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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Daily Drift

At least we have perspective ...

Some of our readers today have been in:
Berlin, Germany
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Bandung, Indonesia
Cape Town, South Africa
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
George Town, Malaysia
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Kuantan, Malaysia
Bangkok, Thailand
Bayan Lepas, Malaysia
Tallinn, Estonia
Fermont, Canada
Karachi, Pakistan
Warsaw, Poland
Moscow, Russia
Shah Alam, Malaysia
Johannesburg, South Africa
Krakow, Poland
Rawalpindi, Pakistan
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Kabul, Afghanistan
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1520   Montezuma II is murdered as Spanish conquistadors flee the Aztec capital of Tenochtilan during the night.
1857   Charles Dickens reads from A Christmas Carol at St. Martin's Hall in London–his first public reading.
1859   Jean Francois Gravelet aka Emile Blondin, a French daredevil, becomes the first man to walk across Niagra Falls on a tightrope.
1908   A mysterious explosion, possibly the result of a meteorite, levels thousands of trees in the Tunguska region of Siberia with a force approaching twenty megatons.
1934   Adolf Hitler orders the purge of his own party in the "Night of the Long Knives."
1936   Margaret Mitchell's novel, Gone With the Wind, is published.
1948   John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley demonstrate their invention, the transistor, for the first time.
1960   Alfred Hitchcock's film, Psycho, opens.
1971   Three Soviet cosmonauts die when their spacecreaft depressurizes during reentry.

Femme Fatale

She stood alone in the sodden field on the outskirts of Paris, her fashionable ankle boots firmly planted in the mud churned up by the cavalry who drilled there.

No, she would not be tied to the stake, she told her executioners politely. And nor would she allow them to blindfold her. She faced the barrels of the firing squad without flinching.
Earlier, at 5am, they had woken her in her filthy cell in the Prison de Saint-Lazare to tell her this was the day she would die. She dressed in her best stockings, a low-cut blouse under a dove-grey, two-piece suit.

On her head she perched a three-cornered hat at a jaunty angle, hiding her greying hair, unkempt and unwashed through nine months of incarceration. Over her shoulders she slung a vivid blue coat like a cloak to keep out the cold October air.
In a black car with its window blinds down, Margaretha Zelle, convicted of espionage, was then driven at speed through the still streets of the capital - a place she loved with a passion, though she was Dutch not French - to this damp and drear spot.
The 12 soldiers in their khaki uniforms and red fezzes raised their rifles. She waved to the two weeping nuns who had been her comfort in prison and on her last journey. She blew a kiss to the priest and another to her lawyer, an ex-lover.
The sun was coming up when the shots rang out. Zelle slumped to the ground. The officer in charge marched forward and fired a single bullet into her brain, the coup de grace.
An extraordinary life was over. The woman who was executed that day in 1917 was better known as Mata Hari, the name Zelle had chosen for herself when she became Europe's queen of unbridled eroticism, an exotic dancer, courtesan, harlot, great lover, spendthrift, liar, deceiver and thief.

And German spy? That is what - in the fevered atmosphere of France in World War I, with the Kaiser's troops encamped within its borders - she had been shot for. She caused the deaths of tens of thousands of French soldiers, it was said, a crime that would ever after make her synonymous with seduction and treachery, the ultimate femme fatale.
Except that she may not have been guilty at all.
In a new and fascinating biography, American academic Pat Shipman makes the case that, far from being the betrayer, she was the one betrayed, and by that breed she loved all her life - men.
It was men who, like witch hunters, built the case against her, driven by prejudice not fact. And with France gripped by anti-German spy mania, few would stick their heads above the parapet to defend her. Britain's fledgling intelligence service, MO5 (soon to change its name to MI5) also helped dig her grave with, as we will see, the dodgiest of dossiers.
But in the story of Mata Hari, there was one thing that needed no sexing-up - Mata herself. Sex was the driving force of her life.
In the little Dutch town where she grew up, her shopkeeper father lavished extremes of affection on his "little princess". It made her vain, self-centred and spoilt, and with an insatiable longing for male attention.
At school, the 16-year-old bedded the headmaster. Was he the seducer or her? No one knows, but this was 1893 and it was the girl who was sent home in shame.
The restless teenager now set about finding a man to take her away from the stuffiness of Dutch society. When, through a Lonely Hearts ad, she met Captain Rudof MacLeod, a hard-living, hard-drinking officer home on leave from Holland's vicious colonial wars in the East Indies, she didn't care that he was 22 years older than her.
He was handsome, with a splendid moustache. She was tall (5ft 10in) and elegant, with flirty dark eyes and a dark olive complexion. The attraction was immediate, sexual and very strong. She told him she longed to do "crazy things" and they were engaged within six days.
They married three months later, she in a bright yellow gown rather than the traditional white.

