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Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Daily Drift

 It's an acquired taste ...

Some of our readers today have been in:
Klang, Malaysia
Belize City, Belize
Centurion, South Africa
Osijek, Croatia
Istanbul, Turkey
Dubai, Untied Arab Emirates
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Frankfurt, Germany
Bayan Lepas, Malaysia
Moscow, Russia
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Abu Gurayb, Iraq
London, England
Johannesburg, South Africa
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Kuching, Malaysia
Warsaw, Poland
Cape Town, South Africa
Shah Alam, Malaysia
San Jose, Costa Rica
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Tallinn, Estonia
Douglas, Scotland
Athens, Greece

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Today in History

1588 The Spanish Armada, which attempted to invade England, is destroyed by a British fleet.
1776 The British occupy Manhattan.
1788 An alliance between Britain, Prussia and the Netherlands is ratified at the Hague.
1858 The Butterfield Overland Mail Company begins delivering mail from St. Louis to San Francisco. The company's motto is: "Remember, boys, nothing on God's earth must stop the United States mail!"
1862 Confederates capture Harpers Ferry, securing the rear of Robert E. Lee's forces in Maryland.
1891 The Dalton gang holds up a train and takes $2,500 at Wagoner, Oklahoma.
1914 President Woodrow Wilson orders the Punitive Expedition out of Mexico. The Expedition, headed by General John Pershing, had been searching for Pancho Villa, a Mexican revolutionary.
1916 Armored tanks are introduced by the British during the Battle of the Somme.
1928 Scottish bacteriologist Alexander Fleming discovers, by accident, that the mold penicillin has an antibiotic effect.
1935 In Berlin, the Reich under Adolf Hitler adopts the swastika as the national flag.
1937 Prime Minister of England Neville Chamberlain flies to Germany to discuss the future of Czechoslovakia with Adolf Hitler.
1939 The Polish submarine Orzel arrives in Tallinn, Estonia, after escaping the German invasion of Poland.
1950 U.N. Forces, lead by the U.S. Marine Corps, invade occupied Korea at the port of Inchon. Considered the greatest amphibious attack in history, it is the zenith of General Douglas MacArthur's career.
1963 Four young African-American girls are killed by the bombing of a church in Montgomery, Alabama.
1971 The environmental group Greenpeace is founded.

Non Sequitur


Wisconsin judge strikes down collective bargaining law

Judge strikes down Wisconsin law limiting union rights 

By Scott Bauer
  A Wisconsin judge on Friday struck down nearly all of the state law championed by Gov. Scott Walker that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for most public workers.
In this June 25, 2012 file photo, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at a news conference in Chicago. A Wisconsin judge strikes down Gov. Walker's law ending most collective bargaining for public workers. Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, that the law violates both the state and U.S. Constitution and is null and void. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)Walker's administration immediately vowed to appeal, while unions, which have vigorously fought the law, declared victory. But what the ruling meant for existing public contracts was murky: Unions claimed the ruling meant they could negotiate again, but Walker could seek to keep the law in effect while the legal drama plays out.
The law, Walker's crowning achievement that made him a national conservative star, took away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most workers and has been in effect for more than a year.
Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled that the law violates both the state and U.S. Constitution and is null and void. He said the law violated the constitutional rights of free speech and association.
The ruling applies to all local public workers affected by the law, including teachers and city and county government employees, but not those who work for the state. They were not a party to the lawsuit, which was brought by a Madison teachers union and a Milwaukee public workers union.
Walker issued a statement accusing the judge of being a "liberal activist" who "wants to go backwards and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor. We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process."
Wisconsin Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck said DOJ believes the law is constitutional.
Lester Pines, an attorney for Madison Teachers Inc., said the ruling means all local governments, including school districts, are now required to bargain with employees covered by unions, just as they did before the law passed. Pines predicted the case would ultimately be resolved by the state Supreme Court.
"What's going to happen in the interim is unknown," he said.
The proposal was introduced shortly after Walker took office in February last year. It resulted in a firestorm of opposition and led to huge protests at the state Capitol that lasted for weeks. All 14 Democratic state senators fled the state to Illinois for three weeks in an ultimately failed attempt to stop the law's passage from the Republican-controlled Legislature.
The law required public workers to pay more for their health insurance and pension benefits at the same time it took away their ability to collectively bargain over those issues. Walker argued the changes were needed to help state and local governments save money at a time Wisconsin faced a $3 billion budget shortfall.
"This is a huge victory for Wisconsin workers and a huge victory for free speech," said Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca. "This decision will help re-establish the balance between employees and their employers."
Anger over the law's passage led to an effort to recall Walker from office. More than 930,000 signatures were collected triggering the June recall election.

Hey, whatever it takes ...

Did you know ...

How to tell if you're being religiously oppressed

Can science be funny? the ig noble prize

About 5 atheists who should be more well-known

That extreme trolling may be a sign of mental illness

President Obama leading in new swing state polls

There's a long way to go until election day but President Obama is pulling ahead in a few key states.
President Obama has opened clear leads over Mitt Romney in three critical battlegrounds of the November election, according to new polls by NBC News, The Wall Street Journal, and Marist College.

In Florida, the largest swing state with 29 electoral votes, Mr. Obama leads by Romney among likely voters by 49 percent to 44 percent.

In Virginia, with 13 electoral votes, Mr. Obama leads by the same 49 percent to 44 percent margin.

And in Ohio, with 18 electoral votes, the Democratic incumbent leads his repugican challenger by 50 percent to 43 percent.

Official government news agency in China calls out Romney

Hysterical. There's not much else to say when China's own state news agency calls out Romney like this.
While addressing a rally in the U.S. state of Virginia on Thursday, Romney, just as what he has done along his campaign trail, opened fire on China, claiming that it was Beijing's undervalued RMB currency that forced U.S. manufacturers out of job.

What is more sensational is that this millionaire repugican candidate has vowed to declare China a currency manipulator on the first day of his presidency if elected.

Yet it is rather ironic that a considerable portion of this China-battering politician's wealth was actually obtained by doing business with Chinese companies before he entered politics.

More wingnut lies about Libya/Egypt - Romney must be seriously in trouble

Judging by the level of vitriol from every propaganda organ, and politician, in the repugican cabal today, Mitt Romney must be losing the election badly.
They're in full panic mode.  Coming out with a lie a minute.   I wrote about one earlier.  And another this morning.  But this one is particularly egregious.

According to a British tabloid - and this has already been debunked - everyone knew that the attacks in Libya and Egypt were going to happen and no one did a thing!

Uh right.  So now the "9/11 truthers" are after Obama too.

In fact, according to a spokesman for the head of the entire US intelligence establishment, there wasn't zip.
Shawn Turner, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, emailed: “This is absolutely wrong. We are not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent.”
But repugican propagandist Matt Drudge was happy to push the story, as will repugican partisans tomorrow.

Anything to change the story from how Mitt Romney pulled and Al Haig and apparently thought he was the head of the US government the other day in the middle of a national security crisis. Romney was roundly rebuked for his arrogance, and the danger he posed to US foreign policy by involving himself in an ongoing crisis. But in repugican-land, that means you find another even bigger lie in order to take attention off of the one you got caught saying earlier.

