Saturday, July 12, 2008

Police: Braces may have saved Pontiac man's life

Police: Braces may have saved Pontiac man's life
7/11/2008, 7:12 p.m. EDT
The Associated Press

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — They may not be the most popular accessory for teenagers, but one man's braces may have saved his life when he was shot in the face.

Eighteen-year-old Anthony Pittman was shot in the mouth Wednesday night during a gun battle in Pontiac.

Police say the bullet, fired from a .45 caliber weapon, was fragmented by Pittman's braces, which may have saved his life.

US judge blocks gas drilling in Michigan forest

The Associated Press

US judge blocks gas drilling in Michigan forest


TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A federal judge has overturned a decision by the U.S. Forest Service to allow oil and gas drilling near a forest and a river in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula.

U.S. District Judge David Lawson of Detroit ruled Thursday the agency had acted "arbitrarily and capriciously" in 2005 by giving Savoy Energy LP of Traverse City a permit to drill an exploratory well near the Au Sable River's south branch.

The proposed wellhead would be located in the Huron-Manistee National Forest about three-tenths of a mile from the Mason Tract, a 4,679-acre wilderness area prized by anglers and other outdoor recreationists.

Forest supervisor Leanne Marten said when approving Savoy's application that the project wouldn't significantly harm the environment and the company would be required to keep noise to a minimum.

But the judge ruled the Forest Service didn't consider how degrading the area could harm tourism, and said the agency did a "woefully inadequate" job of evaluating how the drilling might affect the Kirtland's warbler, an endangered songbird that nests in the area.

Two environmental groups, the Sierra Club and Anglers of the Au Sable, sued the government to halt the drilling. Joining the suit was Tim Mason, whose grandfather, auto executive George Mason, donated the original 1,200 acres to the state upon his death in 1954 and asked that it be maintained as wilderness.

"The ruling supports what my grandfather's vision was. It's a victory," said Mason, a Woodstock, Ill., businessman.

Huron-Manistee spokesman Ken Arbogast referred a request for comment to the U.S. Department of Justice, which represented the Forest Service in court. Andrew Ames, a spokesman for the department, said its attorneys were studying Lawson's ruling and had not decided whether to appeal.

A message seeking comment was left with Savoy.

Leaders of the environmental groups urged the company and the government to look for other places to explore for oil and gas.

"We've said from the beginning we didn't want to stop them from drilling," said Marvin Roberson, a forest policy specialist with the Sierra Club. "We want them to drill from a place that won't be harmful to the old-growth forest or the recreational experience."

Although the Mason Tract is state property, the federal government owns rights to minerals beneath it and leased production rights to Savoy. In 2003, the company filed for a permit to drill into one of its lease holdings.

The plan was to clear about 3.5 acres of forest for a well site on federal land, then drill beneath the Mason Tract at an angle. If enough gas or oil was found, the company intended to install a pipeline and build a production facility about a mile east of the well.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management approved the project shortly after the Forest Service granted the permit. But it has been on hold since Lawson issued an order in December 2005 blocking the company from clearing land to get started.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Honeybee Mystery Could Hurt Food Supply

Honeybee Mystery Could Hurt Food Supply
Where have all the honeybees gone? Millions are disappearing all over the world and scientists don't know why.

Honey Bee Mystery

A revealing profile piece on the disappearing honey bee crisis.

Fossil feathers reveal their hues

Fossil feathers reveal their hues

Fossil feather
The origins of the stripes seen in the feathers have long been debated

The complex coloured plumage of extinct birds which once soared over the heads of dinosaurs could soon be revealed.

Scientists have shown they are able to interpret the colour patterns seen in 100-million-year-old fossil feathers.

Writing in the journal Biology Letters, US researchers reveal how ancient feathers found in Brazil displayed "striking" bands of black and white.

Previously, fossil experts could only guess at the range of hues exhibited by ancient birds and some dinosaurs.

"It solves a conundrum," explained Professor Mike Benton of the University of Bristol, commenting on the work.

Behavioural clues

The team from Yale University analysed fossil feathers from Brazil and Denmark, along with the plumage of modern birds.

The fossil feathers had an obvious striped pattern but its origin had long been debated, according to Professor Benton.

"The banding looks so life-like that it can't be geological in origin - it has to be biological," he said.

The melanosomes could reveal a range of different colours

"But then how do you square that with the well-known fact that the majority of organic molecules decay in thousands of years?"

Microscopic analysis of the dark bands showed they displayed a distinctive granular texture, made from thousands of tiny, densely-packed flattened spheres.

Researchers had previously interpreted these as fossilised bacteria, preserved as the feathers decomposed.

But analysis of modern birds' feathers showed a similar structure.

"There are particular cells that cluster into the dark areas of modern birds called melanosomes," explained Professor Benton.

"Somehow [the melanosomes] are retained and replaced during the preservation process and hence you preserve a very life like representation of the colour banding [in the fossils]."

Lighter areas in the fossils did not show the same textures, leading the team to conclude that the feathers once displayed distinct black and white stripes.

But studies of other modern birds have shown that other colours are marked by distinct arrangements of melanosomes, raising the possibility of reconstructing more ornate plumage.

The Yale team believe it could identify brown, red, buff and even iridescent colours. The technique may be applied to other creatures to reveal the colour of fur or even eyes, the team believes.

The findings could shed light on the lives of some extinct creatures.

Genetic clues

"It allows you in certain cases to combine this knowledge with other information to paint quite a remarkable picture of behaviour," Professor Benton said.

For example, it could give researchers clues about courtship displays and mating behaviours.

"It might give you a very clear handle on an aspect of the ecology that people would have thought impossible to divine for an ancient fossil," said Professor Benton.

Scientists have previously used genetic techniques to reveal the colours of extinct species.

In 2006, researchers showed that some woolly mammoths would have sported dark brown coats, while others had pale ginger or blond hair.

