Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ancient Beachcombers May Have Traveled Slowly

Ancient Beachcombers May Have Traveled Slowly
Earliest known human settlement in the Americas raises new questions

By: National Science Foundation

The sandy shore of the Chilean coast was 50 miles west of Monte Verde 14,000 calendar years ago. Early migrants are thought to have travelled to and from the ocean as well as inland for food prompting researchers to question how rapidly human migration in the Americas occurred. Credit: Tom Dillehay, Vanderbilt University
May 8, 2008 - New evidence, more questions. That's the thumbnail of the first new data reported in 10 years from Monte Verde, the earliest known human settlement in the Americas.

Evidence from the archaeological site in southern Chile confirms Monte Verde is the Americas earliest known settlement and is consistent with the idea that early human migration occurred along the Pacific Coast more than 14,000 years ago, but questions remain about just how rapidly that migration occurred.

"If all the early American groups were following a similar pattern of moving back and forth between inland and coastal areas, then the peopling of the Americas may not have been the blitzkrieg movement to the south that people have presumed, but a much slower and more deliberate process," says Tom Dillehay, professor of anthropology at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn., who led the study.

The journal Science publishes a report on the findings by Dillehay and team of international scientists in its May 9 issue.

"Monte Verde is an iconic site in New World archaeology and Americanist archaeologists recognize its importance," says John Yellen, program manager at the National Science Foundation, which funded the research. "They also agree that Tom Dillehay has conducted an outstanding program of research there."

Most scholars now accept that people entered North America through the Bering Strait land bridge before 16,000 calendar years ago. It is not known whether people colonized the Americas by moving along the Pacific coast, through interior routes or both.

Researchers envision that coastal migration would have been a rapid process, but seaweed samples and gomphothere meat (meat from an extinct elephant-like animal that was widespread in the Americas 12-1.6 million years ago) found at Monte Verde may be signs of slower migration.

Although the site is located 50 miles from the Pacific coast and 10 miles from an inland marine bay to the south, Dillehay and the research team identified nine species of seaweed and marine algae found in hearths and other areas in the settlement. The samples were directly dated between 14,220 to 13,980 years ago, 1,000 years earlier than other reliably dated human settlements in the Americas and indicate that early immigrants could have moved south along the shoreline exploiting familiar coastal resources to get much of their food.

The researchers also found a number of inland resources, including gomphothere meat. The finding suggests immigrants moved back and forth between the coast and inland areas.

"It takes time to adapt to these inland resources and then come back out to the coast. The other coastal sites that we have found also show inland contacts," says Dillehay.

A wide variety of food was found at the site, including an extinct species of llama, shellfish, vegetables and nuts. The findings make it more difficult to determine the rate of coastal migration in the Americas and the specific path of the immigrants.

"We have no hard evidence that people migrated either rapidly or slowly along the coast," says Dillehay. "Most scholars believe that the first people came via the land bridge but the question is open."

Evidence to support the coastal migration theory is particularly hard to find because sea levels at the time were about 200 feet lower than today. As the sea level rose, it covered most of the early coastal settlements. But the seaweed finding, one of the most significant, verifies the migrants' use of coastal resources, making it a likely path.

"Finding seaweed wasn't a surprise, but finding five new species in the abundance that we found them was a surprise," said Dillehay. "The Monte Verdeans were really like beachcombers. The number and frequency of these items suggests very frequent contact with the coast, as if they had a tradition of exploiting coastal resources."

Driver gets in wreck, sees his home catch fire, gets ticket

Driver gets in wreck, sees his home catch fire, gets ticket

ROCK ISLAND, Tenn. (AP) -- One moment, Justin Hill was turning into his driveway. Minutes later he was being flown to a hospital as his home went up in flames. Then he got a traffic ticket.

Hill, 42, got into a crash after turning into the path of an oncoming car Tuesday evening, said Tennessee Highway Patrol Officer Monte Terry. Hill's wife heard the crash and ran outside, leaving the kitchen stove, where she had been cooking, unattended.

Within minutes, their Rock Island trailer was on fire, and firefighters who had responded to the accident found themselves fighting the blaze.

The rural central Tennessee home had extensive damage. Hill was treated at the hospital and released, but he was cited in the accident for failure to yield.

A HEART patient was locked up 18 hours in a police cell for allegedly dropping an apple core

Keith Hirst who was kept in a police cell after being arrested - accused of dropping an apple core.

Core blimey ... Keith

A HEART patient was locked up 18 hours in a police cell for allegedly dropping an apple core.

Keith Hurst, 54, was challenged by a police community support officer as he went to the chemist for his wife.

He denied littering and refused to pay a �50 on-the-spot fine — but when he exited the pharmacy, carer Keith was nicked by FIVE cops.

He was fingerprinted at a police station and went before JPs in Salford, Greater Manchester, accused of littering and obstructing an officer.