They are seriously panicking over in Romney-land.

How long until the repugicans bring up President Obama's birth certificate again?

And on cue ...

Birther Romney adviser in Kansas may remove Obama from ballot in state

The fact that a Romney adviser is considering removing President Obama from the ballot in Kansas should give everyone pause.  Not simply because the reason for removing the President is the racist "birther" theory that Mitt Romney himself gave a push two just a few weeks ago.  But more importantly, the Republicans, and via his adviser, Mitt Romney, are once again considering whether they can steal an election.

What's amazing is that the Republicans talk a good talk about stealing elections, but when it comes down to it, they always seem to be the only ones making a serious effort at doing just that.  It's called a "tell" in poker, and we've talked about it a number of times here.  The repugicans accuse Democrats of doing what repugicans are already doing.

It's not just a tell, it's also a way to inoculate themselves.  If you're going to attempt to steal an election, what better way to cover yourself than accuse the guy you're stealing it from of being a thief, first.

Of course, this issue is about more than stealing elections.  It's about the rank racism now permeates the upper levels of the repugican cabal.  Even rnc chair Reince Priebus was called out two weeks ago for pushing racist theories about the President.  Not that they can't also be subtle in their extremism.

The extremism, sadly, goes to the highest reaches of the repugican cabal.  These are not nice people. They lie about the little things, they lie about the big things, and they can't even get their story right when they try to tell the truth about benign facts like the capital of Libya.  And if you call them out on it, they simply amplify the lie with more voices and an even more outrageous story in the hopes of distracting you from their other lies, and the truth.

When will sane repugicans take back their cabal from the nutjobs running it at the rnc, in the Congress and in the Romney campaign. Oh, wait there are no sane repugicans.

U.S. embassies attacked in Yemen, Egypt after Libya envoy killed

 Demonstrators attacked the U.S. embassies in Yemen and Egypt on Thursday in protest at a film they consider blasphemous to Islam, and the United States sent warships towards Libya, where the U.S. ambassador was killed in related violence this week.
In Libya, authorities said they had made four arrests in the investigation into the attack that killed ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americas in Benghazi on Tuesday.
U.S. President Barack Obama, facing a new foreign policy crisis less than two months before seeking re-election, has vowed to bring to justice those responsible for the Benghazi attack, which U.S. officials said may have been planned in advance - possibly by an al Qaeda-linked group.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington had nothing to do with the crudely made film posted on the Internet, which she called "disgusting and reprehensible."
The amateurish production, entitled the "Innocence of Muslims," and originating in the United States, portrays Mohammad as a womanizer, a homosexual and a child abuser.
For many Muslims, any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous and caricatures or other characterizations have in the past provoked violent protests across the Muslim world.
Demonstrations spread further on Thursday, with U.S. embassies again the targets of popular anger among Muslims questioning why the United States has failed to take action against the makers of the film.
Hundreds of Yemenis broke through the main gate of the heavily fortified U.S. embassy compound in Sanaa, shouting "We sacrifice ourselves for you, Messenger of God." They smashed windows of security offices outside the embassy and burned cars.
A security source said at least 15 people were wounded, some by gunfire, before the government ringed the area with troops.
In Egypt, protesters hurled stones at a police cordon around the U.S. embassy in Cairo after climbing into the compound and tearing down the American flag. The state news agency said 13 people had been hurt in violence since late on Wednesday.
Around 200 demonstrators gathered outside the U.S. embassy in Kuwait and hoisted banners, one of which bread in English: "USA stop the bullshit. Respect us."
In Bangladesh, Islamists tried to march on the U.S. embassy in Dhaka and Iranian students protested in Tehran. Earlier in the week, there were protests outside U.S. missions in Tunisia, Morocco and Sudan and state-backed Islamic scholars in Sudan have called a mass protest after Friday prayers.
The U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed during a protest against the film when Islamists armed with guns, mortars and grenades staged military-style assaults on the Benghazi mission.
A Libyan doctor said Stevens died of smoke inhalation. U.S. information technology specialist Sean Smith also died at the consulate, while two other Americans were killed when a squad of security personnel sent by helicopter from Tripoli to rescue diplomats from a safe house came under mortar attack.
Of the latter, one was identified by his family as Glen Doherty, 42, a former Navy SEAL who worked as a private security contractor. U.S. media identified the other man as another former navy SEAL - Tyrone Woods, aged 41.
In an interview with the U.S. network ABC News last month Doherty said he was working with the State Department on an intelligence mission to round up and destroy shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.
Thousand of these missiles went missing in Libya after Muammar Gaddafi's overthrow by in a U.S.-backed uprising last year, prompting concerns that they could end up in the hands of al Qaeda militants.
Stevens, 52, had spent a career operating in perilous places, mostly in the Arab world, and became the first American ambassador killed in an attack since Adolph Dubs, the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, died in a 1979 kidnapping attempt.
Tuesday's incident, on what was the 11th anniversary of al Qaeda's attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, has created a worrying foreign policy crisis for Obama ahead of his re-election bid.
Speaking at a campaign rally in Colorado on Thursday, Obama said he had ordered his administration to do whatever was necessary to protect Americans abroad and that aides had been in contact with other governments "to let them know they've got a responsibility to protect our citizens."
The U.S. military has dispatched two destroyers toward the Libyan coast, in what an official said was a move to give the administration flexibility for any future action. The USS Laboon, was already in position and the other destroyer, the USS McFaul, was at least a day away, a U.S. official said.
The U.S. military also sent a Marine Corps anti-terrorist team to boost security in Libya.
Republican Mitt Romney, Obama's challenger, criticized the president's response to the crisis earlier this week, saying it was disgraceful to be seen to be apologizing for American values of free speech.
Obama's campaign accused Romney of trying to score political points at a time of national tragedy and the challenger also provoked some criticism from within his own party.
Campaigning on Thursday, Romney stopped short of repeating the charge, but said that under Obama the United States seemed to be at the mercy of world events rather than shaping them, and argued for a stronger military, at a time when U.S. armed forces are facing an unprecedented budget squeeze.
The administration again sought to calm Muslim tensions on Thursday.
Clinton said Washington rejected the film's message absolutely, and added: "It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and provoke rage."
At the same time, Clinton noted U.S. religious tolerance and commitment to freedom of speech and said there was no justification for violence.
"I know it is hard for some people to understand why the United States cannot or does not just prevent these kinds of reprehensible videos from ever seeing the light of day," she said. "I would note that in today's world, with today's technologies, that is virtually impossible.
"But even if it were possible our country does have a long tradition of free expression which is enshrined in our constitution and our law. And we do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be."
Among the assailants in Benghazi, Libyans identified units of a heavily armed local Islamist group, Ansar al-Sharia, which sympathizes with al Qaeda and derides Libya's U.S.-backed bid for democracy.
Former Libya militant commander Noman Benotman, now president of Britain's Quilliam think tank, said Western officials were investigating a possible link with a paramilitary training camp about 100 miles south of the eastern Libyan town of Derna, near the Egyptian border.
U.S. officials said there were suggestions members of al Qaeda's North Africa-based affiliate may have been involved.
Libya's new Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagour confirmed arrests had been made and more could be expected.
"We don't know if they are affiliated with a particular group or not, there are a lot of suspicions, but ... we have to go through with the investigation and find out who these people are and if they belong to a particular group, then we have to deal with that group," he said.
"We ... assure the people that we are going after them, that we are going to bring them to justice and they have to be punished for their act. This is not acceptable."
A spokesman for Ansar al-Sharia denied involvement in the attack and blamed the violence on firing on the protesters by consulate staff.
"It was a peaceful protest, and the firing on the protesters inflamed the situation and gave it a different course," Hani Mansouri told a news conference in Benghazi.
At the same time, Mansouri said the United States should have had the wisdom to evacuate its ambassador on the September 11 anniversary as a precaution.
Yemen, a key U.S. ally, is home to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), viewed by Washington as the most dangerous branch of the militant network established by Osama bin Laden.
Clashes near the U.S. embassy there flared up on and off but died down as night fell. Residents living nearby said they feared more violent protests after Friday prayers.
"It is a dangerous situation," one resident told Reuters. "I cannot wait until the morning to move my family to another neighborhood until the situation is totally calm."
In Nigeria, the government put police on high alert and stepped up security around all foreign missions, also fearing an Islamist backlash, possibly after Friday prayers.
An actress in the California production that has provoked the unrest said the video as it appeared bore no resemblance to the original filming. She said she had not been aware it was about the Prophet Mohammad.
Many Muslim states focused their condemnation on the film and will be concerned about preventing a repeat of the fallout seen after publication in a Danish newspaper of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. This touched off riots in the Middle East, Africa and Asia in 2006 in which at least 50 people were killed.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called the making of the movie a "devilish act" but said he was certain those involved in its production were a very small minority.
The U.S. embassy in Kabul has appealed to Afghan leaders for help in "maintaining calm" and Afghanistan ordered the YouTube site shut down so Afghans would not be able to see the film. YouTube, owned by Google Inc, said it would not remove the clip but had blocked access in Egypt and Libya.
Libyan leader Mohammed Magarief and Yemeni President Mansour Hadi both apologized to the United States over the attacks and Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Mursi condemned them on television while also rejecting any "insult to the Prophet".
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a sharp critic the Western military intervention in Libya and of Western backing for Syria's rebels, called Stevens' death a tragedy and said Western support for rebels in Arab states was causing chaos.

