Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Study: Virginity pledges don't mean much.

From CNN:
As many as one in eight teens in the United States may take a virginity pledge at some point, vowing to wait until they're married before having sex. But do such pledges work? Are pledge takers more likely than other teens to delay sexual activity?

A new study suggests that the answer is no. While teens who take virginity pledges do delay sexual activity until an average age of 21 (compared to about age 17 for the average American teen), the reason for the delay is more likely due to pledge takers' religious background and conservative views -- not the pledge itself.

According to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, pledge takers are as likely to have sex before marriage as other teens who are also religious, but don't take the pledge. However, pledge takers are less likely than other religious or conservative teens to use condoms or birth control when they do start having sex.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Vietnam imposes new blogging restrictions.

From ABC News:

Vietnam has approved new regulations banning bloggers from discussing subjects the government deems sensitive or inappropriate and requiring them to limit their writings to personal issues.

The rules ban any posts that undermine national security, incite violence or crime, disclose state secrets, or include inaccurate information that could damage the reputation of individuals and organizations, according to a copy of the regulations obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

The rules, which were approved Dec. 18, attempt to rein in Vietnam's booming blogosphere. It has become an alternative source of news for many in the communist country, where the media is state-controlled.

The new rules require Internet companies that provide blogging platforms to report to the government every six months and provide information about bloggers on request.

The companies are also required to prevent and remove content the government deems harmful.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Brain implant to stimulate orgasms.

From LiveScience:

Researchers at Oxford University say a brain implant will one day stimulate pleasure centers for people who have trouble enjoying sex and otherwise experiencing pleasure, according to a UK news report.

The sex chip, as it's been dubbed, would stimulate a part of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex, targeting a joyless condition called anhedonia, according to the Daily Mail newspaper. A device along the same lines has been used already to treat Parkinson's disease, the researchers said, but a workable implant for stimulating orgasms is said to be a decade away because for now the surgery is too crude and intrusive.

"When the technology is improved, we can use deep brain stimulation in many new areas," said researcher Tipu Aziz of Oxford. "It will be more subtle, with more control over the power so you may be able to turn the chip on and off when needed."

Friday, December 26, 2008

Man uses blowtorch to melt ice, burns down house.

From the Houston Chronicle:

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — Fire officials in New Bedford, Mass., say a man using a blowtorch to melt ice on his back porch ended up setting his house on fire, causing up to $30,000 in damage.

Fire Capt. Scott Kruger tells The Standard-Times of New Bedford that no on was injured during Monday's incident at the three-story home.

Kruger says the man was using a torch hooked up to a 20-pound propane cylinder. He got too close to the building's wood frame and ignited the vinyl siding. The fire quickly spread into the building's second- and third-floor apartments.

It took 25 firefighters to subdue the blaze that damaged bedrooms in the upstairs units, and caused damage to the structure and wiring.

The homeowner will not be charged.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Have a holly, jolly Coozer Christmas.


From all of us (well, just me and my cat), hope you have a fun and safe xmas and score lots of loot!

Use the comments to tell us what Santa brought you!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The 8 Best Drunk Jeff Goldblum Videos.

The Coozer Files does not condone this mockery of The Goldblum. Clearly, video editing techniques were used to falsify His mighty vocal inflections. We share this link with you to spread our outrage and demand justice.

Coozer-Bits.

Eats: Cocoa prices hit 23-year high.

Interesting: Peru alters foreign inmate rules.

Military: US soldiers must now reveal language skills.

Lame: China arrests dozens in Tibet for "spreading rumors".

Politics: White House e-mail trail grows cold with sudden death of Bush IT expert.

Film: Disney pulls out from third Narnia film.

Eats: Tons of counterfeit Ferrero Rocher seized.

WTF: Escalator fires bullets at store customers!

Awesome: Japanese government to financially aid foreigners who've lost their jobs.

Lame: Madoff sets Jewish image back 70 years.

PSA: UK warns shops about thousands of fake Colgate tubes laced with anti-freeze.

Funny: Merry Christmas from Henchmen #21 & 24.

Zombie Watch: Man arrested for smuggling mummies.

Tut tut... From BBC:

An Australian man has been arrested at Cairo airport after security staff found ancient Egyptian animal mummies in his luggage, reports say.

An airport official said the mummies of a cat and an ibis, a long-beaked bird, dated back to 300 BC.

He said another 19 figurines of ancient Egyptian gods were also found in the passenger's bags.

The man has been charged with smuggling antiquities, which can carry a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Disgruntled customer attacks sex shop.

Talk about impotent rage! From News.com.au:
A MAN shot and wounded a saleswoman in a Russian sex shop overnight after the impotence tablets he bought failed to have the desired effect, Russian media quoted police as saying.

The man walked into the "Intim" shop in a Moscow suburb on Christmas Eve and demanded a refund for the tablets he had bought there a day earlier, Interfax news agency quoted law enforcement sources as saying.

He shot the shop assistant with a pistol when she refused to give him back his money, the agency said.

Sex in car + bad brakes = d'oh!

I love the pun in the last line. From Ananova:

A naked couple had to be pulled from a freezing river after their car plunged off the bank while they were making love.

The couple told rescue workers in Moscow that they had driven to the beauty stop, beside the Lihoborka River, for a kiss and a cuddle.

But their passion proved too strong for the car's brakes and the next thing they knew the car slid into the icy water, reports daily newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Rescuers winched the driver and his 26-year-old girlfriend to safety where paramedics treated them for exposure.

Michigan city bans annoying behavior.

Could we do this in NYC? Or would that mean no more subway ridership? From ABC News:

As part of an amended harassment ordinance, the seven-member Brighton City Council voted this month to make annoying behavior a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine.

"I think it's the most ridiculous thing in the world," Brighton resident Charles Griffin told ABCNews.com. "And I think everyone who voted for it should be impeached."

But town officials say the local media has blown the issue way out of proportion and, as a result, residents are misinformed.

"It's not an annoyance ordinance," Brighton Police Chief Thomas Wightman said. "It's a harassment ordinance."

The legislation prohibits physical violence in public places, insulting another person in a public place or harassing another person by telephone, e-mail or other forms of communication.

But the paragraph many are paying attention to reads: "It shall be unlawful for a person to engage in a course of conduct or repeatedly commit acts that alarm or seriously annoy another person and that serve no legitimate purpose."

Diet Coke Plus in violation of FDA standards.

Well, at least I'm still getting my daily allotment of aspartame, caramel color, and phosphoric acid. From AdWeek:
Diet Coke Plus was launched in 2006 as “a good source of vitamins B3, B6 and B12, and the minerals zinc and magnesium,” per company press materials.

The letter asserts that the product is “misbranded” because it “bears the nutrient content claim ‘plus’ but does not comply with the regulations governing the use of this claim.”

Coke rep Scott Williamson said, “We take seriously the issues raised by the FDA in its letter. This does not involve any health or safety issues, and we believe the label on Diet Coke Plus complies with FDA's policies and regulations. We will provide a detailed response to the FDA in early January."

The letter adds: “The FDA does not consider it appropriate to fortify snack foods such as carbonated beverages.” Additionally, it said the product does not state the identity of a “reference food and the percentage” thus it fails to meet the requirements for adding a “plus” claim.

The FDA’s claims are “absolutely ridiculous,” said Bill Sipper, senior partner at Cascadia Consulting, a food and beverage consultancy based in Ramsey, N.J. “They should worry about tracking our beef supply versus tracking the word ‘plus’…Nobody really thinks they are getting their vitamins from Diet Coke.”