Prosecutors dropped the obstruction charge — but he still faces going on trial for littering.

Keith, who has had heart surgery, claims he suffered dizziness in custody and had to see a doctor. He fumed: "You’d think I’d robbed a bank."

A police spokesman said: "Officers are expected to challenge anyone seen littering."

Friday, May 9, 2008

Video about underground comix history book

Video about underground comix history book

This video, made in 2003, was produced to promote Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution 1963-1975 by Patrick Rosencrantz. The video has interviews with Gilbert Shelton, R. Crumb, Rick Griffin, Spain Rodriguez, Robert Williams and Justin Green. (I reviewed the hardback edition in 2003 for the LA Weekly) Fantagraphics has just released a revised and expanded paperback edition. Link

Platypus Genome Explains Animal's Peculiar Features

Author: Washington University in St. Louis
Published on May 8, 2008 - 9:43:37 AM

May 7, 2008 -- The duck-billed platypus: part bird, part reptile, part mammal, and the genome to prove it. An international consortium of scientists, led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has decoded the genome of the platypus, showing that the animal's peculiar mix of features is reflected in its DNA. An analysis of the genome, published today in the journal Nature, can help scientists piece together a more complete picture of the evolution of all mammals, including humans.

The platypus, classified as a mammal because it produces milk and is covered in a coat of fur, also possesses features of reptiles, birds and their common ancestors, along with some curious attributes of its own. One of only two mammals that lays eggs, the platypus also sports a duck-like bill that holds a sophisticated electrosensory system used to forage for food underwater. Males possess hind leg spurs that can deliver pain-inducing venom to its foes competing for a mate or territory during the breeding season.

"The fascinating mix of features in the platypus genome provides many clues to the function and evolution of all mammalian genomes," says Richard K. Wilson, Ph.D., director of the The Genome Center at Washington University and the paper's senior author. "By comparing the platypus genome to other mammalian genomes, we'll be able to study genes that have been conserved throughout evolution."

The platypus represents the earliest offshoot of the mammalian lineage some 166 million years ago from primitive ancestors that had features of both mammals and reptiles. "What is unique about the platypus is that it has retained a large overlap between two very different classifications, while later mammals lost the features of reptiles," says Wes Warren, Ph.D., an assistant professor of genetics, who led the project.

Comparison of the platypus genome with the DNA of humans and other mammals, which diverged later, and the genomes of birds, whose ancestors branched off an estimated 315 million years ago, can help scientists fill gaps in their understanding of mammalian evolution. The comparison also will allow scientists to date the emergence of genes and traits specific to mammals.

The Nature paper analyzes the genome sequence of a female platypus named Glennie from New South Wales, Australia. The project was largely funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, and includes scientists from the United States, Australia, England, Germany, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and Spain.

"At first glance, the platypus appears as if it was the result of an evolutionary accident," says Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of NHGRI. "But as weird as this animal looks, its genome sequence is priceless for understanding how mammalian biological processes evolved."

"While we've always been able to compare and consider all of these creatures on the basis of their physical characteristics, internal anatomy and behavior, it's truly amazing to be able to compare their genetic blueprints and begin to get a close-up look at how evolution brings about change," Wilson says.

As part of their analysis, the researchers compared the platypus genome with genomes of the human, mouse, dog, opossum and chicken. They found that the platypus shares 82 percent of its genes with these animals. The chicken genome was chosen because it represents a group of egg-laying animals, including extinct reptiles, which passed on much of their DNA to the platypus and other mammals over the course of evolution.

The researchers also found genes that support egg laying - a feature of reptiles - as well as lactation - a characteristic of all mammals. Interestingly, the platypus lack nipples, so its young nurse through the abdominal skin.

The researchers also attempted to determine which characteristics of the platypus were linked to reptiles at the DNA level. When they analyzed the genetic sequences responsible for venom production in the male platypus, they found it arose from duplications in a group of genes that evolved from ancestral reptile genomes. Amazingly, duplications in the same genes appear to have evolved independently in venomous reptiles.

The platypus swims with its eyes, ears and nostrils closed, relying on electrosensory receptors in its bill to detect faint electric fields emitted by underwater prey. Surprisingly, the researchers found the genome contains an expansion of genes that code for a particular type of odor receptor. "We were expecting very few of these odor receptor genes because the animals spend the majority of their life in the water," Warren says.

Similar genes are found in animals that rely on a sense of smell, such as rodents and dogs, and the scientists suspect that their addition in the platypus allows the animals to detect odors while foraging underwater.

At roughly 2.2 billion base pairs, the platypus genome is about two-thirds the size of the human genome and contains about 18,500 genes, similar to other vertebrates. The animal has 52 chromosomes, including an unusual number of sex chromosomes: 10. The platypus X chromosome bears resemblance to the sex chromosome of a bird, known as Z.

