals go up.

Google Adds Filtering of 'low-quality' Sites

GoogleGoogle has tweaked the formulas steering its Internet search engine to take the rubbish out of its results. The overhaul is designed to lower the rankings of what Google deems "low-quality" sites.

That could be a veiled reference to such sites as Demand Media's, which critics call online "content farms" -- that is, sites producing cheap, abundant, mostly useless content that ranks high in search results. Sites that produce original content or information that Google considers valuable are supposed to rank higher under the new system.

via National briefs: 2/26/11.

Coolness. This blog is #2 in the search for "Xenophilius" now.  I hope it stays that way through the last Harry Potter movie, July 15th in the USA.

Tip: If you want to see the last HP movie a few days early on July 13th, you could fly to France or Sweden according to IMDB.

US Gov. Creates Software for ’Fake People’ Pushing Propoganda on Social Networks

Sean Kerrigan-The US government is offering private intelligence companies contracts to create software to manage "fake people" on social media sites.  Private security firms employeed by the government have used the accounts to create the illusion of consensus on controversial issues.

The contract calls for the development of "Persona Management Software" which would help the user create and manage a variety of distinct fake profiles online. The job listing was discussed in recently leaked emails from the private security firm HBGary after an attack by internet activist last week.

According to the contract, the software would "protect the identity of government agencies" by employing a number of false signals to convince users that the poster is in fact a real person. A single user could manage unique background information and status updates for up to 10 fake people from a single computer.

The software enables the government to shield its identity through a number of different methods including the ability to assign unique IP addresses to each persona and the ability to make it appear as though the user is posting from other locations around the world.

Included in HBGary's leaked emails was a government proposal for the government contract. The document describes how they would 'friend' real people on Facebook as a way to convey government messages. The document reads:

  • "Those names can be cross-referenced across Facebook, twitter, MySpace, and other social media services to collect information on each individual. Once enough information is collected this information can be used to gain access to these individuals social circles.

  • Even the most restrictive and security conscious of persons can be exploited. Through the targeting and information reconnaissance phase, a person’s hometown and high school will be revealed. An adversary can create a account at the same high school and year and find out people you went to high school with that do not have Facebook accounts, then create the account and send a friend request. Under the mutual friend decision, which is where most people can be exploited, an adversary can look at a targets friend list if it is exposed and find a targets most socially promiscuous friends, the ones that have over 300-500 friends, friend them to develop mutual friends before sending a friend request to the target. To that end friend’s accounts can be compromised and used to post malicious material to a targets wall. When choosing to participate in social media an individual is only as protected as his/her weakest friend."

Other documents in the leaked emails include quotes from HBGary CEO Aaron Barr saying, "There are a variety of social media tricks we can use to add a level of realness to all fictitious personas... Using hashtags and gaming some location based check-in services we can make it appear as if a persona was actually at a conference and introduce himself/herself to key individuals as part of the exercise, as one example."

Additional emails between HBGary employees, usually originating from Barr, discuss the vulnerability social networking causes.

One employee wrote, "and now social networks are closing the gap between attacker and victim, to the point I just found (via linked-in) 112 females, wives of service men, all stationed at Hurlbert Field FL - in case you don't know this is where the CIA flies all their "private" airlines out of. What a damn joke - the U.S. is no longer the super power in cyber, and probably won't be in other areas soon."

Barr also predicted a steady rise in clandestine or secret government operations to stem the flow of sensitive information. "I would say there is going to be a resurgence of black ops in the coming year as decision makers settle with our inadequacies... Critical infrastructure, finance, defense industrial base, and government have rivers of unauthorized communications flowing from them and there are no real efforts to stop it."

The creation of internet propoganda software is only one of HBGary's controversial activities. According to Wikileaks competetor and occasional collaborator, several other progressive organizations were intended to be targeted including anti-war activist, anti-torture organizations and groups opposed to the US Chamber of Commerce.

The emails also include a number of other embarrasing entries including the purchase of the book "The Multi-Orgasmic Man: Sexual Secrets Every Man Should Know" from Amazon for $6.76.

via FAKEBOOK: US Gov. Creates Software for ’Fake People’ Pushing Propoganda on Social Networks.

According to a spokesperson for US Central Command, Persona Management Software is not being used by the US government inside the United States and that the program is limited to “foreign, non-English speaking” websites.

Lt. Cmdr. Bill H. Speaks, spokesperson for US Central Command, said the program “supports classified activities outside the [United States]” on “non-English speaking websites.”

When asked if the program could be used by private security firms for domestic operations, Speaks declined to comment, saying only that the program did not exclusively belong to the US government.