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Now vanilla is in danger!

Last week, I reported that the world's chocolate supply is in peril. Well, I thought, at least there's vanilla. I was a fool. Check this out:

Savour the egg-nog while you can - a lethal disease is wiping out vanilla plantations in Madagascar, the world's major producer of the spice.

Last week Simeon Rakotomamonjy and his team at the National Center for Research Applied to Rural Development in Antananarivo reported that an unknown fungus has struck 80 per cent of plantations in two of the country's main growing areas.

They blame a price surge in the 1990s, which prompted farmers to plant seedlings too densely and without optimal shade and moisture. Since vanilla is propagated as cuttings it has little genetic diversity. Both factors make it a prime target for the fungal disease - which has yet to be properly diagnosed.

Pope: Homosexuality as great a threat as rainforest destruction.

Hmm, two men kissing = complete collapse of the world's ecosystem. That's some kiss. From Daily Mail:

The Pope has declared that saving the world from homosexual behaviour is as important as saving the rainforests.

In a Christmas message, Benedict XVI stressed the importance of traditional marriage and condemned gay acts as against God's will.

He also attacked transsexuals, saying: 'It is not man who decides who is a man or woman but God.'

Pope Benedict, 82, known as God's Rottweiler for his hardline views, made the comments in his festive address to the Vatican's governing body, the Curia.

He said: 'The Church must defend not only the earth, the water and the air as gifts of creation belonging to everyone, but it must also protect mankind against the destruction of itself.

'The tropical forests deserve our protection, but man as a creature deserves it no less.'

Monday, December 22, 2008

Coozer-Bits.

Science: Space Toilet News!

Yipes: Japan asked the US for a nuclear strike on China.

Awesome: Canadian traffic cop has boogie fever!

Trends: Astrology holds sway over Sri Lanka.

Aww: Cute bunny born without ears.

Music: Jeopardy! star Ken Jennings's top 10 albums of 2008. (Whoa!)

Bailout banks spent $1.6B toward executive bonuses.

From ABC News:
Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits in the calendar year 2007, an Associated Press analysis reveals.

The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue. Some trimmed their executive compensation due to lagging bank performance, but still forked over multimillion-dollar executive pay packages.

Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found.

The total amount given to nearly 600 executives would cover bailout costs for 53 of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines.

Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services committee and a long-standing critic of executive largesse, said the bonuses tallied by the AP review amount to a bribe "to get them to do the jobs for which they are well paid in the first place.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hong Kong: The New Territories (Day 3, Part 1)



Back to the travelogue!

So. Having conquered Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, Kelly and I decided to explore more of the mainland above Kowloon. This large area between Kowloon and China is known as the New Territories, and is peppered with cities and towns of various types (from poor villages to industrialized areas to college towns), and has many pockets of natural beauty. Like the rest of Hong Kong, just about every place has a street market and a ginormous mall.

There's a ton to do, but we only had a day to explore. We had a tough decision ahead of us: of the two train routes that branch from Kowloon, do we go either west on the KCR West line, or east on the (you guessed it) KCR East line? The KCR West line seemed better for natural beauty - Shing Mun and Tai Lam Country Parks, Tai Mo Sha (Hong Kong's highest peak), botanical gardens at Shek Kong, the Mui Fat Monastery, and - most intriguing - the Mai Po Marshes Nature Reserve and the Hong Kong International Wetland Park. The East line, on the other hand, snakes due north, hitting the famous 10,000 Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin, the markets of Tai Po, and finally Sheng Shui, the furthest you can go on the rail before crossing into the Chinese border.

My wife loves birds and parks and crap like that, and, reluctantly, some of that has rubbed off on me. I agonized with the decision, but, randomly hearing that the Wetland Park may be off-limits to foreigners, I settled on the East line.

Our first stop was Sha Tin. Ignoring the mall, we walked down a road and was greeted with a HUGE structure - a temple so large and multi-leveled that it had an escalator! Certainly this had to be the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery!





We climbed up, veering off into side areas with turtle and koi ponds, and simple, elegant rooms housing shrines to the deceased. My wife's grandfather's ashes are in a similar Buddhist temple in Los Angeles, so I knew what I was seeing - thousands and thousands of little cabinets with the remains of loved ones. Maybe the 10,000 Buddhas refer to the departed?



Solemnly, we moved from one room to another, all the way to the top. During the ascent, I spotted awesome posters warning visitors about the wild monkeys that apparently wreak much havoc, especially if you happen to be carrying around bananas.



The poster was super cute and I headed over to the administrative office to see if they had an extra. As I inquired about monkey posters, the office attendant dug into her pocket and unfolded a page that said: "I do not speak English. You are in the wrong place. 10,000 Buddhas Monastery is down the road."

We had mistakenly wandered into the Po Fook Ancestral Worship Halls! It was an excellent mistake, as the Halls and shrines were amazing. Hopefully it's not bad karma to photograph and reprint pictures of the deceased, but I found the temples to be lovely. I wouldn't mind spending eternity at one, so long as I didn't have to deal with dumb tourists like myself.



We climbed down and then walked through a nondescript alley. We came upon an upwardly winding trail lined ad infinitum with gold Buddhas. Each one was different, and they were all amusing - many had funny expressions and seemed to be enjoying watching Western tourists get shin splints. This trail went on for a very, very, very long time, but it was really neat.









After awhile, the Buddhas started looking like people I knew. This guy looks like Oliver Platt:



And this one has a remarkable likeness of my friend Kelly!



At the top is a large temple with the walls lined with Buddhas. I'm talking A LOT of Buddhas. This place is the Buddha jackpot.





Amazingly, each one is different and each are named.

Also at the summit is a large courtyard with giant animal statues and a vegetarian restaurant, where we feasted on delicious crispy veggie rolls, sweet & sour tofu, and a mixed veggie dish, and drank tea by the buckets. Sated, we walked around the courtyard, enjoying the ornate statues and views of Sha Tin.






I also spotted Falcor from the Neverending Story!



Snooping around a bit, we took an unused pathway and came across workers building MORE Buddhas! Because, you know, 10,000 isn't enough.



We took a different trail down the mountain, one that started out with lots of Buddhas but then became part of a pathway through a somewhat sad and downtrodden village (I think Pai Tau).



We weren't quite sure where we were, but we saw a sign that said "Bookstore and Bee Farm" and immediately headed there. I could use a new book for the plane home, I thought to myself, maybe a breezy Nick Hornby novel. And I could always use some fresh honey.

What followed was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life.

We followed handwritten signs to the "bookstore", a private residence up a flight of stairs. As I tromped up, a man gruffly called out: "Who goes there?" (He actually said that.) "Umm, I'm here for the bookstore...?" I said uncertainly. "Yes, yes, fine. How many are with you?" "Just two," I said. "Fine."

We stepped into the small residence and a tall, wiry Chinese man paced around with agitation. "Okay, fine, you want to see the bookstore. Then we start from the beginning. Come with me." We followed him through three other small, nearly bare rooms, and we stopped at a wall. He pointed to a childlike, semi-abstract drawing of stars. "I write about life, the stars, and the universe. I drew this."

Then he hurried us into the next room, this one with two or three books on a shelf. "I wrote these in Chinese and English. They are about the universe." Then the third room: "I made these three tapestries. These tapestries explain everything in the books." At this point, I felt it polite to say something. "Wow. They are very nice," I said. "Yes," he assured us, "but you can not buy these tapestries. I will never sell them. Come."

The last room was the entrance, where there was a pile of the books he had written. "These are not for sale. I only keep copies for myself. You can offer me anything. One man from Florida offered me $2,000 but I would not sell them!"