Sequencing and assembling the platypus genome proved far more daunting than sequencing any other mammalian genome to date. About 50 percent of the genome is composed of repetitive elements of DNA, which makes it a challenge to assemble properly.

The platypus genome sequence, along with those for other organisms, such as the mouse, dog, cow, and many other animals can be accessed online at NIH's National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Warren WC, Mardis ER, Wilson RK, et al. Genome analysis of the platypus reveals unique signatures of evolution. Nature. May 8, 2008.

The platypus genome project was largely funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Washington University School of Medicine's 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

New box disables car if you miss a payment

May 8th, 2008 ·

New box disables car if you miss a payment

New cars being financed may have a special box, called “On Time”, installed to remind you when your bill it due. How convenient? There’s a down side, if you miss a payment the box will take the liberty of disabling you car until you pay up. The box is mounted under your dashboard and works by occasionally blinking as the due date is approaches.The loan company will give you a code to enter every time you make a payment, otherwise the unit will prevent the car from turning on if it isn’t punched in by the due date. Seems like a good idea but it’s just weird this is what it has come to. Makers of the product claim their sales skyrocket as the credit crunch continues. Many companies are not as willing to give out loans but might be convinced if they know they can disable your car if you don’t pay them.

Although consumers get annoyed at the box, the benefit is that it lowers the amount of people who default on loans. Banks are anticipated repossessions this year will hit an all time high. The device lowers default rates for sub-prime auto loan borrowers that typically run about 30% to about 5%, according to Simon. When default rates fall, lenders feel more secure offering financing for more valuable cars to high-risk customers. By forcing buyers to pay on time, the device also rebuilds their credit record.

Luckily, people who have a good credit history should not worry about having one of these units installed as it is marketed towards companies that cater to people with bad credit or those who have defaulted on loans. The makers anticipate the units to be so successful that a model for homes is in the works. That model works by flashing every time you put your keys in the door and will beep as the due date approaches. It then locks the doors and windows if you miss a payment. Okay…maybe not but we can actually see that happening sooner rather than later.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Buffalo Field Campaign

Letters to the Editor
National Newpapers | Montana Newpapers | All Montana News Outlets | Tribal Papers | Radio

Most of the time, articles about the buffalo slaughter end up in hard-to-find sections of the newspaper, if at all, meaning the buffalo’s story goes generally untold to the public.

One sure-fire way to combat this is to write Letters to the Editor so they know the seriousness and importance of this issue.

The editorial section is the most widely-read section of newspapers, and even local papers can reach thousands of readers. Listed below are six newspapers - national and Montana media - who must hear from each and every one of us. But don’t stop there! Your local paper, or any publication that you read or subscribe to should hear from you about this issue. The more people there are who know about what’s happening to the buffalo, the more people there will be coming to their defense!

Please write to them about what is happening to the buffalo, and urge them to cover the issue more thoroughly so more attention is drawn to the needless suffering of these unique and majestic animals.

If you’ve seen articles printed, write a letter in response. Or, you can write a response to the articles listed on this website, a general letter about the issue, or be more specific by writing about House Resolution 3446, or the proposed buffalo hunt, or all of the above.

Contact information for the newspapers is listed below.

NOTE: Most papers have specific criteria to follow in order to print your letters. Please be sure to follow these paper-specific guidelines. Also, make a follow-up phone call to the editor of the paper(s) you write to, as this will help get your letter printed. Campaigns have been won before using this medium - no better time than today to send your Letter to the Editor!
If your letter is printed please send a copy to or to Buffalo Field Campaign, P.O. Box 957, W. Yellowstone, MT, 59758.


The New York Times -
Letter Policy: Letters should be no longer than 150 words, must refer to an article that has appeared within the last seven days. Include writer's address and phone numbers. No attachments, please. Send a letter to the editor by e-mailing or faxing (212)556-3622, Address them to:
Letters to the Editor
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036

Los Angeles Times -
Letters Policy: Keep brief. Include valid mailing address and phone number. Use plain text . No attachments. Make a follow-up phone call to be sure your letter is printed. Call (213) 237-5000. Email letters to and address them to:
Letters to the Editor
202 W. 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

The Washington Post -
Letter Policy: Letters must be signed and include the writer's home address and home and business telephone numbers. Letters to the Editor can be sent via e-mail to or by surface mail to:
Letters to the Editor
1150 15th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20071

If you’re a resident of Montana, be sure to say so. If you aren’t, mention that this is an issue of national concern, and that you may make vacation plans elsewhere until they stop killing buffalo - tourism is Montana’s second largest revenue source!