Guerrilla Grafters

grafterA group of people in San Francisco called the Guerrilla Grafters surreptitiously graft fruit tree branches onto non-fruiting trees in public spaces in the city -about 50 trees so far. Tom Levy of SFGate spoke with two of the "undercover orchardists," Tara Hui and Miriam Goldberg.
"The intention of doing guerrilla grafting is not so much for the sake of challenging authority, but to set an example - a working example - to counter the arguments," said Hui, a Beijing-born urban gardener and gray water activist with a computer science degree. "If we have a prototype, we can have a legitimate rational discussion on the issue."

But challenge authority it does. According to Mohammed Nuru, chief of San Francisco's Department of Public Works, guerrilla grafting is vandalism. The department says that no matter who plants or maintains a street tree, if it's on a sidewalk or other right-of-way area under city jurisdiction, it's publicly owned.
City officials say fruit trees are forbidden because fallen fruit could be a safety hazard. So far, there have been no complaints and no arrests. Story. Website.

New PC Pre-loaded with Malware

How convenient ...
 Cybercriminals are all about efficiency these days. And because waiting for people to visit unsavory web neighborhoods or click on suspicious emailed links are totally inefficient, they've come up with a clever plan: install malwares straight on PC production lines.
Microsoft has found malware on new computers its employees purchased in various cities in China as part of an investigation into the security of the supply chain. That finding led researchers to a botnet called Nitol and a court order giving the company permission to take technical measures to disrupt the botnet.
The effort, dubbed Operation b70, began in August 2011 when it decided to see if there was any merit to claims that counterfeit software and malware were being installed on computers by suppliers before they hit the retail shelves in China. So, the company had employees go into stores and buy 10 laptops and 10 desktop computers.
"We went into what they call 'PC Malls.' We wanted to get a sampling of what an average consumer in China would get," Richard Boscovich, assistant general counsel for Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit, told CNET in an interview today. "We were surprised how quickly we were able to find something to back up the suspicion."
Elinor Mills of CNET has the story: here.

California crystal meth busts indicate Mexican drug gangs' expansion

Recent DEA busts of methamphetamine "conversion labs" in California indicate that drug gangs based in Mexico are exploring new business models that mimic "legal industries that have found that, rather than importing finished products, it is more efficient to do final processing close to their customers. 'Anything that any good businessman does, these guys will do."

Man convicted in 1957 murder of 7-year-old girl

By Michael Tarm FILE - This July 27, 2011 file photo provided by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department in Sycamore, Ill., shows Jack McCullough, of Seattle. On Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, the defense rested its case on behalf of McCullough, 72, who is accused of killing 7-year-old Maria Ridulph, of Sycamore in 1957. McCullough was arrested in Seattle in 2011 and returned to Illinois. (AP Photo/DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, File) 
For most of five decades, it seemed no one would ever be held accountable for the murder of a 7-year-old Illinois girl snatched off a small-town street corner as she played. 
Now someone has.