There were problems almost straight away. She couldn't keep her eyes off the other officers and, as she was the first to admit, did not have it within her to be "a good housewife".
"I was not content at home," she later confessed. "I wanted to live like a colourful butterfly in the sun."
He was jealous, though saw no reason why he should forego the womanising, drinking and coarseness of his bachelor days. He was constantly in debt; she was extravagant, always spending. As for his syphilis, caught overseas, he neglected to tell her.
The omens were not good. Nonetheless, she bore him two children, and they returned as a family to his new posting in the colonies. There, in the exotic surroundings of Indonesia, their marital problems multiplied.
She did not fit the mould of the officer's wife, not least because her dark skin made the snobbier women suggest she had native blood in her. To the men, however, that look was seductive, and she made the most of it.
"Her languid, graceful style of moving, her dark eyes and luxurious hair, telegraphed her sexuality to any male in her presence," writes Shipman. "She drew every man's lustful admiration and every woman's envy. She was seen as morally dangerous, selfish and frivolous."
The marriage deteriorated into sharp quarrels, too much drinking, rows about money and accusations of infidelity. But what destroyed the union was tragedy. Their son, Norman, was struck by serious illness and died at the age of two. His sister, one-year-old Nonnie, nearly died, too, but pulled through.
The boy's death shattered both parents. Who was to blame? A local nanny was said to have poisoned the children because of some grievance, real or imagined, against MacLeod, though no case was ever brought. Nor was the death ever reported in the colonial press. For some reason, it seemed to have been hushed up.

Shipman's hypothesis is that the children were being treated for congenital syphilis, caught from their father, and the garrison doctor accidentally overdosed them with mercury. Whatever the real cause of the boy's death, the couple blamed each other.
The relationship sank into hatred. His wife was "scum of the lowest kind" MacLeod told his family back in Holland, "a woman without heart, who cares nothing for anything".
On that he was wrong - she cared for officers. He caught her with a second lieutenant. She flaunted herself in a low-cut dress at a ball. She was punishing him by stoking up his jealousy. He punished her in return with a cat-o'-nine-tails.
She wrote to her father: "I cannot live with a man who is so despicable. I eat and live apart and I prefer to die before he touches me again. My children caught a disease from him."
MacLeod left the army and the family returned to Holland. There they separated. But MacLeod had one more weapon to use against her.
He put an advertisement in the local papers warning shops not to give her credit because he had resigned all responsibility for her. It left her penniless. She had to earn money - and there was only one way she knew how.
Sexual favours were her only useful assets, but she did not see Holland as the best place to exploit them. In 1903, with little money and no contacts, she took herself off to Paris. There, she would recreate herself as a model, an actress, perhaps, or a chic cosmopolitan in that chicest of cities.
But, as Shipman tells us, "the only dependable source of income available to her was pleasing men for money" - prostitution. But then a circus gave her a job, and the owner advised her where her talents lay - dancing.
And dance she did. From the depths of her experiences in the East Indies she invented what she called "sacred dances". They were exotic and seemed to have some mysterious eastern mythology about them but, most of all, they involved her ending up all but naked.
It was a brilliant move. Dancers at the Moulin Rouge were flashing their knickers and breasts but Zelle's great departure was to push the bounds of discretion even further and wrap sex up with religion and art.

She began by performing in private homes, but soon the stories of her "artistry" and, above all, her nudity were passing round the salons of Parisian high society. She wore a beaded metallic bra, which never came off - she was self-conscious about her tiny breasts - but the veils covering the rest of her floated free as she danced in "slow, undulating, tigerlike movements".
The critics enthused, "feline, trembling in a thousand rhythms, exotic yet deeply austere, slender and supple like a sacred serpent". She added spice to the performance with lies.
First there was her name - Mata Hari, meaning "sunrise" or, more literally, "the eye of the day", in the language of the Dutch East Indies. Then there were the stories to the press, that she was the daughter of an Indian temple dancer who had died giving birth to her, that she grew up in a jungle in Java.
Her life became an unending performance, both on stage and off. Her success seemed unstoppable and the money came rolling in. But she still managed to spend more than she earned as she travelled Europe, picking up lovers, dropping some, keeping others.
"Tonight I dine with Count A and tomorrow with Duke B. If I don't have to dance, I make a trip with Marquis C. I avoid serious liaisons. I satisfy all my caprices," she said.
All too soon she was suffering from over-exposure in another sense. By 1908 anyone who was anyone in Europe had seen her dance at least once, while the lesser theatres were overrun with imitators doing Oriental dances.
The dance work was now more irregular and increasingly she would have to rely on her men friends for her livelihood.
One, a stockbroker, provided her with a chateau in the Loire and another house on the Seine - until he went bankrupt. Still she refused to cut her prodigious spending or alter her outrageous lifestyle. When she was frantic for money, some said, she would ply her trade at Paris's maisons de rendez-vous, one step up from ordinary brothels.
Her financial problems seemed eased when in May 1914 she signed a contract to dance for six months at the Metropol in Berlin, starting in September.