The Billings Gazette
Letter Policy: Include signature of the author, writer’s street address and phone number. Maximum length is 300 words. The Gazette reserves the right to edit letters for clarity, conciseness, taste, and to prevent libel.
Send your letters to, and address them to:
Letters to the Editor
Steve Prosinski, Editor
(406) 657-1289
P.O. Box 36300
Billings, MT 59107-6300
Fax: (406) 657-1208

The Bozeman Chronicle
Letters Policy: Letters should be no more than 300 words, must be signed and must be addressed to the editor. Each letter must include the writer’s address. Writers should include phone numbers, which will not be published but may be used for verification. The Chronicle reserves the right to edit all letters for length, grammar, good taste and libel. *Make a follow-up phone call to be sure your letter is printed. Dial 406/582-2655.
Send your letters to, and address them to:
Letters to the Editor
PO Box 1188
Bozeman, MT 59771
Fax: 406-587-7995

The Helena Independent Record (*This paper is read by Montana State Legislators!)
Letter Policy: Limit letters to 200 words. Include address and daytime phone for verification.
Letters may be edited for clarity or length. Email to or fax to 406-447-4052. Make a follow-up phone call to be sure your letter gets printed! Call 406-477-4072.
Send your letters to:
Readers' Alley
P.O. Box 4249
Helena, MT 59604

West Yellowstone News
This paper is West Yellowstone's primary news source. West's number one industry is tourism, so letters that speak highly of buffalo are very important. Keep your letters brief - about 250 words. Include address and phone number for verification.
Send your letters electronically to:
David Warner
Managing editor
Their web site address is
Phone number: (406)646-9719; Make a follow-up phone call to ensure your letter is printed.
Fax: (406)646-4023.

Organize letter writing and guest editorials to Montana's news outlets
* Link to Montana's news media websites:

* Links to Montana's newspapers for LTE's, guest editorials, and story ideas:

*Links to Tribal newspapers or newspapers reaching Indian communities in Montana:

Use radio to get your word out to rural Montana

* Links to Montana's public radio stations:

Great tits cope well with warming

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Food for hungry mouths

At least one of Britain's birds appears to be coping well as climate change alters the availability of a key food.

Researchers found that great tits are laying eggs earlier in the spring than they used to, keeping step with the earlier emergence of caterpillars.

Writing in the journal Science, they point out that the same birds in the Netherlands have not managed to adjust. Understanding why some species in some places are affected more than others by climatic shifts is vital, they say.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) commented that other species are likely to fare much worse than great tits as temperatures rise.

Perfect timing

The research uses a long record of great tits in a breeding site at Wytham Woods near Oxford, where observations began in 1947.

The finding is surprising in that the birds are using the same old rules, but the rules still work
Professor Marcel Visser

"We think it’s the longest running population study of wild animals anywhere in the world where animals are marked (ringed)," said Ben Sheldon of Oxford University, who led the new research.

"The population contains about 400 breeding pairs, and they produce between them 2,000 or more offspring each year - so over the course of the study about 80,000 birds have been ringed and studied," he told BBC News.

The current work used records going back only to 1961, when a standard methodology was adopted.

The great tits are laying eggs now about two weeks earlier in the year than they were 47 years ago.

The timing is crucial, because for the two-week period after they hatch, the chicks have to gobble down huge quantities of winter moth caterpillars which only emerge for a short period.

"Winter moth larvae can make up up to 90% of the biomass of insects on oak trees at that time," said Professor Sheldon.

"Great tits have eight or nine babies in a brood, and each of them will eat about 70 caterpillars a day.

The chicks hatch and are fully grown within two weeks, so they need something that's really abundant - that's why they synchonise their breeding so hatching co-incides with the emergence of the caterpillars."

The caterpillars' appearance is triggered by ambient temperature - that has been shown in the laboratory - and it is believed that great tits also begin their breeding cycle in response to temperatures.

Their movement to an earlier breeding time does not involve an evolutionary change, the scientists believe - it is simply that individual birds are able to change their behaviour, in the same way that they have presumably adapted to warmer or cooler phases before the era of human-induced global warming.

Different strokes

In Wytham, the behaviour of the two species is changing in step; but other situations are very different.

Three years ago, Marcel Visser from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology in Heteren collated a number of these cases.

The North American wood warbler has not adapted its migration pattern to the earlier emergence of caterpillars in its breeding ground, and the Dutch honey buzzard is also failing to adapt to the earlier appearance of wasps, which it eats.

The red admiral butterfly is arriving on the UK's shores earlier from its winter grounds in north Africa; but the staple food of its larvae, the common nettle, continues to flower at the same time each year.

The Wytham site. Image: TA Wilkin
Wytham Woods are home to about 400 breeding pairs of great tits

Just across the North Sea in Holland, Professor Visser has also found that great tits are faring very differently from their British cousins; the breeding time is advancing each year, but the emergence of caterpillars is advancing three times faster.

"The UK finding is to some extent surprising in that the birds are using the same old rules, but the rules still work," he told BBC News.

"In our study population, the same old rules don't work any more; so it's an interesting question as to which situation is the normal one and which is the exception."

