Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cambodian Jungle Woman Returns to Forest

Search Rochom P'ngieng for more...

Cambodia's "jungle woman", who spent 18 years living in a dense forest, has fled back to the wild after struggling to adapt to society.

By Barney Henderson in Kuala Lumpur
Published: 10:00PM BST 28 May 2010

Rochom P'ngieng, now 29-years-old, first disappeared into thick hilly jungle in 1989 when she was a little girl. She was "discovered" in early 2007 and reunited with her family.

However, attempts to reintegrate her have failed. She has not learnt either of the local languages, Khmer or Phnang, prefers to crawl rather than walk, refuses to wear clothes and has made several attempts to return to the forest where she grew up.

Her father, Sal Lou, a policeman, said that she had been making progress recently, but disappeared on Tuesday evening. "She took off her clothes and ran away from the house without saying a word to any of our family members," Mr Lou said.

"Even the day before she fled the house, she still helped the family pick vegetables. She must have gone back to the forest and we still cannot find her." The dramatic reappearance and attempted reintegration of the "jungle girl" has gripped Cambodia, where she is also known as the "half-animal girl" because of her hunched appearance and the fact she makes animal noises rather than speaking.

Mr Lou blames his daughter's second disappearance on "forest spirits". In a society shrouded in mystic beliefs, he has also enlisted a fortune teller to help with the search. He is saving up for an offering of one wild ox, one pig, one chicken and four jugs of wine, which, the mystic assures him, will secure his daughter's return.

A separate theory was offered by local rights group, Ad hoc, which believes that the woman struggled to readapt to society and suffers from stress. "She must have experienced traumatic events in the jungle that have affected her ability to speak," said Penn Bunna.

Rochom first disappeared in 1989 while herding water buffalo with her sister in the province of Ratanakkiri, 400 miles north-east of Phnom Penh.

Her sister has never been found, but Rochom emerged from the jungle, filthy, naked, scared and "looking like a monkey" in February 2007.

She was caught stealing food from a farmer's lunch box after a stakeout.

Locals reported sightings of her with a naked man carrying a sword, who they believe to be a jungle spirit.

Her parents, who had long given up hope of seeing their daughters again, identified her from a scar on her arm and welcomed her back into the family.

However, Mr Lou refused a DNA test. A Cambodian non-governmental organisation believes that it is impossible that a girl of eight could survive in the jungle and that she was actually brought up in captivity.

Neighbours and local authorities are helping the family with the search, but the jungles of Ratanakkiri are among Cambodia's wildest and most isolated.

In November 2004, 34 people from a pro-Khmer Rouge tribe emerged from the jungle where they had been hiding since the fall of the regime in 1979.



Wiki excerpt:

Theories about identity

After hearing about the incident, 45-year-old Sal Lou[3] (or Sar Yo[4]), who belongs to the Pnong ethnic minority[2] and works as a village policeman in Oyadao village, traveled to the area and claimed that the woman was his long-lost daughter. He last saw his daughter when she was eight years old; in 1988, she was lost in the jungle while tending water buffalo near the border to Vietnam.[5] Her six-year-old sister was lost on the same day and has never been found.[3] He identified the girl based on a scar on her arm, supposedly from a knife accident that occurred prior to the girl's disappearance,[5] and by facial features similar to those of her mother, Rochom Soy.[3][4] Though DNA testing was once scheduled, the family later withdrew consent[3] and the DNA tests never took place.[6]

A visiting Guardian reporter observed that the woman had deep scars on her left wrist and ankle, possibly from being held in captivity, as well as feet that did not look as if the woman had lived in the jungle for a long time. She was able to use a spoon without instruction. He called the claim that she was a feral child "almost certainly nonsense", stated that "beyond the family's ardent claims to recognise her, there is no evidence that she is the missing girl", and thought it more likely that she was "a girl brought up in captivity, who somehow escaped, and then found her way to a father who desperately wanted to recover something he had loved and lost."[1] Licadho, a human rights NGO, also believed she might have been a victim of abuse. The woman has marks on her arms that may have been caused by a restraint such as a rope. "We believe that this woman is a victim of some kind of torture, maybe sexual or physical," said Kek Galabru.[7]


Excerpts from the article:

"Dogfish Head’s Theobroma of the Delaware brewery’s “liquid time capsules”: it was created in collaboration with biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern who, according to his University of Pennsylvania webpage, is “known as the ‘Indiana Jones of Ancient Ales, Wines, and Extreme Beverages.’”

..."trace residues of an unidentified beverage on ancient Mesoamerican pottery fragments"...

"The jars and bowls in question dated back to 1400 B.C....excavated from Puerto Escondido in modern-day Honduras, in an area called the Ulúa Valley, known (according to records from the sixteenth century, when the Spanish invaded) for its excellent cacao. Henderson’s theory was that the people of Puerto Escondido had been among the earliest to domesticate Theobroma cacao, and that the pottery fragments he had found might once have contained a “frothy chocolate beverage.”

" a section of his book titled “Theobroma for the Masses,” McGovern describes his collaboration with Dogfish Head craft brewers Sam Calagione and Bryan Selders to create a beer based on the core ingredients of early New World alcohol: chocolate beans (in nib form, as the cacao pods are too perishable to transport from Honduras to Delaware), honey, corn, ancho chillis, and annatto.

McGovern adds: "We might also have tossed in peppery “ear flower” or a hallucinogenic mushroom if they had been available. The fermentation was carried out with a German ale yeast, which is not obtrusive and brings out the flavours of the other ingredients".

"The result? Cloudy and quite strong (9% A.B.V.), but more refreshing than you would think: the chocolate is savoury rather than sweet, and the chilli is just a very subtle, almost herbal, aftertaste. There is almost no head"...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Could Secret Saudi Spill Hold Fix for Gulf Slick?

Chanan Tigay
AOL News
(May 14) -- Even as proposals pour in for cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, one veteran of a massive (and secret) crude spill in the Persian Gulf says he has a tried-and-true solution.

Now if only the people who could make it happen would return his calls.

"No one's listening," says Nick Pozzi, who was an engineer with Saudi Aramco in the Middle East when he says an accident there in 1993 generated a spill far larger than anything the United States has ever seen.
A shrimp boat is used to collect oil with booms in the waters of Chandeleur Sound, La. on May 5.
Eric Gay, AP
A shrimp boat collects oil with booms in the waters of Chandeleur Sound, La., on May 5. An engineer who witnessed a crude spill in the Persian Gulf in 1993 says BP should use a fleet of empty supertankers to suck crude off the water's surface.

According to Pozzi, that mishap, kept under wraps for close to two decades and first reported by Esquire, dumped nearly 800 million gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf, which would make it more than 70 times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.

But remarkably, by employing a fleet of empty supertankers to suck crude off the water's surface, Pozzi's team was not only able to clean up the spill, but also salvage 85 percent of the oil, he says.

"We took [the oil] out of the water so it would save the environment off the Arabian Gulf, and then we put it into tanks until we could figure out how to clean it," he told AOL News.

While BP, the oil giant at the center of the recent accident, works to stanch the leak from the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig, Pozzi insists the company should be following his lead.

AOL News could not independently verify Pozzi's account, but one former Aramco employee did acknowledge that there was a large spill in the region in the early '90s, and that Aramco had used tankers to clean up earlier oil slicks.

Pozzi, now retired, spent 17 years of his career in Saudi Arabia, part of it as a manager in Aramco's technical support and maintenance division.

Shortly after the April 22 sinking of the Deepwater Horizon, he and a friend, Houston attorney Jon King (with whom Pozzi recently launched a business called Wow Environmental Solutions), traveled to Houma, La., headquarters for BP's response center, to offer up the lessons he'd learned working in the Persian Gulf.

Ever since, he says, the pair's been stonewalled.

When he called the manager at BP in charge of the cleanup effort, Pozzi says he was told "don't bother me."