The information was gleaned by analysis of genetic material extracted from a 43,000-year-old woolly mammoth bone from Siberia.

The same technique has been difficult to apply to creatures as old as the dinosaurs because of the lack of well-preserved genetic material.

Solar dyes give a guiding light

Solar dyes give a guiding light

By Matt McGrath
BBC science correspondent

Current solar plants need large mobile mirrors to produce energy

A new way of capturing the energy from the Sun could increase the power generated by solar panels tenfold, a team of American scientists has shown.

The new technique involves coating glass with a specific mixture of transparent dyes which redirect light to photovoltaic cells in the frame.

The technology, outlined in the journal Science, could be used to convert glass buildings into vast energy plants.

The technology could be in production within three years, the team said.

"It makes sense to coat the side of [very tall] buildings with these new panes," Professor Marc Baldo, one of the researchers on the team, told BBC News. "It's not far fetched at all."

Colour trick

The most advanced attempts to generate large amounts of electricity via the Sun require the use of a solar concentrator.

These are often bulky mobile mirrors that work by tracking the progress of the Sun and concentrating its beams on the cell at its heart.

But there are downsides to this technology: the cells at the centre have to be constantly cooled, and each concentrator requires a large amount of space to avoid shadowing its neighbour.

Organic solar concentrator
The technology collects and focuses different colours of sunlight

The new technology does away with the need for mirrors and mobility.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) team has found a way to coat panes of glass or plastic with a mixture of several dyes that essentially do the same job.

"What we have is a piece of glass, with a very thin layer of paint or dye on top," explained Professor Baldo.

"The light comes in and hits the dye and which absorbs it and re-emits the light, but now it's inside the glass so it bounces along there until it gets to the edge. So you only need to mount the solar cells around the edge."

The idea was first developed in the 1970s but was abandoned because much of the light energy was lost en route to the cell.

But using its expertise in optical techniques and a specific mixture of dyes, the MIT team has found a way to make the light travel much farther without losing as much energy along the way.

Window future

"When you do this there is a little bit of energy loss with the dye," said Professor Baldo.

"The main benefit is with the cost. You use a far smaller amount of solar cells. For the same area of solar cells, you get much more electricity."

Existing solar installations could also benefit from the new concentrator, he said.

"You could take this new kind of glass and put it on top of an existing solar cell so the cell still generates electricity but this glass pane with the dye on top captures a certain part of the spectrum and converts it more efficiently than the solar cell would do on its own."

The MIT team believes it could improve existing panels by 50%.

In addition, the system is simple to manufacture, requiring little more than to coat glass or plastic with the combination of dyes. It could be in production within three years, the researchers believe.

If that becomes a reality, one obvious application, they said, was converting windows into energy plants.

"The coated glass would let through about 10% of the Sun to light up the room, and the remainder would be captured and funnelled to the edges to solar cells to generate electricity," said Professor Baldo.

"It would look like smoked glass because of the dyes."

Graphic explains how new solar technology works
1. First solar concentrator coated with transparent dyes absorbs sunlight and transmits it to glass panel edge
2. High voltage solar cells on edge of glass capture sunlight.
3. Low voltage solar cells trap light escaping through first panel.
4. The first panel can also be used alone as a window pane. In the future, glass buildings could produce their own electrical energy.

Flagstaff man mad at wasted gas nabs stop signs

FLAGSTAFF - Police in Flagstaff say a man angry because new stop signs were causing him to waste gas went on a late-night theft spree and removed several of the signs.

Police reports say a witness who spotted a group of men stealing the signs called them early Wednesday. Responding officers found a car matching the witness description outside a nearby apartment, and they spotted a pile of nut and bolts on the floor of the home.

When a man answered the door, it hit a stack of metal stop sign posts.

Police reports say the man told them he was angry at the new stop signs, which were installed in his neighborhood after complaints of speeding. They recovered 10 signs.

The man and two companions were booked into jail on felony theft and felony endangerment charges.

Black Community Denied Water for Decades, Jury Says

Colfax described the verdict as unique among civil rights cases nationally, both in the nature of the ruling and the size of the award.

The jury in U.S. District Court found that failing to provide water service to the residents violated state and federal civil rights laws. The lawsuit was not a class-action. Colfax said 25 to 30 families live in Coal Run now.

The water authority must pay 55 percent of the damages, while the county owes 25 percent and the city owes 20 percent, plaintiffs' attorney Reed Colfax said. The water authority no longer exists, and the county would be responsible for paying that share of the judgment.

Zanesville attorney Michael Valentine said in court that he intended to appeal but declined to comment further. The county commission also plans to appeal.

Attorney Mark Landes, who represented the county and water district, called the verdict disappointing. He said jurors were not allowed to hear defendants' testimony that neighborhood residents were offered water service years ago and refused it.

Colfax said he was unaware of any evidence that was excluded from the trial.

"This was a case that was started and fired by out-of-town lawyers who saw an opportunity for a cash settlement," Landes said.

The plaintiffs' attorneys will receive a separate amount to be decided later by a judge, Colfax said.

John Relman, a civil rights attorney based in Washington, D.C., who represented the residents, said the jury heard hours of testimony and saw hundreds of pages of documentation over the seven-week trial.

"This verdict vindicates that this (treatment) was because of their race," he said. "The jury agreed with that and issued a verdict based on a full airing of the facts."

Ohio Attorney General Nancy H. Rogers said she was pleased.

"This decision speaks firmly about the importance of treating citizens with equal respect, regardless of race," she said in a statement.

Plaintiff Frederick Martin said the long wait was worth it.

He and his nine siblings shared two tubs of water between them on bath nights when he was growing up. He left Coal Run, built on a former coal mine, in 1970 so his children wouldn't have to endure the same living conditions, he said.

"Today I feel that we are really blessed, to know and to see justice being met," Martin said. "And to see, regardless of who we are, there is a price to pay if you discriminate against people."