Maria Ridulph vanished, her friends and family let out a deafening cheer Friday as a judge pronounced a former neighborhood teen — now a 72-year-old man — guilty of the kidnapping and murder. It was one of the oldest unsolved crimes in the U.S. to make it to trial.
The roar of approval soon gave way to loud sobs from those who knew the little girl whose body was found after a five-month search that drew national media attention and haunted people across the country. Jack McCullough, who was 17-year-old John Tessier at the time, showed no hint of emotion.
"A weight has been lifted off my shoulders," said Kathy Chapman, 63, who was playing with Maria in the snow on the night of Dec. 3, 1957, before she vanished. "Maria finally has the justice she deserves."
McCullough approached the two girls as they played and won Maria's trust by talking about dolls and giving her piggyback rides, Chapman testified. At some point after Chapman had gone home, authorities say McCullough dragged Maria into an alley, choked her with a wire, then stabbed her in her throat and chest.
McCullough was briefly a suspect, like more than 100 others, in the 1950s, but he had an alibi. He told investigators he had been traveling to Chicago to get a medical exam before joining the Air Force. He settled in Seattle, working as a Washington state police officer.
As the months became years, many Sycamore residents assumed the killer must have been a transient — perhaps a truck driver passing through but not connected to the town.
A deathbed accusation by McCullough's mother in 1994 — passed on to police by his half-sister in 2008 — led to a chain of events that brought about his conviction.
His mother, Eileen Tessier, had lied to police canvassing the neighborhood in 1957 about her son's whereabouts, buttressing his alibi, prosecutor Julie Trevartchen said Friday.
"She knew what she did and she didn't want to die with that on her conscience," she said.
McCullough's girlfriend in the 1950s also contacted police with evidence that called his alibi into question. She had found his unused train ticket from Rockford to Chicago for the day Maria disappeared.
The case seemed a long shot — at least at the beginning.
DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell was taken aback when investigators told him they had a suspect in a 1957 murder. "When they said 1957, I said, you mean 1977? 1997?" he said Friday.
McCullough was arrested on July 1, 2011, in Washington state at a retirement home where he worked as a security guard.
One reason authorities felt confident they had the right suspect was that Maria's friend, Chapman, picked out McCullough as the teen who identified himself as "Johnny" while the girls were playing.
For decades, that day was never far from Chapman's mind, she said. She would scan faces everywhere to see if any of them looked like that man.
"I never stopped looking for Johnny's face," Chapman said Friday.
During closing arguments, public defender Tom McCulloch said no physical evidence tied his client to the crime, and he raised doubts about Chapman's memory.
But Trevartchen said it wasn't surprising she recalled that night with such clarity.
"Little kids remember the really good things that happen and the really bad things," she told the court. "And they remember the face of the man who took their little friend."
Maria vanished at a time when grease-backed hair and automobile tail fins were in. Child abductions, if not unheard of, rarely made headlines.
This one did.
President Dwight Eisenhower even asked to be kept apprised of the search for the girl, which ended when her decomposed body was found 120 miles from her hometown.
The otherwise sleepy town of Sycamore, 60 west of Chicago, would never be the same.
"I had nightmares — all Sycamore kids did," said Jeanne Taylor, 57, who grew up near the Ridulphs and attended each day of the trial. "From then on, I never trusted strangers."
To conceal the body, prosecutors said, McCullough dragged it through a window at his home, then later loaded it into a car and drove to a wooded area.
"He left her there for animals to feed on her body," prosecutor Victor Escarcida said in his closing.
Maria's brother, Charles Ridulph, took the stand to describe his sister as a sweet, smart, outgoing girl beloved by the entire family. He was relieved by the verdict, though he said the trial had been stressful.
"I feel totally spent, exhausted," he said. "I am not pleased with the new thoughts that I will have (about Maria's death). Some things I wish I did not know."
The half dozen relatives of McCullough at the trial all said they wanted a guilty verdict.
Members of both families hugged each other after the lanky McCullough was led away in handcuffs. When sentenced later this year, he faces the possibility of life behind bars.
One of his half-sisters, Janet Tessier, who told police about her mother's deathbed comments, spoke with her eyes still red from tears.
"He is as evil as prosecutors painted — and some," she said minutes after the verdict.
At a news conference later where Maria's brother and sister spoke, Tessier asked if she could step up and say something to them — to apologize her brother wasn't caught decades earlier.
"I'm so sorry," she said, her voice cracking as she looked at the Ridulphs. "I'm so sorry it took so long."

Reconstructing the Stasi Files

puzzleWhen the Berlin Wall came down, the East German secret police, known as Stasi, knew their days were numbered, so they began to shred their extensive files. And when the shredders broke down, they tore documents into pieces. What they left behind is the biggest jigsaw puzzle ever. Twenty years later, little progress had been made reconstructing documents from the six hundred million pieces of paper, according to Joachim Haussler of the present Stasi archives authority.
So now the authorities are turning to technology. Computers, says Haussler, are "quicker, cheaper and can match and remember things humans can't". The particular computer taking on the task is the "ePuzzler" made by the same people who invented the mp3 player - the Fraunhofer Institute in Berlin.

Bits of torn paper of all shapes and sizes are taken out of the sacks, ironed flat, then scanned.

Each piece, however small, is given a computer file into which is entered any information about, say, paper colour, handwriting or print on it, any significant acronyms that might link it to a particular Stasi office.

Then a complex mathematical programme is brought into action matching that information and the paper's shape with other fragments from among the millions.  
Read how computers are reconstructing East German history, and what is being revealed, at BBC News

'Berlin Man,' doctor convinced HIV cure is real

The first person reportedly cured of HIV said Wednesday he is hopeful that medical advances will allow others suffering from the virus that causes AIDS to be cured, too.
Timothy Ray Brown of San Francisco is known as "The Berlin Patient" because of where he was treated. He and the doctor who treated him, Gero Hutter, made their first joint appearance in the U.S. on Wednesday when Hutter spoke at a symposium on gene therapy at Washington University in St. Louis.
Scientists are studying whether gene therapy can be used to rid the body of HIV. Some doctors remain skeptical that Brown, 46, is cured. His case was first reported in the media in 2008 and described in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009.
Brown and Hutter, in an interview with The Associated Press during the symposium, said the passage of time is further proof that Brown is cured. Hutter cited the same five-year standard after which some cancer patients are said to be cured.
Brown was diagnosed with HIV in 1995. In 2006, he also developed leukemia while living in Germany. Hutter performed a blood stem cell transplant using a donor with a rare gene mutation that provides natural resistance to HIV. Hutter said that resistance transferred to Brown.
Brown said he feels great, has not needed HIV medication since the 2007 surgery, and is now active in a foundation named for him that seeks a cure for HIV.
Brown grew up in Seattle and moved to Germany in 1993. After the HIV diagnosis, he started on medication to prevent him from developing full-blown AIDS.
He was attending a wedding in New York in 2006 when he became unusually tired. An avid cyclist, within weeks he could barely ride the bike and eventually was diagnosed with leukemia.
Brown underwent chemotherapy but needed a blood stem cell transplant and turned to Hutter, a blood specialist at Heidelberg University.
Hutter suggested they seek a donor with a certain cell feature that gives them natural resistance to HIV infection. Only about 1 percent of the northern European population has this feature. Hutter theorized that a transplant from such a donor could make the recipient resistant to HIV.
Hutter said no one apparently had tried this, and his idea received mixed reaction from other doctors. "Some were very excited, but many were skeptical," he said.
But within weeks, Hutter said, tests showed promise that Brown was cured.
"I don't know if I really believed it was cured" until the case was described in the New England Journal of Medicine, Brown said.
Earlier this year, doctors in California found traces of HIV in Brown's tissue, leading to speculation that the disease had returned. But Hutter said the traces are remnants of the disease that can't replicate or cause a recurrence.
The symposium in St. Louis was hosted by the university's Biologic Therapeutics Center, which seeks to advance the use of gene therapy. Speakers said gene therapy has helped treat cancer, hemophilia and other diseases.
So far, Brown is the only person believed to have been cured of HIV. Hutter began procedures in 2008 with 12 other people who had both HIV and cancer, but some were too sick to undergo treatment, and others couldn't find matching donors or ran into other roadblocks.

Pakistani man's impressive but ‘un-Islamic’ mustache caused him to flee his hometown

Malik Ameer Muhammad Afridi has become a celebrity in his own right owing to his 30-inch long mustache curling up to his forehead which he proudly displays along the streets of Peshawar. Aside from the usual looks of amusement, Afridi’s gangling mustache managed to draw the attention of members of militant group Lashkar-e-Islami. The iconoclastic facial hair caused him to abandon his hometown of Bara in Khyber Agency after the militants declared it ‘un-Islamic’.

