Saturday, May 31, 2008

Rarest rhinoceros wrecks camera

Rare footage of Javan rhino mother and calf

The world's rarest rhinoceros has been captured on film by a specially installed camera in the jungles of Java, Indonesia.

But the female rhino, which was accompanied by a calf, promptly charged the camera, sending it flying.

The animals are at severe risk of extinction, with only 60-70 animals left in the wild.

A spokesperson for WWF said the footage provided an unusual glimpse of the rare beasts in their natural habitat.

Rachmat Hariyadi, who leads WWF-Indonesia's project in Java's Ujung Kulon National Park, said the motion-triggered camera "traps" were a useful way to observe the ways in which animals used their habitats, aiding conservation efforts.

But Stephen Hogg, also from WWF, who designed the hidden cameras, said he was puzzled by the rhino's attack.

"The assault on the camera still has us baffled because we specifically use infrared lights as the source of illumination when we designed and built these units so as to not scare animals away when the camera activates," he said.

Javan rhinos are found only in two locations; Ujung Kulong National Park is home to 90% of the total population.

Efforts are underway to create additional Javan rhino breeding groups by translocating a few individuals from Ujung Kulon to another suitable site.

This could help prevent an extinction caused by disease or a natural disaster, conservationists say.

An Electric Car You Can Buy Today: The $20K TRIAC EV

TRIAC EV, electric car

TRIAC Electric Car. Range: 60-100 Miles. Cost: 2 cents per mile

This little number has been getting some good press lately (see EcoGeek and Inhabit), and for good reason: it’s the first commercially available electric vehicle with a price tag and functionality that could meet the needs of the average city driver (assuming you can afford it).

OK, you aren’t going to fit a family of 5 in there, but that’s not what it’s made for. Green Vehicles, manufacturer of the 3-wheeled TRIAC EV, calls it a “modern freeway commuter,” because the zero-emissions vehicle can reach 80 mph and will get you into the carpool lane with a single driver. Safety-wise, it has a structural steel cage the company says is the “same metal skeleton used in race cars” and a low center of gravity to maintain balance (but surprisingly has no airbags).

Back at home, it takes about 6 hours to charge the car’s lithium-ion batteries at an estimated cost of about 2 cents per mile. Not a bad deal if you can afford the $20,000 price tag. The company website says the TRIAC EV is currently available at dealerships in San Jose and Mill Valley, California, and should be more widely available in the future..

Final thoughts: to me, it looks like they added an extra wheel to a racing bike and built a canopy around it, which makes it a powerful ride but a lot safer (and a lot greener). Generous State/Federal tax credits would put this car within reach for many more drivers, like the $4,000 Federal credit for electric vehicles that ended in 2006.

Want one of these? Check out the Green Vehicles website.

See more pictures below.

More Posts on Electric Cars:

TRIAC EV, electric car

TRIAC EV, electric car

All but conceding Dem primary is over, DNC turns to Obama defense

All but conceding Dem primary is over, DNC turns to Obama defense

They don't say the name of their likely nominee in the press release, but the DNC is effectively coming to the defense of Barack Obama for the first time today.

Citing what they call John McCain's "troubling pattern of flubbing key facts and echoing obviously false statements about his own record," the committee has put out a Top 10 of McCain's "misstatements and outright deceptions."

The move comes one day after Obama was hammered by the RNC and right-wing voices for falsely claiming his uncle helped liberate Auschwitz — it was a great-uncle and Buchenwald — and as conservatives buzz about a pattern of embellishments.

1. McCain doesn't even know who is in charge in Iran.
2. Iraq/Iran, Sunni/Shia: McCain doesn't know the difference.
3. McCain still thinks Czechoslovakia (which split into two countries in 1993) exists.
4. McCain wrongly claimed that Baghdad was mostly normal.
5. McCain called Baghdad market safe.
6. McCain can't even remember how little he knows about the economy.
7. McCain falsely claimed he never requested pork.
8. McCain falsely claimed that tax cuts increased government revenues.
9. McCain's claim to be untainted by special interest money is false.
10. McCain wrongly claimed he never supported amnesty.

UPDATE: The DNC, doing their due diligence, asked me to take this post down.

I declined.

But this is what DNC spokesman Damien LaVera has to say:

"This post mistakenly and inaccurately suggests that the DNC is taking sides in the primary. The DNC is absolutely neutral in the primary. The primary is not over. It is our job to hold John McCain accountable and as you can see from the materials below we have raised these same issues you posted about many, many times over the past several months. We also believe that it's important that McCain’s so-called misstatements should be pointed out vigorously, like when he has gotten the basic facts on the ground in Iraq woefully incorrect."

Alien Video To Be Revealed To Media

Alien Video To Be Revealed To Media Tomorrow, Man Claims

Rocky Mountain News | May 29, 2008 08:36 AM

The Rocky Mountain News is reporting that tomorrow the world might actually see who else is out there. A man, named Jeff Peckman, claims he will reveal video of live alien to the news media Friday. Brace yourselves. Below are some key excerpts from the story:

A video that purportedly shows a living, breathing space alien will be shown to the news media Friday in Denver.