The RSPB and other conservation bodies have regularly warned that climate shifts could have a devastating impact on some species; and they believe the new research does not change that picture.

"It's great to hear that the great tit is able to keep pace with the rapid rate of climate change, but then it's probably in the best place to do that," observed RSPB spokesman Grahame Madge.

"They're abundant birds, they can live in gardens, woodland and open country, and they churn out large numbers of young in a short space of time, so they're better able to learn changes in behaviour."

The organisation believes - as do others - that climate change is one of the main cuplrits for the abrupt declines in some seabird populations around UK coasts in recent years.

The Oxford and Heteren groups are now planning to collaborate on a study to elucidate why some populations apparently adapt well to climate change, and others do not.

"Our study shows that sometimes individuals can be very flexible in their behaviour," said Ben Sheldon.

"What we want to do is to try and understand why some species are flexible and others aren't - it's the ones that aren't flexible that are going to be at risk."

The lightning storm that engulfed an erupting volcano

Amazing pictures: The lightning storm that engulfed an erupting volcano

Few sights in nature can compare to the sheer magnificence of a volcano erupting in full flow.

But while scenes of molten lava are relatively commonplace, this otherworldly picture of Chaiten Volcano in southern Chile shows a truly spectacular, and devastating, volcanic phenomenon.

This astonishing picture shows the Chaiten volcano erupting during storms in the middle of the night

As clouds of toxic ash and dust tower into the sky, they ionise the air, generating an explosive electrical storm. Colossal forks of lightning spark around the noxious plume as it spews from the volcano's crater, creating an image of raw, terrifying energy - as if the air itself were ablaze.

Now, the worst-case scenario is the collapse of the volcano accompanied by a "pyroclastic flow" - a devastating super-eruption of scorching dense gas and molten rock that would roll down the mountainside at 100mph or faster, incinerating and flattening all in its wake.

Thankfully, experts think this is unlikely at this stage.

The Chaiten volcano has triggered earth tremors and spewed ash two miles into the air

Seen from space, Chaiten's ash plume streams across Argentina towards the Atlantic

Locals wear masks to protect themselves from the all-pervasive ash near Futaleuf

The gigantic plume of smoke from the volcano dominates the skyline

Pyroclastic flows are also called nuees ardentes - or "burning clouds" - and are probably the single most destructive weapon in nature's armoury, capable of flattening cities in seconds.

It was such a catastrophe that destroyed the Roman town of Pompeii in AD79.

The 3,300 ft Chaiten Volcano, 800 miles south of the Chilean capital Santiago, is erupting for the first time in thousands of years, sending a plume of ash into the sky that stretches as far as Argentina.

It is also spewing out chunks of lava and hot rock. Authorities have already evacuated around 4,200 people from the town of Chaiten, six miles from the volcano, but 300 civilians and troops remain and are being evacuated now. Rescue is complicated by the fact that southern Chile is fragmented by fjords and access is often difficult.

The village of Chaiten, next to the volcano, was virtually emptied in a massive evacuation

Winds carried the ash to other towns in the region and across the Andes to Argentina

A local resident cycles through the ash as it settles across the town

The authorities are also evacuating a second town, Futaleufu. Some of Futaleufu's 1,000 or so residents had already crossed into neighbouring Argentina, where some areas have been showered with ash and where authorities last week closed schools and treated some for breathing problems.

The ash is more than six inches (15 cm) thick in places, and has contaminated water supplies.

Chile, which sits right on the Pacific's volcanic "ring of fire", has the world's second most active string of volcanoes behind Indonesia.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hospitals struck by new killer bug

Hospitals struck by new killer bug

A new hospital superbug resistant to all antibiotics could be killing hundreds of patients, experts have warned.

The infection, known as 'Steno', is on the increase and could be harder to tackle than MRSA and C.difficile.

The bug spreads almost exclusively in hospitals through wet areas such as taps and shower heads, and is thought to kill a third of the people it infects after entering the bloodstream.

Chemotherapy patients, including children, are among those most in danger, because the infection spreads through ventilation tubes and catheters.

There are about 1,000 reports of Steno blood poisoning in Britain each year, according to today's study by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, near Cambridge.

Research leader Dr Matthew Avison said: 'This is the latest in an ever-increasing list of antibiotic-resistant hospital superbugs.

'The degree of resistance it shows is very worrying. Strains are now emerging that are resistant to all available antibiotics.'

He urged drug companies to invest more in a 'new generation' of treatments for robust bugs such as Steno – full name Stenotrophomonas maltophilia – which are rarer than MRSA and C.diff but tougher to treat.

MRSA is thought to have caused 1,652 deaths in 2006, up from 51 in 1993. Clostridium difficile was mentioned on 6,480 death certificates in 2006, a 72 per cent rise on 2005.

Steno sticks to catheters or medical tubes and grows into a so-called 'biofilm'. When the catheter is next flushed, the bug enters the patient's bloodstream and can cause septicaemia, especially if their immune system has already been weakened.