But the political situation overtook her. When war broke out in August that year, though Holland was neutral, she was stuck in a now belligerent and increasingly jingoistic German capital with no money and no job. Her fur coats and money had been seized. She charmed a Dutch businessman to pay her train fare to Amsterdam.
Back in Holland, she took up again with a former lover. Aristocratic and wealthy, he was just her type. There she was visited by Karl Kroemer, the German consul, who told her he was recruiting spies. He gave her 20,000 francs and a code name, H21.
She took his money but she didn't take him seriously. She told herself the cash was compensation for the furs taken from her in Berlin and threw away the invisible ink he gave her.
"As she never had the slightest intention of spying for Germany, she felt no guilt or obligation to do anything for the money she had accepted. She had always taken money from men because she needed it and they had it; she always felt she deserved it," says Shipman. Others, ominously, would not agree.
Naively, she failed to realise the Europe she had travelled through so freely and so promiscuously had disappeared for ever.
British counter-intelligence certainly had her number. They stopped her at Folkestone, while she was travelling from Holland to France via Britain to avoid the front-line, and recorded that "although she was thoroughly searched and nothing incriminating was found, she is regarded by police and military to be not above suspicion".
A copy of the report was sent to intelligence officials in France, Britain's ally against Germany.
But on what was this suspicion based? The report noted that she "speaks French, English, Italian, Dutch and probably German. Handsome, bold type of woman".
And that, says Shipman was the key. "The problem was not what Mata Hari said but who she was. She was a woman travelling alone, obviously wealthy and an excellent linguist - too educated, too foreign. Worse yet, she admitted to having a lover. Women like that were immoral and not to be trusted."

A British intelligence officer in Holland now added to Mata Hari's dossier with rumours about payments to her from the German embassy. He added, with no evidence whatsoever: "One suspects her of having gone to France on an important mission that will profit the Germans."
In Paris, Mata resumed her glamorous life, living at the Grand Hotel and with plenty of men in uniform to keep her occupied. She did not know that two secret policemen were tailing her.
They steamed open her letters, questioned porters, waitresses and hairdressers and collected abundant evidence of her love life - but not of espionage. She spent a day and a night with the Marquis de Beaufort, had a flirtatious dinner with a purveyor of fine liquors and then met another lover, who embarrassingly for the secret policemen was a senior colleague from their own bureau.
But her main intention at this time was to get a permit to go to the town of Vittel, which was in the eastern war zone, because she was desperate to see the man with whom she had fallen deeply in love, a Russian captain 18 years her junior named Vadime.
For that, she had to apply to the head of French Intelligence, Captain Georges Ladoux, an ambitious man who had staked his reputation on France being riddled with foreign spies and his being able to destroy their network. He was in need of an attention-grabbing case to prove the worth of his bureau.
He regarded Mata as little better than a prostitute; she thought him small-minded and coarse. They fenced words with each other. She wanted her pass to Vittel. He agreed, if she promised to enlist as a spy for France.
The entire encounter was bizarre, Shipman argues. If Mata Hari was already a German spy, as Ladoux believed, then he was foolhardy to try to recruit her to be a French one.
Mata Hari was known by sight throughout Europe. Her comings and goings were reported in gossip columns. Wherever she went, she was the centre of attention. It is difficult to imagine a woman less able to engage in clandestine activities.
But she accepted his offer - as long as she was given enough money to pay off her massive debts and settle down with Vadime. The great seductress wanted out of the game.