“It was the summer of 2008, when members of the LeI arrested me and took me to a religious scholar who declared the mustache un-Islamic and ordered it to be shaved,” he said. The pride of Afridi’s life was shaved at gunpoint. Refusing to be cowed by the militants’ threats, however, he decided to move to Peshawar so that his mustache may thrive unfettered. Afridi said he has not been able to visit his hometown for four years owing to the threat of ‘anti-moustache’ militants.

“I left my dear homeland, my friends and relatives and prepared to sacrifice all that but will not compromise my mustache,” he said. Afridi has been living in Peshawar after braving ‘anti-mustache’ hardliners in Khyber Agency. Now, he proudly displays his handle-bar mustache in the relatively secure environs of the provincial capital. The 47-year-old runs an electronics business in Deen Plaza and says, “My mustache style is unique. It has made my tribesmen proud as no one in Pakistan has such a mustache.”

Afridi also said his mustache had gained him respect, adding that people even give him their turn while standing in queues outside banks and other places. Afridi’s mustache-care regime is elaborate. Spending 30 minutes grooming himself every day, he uses oil extracts of almond and coconut to nourish the hair. He then fashions the handlebar whiskers into crescent-like curls using a German-made gel. However, his gangling whiskers did not amuse his wife. She urged him to get rid of it since he had run afoul of the militants. Despite his wife’s protestations, Afridi said he would only surrender his mustache – over his dead body.

Man Paid School Tuition with Mail-In Rebates

It sounded like a plot straight out of Seinfeld, but Jonathan Hood really did pay his school tuition with mail-in rebates.
Most companies send rebates in the form of prepaid debit cards, while about a third use cash or checks, he said. Almost all the rebates Hood uses are "free-after-rebate" offers, which means he's refunded the full amount.
[...] it was a month ago that he achieved his greatest feat so far: Using rebates to cover almost a semester's worth of tuition at Auburn University, where he's studying for his PhD.
"Tuition for this semester was $4,500," he said. "I paid over $2,500 of it with prepaid debit cards [from rebates] and a little over $1,000 of it with rebate checks."
He estimates he entered between 200 and 250 prepaid debit cards into the University's online bill pay system. After all the rebates were counted, he was left with less than $1,000 to pay out of pocket.
Find out how Jonathan was able to do it over at this Business Insider article by Mandi Woodruff: here.

Canadian mint claims copyright over pictures of pennies

The Canadian mint sent a legal threat to a folk-singer called Dave Gunning, objecting to his use of photos of pennies in the liner notes on his latest CD, No More Pennies, which eulogizes the Canadian one-cent piece, now discontinued.
My friends in the commonwealth sometimes don't understand what the practical difference is between "Crown copyright" (where the government holds a copyright to the works it creates at taxpayers' expense) and the US system, where government works automatically enter the public domain. But here it is: the right of Canadian artists to create art about the decisions of the Canadian government is contingent on the government's permission -- and is subject to an arbitrary fee levied by the state.
After a good deal of public embarrassment, the mint backed down, but it continues to assert that it holds a copyright in the image of Canadian currency.
On the other hand, if Mr Gunning wants to reissue his CD jacket with pictures of American pennies, he'll be on safe ground.
The Globe and Mail's Brad Wheeler describes Gunning's answer to the mint:
After an initial run of 2000 albums had already been produced, Gunning was notified that he’d need to to pay $1,200 for the rights to the penny image. After Gunning spoke to CBC Radio One’s Mainstreet Halifax about the fee and a “penny drive” to cover the costs, the Mint waived the royalty.
The ubiquitous currency will no longer be circulated in Canada as of Feb. 4, 2013. No More Pennies, Gunning’s 10th album, is, in his words, a “heartfelt tribute to the passing of the penny.” The vanishing of the loosest of loose change is a metaphor for the passing of time.
Although the copyright fee for the album’s initial run of 2,000 albums was waived, the Mint has conditions tied to any future copies of the CD. Gunning has made the requested alterations to the original design and has resubmitted his application for permission to use the one-cent likenesses. The Mint will now decide on what amount, if any, it will charge the musician. “We’re not preventing Dave Gunning from commemorating the penny through his album,” says Christine Aquino, the Mint’s communications director. “The issue is the use of the image, and we’ll be working with him on that.”
Canadian folk singer fighting with the Mint over pennies

Fifteen of the World’s Most Expensive Foods

Restaurants love to come up with extravagant recipes that are worth their weight in gold -in publicity. Whether anyone actually pays such outrageous prices are another matter. And if they do, it's a clear case of conspicuous consumption. Jill Harness found 15 such dishes offered by restaurants around the world that neither you nor I will ever be able to order. Pictured here is the Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata, containing caviar, lobster, and other yummy stuff that will set you back $1,000 a serving.  More

How the French Revolution Gave Birth to the Restaurant Business

The next time you’re at your favorite cafe, raise a glass to the aristocrats who lost their heads so that you could enjoy your foie gras.revolution

France gave birth to restaurants, but it was no civilized affair. In fact, today’s restaurant business is actually a byproduct of the class warfare that arose during the French Revolution.

Back in the Middle Ages, fine dining was a privilege enjoyed exclusively by feudal lords who had their own grand kitchens and personal chefs. The only commercial eateries for the masses were seedy roadside inns, where strangers crowded around mediocre buffets of tepid roasts and over-sauced legumes. But sometime in the 1760s, the merchant class of Paris developed a taste for healthy light broths known as restoratives, or restaurants. By the 1780s, this new Parisian “health food” craze led to a handful of reputable dining halls, where customers could sit at individual tables and choose from a wide range of dishes.

Ironically, the popularity of these restaurants grew at a time when the bulk of the French population couldn’t afford bread. Decades of harsh winters and oppressive taxation had taken their toll on kitchen tables. Worse still, the greater part of the nation’s tax dollars had gone to pay for the excesses of the aristocracy and monarchy. By 1789, the starving French masses could no longer be controlled. Looting and riots erupted throughout Paris, ushering in the French Revolution.

Aristocrats fled to the countryside, leaving behind their highly skilled chefs and the fine wines from their cellars. Suddenly, unemployed cooks and abandoned bottles found their way to the city’s eateries, and within a year, nearly 50 elegant restaurants had popped up in Paris. These epicurean temples catered to the new class of French deputies and businessmen and were featured in travelogues throughout Europe. As word of their deliciousness spread, Parisian restaurants became tourist attractions on par with Notre Dame.

Admittedly, fine dining hit a rocky period during the Reign of Terror of 1793-94, when anyone suspected of ties to the aristocracy risked facing the guillotine. One unfortunate proprietor, Jean-François Véry, hung a sign over his door that read, “We welcome people of the best sort.” The elitist sentiment quickly landed him in prison. Still, Véry was the exception. Most Parisian restaurants kept up a lively trade, their tables replete with fine hams and pâtés. And most patrons felt safe enough within their walls to joke about Robespierre, the grandmaster of the Reign of Terror, and how he couldn’t afford to send his spies there.