According to Speaks, the contract was awarded in August of 2010 to software and contracting companies, not HBGary as previously insinuated by other outlets. HBGary Federal was one of the parties interested in applying for the contract in July of last year. The private security firm HBGary Federal was attacked by internet hacker group Anonymous earlier this month in which over 70,000 emails were copied and posted to the internet. The posted emails seemed to indicate that the company was planning to use “fake people” on social media sites to infiltrate and discredit their perceived political enemies.

- CentCom: Government Not Using Persona Management Software in Un

Not sure why the multi-O for men book is embarrassing, unless they are spending company money for personal uses. I read the book years ago and it works.

More importantly, be on the look out for the fake people on social web sites. US Central Command may be right about the government not creating fake people on US sites pushing a pro war agenda. Has anyone found one?  I'm not sure that Obama is spending a lot on war propaganda to convince us of anything. I'm not hearing it anyway. Countries can get around laws about messing with their citizens by messing with each others citizens and sharing the data. This has been going on for years with spying.

Many of us know that industry pays billions to marketing firms to get us to believe certain things to influence buying habits, but we just don't know how much of what we hear is the result of lies for hire. For example, $4.2 billion was spent by the fast food industry in 2009 to get Americans to buy unhealthy foods according to What did that money buy? Just commercials on TV and radio? Or do they slip a huge amount of money to Rush Limbaugh to talk about ribs and to connect good healthy foods with worthless things like cardboard and tree bark. To me, that's a psyop, it is vile propaganda, a paid lie disguised an attack on absurdity by a disgruntled everyman:
"I'm sure you're aware that nutritionist-at-large Michelle Obama is urging, demanding, advocating, requiring what everybody can and can't eat. She is demanding that everybody basically eat cardboard and tofu. No calories, no fat, no nothing -- gotta stop obesity. "

All you have to do, Rush, is say "roots and berries and tree bark" and "tofu and cardboard", and you get paid. Because marketers paid by the junk food industry already did a million dollars worth of research to figure out how to turn people against fresh foods, and in their focus groups, these phrases worked.
A $4.2 billion marketing budget in 2009, a year characterized by a brutal economic slump, is the sign of an extremely profitable industry. Corporate fast food is what is known as a "countercyclical" industry -- it tends to thrive when the economy goes to hell. When money is tight, McDonald's dollar menu looks like a bargain -- and stuff like Domino's now-infamous eight-cheese Wisconsin Pizza seems like a reasonable indulgence.

How well are these companies doing? The stock market gives us a clue. Over the past two years, shares of Yum! Brands (owner of owner of KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Long John Silver's) and McDonald's have both more than doubled. Meanwhile, the overall stock market, as measured by the S&P 500 index of the nation's largest publicly traded companies, has flat-lined. In other words, investors are quite bullish on junk food corporations.

Follow the money... and at least start to get a clue that ... oh no, I'm getting a fast food craving. Weird. I will fight it and eat cardboard and tree bark tonight... because those are the only alternatives to McDonalds.

Indonesian mud volcano flow 'to last 26 years'

Map showing Indonesian island of Java (Image: BBC)Lusi mud volcano, East Java (Image: Getty Images)The world's largest mud volcano, which left 13,000 families homeless, is likely to continue erupting for another 26 years, researchers have estimated.

It first erupted back in May 2006, and - at its peak - was spewing 180,000 cubic metres of mud a day, equivalent to 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The volcano, in East Java, Indonesia, has buried homes, schools and farmlands over seven square kilometres.

The findings have been published in the Journal of the Geological Society.

This is the first reliable estimate on how long Lusi (derived from the Indonesian word for mud, lumpur, and the place where the eruption occurred, Sidoarjo) would continue erupting.

Co-author Richard Davies, a geologist from Durham University's Department of Earth Sciences, said there were a number of factors that meant it was not possible to produce an estimate until now.

"We did a provisional estimate in 2008, but we have significantly improved the methodology," he told BBC News. "Also, for two or three years there was a lot of debate about what caused it. ...

Professor Davies added that the team now had confidence to publish an estimate because they also had four year's worth of data on how much material was coming out of Lusi, allowing them to calibrate the computational model developed by co-author and fellow Durham University researcher Simon Mathias.

He explained that the volcano was driven by carbonated water in an aquifer, estimated to be about 2.5-3.5km beneath the surface, that travelled up through the drilled borehole and passed through a layer of muddy material (known as the Upper Kalibeng) before erupting on the surface via a 50-metre central vent.