But it was too late. Ladoux was convinced she was a German spy, however ridiculous that was. So, too, were the British. For Mata Hari, everything in her tangled life was unravelling dangerously.
She went to Vittel and had a blissful interlude in the spa town with her Russian. On her return to Paris, Ladoux sent her on her first mission - to German-occupied Belgium where she said an ex-lover could steer her into the arms of the German military governor.
But Belgium proved impossible to reach and she ended up in Spain. There, she turned her charms on a German captain, an intelligence officer named Kalle, and stretched out on a chaise longue as he told her secrets about German manoeuvres in North Africa.
This information she triumphantly passed on to Ladoux, believing she was doing his bidding, earning the million francs he had promised her. Instead, she had fallen into his trap. Her meetings with Kalle would be turned against her, twisted to claim that she was handing over French secrets to the enemy rather than teasing out German ones.
On February 10, 1917, a warrant for her arrest was signed by the French war minister. Three days later, police officers knocked on the door of her hotel room and found her eating breakfast in a lace-trimmed dressing gown. She was not, as wild rumours around Paris soon claimed, naked.
At the Palais de Justice she faced the investigating magistrate, Pierre Bouchardon. "From the very first interview, I had the intuition that she was a person in the pay of our enemies," he wrote later. "I had but one thought - to unmask her."
The process was under way that would lead her unfairly but inexorably to her execution.
It did not seem to matter that no one had the least bit of evidence against her. Nor could anyone point to a single document, plan or secret that she passed to the Germans. Suspicion, envy and the prejudices of small-minded men would triumph.
Only 30 years after her death would one of her prosecutors concede the truth - "there wasn't enough evidence to flog a cat".

Do You Own The Space Above Your House?

Classical Roman law held that real estate ownership included the land beneath and the sky above a piece of property. That doctrine has been tested over and over through history.
Beginning with the 1797 decision in State v. David (Mr. David was indicted in Delaware for stealing two barrels of herrings after the barrels were found buried on his land) and continuing for the next hundred years, the American legal system maintained that landowners’ rights extend over a tract of space that stretches from the center of the earth out into the atmosphere. Sometimes this space is described as a straight column with dimensions that match the property’s surface-level boundary lines. The column sometimes began at a theoretical point at the very center of the earth, continues through the surface of the earth and upward into the sky. Other times, it was described as being shaped like an inverted pyramid. The tip is at the center of the earth and the space widens to meet the property’s surface boundary lines.
Ah, but that was before the invention of the airplane. See how that development affected property rights over the years, here.

‘Ambient’ bullying gives employees urge to quit

Merely showing up to work in an environment where bullying goes on is enough to make many of us think ...
Continue Reading

The repugican mantra

Did you know ...

There are five lies found in tax-payer supported fundamentalist textbooks that are so blatant you don't have to look for them, they slap you in the face.

That repugicans say they're "not racist" - oh really?

The 'fast and furious' bullshit blows up in the repugicans faces.

Chief proponent of "Fast and Furious" scandal predicts violent insurrection against USG over SCOTUS decision

You all know, at least marginally, about the Fast and Furious scandal.  The gun issue that has the repugicans voting to holder Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt.
And you may know that underlying the Far And Furious scandal is the belief by repugican members of Congress that President Obama is part of some government wide conspiracy to give guns to Mexican drug lords so that they can kill innocent American feds, and then Obama will use those murders to justify a nationwide crackdown on guns intended to eviscerate the Second Amendment once and for all.

John Issa, who is taking the lead on Fast and Furious for repugicans in Congress have already publicly stated that he embraces this conspiracy theory. Other repugicans have as well:
Major republicans, including Darrell Issa, endorse this conspiracy theory. Among those are Rep. Darrell Issa (r-CA), who is Chair of the House Oversight Committee and is heading up the investigation of Eric Holder. In an interview on FAUX, Issa said, “very clearly, they made a crisis, and they’re using this crisis to somehow take away or limit people’s Second Amendment rights.” He also pushed the theory at an NRA convention. But Issa isn’t the only one who is buying in: former Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich just two days ago agreed with the theory. Sen. Jeff Sessions (r-AL), Sen. Chuck Grassley (r-IA), Rep. Trent Franks (r-AZ), and many other repugicans have voiced support for this theory too.
Now, the man who started this conspiracy theory is an ex-militia blogger named Mike Vanderboegh.