The plaintiffs' attorneys successfully argued that the decision not to pipe water to the plaintiffs was racially motivated, painting a picture of a community with a history of segregation. Black residents of Coal Run Road were denied water over the years while nearby white neighbors were provided it, they said.

Landes countered that about half of Muskingum County residents are not tied into the public water system even today. Among those without it are county commissioners, judges and other prominent officials, he said.

Zanesville has about 25,000 residents on the edge of the state's Appalachian region. One in every five families is below the federal poverty level, and the unemployment rate in Muskingum County in May was 7.4 percent. The national unemployment rate that month was 5.5 percent.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lawn zombie sculpture Posted by Cory Doctorow, July 8, 2008 6:21 AM | permalink Over on Boing Boing Gadgets, our John's dug up this magnificent zombi

Lawn zombie sculpture

Over on Boing Boing Gadgets, our John's dug up this magnificent zombie lawn-sculpture by Alan Dickenson, available for a mere $90 -- think of the savings you'll realize by no longer having to pay someone to keep the kids off your lawn! Link

Robots scale new heights

Robots scale new heights

Robot that climbs up walls and crawls across windows

Robots that can climb walls have been developed by scientists in the United States.

The robots can scale surfaces using the same principles behind electrostatic charges, which make balloons stick to ceilings after being rubbed.

Developed by a team in SRI's Mobile Robotics and Transducers Programme, the machines are about the size of a remote-controlled car and have caterpillar tracks similar to those on toy tanks.

Inside these tracks are materials with electro-adhesive properties, which mean that when a current is applied, the tracks are attracted to the wall, preventing the robots from falling off.


"What we've invented is a way to induce charges on the wall using a power supply located on the robot," research engineer Harsha Prahlad told BBC World Service's Digital Planet programme.

"The robot carries with it positive and negative charges, and when the walls sees these charges it automatically generates the opposite charge. The robot can then clamp onto those charges.

"In some ways it is similar to rubbing a balloon and sticking it on the wall, except we carry our own power supply and are able to control the adhesion."

Insect robots

The robots can climb up and down a range of surfaces
The technology, called compliant electroadhesion, uses a very small amount of power and the robots can crawl at a speed of about one body length per second.

The robots are being touted for use by the military, for reconnissance, for service applications and as toys.

"It is very similar to how a toy tank works, with the two treads," Mr Prahlad explained.

"There are positive and negative traces attached to the treads.

"We simply drive it, moving it like a conveyer belt."

The team is now working on a way to apply their technology to more insect-like robots, to mirror the way that creatures such as flies are able to walk upside-down.

This will be done by putting electro-adhesive pads on the robot feet.

"We often think of electrostatic forces as very weak - but if you get very close, you can get very strong forces from this," Mr Prahlad added.

Beijing 'failing pollution test'

Beijing 'failing pollution test'

By James Reynolds
BBC News, Beijing

People take their pictures with China's National Stadium, file image
Officials say the city's air will be clean enough for the Olympics

Just a month before the start of the Beijing Olympics, the city is still failing to meet international air quality standards, the BBC has found.

When Beijing bid for the Olympics in 2001, it said its air would meet World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

The BBC put this to the test using a hand-held detector to test for airborne particles known as PM10.

We found that the city's air failed to meet the WHO's air quality guidelines for PM10 on six days out of seven.

These particles are caused by traffic, construction work and factory emissions. They are responsible for much of this city's pollution.

On one of these days, the pollution reading was seven times over the WHO's air quality guideline.

BBC Beijing correspondent James Reynolds

Beijing's air will be fundamental to the success or failure of this city's Games
The BBC's James Reynolds

By comparison, recent readings done in London - the site of the 2012 Games - all fall within the WHO's guidelines.

Beijing insists that there is still time to get things right.

Later this month it is imposing a series of emergency air-quality measures which will take cars off the streets and shut down building sites.

One official has told the BBC that he is confident that Beijing will still fulfil its clean air promise.

But this city does not have all that much time left.

Iran: Death penalty for 'online crimes'

A new law has been passed by the Iranian parliament extending use of the death penalty to online crimes. Previously, only people charged with insulting Islam or drug trafficking had been sentenced to death.

Iranian President Mahmoud...

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Photo: AP

In accordance with the new law, bloggers and website editors can be sentenced to death for crimes such as promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) reported.

Blogging about subjects such as minority rights and freedom of speech and religion has already carried a risk. In 2005, blogger Mojtaba Saminejad was tried before a local court in Teheran charged with insulting the prophets, which carries the death penalty. He was eventually acquitted. Last year, two Kurdish bloggers were sentenced to death on charges of subversive activities against national security, spying and separatist propaganda.

Blogging is very popular in Iran - even the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has his own blog and the Persian language is one of the most commonly used on the Internet.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Balloon animals from trash bags: Joshua Allen Harris

Balloon animals from trash bags: Joshua Allen Harris

Street artist Joshua Allen Harris uses trash bags to make "balloon animals" that inflate over subway grates throughout New York City, and NY Mag has a behind-the-scenes video on how he does it.

Street Art: Joshua Allen Harris
[ New York Magazine, thanks Jessica Coen and Glen E. Friedman ]

See also a related post on Laughing Squid from March, 2008.

Firefox users safest on the web

Firefox users safest on the web

FIREFOX USERS tend to keep their browser software more up to date than punters who use other web browsers, a Swiss study has reported.

Conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in collaboration with Google and IBM between January 2007 and June 2008, the study analysed Internet users' web browser preferences and online behaviours, particularly with regard to security.

Overall, the researchers' report said that less than 60 per cent of wibblers use the latest, up-to-date versions of their web browsers. The study noted that failing to keep browser software updated greatly increases web surfers' online security vulnerability to attacks.

Of the web browsing population surveyed, Firefox users were found by far to be the most likely to use the latest version, at over 83 per cent.

