Saturday, April 4, 2009
Italian police have found more than 100 immigrants, including 24 Afghan children, living in the sewer system beneath railway stations in Rome.
The children range in age from 10 to 15 years and are now being looked after by the city's social services.
They were found when the railway police followed up reports of children living near the city's stations.
The police say they do not speak Italian and broke into the sewers by removing manhole covers.
The charity Save the Children Italy says that more than 1,000 unaccompanied children arrived in Rome last year from various countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Friday, April 3, 2009
From the NY Daily News:
Will you marry me - even if I'm a nut?
A klutzy groom-to-be dropped his diamond engagement ring while proposing to his girlfriend on the Brooklyn Bridge, then braved moving traffic to retrieve the bauble from the road below.
"I don't know what was going through my head," said Don Walling, 29, of Coram, L.I., a teacher at Intermediate School 88 in Brooklyn. "Everything was exactly how I wanted, except for the whole ring thing."
Motorists screeched to avoid him, and passersby who misread the situation implored him not to jump into the East River as he climbed down from the pedestrian walkway.
Cops stopped traffic, and Walling got back the platinum 1.6-carat diamond ring, which was run over and slightly damaged by a cab.
Actress Demi Moore's frequent postings on Twitter put her in the middle of a life-and-death drama Friday when a woman sent her an online message threatening suicide.
Moore, who was in southern France where her husband, actor Ashton Kutcher, is filming a movie, quickly replied to the threat saying, "Hope you are joking."
Twitter followers who saw the message tracked it to a San Jose, California, home, where police found a 48-year-old woman. The police took her into custody for a psychological evaluation, according to a police spokesman.
About two hours after the initial exchange, Moore posted this message -- known as a "tweet" -- on Twitter: "Thanks everyone for reaching out to the San Jose PD i am told they are aware and no need to call anymore. I do not know this woman."
A San Jose police spokesman said a "concerned citizen" -- not Moore or Kutcher -- called his department at 4:37 a.m. to report seeing the threat on Twitter.
Police went to the residence that the caller provided and found the woman unharmed but in need of help, Sgt. Ronnie Lopez said.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
My favorite record is Grace Under Pressure (1984). The single ‘Red Sector A’ is about the Holocaust, correct?
That song goes back to a story my mother told me about being liberated [from Bergen-Belsen] and how she wasn’t quite sure what was going on. She was in a section of the camp, working and looked out the window to see all these soldiers with their arms up. She thought this was some sort of new salute to Hitler. She hadn’t realized that they were being liberated. But when she finally realized, her first reaction was, ‘What took you so long?’ All the while, she had assumed the rest of the world was suffering as well and going through similar conditions….When I told this story to Neil [Peart] (drummer and lyricist), parts of the story had some impact on him, and he came up with ‘Red Sector A.’
You went back to the camps not too long ago?
Yeah, I went with my mother in 1995 and with my brother and my sister. We went to Bergen-Belsen, where she was liberated, and it was the 50th anniversary of the liberation of that camp. While we were there, we went back to the town she was a child in, as well as Auschwitz, where she was before being transferred to Bergen-Belsen. This was our opportunity to revisit her life, and it gave her a real sense of completion, the closure of that horrible part of her life.
Caught Twittering or on Facebook at work? It'll make you a better employee, according to an Australian study that shows surfing the Internet for fun during office hours increases productivity.
The University of Melbourne study showed that people who use the Internet for personal reasons at work are about 9 percent more productive that those who do not.
Study author Brent Coker, from the department of management and marketing, said "workplace Internet leisure browsing," or WILB, helped to sharpened workers' concentration.
"People need to zone out for a bit to get back their concentration," Coker said on the university's website (www.unimelb.edu.au/).
"Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the Internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a days' work, and as a result, increased productivity," he said.
Just five weeks old, these twin baby leopards are as inquisitive as they are adorable - which is how they've made friends with a baby orangutan.
Solka and his sister Chant go to Rishi, aged one, for warm cuddles in his already long fur.
The pair, both African leopards were born at The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
They now weigh around two pounds, stand at six inches tall and measure 12 inches from tail to nose.