And what did Vanderboegh have to say about the Supreme Court decision on health care reform?  That if health care reform is not overturned by the Supremes, he's predicting "armed insurrection" against the "tyrannical" US government - he goes on to say that he is "on record as advocating the right of defensive violence against a tyrannical regime."
In the excerpts Vanderboegh posted on his blog "which deal with the decision today," he says of a then-potential decision upholding the health care law, "You may call tyranny a mandate or you may call it a tax, but it still is tyranny and invites the same response." He further predicts the response of his ilk: "If we refuse to obey, we will be fined. If we refuse to pay the fine, we will in time be jailed. If we refuse to report meekly to jail, we will be sent for by armed men. And if we refuse their violent invitation at the doorsteps of our own homes we will be killed -- unless we kill them first. ... I am on record as advocating the right of defensive violence against a tyrannical regime."
And who else is pushing Vanderboegh's conspiracy theory? The NRA.
The NRA is driving the conspiracy theory paranoia though ads. The National Rifle Association is furthering the paranoia as a way to rally gun owners by running advertisements and a petition calling on President Obama to fire Eric Holder. The ads don’t specifically mention the gun control conspiracy, but the Executive Director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action is a full-throttle conspiracy believer. The NRA also threatened members of Congress who voted on the contempt charge yesterday, saying that a vote against contempt would reflect poorly on that member’s pro-gun ratings.
So to recap:

The NRA and repugican members of Congress (and a handful of blue dogs who voted with them, many of whom got NRA money) are doing the bidding of a somewhat-out-there conspiracy blogger who is now discussing the violent overthrow of the US government.

That's what Fast and Furious is really about.  The violent takeover of the repugican party by lunatics.

The truth be told


After big loss, JPMorgan exec gets $21.5 million

Chief Investment Officer Ina Drew oversaw the London traders responsible for a $2 billion loss on credit derivatives.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/#storylink=cpy

JPMorgan trade loss could be $9 billion

JPMorgan can still withstand such a loss, though it does highlight the inability of the bankers to manage such huge losses. Jamie Dimon spun the bad London trade as $2 billion and for a while, many in the press repeated that line even after the loss had passed the $3 billion mark.
We're four years down the road from the banking crisis and we're still seeing horrid losses and poor management by banks. Outside of the Wall Street-DC bubble, people want this problem resolved in a way that protects taxpayers, but there's too little progress. If the supposed expert on managing risk could be so wrong, who thinks the others are doing any better?
As JPMorgan has moved rapidly to unwind the position — its most volatile assets in particular — internal models at the bank have recently projected losses of as much as $9 billion. In April, the bank generated an internal report that showed that the losses, assuming worst-case conditions, could reach $8 billion to $9 billion, according to a person who reviewed the report.

With much of the most volatile slice of the position sold, however, regulators are unsure how deep the reported losses will eventually be. Some expect that the red ink will not exceed $6 billion to $7 billion.

Nonetheless, the sharply higher loss totals will feed a debate over how strictly large financial institutions should be regulated and whether some of the behemoth banks are capitalizing on their status as too big to fail to make risky trades.
In addition, we're now seeing significant ratings downgrades within the US banking sector, Spain and now Brazil. We also know that China is facing significant economic challenges, so there's a lot to be concerned about in this market.

More banking scandals out of Wild West London

As if the latest Barclays scandal was not enough, Barclays and three other British banks are in new trouble with authorities. The political class is talking a good story, again, but we've seen it all before. There's always a lot of big talk to show the people that they're doing something though somehow the follow action never happens.
How many more times do the banks need to prove that they're untrustworthy and dangerous for society before the political class gets it? If the "three strikes and you're out" rule applied to bankers, they're all be locked up. Lucky for them, they're mostly white males with deep pockets so the rules are not the same.

More on the latest banking problem out of London via The Telegraph:
Britain’s four main high street lenders have agreed to compensate small and medium sized businesses mis-sold interest rate hedging products after the Financial Services Authority said it had found “serious failings” in the way they marketed to some customers.

Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland have all agreed to immediately halt the sale of complex interest rate hedges to smaller businesses and have pledged to compensate potentially thousands of customers who have been hurt by the products that have left some firms with hundreds of thousands and even millions in costs they say they were never warned about.
Today, RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) is set to be fined for the same Libor manipulation offense as Barclays, with more banks likely to be fined soon.

On a related note, Bloomberg is reporting that lawsuits related to the Barclays Libor manipulation settlement may end up costing more than the fines themselves. Once again, we've heard it all before so seeing is believing.

US hospital demands patients pay before treatment

Just when you think you've heard it all, the US hospital industry finds a new way to be offensive.
The hospital in this NBC News story has reportedly stopped using this aggressive service, though it's likely many other hospitals around the US are still using them or else they wouldn't exist. Who would want treatment from such a hospital? Even worse, what do you do it this is your only local option?