I wasn't going to offer anything, but politeness again took hold. "Well," I said, "you must be very proud of these very fascinating and important works you have created and devoted your life to." "Not really," he said dismissively, "but people seem to like them."

We paused awkwardly and then left in a bit of a daze. What just happened?

We stumbled over to the Bee Farm, which appeared to be an abandoned cage with some angry-sounding bees flying around. We decided to leave Sha Tin.

We hopped back on the KCR train, and after considering stopping off at Tai Po for their markets, we decided to stay on and go all the way to Sheng Shui.

Sheng Shui is just a couple of miles from the Chinese border and, by many accounts, is a Hong Kong city that is most like what you'd find in China. Sure enough, it seemed to be overcast in that gray, hazy palor that's always in my mind's eye when I think about China, and the streets were choked with blaring traffic, establishments of ill repute with gaudy advertisements, and industrial griminess. Far from Kowloon and Hong Kong proper, there were no English signs here, and English comprehension is limited if present at all.

We walked through the crowded, commercial streets, then turned down some alleys and into a huge market area, sprawling with narrow arteries of stands filled with meats, fruits, toys, trinkets, and clothes. In the shadows of closely placed buildings, the market was dark and mysterious - even a little exotic. It was one of those moments when I felt like I was in a truly different place. That stranger-in-a-strange-land feeling is one I crave whenever I travel, but was often times elusive in the rest of English-friendly and accessible Hong Kong.

See, told ya it was dark:





Although the multitude of hanging meat tubes were tempting, I bought a set of dice that had pictures of prawns and other sea creatures on them. The woman at the stand explained in Chinese that the dice are for a betting game. I understood that much through pantomime, but when she tried explaining the rules for the game, we both fell into fits of laughter. Just from that cute experience, my humble prawn dice might be my favorite thing I brought back from Hong Kong.

Having our fill of the smells of dried fish and intestines, we took the train back toward Kowloon, where our day continued. Oh, yes, there is more to this day - we haven't even gotten to lunch yet! Stay tuned.

Friday, December 19, 2008

My friend SPOKE with The Goldblum!

My friend asked me if I was a "fan" of "Jeff Goldblum".

I retorted: "I am not a 'fan' of The Goldblum. I am a disciple. I study His stuttered, chaos theory-inflected vocal rhythms to gain enlightenment in order to someday learn His Lost Mantra."

In my anger at her so casually using His first name, I failed to realize she had an AMAZING story to tell me about The Goldblum, in which she not only met his physical form and gave him her screenplay, but HE CALLED HER OUT OF THE BLUE TO THANK HER!

I will, of course, interview her soon and publish every word of this riveting development.

PSA: If you save your friend from exploding, you will be sued.

This is precisely why I don't help anyone or have friends. From ABC News:
No good deed goes unpunished, or so goes the saying.

Such was the case with Lisa Torti, who is being sued for pulling a now-paralyzed friend from the wreckage of a Los Angeles car accident in 2004.

The victim's lawyers claim the Good Samaritan bumbled the rescue and caused injury by yanking her friend "like a rag doll" to safety.

But Torti -- now a 30-year-old interior designer from Las Vegas -- said she thought she had seen smoke and feared the car would explode. She claims she was only trying to help her friend, Alexandra Van Horn, and her own life has been adversely affected by the incident.

"I know [Van Horn] has a lot of financial issues and her life has changed," she said. "But it's not my fault. I can't be angry at her, only the path she has chosen to take. I can only pray it helps her."

[...] The California Supreme Court ruled this week that Van Horn may sue Torti for allegedly causing her friend's paralysis. The case -- the first of its kind -- challenges the state's liability shield law that protects people who give emergency assistance.

Sledgehammers vs. fire extinguishers in S. Korean parliament.

Coolest Congress ever? Check the link for pics of the legislative mayhem:
Brawling MPs used sledgehammers to force their way into a parliamentary committee room in South Korea.

Opposition Democratic Party members wanted to get into the room to block a free-trade agreement with the US.

Ruling Grand National Party members fought back with fire extinguishers and fists as the country's parliament descended into chaos.

Scuffles broke out as dozens of opposition MPs and their aides attempted to push their way in to the committee room.

TV footage showed people from both sides shoving, pushing and shouting in a crowded hall at the National Assembly building, amid a barrage of flashing cameras.

Protesters used a sledgehammer and other tools to tear open the room's wooden doors, only to find barricades of furniture set up inside as a second line of defence.

The cable news channel YTN showed footage of security guards spraying fire extinguishers at those trying to force their way in, and one man with blood trickling down his face.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Coozer-Bits.

List: Our first Best of 2008: Mugshots!

Sad: Poisoned medicine kills dozens of children.

Awesome: Small-town Pennsylvania girl becomes huge Internet sensation in Japan.

List: Some good tips for job hunters.

Sad: Russia makes it harder for US parents to adopt.

Father offers daughter to shoe-thrower.

Hmm, 20 is a little old, but he could still get a few good goats for her. From Yahoo, and thanks to Larissa:
An Egyptian man said on Wednesday he was offering his 20-year-old daughter in marriage to Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush in Baghdad on Sunday,

The daughter, Amal Saad Gumaa, said she agreed with the idea. "This is something that would honor me. I would like to live in Iraq, especially if I were attached to this hero," she told Reuters by telephone.

Her father, Saad Gumaa, said he had called Dergham, Zaidi's brother, to tell him of the offer. "I find nothing more valuable than my daughter to offer to him, and I am prepared to provide her with everything needed for marriage," he added.

Zaidi's gesture has struck a chord across the Arab world, where President Bush is widely despised for invading Iraq in 2003 and for his support for Israel.

Angry neighbors keeping shooting down obnoxious advertising blimp.

Extra awesome part in bold. From the Daily Mail:

A garish advertising blimp that flies above a picturesque country park has infuriated residents so much that they keep shooting it down.

Residents took matters into their own hands arguing that the inflatable promoting Big Box Storage, which can be seen from a mile away, is a blot on the landscape.

But defiant bosses simply keep patching up the balloon and launching it back up in the air.

[...] The argument has been raging for the last four months during which time local farmers have used their shotguns to blast the balloon out of the sky several times.

But each time, Big Box Storage simply repairs the damage from their bullets and launches the blimp back up again.

Credit card companies add "rate-jacking" to lexicon, things I hate about them.

From CNN:
It arrived in Rich Stevens' mailbox a few weeks ago: the notice that Citibank had "rate-jacked" the Visa cards belonging to him and his wife.

"In my case, from 9.5 percent to 16.99," the 54-year-old nurse from the Long Island hamlet of Merrick, New York, told CNN. And his wife's rate zoomed from 7.95 percent to 16.99 percent, he said.

Stevens said he did not know why the rates had soared; his credit rating is great.

But, like thousands of other credit card customers around the nation, he has been notified his rate is skyrocketing.

"It almost borders on loan-sharking, from my perspective," he said.

In the blogosphere, writers are livid at the instant rate hikes -- called "rate-jacking."

Citigroup seems to be the target of most bloggers' venom -- partly because Citigroup issues so many credit cards and partly because Citi began sending the notices at about the same time it was getting a $20 billion, taxpayer-financed government bailout.

No one at Citigroup would talk on camera to CNN about the matter. Instead, the company issued a written statement, which said: "To continue funding in this difficult credit and funding environment, Citi is repricing a group of customers."

Avoiding food at night doesn't make a difference to weight gain.