Hand raised by carers at the institute, these two endangered cubs will grow up to be animal ambassadors at the conservation centre, where people are given extraordinarily close access to the animal kingdom.
From Daily Mail:
A woman was left in agony when she mistook a bottle of toxic nail glue for eyedrops.
Paula Griffin, 29, squirted the liquid into her right eye by mistake after waking up with blurred vision.
Her eye was glued shut for eight hours and only prised open again when doctors cut off her lashes.
Paula was warned she could have lost her sight forever and is still waiting to be told if there is any lasting damage.
Duh: Sisters spread happiness, while brothers spread distress.
Neat: Mysterious giant black cats appearing in NY suburb.
Misc: Brazilian inmates train pigeons to fly in contraband.
D'oh: Politician accidentally tapes himself making racist, sexist comments.
ZombieWatch: Man's legs severed so he could fit in coffin.
WTF: Japan Times op-ed suggests women be forced into making babies or be sterilized.
Lame: Palestinian Authority threatens the death penalty to Palestinians who sell homes to Jews.
Health: New drug quells urge to steal.
Duh: Survey finds "friends with benefits" very common.
Science: 1 fish, 2 fish.... Fish can count!
Science: New study suggests autism symptoms may be reversible.
Aww: Cat stuck on TV news truck becomes story.
Eats: How I Learned to Love Goat Meat.
Local: Queens to get United Soccer League team.
Sad: 1 in 10 Americans are on food stamps.
Japan's institutionalized xenophobia is annoying. From BBC:
Japan is offering 300,000 yen ($3,000;£2,000) for a plane ticket home for some unemployed overseas workers.
In addition, there is 200,000 yen for each family member leaving the country.
The scheme only applies to hundreds of thousands of South Americans of Japanese descent, living in the country on special visas for factory work.
Japan's downturn has particularly hit workers from countries such as Brazil and Peru, often only on temporary work contracts making things like car parts.
European scientists have invented a humanoid robot based on a three-and-a-half year old toddler.
The £200,000 iCub is able to crawl, visually perceive and sense its surroundings and use its hands to grip and manipulate.
Designed by the RobotCub Consortium of several top universities, Europe's most advanced robot is the result of a five-year project funded by the European Commission.
A production line has been set up and by the end of the year around 20 different universities, including Imperial College, Plymouth and Manchester, will have their very own iCub.
Looking for an explanation for recurring nightmares of leaving the house without your trousers on or losing your teeth? New research suggests you can blame the Earth's magnetic field, rather than a repressed childhood.
Darren Lipnicki, a psychologist formerly at the Center for Space Medicine in Berlin, Germany, found a correlation between the bizarreness of his dreams, recorded over eight years, and extremes in local geomagnetic activity.
Other studies have tied low geomagnetic activity to increases in the production of the melatonin, a potent hormone that helps set the body's circadian clock. So, based on anecdotal evidence that melatonin supplements used as a sleeping aid can cause off-kilter dreams, Lipnicki wondered whether local magnetic fields could induce the same effects.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
A Queens judge ruled yesterday that subway employees do not have to do anything but pick up their phones if they see a crime -- as he threw out a suit against the MTA and two workers who did nothing more to stop a rape.
A conductor saw the rape from the window on his train, and a station agent in the booth witnessed a screaming woman being dragged down a staircase inside the desolate 21st Street station of the G line. But neither one left the safety of their assigned posts to help her. Instead, conductor Harmodio Cruz and agent John Koort called the command center to summon cops.
Justice Kevin Kerrigan ruled the two workers had taken "prompt and decisive action in obtaining police help," according to the decision handed down in Queens Supreme Court. The help came far too late for the victim, who was raped on the platform.
Her lawyer, Marc Albert, called Kerrigan's decision "offensive," saying it gives "blanket immunity" for transit workers to ignore straphangers in peril. "Simply pressing the button is enough," lamented Albert. "God forbid citizens are put in a position where municipal workers are not required to act and it leads to harm -- they are left out in the cold."