The Restaurant King

The restaurant business truly came into its own during the early 1800s, after the upstart general Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the country and granted “freedom of pleasure” to all citizens. Napoleon reasoned that people who were focused on Champagne and sauce reductions probably wouldn’t conspire against him. A few years later, when Napoleon’s military conquests brought fantastic wealth to Paris, restaurants began to compete for customers with marble decor and salacious entertainment. One establishment featured bare-breasted women dressed as Amazon warriors, who were lowered from the ceiling in golden chariots.

In the end, many more Frenchmen dined out than could actually afford the experience. Oddly, it became almost commonplace for customers to steal knives and spoons. One waiter at the upscale restaurant Naudet’s spotted a patron pocketing the flatware and politely handed him a bill that included “Cutlery, 54 francs.” The customer paid up cheerfully, tut-tutting, “How dear things are getting these days…” But this only goes to show how far restaurants had come. In less than a century, fine dining went from being the exclusive privilege of people born with silver spoons in their mouths to a must-have for people who stole them.

Historical Geniuses and Their Possible Mental Disorders

by Kathy Benjamin

Studies have shown that there are much higher instances of mental disorder in political leaders and creative geniuses than in the general population. And while it’s impossible to be completely sure of a correct diagnosis of a historical figure, that hasn’t stopped researchers from making educated guesses. Here’s a speculative look at the mental health of 11 of history’s big thinkers.

1. Abraham Lincoln – Depression?

The Great Emancipator managed to lead the country through one of its more trying times, despite suffering from severe depression most of his life. According to one Lincoln biographer, letters left by the president’s friends referred to him as “the most depressed person they’ve ever seen.” On at least one occasion, he was so overcome with “melancholy” that he collapsed. Both his mother and numerous members of his father’s family exhibited similar symptoms of severe depression, indicating he was probably biologically susceptible to the illness. Lincoln is even assumed to be the author of a poem published in 1838, “The Suicide’s Soliloquy,” which contains the lines:
Hell! What is hell to one like me
Who pleasures never knew;
By friends consigned to misery,
By hope deserted too?

2. Ludwig von Beethoven – Bipolar Disorder?

When the composer died of liver failure in 1827, he had been self-medicating his many health problems with alcohol for decades. Sadly, much of what he may have suffered from probably could have been managed with today’s medications, including a serious case of bipolar disorder. Beethoven’s fits of mania were well known in his circle of friends, and when he was on a high he could compose numerous works at once. It was during his down periods that many of his most celebrated works were written. Sadly, that was also when he contemplated suicide, as he told his brothers in letters throughout his life. During the early part of 1813 he went through such a depressive period that he stopped caring about his appearance, and would fly into rages during dinner parties. He also stopped composing almost completely during that time.

3. Edvard Munch – Panic Attacks?

The world’s most famous panic attack occurred in Olso during January 1892. Munch recorded the episode in his diary:
“One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature.”
This experience affected the artist so deeply he returned to the moment again and again, eventually making two paintings, two pastels, and a lithograph based on his experience, as well as penning a poem derived from the diary entry. While it isn’t known if Munch had any more panic attacks, mental illness did run in his family; at the time of his episode, his bipolar sister was in an asylum.

4. Michelangelo – Autism?

You might have wondered in the past just how someone could paint something as huge as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. According to a paper published in the Journal of Medical Biography in 2004, Michelangelo’s single-minded routine may have been due to the disorder. According to descriptions by his contemporaries, the painter was “preoccupied with his own reality.” Most of the male members of his family are recorded to have exhibited similar symptoms. Michelangelo also seems to have had difficulty forming relationships with people; he had few friends and didn’t even attend his brother’s funeral. All of this, combined with his obvious genius in math and art, led the researchers to believe that today Michelangelo would be considered high functioning on the autism spectrum.

5. Charles Dickens – Depression?

By his early 30s, Dickens was the most famous author in the world. He was wealthy and seemed to have it all. But after an unbelievably difficult childhood, which saw the author working in a boot factory and living on his own when his father was thrown in prison, Dickens would start falling into depressions with the start of each new novel. The first one to cause him problems was one of his lesser-known works, The Chimes, in 1844. After that, Dickens’ friends wrote that he became down every time he set to work on a new project, but that his mood would gradually lift until he was in a kind of mania by the time he finished. His depression worsened with age, and he eventually separated from his wife – the mother of his ten children – to live with an 18-year-old actress. After he was involved in a train crash four years before his death, in which he was uninjured but was forced to assist dying passengers before help came, his depression seems to have finally staunched his creativity, and his previously prolific output virtually ceased.

6. Charles Darwin – Agoraphobia?

Scholars still debate just exactly what problems Darwin suffered from, but whatever they were, they were serious. Despite his famed five year voyage on the Beagle (and the publication it led to) making his career, Darwin was virtually incapacitated the entire time. While he concentrated on his physical symptoms as the cause of all his suffering, the constant trembling, nausea, hysterical crying, and visual hallucinations (among other things) seem to have been mostly caused by a severe case of agoraphobia that kept him virtually bedridden from the time he turned thirty. Darwin’s fear of people meant he would even avoid conversations with his own children, writing, “I am forced to live… very quietly and am able to see scarcely anybody and cannot even talk long with my nearest relations.” In at least one letter he mentions feeling like committing suicide due to the publication of On the Origin of Species, the controversy over which caused him much distress. He may have also suffered from OCD and/or hypochondria, as he kept meticulous records of every new or recurring symptom.

7. Winston Churchill – Bipolar Disorder?

Like Lincoln, Churchill was a great leader dealing not only with international strife but his own mental struggles at the same time. In his 30s, he complained to his friends that he was hounded by the “black dog of depression.” He sat in the Houses of Parliament and contemplated suicide. Churchill told his doctor that he had to be careful where he stood in a train station:
“I don’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through,” he told his doctor. “I like to stand right back and if possible get a pillar between me and the train. I don’t like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second’s action would end everything. A few drops of desperation.”
The black dog would follow him the rest of his life. When in his mild manic phases he was personable, but his moods could change quickly. During periods of high mania he would stay up all night writing, eventually producing 43 books on top of attending to his political duties.

8. Vaslav Nijinsky – Schizophrenia?

While not well-known today, in the early 1900s, Nijinsky was a household name. Considered the greatest male dancer of his era, he was famous for his intense performances, gigantic leaps, and ability to dance on his toes (en pointe), something uncommon among male dancers at the time. When he took to choreographing ballets, his modern take on the dance led to a riot. By the time Nijinsky was 26, the symptoms of his disease were affecting his work. He spent the rest of his life in and out of mental hospitals, often going weeks at a time without saying a word.

9. Kurt Gödel – Persecutory Delusions?

Gödel was a brilliant logician and mathematician, as well as a contemporary and great friend of Albert Einstein. Einstein’s super-intelligence might have made him seem a little odd to the average person, but he doesn’t seem to have suffered from any actual mental illnesses. Gödel, on the other hand, thought that someone was out to poison him. He was so sure of this delusion, especially later in life, that he would only eat food that his wife had cooked, and usually made her taste it first, just to be sure. When his wife was hospitalized for six months, Gödel simply stopped eating and starved to death.