The report from NBC is about 10 minutes, but it's an eye opener and worth watching.
One patient, a grandfather of six, told Rock Center he was hooked up to a morphine drip awaiting surgery to remove an abdominal mass at Fairview Ridges Hospital outside Minneapolis when he was asked for money.

"We don't mind paying, but don't come while I'm drugged up and I've got tubes in my nose and push on me to get it," he said. "Wheel me right to the business office, don't let me out of the hospital. But don't harass me before you try to do the surgery."

Another patient said he went to Fairview fearing he might have a heart problem. His blood pressure was soaring and he was hooked up to a heart monitor when he was asked to pay a bill of more than $490. He told Rock Center that he wondered about what kind of care he would receive if he didn't pay.

The truth hurts

Random Celebrity Photo

Brigette Bardot At Cannes (1953)

LED Guitar Helps Beginners Learn To Play Like A Pro

Learning to play guitar usually means watching someone else place their fingers in the right spots and attempting to copy, then trying to remember where the heck you’re supposed to put them all when it comes time to play that chord again.
That’s why this Fretlight LED guitar from Optek Music Systems seems like a fun and easy way to learn how to play.
LED lights show you the proper finger placement for whichever song you’re playing, so you just have to follow the little red lights and you’ll be playing in no time.
It’s like your own private tutor and light show all rolled into one!

Talking Urinal Cakes ...

Talking Urinal Cakes Deployed to Curb Drunk Driving
Michigan officials are deploying 400 talking urinal cakes to 200 restaurants and watering holes across the Great Lake State as part of a stepped up anti-drunk driving campaign for the Fourth of July, the Detroit News reported.

From the Newswire

Arsonist burns out 
An Arizona man collapsed and died in court Thursday immediately after his conviction for arson.

Woman charged in father's killing at Wellington home
Authorities in Lafayette County today charged a 38-year-old woman in the shooting death of her father.Colby Sue Weathers faces one count of first-degree murder in the shooting death of 60-year-old Tex C. Delana of Wellington.

Cable hacker jailed 
A good old fashioned hardware hacker is off to jail for 3 years for selling rooted modems. The boxes gave cable users actual unlimited internet. P.S. His book, Hacking the Cable Modem: What Cable Companies Don't Want You to Know, is available at Amazon.

Nine-year-old boy with gun steals electric car

A gun toting nine-year-old took aim at shocked bystanders before stealing an electric car and embarking on a 30 km/h joyride that ended with him crashing at a roundabout in western Sweden. "It's loaded," the boy screamed as he pointed the weapon toward gobsmacked adults who watched as the 9-year-old tried to break into a car parked near a block of flats in the Gothenburg suburb of Kortedala.
The boy then abandoned his first theft attempt before moving on to another nearby car into which he gained entry before speeding off, nearly running over a gardener who was working in the vicinity. However, the vehicle with which the 9-year-old hoped to flee the scene was a special electric car with a top speed of around 30 kilometers per hour, thus impeding a fast getaway. Concerned motorists subsequently took up a somewhat less-than-high-speed chase after the boy.

"From what I understand, they had a good overview of things and honked their horn so that other cars stopped when he came," Jan Jentzell of Poseidon, the property management firm which owned the car, said. According to Jentzell, the boy continued driving in the stolen car for about ten minutes before crashing at a roundabout. He then hopped out of the car and attempted to escape on foot before being grabbed by an adult who had given chase ahead of the arrival of police.

"It's unbelievable," Jentzell said. "I've never seen anything like it. It's also so tragic ... he's so young." As the boy is too young to face formal criminal charges, the matter, which took place last Tuesday, has been turned over to social services, which will ultimately decide what measures need to be taken. The gun used by the boy to threaten onlookers when he stole the car is believed to have been a airsoft gun.

Four-year-old boy tries to buy full-size train for $29,990

For a moment, Metlink, the public transport arm of Greater Wellington Regional Council in New Zealand thought all its dreams had come true when it received an opening bid of $29,990 for an old train. But it turned out the Trade Me bid was from an enthusiastic 4-year-old whose mother was alarmed at the prospect of owning a retired full-sized two-carriage unit.
"I'm really sorry," an email to Trade Me from smiley134 said. "My 4-year-old was playing and placed a bid, I don't actually want to buy the train, can my bid please be removed?" Metlink customer services manager Zelda MacKenzie replied: "For a moment I thought I was falling in love with you, smiley! But then you blew it all."