Reigning Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza caused more than a few jaws to drop when she described her recent tour of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as "a lot of fun" and a "relaxing, calm, beautiful place," Reuters reported Tuesday.
The Venezuelan 22-year-old visited the U.S. naval facility, where approximately 240 detainees are held, from March 20-25 with Miss USA Crystle Stewart, 27.
After her USO-organized tour of the prison camp for foreign terrorists, Dayana wrote in a blog entry posted on the Miss Universe Web site that she had an "incredible experience."
"It was a loooot of fun!" Mendoza wrote of her time at the camp, a prison surrounded by barbed-wire fence and minefields. She wrote that she went to a bar on the naval base and visited the "unbelievable" beach, Reuters reported.
LEAGUE CITY, Texas — The mother of a man killed in a hit-and-run Sunday said someone left a handwritten note of apology beside her son’s body.
"They said that they were sorry and that they had a family," said Roberta Jones. "But he had one. you know and he was my family."
Two days after Maurice Jones was found dead in a ditch along Dickinson Avenue, police were still searching for the person responsible.
They won't release many details about the note, but it contained information that leads them to believe the suspect might be a woman under age 40 with a newborn baby.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Yikes. Turns out not all baggage thieves are sophisticated criminals.
Dallas police just arrested 39 year old Patrick Brown who was stealing up to 3 bags a day from Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and Tulsa airports.
He'd wait at the carousel, then when bags circled once or twice, he'd snag them and leave the airport.
In total, he stole over 400 bags from DFW, 200 from Houston and an unknown number from Tulsa. Brown stored the bags in a storage unit, and sold them at a local Dallas flea market.
A buyer at the flea market discovered a name tag in the luggage, contacted the rightful owner, and the police got involved. So, if you passed through any of those airports, and you thought your bags never made it to the carousel, you may want to contact Dallas police.
A JetBlue employee says he took a free flight from New York to Boston -- after falling asleep in a plane's cargo bin.
The man was discovered by baggage handlers at Logan International Airport after the plane landed there Saturday. He told police he'd been accidentally locked inside the pressurized luggage compartment while taking a nap.
The 21-year-old man says he called JetBlue Airways officials when he realized he was no longer on the ground.
A state police spokesman says the man wasn't charged with any crime and was returned to New York when it was determined he wasn't dangerous.
Terrible. From the Independent:
Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, has signed a law which "legalises" rape, women's groups and the United Nations warn. Critics claim the president helped rush the bill through parliament in a bid to appease Islamic fundamentalists ahead of elections in August.
In a massive blow for women's rights, the new Shia Family Law negates the need for sexual consent between married couples, tacitly approves child marriage and restricts a woman's right to leave the home, according to UN papers seen by The Independent.
"It is one of the worst bills passed by the parliament this century," fumed Shinkai Karokhail, a woman MP who campaigned against the legislation. "It is totally against women's rights. This law makes women more vulnerable."
The law regulates personal matters like marriage, divorce, inheritance and sexual relations among Afghanistan's minority Shia community. "It's about votes," Ms Karokhail added. "Karzai is in a hurry to appease the Shia because the elections are on the way."
The provisions are reminiscent of the hardline Taliban regime, which banned women from leaving their homes without a male relative. But in a sign of Afghanistan's faltering steps towards gender equality, politicians who opposed it have been threatened.
Opening a car trunk or controlling a home air conditioner could become just a wish away with Honda's new technology that connects thoughts inside a brain with robotics.
Honda Motor Co. HMC has developed a way to read patterns of electric currents on a person's scalp as well as changes in cerebral blood flow when a person thinks about four simple movements - moving the right hand, moving the left hand, running and eating.
Honda succeeded in analyzing such thought patterns, and then relaying them as wireless commands for Asimo, its human-shaped robot.
In a video shown Tuesday at Tokyo headquarters, a person wearing a helmet sat still but thought about moving his right hand - a thought that was picked up by cords attached to his head inside the helmet. After several seconds, Asimo, programmed to respond to brain signals, lifted its right arm.
The mysterious boom and flash of light seen over parts of Virginia Sunday night was not a meteor, but actually exploding space junk from the second stage of a Russian Soyuz rocket falling back to Earth, according to an official with the U.S. Naval Observatory.
