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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.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Daily Drift

Not expecting that, now where you?

Some of our readers today have been in:
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Today in History

1776   The Declaration of Independence is first printed by John Dunlop in Philadelphia.
1806   A Spanish army repels the British during their attempt to retake Buenos Aires, Argentina.
1814   U.S. troops under Jacob Brown defeat a superior British force at Chippewa, Canada.
1832   The German government begins curtailing freedom of the press after German Democrats advocate a revolt against Austrian rule.
1839   British naval forces bombard Dingai on Zhoushan Island in China and occupy it.
1863   Federal troops occupy Vicksburg, Mississippi and distribute supplies to the citizens.
1892   Andrew Beard is issued a patent for the rotary engine.
1940   Marshal Henri Petain's Vichy government breaks off diplomatic relations with Great Britain.
1941   German troops reach the Dnieper River in the Soviet Union.
1943   The Battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history, begins.
1944   The Japanese garrison on Numfoor, New Guinea, tries to counterattack but is soon beaten back by U.S. forces.
1950   American forces engage the North Koreans for the first time at Osan, South Korea.

R.I.P. Andy

"He's best remembered as Sheriff Taylor, but Andy Griffith's great gift to the world was 'A Face a the Crowd' - a film that completely retains its bite in this era of packaged political corn pone. I first saw Andy doing standup at the Raleigh Little Theater in the early fifties. My father got him a gig playing opposite my mother in a convention sketch for the North Carolina Automobile Dealer's Association. Then he hit Broadway and became a star. He was a good liberal Democrat and that sweetness and generosity shone through everything he ever did."

'God particle' may have been found

To cheers and standing ovations from scientists, the world's biggest atom smasher claimed the discovery of a new subatomic particle Wednesday, calling it "consistent" with the long-sought Higgs boson - popularly known as the "God particle" - that helps explain what gives all matter in the universe size and shape.

The truth hurts

Anti-tax movement region of Colorado hit by fires

And guess what ... they are begging  for federal help

 By all means the people of this area should receive federal help during such an emergency, but they also ought to be charged heavily for it. Those same right wing extremists like to talk about personal responsibility, so surely they wouldn't accept freeloading off of the generosity of fellow Americans without paying them for the services, right?

The other obvious point of the Colorado fires is the link to climate change. This is not unlike the extreme weather that we also see in the south, also another region where many people don't believe it's a problem. How's that working out?

Bloomberg has more on the anti-tax extremists who now are looking for federal assistance.
The city where the Waldo Canyon fire destroyed 346 homes and forced more than 34,000 residents to evacuate turned off one-third of its streetlights two years ago, halted park maintenance and cut services to close a $28 million budget gap after sales-tax revenue plummeted and voters rejected a property-tax increase.

The municipality, at 416,000 the state’s second-largest, auctioned both its police helicopters and shrank public-safety ranks through attrition by about 8 percent; it has 50 fewer police and 39 fewer firefighters than five years ago. More than 180 National Guard troops have been mobilized to secure the city after the state’s most destructive fire. At least 32 evacuated homes were burglarized and dozens of evacuees’ cars were broken into, said Police Chief Pete Carey.

“It has impacted the response,” said Karin White, a 54- year-old accountant, who returned home June 28 to a looted and vandalized house, with a treasured, century-old family heirloom smashed.
Something about this story really bothers me because what I've come to dislike the most about the modern GOP is their brutality to others. The have no sense of community and never care about anyone besides themselves.

We see the same behavior throughout the extremist south every time a new tornado or hurricane blows through. These are the people who mostly receive much more federal revenue than they pay into the system yet they still want to slash taxes more so the supposed freeloaders up north (i.e. poor city people) don't get anything.

Each time a terrible storm comes through, there there are, asking for handouts and yes, each time they receive those handouts because there are still enough Americans who care about their fellow Americans. It's not their precious Bible that's saving them, it's federal goddamn dollars paid that come from those people that they hate.

It's going to be a loss for America if our old spirit of togetherness goes away but the anti-tax Republicans are trying their hardest to make it a reality. If that day comes where there are no federal handouts to handout, it is likely going to be those anti-tax extremists who pay the price much more than anyone else.

Eva Longoria: There is no way women can vote repugican

Eva Longoria, a national co-chair of President Barack Obama's reelection campaign, can't imagine why a woman would pull the lever for a repugican.