In second place, just over 65 per cent of Apple's Safari users were found to use the latest version, after December 2007 when Safari 3 was released.

Ranked third, about 56 per cent of Opera users said they were running the latest version.

Microsoft Internet Explorer users came in last with regard to safe wibbling, with less than 48 per cent using the most secure release available over the 18-month study period.

The study also estimated web browser market shares, reporting that Internet Explorer had 1.1 billion users or 78.3 per cent, Firefox had 227 million users or 16.1 per cent, Safari 48 million users or 3.4 per cent, and Opera just 11 million users or 0.8 per cent.

Recently, Firefox market share was reported to have jumped to 19 per cent, while Internet Explorer's market share has slipped to less than 73 per cent

Move over Mao, the Olympics are coming

Move over Mao, the Olympics are coming

A combo photo shows a commemorative bank note with a face value of 10 yuan ($1.46) to mark the Beijing Olympic Games. The People's Bank of China (PBOC), the country's central bank, is to issue the commemorative bank note from July 8, 2008 to mark the Beijing Olympic Games, the bank said in a statement on July 6, 2008, China Daily reported. REUTERS/PBOC via China Daily
Reuters Photo: A combo photo shows a commemorative bank note with a face value of 10 yuan...

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's central bank will drop former leader Mao Zedong's face from six million new 10 yuan (74 pence) notes to mark next month's area on the other, were issued in 1999, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic.

Debate flares periodically about removing Mao from the notes, but no serious moves have been made recently.

In 2006 delegates to the country's parliament, the National People's Congress, proposed Mao make room for other leaders such as economic reformer Deng Xiaoping and Sun Yat-sen, considered the "father" of modern China.

First Day of Pamplona's Running of the Bulls Leaves 13 Hurt

PAMPLONA, Spain — Daredevils kicked off the running of the bulls Monday with a long, messy and particularly dangerous dash through the streets of Pamplona, with 13 people injured but none gored, officials said.

The 850-meter (half-mile) sprint through cobblestone streets turned chaotic because the pack of six half-ton beasts became separated early in the route after plowing into a crowd of people, some of them spectators.

Some of the bulls fell and two ended up running on their own. One of those became disoriented, trying several times to turn around and go back toward the starting point. But herders waving sticks eventually guided it to the bull ring where the course ends.

Inside the ring one black bull fell down and stayed there for nearly a minute, as jubilant runners scampered about.

The Spanish Red Cross said 13 people were injured, with head, rib or other injuries from falling or getting trampled.

It said six were Spanish and the rest were from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Romania and South Korea. No names were given. The worst off was a 37-year-old Spaniard with fractured ribs and a ruptured spleen, the Red Cross said.


The whole run took just over four minutes, which is a bit slow by the standards of Pamplona's Fiesta de San Fermin, as the festival is known.

It was the first of eight scheduled runs. The most crowded ones will be next weekend, when the throngs of thrill-seekers will swell dramatically as people pour into Pamplona from out of town for two days of revelry and Adrenalin.

The fact that this year's festival began on a Monday meant a lighter turnout.

"There were a few tense moments, but I think everything went quite well. There were fewer people than at other times," said 29-year-old runner Aritz Lopez, from Bilbao.

Many of Monday's participants wore traditional white trousers and shirts and red kerchiefs around their necks. They carried rolled-up newspapers — a tool for gauging how far away a charging bull is.

Before the sprint, local runners paid tribute to a beloved Pamplona native, Inaki Ochoa de Olza, a veteran mountain climber who died in the Himalayas in May. He also was a regular runner at San Fermin.

The running of the bulls became world famous with the publication of Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" and also is known for its all-night street parties.

Since record-keeping began in 1924, 14 runners have died.

The last fatality from a goring was a 22-year-old American, Matthew Tassio, in 1995. In 2003, a 63-year-old Pamplona native, Fermin Etxeberri, was trampled in the head by a bull and died after spending several months in a coma.

On Sunday a young man died after falling 30 meters (yards) from an ancient wall that encircles the old quarter of Pamplona. Authorities identified him Monday as Aidan Holly, a 23-year-old from Ireland, and quoted friends as saying he had been drinking.

Sliced bread 'a world first'

Sliced bread 'a world first'

By Will Temple

July 05, 2008 12:00am

Article from:

SO what was sliced bread the best thing since?

According to the full page ad taken out to announce its arrival, the sliced loaf was “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped”.

On July 6, 1928, in the small US town of Chillicothe, Missouri, the local newspaper broke the story on the front - and carried the advertisement on the back - of its eight page edition.

From the following morning the Chillicothe Baking Company would be selling pre-sliced bread at quality grocers in the area, thanks to a powerful multi-bladed machine called the Rohwedder Bread Slicer.

“There was a time when you ground your coffee,” the bakery ad said. “Now you buy it ground.

“Well this is the same sort of sensible, logical improvement. It is indeed a fine product sold a better way.”

On the front page - alongside period tales of Indians and flying aces - The Constitution-Tribune carried the story down a full column: “Sliced bread is made here - Chillicothe Baking Co. the first bakers in the world to sell this product to the public”.

The paper reported: “The idea of sliced bread may be startling to some people.

“Certainly it represents a definite departure from the usual manner of supplying the consumer with bakers loaves.

“As one considers this new service one cannot help but be won over to a realization of the fact that here indeed is a type of service which is sound, sensible and in every way a progressive refinement in Bakers bread service.

“The slices stack perfectly, they are ideal for the making of neat, dainty sandwiches. For toasting purposes they are unexcelled.”

Sliced bread would go on to become a household staple and enter the language as a superlative praising an invention or breakthrough that has had a real impact on our daily lives.

But at the time the bakery even published four-step instructions on how to use the new product, starting from opening – not tearing - the wrapper to removing the pins holding the slices together and folding the packaging back down to preserve freshness.