I'm a smart cookie, but I also thought it was bad to eat late at night. Now I know better and can scarf muffins all night long! From the BBC:
Putting on pounds in the festive period almost seems inevitable but to avoid unwanted weight gain it has been suggested that people avoid eating late at night.

The idea is that you cannot burn off the calories if you are asleep. But this is not supported by the evidence.

A Swedish study found that obese women were more likely to eat at night, but they also ate more in general.

In another study of more than 2,500 patients, eating at night was not associated with weight gain but eating more than three meals a day was.

Ultimately, taking in more calories makes you gain weight whenever you eat them, the researchers said.

There are some other interesting debunked myths in the article. Who knew poinsettias weren't toxic?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Foot massage machine strangles three.

From Japan Times:
Three people have been strangled attempting to use a foot massage machine as a neck massager, the maker of the machine said Tuesday.

Saitama-based Matoba Electric Manufacturing Co. said the three died when their clothing got caught in the rollers. The victims had removed the cloth cover from the Arubi Shape-up Roller before applying the machine to their necks.

Similar accidents could occur while using another massage machine, the Shape-up Roller II, the company warned.

The firm urged users not to use the machines with the cover off.

ZombieWatch: United States Death Map revealed!

This map is critical when the dead rise up. Northeast is safest! From Science Daily:
A map of natural hazard mortality in the United States has been produced. The map gives a county-level representation of the likelihood of dying as the result of natural events such as floods, earthquakes or extreme weather.

Susan Cutter and Kevin Borden, from the University of South Carolina, Columbia, used nationwide data going back to 1970 to create their map. According to Cutter, "This work will enable research and emergency management practitioners to examine hazard deaths through a geographic lens. Using this as a tool to identify areas with higher than average hazard deaths can justify allocation of resources to these areas with the goal of reducing loss of life".

Hazard mortality is most prominent in the South, where most people were killed by various severe weather hazards and tornadoes. Other areas of elevated risk are the northern Great Plains Region where heat and drought were the biggest killers and in the mountain west with winter weather and flooding deaths. The south central US is also a dangerous area, with floods and tornadoes posing the greatest threat.

Coozer-Bits.

PSA: FDA adds suicide warning to epilepsy drugs.

Trends: Throwing shoes.

Booze: On average, 10 drunk New Yorkers get hit and killed by the subway each year.

I hate the MTA: Org that can't run their business pass budget to increase fares and reduce services, which already suck.

Eats: The secret ingredient to everything is.... wait for it.... BUTTER!

Creepy: China is now watching you.

Science: New species of prehistoric giants found in the Sahara.

Sad: Chocolate is running out!

Booze: Heroic scientists find way to make nasty wine delicious!

Lame: Pointless $24m gov agency releases idiotic report with your money.

Yipes: One-second conversation hesitations cause racial tensions.

Eats: Fast food meals are smaller, have fewer calories than "proper" restaurants.

Sad: All Woolworths stores to be shut down in a couple of weeks.

Yipes: Pilot tells stunned passengers he's not qualified to land plane, turns it around.

Bday cake denied for 3-year-old Hitler namesake.

These poor kids. They need new parents in addition to names. From Breitbart:
A supermarket is defending itself for refusing to a write out 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell's name on his birthday cake.

Deborah Campbell, 25, of nearby Hunterdon County, N.J., said she phoned in her order last week to the Greenwich ShopRite. When she told the bakery department she wanted her son's name spelled out, she was told to talk to a supervisor, who denied the request.

Karen Meleta, a ShopRite spokeswoman, said the store denied similar requests from the Campbells the last two years, including a request for a swastika.

"We reserve the right not to print anything on the cake that we deem to be inappropriate," Meleta said. "We considered this inappropriate."

The Campbells ultimately got their cake decorated at a Wal-Mart in Pennsylvania, Deborah Campbell said Tuesday.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Anna Taylor told The Easton Express-Times that the store won't put anything illegal or profane on a cake but thinks it's important to respect the views of customers and employees.

"Our No. 1 priority in decorating cakes is to serve the customer to the best of our ability," Taylor said from Bentonville, Ark.

When reached by The Associated Press, Taylor said she'd call back to provide a comment.

Heath Campbell said he named his son after Adolf Hitler because he liked the name and because "no one else in the world would have that name."

The Campbells' two other children are named JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, who turns 2 in a few months, and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, who will be 1 in April.

US anti-kidnapping expert kidnapped in Mexico.

From Breitbart:
MEXICO CITY (AP) - A well-known U.S. anti-kidnapping expert has himself fallen victim to the wave of abductions in Mexico as unidentified assailants snatched him from a street in the northern state of Coahuila.

Local authorities say American Felix Batista was in Mexico to give talks and offer advice against kidnapping. The former U.S. army officer sometimes serves as a negotiator with kidnappers.

Batista is a consultant for the Houston, Texas-based security firm ASI Global LLC.

ASI Global President Charlie LeBlanc says Batista was abducted on Dec. 10 in Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila.

LeBlanc said Monday that the FBI and Mexican police are working on the case, but would not say whether any ransom demand has been received.

Romantic comedies ruin relationships.

This is why I only let my wife watch the Saw movies. From BBC:

Watching romantic comedies can spoil your love life, a study by a university in Edinburgh has claimed.

Rom-coms have been blamed by relationship experts at Heriot Watt University for promoting unrealistic expectations when it comes to love.

They found fans of films such as Runaway Bride and Notting Hill often fail to communicate with their partner.

Many held the view if someone is meant to be with you, then they should know what you want without you telling them.

Psychologists at the family and personal relationships laboratory at the university studied 40 top box office hits between 1995 and 2005, and identified common themes which they believed were unrealistic.

Famous Korean actress sentenced for adultery.

From BBC:

One of South Korea's best-known actresses, Ok So-ri, has been given a suspended prison sentence of eight months for adultery.

She admitted the offence and the court suspended the sentence for two years.

The trial took place after Ms Ok failed to get the constitutional court to overturn the strict law that makes adultery a criminal offence.

In her petition she said the law was an infringement of human rights and amounted to revenge.

[...] South Korea is one of the few remaining non-Muslim countries where adultery remains a criminal offence.

A person found guilty of adultery can be jailed for up to two years.

More than 1,000 people are charged each year, although, as in this case, very few are actually sent to jail.

The law has been challenged four times, but the country's top judges have always ruled that adultery is damaging to social order, and the offence should therefore remain a crime.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Two cups of coffee over a pregnancy can damage kid's heart for life.

Yet one more reason why pregnancy is stupid. From EurekAlert:

A new study published online in The FASEB Journal shows that the equivalent of one dose of caffeine (just two cups of coffee) ingested during pregnancy may be enough to affect fetal heart development and then reduce heart function over the entire lifespan of the child. In addition, the researchers also found that this relatively minimal amount of exposure may lead to higher body fat among males, when compared to those who were not exposed to caffeine. Although the study was in mice, the biological cause and effect described in the research paper is plausible in humans.

According to Scott Rivkees, Yale's Associate Chair of Pediatric Research and a senior researcher on the study, "Our studies raise potential concerns about caffeine exposure during very early pregnancy, but further studies are necessary to evaluate caffeine's safety during pregnancy."

Cops seek tiara-wearing thief.

A princess on Long Island? Sorry, you have to be more specific... From the NY Post:

A tiara-wearing New Yorker may miss the royal treatment she desires if she ends up behind bars for credit card theft.

Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County police are asking for the public's help in identifying the woman, who stole a purse at a bar in Centerreach, Long Island on Halloween.

The woman wore the tiara as an accessory to a formal dress. Her companion, a man, wore a dress shirt and tie.