Wingnuts bully a 17 year old

The former wingnut poster child, Jonathan Krohn.

They call him a "defector"...among other "choice" words. They are still keeping it "k"lassy (yes,with a k).
Jonathan Krohn, the former teen wingnut idol turned into a person with a functioning brain (liberal heretic to the wingnuts), is on the receiving end of a world of abuse from wingnut pundits this week. Fine by him. But please folks, lay off his mom. - More
To the wingnuts out there - Get over it ... he grew up and matured (something you failed to do) ... Deal with it.

The truth be told

French police raid Sarokozy's home

Nicholas Sarkozy made a lot of enemies on both sides of the aisle over the years so it's not much of a surprise that someone is continuing the fight.

 The Guardian:
French police have raided the home and offices of the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy as part of an investigation into illegal campaign financing and alleged brown envelopes of cash from France's wealthiest woman, the L'Oreal hairspray heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

Police searched the mansion rented by Carla Bruni in a chic gated community in the west of Paris, where she and Sarkozy live with Bruni's 11-year-old son and the couple's new baby daughter. Officers also searched the office of the legal firm where Sarkozy is a partner and the new office he moved into after losing the presidential election to Socialist Francois Hollande in May.

Accusations grow of vote-buying in Mexico election

Neighbors at one store in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Mexico City said the unusually large crowds had prevented them from doing their daily shopping.

Ohio Attempt at "Personhood" Amendment Falls Short

An anti-abortion group in Ohio has fallen short in its attempt to gather enough signatures to change the state constitution to declare that life begins when a human egg is fertilized.

Pope fires bishop over "administrative issues"

Yet covering up child rape is still OK for the Vatican. Though this latest firing is completely different from the numerous child rape scandals within the Catholic church, there are implications for those cases.
In the face of U.S. lawsuits seeking to hold the pope ultimately responsible for abusive priests, the Holy See has argued that bishops are largely masters of their dioceses and that the pope doesn't really control them. The Vatican has thus sought to limit its own liability, arguing that the pope doesn't exercise sufficient control over the bishops to be held responsible for their bungled response to priests who rape children.

The ability of the pope to actively fire bishops, and not just passively accept their resignations, would seem to undercut the Vatican's argument of a hands-off pope.

"If the pope can fire a bishop, that implies he's their supervisor," said Nick Cafardi, a U.S. canon lawyer and former chairman of the U.S. bishops' lay review board that monitored clerical abuse. "This will invite more lawsuits attempting to sue the pope in American courts."

Economic Optimism Jumping

Although most Americans think that the economy is currently in poor shape, economic optimism has skyrocketed since last fall, according to a new national poll.



CNN poll: Americans increasingly optimistic about economy

Are they right?
"Americans are usually optimists, but in 2011, polls for the first time found that more than half the country thought that economic conditions would worsen in the next 12 months," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Now that trend has reversed itself, with only four in ten saying that the economy will be in poor shape a year from now."

Sixty percent of those questioned say the economy will be in good shape next year, a surge from 39% who felt that way last October. Despite that jump, three-quarters say that current economic conditions are poor, a slight worsening of opinion since May, but better than where things stood in January.

"Not surprisingly, the poll indicates that the economy's the public's top issue, the only topic that more than half say will be extremely important to their presidential vote in November," adds Holland.

The Superstitious Stock Market Fund

Since investing in the stock market is a little bit like reading tea leaves, artist Shing Tat Chung decided to take it all the way: he has created a stock fund that trades on superstitions.
“We have to realise that actually when a lot of money is involved, we become a whole lot more irrational and superstitious,” Chung tells Co.Design. “We tend to resort to finding ridiculous patterns, creating conspiracy theories, and rituals.” He points to an example in England, where homes at addresses involving the number 13 are automatically devalued by a few thousand pounds. 
A Superstitious Fund foregrounds how irrational humans--and their machines--can be. Chung calls the fund a “superstitious automated robot," programmed with human traits--like a belief in bad luck. The fund trades stock based on numerology, astrology, and a self-taught logic built on its successes and failures. So, it’s a non-living entity that makes random decisions just like your average irrational human would.
Chung got people to invest 5,000 in his fund, aptly called A Superstitious Fund, which began trading earlier this year: More

Put bankers in jail

Joseph Stiglitz -- former World Bank economist and Nobel economics laureate -- has a suggestion for dealing with the Barclay's bank scandals and those that follow: put bankers in jail.