"He said, 'Follow procedures,' " Pozzi recalls. "He said, 'I'm taking names and I'm going to sue you.' "

Next, Pozzi and King phoned the president of BP and left a message with his secretary. An hour later, though, they received a call from "from a young lady in BP headquarters" who asked how she might assist them. They told her about their plan -- but have received no further contact.

Then, early this week, the duo say they spoke with Capt. Ed Stanton, the Coast Guard commander overseeing a length of the affected coastline. Stanton asked for a written proposal. That's the last Pozzi and King heard from him.

"It sounds so simple that they turn around and say, 'That was years ago. We've got modern technology now,' " Pozzi says. "But their modern technology isn't working too well."

Last week BP lowered a concrete-and-steel containment dome into the gulf in a highly chronicled effort to cap the underwater leak, only to have to quickly abort that effort.

Meantime, Saudia Arabia is sitting on the world's largest fleet of supertankers. Pozzi suggests that the U.S. government tell the Saudis: " 'Hey, we helped you out, can you help us out? Lend us some supertankers.' For a little payback for helping them out during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait."

Moreover, he says, "there are many, many, many other countries that have oil tankers" that, for a price, could be deployed off Louisiana.

Stephen Reilly, CEO of Slickbar, a leading oil spill equipment and vessels manufacturer, says that while he's unfamiliar with supertankers being used in this way, Pozzi's proposal could well work.

"Any containment area or barge or tanker can be used for reception, and they certainly have the pumping system on board," Reilly says. "So in terms of using assets like that to pump stuff into tanks, by all means."

Pozzi speculates that the reluctance on the part of those he's contacted comes down to one word: cash. When oil tankers are taken out of service for a special project like this, they stop earning money for their owners.

BP, Pozzi says, should "step up to the plate" and offer to pay anyone willing to lend a tanker whatever they would lose in profits by dispatching one of their ships to the gulf region.

BP on Thursday said the cost of battling the spill has reached nearly $450 million.

Calls to BP and Stanton were not immediately returned. The BP press line voice mail message asks anyone offering "technical solutions" to dial another number to "most efficiently" address the suggestion.

During his years with Aramco, Pozzi says, he took a number of approaches to cleaning oil spills, from dumping flour into the sea and hauling out the resultant tar gobs to dropping hay into the slicks and burning it.

The 1993 Persian Gulf spill, Pozzi says, began when Aramco was loading a tanker and "the umbilical cord got away." Oil started spewing from the pumps. Panicked, a line of tankers waiting to be filled began hightailing away from the flammable spray. Massive ships maneuvered in tight quarters. It was chaos.

Because of a confidentiality agreement with Aramco, Pozzi won't describe exactly what happened next, except to say that "there were [then] other mishaps causing other oil to spill."

"The order of magnitude rose exponentially due to the panic level," he says.

The tankers worked for the next six months skimming oil off the water's surface and pumping it into tanks for cleaning. Cleanup efforts went on for several years after that. Still, that such an enormous slick could be successfully cleaned ought to point the way this time around, Pozzi says.

"My guys have worked on a lot of oil spills, and back in the late '80s and early '90s we figured out the best way to clean up oil through lessons learned," he says. "This is what we think they need to do. We know it works."

Or, as King puts it: "We just want them to get off their ass and use multiple solutions to clean this crap."

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Genetically Engineered Fly That Can Smell Light

From the article:

Do I smell a banana? Nope. It’s a blue light I’m smelling.

Fruit fly larvae made this mistake while participating in a study recently published in Frontiers in Neuroscience Behavior. By adding a light-sensitive protein to certain smell receptors in the larvae, German scientists allowed the genetically engineered bugs to essentially smell light.

The team, under the guidance of Klemens Störtkuhl at Ruhr University Bochum, is attempting to understand “olfactory coding”–how the brain transforms chemical signals into perceptible smells. Normally, a fly’s olfactory receptor neurons only send an electrical signal to its brain when the fly smells something, but by adding a protein the researchers caused a neuron to fire when the one-millimeter bug was basking in blue light.

The fly brain uses some of its 28 olfactory neurons to detect bad smells, and others for good ones. Protein puppeteers, the researchers could pick which neuron to add the light-sensing protein to. The good-smelling neurons respond to a smorgasbord of fly-friendly scents: like banana, marzipan, and glue (apparently rotting fruit gives off these scents). By attaching the light-sensitive protein to one of these neurons, researchers caused the typically light-fearing insects to crawl straight towards the blue glow.

According to a ScienceDaily article, given their successful mapping of these larvae olfactory neurons, the researchers next hope to make adult fruit flies go bananas.

China 'will not protect' Korea ship attackers

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul (28 May 2010) South Korea wants China to increase pressure on its old ally

China "will not protect" whoever sank a South Korean warship in March, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has said.

"China objects to and condemns any act that destroys the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula," Mr Wen was quoted as saying after talks in Seoul.

South Korea has blamed the North for sinking the Cheonan with a torpedo.

Beijing is under pressure to take a strong stance against North Korea but so far has not accepted the findings of an independent investigation.

"The Chinese government will decide its position by objectively and fairly judging what is right and wrong about the incident while respecting the international probe and responses to it by each nation," said Mr Wen.

China has previously called for all sides to show restraint.

The BBC's John Sudworth in Seoul says Beijing's refusal so far to condemn its old ally has been a major source of frustration to South Korea and President Lee Myung-bak.

But some in South Korea will see Mr Wen's comments as a sign of a subtle and careful shift in position by the Beijing authorities, says our correspondent.

A spokesman for Mr Lee said Seoul was "fully concentrating on diplomatic efforts to hold North Korea responsible" for the 26 March attack on the Cheonan, which left 46 sailors dead.

South Korea says an investigation involving international teams has uncovered indisputable evidence that North Korea fired a torpedo at the ship.
Continue reading the main story
John Sudworth
BBC News, Seoul

Wen Jiabao's comment buys Beijing a bit of time and prolongs the really difficult decision - choosing between its understandable desire not to provoke its prickly neighbour, and its need to be seen to be acting as a responsible global power.

The dilemma highlights, some observers say, a tension within China's ruling elite. For the old guard the ties with North Korea run deep, forged on the battlefield of the Korean War in which many Chinese lives were lost fighting on the northern side. For the new generation of leaders, China's growing relationship with South Korea is the way of the future, with two way trade now worth more than $150bn (£100bn) a year.

In the end, these younger voices may win out and North Korea may become to be seen, not as an ally but as a strategic liability. That would be a very bleak prospect for Pyongyang indeed.
Q&A: Inter-Korean crisis Decoding North Korea's wrath

Investigators said they had discovered part of the torpedo on the sea floor which carried lettering that matched a North Korean design.

Seoul has announced a package of measures, including a halt to most trade with North Korea and is also seeking action via the United Nations Security Council.

Pyongyang, which fiercely denies the allegations, has retaliated by scrapping an agreement aimed at preventing accidental naval clashes with South Korea.

It also warned of an immediate attack if the South's navy violated the disputed Yellow Sea borderline - the site of deadly naval skirmishes in 1999 and 2002.

On Tuesday, North Korea announced it would sever all ties with the South. It had also banned South Korean ships and planes from its territory.

Meanwhile, Japan has said it is tightening its already stringent sanctions against North Korea.

It said it was lowering the amount of cash which individuals can send to North Korea without declaring it from 10m yen (£110,000: £75,000) to 3m yen.

The parliament in Tokyo also passed a bill to enable the Japanese coastguard to inspect vessels on the high seas suspected of carrying North Korean weapons or nuclear technology, in line with a 2009 UN Security Council resolution.

The Associated Press news agency quoted the head of the Public Security Intelligence Agency as saying he had ordered officials to keep a closer eye on the some one million North Koreans living in Japan.

North and South Korea are technically still at war after the Korean conflict ended without a peace treaty in 1953.