The loaves would be sold at a discount for a week and from July 16 the price would rise by a penny.

The bread slicer that made it all possible was invented by Iowa man Otto Rohwedder who built his first prototype in 1917 but it was not put into commercial use until 1928 when the Chillicothe Baking Co. took it on.

As The Constitution-Tribune explained at the time:

“This machine gently but rapidly pushes the loaf through a series of alternating blades which slice the entire loaf simultaneously.

“There is no crumbling and no crushing of the loaf and the result is such that the housewife can well experience a thrill of pleasure when she first sees a loaf of this bread with each slice the exact counterpart of its fellows.”

The story of sliced bread was buried in the paper’s archives for decades until the paper’s current news editor Catherine Stortz Ripley found the material while researching a history book in 2001.

Among other questions at the time was the optimal thickness of the slice – decided at “slightly less than one half of an inch” – and whether the invention would “sound the death knell of the bread knife”.

The paper decided the knife was not done for just yet – but the invention would mean the chore of keeping it sharp would be rendered easier.

Of course - it would be up to Australian know-how to properly solve that problem several decades later with the introduction of the Staysharp knife in 1965.

Keys To "Doomsday Vault" May Be Locked Inside

Keys To "Doomsday Vault" May Be Locked Inside

OSLO, Norway (CAP) - Rumors have been circulating for the past week among top Norwegian government officials that the keys to the "doomsday" seed vault, which were last seen at the inauguration in February, are missing and may be sealed inside the massive sarcophagus which was supposed to protect millions of plants from the threats of global climate change.

The rumors were purportedly sparked by a top-secret internal memo that circulated last week, a copy of which was obtained yesterday by CAP News' International News Bureau. Norway's lead scientist on the project, Sonja Ibsen, sent the memo to officals who were at the ceremony.

"Does anyone remember that little ceremony we had up in Svalbard, about the seeds and the climate things?" the memo reads. "We don't have the key. We've checked everywhere. I remember putting them down in the vault. Does anyone remember picking them up? It was the set on the green key chain and a small, gray voice recorder attached.

"If you press the play button on the voice recorder," the memo continues. "You'll hear a message I recorded that day reminding me to stop at Ace Hardwarivik on the way home and get some copies of the keys made."

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, located on an island off Norway about 600 miles from the North Pole, holds millions of seeds that were collected from around the world. It was created to protect the world's crops from being wiped out due to natural disasters or eventual global climate changes.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust, which runs the vault in cooperation with the Norwegian government, attempted to make its first withdrawal from the vault last week to help replenish crops in cyclone-ravaged Myanmar. It sent a telegram to the Myanmar's ruling military junta with details of the plan.

The junta apparently replied with an email sent from an iPhone which included a photo of a man bent over and naked from the waist down. The associated text message reportedly said - loosely translated - "you can stick your seeds right here."

It was during this attempted withdrawal that Ibsen realized the keys she thought were for the vault were actually her keys to the old Volvo she had at university.

Criticism of the apparent key snafu has come in swift and harsh from around the world. Switzerland, famous for its safe-deposit boxes, called Norway "amateurs." And the nearby Baltic nations have already organized a campaign to create a new vault in either Latvia, Lithuania, or Estonia. "Keep It Safe In The Bals" is their motto.

Ibsen said she's asking the Norwegian government to contract the Russian space administration to construct a 40-ton crowbar that could be used to open the vault doors.

China Using Surface-To-Air Missiles to Protect Olympics

China Using Surface-To-Air Missiles to Protect Olympics

China has been preparing pretty hard for the coming Olympics. They have already banned a large group of troublemakers from leaving Shanghai during the entire event and they also banned all bald and smelly cab drivers.

So just how seriously is China taking safety precautions for the upcoming Olympics?

china-olympic China Using Surface-To-Air Missiles to Protect Olympics picture

Serious enough to have set up two separate camouflaged surface-to-air missile stations, with infrared radar systems, less than a mile from the 2008 Olympic venues to help with protection for the coming events.

Of course “made in China”, the “Red Flag-7″ missile systems can take down a target anywhere up to 8 miles away with a 80-90% success rate.

china-olympic-missle01 China Using Surface-To-Air Missiles to Protect Olympics picture

The Chinese government has stepped up their precautions over fears of terrorism from Tibetan separatist and the Xinjiang Muslims, although we highly doubt either groups have aircraft that would need to be shot down…

As an added precaution, all people who live in any sort of basement have been forced to move out of their homes and all basements in the area have been closed completely.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

19,600 calories in store for Nathan’s hot dog champ

19,600 calories in store for Nathan’s hot dog champ

A total of 19,600 calories and 1,280 grams of fat will be consumed on July 4 by any competitive eater in the 2008 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York who matches the current world record, according to CalorieLab’s calculations. Pictured here is an FDA-format Nutrition Facts label showing the nutrient value of Joey Chestnut’s 2007 world record of 66 Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, eaten in 12 minutes.

Nathan's 2007 Hot Dog Eating Record

Former CalorieLab columnist Susan McQuillan, a New York registered dietitian and author of “Breaking the Bonds of Food Addiction” and “Low-Calorie Dieting for Dummies,” takes her daughter to Coney Island at least once every summer, and they always stop for a Nathan’s Famous hot dog lunch. She thinks an occasional fast food treat is fine and has even been known to treat herself to the occasional “slider” from White Castle.

But Ms. McQuillan finds the meal that the Nathan’s competitors will be eating this Independence Day a bit hard to swallow. “In a matter of minutes, they will consume more than a week’s worth of calories, 7 times the recommended daily limit for cholesterol, 20 times the daily limit for total fat, 25 times the limit for saturated fat, and two and a half weeks worth of sodium.”

There’s no upside to this meal, says McQuillan, who cannot recommend that the non-competitive eater even try it. But for the contestants, “at least there’s some fiber to help clear out some of that fat!”