MD admits guilt in Ny rare-coin case with twist

A prominent coin collector thought he had some valuable, ancient pieces with a problem: They shouldn't have been taken out of Italy.

University Sues Overachieving Student for Lost Income

Marcel Pohl was a student at the School of Economics and Management in Essen, Germany. But not for long -he passed 60 examinations and graduated in three semesters, when the normal course is 11 semesters. You’d think the school would be proud, but they are suing Pohl for €3,000, which is the tuition payments we would have made if he stayed as long as other students!
“When I got the lawsuit, I thought it couldn’t be true,” Pohl, who now works for a bank in Frankfurt, told the Bild newspaper. “Performance is supposed to be worth something.”
Pohl completed his turbo degree by dividing up all the simultaneous lectures with two friends and then swapping notes. At the same time, he completed an apprenticeship in a bank.
“We didn’t get any freebies, and we agreed our plans in advance with the school,” Pohl said.
“We’re always against slow students,” said his lawyer Bernhard Kraas. “But when someone hurries and finishes early, suddenly he has to pay. That can’t be right.”
The school says they are entitled to the full payment, which is for the degree, not the time spent achieving it. More

Snooper cleared after reading colleague's email

A New Jersey teacher rifled through a colleague's email after she left her mailbox open on a public computer. She and her correspondents sued him. Jurors cleared him on hacking charges, however, agreeing that her failure to log out amounted to "tacit authorization." Timothy B. Lee at Ars Technica:
According to New Jersey law, a person is guilty if he "knowingly accesses without authorization a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided or exceeds an authorization to access that facility." The judge ruled that Marcus, not Rogers, had accessed her e-mail. So Rogers was on safe ground on the "access" question. However, the judge let the jury decide whether Rogers had exceeded the "authorization" Marcus had accidentally granted to him. The jury ruled that he had not.
At Internet Cases, attorney Evan Brown offers an analysis of the case: "The decision is potentially relevant to contexts other than email accounts on desktop computers. Does a person who finds another’s mobile device have the right to rummage through all the accounts (e.g., social media, email, dating sites) that the phone’s owner is logged into? This case underscores that the answer will be, frustratingly, 'it depends.'"
Also, yes, there is a stock photo for everything.

EU: software licenses may be sold by consumers

The European Union's Court of Justice ruled today that software licenses may be sold.
By its judgment delivered today, the Court explains that the principle of exhaustion of the distribution right applies not only where the copyright holder markets copies of his software on a material medium (CD-ROM or DVD) but also where he distributes them by means of downloads from his website. Where the copyright holder makes available to his customer a copy – tangible or intangible – and at the same time concludes, in return form payment of a fee, a licence agreement granting the customer the right to use that copy for an unlimited period, that rightholder sells the copy to the customer and thus exhausts his exclusive distribution right.
The case concerned Oracle, which sued UsedSoft, a German company which bought and resold "used" software licenses. It's a heartening decision, for sure, though it will encourage commercial software publishers to continue the trend toward subscriptions.

ACTA IS DEAD (ish) (for now)

Here's an image that is destined to be truly iconic: Members of the European Parliament vote down ACTA in dramatic fashion, hefting signs that read HELLO DEMOCRACY, GOODBYE ACTA.