10. Leo Tolstoy – Depression?

Tolstoy did not suffer from obvious signs of depression until middle age, but when it hit him, it hit hard. He went through serious personality changes, questioning virtually everything in his life. At times he debated giving away all of his possessions, becoming celibate, and the nature of his religious beliefs (or lack thereof). At one point he was determined to give up writing altogether, saying, “art is not only useless but even harmful.” Tolstoy is a perfect example of someone who seemingly has everything brought low by this disease: despite coming from a wealthy family, being celebrated as an author, and being father to 13 children, eventually his demons drove him to seriously consider suicide. He wrote in one letter, “The possibility of killing himself has been given to man, and therefore he may kill himself.” Eventually Tolstoy pulled himself out of this hole by becoming what we would now consider a born-again Christian.

11. Isaac Newton – Everything?

One of the greatest scientists of all time is also the hardest genius to diagnose, but historians agree he had a lot going on. Newton suffered from huge ups and downs in his moods, indicating bipolar disorder, combined with psychotic tendencies. His inability to connect with people could place him on the autism spectrum. He also had a tendency to write letters filled with mad delusions, which some medical historians feel strongly indicates schizophrenia. Whether he suffered from one or a combination of these serious illnesses, they did not stop him from inventing calculus, explaining gravity, and building telescopes, among his other great scientific achievements.

Mona Lisa Coming Back from the Grave?

The remains of Lisa Gherardini, thought to be the famous Mona Lisa, have likely been found at a Florentine convent. Read more
Mona Lisa Coming Back from the Grave?

World's Oldest Color Film Footage Discovered In Museum Archive

Cached away for over a century, the world's first color moving pictures have been shown for the first time last Wednesday, according to the National Media Museum in the UK. The celluloid, shot by inventor Edward Raymond Turner in 1899, was actually in black and white and it was only through a curator's research that its colorful significance was also unearthed.

When the footage was first shot, each frame was run consecutively through red, green or blue gels, and the process needed to be reversed during projection to reveal the color. Fortunately, a blueprint by the inventor of how to do just that was also found, allowing the institution's team to replicate the process digitally to produce the final footage.

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Jane Mansfield

A Wet Surprise: Drier Soils May Spur Rain

Drier soils are more likely to trigger storms than nearby wetter soils.
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Isaac Churned Up Tar from Gulf Spill, BP Confirms

Tar turning up along the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Isaac has been traced to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Read more

World’s hottest temperature cools a bit

If you think this summer was hot, it’s nothing compared to the summer of 1913, when the hottest temperature ever recorded was a searing 134 F in Death Valley, Calif. But while that reading was made 99 years ago, it is only being recognized today by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) as the most extreme temperature ever recorded. That’s because an international team of meteorologists recently finished an in-depth investigation of what had been the world-record temperature extreme of 58 C (136.4 F), recorded on Sept. 13, 1922 in El Azizia, Libya. The group found that there were enough questions surrounding the measurement and how it was made that it was probably inaccurate, overturning the record 90 years to the day it was recorded.
1923p azizia 01w 150x150 Worlds hottest temperature cools a bit 
“We found systematic errors in the 1922 reading,” said Randy Cerveny, an Arizona State University President’s Professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “This change to the record books required significant sleuthing and a lot of forensic records work,” added Cerveny, who also is the Rapporteur of Climate and Weather Extremes for the WMO, the person responsible for keeping worldwide weather records.
Officially, the “new” world record temperature extreme is 56.7 C (134 F), recorded on July 10, 1913, at Greenland Ranch in Death Valley, Calif., USA.
“In the heart of every meteorologist and climatologist beats the soul of a detective,” said Cerveny. In this case the weather detectives had to work around an unfolding revolution in Libya.
Cerveny said the El Azizia temperature had long been thought as dubious. It was recorded in 1922 at what then was an Italian army base.
The international meteorological team – which included experts from Libya, Italy, Spain, Egypt, France, Morocco, Argentina, U.S. and the UK – identified five major concerns with the El Azizia temperature record. They included the use of antiquated instrumentation, a likely inexperienced observer, an observation site which was not representative of the desert surroundings, poor matching of the extreme to other nearby locations and poor matching to subsequent temperatures recorded at the site.
The WMO evaluation committee concluded the most compelling scenario for the 1922 event was that a new and inexperienced observer, not trained in the use of an unsuitable replacement instrument that could be easily misread, improperly recorded the observation. The reading was consequently in error by about seven degrees Celsius (12.6 F).
The detective work Cerveny describes included finding and examining the original log sheet, which he said was very useful. In reconstructing the events, Cerveny describes a person new to making temperature measurements being asked to make the measurements with a “Six-Bellini thermometer,” which even by 1922 standards was an obsolete piece of technology. By reviewing the logs, it became apparent that the person who recorded the temperature was transposing what he read from the thermometer, consistently scoring the readings in the wrong column of the log.
“One of the problems with a Six-Bellini thermometer is that the indicator—the pointer—to the temperature scale could conceivably be read at the top of the pointer or the bottom of the pointer,” Cerveny explained. “If an inexperienced observer used the top of the pointer rather than the bottom, he would have been as much as 7 C in error. ”
Other telling forensic information included the general location of where the measurement was made – El Azizia is roughly 35 miles southwest of Tripoli, which is on the Mediterranean coast – and the fact that the record temperature pretty much stood out among all of the other recorded values near the El Azizia location.
“When we compared his observations to surrounding areas and to other measurements made before and after the 1922 reading, they simply didn’t match up,” Cerveny said.
Investigation during a revolution
The investigation was launched in 2010 and soon after the revolution in Libyan started to form. The Libyan official on the team (Khalid El Fadli, director of the climate section of the Libyan National Meteorological Center) fell out of contact with the rest of the team for about eight months and the investigation went into a suspended state. Then El Fadli sent word that he was safe (although he and his family left Tripoli for a while to avoid being accidently shot in the turmoil) and he could resume his role in the investigation. But another three weeks passed before El Fadli was heard from again.
“Khalid El Fadli did this at great risk to himself,” Cerveny said. “He was an official of the previous regime, so when the revolution began to turn, his safety was a key concern.”
Fortunately, after the revolution, El Fadli could resume his duties as a lead meteorologist with the new government and the investigation started up again.
Beyond establishing bragging rights, Cerveny said the world record highest temperature does have some important uses.
“This is the highest recorded temperature of where people live, so this type of data can help cities that exist in such environments to design buildings that are best suited for these extremes,” he said. “Knowing the maximum temperatures certain materials must endure leads to better products and designs. That’s why many auto manufactures have test tracks in the hot Mohave desert.
Cerveny added that there also are important basic science implications in this finding.
“This investigation demonstrates that, because of continued improvements in meteorology and climatology, researchers can now reanalyze past weather records in much more detail and with greater precision than ever before,” Cerveny explained. “The end result is an even better set of data for analysis of important global and regional questions involving climate change.”