Mass. Senate passes crackdown on illegal immigrants

May 27, 2010 05:56 PM

By Noah Bierman and Maria Sacchetti, Globe Staff

With one lawmaker citing President Lincoln's respect for the rule of law, the Massachusetts Senate passed a far-reaching crackdown this afternoon on illegal immigrants and those who would hire them, going further, senators said, than any immigration bill proposed over the past five years.

In a surprising turn of events, the legislation replaced a narrower bill that was passed Wednesday over the objections of Republicans.

The measure, which passed on a 28-10 vote as an amendment to the budget, would bar the state from doing business with any company found to break federal laws barring illegal immigrant hiring. It would also toughen penalties for creating or using fake identification documents, and explicitly deny in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants.

The amendment would also require the state’s public health insurance program to verify residency through the Department of Homeland Security, and would require the state to give legal residents priority for subsidized housing.

The amendment will now be part of negotiations with the House as part of the entire state budget.

Supporters, especially Republicans, struck patriotic notes and spoke of the sanctity of the law as they spoke on the Senate floor.

“It was President Lincoln -- and I’m going to paraphrase here -- who suggested that respect for the law should be preached from every pulpit taught by every mother to every child,” said Senator Bruce Tarr, a Gloucester Republican.

But one supporter said that the measure was being passed for practical purposes and would hurt people.

Senator Frederick E. Berry, a Peabody Democrat, complained that one of the Republican sponsors acted like the "Patriots had just won the Super Bowl. ... I am going to vote for it, but I don’t think we ought to rejoice."

Democrats had resisted such a sweeping proposal, but spent last evening negotiating today’s measure, shortly after a new polled showed 84 percent of the liberal-leaning state’s voters supported tough immigration rules barring state services to illegal immigrants.

Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Boston Democrat who opposed the amendment, said the measure had not been properly vetted and would add undue obligations to businesses and state government when they could ill afford it. She said it would cost the state money, while programs for children and public safety are being cut and people in her city are being shot at.

"I just don't think this is an appropriate time to be enforcing an additional cost burden on the state, doing things that are not our job," Chang-Diaz said.

The measure would also close what supporters say is a loophole that allows businesses to register cars under a company name, without identifying the owner by Social Security number and federal tax identification number. It would also crate a toll-free hot line for anonymous reporting of companies that employ illegal immigrants.

The measure comes weeks after immigration measures failed in the House, and amid heightened debate over illegal immigration fueled by the state's election season and Arizona's passage in April of the toughest immigration law in the nation.

Recent polls have found that, while voters supported blocking illegal immigrants' access to public benefits, they were split over whether the Bay State should have a law such as Arizona's.

Thursday's Senate amendment would also authorize the state attorney general's office to broker an agreement with federal authorities to help enforce immigration law. That would be a stark departure for Attorney General Martha Coakley, who has increased outreach to immigrants, encouraging them to file employment complaints, regardless of their legal status. Scores of immigrants whose bosses allegedly failed to pay their wages have turned to her for help in recent years.

The legislation also would increase penalties for driving without a license, one of the main problems facing illegal immigrants in Massachusetts. In November, a panel commissioned by Governor Deval Patrick urged him to push to grant driver's licenses and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, among many other recommendations. Patrick sent the recommendations to his cabinet for study and pledged to return with a proposal in 90 days, but the results have not been made public.

Most immigrants in Massachusetts are here legally, but an estimated 190,000, or 20 percent, are here illegally, according to the census.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Feds Issue Terror Watch for the Texas/Mexico Border

The Department of Homeland Security is alerting Texas authorities to be on the lookout for a suspected member of the Somalia-based Al Shabaab terrorist group who might be attempting to travel to the U.S. through Mexico, a security expert who has seen the memo tells

The warning follows an indictment unsealed this month in Texas federal court that accuses a Somali man in Texas of running a “large-scale smuggling enterprise” responsible for bringing hundreds of Somalis from Brazil through South America and eventually across the Mexican border. Many of the illegal immigrants, who court records say were given fake IDs, are alleged to have ties to other now-defunct Somalian terror organizations that have merged with active organizations like Al Shabaab, al-Barakat and Al-Ittihad Al-Islami.

In 2008, the U.S. government designated Al Shabaab a terrorist organization. Al Shabaab has said its priority is to impose Sharia, or Islamic law, on Somalia; the group has aligned itself with Al Qaeda and has made statements about its intent to harm the United States.

In recent years, American Somalis have been recruited by Al Shabaab to travel to Somalia, where they are often radicalized by more extremist or operational anti-American terror groups, which Al Shabaab supports. The recruiters coming through the Mexican border are the ones who could be the most dangerous, according to law enforcement officials.

Security experts tell that the influx of hundreds of Somalis over the U.S. border who allegedly have ties to suspected terror cells is evidence of a porous and unsecured border being exploited by groups intent on wrecking deadly havoc on American soil.

The DHS alert was issued to police and sheriff’s deputies in Houston, asking them to keep their eyes open for a Somali man named Mohamed Ali who is believed to be in Mexico preparing to make the illegal crossing into Texas. Officials believe Ali has ties to Al Shabaab, a Somali terrorist organization aligned with Al Qaeda, said Joan Neuhaus Schaan, the homeland security and terrorism fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, who has seen the alert.

An indictment was unsealed in Texas federal court earlier this month that revealed that a Somali man, Ahmed Muhammed Dhakane, led a human smuggling ring that brought East Africans, including Somalis with ties to terror groups, from Brazil and across the Mexican border and into Texas.

In a separate case, Anthony Joseph Tracy, of Virginia, who admitted to having ties to Al Shabaab, is currently being prosecuted for his alleged role in an international ring that illegally brought more than 200 Somalis across the Mexican border. Prosecutors say Tracy used his Kenya-based travel business as a cover to fraudulently obtain Cuban travel documents for the Somalis. The smuggled Somalis are believed to have spread out across the United States and remain mostly at large, court records show.

Somalis are classified by border and immigration officials as “special interest” — illegal immigrants who get caught trying to cross the Mexican border into the U.S. who come from countries that are considered a high threat to the U.S., Neuhaus Schaan explained.

DHS did not respond to multiple e-mail and phone requests for comment.

In addition to the Somali immigration issue, Mexican smugglers are coaching some Middle Eastern immigrants before they cross the border – schooling them on how to dress and giving them phrases to help them look and sound like Latinos, law enforcement sources told

“There have been a number of certain communities that have noticed this, villages in northern Mexico where Middle Easterners try to move into town and learn Spanish,” Neuhaus Schaan said. “People were changing there names from Middle Eastern names to Hispanic names.”
Security experts say the push by illegal immigrants to try to fit in also could be the realization of what officials have feared for years: Latin American drug cartels are helping jihadist groups bring terrorists across the Mexican border.

J. Peter Pham, senior fellow and director of the Africa Project at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, said that for the past ten years there’s been suspicion by U.S. law enforcement that drug cartels could align with international terrorist organizations to bring would-be-jihadists into the U.S.

That kind of collaboration is already being seen in Africa, said Dr. Walid Phares, director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

“Al Qaeda could easily say, “Ok, now we want your help getting these guys into the United States,” Phares said. “Eventually the federal government will pay more attention, but there is a window of time now where they can get anyone they want to get in already.”

Experts also say the DHS alert and recent court case highlights the threat of terrorists penetrating the Mexican/Texas border — and the growing threat of Somali recruitment efforts to bring Americans of Somali descent back to Somalia for jihadist training, creating homegrown terrorists.
Pham says the DHS alert comes too late. “They’re just covering themselves for the fact that DHS has been failing to date to deal effectively with this,” he said. “They’re already here.”

Michael Weinstein, a political science professor at Purdue University and an expert on Somalia, said, “In the past year, it’s become obvious that there’s a spillover into the United States of the transnational revolutionaries in Somalia.”

“It’s something that certainly has to be watched, but I don’t think it’s an imminent threat,” he said. “This has to be put in context with people smuggling — everybody and their brother is getting into the United States through Mexico; I read last week that some Chinese were crossing, it’s just a big market.”