Using the nutritional data disclosed in the past by a franchisee of Nathan’s Famous as well as data recently disclosed on Nathan’s Famous menus in the New York area, CalorieLab estimated the nutrient value for 66 hot dogs and computed the percentage of U.S. government recommended Daily Values represented by each nutrient.

The world record 66 hot dog meal exceeds the highest calorie meal in CalorieLab’s database of over 500 restaurants and fast food chains, the ‘100-by-100′ hamburger from West Coast chain In-n-Out Burger, which according to our calculations contains 19,300 calories and 1,409 grams of fat.

The In-n-Out Burger 100-by-100, which contains a hundred beef patties and a hundred slices of cheese, is part of In-n-Out Burger’s “Secret Menu.” According to fast food lore, it has only been occasionally ordered as a stunt by college fraternity members. No single individual has been officially documented to have actually consumed an entire 100-by-100.

The world record Nutrition Facts label is being made available in GIF, a smaller version in JPEG, and vector versions in SVG and EPS format for use online or in print. CalorieLab previously released a Nutrition Facts label for Takeru Kobayashi’s old record of 53.5 hot dogs.



A research team led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has uncovered evidence of explosive volcanic eruptions deep beneath the ice-covered surface of the Arctic Ocean. Such violent eruptions of splintered, fragmented rock – known as pyroclastic deposits – were not thought possible at great ocean depths because of the intense weight and pressure of water and because of the composition of seafloor magma and rock.

Researchers found jagged, glassy rock fragments spread out over a 10 square kilometer (4 square mile) area around a series of small volcanic craters about 4,000 meters (2.5 miles) below the sea surface. The volcanoes lie along the Gakkel Ridge, a remote and mostly unexplored section of the mid-ocean ridge system that runs through the Arctic Ocean.

"These are the first pyroclastic deposits we've ever found in such deep water, at oppressive pressures that inhibit the formation of steam, and many people thought this was not possible," said WHOI geophysicist Rob Reves-Sohn, lead author and chief scientist for the Arctic Gakkel Vents Expedition (AGAVE) of July 2007. "This means that a tremendous blast of CO2 was released into the water column during the explosive eruption."

The paper, which was co-authored by 22 investigators from nine institutions in four countries, was published in the June 26 issue of the journal Nature.

Seafloor volcanoes usually emit lobes and sheets of lava during an eruption, rather than explosive plumes of gas, steam, and rock that are ejected from land-based volcanoes. Because of the hydrostatic pressure of seawater, ocean eruptions are more likely to resemble those of Kilauea than Mount Saint Helens or Mount Pinatubo.

Making just the third expedition ever launched to the Gakkel Ridge – and the first to visually examine the seafloor – researchers used a combination of survey instruments, cameras, and a seafloor sampling platform to collect samples of rock and sediment, as well as dozens of hours of high-definition video. They saw rough shards and bits of basalt blanketing the seafloor and spread out in all directions from the volcanic craters they discovered and named Loke, Oden, and Thor.

They also found deposits on top of relatively new lavas and high-standing features – such as Duque's Hill and Jessica's Hill – indications that the rock debris had fallen or precipitated out of the water, rather than being moved as part of a lava flow that erupted from the volcanoes.

Closer analysis has shown that the some of the tiny fragments are angular bits of quenched glass known to volcanologists as limu o Pele, or "Pele's seaweed." These fragments are formed when lava is stretched thin around expanding gas bubbles during an explosion. Reves-Sohn and colleagues also found larger blocks of rock – known as talus – that could have been ejected by explosive blasts from the seafloor.

Much of Earth's surface is made up of oceanic crust formed by volcanism along seafloor mid-ocean ridges. These volcanic processes are tied to the rising of magma from Earth's mantle and the spreading of Earth's tectonic plates. Submerged under several kilometers of cold water, the volcanism of mid-ocean ridges tends to be relatively subdued compared to land-based eruptions.

To date, there have been scattered signs of pyroclastic volcanism in the sea, mostly in shallower water depths. Samples of sediment and rock collected on other expeditions have hinted at the possibilities at depths down to 3,000 meters [1.86 miles], but the likelihood of explosive eruptions at greater depths seemed slim.

One reason is the tremendous pressure exerted by the weight of seawater, known as hydrostatic pressure. More importantly, it is very difficult to build up the amount of steam and carbon dioxide gas in the magma that would be required to explode a mass of rock up into the water column. (Far less energy is needed to do so in air.) In fact, the buildup of CO2 in magma in the sea crust would have to be ten times higher than anyone has ever observed in seafloor samples.

The findings from the Gakkel Ridge expedition appear to show that deep-sea pyroclastic eruptions can and do happen. "The circulation and plumbing of the Gakkel Ridge might be different," said Reves-Sohn. "There must be a lot more volatiles in the system than we thought." The research team hypothesizes that excess gas may be building up like foam or froth near the ceiling of the magma chambers beneath the crust, waiting to pop like champagne beneath a cork.

"Are pyroclastic eruptions more common than we thought, or is there something special about the conditions along the Gakkel Ridge?" said Reves-Sohn. "That is our next question."

Tooth Tattoos

Tooth Tattoos

Get your teeth into a new kind of body art

amy winehouse tooth tattoo

Amy Winehouse

Slated by The Guardian as 'the next phase of expressive self-harm', the tooth tattoos created by the Heward Dental Lab have attracted global interest since their website,, went online earlier this year. Unable to resist such a salacious headline, we asked Steve Heward, the lab’s owner and chief artist, for the real story.

“I studied as a portrait painter at the University of Utah in the 1970s,” Steve explained. “When I started working at a dental lab as the head ceramist, I wanted to show both the dentists and the patients what I was capable of creating on their crowns.”

Steve uses ceramic stain and a one-haired brush to paint unique portraits on to crown and bridgework, then bakes and glazes the teeth to set the designs. The resulting work costs anything between $200-$600 depending on the intricacy of the design, and can be shipped to the customer for fitting by his or her own dentist.