"It shows an extraterrestrial's head popping up outside of a window at night, looking in the window, that's visible through an infrared camera," he said. The alien is about 4 feet tall and can be seen blinking, Peckman said earlier this month.

An instructor at the Colorado Film School in Denver scrutinized the video "very carefully" and determined it was authentic, Peckman said.

NEVER use a Lighter to look inside a Fuel Tanker

Animal Torture Causes Wave of Anger

Animal Torture Causes Wave of Anger

It seems no matter where you go in the world, people find it funny to torture and hurt innocent animals.

However, when Mrs. Chang discovered a cat covered in yellow paint on the roadside in Ban-Chiao, Taiwan, it caused a wave of condemnation and anger.

When Mrs. Chang brought the cat to the animal hospital emergency room, it was almost completely covered in Yellow paint. The toxic Formalin has corroded it’s body, causing it to vomit uncontrollably.

cat abuse

Dr. Liao, worried about the cats toxicity level, being 90% covered in paint, decided not to try to think the paint with rosin spirit or paint thinners. He instead added some water to kitty-litter and rubbed it over the paint covered area to soak up the paint and reduce the toxins entering the cat.

The vet gave the cat some liver medicine in hopes to help it process the toxins, but with all their efforts the are of coverage was just too large and the cat had already taken in too many toxins.

The staff was forced to watch as the cat gradually died in pain.

The animal hospital’s staff indicated that this was not the first time they have seen animal pranks go to far.

Mrs. Chang was appalled that such cruel prank could be performed on animals and Dr. Liao added:

“I’ve run the hospital for over 20 years, this is the first ‘paint-cat’ case I’ve seen that is of this gravity. The skin, fur and paint all adhered together, there was no way to separate them.”

This latest animal torture case has caused a lot of discussion and anger amongst the community and local officials in Taiwan.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Women Lived a Year Undetected in Man’s Closet

Women Lived a Year Undetected in Man’s Closet

It is a scary thought that someone you do not even know, could be living with you undetected in your own home. That is exactly what happened to one Japanese man recently.

closet-women Women Lived a Year Undetected in Mans Closet picture

The man was puzzled when he noticed food was missing from his house. Living alone and having never seen a rat, he could not understand how the food was disappearing.

In an effort to figure out what was going on, he set up security cameras around his house that would transmit images to his mobile phone while he was out of the house.

Shortly after setting up the cameras, he noticed some movement through the images and believing it to be a burglar, he called the police. Police where shocked to find the house locked and secure upon arrival, but when they entered the house, they discovered something both amazing and scary at the same time.

“We searched the house … checking everywhere someone could possibly hide,” Itakura said. “When we slid open the shelf closet, there she was, nervously curled up on her side.”

a 58 year-old homeless woman had let herself into the home one day, when the owner had failed to lock the door. She moved a futon into the small closet space, took showers, and ate the owners food while living out of the closet undetected for over a year.

The women was arrested and forced to leave the closet that she had come to call her home.

What Makes an Old Geyser Faithful?

What Makes an Old Geyser Faithful?


May 30, 2008 - New research suggests that how often Old Faithful and other Yellowstone geysers erupt may depend on annual rainfall patterns.

Geysers are rare hot springs that periodically erupt bursts of steam and hot water. Old Faithful has remained faithful for at least the past 135 years, showering appreciative tourists every 50 to 90 minutes (most recently an average of 91 minutes).

USGS researcher Shaul Hurwitz and his colleagues from Stanford University and Yellowstone National Park have discovered that changes of water supply to a geyser's underground plumbing may have a large influence on eruption intervals; that is, the time between eruptions. For example, geysers appear to lengthen and shorten their intervals on cycles that mimic annual dry and wet periods.

Multi-year precipitation records also strongly correlate with geyser behavior. Based on these results, the study proposes that an extended drought should result in longer intervals between eruptions, and perhaps even cessation of activity in some geysers. In contrast, in years with high precipitation, eruption intervals should be more frequent. The new research paper, "Climate-Induced Variations of Geyser Periodicity in Yellowstone National Park, USA," is published in the June issue of the journal Geology

Additional information: Geysers are extremely rare; perhaps less than 1000 exist worldwide, with more than half of them in Yellowstone National Park. The famous Old Faithful Geyser was named in 1870 during the Washburn-Langford-Doane Yellowstone expedition and was the first geyser in the Park to be named. Old Faithful eruptions can be viewed on any computer on Earth via a video camera deployed by the National Park Service ( Instrumental data which records geyser eruption times is available at Long-term meteorological trends can be inferred from seasonal streamflow trends like those in the Madison River (

This study is a cooperative effort involving the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service.

The USGS provides science for a changing world. For more information, visit

Leave Amazon tribe alone, Brazil says

Leave Amazon tribe alone, Brazil says

Lost tribe members fire arrows at plane overhead

Survival International says the photos disprove Peruvian claims that the land is vacant ( Gleison Miranda/FUNAI)

The Brazilian Government has called for a newly-discovered tribe in the Amazon forest to be left alone.

Brazilian officials have taken photos of the isolated tribe living on the border between Brazil and Peru.