The onus is on both patients and healthcare professionals to do more to keep equipment clean, Dr Avison told the Genome Biology journal.

In a statement the Department of Health said: 'Stenotrophomonas does not cause infections in healthy people but can cause infections in patients who are seriously ill with other conditions, especially lung problems.'

A spokesman insisted 'clean and safe treatment in the NHS' was a top priority, saying an extra £270million a year would be spent on tackling infections by 2010.

Veterans’ Office Covering Up Soldier Suicides: US Lawmakers

Veterans’ Office Covering Up Soldier Suicides: US Lawmakers

WASHINGTON - US lawmakers have accused the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) of being out of control and of covering up the high suicide rate among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.0507 02 1

“The VA healthcare system has been pushed to the edge in dealing with the mental health care needs of our veterans,” Bob Filner, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee of Veterans’ Affairs, told a packed congressional hearing about the issue of suicides among veterans.

The hearing came five months after a first round of testimonials on the same topic, and weeks after a series of internal VA emails about suicides among veterans were brought to light by a documentary on US network television.

In one of the emails, sent in February, Dr Ira Katz, deputy chief patient care services officer for mental health at the VA, wrote: “Shh! Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see.”

He added: “Is this something we should address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?”

The figure was at odds with the 144 known suicides among veterans from 2001, when the US launched its war against terror by bombing Afghanistan, through the end of 2005, which Katz had cited in his December testimony, Filner said.

“The emails … seem to indicate they were trying to manipulate the data instead of sharing the data,” Filner told AFP. “If we hadn’t called this hearing, we probably still wouldn’t know the figures.”

“What we see is a pattern that reveals a culture of bureaucracy,” he told the VA officials at the hearing.

“The pattern is deny, deny, deny and when that fails, it’s cover up, cover up, cover up — there is clear evidence of a bureaucratic cover-up here.”

In his testimony for the VA, Katz apologized for the “poor tone” of the email, sent in February.

But neither he nor Secretary of Veteran Affairs James Peake, who also addressed the hearing, admitted any wrongdoing.

“VA has long subjected its own data, that of the Department of Defense, and data from nationally accepted statistical sources to careful and painstaking analysis to obtain the truth about veterans’ suicide,” Peake told the panel.

“On February 13, 2008, an internal email … suggested 1,000 veterans a month under VA care were being reported as attempting suicide.”

Identifying him only by title, Peake told the hearing that Katz said in the email that “he was concerned about disclosing the information” and the data was not shared with outside sources “because of his concerns.”

Filner accused the VA of being unhelpful, opaque and out of control.

“If you have a document showing 1,000 suicide attempts per month, we have some real difficult issues. But you never passed us that information and you never asked us to help you, saying you had it under control,” he said.

“You don’t have it under control.”

“The data reflects a symptom of a major problem with our veterans. Suicide is the ultimate, tragic symptom of the problem, but PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), depression, homelessness, marital difficulties, domestic violence are also symptoms,” he said.

A study published last month by the Rand Corporation, which Filner cited during the hearing, showed that of the 1.6 million US soldiers who have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, 18-20 percent — or around 300,000 — show PTSD, depression or both.

A separate study issued last month by the American Psychiatric Association showed that a mere 10 percent of veterans have sought treatment for mental health concerns.

Peake told reporters he would not seek the resignations of Katz or another VA doctor, Michael Kussman, who had also played down the mental health crisis among US veterans.

He described both as “outstanding public servants with long histories of service to veterans.”

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Rare albino blackbirds sighted
Click to see video

Two albino blackbirds have been born in Gosport, Hampshire. The 'whitebirds' have colourless feathers and pink eyes and were filmed by photographer Stephen Cole.

Why Men Are Just Happier

Why Men Are Just Happier

What do you expect from such simple creatures?
Your last name stays put.
The garage is all yours.
Wedding plans take care of themselves.
Chocolate is just another snack.
You can be president.
You can never be pregnant.
You can wear a white T-shirt to a water park.
You can wear NO T-shirt to a water park.
Car mechanics tell you the truth.
The world is your urinal.
You never have to drive to another gas station restroom
because this one is just too icky.
You don't have to stop and think of which way to turn a nut
on a bolt.
Same work, more pay.
Wrinkles add character.
Wedding dress $5000. Tux rental -- $100.
People never stare at your chest when you're talking to
The occasional well-rendered belch is practically expected.
New shoes don't cut, blister, or mangle your feet.
One mood -- all the time.
Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat.
You know stuff about tanks.
A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase.
You can open all your own jars.
You get extra credit for the slightest act of
If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be
your friend.
Your underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack.
Three pairs of shoes are more than enough.
You almost never have strap problems in public.
You are unable to see wrinkles in your clothes.
Everything on your face stays its original color.
The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades.
You only have to shave your face and neck.
You can play with toys all your life.
Your belly usually hides your big hips.
One wallet and one pair of shoes one color for all seasons.
You can wear shorts no matter how your legs look.
You can "do" your nails with a pocketknife.
You have freedom of choice concerning growing a mustache.
You can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives on December 24 in 45 minutes.