Michael Geist writes,
On October 23, 2007, the U.S., E.U., Canada, and a handful of other countries announced plans to the negotiate the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The behind-the-scenes discussions had apparently been ongoing for several years, leading some countries to believe that a full agreement could be concluded within a year to coincide with the end of the Bush administration. Few paid much attention as the agreement itself was shrouded in secrecy. ACTA details slowly began to emerge, however, including revelations that lobby groups had been granted preferential access, the location of various meetings, and troubling details about the agreement itself.
This morning, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly against the agreement, effectively killing ACTA within the EU. The vote was 478 against, 39 in favour, with 165 abstentions This is a remarkable development that was virtually unthinkable even a year ago. Much credit goes to the thousands of Europeans who spoke out against ACTA and to the Members of the European Parliament who withstood enormous political pressure to vote against the deal.
The European developments have had a ripple effect, with the recent Australian parliamentary committee recommendation to delay ACTA ratification and the mounting opposition around the world. ACTA is not yet dead - it may still eke out the necessary six ratifications in a year or two for it to take effect - but it is badly damaged and will seemingly never achieve the goals of its supporters as a model for other countries to adopt and to emerge as a new global standard for IP enforcement. That said, ACTA supporters will not take today's decision as the final verdict. In the coming weeks and months, we can expect new efforts to revive the agreement within Europe and to find alternative means to implement its provisions. That suggests the fight will continue, but for today, it is worth celebrating how the seemingly impossible - stopping a one-sided, secretly negotiated global IP agreement - became possible.
The European Parliament Rejects ACTA: The Impossible Becomes Possible

Where Anonymous actions come from

Quinn Norton reports in depth on Wired with a careful, important account of where Anonymous's actions come from -- how coordinated activity (political, lulzy, legal and illegal) can emerge from noise, randomness, bombast and joking. This is the best description of how decision-making works in decentralized movements, and has important implications for the future of activism, governance, politics, crime and security:
But it’s a mistake to identify Anonymous entirely with these arrestees, some of whom were blackhats and others who were guilty of just using the LOIC. The hacks draw their power from the support of the wider collective, not the other way around. The majority of Anonymous operations are conceived and planned in a chaotic and open fashion. At any given time, a few thousand people are congregating on the Anonymous IRC channels, figuring out for themselves what it means to be an anon. And together they embody whatever Anonymous is going to be that day.
Most of the time, in most of the channels, there’s little more than conversation; sometimes a whole channel will consist of lurkers, with no one contributing a thing. But when some offense to the net is detected, anons will converge on one or more of these “chans,” with hundreds or thousands arriving within hours—many of them new to Anonymous and yet all primed and eager to respond. What looks in one moment like a sad, empty chat room can quickly become the staging ground for a major multipronged assault.
Consider OpBART, which flared up in August 2011 and dealt with an unlikely issue for Anonymous: the messy offline world of race relations and police violence. Ever since 2009, when a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man named Oscar Grant, protests against abuse of authority by transit police had grown. On August 11, anti-BART activists were planning a rally at several of San Francisco’s underground transit stops to protest another shooting by a BART officer, this one of a homeless man named Charles Hill. It was an unremarkable story by the standards of the national media, but the response from BART to the planned protest did catch the interest of the local press: To thwart protesters from coordinating via mobile devices, BART cut cell service at its downtown stations.
How Anonymous Picks Targets, Launches Attacks, and Takes Powerful Organizations Down

Cisco locks customers out of their own routers, only lets them back in if they agree to being spied upon and monetized

Owners of Cisco/Linksys home routers got a nasty shock this week, when their devices automatically downloaded a new operating system, which locked out device owners. After the update, the only way to reconfigure your router was to create an account on Cisco's "cloud" service, signing up to a service agreement that gives Cisco the right to spy on your Internet use and sell its findings, and also gives them the right to disconnect you (and lock you out of your router) whenever they feel like it.
They say that "if you're not paying for the product, you are the product." But increasingly, even if you do pay for the product, you're still the product, and you aren't allowed to own anything. Ownership is a right reserved to synthetic corporate persons, and off-limits to us poor meat-humans.

Joel Hruska from ExtremeTech reports:
This is nothing but a shameless attempt to cash in on the popularity of cloud computing, and it comes at a price. The Terms and Conditions of using the Cisco Connect Cloud state that Cisco may unilaterally shut down your account if finds that you have used the service for “obscene, pornographic, or offensive purposes, to infringe another’s rights, including but not limited to any intellectual property rights, or… to violate, or encourage any conduct that would violate any applicable law or regulation or give rise to civil or criminal liability.”
It then continues “we reserve the right to take such action as we (i) deem necessary or (ii) are otherwise required to take by a third party or court of competent jurisdiction, in each case in relation to your access or use or misuse of such content or data. Such action may include, without limitation, discontinuing your use of the Service immediately without prior notice to you, and without refund or compensation to you.”
Since the Service is the only way to access your router, killing one would effectively kill the other.
Oh, and Cisco reserves the right to continue to update your router, even if you set it not to allow automatic updates.
Cisco’s cloud vision: Mandatory, monetized, and killed at their discretion