The Government says it released the photos to prove the existence of the tribe and to protect the tribe's land from illegal logging.

Fiona Watson from the indigenous rights group, Survival International, says the photos disprove Peruvian claims that the land is vacant.

The group says the discovery highlights the danger that encroaching civilisation poses to the Amazon.

"These people are very fearful, they've got their bows and arrows, they're shooting up at the plane," she said.

"They clearly want to be left alone. For these people to survive they must have their land rights recognised and protected."

One of the pictures can be seen on Survival International's website, which shows two Indian men covered in bright red pigment poised to fire arrows at the aircraft while another Indian looks on.

Another photo shows about 15 Indians near thatched huts, some of them also preparing to fire arrows at the aircraft.

"The world needs to wake up to this, and ensure that their territory is protected in accordance with international law. Otherwise, they will soon be made extinct," Survival International director Stephen Corry said.

Of more than 100 un-contacted tribes worldwide, more than half live in either Brazil or Peru, Survival International says.

- BBC/Reuters

See video Click below:

101-Year-Old Woman Gets Driver's License Renewed Until 2011

101-Year-Old Woman Gets Driver's License Renewed Until 2011

POSTED: 7:19 am EDT May 29, 2008
UPDATED: 9:32 am EDT May 29, 2008
A Florida woman who is considered to be the world's oldest driver got her license renewed until 2011.
IMAGES: 101-Year-Old Continues Driving
Lillian Cox, 101, said she has been driving since 1915 and continues to travel around Tallahassee in her 1984 sedan.

"They're surprised that I'd get a driver's license at 101," Cox said. "But I have four more years."Local 6 showed video of the woman driving around a neighborhood."I'm sure I look (101 years old) but they don't let me know that," Cox said while driving around a neighborhood.Cox has been invited to the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno."She said she hopes the show picks her up in a limo.

In-flight surveillance could foil terrorists in the sky

CCTV cameras are bringing more and more public places under surveillance – and passenger aircraft could be next.

A prototype European system uses multiple cameras and "Big Brother" software to try and automatically detect terrorists or other dangers caused by passengers.

The European Union's Security of Aircraft in the Future European Environment (SAFEE) project uses a camera in every passenger's seat, with six wide-angle cameras to survey the aisles. Software then analyses the footage to detect developing terrorist activity or "air-rage" incidents, by tracking passengers' facial expressions.

The system performed well in tests this January that simulated terrorist and unruly passenger behaviour scenarios in a fake Airbus A380 fuselage, say the researchers that built it.

Systems to analyse CCTV footage – for example, to detect violence (with video) or alert CCTV operators to unusual events – have been designed before. But the SAFEE software must cope with the particularly challenging environment of a full aircraft cabin.

Threat indicators

As crew and passengers move around they often obscure one another, causing a risk the computer will lose track of some of the hundreds of people it must monitor. To get around this, the software constantly matches views of people from different cameras to track their movements.

"It looks for running in the cabin, standing near the cockpit for long periods of time, and other predetermined indicators that suggest a developing threat," says James Ferryman of the University of Reading, UK, one of the system's developers.

Other behaviours could include a person nervously touching their face, or sweating excessively. One such behaviour won't trigger the system to alert the crew, only certain combinations of them.

Ferryman is not ready to reveal specifically which behaviours were most likely to trigger the system. Much of the computer's ability to detect threats relies on sensitive information gleaned from security analysts in the intelligence community, he tells New Scientist.

Losing track

But Mohan Trivedi of the University of California, San Diego, US, is sceptical. He has built systems that he says can track and recognise individual people as they appear and disappear on different floors of his laboratory building.

It correctly identifies people about 70% of the time, and then only under "optimal conditions" that do not exist inside an airplane cabin, he says.

"[Ferryman's] research shows that a system detects threats in a very limited way. But it's a very different thing using it day in and day out." Trivedi says. "Lighting and reflections change in the cabin every time someone turns on a light or closes a window shade. They haven't shown that they have overcome these challenges."

Ferryman admits that his system will require thousands of tests on everyday passengers before it can be declared reliable at detecting threats.

The team's work is being presented this week at the International Conference on Computer Vision Systems in Greece.

Aviation - Learn more in our comprehensive special report.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Episode where Homer smokes pot

I watch the The Simpson's, its the episode where Homer smokes pot

Every Simpsons couch

All the simpsons intros

Grapevine student with top grades won't be valedictorian

Grapevine student with top grades won't be valedictorian

11:41 AM CDT on Thursday, May 29, 2008
By LAURIE FOX / The Dallas Morning News

Grapevine High School senior Anjali Datta holds the highest grade-point average of the 471 students graduating from Grapevine High School this year.


Grapevine High School senior Anjali Datta denied valedictorian title
Local/State Videos

In fact, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD officials believe her GPA of 5.898 may be the highest in the high school's history.

It's still not enough to make her the valedictorian, which brings a one-year college scholarship from the state.

Her closest competitor's GPA is 5.64. No one disputes that she's the top student in her class numerically. The problem rests with another number entirely.