The inputs for the model of what was happening underground came from two wells; one located on the site of the central vent, and another located about 6km away, where there was a natural, smaller mud volcano.

"This gave us the pressure in the actual aquifer," explained Professor Davies.

"Then we considered factors such as the permeability and porosity of the rock to estimate how long would it take for fluid pressure to decline until no more fluid would come out of the vent.

"It is a fairly standard methodology, but it has never really been applied to mud volcanoes before."

He added that the team used a lot of different probabilities and combined them, creating a huge number of outputs (called realisations).

"Out of the 10,000 realisations, we actually rejected a large number because we wanted to fit the actual rate which the mud had come out of the volcano to fit those data points," he said.

They ended up with 381 realisations, which allowed them to reach the estimate of 26 years.

But Professor Davies added: "Within the modelling, there is a 10% chance that it will last for more than 100 years, and there is a 90% chance that it will last longer than 10 years." ...

via BBC News - Indonesian mud volcano flow 'to last 26 years'.

Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators

The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in "psychological operations" to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.

The orders came from the command of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops – the linchpin of U.S. strategy in the war. Over a four-month period last year, a military cell devoted to what is known as "information operations" at Camp Eggers in Kabul was repeatedly pressured to target visiting senators and other VIPs who met with Caldwell. When the unit resisted the order, arguing that it violated U.S. laws prohibiting the use of propaganda against American citizens, it was subjected to a campaign of retaliation.

"My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave," says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. "I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line."

The list of targeted visitors was long, according to interviews with members of the IO team and internal documents obtained by Rolling Stone. Those singled out in the campaign included senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Jack Reed, Al Franken and Carl Levin; Rep. Steve Israel of the House Appropriations Committee; Adm. Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Czech ambassador to Afghanistan; the German interior minister, and a host of influential think-tank analysts.

The incident offers an indication of just how desperate the U.S. command in Afghanistan is to spin American civilian leaders into supporting an increasingly unpopular war. According to the Defense Department’s own definition, psy-ops – the use of propaganda and psychological tactics to influence emotions and behaviors – are supposed to be used exclusively on "hostile foreign groups." Federal law forbids the military from practicing psy-ops on Americans, and each defense authorization bill comes with a "propaganda rider" that also prohibits such manipulation. "Everyone in the psy-ops, intel, and IO community knows you’re not supposed to target Americans," says a veteran member of another psy-ops team who has run operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It’s what you learn on day one." ...

via Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators | Rolling Stone Politics.

Toyota Robots Play Trumpet and Violin In Tokyo (video)

There are many things that make humans unique, but apparently a love of music isn’t one of them. Toyota had its violin and trumpet playing robots on display recently during several public performances at their AMLUX building in Tokyo. Visitors got to see the humanoid bots play their instruments alongside real human violinists and pianists in an interesting blend of man and machine musicianship. It’s a little recursively surreal to watch humans try to match their playing to machines that are (ostensibly) designed to mimic human playing themselves. Check it out in the videos below. These ‘Partner Robots‘ may be putting on a good show, but Toyota’s final goal is anything but music. Part of their longterm vision, the automotive company hopes these bots will play major roles in its ventures in healthcare, housework, and manufacturing.

First, a quick rendition of Pomp and Circumstance. It’s a piece the robot violinist has performed many times in the past, including at its debut. It sounds better here with a few humans to back it up.

via Toyota Robots Play Trumpet and Violin In Tokyo (video) | Singularity Hub.

Scientists unveil the world's smallest computer that is just a 1 MILLIMETRE square

World's smallest computer system: At just one square millimetre in size, the tiny device is a pressure monitor that is implanted in a person's eyeScientists have created the world's smallest computer system to help treat glaucoma patients.

At just one square millimetre in size, the tiny device is a pressure monitor that is implanted in a person's eye.

It may be small but it packs a hefty punch, containing an ultra low-power microprocessor, a pressure sensor, memory, a thin film battery, a solar cell and a wireless radio with an antenna that can transmit data to an external reader device.

Developed by researchers at the University of Michigan, the unnamed unit - which is expected to be commercially available in several years - is already being touted as the future of the computing industry.

Its creators - Professors Dennis Sylvester, David Blaauw and David Wentzloff - claim that as the device's radio needs no tuning to find the right frequency it could link to a wireless network of computers.

A network of such units could one day track pollution, monitor structural integrity, perform surveillance, or make virtually any object smart and trackable, according to the scientists. ...

The processor in the eye pressure monitor is the third generation of the researchers' Phoenix chip, which uses a unique design and an extreme sleep mode to achieve ultra-low power consumption.