The stolen credit cards were used at gas stations and a convenience store.

A video from a security camera shows the woman leaning over the counter, apparently flaunting her chest, to the attendant. After several minutes she leaves the store.

NYS adding nearly 100 new taxes.

Rich Wall Street assholes burn the world and I have to pay more for an iTune? FTS. From the Daily News:
Gov. Paterson released a $121 billion slash-and-burn budget Tuesday morning that slams New Yorkers with 88 new fees and taxes - even on their iPods.

Calling the budget the "greatest economic and fiscal challenge of our lifetimes," Paterson acknowledged his spending plan cuts deep. But he said the pain must be shared to deal with the fallout from the Wall Street collapse.

The budget will cost the city an estimated $650 million in aid. But it's the $4 billion in new fees and taxes that are sure to aggravate everyday New Yorkers, who would be paying more for a host of services:

* An "iPod tax" that charges state and local sales tax for "digitally delivered entertainment services" - in other words, that new Beyonce song you download.

* State sales tax at movie theaters, sporting events, taxis, buses, limousines and cable and satellite TV and radio.

* Costlier driving with the repeal of the 8-cents-per-gallon sales tax cap on motor and diesel motor fuel, plus and increase in the auto rental tax.

* Tuition increases as SUNY and CUNY, $620 and $600 a year respectively.

* A 50 cent tax on cigars. The current tax is equal to 37% of the wholesale price, or 34 cents a cigar.

* No more sales tax break on clothes and shoes worth $110 or less, except during two weeks a year.

* Higher taxes on wine, beer and flavored malt beverages. He would also impose an 18% tax on non-nutritional drinks like soda.

* The rich would pay more for luxury items through an additional 5% tax imposed on cars costing more than $60,000, aircraft costing more than $500,000, yachts costing at least $200,000 and jewelry and furs costing in excess of $20,000.

* In addition, a host of a fees, including those related to motor vehicle licensing and registration, parks and auto insurance, would go up, as would various state-imposed fines.

Trend Spotting: Attacking women with sandwiches.

A fad has swept Floridian homes - beating your loved one with a ciabatta! I love the last line of this story. From Breitbart:
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) - Police said a Port St. Lucie man was arrested for throwing a sandwich at his girlfriend, the second food attack that sent a man to jail in about a month. According to a police report released Monday, the 20-year-old man threw the sandwich at his girlfriend's face during an argument about auto insurance and then hit her head with his fist.

The man admitted to throwing the food but not hitting her. He was arrested Friday and faces a battery charge.

Last month, another man was arrested on a battery charge for hitting his girlfriend with a sandwich, knocking her glasses off and nearly causing a traffic crash.

Police reports did not say what type of sandwich was used in either attack.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Swiss watch found in ancient Chinese tomb.

Just what we need. Time-traveling mummies. From Ananova:
Archeologists in China are baffled after finding a tiny Swiss watch in a 400-year-old tomb.

The watch ring was discovered as archeologists were making a documentary with two journalists from Shangsi town.

"When we tried to remove the soil wrapped around the coffin, a piece of rock suddenly dropped off and hit the ground with a metallic sound," said Jiang Yanyu, former curator of the Guangxi Autonomous Region Museum.

"We picked up the object, and found it was a ring. After removing the covering soil and examining it further, we were shocked to see it was a watch."

The time was stopped at 10:06am, and on the back was engraved the word "Swiss", reports the People's Daily.

Local experts say they are confused as they believe the tomb had been undisturbed since it was created during the Ming dynasty 400 years ago.

They have suspended the dig and are waiting for experts to arrive from Beijing and help them unravel the mystery.

Man's pet "dog" actually rare fox.

From Ananova:
A Chinese man was shocked to discover the dog he had raised from a pup was actually a rare Arctic fox.

Zhang, of Tunkou, bought what he thought was an all-white Pomeranian dog for £60 a year ago on a business trip.

But he found the dog hard to tame, it would often bite him and had several unusual traits, he told the Wuhan Evening Post.

"It can't bark but instead makes little 'em em' noises, and its tail has been growing longer and longer," he said.

"The most annoying thing is that starting this summer, the dog became very smelly. Even when we gave it a daily shampoo bath, the smell was still strong."

Zhang took his 'dog' to a local zoo for answers, and it turned out the dog is actually an Arctic fox, a protected rare species.

He has now donated the animal to the zoo.

Greek rioters using lasers against police.

Futuristic AND anti-authoritarian! From the Daily Mail:

Protesters in Athens targeted police officers with lasers yesterday as riots sparked by the police killing of a 15-year-old boy continued into a second week.

Although the intensity of protests has tailed off in recent days pockets of violence are still occurring and more rallies have been planned for this week.

Today, around 50 demonstrators hurled eggs at police outside the main Athens court, where a hearing took place for dozens of people arrested during Greece's worst riots in decades, sparked by the killing of Alexandros Grigoropoulos on December 6.

Brain found in 2,000-year-old skull.

From CNN:
Archaeologists have discovered what they say is the oldest surviving human brain in Britain, dating back at least 2,000 years to the Iron Age.

The remains of the brain were found in a skull unearthed during excavations at York University in northern England, a statement from the university said Friday.

The dig site was described by investigators from York Archaeological Trust as being in an extensive prehistoric farming landscape of fields, track ways and buildings dating back to at least 300 BC.

They believe the skull, which was found on its own in a muddy pit, may have been a ritual offering.

Mom sells her twin babies to pay for liposuction.

Interesting that she can be charged with fraud, but not with selling babies. From the Daily Mail:

A mother accused of selling her newborn twin boys for £9,000 to pay for a liposuction operation was involved in an online rent-a-womb trade with women desperate to have children, it was claimed today.

Restaurant worker Sonia Ringoir, 31, has been accused by police at Ghent, Belgium with treating her twins in a 'degrading' way and with fraud after a Dutch couple alleged that she had conned them.

[...] Ringoir can't be charged with trading in her babies as this is not a crime under Belgian law. She now faces between one month and five years in jail if convicted. The case had shocked Belgium and there are now calls by politicians to change the law.

Moscow police detain 90 protesters.

In Mother Russia, police protest YOU! From Moscow Times:
Police thwarted an anti-Kremlin protest organized by the Other Russia opposition group on Sunday, seizing demonstrators and shoving them into trucks. Moscow police detained 90 people, including the group's co-leader and a Moscow Times reporter.

About 60 protesters also were detained in St. Petersburg, Interfax reported.

There was no sign of former chess champion Garry Kasparov, one Other Russia co-leader, at Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, on Tverskaya Ulitsa, where he had vowed to hold a demonstration despite being denied permission.

Kasparov and his allies in the Other Russia said they want to draw attention to Russia's economic troubles and to protest Kremlin plans to extend the presidential term from four years to six. Kremlin critics say the planned constitutional change is the latest step in a retreat from democracy and is designed to allow Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to return for another 12 years as president.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sydney's taxis running over pedestrians in fierce competition.

From News.com.au:

SYDNEY'S taxis are knocking down pedestrians as fierce competition for passengers intensifies during the busy festive season.

Latest figures from the CBD's busiest hospital emergency department reveals about one in five pedestrians involved in road accidents are being hit by cabs.

To reduce the number of victims, doctors are issuing an alert to cab drivers, Christmas shoppers and revellers to take extra precautions on roadways.

[...] "Taxis are in a very competitive market," he said.

"If you go down Oxford St, you have this incredible race where taxis want to be the first in line.

"Obviously, it's a tough business, and now with the financial recession, it's even more tough.