Anjali rocketed through high school in only three years.

But a school district policy states: "The valedictorian shall be the eligible student with the highest weighted grade-point average for four years of high school."

The dispute over Anjali's status as valedictorian comes down to interpretation: Does four years mean calendar years of school attendance or does it mean completing the credits it takes most students four years to earn?

It depends on whom you ask.

The 16-year-old started taking high school classes in middle school and says her teachers encouraged her to graduate a year early because she had more than enough credits for graduation.

She said a counselor assured her that doing so wouldn't affect her valedictorian status because she earned her four years of high school credit in the district's schools. Officials had no comment about what a counselor may have said.

The policy was created to protect students from others who might transfer into the district close to graduation and usurp the class ranking of longtime students.

Though that's not the situation in this case, the district's attorneys interpreted the policy literally.

So at graduation ceremonies, 18-year-old Tyler Scott Franklin of Colleyville will be the Grapevine High School valedictorian.

Anjali will be "Valedictorian – Three-Year."

District officials said the title was created for this situation.

"We're doing what we can to extend an additional honor within accordance of school board policy," said Megan Overman, a district spokeswoman. "I'm not going to say that this has been an easy situation. This is something that is new for all of us. We've not faced this situation before."

Ms. Overman said the district researched the decision for months.

"There was a lot of thought involved in this. There is no perfect answer," she said.

Anjali says she and her parents are baffled.

"I have not heard of any educational institution penalizing a student for excellence – for completing a demanding set of classes 'too quickly,' " said her father, Deepak Datta. "Anjali's experience will surely send a strong negative signal to other talented students trying to excel.

"They will most certainly be discouraged from trying to do their best – instead will be more focused on gaming the system."

On Tuesday, Grapevine High School principal Jerry Hollingsworth notified the family via e-mail of the district's position that would arrive this week by certified letter.

"The determination of valedictory honor is one that rests squarely on Grapevine-Colleyville ISD board policy," Dr. Hollingsworth wrote. "In determining an appropriate interpretation of our policy, inquiries were made to both the school district's attorney as well as an attorney at the Texas Association of School Boards.

"Both were clear in their opinions that this honor should go to a student who has four school years in his or her high school career. We are compelled to adhere to school board policy," he wrote.

So, Tyler will receive the college scholarship.

His mother, Kathy, said her family didn't raise the issue with the school district. She said someone brought the district policy to her family's attention.

"We feel obviously that the other student deserves recognition as well," she said. "Considering all of the different factors, this was a good solution."

Anjali says she's struggling to understand the move because the Texas Education Agency doesn't even mention the word "valedictorian" when defining eligibility for the college scholarship.

The state provides Texas high schools with an "Honor Graduate Certificate." The certificate is to be presented to the "highest ranking graduate" in the senior class, according to Texas Education Code.

State officials say it is the local school district's responsibility to determine the highest ranking student, and the state has no authority to get involved. At graduation June 7, Anjali will be honored for her perfect ACT score. She will be acknowledged as an honor graduate and allowed to address her classmates.

But Anjali said it still doesn't feel quite right.

"This really diminishes the value of the valedictorian title," she said.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fossil reveals oldest live birth

Fossil reveals oldest live birth

Rebecca Morelle
Science reporter, BBC News

What the live birth of prehistoric fish might have looked like (Museum Victoria)

A fossil fish uncovered in Australia is the oldest-known example of a mother giving birth to live young, scientists have reported in the journal Nature.

The 380 million-year-old specimen has been preserved with an embryo still attached by its umbilical cord.

The find, reported in Nature, pushes back the emergence of this reproductive strategy by some 200 million years.

Until now, scientists thought creatures from these times were only able to develop their young inside eggs.

When I looked at it, my draw dropped. I said we are onto something big here
Prof John Lane, Museum Victoria

Before this find, the earliest evidence for this form of reproduction came from reptile fossils dating to the Mesozoic Era (248 to 65 million years ago)

The team said the latest discovery had a remarkably advanced reproductive biology, similar to modern sharks and rays.

The extremely well-preserved fossil represents a new species of "placoderm" fish.

The placoderms were an incredibly diverse group and are thought to be the most primitive known vertebrates with jaws.

These armoured fish dominated seas, rivers and lakes throughout the Devonian Period (420-360 million years ago).

This latest placoderm specimen, which measures about 25cm (10in) in length, was found in the Gogo area of Western Australia in 2005 by a team led by John Long from Museum Victoria.

Fossil fish (Museum Victoria)
The fossil was found in Western Australia
Close examination revealed that the team had unearthed something unusual.

Professor Lane said: "When I looked at it, my draw dropped. I said: 'we are onto something big here'."

The team found an embryo and an umbilical cord, which had been exquisitely preserved along with the female fish.

The scientists have named it Materpiscis attenboroughi, in honour of the naturalist Sir David Attenborough, who first drew attention to the Gogo fish fossil sites in the 1970s.

Sir David told the team that he was "very very flattered" to have had his name given to such an "astonishing creature".

The discovery prompted the researchers to return to another fossil that they had unearthed in 1986.

Close investigation revealed that this too contained evidence of live births - it contained three embryos.