The newest system wakes every 15 minutes to take measurements and consumes an average of 5.3 nanowatts.

To keep the battery charged, it requires exposure to ten hours of indoor light each day or 1.5 hours of sunlight. It can store up to a week's worth of information.

While this system is miniscule and complete, its radio doesn't equip it to talk to other similar devices, which is an important feature for any system targetted towards wireless sensor networks.

The researchers are confident their miniature device will take off.

They cite the concept of Bell's Law - that a new breed of smaller, cheaper computers arises each decade.

This theory is upheld by the personal computers of the 1980s turning into the laptops of the 1990s, and those into the smartphones of the new millemium.

Professor Sylvester said: 'This is the first true millimeter-scale complete computing system. ...

via Scientists unveil the world's smallest computer that is just a 1 MILLIMETRE square | Mail Online.

How nature's patterns form

... Newell's talk, "The Universal Nature of Fibonacci Patterns," is part of the symposium, "The Growth of Form in Mathematics, Physics and Biology," to be held in Room 147A of the Washington Convention Center.

The symposium honors the 150th anniversary of the birth of mathematical biologist D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson.

In 1917, Thompson published an extremely influential book, "On Growth and Form," in which he argued that biological forms are controlled more by the laws of physics than by evolution.

Newell agrees that many of the biological -- and non-biological -- forms in nature are the products of physical forces, rather than evolutionary ones.

In his talk, he discussed how the arrangement of flowers, bracts, florets and stickers near the growth shoots of plants -- known as phyllotaxis -- is a consequence of biochemically and mechanically induced pattern-forming instabilities.

"All the lovely patterns on plants have their origins in mechanical forces and biochemical processes," he said.

Newell and his students approach the problem of patterns in plants from a mechanistic point of view, he said.

"We look at the phenomenon we're interested in, and we learn about it, we read about it, we find out what other people say about it, and we look at the experimental evidence," he said. "Then we try to capture what we see using mathematical models."

Patterns arise when the symmetry of a system is broken, Newell said. The similarity in patterns from system to system occur when the systems have similar symmetry, rather than because the systems are made from the same materials.

"The mathematics elegantly captures the fact that pattern structure depends more on shared geometrical symmetries than material properties, because the simplified equations for all these very different situations turn out to be the same," he said.

Newell said, "Mathematics is like a good poem, which separates the superfluous from the essentials and fuses the essentials into a kernel of truth."

via How nature's patterns form.

Why many historians no longer see alchemy as an occult practice

No, wizards have not learned how to transmute lead into gold and they haven't found any rejuvenating elixir of life. But the scholars who write the history of science and technology no longer lump alchemy in with witchcraft as a pseudo-science.

Instead they see alchemy as the proper precursor to modern chemistry.

The modern word "alchemy" comes from the Arabic word "al kemia," which incorporated a spectrum of knowledge of chemical properties and practices from ancient times.

Chemist and historian Lawrence Principe of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland believes that the hardworking alchemists of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, a period stretching across the 14th to the 17th centuries, were defamed by being lumped in with charlatans of the 19th century, quacks that were often depicted wearing eccentric costumes and casting spells.

"We're in an alchemical revolution," said Principe during a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February. Principe said that just in the past 30 years articles about alchemy were being accepted into Isis, one of the leading journals devoted to the history of science. Before that a prohibition on alchemical subjects had been in place.

The reason for this change is that historians are now recognizing the huge role alchemists had in producing valuable things, even if the alchemists never succeeded in turning into gold. By the way, making new gold was of great concern to kings since it would have interfered with the valuation of coins. This is why transmutation was considered a crime and why alchemists often had to do their research in secret.

Alchemists ... were instrumental in the development of many technologies during pre-modern times in Europe. For example, alchemists could be considered as an early form of industrial researcher. William Newman of the University of Indiana points out that alchemists ...  were active in assaying metals, refining salts, making dyes and pigments, making glass and ceramics, artificial fertilizers, perfumes, and cosmetics. An alchemists' shop was often the place in a town where you would go for medicine. Even today in many parts of Europe you go to "the chemist," for medicine, rather than to a "drug store."

Principe said that alchemists perfected the process of distillation, in which a mixed substance is boiled in such a way as to separate out one component by letting a vapor collect in a portion of the apparatus where it can be drawn off. Distillation is of course well known as the means of making spirits like whiskey. But it was also used by alchemists to make powerful acids, which in turn were important for a variety of industrial purposes, such as for separating metals from their ores. ...

via Why many historians no longer see alchemy as an occult practice.