"(Drivers) are trying very hard to get a fare, so their concentration's not as good."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Coozer-Bits.

Yipes: Gun sales skyrocket after Australia gov't lessens laws.

WTF: Owners of 40 dogs seized from filthy trailer blame UFOs for the mistreatment. I hate these kinds of people. I wish them a special place hell where they have to live in their own feces.

Lame: Computer glitches denied widows of war veterans millions.

Duh: Vatican releases new views on bioethics. Ex: Adult stem cell research okay; embryonic stem cell research not okay.

Creepy: Mind-reading software could record dreams.

Lame: Feds refuse to reveal names of recipients of $2 trillion in taxpayer money.

WTF: Man sprays teens with fox urine.

Dead: Bettie Page

Lame: UK pushing for 20-year extensions on copyrights.

Guitarist stabbed 50 times by bandmates.

Damn.

The singer in an Italian teen gothic metal band and her brother allegedly stabbed the band's guitarist dozens of times because he did not play well enough.

Police in Genoa, on Italy's northwestern coast, said the 16-year-old victim remained in hospital, but his life was not in danger.

He was attacked today after the band Soul Cry rehearsed in Sestri Ponente, a small town near Genoa. He was stabbed about 50 times, mainly to his back and head, said police official Alessandra Bucci in Genoa.

The 18-year-old singer, Cristina Balzano, and her 16-year-old brother, the band's bass player, were arrested on charges of premeditated attempted murder.

During the rehearsal, band members accused the victim of playing poorly, police said. The attack occurred moments later in a narrow alley.

Ms Balzano was caught by police holding a kitchen knife with an 18-cm blade, her brother next to her and the victim in a pool of blood, police said.

Widespread sex scandal in army basic training.

Exactly what (or who) are drill sergeants drilling? From the Army Times:

Drinking parties. Sex in the laundry room. Social dates and text messaging. Sex in a truck. In a bathroom. And in the barracks.

Between February 2007 and November 2008, 12 drill sergeants and advanced individual training instructors at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., admitted in court-martial proceedings to having engaged in such forbidden sexual and social relationships with trainees.

Each soldier pleaded guilty to at least one count of violating Regulation 350-6 — wrongfully engaging in a personal and social relationship with a trainee — and dozens of other related offenses on and off post between December 2005 and August 2008.

[...] The vast majority of the offenses, according to the data, were for consensual sex. But Army leaders say there is no such thing as consensual sex between a drill sergeant and a trainee. It is against Army regulation.

I warned you: Jellyfish taking over the world.

Yet another Coozer Prophesy coming true. Jellyfish nearing completion of world domination. Let's hope they don't evolve lungs. Yahoo! News sums up the recent NSF report:
Huge swarms of stinging jellyfish and similar slimy animals are ruining beaches in Hawaii, the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean, Australia and elsewhere, U.S. researchers reported on Friday.

The report says 150 million people are exposed to jellyfish globally every year, with 500,000 people stung in the Chesapeake Bay, off the U.S. Atlantic Coast, alone.

Another 200,000 are stung every year in Florida, and 10,000 are stung in Australia by the deadly Portuguese man-of-war, according to the report, a broad review of jellyfish research.

The report, available on the Internet at http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/jellyfish/index.jsp, says the Black Sea's fishing and tourism industries have lost $350 million because of a proliferation of comb jelly fish.

The report says more than 1,000 fist-sized comb jellies can be found in a cubic yard (meter) of Black Sea water during a bloom.

They eat the eggs of fish and compete with them for food, wiping out the livelihoods of fishermen, according to the report.

And it says a third of the total weight of all life in California's Monterey Bay is made up of jellyfish.

Human activities that could be making things nice for jellyfish include pollution, climate change, introductions of non-native species, overfishing and building artificial structures such as oil and gas rigs.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Actor slashes own throat on stage.

From BBC:

An actor narrowly escaped death after slashing his throat on stage with a real knife, instead of a blunt stage-prop blade.

Daniel Hoevels slumped to the floor with blood pouring from his neck during a performance at Vienna's Burgtheater.

He was rushed to hospital with a deep slice to his throat which fortunately missed his main artery.

Austrian police are investigating whether the incident was a mistake or a deliberate attack on the actor.

"If the actor had put a little more pressure on the knife or even struck an artery, he would probably have bled to death on the stage," a doctor who treated Mr Hoevels, 30, told the newspaper Oesterreich.

The real-life drama happened last weekend during a performance of Friedrich Schiller's play Mary Stuart, about Mary Queen of Scots. Mr Hoevels's character was supposed to commit suicide and the actor used what he thought was a blunt prop weapon.

The audience is said to have applauded what they thought was a stunning special effect, and only realised something was wrong when the actor staggered off stage to receive treatment.

Bored? Your brain is disconnecting.

From New Scientist:

Pay attention please, using as much of your brain as possible. When your mind wanders during a boring task, it may be because parts of your brain simply disconnect.

Knowing that activity in different brain regions changes when attention lapses, Daniel Weissman of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, wondered if there were also changes in the crosstalk between regions.

Weissman asked volunteers to spend a tedious hour in a functional-MRI brain scanner, identifying letters that flashed on a screen. At times, their reactions slowed, showing that attention was wavering. During these lapses, communication between regions related to self-control, vision and language processing died down. "Attention failed to grease the connections in the brain," says Weissman. This is equivalent to these regions disconnecting, he says. Weissman presented the results at a recent neuroscience meeting.

Mets continue to hire putzes for the bullpen.

At least they got rid of Aaron Heilman. From Newsday:
The Mets' rapid makeover of the bullpen continued late Wednesday night as they completed a three-team trade with the Mariners and Indians to acquire J.J. Putz in a 12-player deal. Only hours after announcing a three-year, $37-million with Francisco Rodriguez, general manager Omar Minaya secured another elite closer, only this time to use as a set-up man for Rodriguez.

In the complicated swap, the Mets sent six players to the Mariners, including Aaron Heilman, Endy Chavez, Double-A first baseman Mike Carp, lefthander Jason Vargas and prospects Maikel Cleto and Ezequiel Carrera. They also shipped reliever Joe Smith to the Indians, who acquired infielder Luis Valbuena from Seattle, and the Mets picked up Putz from Seattle along with righthander Sean Green and outfielder Jeremy Reed. The Mariners also received Cleveland outfielder Franklin Gutierrez.

While the Mets' main target this offseason was K-Rod, they also had their eyes on Putz, who had 15 saves in 47 appearances for the lowly Mariners last season. In the two previous seasons, however, Putz, 31, had a combined 76 saves, including a career-high 40 in 2007. Putz will earn $5 million this season with an $8.6-million option for 2010.
By the way, this is a real gem from Omar:
"All I kept hearing on the streets of New York when I go get bagels in the morning was 'Omar, address the bullpen,'" Minaya said. "Well, to you Mets fans, we've addressed the bullpen. To win championships, you've got to have a good bullpen."
So Minaya didn't realize the bullpen is abysmal until the bagel guy told him? That explains a lot.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One peso greater than two pesos in Argentina.

Subtitled "the world's most annoying economic crisis", this article explains how a shortage of coins in Argentina is making pocket change more valuable than actual paper money. (Thanks Jen!)