Fossil fish schematic

Professor Lane said: "After we saw this, we realised we had totally nailed it, everyone was convinced that this creature bore live young."

Until the latest fossil find, scientists thought life forms that existed during these times had only evolved to reproduce using externally fertilised eggs - a primitive version of the way fish spawn today.

Now, however, the team believes this ancient species bore live young through internal fertilisation (viviparity).

Dr Long commented: "This is not only the first time ever that a fossil embryo has been found with an umbilical cord, but it is also the oldest known example of any creature giving birth to live young.

"The existence of the embryo and umbilical cord within the specimen provides scientists with the first ever example of internal fertilisation - or sex - confirming that some placoderms had remarkably advanced reproductive biology.

He added: "This is a world first fossil find, and it opens up a window into the developmental biology of an entire extinct class of organisms."

Commenting on the paper, Zerina Johanson, a palaeontologist at London's Natural History Museum, said: "It is extremely rare to find preservation like this in the fossil record. This new discovery extends the record of viviparity back almost 200 million years in the fossil record.

"Placoderms represent the most primitive group of jawed vertebrates, so this work shows that the capacity for internal fertilisation and giving birth to live young evolved very early during vertebrate history."

Man Allegedly Bilks E-trade, Schwab of $50,000 by Collecting Lots of Free 'Micro-Deposits'

Man Allegedly Bilks E-trade, Schwab of $50,000 by Collecting Lots of Free 'Micro-Deposits'

By Kevin Poulsen EmailMay 27, 2008 | 5:26:00 PMCategories: Crime

A California man has been indicted for an inventive scheme that allegedly siphoned $50,000 from online brokerage houses E-trade and in six months -- a few pennies at a time.

Michael Largent, of Plumas Lake, California, allegedly exploited a loophole in a common procedure both companies follow when a customer links his brokerage account to a bank account for the first time. To verify that the account number and routing information is correct, the brokerages automatically send small "micro-deposits" of between two cents to one dollar to the account, and ask the customer to verify that they've received it.

Michael Larchent allegedly used a script to open 58,000 online brokerage accounts in the names of cartoon characters, and other aliases.
Hank Hill courtesy Fox Broadcasting

Largent allegedly used an automated script to open 58,000 online brokerage accounts, linking each of them to a handful of online bank accounts, and accumulating thousands of dollars in micro-deposits.

I know it's only May, but I think the competition for Threat Level's Caper of the Year award is over.

Largent's script allegedly used fake names, addresses and Social Security numbers for the brokerage accounts. Largent allegedly favored cartoon characters for the names, including Johnny Blaze, King of the Hill patriarch Hank Hill, and Rusty Shackelford. That last name is doubly-fake -- it's the alias commonly used by the paranoid exterminator Dale Gribble on King of the Hill.

The banks involved included Capital One, Metabank, Greendot and Skylight. Largent allegedly cashed out by channeling the money into pre-paid debit cards.

A May 7 Secret Service search warrant affidavit (.pdf) says Largent tried the same thing with Google's Checkout service, accumulating $8,225.29 in eight different bank accounts at Bancorp Bank.

When the bank asked Largent about the thousands of small transfers, he told them that he'd read Google's terms of service, and that it didn't prohibit multiple e-mail addresses and accounts. "He stated he needed the money to pay off debts and stated that this was one way to earn money, by setting up multiple accounts having Google submit the two small deposits."

The Google caper is not charged in the indictment. (.pdf)

According to the government, Largent was undone by the USA Patriot Act's requirement that financial firms verify the identity of their customers. was notified in January that more than 5,000 online accounts had been opened with bogus information. When the Secret Service investigated, they found some 11,385 Schwab accounts were opened under the name "Speed Apex" from the same five IP addresses, all of them tracing back to Largent's internet service from AT&T.

Largent is free on bail. He's charged in federal court in Sacramento with four counts each of computer fraud, wire fraud and mail fraud. He didn't return repeated phone calls Tuesday; Representatives of E-trade, and Google also didn't return phone calls.

Space station struggles with balky toilet

Space station struggles with balky toilet

It’s no joke: Astronauts have to make do until fix is found

The international space station's toilet relies on vacuum equipment and air flow to carry waste away in zero-G. That equipment isn't providing enough suction on a regular basis, NASA says.


A look at the timeline for construction of the International Space Station

Take a virtual VIP tour of NASA's Kennedy Space Center, powered by Photosynth
Shuttle history
Trace every flight of America's space fleet
HOUSTON - Just days before the planned delivery of the international space station's largest laboratory, its crew is facing a much more down-to-Earth problem: a stopped-up toilet.

This is no laughing matter. The outpost's long-term hygiene and routine comfort are now threatened, unless critical spare parts can be identified, found and loaded aboard the space shuttle Discovery as it sits on the launch pad in Florida.

Long a subject of bathroom humor, these high-tech commodes must use fan-driven air flow instead of gravity to transport human waste away from a crew member’s body and into a sanitary receptacle. Early spaceflights didn’t even have this method, but relied on bags with sticky openings — and an emergency supply of such bags is indeed aboard the space station.