Why Microsoft Fell Behind: Bureaucracy

Long before Apple got its mojo back, the king of the technology hill was Microsoft.
Microsoft simply dominated the PC industry, but it has recently fallen back. It (almost) missed the Internet Revolution, had a tablet that could've pre-empted the iPad and other innovative products that withered in the R&D vine.
What happened? Vanity Fair editor Kurt Eichenwald interviewed dozens of Microsofties and delved into troves of corporate emails to discover the culprit of the malaise that has plagued the tech giant for years: bureaucracy.
Eichenwald’s conversations reveal that a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”
When Eichenwald asks Brian Cody, a former Microsoft engineer, whether a review of him was ever based on the quality of his work, Cody says, “It was always much less about how I could become a better engineer and much more about my need to improve my visibility among other managers.” Ed McCahill, who worked at Microsoft as a marketing manager for 16 years, says, “You look at the Windows Phone and you can’t help but wonder, How did Microsoft squander the lead they had with the Windows CE devices? They had a great lead, they were years ahead. And they completely blew it. And they completely blew it because of the bureaucracy.”

Why Porn and Journalism Have the Same Big Problem

The smut business just isn't what it used to be.

The early days of the Internet were a bonanza for major pornography studios, as the web transformed adult entertainment into an instant, unlimited, and completely private experience -- always just a credit card charge and a cable modem away.

But what the Internet giveth, the internet taketh away. As the most recent Bloomberg Businssweek recounts in its feature on the rise of the new and controversial .XXX domain, the big production companies have seen their profits shrink by as much as half since 2007, as audiences have fled to aggregators such as XTube and YouPorn that offer up a never-ending stream of free naked bodies.

Stuart Lawley, the entreprenuer behind .XXX, has a plan to try and reclaim some of that lost revenue -- micropayments. Per Businessweek:

Next year, ICM plans to introduce a proprietary micropayment system. This service, Lawley promises, will help blue-chip pornographers fight back against the proliferation of free and pirated smut online. "We're going to do for adult what Apple (AAPL) did for the music business with the iTunes store," he predicts.

Consumers who have become conditioned to grainy, poorly shot giveaways, Lawley says, will get reacclimated to paying for higher-quality hard core. Price, quantity, and specificity are key. Rather than the traditional model--$24.99 upfront for all-access monthly memberships--porn consumers will shell out 99¢ apiece for short clips of niche material (akin to buying a favorite song, not the whole album). Perhaps more compelling, people seeking porn on their mobile devices will have a convenient way to purchase a quickie on the run.

Yikes. Comparing your business plan to Apple is pretty standard corporate trope these days, but in the case of porn, the iTunes analogy is hopelessly inapt. Here's the problem: Pornography is mostly a commodity product. Music is not. People have favorite bands and expect a certain level of production value in their music.

Bruce Springsteen devotees aren't just as happy listening to Bob Seger or an a cappella rendition of "Born In the USA." It's at least a little rarer to have favorite porn stars. And the audiences aren't demonstrably sensitive to production values. Worse yet, the tools for do-it-yourself filming are improving every time Apple upgrades the iPhone's video camera.

In other words, convincing people to pay for to watch sex is a much taller task these days than getting them to pay for a song.

In fact, it's a bit like getting them to pay for a newspaper. Like the porn studios, big media companies have seen their own profits plummet in the face of free aggregators, amateur bloggers, and the nearly limitless competition supplied by the web.

Unsurprisingly, micropayments have been a hot topic in the news industry over the past few years. But so far, they haven't really taken off. Here's how Clay Shirky explained the fatal flaw with the idea back in 2009:

The fantasy that small payments will save publishers as they move online is really a fantasy that monopoly pricing power can be re-established over we users. Invoking the magic word "micropayments" is thus grabbing the wrong end of the stick; if online publishers had that kind of pricing power, micropayments wouldn't be necessary. And since they don't have that pricing power, micropayments won't provide it.

What holds for journalism in this case holds for sex. In both cases, the competition is so broad that customers are likely to go elsewhere rather than pay. There are, obviously, exceptions in the case of newspapers -- the Wall Street Journal has a profitable paywall, and the New York Times appears to be having some early success with its own. But that might be cold comfort for the adult entertainment world.