No wonder men are happier!

Xerox makes disappearing-ink paper

Xerox makes disappearing-ink paper - Will its profits disappear too?

May 6th, 2008 · No Comments

Xerox makes disappearing-ink paper - Will its profits disappear too?

Xerox has created a new type of paper coated with “special chemicals” that allows a special printer to “print” text onto it, only to have it disappear. The paper works by allowing black text to appear where the special printer tells it to. Afterwards, the text will slowly fade away, completely disappearing within 24 hours. Users also have the option of using another printer to expedite the process. Xerox hopes the paper will help prevent trees from being knocked down to make paper we use once. The idea is pretty cool.

Most paper people and companies use are for one time use. Sadly, all that paper ends up in our garbage cans. Xerox is hoping its new paper will prevent that since it can just be used after the text is gone. Xerox hopes the world’s offices will save 7 trillion pages of paper a year from ending up in the trash.

Here’s how it works:

“The paper is coated with photosensitive chemicals that turn white when hit by ultraviolet light, meaning text will either disappear over time or go blank when run through a special printer which speeds the process up.
Instead of using ink to produce words and diagrams, the printer scans the chemically treated paper with a specific wavelength of light which reacts to produce the text. Over the following 24 hours, the text fades away. For users who need their paper to be blank straight away, there will be the option of running sheets through the printer to clean them for the next use. Because the printer uses no ink, it does not need cartridges or refilling.”

Apparently the paper can be used hundreds of times but there are some drawbacks. Any other markings on the paper, such as pen ink, will not be erased and the paper becomes unusable if it is folded. So much for playing games of tic-tac-toe and making paper airplanes during meetings :’(

We’re doubting the likelihood that consumers will adopt the paper but then again, Xerox did create it with businesses in mind. Consumers would probably be more interested if the text lasted more than 24 hours, well, at least students would. Making them last a few months, long enough to last a semester, would be a good idea since students could print readings for class and reuse the same paper the next semester. That would save a ton of paper, and money. Hopefully the idea catches on. It’s ingenious and cool enough. Here’s hoping the only thing that disappears is the text and not the value of Xerox shares.

Florida to become two states?

Florida to become two states?

Reported by: Brandon Moseley
Last Update: 3:11 pm

NORTH LAUDERDALE -- Tired of what they say is mistreatment by the State government, the North Lauderdale City Commission is pushing a resolution that would split Florida into two separate states - North and South.

North Lauderdale city leaders say South Florida contributes more tax dollars to the State than they're getting back and are unable to meet all the needs of tax payers.

The commission is trying to rev up support by sending out hundreds of resolutions to other South Florida cities and the Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

The resolution will be up for discussion Wednesday at the City of Margate commission meeting.

La. warden says bear helps guard his prison

NEW ORLEANS — The way the warden sees it, the more than 400-pound black bear living in the middle of the sprawling Louisiana State Penitentiary is an extra layer of security.

"I love that bear being right where it is," Warden Burl Cain said Monday. "I tell you what, none of our inmates are going to try to get out after dark and wander around when they might run into a big old bear. It's like having another guard at no cost to the taxpayer."

The bear was first seen by an inmate crossing a road in the prison on Friday. It was taking a stroll near the center of the state's only maximum security prison, which is about 115 miles northwest of New Orleans. Most of the roughly 28-square-mile prison is run as a farm, but about 5½ square miles is mostly untouched piney woods.

Prison workers measured the bear's footprints, which were six inches in diameter, Cain said.

"Every inch equals 75 pounds, so that would make it about 450 pounds," Cain said. "The wildlife people told us they think it's a big female they've been tracking for a while."

Prison officials believe they have eight to 10 bears on the grounds, said Gary Young, head of the executive management office at the prison.

Maria Davidson, manager of the Large Carnivore Program for the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, doubts there are that many, but marvels that even one was spotted in an area of high activity such as the center of the prison.

"Bears are actually very shy, their tendency is to run and hide," Davidson said.

As for acting as an unpaid prison guard, Davidson doubts that the bear would provide much of a deterrent to a fleeing prisoner.

"We've never had a predatory attack by a black bear in Louisiana, to our knowledge, on pets or livestock," she said. "As for a bear coming out and rushing an inmate, I don't see that happening."

The prison, known as Angola, is isolated and has plenty of other kinds of dangerous wildlife, including alligators, rattlesnakes and wild pigs, Young said. The last recorded escape was nearly three years ago, and the inmate was quickly recaptured before leaving the grounds.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Asian bank warns food crisis could erode progress in fight against poverty

MADRID, Spain: Soaring food prices may erase gains in the fight against poverty, the Asian Development Bank said Monday as it outlined a strategy addressing the region's startling duality: fabulous new wealth alongside hundreds of millions still living on a dollar a day.