The current round of trouble started last Wednesday in the Russian-built Zvezda service module, the station's main living room, as noted in a NASA status report: "While using the toilet system in the Service Module, the crew heard a loud noise and the fan stopped working. After some troubleshooting the crew reported that the air/water separator was not working.”

Cosmonauts Sergey Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, assisted by NASA astronaut Garrett Reismann, tackled the problem immediately. They replaced the separator with a spare unit, but told controllers that the toilet didn't provide suction. Then they replaced the toilet's filter, which proved to be just a fleeting fix.

Mission Control in Moscow told the crew to turn off the toilet and use the unit inside their Soyuz transport ship. Designed only to support free flight between Earth and space and back, that unit has only enough storage capacity for a few days of crew use.

Over the next few days, the toilet was reported "fixed," and NASA's daily reports contained messages of "routine maintenance" on the unit. But rumors circulated within the space community that the fixes kept breaking.

On Tuesday, NASA spokesman Josh Byerly confirmed that the toilet was still balky.

“Over the weekend the crew experienced more trouble with space station toilet,” he told reporters. “They had thought they had corrected it but the same fault returned, and they fixed it again.”

The toilet didn't stay fixed for long. “It failed again this morning,” he concluded.

Byerly did not address other reports, passed along privately to, that a "fabrication flaw" has been discovered in the toilet's compressor units. One source in Houston said that the hardware used there for crew training may be flown to Florida for launch aboard Discovery, even though it too is expected to fail quickly. The source was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly, and thus spoke on condition of anonymity.

NASA toilet clogged
May 27: A toilet on the International Space Station is broken, NBC News space analyst Jim Oberg reports.


A major new unit, intended to allow the expansion of crew size from three to six members, is being prepared for launch late this year. Until then, the current hardware — and the supply of "Apollo bags" for fecal collection — may have to suffice. And if previous experience is any guide, the Russian engineers and cosmonauts will find McGyver-type solutions to make it work.

Over the years, the station's Russian-made life support hardware (such as oxygen generators and carbon dioxide scrubbers) has limped along, occasionally breaking down and then being fixed or replaced with spares.

Designed to be robust, and to be easily serviced in orbit, this hardware approach has shown resilience and “repairability.” That may be just the approach required for the life support systems to be used on years-long human missions to other planets.

Police: Robber pretended to be clerk to steal cash

Police: Robber pretended to be clerk to steal cash MESA, Ariz. (AP) -- Police have arrested a man they say pretended to be a new employee at a 7-Eleven so he could learn to use the cash register and steal its contents.

Police said the man was trained how to use the cash register at the Mesa store on April 27 after falsely claiming he was a new employee.

The suspect returned to the store twice that day to make purchases. On the final visit, the clerk commented on his photo ID when the suspect was trying to buy beer, and the man allegedly pulled a gun and forced the woman into a bathroom.

Police said the suspect pretended to be the store clerk and was helping customers when the real clerk broke free and emerged with a gun. The man fled with stolen money, police said.

Marc Antoine Stovall, 21, was arrested Monday in Phoenix and was booked for investigation of armed robbery, kidnapping and third-degree burglary. He admitted to the crime during an interview with investigators and was in jail Tuesday, Mesa police spokesman Christopher Arvayo said.

It was not known whether he had been assigned an attorney.

Vet Faces Lawsuit For Flying American Flag

Vet Faces Lawsuit For Flying American Flag

POSTED: 5:33 am EDT May 27, 2008
UPDATED: 4:22 pm EDT May 27, 2008
A Central Florida war veteran faces a lawsuit for flying the American flag on a pole in his front yard.
IMAGES: Man Fights To Fly Flag
"I don't understand why it would bring down the values of our homes by flying the American flag from a pole in my front yard," homeowner Jimmie Watkins said.Watkins and his wife, Ria, received a final notice from the Sussex homeowners' association in Clermont that they must remove the flag or face legal action.The former retired U.S. Navy communications officer said he refuses to back down for the American flag."Our people are serving today to give us freedom to do as we like here within the law of America," Watkins said. "It is my right to fly my flag from my pole and until a court of law tells me to haul that down, I will not haul it down. I think about all of the people who have served our nation and all of the lives that it's cost and all of the friends that I've lost."Local 6 reported that all surrounding subdivisions in Kings Ridge allow a flag pole display in a person's front yard.Jim Hart, who handles property management for 1,500 properties, including Sussex, said it is the association's call and not his."Each sub-association has its own set of documents and they can differ," Hart said. "The rationale for that only exists within the minds of the folks that are doing it. I can't sit here and tell you why."The homeowner's association is not commenting about their rules. But state law said anyone can display a flag in a "respectful manner" as long as it is removable,

Dog Electrocuted by Queens Light Pole

Dog Electrocuted by Queens Light Pole

NEW YORK (AP) -- A woman is mourning after her dog was killed by a stray jolt of electricity from a light pole in Queens.

Celia Sing says she was taking her 7-year-old Siberian Husky, Sebastian, for a walk on Sunday near her apartment in Long Island City when he stopped at the pole.