Welcome to the world's strangest economic crisis. Argentina in general—and Buenos Aires in particular—is presently in the grip of a moneda, or coin, shortage. Everywhere you look, there are signs reading, "NO HAY MONEDAS." As a result, vendors here are more likely to decline to sell you something than to cough up any of their increasingly precious coins in change. I've tried to buy a 2-peso candy bar with a 5-peso note only to be refused, suggesting that the 2-peso sale is worth less to the vendor than the 1-peso coin he would be forced to give me in change. When my wife went to buy a 10-trip subway pass, which retails for 9 pesos, she offered a 20-peso note and received 12 pesos in bills as change. This is commonplace—a daily, if not hourly, occurrence. It's taken for granted that the peso coin is more valuable than the 2-peso note.

No one can say what's causing this absurd situation. The government accuses Argentines of hoarding coins, which is true, at least to some extent. When even the most insignificant purchase requires the same order of planning and precision as a long-range missile strike, you can hardly blame people for keeping a jar of monedas safe at home. The people, in turn, fault the government for not minting enough coins.

In fact, the nation's central bank has produced a record number of monedas this year, and the problem has gotten even worse. Everyone blames the bus companies, whose buses accept only monedas. (Buenos Aires' 140-plus bus routes are run by a number of separate, private companies.) These companies, exploiting a loophole in the law, run side businesses that will exchange clients' bills for monedas for a 3 percent service fee. This is legal, but the business community also routinely complains of being forced into the clutches of a thriving moneda black market—run by the local mob, or the bus companies, or both—in which coins sell for a premium of between 5 percent and 10 percent. The bus companies steadfastly deny any involvement in this racket, but their claims were undercut by the discovery of a hoard of 13 million coins, amounting to 5 million pesos, in one company's warehouse this October.

Black hole confirmed in center of Milky Way.

Well, it's good to hear the phrase "slowly spiraling toward imminent doom and destruction" not in conjunction with the economy... From BBC:

There is a giant black hole at the centre of our galaxy, a study has confirmed.

German astronomers tracked the movement of 28 stars circling the centre of the Milky Way, using two telescopes in Chile.

The black hole is four million times more massive than our Sun, according to the paper in The Astrophysical Journal.

Black holes are objects whose gravity is so great that nothing - including light - can escape them.

According to Dr Robert Massey, of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), the results suggest that galaxies form around giant black holes in the way that a pearl forms around grit.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Deadly diseases to make comeback thanks to insurers not covering vaccinations.

I hate insurance companies. From New Scientist:

FATAL diseases are threatening a comeback among American children as insurers fail to meet the costs of immunisation.

Half the doctors who responded to a survey by Gary Freed of the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor said they had delayed purchasing new vaccines against childhood diseases like meningitis. Twenty per cent of family doctors said they were considering halting vaccinations of privately insured children.

The combined cost of recommended vaccines trebled between 2000 and 2008, to $1500 per child, and health insurance schemes now seldom cover the full cost (Pediatrics, DOI: 10.1542/peds.2008-2033). "The market does not seem to be responding well to the immunisation needs of our country," says Stephen Berman of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.

HALF of British town are on sick pay.

The name of the town is a funny coincidence. From Daily Mail:

It was once a bustling centre for the textile industry with thousands hard at work in the cotton mills.

But now Falinge in Rochdale has been branded the sick-note capital of Britain with almost half the population apparently too ill to work.

An astonishing 42.9 per cent of all working-age adults living in the council ward are claiming incapacity benefits.

The Office of National Statistics revealed that 490 of the 1,141 people of working age in the area rely on the handout.

The figures are a major blow to the Government which claims new measures are helping those on incapacity benefits get back to work.

Peruvian chefs serve up world's largest ceviche.

Two words: YUUUU-UUUM! (Thanks Jen!) From the Washington Post:
CALLAO, Peru (Reuters) - Peruvian chefs, elbow deep in more than six tons of sliced fish, onions and lime, won on Sunday the Guinness World Record for preparing the largest ceviche, a Peruvian seafood specialty.

The classic dish, made from raw fish and a spicy citrus sauce that "cooks" it, weighed in at 6.8 tons, 2 tons more than the previous record.

Some 450 students and chefs worked in an open-air sports stadium in Callao, a working-class district near Peru's capital -- slicing, dicing and mixing white fish with lime, salt, onions and aji peppers.

[...] Hundreds of people from the neighborhood waited outside the Callao stadium for a plate of food.

"A Peruvian who does not eat ceviche is not Peruvian," said Espinoza.

Woman becomes deaf after passionate kiss.

This is precisely why I avoid kissing. I'm also a bit wary about hugs, what with organs being smooshed. Affection can be deadly! From BBC:

A young Chinese woman was left partially deaf following a passionate kiss from her boyfriend.

The 20-something from Zhuhai in Guangdong province arrived at hospital having completely lost the hearing in her left ear, said local reports.

The incident prompted a series of articles in the local media warning of the dangers of excessive kissing.

"While kissing is normally very safe, doctors advise people to proceed with caution," wrote the China Daily.

The doctor who treated the girl in hospital was quoted in the paper explaining what had happened.

"The kiss reduced the pressure in the mouth, pulled the eardrum out and caused the breakdown of the ear."

The chorus of warnings was echoed by the Shanghai Daily, which wrote: "A strong kiss may cause an imbalance in the air pressure between two inner ears and lead to a broken ear drum."

The young woman is expected to regain her full hearing within about two months.

Whistleblowers, dissidents sent to insane asylums, Chinese paper says.

Well, at least there were no forced lobotomies. But, damn, local Chinese government can be sinister! From IHT:
Local officials in Shandong Province have apparently found a cost-effective way to deal with gadflies, whistleblowers and all manner of muckraking citizens who dare to challenge the authorities: dispatch them to the local psychiatric hospital.

According to an investigative report published Monday by a state-owned newspaper, public security officials in Xintai city have been institutionalizing residents who persist in their personal campaigns to expose corruption or to protest the unfair seizure of their property. Some people said they were committed up to two years, and several of those interviewed said they had been forced to consume psychiatric medication.

The article, in The Beijing News, said most inmates had been released after they agreed to give up their causes.

Sun Fawu, 57, a farmer seeking compensation for land spoiled by a coal mining operation, said he was seized by the local authorities on his way to petition the central government in Beijing and brought to the Xintai Mental Health Center in October.

During a 20-day stay, he said he was tied to a bed, forced to take pills and given injections that made him numb and woozy. When he told the doctor he was a petitioner, not mentally ill, the doctor reportedly said, "I don't care if you're sick or not. As long as you are sent by the township government, I'll treat you as a mental patient."

Illinois governor arrested.

Sadly, more proof that corruption is not endemic to just one party. From CNN:
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) is in federal custody on corruption charges, a law enforcement official said Tuesday.

Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office for the Northern District of Illinois. Both men are expected in U.S. District Court in Chicago later Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors say Blagojevich, Harris and others conspired to gain financial benefits in appointing President-elect Barack Obama's Senate replacement, according to the statement.

"The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement. "They allege that Blagojevich put a 'for sale' sign on the naming of a United States Senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism."

According to the statement, Blagojevich is alleged to have discussed obtaining:

  • a substantial salary for himself at either a non-profit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions;
  • a spot for his wife on paid corporate boards, where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year;
  • promises of campaign funds -- including cash up front;
  • a Cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.
  • The Obama transition team is aware that Blagojevich is in federal custody, but has no comment, according to a senior Democratic source.

    New details on secret space vehicle being tested by Amazon founder.

    From Space.com:

    That secretive rocket work being bankrolled by billionaire Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com fame has shed some new light on its activities.

    Blue Origin is developing New Shepard, a rocket-propelled vehicle that takes off and lands vertically and is designed to routinely fly multiple astronauts into suborbital space at competitive prices. Flight tests of the suborbital craft have been staged at a private launch site in Texas.