Bank president Haruhiko Kuroda opened the Manila-based bank's annual two-day meeting with a warning that sound economic management and emergency food assistance are needed for a billion poor Asians left vulnerable by skyrocketing prices for staples like rice.

"The absence of such measures could seriously undermine the global fight against poverty and erode the gains of the past decades," Kuroda said.

Of the poor in the Asia-Pacific region, he said, "their purchasing power has been eroded, placing them at greater risk of hunger and malnutrition."

The bank released a study saying gross domestic product growth in 10 key economies in the region — including China, India and South Korea — may be lowered by 3.4 percentage points next year if food prices, especially for grain, continue to rise at the current rate.

A second scenario with inflation woes compounded by spiraling fuel costs, gives an average reduction in growth of 4.2 percentage points in 2009.

For this year, the ADB said the first scenario would result in a reduction of just over one percentage point in GDP growth, and the second, a cut of 1.4 percentage points.

One of the main thrusts of the bank's new strategy for the next 12 years, called Strategy 2020, is called "inclusive growth." The idea is that a region throwing up gleaming skyscrapers right and left and churning out new billionaires in China and elswhere ensures that living standards also improve for its legions of poor.

Two-thirds of the world's poor live in Asia, and nearly 1.7 billion of the live on two dollars a day or less, the bank estimates.

On Saturday the bank announced emergency funding to help poor countries struggling with rice prices that have nearly tripled in four months. But it warned these could keep rising and stifle economic growth in the region by pumping up inflation and prompting governments to raise interest rates.

The ADB was created in 1966 to fight poverty through promoting economic growth.

It has said updating its mission is critical because 90 percent of the rapidly growing region's people are projected to be "middle income" by 2020.

The other two pillars of the new strategy are to encourage environmentally sustainable growth — a nod to the damage that unbridled development has wrought on the environment in a region with 8 percent annual growth — and greater regional cooperation.

One goal is to harness the savings accumulated in the region through its robust expansion and turn it toward financing infrastructure and other projects, thus helping Asia develop itself rather than depend on outside capital to do this.

On Sunday the bank fended off criticism that it is neglecting the region's poorest countries by lending heavily to cash-rich emerging powerhouses like China and India.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Dude goes out surfing with a white shark

Try touch typing on this...

Looks normal, right? Look at your own keyboard... notice anything different? Okay, maybe you don't. But try actually typing on this and it all becomes far too apparent. The whole of the bottom row of letters (Z, X, C...) is one too far to the right. The Z should be below and between A and S, not S and D.

You're looking at a brand new Dell Vostro 1310, ordered the day after its released, and delivered on 30th April 2008 in the UK.

They keys are all there. Shift, \|, Z, X... its just that the left shift is too big, forcing everything over too far. The Z has to be between the A and S... look on ANY other keyboard and that's where it sits. This is not a US/UK layout issue, just a general monumental flaw.

UPDATE 1st May 2008 5pm: I phoned Dell for 20 minutes and they have confirmed that this affects all new Vostro 1310s in the UK. Oh dear!! They're hoping they can just replace the keyboards, though the guy on the phone said it was a 'motherboard' problem... I can't imagine that though.

Barbie's innocence is established...

Defendant too fat to enter court

Some large buttocks, yesterday

A suburban New York music shop owner accused of selling knockoff Gibson Les Paul guitars had to be arraigned in a pickup truck in a courthouse parking lot, after his lawyer said the 500lb defendant could not walk into the courthouse.

State Supreme Court Justice Robert Doyle said the man's 'severe weight problem', which prompted the unusual proceeding Thursday in Riverhead. A defense lawyer also had given the court a doctor's letter saying the defendant suffers from osteoarthritis.

The shopkeeper has been released without bail after pleading not guilty to trademark counterfeiting and criminal simulation. He says the case and health problems have forced him to close his store.

He is accused of selling bogus Gibsons for $1,500 (£760) to buyers who thought they were far more valuable genuine versions of the classic electric guitar.

Reverse Spider-Man suit

UN Says Tasers Are a Form of Torture

UN Says Tasers Are a Form of Torture

Sat Nov 24, 2007 09:58 PM

The use of Tasers "causes acute pain, constituting a form of torture," the UN's Committee Against Torture said. "In certain cases, they can even cause death, as has been shown by reliable studies and recent real-life events." Three men — all in their early 20s — died from after tasering in the United States this week, days after a Polish man died at Vancouver airport after being tasered by Canadian police. There have been 17 deaths in Canada following the use of Tasers since they were approved for use, and 275 deaths in the US. "According to Amnesty International, coroners have listed the Taser jolt as a contributing factor in more than 30 of those deaths."