Sing says her dog fell to the ground and began shaking uncontrollably before dying right in front of her eyes.

Because of the holiday weekend, Sing says she was unable to get answers from the Department of Transportation. The light pole was replaced on Monday.

Department spokesman Seth Solomonow says engineers have made the area safe, but the cause of the stray voltage has not yet been determined. He adds: ``Safety is our top priority on the streets of New York.''

Shoot Em or Ask Them Out?

Shoot Em or Ask Them Out?

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Although it may be a highlight moment for most men when they see two girls making out, these guards just didn’t quite know what to think about it.

girls-kiss Shoot Em or Ask Them Out? picture

The card that lets you choose death

Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 17:50 UK

The card that lets you choose death

Rose left as floral tribute

By Paula Dear
BBC News

A controversial new "right to die" card is being offered to the public that allows anyone to refuse treatment in a medical emergency. Who carries it, and why?

It's a morbid question, but one that many of us have pondered at least once.

Card issued by Salford City Council
The card that can say 'no'

If I hadn't just escaped that dreadful accident, where would I be now? Would I rather be dead than depend on others to keep me alive?

A new card seeks to address that very question. Available in pubs, banks, libraries, GP surgeries, even some churches, the Advanced Decision to Refuse Treatment (ADRT) card sits snugly in a wallet or purse and instructs a doctor to withhold treatment should the carrier lose the capacity to make decisions, because of an accident or illness.

Dubbed the "right-to-die card", it's being seen by some as a short-cut to euthanasia.

But its backers say it is a practical way of implementing the Mental Capacity Act, which came into force in 2007.

The act allows adults to draw up "advance directives" stating what sort of treatment they don't want should they lose capacity. They build on the principle of "living wills" but, crucially, mean that doctors are legally bound to abide by a patient's wish to refuse life-sustaining treatment.

Taken in haste

Carrying the card alerts anyone who finds it that the patient has made decisions about treatment, and there is a detailed statement to be found with named relatives or friends and, ideally, their GP.

Jo Cartwright
I'm terrified of the prospect of having a terminal illness or accident that left me medically alive but not able to live my life
Jo Cartwright, 23

Salford City Council, which is behind the card, says it is merely putting the information out there in public places, for people to make their own choice. It stresses advance decisions are not only about death but can also include preferences about treatment and care patients do want.

But so-called pro-life campaigners say they could be snapped up in haste by people who haven't fully understood the complexity of the issues involved.

Given the ferocity of the debate between the pro-choice and pro-life movements, it is somewhat surprising to hear that Salford's card scheme was dreamed up by just one person.

The woman - who has asked not to be named - is involved with social care services in Salford because she has a son with mental health problems.

"She was thinking of the idea of advance decisions both as a retired woman, and as a carer, and thought this would be useful," says Judd Skelton, a Salford council officer who looks after user and carer issues.

However, pro-life campaigners such as Dr Andrew Fergusson, from the Christian Medical Fellowship, say such important decisions should not be committed to paper in this way. Agreeing that patients should have more autonomy than in previous generations, Dr Fergusson wants people to appoint a proxy to speak for them if they become incapacitated.

"One of our concerns is that the things people want when they are well are very different to those they want when they are unwell. Their values change," he says.

Slow down treatment

The former GP and hospital doctor, whose organisation is also part of the Care Not Killing alliance, says advance directives may be forcing medics to work "with one hand tied behind their backs" - although the legislation does leave room to challenge the patient's statement.

And he is worried that a card saying "stop" to a doctor could lead to a "change of gear" in emergency situations that would affect decision-making.

The Salford cards certainly seem to be stirring passions locally. Reports that they have been snapped up enthusiastically by locals appear to be partly countered by the comments of at least one person contributing to a local newspaper messageboard.

"I'm appalled by these cards," it reads, "and I removed as many as I could from Swinton Library yesterday."

But such cards are not entirely new. While Salford believes it is the first council to offer them, the "pro-choice" group Dignity in Dying provides a similar card for people who buy their advance decision documents from it.

One carrier is 23-year-old Jo Cartwright, who says she started thinking seriously about her rights some years ago, while working as a nursing assistant. Having watched a young woman go through a slow and painful death from Huntington's disease and cancer, she knew she would never want a similar experience.

"She had seen her father go through it and knew what was coming," says Ms Cartwright. "She said she didn't want to die like he had. But she hadn't written anything down and her mother and carers had to watch her go through exactly the same thing. It made me think about my options and my rights. Would I be able to make decisions if I knew what might be coming?"

She worked for a spell with Dying in Dignity and last year wrote an advanced directive.

'I'm terrified'

Any medic who finds it while she is incapacitated will know that if there is little prospect of a full recovery, Ms Cartwright does not want medication that will prolong her life.

"I don't want to be kept alive and I think that is my choice."

Despite her youth, for Ms Cartwright there is already a real chance she could face a medical emergency. Last year she was rushed to hospital with pancreatitis - acute attacks of which are fatal in about a quarter of cases - and it could happen again.

Living with the chronic disease has impaired her life, although she insists she would have made an advance statement whether or not she had developed an illness.