    Blue Origin is now noting that, in addition to providing the public with opportunities to experience spaceflight, New Shepard will also provide frequent opportunities for researchers to fly experiments into space and a microgravity environment.

    British tv to air assisted suicide.

    Man, those Brits love their reality tv! From the Daily Mail:

    Retired university professor Craig, 59, who suffered from motor neurone disease (MND), was filmed as he passed away comforted by his wife at a controversial Swiss euthanasia clinic.

    The assisted suicide - organised by Swiss group Dignitas - will become the first ever to be shown on British television tomorrow night.

    But the decision to allow the documentary to be broadcast was yesterday slammed by TV watchdogs, anti-euthanasia and pro-life campaigners alike.

    Father-of-two Craig took the decision to end his life after motor neurone disease began to paralyse his ailing body and he was faced a drawn-out, agonising death.

    Sunday, December 7, 2008

    Trendy NYC clothing store giving away free soup with purchase.

    From the Toronto Sun:

    NEW YORK -- You know the economy is ailing when a Manhattan fashion boutique starts offering free soup.

    The temporary fashion boutique calling itself The 1929 is selling chic clothes and giving away soup and coffee. The store is located in one of the trendiest shopping districts in the city.

    Manager and co-owner Aaron Genuth says the store in SoHo was inspired by the Great Depression. His partner Levi Okunov says they want people to go to the store, have a bowl of soup and try on some clothing. The store sells the work of independent designers on its ground floor. The basement is an art and performance space where the soup is doled out. The store is expected to remain open through next month.

    ZombieWatch: Huge fireball over Colorado.

    Another bizarre meteor lights up our skies (last week, there was one over Canada). I'm pretty sure HP Lovecraft warned us about these interstellar visitors... From Universe Today:
    Last night, the Colorado skies played host to a dazzling fireball event. The meteor blasted through the atmosphere, detonated and outshone the Moon by 100 times. It is therefore expected that there were many eyewitnesses, and the Cloudbait Observatory (5 km north of the town of Guffey, CO) is appealing to people to report their accounts of the fireball. Fortunately, the observatory managed to capture an all-sky camera video of the early morning explosion.

    The Colorado fireball comes shortly after a similar event over Canada on November 20th, where over two dozen meteorite fragments have been recovered from agricultural land. We wait in anticipation to see if this huge Colorado fireball produced any similar fragments, but eyewitness accounts will be critical to aid such a search…

    Prank call almost creates war between Pakistan and India.

    This is scary. The entire world could be consumed by a nuclear World War III thanks to a Bubba the Love Sponge. From Times Online:

    A hoax telephone call almost sparked another war between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan at the height of last month's terror attacks on Mumbai, officials and Western diplomats on both sides of the border said today.

    Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani President, took a telephone call from a man pretending to be Pranab Mukherjee, India's Foreign Minister, on Friday, November 28, apparently without following the usual verification procedures, they said.

    The hoax caller threatened to take military action against Pakistan in response to the then ongoing Mumbai attacks, which India has since blamed on the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), they said.

    Mr Zardari responded by placing Pakistan's air force on high alert and telephoning Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, to ask her to intervene.

    But when Dr Rice called Mr Mukherjee, he said that he had not spoken to Mr Zardari and that his last conversation with Shah Mahmood Qureishi, the Pakistani Foreign Minister, had been quite civil.

    "It's unbelievable, but true," said a Western diplomat familiar with the frantic diplomatic exchanges that eventually resolved the misunderstanding.

    "It was a little alarming, to say the least."

    The episode – reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film Dr Strangelove – dramatically illustrates how easy it would be for another war to break out between India and Pakistan, even accidentally, following the Mumbai attacks.

    Pakistani militants destroy 100 Western army vehicles.

    From Reuters:

    PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani militants attacked a parked convoy of trucks carrying military vehicles for Western forces in Afghanistan near Peshawar early on Sunday, destroying 96 trucks, police said.

    Security guards said they were overpowered by more than 200 militants who attacked two terminals on the ring road round the northwestern city of Peshawar, where the trucks carrying Humvees and other military vehicles were parked.

    "It happened at around 2.30 a.m. They fired rockets, hurled hand grenades and then set ablaze 96 trucks," senior police officer Azeem Khan told Reuters.

    Most of the fuel and other supplies for U.S. and NATO forces in landlocked Afghanistan are trucked through Pakistan, much of it through the mountainous Khyber Pass between Peshawar, capital of North-West Frontier Province and the border town of Torkham.

    Khan said one private security guard was killed in an exchange of fire between police and the militants.

    "They were shouting Allah-o-Akbar (God is Great) and Down With America. They broke into the terminals after snatching our guns," said Mohammad Rafiullah, security guard at one terminal.

    Coozer-Bits.

    Yipes: British police magazine advertises weapons of torture.

    Tech: Worm taking over Facebook.

    Nonprofit: NYC's Animal Care & Control needs donations. Please help them help homeless animals.

    Yipes: Huge, violent riots in Greece, involving thousands of protesters, after police kill teenager.

    PSA: Irish pork recalled.

    D'oh: Man Vs. Wild host injured in Antarctic expedition.

    Duh: Today's teens way too self-confident and cocky.

    Aww: Teddy bears in space! (cute pic)

    Duh: 25% of employees look at internet porn at work.

    Local: Man stabs female friend to death for taking remote.

    Science: Postpone Christmas! Jesus born in June.

    Texas airport offers karaoke; "air rage" to skyrocket.

    Great, just what we need: Rage-inducing karaoke in the most gun-totin', steer-wrasslin' state. And just before getting on a plane. From Aviation.com:
    HOUSTON — Leaving on a jet plane? Is the waiting the hardest part? Try airport karaoke! Houston's Bush International Airport is setting up karaoke booths for travelers, just in time for the holidays. One was to be up and running on Thursday afternoon, airport officials said.

    For the past two years, officials have invited choirs and bands from high schools and churches to perform at Bush and Hobby airports during December. Karaoke seemed the next logical step, said Caroline Schneider, assistant airport manager for customer service.

    "During the holidays, we have a lot of our novice travelers," she said. "We thought while they are waiting, they can just sing a song."

    Aspiring vocalists can choose from hundreds of song titles, Schneider said. Small prizes will be given to the singers.

    The Goldblum speaks!

    The New York Post, of all things, somehow communicated directly with The Goldblum. Some excerpts:

    How did you prepare for such a role [Adam Stein in "Adam Resurrected"]?

    Luckily, I had a year to immerse myself in it. I went to Israel and worked with Paul Schrader, and went to Germany for a month to a concentration camp or two. I talked to survivors. I played the violin every day and took lessons. I worked with script interpretation with animals. [A dog becomes one of his closest companions in the film.] I even worked with Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer. So it was quite a life-changing year, in the most nourishing part I ever had.

    How was it working with Schrader?

    He was up for having a real powerful experience. There's a scene where I'm at my daughter's grave and realize that she was pregnant with my grandson, and I lose my mind. I'm crying, snot's coming out of my nose and after a take he said, "That's very good, but on the next take, get a handful of dirt, put that in your mouth, and eat it." I said, "Yeah, that's a good idea. That's very crazy." And I said, "Is there any kind of edible dirt that looks like dirt?" He said, "No, Jeff. Just eat that dirt." I said, "Really? Isn't that bad, with bugs and rocks and germs?" He said, "Look, Jeff. Here." And he took up a pile of dirt and put it in his mouth and he ate it. I said, "My god, Paul. OK. Here we go." So I did it, too. We both had a very life-changing experience doing this movie.