“I’m not really into miniature paintings,” Steve confided, “but these little portraits are extremely challenging to create, and I like the fact that they’ll be around somewhere without fading or deteriorating. They’ll outlive the Mona Lisa.”

An ambitious statement perhaps, but Steve takes great pride in training his technicians to the highest level, and there’s certainly no shortage of demand for the lab’s work. “I think many people who would never choose to have a regular tattoo will choose to have one of these,” Steve mused, “because they can go swimming or anywhere else, and no-one needs to know they have it done; they can keep their secret their own.”

So does he have a secret of his own? “Not yet, but I will when I need a crown. My daughter has one and my youngest son has three in his mouth.”

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse

 david letterman tattoo

David Letterman

tooth tattoos

Abraham Lincoln tooth tattoo

 tooth tattoos

Tooth tattoos

Panda tooth tattoo


 tooth tattoo
george washington tooth tattoo

George Washington

 george washington tooth tattoo

George Washington

Elvis tooth tattoo


 Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse tooth tattoo

Bad News Plagues Beijing Olympics With Algae, Locusts

Bad News Plagues Beijing Olympics With Algae, Locusts (Update1)

By Grant Clark

July 4 (Bloomberg) -- Beijing Olympic organizers, struggling to clear their algae-choked sailing venue and facing a possible locust invasion, say these latest challenges to next month's games are no ``major problem.''

About 10,000 people are scooping algae out of the sea at the eastern city of Qingdao, while officials in Inner Mongolia are preparing to fight off a plague of locusts that may arrive in the capital city during the Olympics.

``There's an old saying in China that good things only come after enduring a lot of hardship,'' Jiang Xiaoyu, vice president of the Beijing organizing committee, said yesterday in Beijing. ``We expected to face many challenges so it's not a surprise. These issues aren't major problems.''

So far this year, the world's most populous nation has faced the worst winter snowstorms in 50 years, riots in Lhasa, violent protests about government policies toward Tibet along the Olympic torch relay route in Europe and North America, an earthquake and flooding.

China is still recovering from the Sichuan earthquake that killed more than 69,000 people in May, tempering the run-up to an Olympics billed as the country's coming-out party.

The nation's focus on helping survivors and rebuilding dozens of towns and cities is taking its toll on Olympic- related businesses, said Devin Kao, whose company holds the license to market metal Olympic souvenirs.

`Bad Things'

Monthly sales of 400,000 Olympic pins or key chains before May have since slumped to 50,000 as companies canceled orders so they could make donations to relief efforts, he said.

``Quite a lot of bad things have happened in China,'' Kao said in a telephone interview from Shanghai. ``Sales aren't meeting our expectations; it shouldn't be like this.''

Advertising spending in China also fell 15 percent in May from April because of the quake, according to Rita Chan, executive director for China at rating agency Nielsen Co.

``This is mainly because there was a mourning period of three days in mainland China,'' she said in a televised interview yesterday. Even Olympics sponsors cut their ad spending, she said.

In Qingdao, host to the five-day sailing event, some 4,000 troops and 6,000 workers have collected 290,000 tons of string- like algae in the past week. The city government is aiming for a return to normal conditions along its coastline by July 15.

`Full Confidence'

With more than 20 Olympic teams already in town preparing for the games, officials are focusing on clearing the training areas and may use chemicals to speed up the process, Jiang said.

``We've seen algae along the coast of Qingdao before but it's the most serious case in recent years,'' he said. ``We have full confidence that we can complete the cleanup in time for the competition and the algae won't affect operations.''

Local officials blamed the algae bloom on warmer weather, higher rainfall and increased levels of nutrients in the sea, and said about one tenth of the sailing regatta area remains covered.

The northern province of Inner Mongolia has mobilized 33,000 people to repel swarms of locusts, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The locusts have come within 430 kilometers (267 miles) of Beijing and infested an area of 1.3 million hectares (5,000 square miles).

Beijing organizers said they are in contact with Inner Mongolian officials to monitor the situation and discuss contingency plans. Cooler-than-usual weather means the hatching of locust eggs in the areas closest to Beijing has been delayed until late July or August.

``Trials and tribulations serve to revitalize a nation,'' said Peng Zaiwei, a Shenzhen resident who has tickets for the swimming events in Beijing and is visiting the capital to look after his pregnant daughter.

Six months of bad news haven't diminished residents' faith that the games will be a success.

``The trials are problems which could have happened anytime -- before or after the Olympics,'' said Mu Zhanquan, who works in the capital's central business district. ``But my confidence in a successful Beijing Olympics won't erode.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Grant Clark in Beijing at

Ore. man completes flight of fancy - in lawn chair

Kent Couch lifts off from his gas station in Bend, Ore., in his lawn chair rigged with more than 150 giant party balloons, Saturday, July 5, 2008. Couch, 48, is making his third cluster balloon flight and hopes to go more than 200 miles to Idaho before running out of daylight or helium. (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)
AP Photo: Kent Couch lifts off from his gas station in Bend, Ore., in his lawn chair...

Ore. man completes flight of fancy - in lawn chair

By KEITH RIDLER, Associated Press Writer Sun Jul 6, 6:46 AM ET

CAMBRIDGE, Idaho - Using his trusty BB gun to help him return to Earth, a 48-year-old gas station owner flew a lawn chair rigged with helium-filled balloons more than 200 miles across the Oregon desert Saturday, landing in a field in

Kent Couch created a sensation in this tiny farming community, where he touched down safely in a pasture after lifting off from Bend, Ore., and was soon greeted by dozens of people who gave him drinks of water, local plumber Mark Hetz said.

"My wife works at the City Market," Hetz said. "She called and said, 'The balloon guy in the lawn chair just flew by the market, and if you look out the door you can see him.

"We go outside to look, and lo and behold, there he is. He's flying by probably 100 to 200 feet off the ground.