"I'm terrified of the prospect of having a terminal illness or accident that left me medically alive but not able to live my life independently, to a quality I find acceptable."

8 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Always Be An Optimist

8 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Always Be An Optimist

Written on 5/28/2008 by Alex Shalman, creator of the Practical Personal Development blog.

"A pessimist? That's a person who has been intimately acquainted with an optimist." ~Elbert Hubbard

There are many people out there who will swear that a bit of positivity will solve all the problems in the world. They're out there strutting there big smiles, great days, and unrealistic expectations of the world. The rest of us are annoyed -- maybe even a little offended.

There's a reason we're all a bit put off by the constant optimist. Their behavior does not reflect the status quo nor does is fairly represent what's going on in the news or global community. It makes you wonder how someone can get up the nerve to have a great day when there are typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis and global warming that are killing thousands as we speak.

Sure positivity could reduce some stress for the person exhibiting it, but let's take a closer look at the overall cons of obsessive optimism:

8 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Always Be An Optimist
  1. Creating stress. Not everyone can handle your overbearing optimism in the face of adversary. Even if you have no survival story, people get worked up, frustrated, and irritated at the fact that you're prancing around like you cured world hunger. And so what if you did, there are still people dieing for diamonds -- get back to work.

  2. Breaking deadlines. An overly optimistic person will think it takes them way less time to complete an assignment than it really does; they do this all the time! How do you think this affects their co-workers, friends & family, and the general population?

  3. Decreased productivity. Without carefully analyzing all the steps that take you from point A to point B, you're bound to have too many obstacles that you cannot cope with. Try getting anything done when you've gone over budget, underestimated your resources, or got 5 unexpected monkey's on your back.

  4. Coping with people. When you're overly optimistic you can't possibly cope with the realistic people in your life. They're talking about real things like CNN, ABC, MTV, and XYZ. You want to talk about hearts and butterflies, and frankly... nobody cares.

  5. Leave things broken. Sure, the pessimist might see things as too far gone to fix, but at least he may try, and at certain times succeed. But, an optimist will be completely oblivious that there ever was a problem. Without any attempts to patch things up, a downward spiral of death, carnage, and chaos ensues.

  6. Losing first impressions. Do you really want to walk around introducing yourself to people when your head looks like a smiley face? Do you think people will take you seriously? Do you even want to get making that face... you know it could get stuck that way.

  7. Huge let downs. If you're always the type of person that always expects the best to happen to you, you are very much bound to be let down -- often. You can avoid this, and be in a much better place, if you never set those expectations so unrealistically high.

  8. Create unhappiness. The happiest nation in the world are the Danes. Researchers into happiness have got a good guess as to why this is. It's because they do not expect great things to happen, so anything above average that occurs during their day-to-day feels like a huge victory. Being an optimist deprives you of this satisfaction.
The message here is not to become a downright pessimist; it's to remain realistic. There are definitely ways to have a positive outlook on things without taking it too far.Do you have a story where optimism failed you or someone you know? Share it in the comments below.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

French Skydiver's Balloon Takes Off Without Him

French Skydiver's Balloon Takes Off Without Him

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

NORTH BATTLEFORD, Saskatchewan — A French skydiver's hope to set a new free-fall record might have come to an end on Tuesday when his ride to the sky left without him.

The helium balloon Michel Fournier was going to use to soar to the stratosphere detached from the capsule he was going to use to jump from 130,000 feet, about 25 miles high.

It happened after the balloon was inflated on the ground at the airport in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. The balloon drifted away into the sky without the capsule.

• Click here to see pictures of the postponed attempt Monday.

Fournier appeared disappointed as left the capsule and walked to the hanger. He was hugged by members of his entourage.

The balloon was reported to have cost at least $200,000 and Fournier was said to have already exhausted his finances. His handlers planned a media briefing for later Tuesday.

Fournier, 64, had planned to make the attempt Monday, but had to postpone his plans because of weather conditions.

Attempts in 2002 and 2003 ended when wind gusts shredded his balloon before it even became airborne.

Fournier hoped to break the record for the fastest and longest free fall, the highest parachute jump and the highest balloon flight. He also hopes to bring back data that will help astronauts and others survive in the highest of altitudes.

An army of technicians, data crunchers, balloon and weather specialists arrived recently in North Battleford, a city of 14,000 near the Saskatchewan-Alberta boundary, for the attempt.

Fournier had planned to make the jump in his native France, but the government denied him permission because it believed the project was too dangerous. He then came to North Battleford, an agricultural and transportation hub northwest of Saskatoon.

Spokeswoman Francine Lecompte-Gittens said Monday's postponement was due to unfavorable weather.

Fournier, a former army paratrooper with more than 8,000 jumps under his belt, planned to be three times higher than a commercial jetliner. A mountain climber would have to ascend the equivalent of four Mount Everests stacked one on top of the other.

It was expected to take Fournier 15 minutes just to come down, screaming through thin air at about 900 mph — 1.7 times the speed of sound — smashing through the sound barrier, shock waves buffeting his body, before finally deploying his chute about 6,000 yards above the prairie wheat fields.