Guatemala's Volcan de Fuego erupts

There are two major active volcanoes in the Sacatepéquez department of Guatemala, and one of them is very active Thursday: Volcán de Fuego, or "the fire volcano" (as contrasted with its adjacent twin, Volcán de Agua, or "the water volcano"). The last time this volcano erupted was in 2011. Mashable gathered some "citizen"-published photos and videos, here's a roundup of pics at Prensa Libre, and here's an AP item. Many evacuations, which is routine whenever the volcano wakes up; no casualties at this time.

Astronomical News

Old Supernova Seen in Super Size

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Interstellar Travel Is Hard, Why Bother?

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Interstellar Travel Is Hard, Why Bother?

Dark Energy Really IS Real

Mysterious dark energy really is out there, pervading the cosmos, speeding up the expansion of the universe. Read more
Dark Energy Really IS Real

Flurry of Evidence for CO2 Snow on Mars

For the first time NASA announces evidence of a carbon dioxide snowfall on Mars. Read more
Mars snow

Kepler Mission Finds an Entire System of Planets Orbiting a Double Star

NASA's Kepler Mission has just discovered an entire system of planets orbiting a double star. The star system, known as Kepler-47, is located 4,900 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. Two stars orbit one another at the center of the system: One is similar to the sun in size, but only 84 perc
ent as bright. The second star is smaller, only one-third the size of the sun and less than 1 percent as bright. Kepler found two planets orbiting this mismatched pair.

"In our search for habitable worlds, we have just found more opportunities for life to exist," said William Borucki, Kepler mission principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center.

"The presence of a full-fledged planetary system orbiting Kepler-47 is an amazing discovery," says Greg Laughlin, professor of Astrophysics and Planetary Science at the University of California in Santa Cruz. "This is going to change the way we think about the formation of planets."
The inner planet, Kepler-47b, closely circles the pair of stars, completing each orbit in less than 50 days. Astronomers think it is a sweltering world, where the destruction of methane in its super-heated atmosphere might lead to a thick global haze. Kepler-47b is about three times the size of Earth. The outer planet, Kepler-47c, orbits every 303 days. This puts it in the system's habitable zone, a band of orbits that are "just right" for liquid water to exist on the surface of a planet.

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Obese elephants given slimming help

Elephant Authorities are on a drive to help the animals lose weight
Authorities in India are being presented with an massive task: managing the weight of obese elephants kept in temples.
In parts of India, elephants are kept in temples for religious reasons - taking part in ceremonies and festivals.
Efforts are on in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu to get these over-pampered tusked animals to slim down, officials have told the BBC.
Almost all the elephants kept in temples in the state have been found to be obese.
Accordingly, officials are temple officials are reconfiguring the diets of their temple elephants on the advice of veterinary surgeons.
"The female temple elephant - 15 year-old Parvathi - is overweight by 500kg and efforts are on to reduce it," said Pon Jayaraman, executive officer of the Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple told the BBC Tamil service.
Another elephant in the Kallazagar Temple weighs 700kg more than the optimum for its age, according to Ravindran, the "Mahout" - or custodian - of the 48-year-old female elephant -Madhuravalli.
But veterinary surgeons point out that obesity and captivity go hand in hand.
Elephants eat up to 200 different varieties of food in the jungle, including fruits, flowers, roots and branches, but in captivity their diets often lack variety.
The experts also point out that the elephants in the wilderness are never exposed to foods such as rice, millets, salt and jaggery (an unrefined sugar set into blocks).
Uphill trek Wild elephants wander, trek uphill, cross streams and walk on a variety of terrain. They also compete with other wild animals for resources.
A senior forest veterinary officer in the state observed: "In captivity, elephants eat constantly, and that coupled with lack of exercise makes the animals obese."
But temple officials say the elephants are taken for walks of at least 5km each day based on vet advice.
But research has shown that in the wilderness an elephant has to walk at least 20 sq km to find its daily food intake of around 250kg of plant matter.
Taking the elephant outside for daily walks raises many issues says Ravindran.
Elephants in the wild live up to 120 years, but in the case of temple elephants, the devotees who visit the temple feed the animal without restrictions, either out of affection or religious reasons.
'Grave sin'
Dr AJT John Singh, former director the Wildlife Institute of India, called the practice a "grave sin".
"It's like confining a solitary person in... the middle of the forest," he said.
"Elephants are social animals and have amazing social bonds with one another. Breaking that, and keeping the animal alone, is like solitary confinement, the greatest form of punishment to a human being."
Temple authorities say that a near natural environment has been created for the elephants. But this is strongly disputed by animal rights activists.
Many of the temple elephants throughout India - including 37 in the state of Tamil Nadu - are living in appalling conditions, studies have shown.
Superstitions add to the discomfort of the elephants. For example, astrologers suggest feeding elephants will ward off evil.
The reasonable option, according to Dr John Singh, would be for several temples to join together to buy a patch of land with natural cover, water and food so that the animals can wander and be brought to the temple on festive occasions.
Activists have long pointed out that keeping an elephant in a temple itself is abuse and a gross violation of animal rights.
Elephants were employed as war machines in India in ancient times, and a detailed account in the 2,000-year-old book Gajasastra even defines the methods for keeping an elephant healthy.
Vets point out that even feeding the temple elephants other than what they eat in their natural habitat indirectly amounts to abuse.

Dog Keeps Vigil at Owner's Grave for 6 Years

Capitán was adopted as a puppy by Miguel Guzmán of Villa Carlos Paz Cordoba, Argentina, in 2005. He got the German Shepherd for his son Damien, but the puppy loved Miguel. Then in March of 2006, Miguel died. The dog disappeared for a while, and the family thought he'd gone to live with someone else. But when they visited Miguel Guzmán's grave, there was Capitán. The dog refuses to leave the cemetery, even six years later.
Hector Baccega, the administrator of the Villa Carlos Paz Cordoba cemetery, told the press that Capitán has won the affection and respect of all the cemetery caretakers, who always make sure he’s properly fed and up-to-date with his immunizations. At one point they even brought in a vet, after Capitán showed up with a broken leg. Baccega says Capitán walks with him through the cemetery every day, but as night approaches, he always returns to Miguel’s graveside and lays his head down next to the headstone. He feels this amazing dog is teaching humans a valuable lesson about cherishing the memory of their loved ones.

World's 100 Most Endangered Species Listed

The spoon-billed sandpiper (photo above), a small, dull-coloured bird that breeds in Russia and migrates to south-east Asia is an endangered species, one of 100 threatened species placed on a list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Animals from the Most Biologically Diverse Place on Earth

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Spider Monkey

World's Tallest Dog and Cat Named

The Great Dane, Zeus, eats around 30 pounds of food of days and when he stands on his hind legs, he reaches 7 feet, 4 inches. Read more
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Chicago looking for goats to graze at O'Hare

WFLD-TV reports that Chicago recently put out a bid for someone to supply goats to trim the grass at O'Hare International Airport.

Animal Pictures


Leave now stranger… by Edwin Kats