Pham disagrees. “The real danger is ‘something along the lines of jihadist version of ‘find a classmate,’ he said, referring to Al Shabaab’s potential to set up sleeper cells in the U.S. “Most of them rely on personal referral and association. That type of social networking is not beyond their capabilities.”

Pham says the DHS alert is too little, too late.

“This is like shutting the barn door after the horses got away,” he said.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kidnapped Chandlers plead for David Cameron to act

A British couple held hostage by Somali pirates have urged UK Prime Minister David Cameron to clarify whether his government will seek their release.

Paul Chandler, 60, and Rachel Chandler, 56, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, were kidnapped while sailing in the Indian Ocean in October.

In an interview broadcast on ITV News, Mr Chandler said they "desperately needed" the PM to make a statement.

The Foreign Office said it had a policy of not negotiating with kidnappers.

The pair spoke to a Somali journalist at the weekend, ITV News reported, adding that the kidnappers had not benefited financially from the interview.

Mr Chandler offered his congratulations to the new prime minister, but urged him to act.
Raised hopes

"As new prime minister, we desperately need him to make a definitive public statement of the government's attitude to us," Mr Chandler said.

"If the government is not prepared to help, then they must say so, because the gangsters' expectations and hopes have been raised at the thought of a new government and there might be a different approach."

The Foreign Office said the British government's policy of "not making or facilitating substantive concessions to hostage-takers, including the payment of ransoms, is long-standing and clear".

A spokesman said: "This has been the policy of successive governments and has not changed. Our thoughts are with their families on the release of this video, and our consular officials are in close touch with them.

"We again urge those holding Paul and Rachel to release them safely, immediately and unconditionally."
'Naive' captors

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said the captors were "rather naively thinking" that a new government in the UK would mean a new policy towards paying the ransom.

He also said that the captors "cannot get it into their heads" that the Chandlers are not wealthy, nor was a big company likely to pay the ransom as sometimes happened for merchant shipping vessels and crews.

The couple said they had been kept apart for almost 100 days of their captivity.

Previously the couple, married for 30 years, have spoken of the "torture" and "torment" of not being held together.

In an interview in March, they said they had been whipped, and Mrs Chandler had been hit with a rifle butt.

Then Prime Minister Gordon Brown raised their case when he met Somali President Sharif Ahmed in the UK in March.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Trial of alleged Somali pirates opens in Netherlands

The first European trial of alleged Somali pirates has opened in the Netherlands.

Five men are accused of seeking to hijack a cargo ship registered in the Netherlands Antilles. They face up to 12 years in prison.

They were arrested in the Gulf of Aden last year when their high-speed boat was intercepted by a Danish patrol vessel.

Pirates attempted more than 200 attacks off the Somali coast in 2009.

Worldwide, there were an estimated 400 pirate attacks.

Many of the suspects arrested in military operations in the Gulf of Aden in recent years have had to be set free for lack of evidence.

This trial, which is taking place at the Rotterdam District Court in the Netherlands, is expected to last five days, and the judgement is expected to be handed down in the middle of next month.

Last Tuesday, a Yemeni court sentenced six Somali pirates to death and jailed six others for 10 years each for hijacking a Yemeni oil tanker and killing two cabin crew in April last year.

Also last Tuesday, another Somali, Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, pleaded guilty in a New York court to seizing a US ship and kidnapping its captain last year. He faces a minimum of 27 years in prison, and is expected to be sentenced in October.

Muse is the only surviving attacker of the Maersk Alabama merchant ship off Somalia's coast in April 2009.
Justice system

The five men being tried in Rotterdam were arrested in January last year after their high-speed boat with firearms was intercepted by a Danish frigate, as they were allegedly preparing to board the cargo ship Samanyolu, which was registered in the Caribbean.

The Netherlands issued European arrest warrants for the five men. They were flown on a military plane from the Gulf state of Bahrain to the Netherlands, where they have been in custody since.

The men's lawyers say they will challenge the jurisdiction of Dutch courts to try the case because the cargo vessel was under the flag of the Netherlands Antilles, which has its own justice system.

They will also argue that the men are poor fishermen, who acted out of despair.

But the prosecution says it is intent on defending the interests of the ships and their crews who were shot at and held hostage by pirates.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Things You See...

Spider by my door at night.

Click to zoom:

New iConji language for the symbol-minded

New app from Over the Sun

May 21, 2010 --
Local technopreneur Kai Staats is setting out to prove that a picture is not worth a thousand words - it's worth one language-spanning, artistically rendered word that he hopes will connect the globe.
iConji on iPhone
Staats, with the help of a team of creative and technical minds, launched iConji this month. iConji is a set of user-created 32x32-pixel symbols - a lexiConji - that represent words or ideas, not dissimilar from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics or American Sign Language. The major difference, of course, is that the symbols are delivered electronically to computers, phones, tablets, etc. Therein lies the key to iConji adoption, Staats hopes.

He pointed out that just over a decade ago, almost half of the world's population had not used a telephone. By the end of 2008, mobile phone use was estimated to include 4 billion people - 60 percent of the global population. The program will start with applications for the Web, Facebook and iPhones. Users can customize their own database of symbols that will display as personalized keyboards. The keyboards, or "buckets," are limited only by the amount of memory space on the device.

Staats developed iConji through his research and development company Over the Sun LLC. It started as a distant idea - an "ah-ha" moment - over a beer with his former business partner Dan Burcaw. Burcaw's company, Double Encore, developed the iPhone app, which is expected to release soon.

In all, Staats worked with more than a dozen other individuals, none of who have training in linguistics or social sciences.

Conjuring iConji has been "the most fun I've ever had," Staats said. And that's the point.

The system has to be fun and interactive to be widely adopted - "as fun as Facebook," Staats explained. He realizes that the language will probably be used mainly as an entertaining tool for texting, but he doesn't think it will end there.

"I want this to be recognized as a full language," he said.

User-generated symbols
Just as languages have evolved over millennia, Staats feels that iConji will progress - much more rapidly - as users submit their own symbols. Not all symbols will transcend cultural barriers. The symbol for "hello" - an open hand with an outward pointing arrow - might carry different connotations in different countries. That's why any user can submit his or her own symbol, with the added incentive of being able to track its use.

In addition to carrying a word meaning, the symbols will also have data tied to them - date-time stamps; geographic location; and the actual language translations. Individual users can even manipulate the symbols they put into their personal "bucket," adding extra information that the recipient can view with a click or a touch on the picture, or small character tags to express grammatical elements such as tense and parts of speech. For example, a small plus sign in the corner of a symbol makes it possessive.

While iConjigation of verbs is not necessary, iConji does have some rules. For one, anyone can contribute to the lexiConji, but the product itself is not open source; the code is proprietary. Symbols representing commercial products are verboten without a license, allowing iConji to remain free for users by generating revenue for commercial symbols. Companies would pay a nominal fee every time their symbol is used, and in return, would be able to know where and when people were discussing the product.

Over the Sun also plans to license a software development kit to encourage others to build iConji apps. Whether the kits will be free has yet to be determined.

Also to be determined are the future uses of (and revenue streams for) iConji. Staats already envisions educational applications, since each symbol carries its own translation. iConji launched in Chinese, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. While iConji isn't meant to compete with translation tools such as iGoogle or Babblefish, it could be useful for language learning.

Like its uses, the future applications for iConji are virtually limitless. Staats mused that the symbols could be associated to musical notes or sounds so that poetry could be a musical composition or vice versa. No matter what the future holds for the program, it will have to start with simple dialogue - an iConjisation.

Kristen Tatti covers technology for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-221-5400, ext. 219 or

Friday, May 21, 2010

Spam email

Dear Beneficiary,

I have a very important information to pass to you. I wrote to know if this is your valid email. Please, let me know if this email is valid .