"He takes his BB gun and shoots some balloons to lower himself to the ground. When he hit the ground he released all the little tiny balloons. People were racing down the road with cameras. They were all talking and laughing."

Couch covered about 235 miles in about nine hours after lifting off at dawn from his gas station riding in a green lawn chair rigged with an array of more than 150 giant party balloons.

Sandi Barton, 58, who has lived her whole life in this town of about 300, said she and her brother-in-law were the first ones to reach Couch and shook his hand.

"Not much happens in Cambridge," she said, adding that about half the town turned out.

"He came right over our pea field," she said. "He was coming down pretty fast."

She said Couch gave some of his balloons to local children.

It was not clear where Couch went after he landed.

It began after Couch, clutching a big mug of coffee, kissed his wife and kids goodbye, then patted their shivering Chihuahua, Isabella, on the head.

After spilling off some cherry-flavored Kool-Aid that served as ballast, Couch got a push from the ground crew so he could clear light poles and soared over a coffee cart and across U.S. Highway 20 into a bright blue sky.

"If I had the time and money and people, I'd do this every weekend," Couch said before getting into the chair. "Things just look different from up there. You've moving so slowly. The best thing is the peace, the serenity.

"Originally, I wanted to do it because of boyhood dreams. I don't know about girls, but I think most guys look up in the sky and wish they could ride on a cloud."

Couch's wife, Susan, called him crazy: "It's never been a dull moment since I married him."

This was Couch's third balloon flight. He realized it would be possible after watching a TV show about the 1982 lawn chair flight over Los Angeles of truck driver Larry Walters, who gained folk hero fame but was fined $1,500 for violating air traffic rules.

In 2006, Couch had to parachute out after popping too many balloons. And last year he flew 193 miles to the sagebrush of northeastern Oregon, short of his goal.

"I'm not stopping till I get out of state," he said.

To that end, he ordered more balloons. Dozens of volunteers wearing fluorescent green T-shirts that said "Dream Big" filled latex balloons 5 feet in diameter, attached them to strings and tied clusters of six balloons each to a tiny carabiner clip.

Each balloon gives four pounds of lift. The chair was about 400 pounds, and Couch and his parachute 200 more.

"I'd go to 30,000 feet if I didn't shoot a balloon down periodically," Couch said.

For that job, he carried a Red Ryder BB gun and a blow gun equipped with steel darts. He also had a pole with a hook for pulling in balloons, a parachute in case anything went wrong, a handheld Global Positioning System device with altimeter, a satellite phone, and two GPS tracking devices. One was one for him, the other for the chair, which got away in the wind as he landed last year.

For food he carried some boiled eggs, jerky and chocolate.

Couch flew hang gliders and skydived before taking up lawn-chair flights. He estimated the rig cost about $6,000, mostly for helium. Costs were defrayed by corporate sponsors.


Associated Press writer Jeff Barnard contributed to this story from Bend, Ore.

Excuses, Excuses: Trying to Get Out of Traffic Tickets

Excuses, Excuses: Trying to Get Out of Traffic Tickets

Here's the craziest excuses Kitsap County cops have actually received (that's worth repeating — these are real) when they ask the motorist: "Why were you speeding?"

"I didn't know I was, because my lights are off."

"I'm taking my friend to the hospital. He has alcohol poisoning." (The driver was drunk, too).

After crashing: "I put supreme gas in the car, which caused me to lose control." (He, too, was found to be drunk.)

"Don't I get a couple over when I am taking my grandkids to the airport?"

"I get 10 extra in the fast lane."

"My speedometer is broken."

"Gas pedal got stuck."

"I'm trying to catch that UFO. Can you try to catch it for me?"

"I had a bee in the car."

"I am late for church and don't want to go to hell."

"I have been drinking and want to get off the road quickly."

"I'm going to a divorce proceeding and if you met her, sir, you would understand why I am hurrying."

"I am wearing really heavy shoes today and they make the gas pedal go down more."

"I just got my license back from it being suspended and I am not used to driving."

"My doctor gave me the wrong meds."

Wis. woman, 91, trapped under her car for 2 days

Wis. woman, 91, trapped under her car for 2 days

GREENDALE, Wis. - A 91-year-old woman crawled under her car to look for her keys and ended up wedged beneath an axle for two days, police said.

Betty Borowski, of the Milwaukee suburb of Greendale, was found Tuesday after a mail carrier noticed her mail piling up and called police. She was taken to Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, where she was recovering in critical intensive care Friday, her niece said.

Borowski, who lives alone, became stuck sometime on June 29 when her head was apparently pinned by the axle, Greendale police Chief Rob Dams said.

"She was pretty well wedged in there," Dams said. "It looks like she crawled under headfirst."

She was looking for her keys, which were in the car's door, Dams said.

On Tuesday, Borowski's mail carrier noticed that the previous day's mail was still in Borowski's mailbox, police said. So he rang the house's doorbell and then asked a neighbor whether he had seen Borowski lately.

The men grew concerned and called police.

An officer responded, peering through windows and calling Borowski's name until he heard faint calls for help, Dams said.

The officer kicked in the door and found her under the car.

Firefighters lifted the car with a jack and removed Borowski, who was dehydrated and confused.

Borowski's niece, Nancy DiMarco, flew from Phoenix to be with her aunt after police called to tell her what happened.

Borowski appears to be recovering, DiMarco said, noting that her aunt on Friday ate her first solid food in the five days since the incident.

But she said Borowski may have suffered a minor heart attack at some point when she was under the vehicle, and went without her medication for two days.

A shift nurse declined to provide an update of Borowski's condition Saturday evening.

Police credited the mail carrier, neighbor and responding officer for their attentiveness. DiMarco too added her gratitude for the good Samaritans.

"If it wasn't for people seeing a situation and following through on ... who knows?" she said. "She wouldn't have made it about one more day."