That is, if you assume people still have slightly higher standards for their news than for their porn.

Fretting about Facebook, 17th century style

Economist technology editor Tom Standage, author of the 1998 classic The Victorian Internet (a history of the telegraph), gives us a glimpse of his upcoming book Cicero’s Web (due in 2013), which explores the social media revolution created by the coffee houses of the 17th century. As Standage points out, all the hand-wringing over time-wasting and intellectual decay attended by Facebook and its like are nothing new:
Enthusiasm for coffeehouses was not universal, however, and some observers regarded them as a worrying development. They grumbled that Christians had taken to a Muslim drink instead of traditional English beer, and fretted that the livelihoods of tavern-keepers might be threatened. But most of all they lamented that coffeehouses were distracting people who ought to be doing useful work, rather than networking and sharing trivia with their acquaintances.
When coffee became popular in Oxford and the coffeehouses selling it began to multiply, the university authorities objected, fearing that coffeehouses were promoting idleness and diverting students from their studies. Anthony Wood, an Oxford antiquarian, was among those who denounced the enthusiasm for the new drink. “Why doth solid and serious learning decline, and few or none follow it now in the university?” he asked. “Answer: Because of coffee-houses, where they spend all their time.” Similar concerns were voiced in Cambridge, where one observer noted that
it is become a custom after chapel to repair to one or other of the coffee houses (for there are divers), where hours are spent in talking, and less profitable reading of newspapers, of which swarms are continually supplied from London. And the scholars are so greedy after news (which is none of their business) that they neglect all for it, and it is become very rare for any of them to go directly to his chamber after prayers without first doing his suit at the coffee-house, which is a vast loss of time grown out of a pure novelty. For who can apply close to a subject with his head full of the din of a coffee-house?

Random Celbrity Photo


Brigitte Bardot 1952
Brigitte Bardot 1952

Odds and Ends

Woman Slammed With $1.3 Million Electric Bill
Kristin Harriger lives on a budget, typically setting aside about $100 for her monthly electric bill.

Inmates to test new locks at jail
Jailers in Atlanta have a challenge for inmates: Get past the new locks being tested on cell doors and win free food.

Florida man rescues his 1,000th animal
On a recent June day, Jeff Bennett flew his four-seat plane from the mangrove-dotted Florida Keys, past some angry thunder clouds to the fertile hills of Greenville, Ala.

Chinese-built ghost town in Angola

The first of many to come?
The BBC's Louise Redvers reports on the ghost town of Kilamba, Angola, a horrendously expensive high-rise enclave built by Chinese companies on a line of credit secured with Angolan oil, which has only seen 220 apartments out of 2800 sold. Kilamba is the most ambitious of several new towns being built outside of existing Angoloan cities by Chinese firms.
It's like a bizarro-world version of the Keynsian idea of getting the economy going by paying one group of laborers to dig holes and another to fill them in. But in this case, one group of workers are paid to pump oil, which is offshored to China. In exchange, a group of Chinese workers is paid to build a gate-guarded enclave for a non-existent pool of mega-rich locals that no one can afford to live in, and which gradually turns into a massive liability. Profit!
The place is eerily quiet, voices bouncing off all the fresh concrete and wide-open tarred roads.
There are hardly any cars and even fewer people, just dozens of repetitive rows of multi-coloured apartment buildings, their shutters sealed and their balconies empty.
Only a handful of the commercial units are occupied, mostly by utility companies, but there are no actual shops on site, and so - with the exception of a new hypermarket located at one entrance - there is nowhere to buy food.
After driving around for nearly 15 minutes and seeing no-one apart from Chinese labourers, many of whom appear to live in containers next to the site, I came across a tiny pocket of life at a school.
It opened six months ago, bussing in its pupils in from outlying areas because there are no children living on site to attend.