"I'm pretty convinced that what these folks saw was the second stage of the Soyuz rocket that launched the crew up to the space station," said Geoff Chester of the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.
Residents of the areas around Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Va., began calling 911 last night with reports of hearing a loud boom and seeing a streak of light that lit up the sky, according to news reports.
The FDA Monday advised consumers to avoid pistachios and products containing them in the wake of a massive recall involving at least 1 million pounds of the nuts.
Four different strains of salmonella were identified on roasted pistachios shipped nationwide for processing in a variety of products, officials said.
The pistachios are being voluntarily recalled by Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc., in Terra Bella, Calif. The company is an affiliate of Setton International Foods Inc., in Commack, where officials declined to comment. A public relations representative in Washington, D.C., said the two divisions are legally separate entities.
The recall was announced in a news briefing by officials from the U.S. Food and Drug and Administration and the state of California. Consumers are being advised not to eat pistachios until investigators conclude the probe. For those who have already purchased roasted pistachios, the FDA advises consumers to hold on to the products until it is determined whether they are salmonella-free.
Punk band Rancid will release its first album in six years on June 2, two days before it begins a North American tour with Rise Against in Vancouver, B.C.
"Let the Dominoes Fall" (Hellcat/Epitaph), the band's seventh album, was recorded at George Lucas' Skywalker Sound Studio in San Francisco, with production by Epitaph founder and Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz. Stax organ legend Booker T. Jones plays Hammond B3 on the track "Up To No Good."
Rancid's last album, 2003's "Indestructible," reached No. 15 on the Billboard 200. That album marked the band's first and last for Warner Bros., though the release did not carry any mention of the WB name, a move likely designed to assuage fans disappointed by the staunchly independent band's alignment with a major label.
Online social-networking titan MySpace has launched a karaoke service in Japan, expanding its amateur crooner channel to a nation rich with lovers of the pastime.
"If you had told me years ago we would launch an online karaoke site in Japan, I would have told you it is like selling ice to the Eskimos," said MySpace Karaoke general manager Nimrod Lev.
"Boy was I wrong. It seems like the land of karaoke has nothing even close to that. We met with all the leading companies there and they loved what they saw."
Monday, March 30, 2009
A McDonald's drive-through was shot up early Sunday after a customer was angered that the restaurant had shifted from the lunch menu to the breakfast menu, police said.
The driver of a white Dodge Intrepid pulled into the drive-through at about 2 a.m. at McDonald's at 210 W. 500 South in Salt Lake City and ordered food from the lunch and dinner menu, police said.
When a clerk told her the restaurant was serving only items from the breakfast menu, the woman drove to the second window, police said. Two men got out of the car, and one pulled a sawed-off shotgun out of the trunk, police said. He fired once or twice into the drive-though window before the two men and the woman left on 500 South and turned north on 300 West, police said.
[...] No one was injured in the shooting, police said. Officers did not know how many employees were in the restaurant at the time.
A 27-year-old Australian man who pimped a 16-year-old girl so he and his girlfriend could afford their apartment, would pay the schoolgirl with chicken nuggets, the Australian Associated Press reported.
Ronald Vikash Gander used the $4,500 the teen made for having sex with five middle-aged men in June of last year to pay the weekly $1,050 rent on his Brisbane apartment, the Brisbane District Court was told.
Gander and his 16-year-old girlfriend would pay the teen with an occasional box of chicken nuggets, the AAP reported.
"The girl was used as if she was a piece of meat ... and your conduct can properly be described as that of a sleaze merchant," Judge Marshall Irwin told Gander.
"Meat ants"? Ugh. From EurekAlert:
Ecologists in Australia have discovered that cane toads are far more susceptible to being killed and eaten by meat ants than native frogs. Their research – published in the British Ecological Society's journal Functional Ecology – reveals a chink in the cane toad's armour that could help control the spread of this alien invasive species in tropical Australia.