Trade Me allowed the bid for the English Electric train to be removed yesterday after warning smiley134 to start looking for loose change down the back of the sofa. MacKenzie said: "I find it fascinating, because when you bid on something you have to click two or three times to confirm. The child has to be exceptionally bright if they can read all that."

Trade Me spokesman Paul Ford said it was the seller's prerogative to remove the bid but "it is annoying to have bids removed, and particularly annoying for the seller". The train, which operated in the Wellington area in the late 1940s, was taken out of service this week and put up for sale. There have been no other bids but there are nearly 150 comments, ranging from genuine questions about how to transport it, to quips about trading it for a toy set. The auction closes on Monday.

Compressed-air gramophones

  A loud, bad, wonderful idea

This web page (which is rather elderly itself) has valuable information on the long-lost Auxetophone and its successors and imitators, a family of compressed-air gramophones which were apparently very, very loud
Two Englishmen, Horace Short and Sir Charles A Parsons (yes, the steam turbine man) introduced the compressed air amplifiers known as Auxetophones. Horace Short began the development of the idea and was granted a patent in 1898, and again in 1901. The patent rights were sold to Parsons in 1903. Parsons, who was noted for his skill as a craftsman, took on the development of the Auxetophone as a hobby when he was already financially secure from his steam turbine business, and applied it to musical instruments as well as gramophones.
The Auxetophone & Other Compressed-Air Gramophones.

The Magic of Zion Canyon

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Natural wonders galore await visitors to Zion National Park in Utah – Zion Canyon, for one, but there are many others besides. More

Awesome Pictures

Guardsman’s Pass Autumn Vista by jhwill on Flickr.

Astronomical News

Private Telescope to Hunt for Killer Asteroids

Two former NASA astronauts have given themselves a new mission: To seek out potentially dangerous asteroids so humanity can have enough time to do something about it. Read more
Private Telescope to Hunt for Killer Asteroids

Success! China's Astronaut Trio Return to Earth

The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft touched down safely after a successful 13-day mission to test orbital docking technologies. Read more
Success! China's Astronaut Trio Return to Earth

Voyager 1: The Little Spacecraft That Could

Voyager 1, the spacecraft that launched on a tour of the solar in 1977, is getting ready to enter interplanetary space -- what a journey it's had! Read more
Voyager 1: The Little Spacecraft That Could

Is the Baltic Sea 'Sunken UFO' a Scam?

The huge object on the Baltic Sea's floor is giving off electrical interference that keeps foiling an investigation. Read more

Earth-Like Saturn Moon Has Liquid Ocean

The new findings boost Saturn’s large moon to an elite group of places to look for life beyond Earth. Read more

Hubble Catches Flare Blasting Exoplanet

The finding could help explain the rocky "super Earths" found orbiting other stars. Read more
Hubble Catches Flare Blasting Exoplanet

The Martian (Water) Chronicles

Here's a look at some watershed moments unveiling key chapters of Mars' history. Read more
The Martian (Water) Chronicles: Photos

Visualizing the Onslaught of a Solar Storm

The dramatic impact of a coronal mass ejection on Earth and Venus has been visualized by NASA as part of a new planetarium movie. Read more
Visualizing the Onslaught of a Solar Storm

Science and Environmental News from the British Perspective

China spacecraft returns to EarthChina's first female astronaut Liu Yang as comes out of the re-entry capsule of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft

China's space capsule returns to Earth after a mission which saw the country's first manual docking procedure and its first woman in space.

Thanet offshore wind farmWarning over new 'dash for gas'

The government needs to multiply investment in clean energy four-fold and resist the urge to pursue a shale gas boom, official advisers say.

Painted batteries'Paint-on' batteries demonstrated

Researchers in the US demonstrate the recipe for "paintable" batteries, spraying them onto everything from bathroom tiles to a beer mug.

Real World News

Why Supermarket Tomatoes Taste Like Cardboard

Supermarket tomatoes may look pretty, but the gene mutation that makes them look good also makes them taste terrible. Read more

Rare 'Green Rust' Offers Glimpse of Ancient Seas

A rare and highly reactive iron mineral called green rust appears to have played an important role in ancient oceans. Read more
rust boat

How Clean Is Your Beach?

Two new beach reports out this month could reveal whether your favorite beach is a superstar or a repeat offender. Read more
How Clean Is Your Beach?