Fifty-one-pound tumor removed from woman

By Jonathan Allen

New Jersey surgeons removed a rapidly growing, 51-pound (23-kg) cancerous tumor from a woman who had delayed treatment for more than a month until she became eligible for health insurance, her doctor said on Tuesday.
"She was a skinny lady with a huge belly. I mean it looked like she was literally pregnant with triplets," said Dr. David Dupree, who led the surgery on the 65-year-old woman, at Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, New Jersey.
"She was just all belly," he said in describing his first meeting with the patient, a homemaker from nearby Union Beach, New Jersey, who asked to be identified only as Evelyn, her first name.
About six to eight weeks before she showed up at the hospital, Evelyn noticed discomfort in her abdomen and that her normally 120-pound frame was rapidly ballooning. Dupree said she sought medical help on June 4, just days after her 65th birthday, when she would qualify for Medicare, the U.S. healthcare program for seniors.
"The reason she didn't go earlier was because she had no insurance," he said.
By now, she weighed more than 170 pounds, her legs were swollen with trapped blood, she was badly dehydrated, and, scans showed, the tumor - a malignant sarcoma - was crushing her inferior vena cava, one of the main veins returning blood to the heart, and putting her life in danger.
With her body too weakened to be operated on immediately, Dupree scheduled surgery for the following Monday, allowing time for her to become rehydrated and for her blood pressure to be brought under control.
But after she became short of breath on Sunday evening, Dupree brought the surgery forward.
"I knew that she wasn't going to make it through the night," he said.
"Either she goes now or she dies tonight," he recalled thinking.
Opening her up, Dupree and his team found the tumor, which appeared to have originated out of the fatty tissue around her large intestine, had engulfed many of her internal organs, and had to be sliced away "millimeter by millimeter" over the course of the five-hour surgery.
Evelyn was still recovering from the operation in a rehabilitation center on Tuesday, Dupree said. She declined to be interviewed.
Although the immediate threat to her life has passed, she must still see an oncologist about treatment for her cancer, which may not have been completely eradicated by the surgery, and may require chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Dupree said he would advise uninsured patients to see a doctor immediately if they knew they were unwell no matter how near their 65th birthday might be. He said the hospital would have operated on Evelyn regardless of her insurance status, but added he did not know whether doing so would have cost her more money.

Pharma company studying Oxycontin's effect on children

The maker of the prescription painkiller OxyContin confirms that a clinical trial is currently under way to measure the opioid's effects on children.

Random Photo


with our eyes we see two things.

Solar Flare Ionizes European Skies

Obviously frustrated by the headline-grabbing news of a quasi-potential Higgs boson discovery, the sun exploded with a headline-grabber of its own this morning.  
Read more
Solar Flare Ionizes European Skies

Awesome Pictures


 (by JoLoLog)

Five Curiously Strange and Weirdly Awesome Trees

From providing dragon blood sap to the stuffing in lifejackets, the properties of these weird and wonderful trees will make you think you've stepped into a Dr. Seuss book More

Carnivorous Plant That Eats Worms Underground

You’d never know by looking at their gorgeous flowers, but a rare planet species called Philcoxia in Brazil are quite deadly … to underground worms:
Botanists have found three plants, all relatives of the popular
snapdragon garden flowers, that have an unusual network of sticky leaves
These leaves allow the plants to trap and digest worms, and possibly
other creatures, that stray onto their sticky surfaces in the soil.

While there are many species of carnivorous plants that use insects,
frogs and even small mammals to supplement the nutrients they need to
grow, none have ever been found to trap their prey beneath the ground.

Botanists now believe there could be many other plants that use
this previously unrecognised method of killing and consuming animals.
Richard Gray of The Telegraph has the story: here

Wildlife Overpasses

Unusual Bridges For Animals 
Wildlife overpasses, green bridges, and ecoducts all refer to structures that have been built over roads to allow wildlife to cross safely to the other side of the road. The bridges are for the animals; the animals walk over the road, and the vehicles go through the structure.

Most of the structures typically have soil, litter, and vegetation on top to provide suitable habitat for a range of different species and species groups. The larger structures are intended for large mammals ranging from ungulates to large carnivores. Here are pictures of some of the most beautiful and interesting wildlife overpasses in the world.

Ladybug Mimic Spider

Take a closer look at this cute ladybug and you'd be surprised to find that it's actually a spider. Meet the Ladybird Mimic Spider (Ladybug Mimic Spider for us Yanks), as wonderfully snapped by Singaporean photographer Nicky Bay: More

Do you really know what’s lurking in the depths?

Meet Peter’s elephantnose fish
It has been my intention to write a post telling you all about my new pets – I have recently ...
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Animal Pictures