We Apologize for the delay of your payment and all the Inconveniences and hiccups that we might have caused you. However, we were having some minor problem with our payment systems, which is Inexplicable, and have held us stranded and Indolent, not having the Prerequisite to devote our 100% endowment in accrediting foreign payments. We apologized once again, for the delay. From the Record of outstanding debts due for payment to you for { AWARD LOTTERY FUND CLAIMS/ AND INHERITANCE CLAIM}


Nov. 7, 2010

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I am Mr. C.Y. Ling, alternate CEO of the operations of CITIC Bank
International, China. I have a proposal for you in the tune of One Hundred
& Five Million EUR, after successful transfer, we shall share in the ratio
of forty for you and sixty for me. Please reply for specifics.

Mr. C.Y. Ling.


Mrs.Rosemary Russell.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

'Artificial life' breakthrough announced by scientists

Scientists in the US have succeeded in developing the first synthetic living cell.

The researchers constructed a bacterium's "genetic software" and transplanted it into a host cell.

The resulting microbe then looked and behaved like the species "dictated" by the synthetic DNA.

The advance, published in Science, has been hailed as a scientific landmark, but critics say there are dangers posed by synthetic organisms.

The researchers hope eventually to design bacterial cells that will produce medicines and fuels and even absorb greenhouse gases.

Craig Venter defends the synthetic living cell

The team was led by Dr Craig Venter of the J Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in Maryland and California.

He and his colleagues had previously made a synthetic bacterial genome, and transplanted the genome of one bacterium into another.

Now, the scientists have put both methods together, to create what they call a "synthetic cell", although only its genome is truly synthetic.

Dr Venter likened the advance to making new software for the cell.

The researchers copied an existing bacterial genome. They sequenced its genetic code and then used "synthesis machines" to chemically construct a copy.

Dr Venter told BBC News: "We've now been able to take our synthetic chromosome and transplant it into a recipient cell - a different organism.

"As soon as this new software goes into the cell, the cell reads [it] and converts into the species specified in that genetic code."

The new bacteria replicated over a billion times, producing copies that contained and were controlled by the constructed, synthetic DNA.

"This is the first time any synthetic DNA has been in complete control of a cell," said Dr Venter.
'New industrial revolution'

Dr Venter and his colleagues hope eventually to design and build new bacteria that will perform useful functions.
Continue reading the main story Susan Watts

Even some scientists worry we lack the means to weigh up the risks such novel organisms might represent, once set loose

Susan Watts BBC Newsnight science editor Read Susan Watts's thoughts Send us your comments

"I think they're going to potentially create a new industrial revolution," he said.

"If we can really get cells to do the production that we want, they could help wean us off oil and reverse some of the damage to the environment by capturing carbon dioxide."

Dr Venter and his colleagues are already collaborating with pharmaceutical and fuel companies to design and develop chromosomes for bacteria that would produce useful fuels and new vaccines.

But critics say that the potential benefits of synthetic organisms have been overstated.

Dr Helen Wallace from Genewatch UK, an organisation that monitors developments in genetic technologies, told BBC News that synthetic bacteria could be dangerous.

"If you release new organisms into the environment, you can do more harm than good," she said.

"By releasing them into areas of pollution, [with the aim of cleaning it up], you're actually releasing a new kind of pollution.

"We don't know how these organisms will behave in the environment."
Continue reading the main story

The risks are unparalleled, we need safety evaluation for this kind of radical research and protections from military or terrorist misuse

Julian Savulescu Oxford University ethics professor Profile: Craig Venter Ethics concern over synthetic cell

Dr Wallace accused Dr Venter of playing down the potential drawbacks.

"He isn't God," she said, "he's actually being very human; trying to get money invested in his technology and avoid regulation that would restrict its use."

But Dr Venter said that he was "driving the discussions" about the regulations governing this relatively new scientific field and about the ethical implications of the work.

He said: "In 2003, when we made the first synthetic virus, it underwent an extensive ethical review that went all the way up to the level of the White House.

"And there have been extensive reviews including from the National Academy of Sciences, which has done a comprehensive report on this new field.

"We think these are important issues and we urge continued discussion that we want to take part in."
Ethical discussions

Dr Gos Micklem, a geneticist from the University of Cambridge, said that the advance was "undoubtedly a landmark" study.

But, he said, "there is already a wealth of simple, cheap, powerful and mature techniques for genetically engineering a range of organisms. Therefore, for the time being, this approach is unlikely to supplant existing methods for genetic engineering".

The ethical discussions surrounding the creation of synthetic or artificial life are set to continue.

Professor Julian Savulescu, from the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, said the potential of this science was "in the far future, but real and significant".

"But the risks are also unparalleled," he continued. "We need new standards of safety evaluation for this kind of radical research and protections from military or terrorist misuse and abuse.

"These could be used in the future to make the most powerful bioweapons imaginable. The challenge is to eat the fruit without the worm."

The advance did not pose a danger in the form of bio-terrorism, Dr Venter said.

"That was reviewed extensively in the US in a report from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Washington defence think tank, indicating that there were very small new dangers from this.

"Most people are in agreement that there is a slight increase in the potential for harm. But there's an exponential increase in the potential benefit to society," he told BBC's Newsnight.

"The flu vaccine you'll get next year could be developed by these processes," he added.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

'North Korean torpedo' sank South's navy ship - report

A North Korean submarine's torpedo sank a South Korean navy ship on 26 March causing the loss of 46 sailors, an international report has found.

Investigators said they had discovered part of the torpedo on the sea floor and it carried lettering that matched a North Korean design.

Pyongyang rejected the claim as a "fabrication", South Korea's Yonhap agency reported.

It said the North threatened war if sanctions were imposed by the South.

But South Korean President Lee Myung-bak pledged to take "stern action" against the North.

The White House described the sinking of the ship as an "act of aggression" by North Korea that challenged peace.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the report was "deeply troubling".

The Cheonan went down near the disputed inter-Korean maritime border, raising tension between the two nations, which technically remain at war.

The shattered wreck of the 1,200-tonne gunboat was later winched to the surface, in two pieces, for examination.
'Perfect match'

The investigation was led by experts from the US, Australia, Britain and Sweden.
Continue reading the main story

[North Korea's] actions will deepen the international community's mistrust. The attack demonstrates a total indifference to human life and a blatant disregard of international obligations

William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary

It said: "The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the torpedo was fired by a North Korean submarine.

"There is no other plausible explanation."

The report said the torpedo parts found "perfectly match" a torpedo type that the North manufactures.

Lettering found on one section matched that on a North Korean torpedo found by the South seven years ago.

There had earlier been a number of explanations suggested for the sinking, including an accidental collision with an unexploded sea mine left over from the Korean War.

Mr Lee's presidential office said he had told Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd: "We will be taking firm, responsive measures against the North, and through international cooperation, we have to make the North admit its wrongdoing and come back as a responsible member of the international community."

However, the BBC's John Sudworth in Seoul says agreeing an international response will be difficult as the diplomatic options will be limited.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said on Thursday the sinking of the vessel was "unfortunate" but he would not comment on the international report.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said US President Barack Obama had expressed his "deep sympathy" to Mr Lee and the Korean people.

"The United States strongly condemns the act of aggression that led to their deaths," Mr Gibbs said.

The British embassy in Seoul quoted Foreign Secretary William Hague as saying: "[North Korea's] actions will deepen the international community's mistrust. The attack demonstrates a total indifference to human life and a blatant disregard of international obligations."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nato warship destroys pirate boats in Somali Basin (Sets Pirates free to return to Somalia)

Pirates surrender and are set free with enough fuel to return to Somalia, their other 2 ships destroyed. This is as much retaliation as is allowed on international waters since a trial will result in a release.

A Royal Navy warship on Nato anti-piracy operations has destroyed two pirate boats in the Somali Basin, Nato has said.

HMS Chatham's helicopter spotted a larger vessel towing the two attack boats in the Somali Basin, about 150 miles off Tanzania, on 14 May, it said.