Professor Rick Shine and his colleagues Georgia Ward-Fear, Matt Greenlees and Greg Brown from the University of Sydney's Team Bufo (from the Latin name for the toxic toad) compared habitat use and activity patterns in meat ants, metamorph cane toads and seven native Australian frog species. They found that, unlike the native frogs, cane toads are poorly equipped to escape the meat ants.
According to Shine: "The spread of cane toads through tropical Australia has created major ecological problems. The ideal way to control toad numbers would be to find a predator that kills and eats toads but leaves native frogs alone. However, bringing in a predator from overseas might have catastrophic consequences, like those that occurred when cane toads themselves were brought in. So we've explored an alternative approach – to see if we could use a native predator. Meat ants are abundant around tropical waterbodies, and we often see them eating small toads, so we suspected that there might be some kind of mismatch between the invader and its newly invaded range, for example something about the toads' behaviour that makes them vulnerable to a predator that poses little danger to native frogs."
Why am I not surprised that a researcher from a Mormon college would discover that dorky outsiders are a good thing? From a Brigham Young University press release:
Nobody wants to share a cubicle with a new hire like Dwight Schrute. The beet-farming volunteer sheriff's deputy/paper salesman creates many awkward moments because of his differences with co-workers on NBC's "The Office."
But according to new research co-authored by a Brigham Young University business professor, better decisions come from teams that include a "socially distinct newcomer." That's psychology-speak for someone who is different enough to bump other team members out of their comfort zones.
Researchers noticed this effect after conducting a traditional group problem-solving experiment. The twist was that a newcomer was added to each group about five minutes into their deliberations. And when the newcomer was a social outsider, teams were more likely to solve the problem successfully.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
The punks are invading the theater. A new musical production adapted from “American Idiot,” the best-selling album by the punk band Green Day, is scheduled to make its debut in September at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in California.
Berkeley Rep is to announce Monday that the new work, also titled “American Idiot,” will have its premiere as the first production of the theater’s 2009-10 season, and run from Sept. 4 through Oct. 11.
The musical is a collaboration between Green Day — the Bay Area rock trio consisting of Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool — and Michael Mayer, the Tony Award-winning director of “Spring Awakening.”
The project is also causing some shock to the band members, who acknowledge that they had grand aspirations for “American Idiot” but perhaps not quite this grand.“It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Mr. Armstrong, the Green Day singer and guitarist, said of this new partnership in a telephone interview, “but that’s what I love about it. When people see it, it’s going to be my wildest dream.”
A New York businessman is launching a new kosher tequila in time for Cinco de Mayo.
Martin Silver says Agave 99 will be on the market in time for the holiday that celebrates Mexico’s defeat of French forces on May 5, 1862.
Silver, president of Long Island-based Star Industries, says he wants to satisfy the craze for high-end tequila with one that observant Jews can drink. Silver says a half million cases of the 99-proof kosher tequila are being produced at a Mexican plant using methods certified by a rabbi.
It will retail for $41.95 a bottle. The product launch — with Mexican songs sung in both Yiddish and Spanish — is set for May 5, but it will also be sold earlier for Passover, which starts at sundown on April 8 this year.
Scientists at North Carolina State University and three universities in Japan have shown for the first time that it is possible for certain female termite "primary queens" to reproduce both sexually and asexually during their lifetimes.
The asexually produced babies mostly grow to be queen successors – so-called "secondary queens" – that remain in the termite colony and mate with the king. This produces large broods of babies without the dangers of inbreeding, as secondary queens have no genes in common with the king.
Babies produced the old-fashioned way, between either the primary or secondary queens and the king, are mostly workers and soldiers of both genders, the research shows.
Rush: Neil Peart appears on some dude's album!
Sad: Crabs feel pain. Maybe we shouldn't boil them alive...
Sad: Thousands of toads killed... y'know, for the kids!
Games: Shoot em up video games improve eyesight.
Robot Uprising Watch: Fire-breathing giant robot attacks Tokyo in Roppongi art project gone amok!
Creepy: Bill O'Reilly & His Loofah Brigade stalking, harassing, and intimidating bloggers.
PSA: Want to help stop the O'Reilly harassment machine?