Pre-Evacuating? Online Community Can Help

Social media users are using the Internet to help share stories, images, and life-saving information for Colorado residents coping with numerous wildfires. Read more
Pre-Evacuating? Online Community Can Help

What Would Happen If You Fell Into a Volcano?

You would die, of course. But how, exactly? Read more
What would happen if you leaned a bit too far over the rim of a volcano and fell in?

All-carbon solar cell harnesses infrared light

About 40 percent of the solar energy reaching Earth’s surface lies in the near-infrared region of the spectrum — energy ...
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Why the Urban Heat Island Effect Needn't Make Our Cities Sizzle

The summer sun makes pavements hot enough to heat neighborhoods, yet we can mitigate such temperatures, while civil engineering could use the energy to power buildings. More

Five Environmental Effects the Return of El Niño May Bring

From the Sahel food crisis, to Peru's mysterious wildlife deaths, to droughts and cyclones – El Niño could make big news if it develops in 2012. More

Diamonds do not come from coal

Okay, maybe I'm forgetful, but this is one of those facts I'd forgotten until recently. Despite the impression you may have gotten from grade school and/or old Superman cartoons, diamonds are probably not lumps of coal that just got compressed real good—at least, not in exactly the way you might imagine.
Diamonds are made out of carbon, but the best evidence suggests that they form far more deeply down in the Earth than coal does. Instead of coal being smushed into diamonds, imagine something more like those "grow crystals out of Borax and water" experiments you did in grade school. Only, in this case, the experiment is performed in the fiery depths of the Earth's mantle, as very un-coal-like atoms of carbon are compressed and heated deep in the Earth's mantle until they start to bond together and grow into a crystalline structure.
Once the crystals are formed, they get to the surface of the Earth via volcanic eruptions.
The really interesting thing about all of this is that it's one of those ideas that's very hard to verify. Diamonds form at a depth we can't go observe directly. All we have to work with is indirect evidence. Because of that, nobody knows exactly where the necessary carbon to make diamonds comes from. This is why the "diamonds are coal" story exists. Some scientists think the carbon is stuff that's existed in the Earth since this planet was formed. Others think it might be coming from terrestrial carbon that got shifted down to the lower levels via plate subduction—although, even then, we're talking about carbon, but not necessarily coal. It could be a combination of both. Either way, the mental image of smushed coal doesn't quite work.
Read the American Museum of Natural History's explanation of where diamonds come from
Read an interview about diamonds with the curator of the U.S. National Gem and Mineral Collection
Read the  story written by Geology.com's Hobart King

Go Green ... and more

"Do Good Feel Good" Tips for Going Green in the Home
Did you know that if everyone in the US replaced just one box of 85% virgin-fiber facial tissue with 100% recycled ones, we could save 280,000 trees? Simple adjustments to everyday life make a huge impact on our society.

Parsley, the underrated ingredient
Parsley, that springy green herb that comes in curly and flat-leaf varieties, is almost certainly included on more plates than any other ingredient - as a garnish.

Job worries for parents may mean poorer nutrition for kids
The more work-related stress parents experience, the more likely their children are to eat unhealthy meals, a new study shows.

Ten Fun and Fascinating Facts About Food!

Food is definitely something the whole world is interested in – so here are some fun and fascinating facts all about it! More

Five Spices with Incredible Healing Power

Even if you aren't into spicy food, the amazing healing powers of spices and herbs are so incredible, you may start sprinkling some extra zest on your French fries. More 

Science and Health

Researchers discover potential explanation for why a diet high in DHA improves memory

We’ve all heard that eating fish is good for our brains and memory. But what is it about DHA, an ...
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Debilitating eyesight problems on decline for older Americans

Today’s senior citizens are reporting fewer visual impairment problems than their counterparts from a generation ago, according to a new ...
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After child dies, mom’s risk of early death skyrockets

In the first two years following the death of a child, there is a 133 percent increase in the risk ...
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Success of fertility treatment may approach natural birth rate

A groundbreaking study of nearly 250,000 U.S. women reveals live birth rates approaching natural fertility can be achieved using assisted ...
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Probing the roots of depression by tracking serotonin regulation at a new level

In a process akin to belling an infinitesimal cat, scientists have managed to tag a protein that regulates the neurotransmitter...
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Dietary fiber alters gut bacteria, supports gastrointestinal health

A University of Illinois study shows that dietary fiber promotes a shift in the gut toward different types of beneficial ...
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Diet of early human relative Australopithecus shows surprises

Australopithecus sediba, believed to be an early relative of modern-day humans, enjoyed a diet of leaves, fruits, nuts, and bark ...
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