After monitoring the vessels overnight, a Royal Marine team launched a "well-planned operation" at dawn, it said.

Ten Somalis surrendered and the two smaller boats were destroyed.

Commander Simon Huntington, commanding officer of Devonport-based HMS Chatham, said he was "extremely pleased" the warship had "successfully disrupted a pirate attack group operating in the Somali Basin and prevented them from mounting attacks against merchant shipping".

'Considerable fuel'

He said: "This clearly demonstrates Nato's determination and commitment to continue the fight against piracy in the region."

Nato said prior to boarding the boats, the suspected pirates had been observed throwing items, including their weapons and other piracy related equipment, into the sea.

When the Royal Marine team boarded the larger craft, 10 Somalis and a large amount of fuel were found on board.

The two smaller boats had been fitted with powerful outboard engines and also contained a considerable amount of fuel.

Once separated from the larger craft by the Royal Marines team, the warship and its Lynx helicopter destroyed the smaller craft so the suspected pirates could not continue with their mission.

Nato said the 10 Somalis were left with only enough fuel in the larger vessel to return to Somalia.

The search was coordinated with a EU Naval Force Maritime Patrol Aircraft, operating out of the Seychelles.

Scientists Question Safety of New Airport Scanners

May 17, 2010

After the "underwear bomber" incident on Christmas Day, President Obama accelerated the deployment of new airport scanners that look beneath travelers' clothes to spot any weapons or explosives.

Fifty-two of these state-of-the-art machines are already scanning passengers at 23 U.S. airports. By the end of 2011, there will be 1,000 machines and two out of every three passengers will be asked to step into one of the new machines for a six-second head-to-toe scan before boarding.

About half of these machines will be so-called X-ray back-scatter scanners. They use low-energy X-rays to peer beneath passengers' clothing. That has some scientists worried.

'Potential Risk'

"Many people will approach this as, 'Oh, it must be safe, the government has thought about this and I'll just submit to it,'" says David Agard, a biochemist and biophysicist at the University of California, San Francisco. "But there really is no threshold of low dose being OK. Any dose of X-rays produces some potential risk."

Agard and several of his UCSF colleagues recently wrote a letter to John Holdren the president's science adviser, asking for a more thorough look at the risks of exposing all those airline passengers to X-rays. The other signers are John Sedat, a molecular biologist and the group's leader; Marc Shuman, a cancer specialist; and Robert Stroud, a biochemist and biophysicist.

"Ionizing radiation such as the X-rays used in these scanners have the potential to induce chromosome damage, and that can lead to cancer," Agard says.

The San Francisco group thinks both the machine's manufacturer, Rapiscan, and government officials have miscalculated the dose that the X-ray scanners deliver to the skin — where nearly all the radiation is concentrated.

The stated dose — about .02 microsieverts, a medical unit of radiation — is averaged over the whole body, members of the UCSF group said in interviews. But they maintain that if the dose is calculated as what gets deposited in the skin, the number would be higher, though how much higher is unclear.
Understanding Radiation Exposure

Everyone is exposed to radiation; we get some natural exposure from the environment and some from medical imaging like X-rays and CT scans. Some people are concerned about additional radiation from new airport scanners. Government officials have set the recommended limit of radiation exposure from security scanners at 250 microsieverts, which would require 12,500 airport screenings a year to exceed. Below, a chart of some common exposures to radiation, measured in microsieverts, a unit that measures the biological effects of radiation.
Screening at an airport X-ray scanner .02 microsieverts
Negligible risk 10 microsieverts/year
Transcontinental flight 20 microsieverts
Average yearly radiation exposure from the environment 3000 microsieverts
Chest X-ray radiation exposure 100 microsieverts
Mammogram 700 microsieverts
Abdominal CT scan 10,000 microsieverts
Enough to cause radiation sickness 1,000,000 microsieverts
Enough to cause death 6,000,000 to 8,000,000 microsieverts

Risk Overstated?

Rapiscan officials declined to comment. Federal officials have prepared a reply, but the UCSF scientists haven't received it yet. Officials at the Transportation Security Administration and the Food and Drug Administration insist that the dose from the scanners is below negligible.

"An individual would need to go through thousands and thousands of times a year to get to the point where it would even possibly reach the equivalent of one chest X-ray," says Maurine Fanguy of the TSA's Office of Security Technology.

Specifically, using the government's dose calculations, it would take 5,000 trips through one of the back-scatter scanners to equal the 100-microsievert dose of a single chest X-ray.

That's indeed a low dose. But the UCSF scientists aren't the only ones who are concerned. David Brenner, head of Columbia University's Center for Radiological Research, recently aired his worries before the Congressional Biomedical Caucus.

"There really is no other technology around where we're planning to X-ray such an enormous number of individuals," Brenner told the caucus and congressional staffers. "It's really unprecedented in the radiation world."

Brenner's name carries some clout, because he served on a small group of experts convened in 2002 by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements to write guidelines for the security scanners. He now says he wouldn't have signed the report if he had known the X-ray scanners were going to be used on virtually every air traveler.

The scientists don't all agree on the nature of the potential risks. For instance, the UCSF scientists, in their letter to Holdren, worry about effects such as melanoma, a dangerous skin cancer; immune-system problems; breast cancer; mutations in sperm cells; and effects on a developing fetus. But Brenner doubts that X-ray doses from airport scanners would cause these problems.

If you're one of those air travelers, understanding your own risk is a tricky exercise.

Radiation Damage

Brenner says he thinks the danger to most individual travelers is miniscule. But he worries about the unknowns when those very small risks are multiplied times something like 700 million travelers a year.

Recent research, Brenner says, indicates that about 5 percent of the population — one person in 20 — is especially sensitive to radiation. These people have gene mutations that make them less able to repair X-ray damage to their DNA. Two examples are the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 mutations associated with breast and ovarian cancer, but scientists believe many more such defects are unknown.

"I don't know if I'm one of those 5 percent. I don't know if you're one of those 5 percent," Brenner says, "And we don't really have a quick and easy test to find those individuals."

Children are also more vulnerable to radiation damage, because they have more dividing cells at any time. A radiation-induced mutation in their cells can lead to cancer decades later.

Brenner says the most likely risk from the airport scanners is a common type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma, which is usually curable. It often occurs on the head and neck.

The Columbia scientist points out that it would be hard to conceal a weapon on one's head or neck, so he proposes a seemingly simple workaround –- avoid scanning the head and neck.

But TSA officials say that's not practical. Think of the long lines, they say, if the machines had to be adjusted for each passenger's height.

Are they going to break? Possibly. Eventually. Am I really worried there's going to be a significant dose as a result? Not really.

- Daniel Kassiday, FDA specialist on radiation hazards

Screening Optional

In any case, the TSA's Fanguy says the health risk is so tiny that it's not necessary to avoid the head and neck -– or to exempt children.

Screening is optional, Fanguy points out.

"And so parents can choose for children not to undergo screening," she says. "Personally, as a mother of two young children, I want to ensure that all technology that we use is safe. And we would not deploy technology unless we had done very rigorous and thorough health and safety testing."

Fanguy says the new scanners have been found safe by the FDA, the U.S. Army Public Health Command and researchers at the Johns Hopkins University applied physics laboratory.

At the FDA, officials are equally confident.

Daniel Kassiday, a specialist there in radiation hazards, says the radiation put out by an airport scanner is far below what airline passengers get from cosmic rays at 30,000 feet.

"At worst case, flying from New York to L.A., assuming a five-hour flight, it would take 75 screenings to equal the dose you get from that one flight," Kassiday says. "Or more simply, one screening is equivalent to four minutes in the air."

Kassiday also dismisses scientists' concerns that the scanners could malfunction and give passengers too high a dose. The machines have various safety interlocks that would shut the X-ray beam off, he says, if something went wrong.

"Are they going to break? Possibly. Eventually," Kassiday says. "Am I really worried there's going to be a significant dose as a result? Not really."

Safer Alternative

Brenner says there's an obvious answer to all the questions: "Put more interest in millimeter-wave scanners, which as far as we know don't have any radiation risks associated with them."

Millimeter-wave scanners are a different kind of machine that produces images using radio waves, not X-rays. The images are comparable in quality to the X-ray scanners, the TSA says. The cost is also comparable.

The TSA plans to deploy roughly equal numbers of the X-ray and millimeter-wave machines, Fanguy says. So why doesn't the government just use millimeter-wave machines and sidestep all the issues raised by ionizing radiation?

"Our technology strategy is to have more than one vendor available in any one class of product," Fanguy says. "That allows us to get more competitive pricing, and it makes sure that we don't cut off one avenue of technology that would potentially not allow us to take advantage of innovation later."

In other words, the TSA doesn't want to put all its eggs in one basket.

Meanwhile, it doesn't seem many members of the traveling public are worried about the X-ray exposure they may get from the new scanners. That's striking, given the indoctrination everybody gets that radiation is dangerous and should be avoided if possible.

Jason Snipes, for instance, had no qualms about stepping into the back-scatter X-ray machine at Boston's Logan International Airport recently on his way home to Chapel Hill, N.C.

Snipes might worry if his pregnant wife got scanned, he says, "but for me, personally, no, I don't have any concerns or anything like that. And if it helps, I'm all for it."

Most other passengers in line also seemed unconcerned. But not Ivor Benton, an education consultant on his way to Columbus, Ohio.

"I don't think they're safe," Benton says. "What do you expect them to tell you? You expect them to tell you it's unsafe after they've spent millions of dollars for them?"

Benton says Toyotas were supposed to be safe, too, along with children's Tylenol. But problems have cropped up. So he's learned to be skeptical.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The House with a Clock in Its Walls: John Bellairs

I always liked to draw monsters, but as an eight-year old kid in '79 I saw a television adaptation of "The House with a Clock in Its Walls", written by John Bellairs. It caused recurring nightmares that led to my focus on drawing scary stuff in 4th grade. I have searched for it online for a while, remembering only the phrase 'clock in the wall'. I found the book in March of 2010.

The tv adaptation is now posted on youtube, posted in October of 2011 (editing this post on July 14th, 2012). It was one of 3 stories in a series called "Once Upon a Midnight Scary" hosted by Vincent Price. Art Director was Emmy-Award winner, Jeremy Railton who led a very successful career.

The sequence begins at 22:00:

CBS Library {Once Upon a Midnight Dreary)

Story by John Bellairs - I ordered for $2 on amazon, illustrated by Edward Gorey.

More on John Bellairs:

Limitless, Cheap Chips Made Out of DNA Could Replace Silicon

Silicon chips are on the way out, at least if Duke University engineer Chris Dwyer has his way. The professor of electrical and computer engineering says a single grad student using the unique properties of DNA to coax circuits into assembling themselves could produce more logic circuits in a single day than the entire global silicon chip industry could produce in a month.

Indeed, DNA is perfectly suited to such pre-programming and self-assembly. Dwyer's recent research has shown that by creating and mixing customized snippets of DNA and other molecules, he can create billions of identical, waffle-like structures that can be turned into logic circuits using light rather than electricity as a signaling medium.

The process works by adding light-sensitive molecules called chromophores to the structures. These chromophores absorb light, exciting the electrons within. That energy is passed to a different nearby chromophore, which uses the energy to emit light of a different wavelength. The difference in wavelength is easily differentiated from the original light; in computing terms, it's the difference between a one or a zero. Presto: a logic gate.

Rather than running computers and electrical circuits on electricity, light-sensitive DNA switches could be used to move signals through a device at much higher speeds. Furthermore, the waffle structures are cheap and can be made quickly in virtually limitless quantities, driving down the cost of computing power. Once you figure out how you wish to code the DNA snippets, you can synthesize them easily and repeatedly; from there you can create everything from a single logic gate to larger, more complex circuits.

A shift from silicon-based semiconductor chips would be a sea-change for sure, but semiconductors are reaching a technological ceiling and if the economics of DNA-based chips are really as attractive as they seem, change might be inevitable. DNA is already smart enough to be the foundation of life on Earth: why not the foundation of computing as well?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Freed Somali pirates 'probably died' - Russian source

Ten suspected Somali pirates captured by the Russian navy last week may have perished after their release, a defence source in Moscow has told reporters.

Marines seized them during a dramatic operation to free a hijacked Russian oil tanker far from shore, killing an 11th suspect in the gun battle.

They were released in an inflatable boat without navigational equipment.

Within an hour, contact was lost with the boat's radio beacon, the defence source said.

"It seems that they all died," the unnamed source was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax news agency.

Russia initially said the 10 pirates would be taken to Moscow to face criminal charges over the hijacking, but they were released instead because there were not sufficient legal grounds to detain them, the defence ministry in Moscow said.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which Russia is a signatory, gives sovereign nations the right to seize and prosecute pirates.

Western officials were very surprised when the Russian authorities dropped plans to put the pirates on trial in Moscow, the BBC's Richard Galpin reports from Moscow.

Now there is even more surprise the pirates were set adrift in the Indian Ocean to make their own way home, he adds.

Unknown factors

The tanker, the Moscow University, was seized on 5 May some 350km (190 nautical miles) off the Yemeni island of Socotra as it sailed for China, carrying crude oil worth $50m (£33m).

BBC map

Marines from the Russian warship Marshal Shaposhnikov stormed the ship the following day, freeing the 23 Russian crew members who had locked themselves in a safe room after disabling their ship.

Cdr John Harbour, spokesman for the EU naval force in Somalia, Navfor, said the Russian navy had been within its rights to release the suspects.

It was, he told the BBC News website, impossible to judge their situation without knowing the details of the boat - described as an inflatable by Russian sources - and the radio beacon they had been given.

It was quite likely the Russian ship lost radar contact with the boat after an hour, Cdr Harbour said, while the signal from the beacon would depend on the strength of its battery and whether or not it could be detected by satellite.

The Navfor spokesman suggested the loss of navigational equipment would not necessarily be critical if there was an experienced mariner among the 10 men on the boat.

Stressing that nothing could be said for sure without knowledge of the boat, the weather and other factors, he noted that pirates had been known to operate up to 1,200 nautical miles (2,200km) from the Somali coast.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

BumpTop 3D Multi-Touch Desktop

Posted on

"BumpTop, a company that provides a multi-touch physical desktop metaphor, has been acquired by Google and made to 'no longer be available for sale.' BumpTop provides a direct way to handle information through simple gestures. Some media see this acquisition as a movement by Google to position against the iPad.Will BumpTop be ported to Android?"

Venezuelan ex-defence minister Raul Baduel jailed

By Will Grant
BBC News, Caracas

The former defence minister of Venezuela has been sentenced to almost eight years in prison for corruption while he was in office.

Raul Baduel was a key Hugo Chavez ally, and played an important role in defence of the president when he was temporarily ousted in a 2002 coup.

But after the two fell out in 2007, Mr Baduel was arrested on corruption charges.

He has also been banned from ever holding political office again.

Mr Baduel was one of the four founding members of President Chavez's revolutionary movement, MVR-200.

But, more than that, he was the key military man who returned Mr Chavez to power after a short-lived coup against the socialist leader in 2002.

Mr Chavez values loyalty like no other trait in his inner circle, and responded by making Mr Baduel his defence minister.

But in 2007, while President Chavez was campaigning to change the constitution to allow him to stand for office beyond the limit of two terms, his former confidant and friend deserted the party and denounced the campaign.

He said that Mr Chavez was attempting to usurp the constitutional powers of the Venezuelan people, and wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times entitled Why I Parted Ways with Chavez.

Several months later, the retired general was arrested on corruption charges, accused of misappropriating state funds while he was defence minister.

For the past year-and-a-half he has been in prison awaiting trial.

His case has now been heard in a military court and Mr Baduel, who insisted he was innocent, has been sentenced to seven years and 11 months in jail.

During his imprisonment, he has become something of a rallying point for the opposition, who consider him to be a political prisoner in Venezuela.

Mr Baduel has maintained his opposition to Mr Chavez from prison, using the social networking website Twitter and other devices to get his message out.

As well as his jail sentence, he has been banned from ever holding political office again.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Black Hopefuls Pick This Year in G.O.P. Races

Published: May 4, 2010

Among the many reverberations of President Obama’s election, here is one he probably never anticipated: at least 32 African-Americans are running for Congress this year as Republicans, the biggest surge since Reconstruction, according to party officials.
Barbara P. Fernandez for The New York Times

Allen West, running in Florida, says the notion of racism in the Tea Party movement has been made up by the news media.

Vernon Parker's competition for a House seat from Arizona includes Ben Quayle, the former vice president's son.
Shannon Davidson/Aurora Sentinel & Daily Sun

Ryan Frazier, a House candidate in Colorado, says the Republican Party needs to “engage every community.”

Princella Smith, in Arkansas, says she disagrees with President Obama but is proud of the country for electing him.

The House has not had a black Republican since 2003, when J. C. Watts of Oklahoma left after eight years.

But now black Republicans are running across the country — from a largely white swath of beach communities in Florida to the suburbs of Phoenix, where an African-American candidate has raised more money than all but two of his nine (white) Republican competitors in the primary.

Party officials and the candidates themselves acknowledge that they still have uphill fights in both the primaries and the general elections, but they say that black Republicans are running with a confidence they have never had before. They credit the marriage of two factors: dissatisfaction with the Obama administration, and the proof, as provided by Mr. Obama, that blacks can get elected.

“I ran in 2008 and raised half a million dollars, and the state party didn’t support me and the national party didn’t support me,” said Allen West, who is running for Congress in Florida and is one of roughly five black candidates the party believes could win. “But we came back and we’re running and things are looking great.”

But interviews with many of the candidates suggest that they felt empowered by Mr. Obama’s election, that it made them realize that what had once seemed impossible — for a black candidate to win election with substantial white support — was not.

“There is no denying that one of the things that came out of the election of Obama was that you have a lot of African-Americans running in both parties now,” said Vernon Parker, who is running for an open seat in Arizona’s Third District. His competition in the Aug. 24 primary includes the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, Ben Quayle.

Princella Smith, who is running for an open seat in Arkansas, said she viewed the president’s victory through both the lens of history and partisan politics. “Aside from the fact that I disagree fundamentally with all his views, I am proud of my nation for proving that we have the ability to do something like that,” Ms. Smith said.

State and national party officials say that this year’s cast of black Republicans is far more experienced than the more fringy players of yore, and include elected officials, former military personnel and candidates who have run before.

Mr. Parker is the mayor of Paradise Valley, Ariz. Ryan Frazier is a councilman in Aurora, Colo., one of four at-large members who represent the whole city. And Tim Scott is the only black Republican elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives since Reconstruction.

“These are not just people pulled out of the hole,” said Timothy F. Johnson, chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a black conservative group. That is “the nice thing about being on this side of history,” he said.

He added that the candidates might be helped by the presence of Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee who is black and ran for the Senate himself in 2006.

“Party affiliation is not a barrier to inspiration,” Mr. Steele said in an e-mail message. “Certainly, the president’s election was and remains an inspiration to many.”

But Democrats and other political experts express skepticism about black Republicans’ chances in November. “In 1994 and 2000, there were 24 black G.O.P. nominees,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic political strategist who ran Al Gore’s presidential campaign and who is black. “And you didn’t see many of them win their elections.”

Tavis Smiley, a prominent black talk show host who has repeatedly criticized Republicans for not doing more to court black voters, said, “It’s worth remembering that the last time it was declared the ‘Year of the Black Republican,’ it fizzled out.”

In many ways, this subset of Republicans is latching on to the basic themes propelling most of their party’s campaigns this year — the call for smaller government, less spending and stronger national security — rather than building platforms around social conservatism.

“Things have evolved,” said Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, who is heavily involved in recruiting Republican candidates. “I think partly the level of hostility to Obama, Pelosi and Reid makes a lot of people pragmatically more open to a coalition from the standpoint of being a long-term majority party.”

Many of the candidates are trying to align themselves with the Tea Partiers, insisting that the racial dynamics of that movement have been overblown. Videos taken at some Tea Party rallies show some participants holding up signs with racially inflammatory language.

A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that 25 percent of self-identified Tea Party supporters think that the Obama administration favors blacks over whites, compared with 11 percent of the general public.

The black candidates interviewed overwhelmingly called the racist narrative a news media fiction. “I have been to these rallies, and there are hot dogs and banjos,” said Mr. West, the candidate in Florida, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army. “There is no violence or racism there.”

There is also some evidence that black voters rally around specific conservative causes. A case in point was a 2008 ballot initiative in California outlawing same-sex marriage that passed in large part because of support from black voters in Southern California.

Still, black Republicans face a double hurdle: black Democrats who are disinclined to back them in a general election, and incongruity with white Republicans, who sometimes do not welcome the blacks whom party officials claim to covet as new members.

This spring, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia was roundly attacked for not mentioning slavery in his Confederate History Month proclamation, which he later said was a “major omission.” Black candidates said these types of gaffes posed problems in drawing African-Americans to their party, but also underscored their need to be there.

“I think what the governor failed to do was to recognize the pain and the emotion that was really sparked by the institution of slavery,” said Mr. Frazier of Colorado. “As a Republican, I think I have a responsibility to continue to work within my party to avoid those types of barriers. The key for the Republican Party is to engage every community on the issues they care about and not act as if they don’t exist.”

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Gene Therapy Restores Sight To Blind

Clinical Trial


The RPE65 gene encodes the isomerase of the retinoid cycle, the enzymatic pathway that underlies mammalian vision. Mutations in RPE65 disrupt the retinoid cycle and cause a congenital human blindness known as Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). We used adeno-associated virus-2-based RPE65 gene replacement therapy to treat three young adults with RPE65-LCA and measured their vision before and up to 90 days after the intervention. All three patients showed a statistically significant increase in visual sensitivity at 30 days after treatment localized to retinal areas that had received the vector. There were no changes in the effect between 30 and 90 days. Both cone- and rod-photoreceptor-based vision could be demonstrated in treated areas. For cones, there were increases of up to 1.7 log units (i.e., 50 fold); and for rods, there were gains of up to 4.8 log units (i.e., 63,000 fold). To assess what fraction of full vision potential was restored by gene therapy, we related the degree of light sensitivity to the level of remaining photoreceptors within the treatment area. We found that the intervention could overcome nearly all of the loss of light sensitivity resulting from the biochemical blockade. However, this reconstituted retinoid cycle was not completely normal. Resensitization kinetics of the newly treated rods were remarkably slow and required 8 h or more for the attainment of full sensitivity, compared with <1 h in normal eyes. Cone-sensitivity recovery time was rapid. These results demonstrate dramatic, albeit imperfect, recovery of rod- and cone-photoreceptor-based vision after RPE65 gene therapy.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

iPad, iPhone Instruments

Ben Spraker and Pat Strawser both talking about iPad and iPhone music apps and iPhone bands. I searched quickly on youtube and found the following:

Four person band using iPhones.

Mix electronic music on the fly.

iPad Music App - Music Studio Suite

Ipad App Review - Pro Keys Piano
Piano simulator.

PocketGuitar iPhone
Guitar simulator, looks pretty close to the real thing - need this for the iPad and Ben Spraker would like for it to create other instrument sounds, please.

iPhone Guitar
Guitar simulator.

iPhone Pocket Sitar
Sitar simulator.

Shake the phone to add in a variety of instruments that make notes in the correct key of the song.