Friday, May 15, 2009

Zombie ants controlled by flies!

Dear Nature: Stop being so goddamn freaky. Love, AC.

From that engine of nightmares National Geographic:
In South America female phorid flies have developed a bizarre reproductive strategy: They hover over fire ants, then inject their eggs into the ants with a needle-like appendage.

The egg grows and the resulting larva generally migrates to the ant's head. The larva lives there for weeks--slurping up the brain and turning the ant into a "zombie," in some cases compelling the ant to march 55 yards (50 meters) away from its colony to avoid attack by other fire ants.

Finally the baby fly decapitates its host and hatches, exiting through the ant's head.

Japan's melons take price hit (only 500,000 yen now).

Oh Japan. You so crazy.
The latest victim of Japan's recession is round, sweet and famous for being shockingly expensive.

The first two Yubari melons of the season were auctioned Friday in northern Japan and fetched 500,000 yen ($5,200). Pricey? Certainly. But it's practically a steal if you consider last year's winning bid _ a record 2.5 million yen, or about $26,000. In 2007 they sold for 2 million yen.

It appears the world's swankiest melon is in a major deflationary slump.

Weighing about eight pounds, the premium cantaloupes were part of the season's initial harvest at Sapporo Central Wholesale Market. Every year buyers flock to the market for a shot at the prestige of winning the very first melons of the year.

The orange-fleshed melons are grown only in the city of Yubari, a small town on the northern island of Hokkaido. Valued for their perfect proportions and taste, they are typically given as gifts by Japanese during the summer.

More here.

1 in 5 Americans admit to peeing in the pool.

Americans, urine trouble! From LiveScience:

One in five people admitted to peeing in a swimming pool, in a recent poll of Americans.

In fact, the survey conducted by the Water Quality and Health Council found that almost half (47 percent) of the subjects admitted to one or more behaviors that contribute to an unhealthy pool.

Here are some of the survey's other findings:

  • About one-third (35 percent) say they don't shower before entering the pool.
  • 63 percent were unaware of illnesses associated with swallowing, breathing or having contact with contaminated pool water.
  • Less than one quarter consider the frequency of pool cleaning and chemical treatment (23 percent) and even less (16 percent) think about chlorine levels to maintain clean pool water.
"Swimming is a fun and healthy activity for old and young alike. Proper water chlorination helps protect swimmers from germs that can make swimmers sick," said Michele Hlavsa, an epidemiologist in the Division of Parasitic Diseases for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "But swimmers also have role to play in maintaining a clean and healthy pool. Unhygienic behavior brings germs into the pool and makes it harder for chlorine to do its job.”

Hack director McG suddenly has integrity.

Not a fan of McG's spastic, MTV-style camerawork, but it's pretty cool he cut out what sounds like unnecessary boobage. But isn't a fourth Terminator movie gratuitous to begin with? From Canoe:

Terminator Salvation director McG cut a "beautiful" topless shot of Moon Bloodgood out of the action blockbuster - even though the stunning actress was thrilled with the scene.

The Charlie's Angels director thought the shot would add a little tenderness and understanding about Bloodgood's character Blair Williams - but it just seemed out of place when McG was cutting the film together in the editing suite.

He tells WENN, "We tried to echo that scene in (film) Witness where Kelly McGillis turns around and says, 'I'm not ashamed. I know that I'm raised in a puritanical fashion and this is who I am but I trust you, Harrison Ford, so let's have a moment' - and they never even touch.

"We had a scene opposite Sam Worthington's character that sort of echoed that but it ended up feeling like, 'Here's the topless scene in a genre picture' - and it felt gratuitous.

"I didn't want people to have a reason to say, 'I can't take this film that seriously. They're still playing grab ass and the film's made by a bunch of teenagers who just want the boob shot.' So we ultimately left it out."

Super rats that have poison-resistant DNA are infesting Britain.

From Daily Mail:

A new breed of 'super rat' with poison-resistant DNA is infesting towns and cities across Britain, scientists warned today.

Tests found the mutant gene protects the rodents from all known toxins - making them fitter, faster and 'almost impossible' to kill.

It is believed the resistance was caused by mother rats feeding the poison to their young and inadvertently increasing their immunity.

But now experts have identified an entirely new strand of DNA that wards off infection and attacks from rodenticides and pesticides.

Researchers at the University of Huddersfield said the gene is hereditary and passed from one generation to the next.

Coozer Tip: Don't drive with the top down when you've got thousands of loose dollars in the car.

From BBC:
A man in Germany discovered the dangers of driving an open-top car when an envelope containing 23,000 euros (£20,600) blew off the back seat.

The notes rained down on the fast-moving motorway traffic behind him.

Police closed the road in both directions for half an hour to search for the missing money. All but 3,000 euros was recovered.

The man, 23, was test-driving an Audi convertible near Hanover, and the money was intended to pay for the car.

The police have warned the public against scavenging along the motorway for the missing notes, pointing out that it would be illegal to keep them.

Tech Corner: Animal leg extensions for humans!

Who wouldn't want the graceful gait only provided by a metallic cloven hoof? From Ananova:
A Seattle designer has come up with the ultimate gadget for people who would like to be taller and more graceful - animal leg extensions.

Kim Graham's Digtiigrade Leg Extensions add 14 inches of height to the wearer - and she claims a number of famously pint-sized actors and performers already have their names on the two-month waiting list.

The fine art sculptor says the steel extensions are much more than just stilts and insists: "They give a person the uncanny and graceful appearance of an animal."

Cocaine and LSD in the air in Spanish cities.

Having just come back from Spain, I can tell you tha.... whoa! Anyone else just see that big pink funky winkerbean?!! From Ananova:
Spanish scientists say they have discovered traces of cocaine and LSD in the air in Madrid and Barcelona.

A new study has found the air there is laced with at least five drugs - most prominently cocaine.

The Superior Council of Scientific Investigations, a government institute, said on its website that in addition to cocaine, it found trace amounts of amphetamines, opiates, cannabinoids and lysergic acid in air-quality control stations.

But it said there was no reason for alarm.

"Not even if we lived for a thousand years would we consume the equivalent of a dose of cocaine by breathing this air," said one of its scientists, Miren Lopez de Alda, in the statement.

Colombia tourism article recommends taking in a cockfight.

Baffling article in Colombia Reports' travel section. I mean, reading about "putting cocks on tables" and "cock managers" is kinda funny, but using cockfighting as a way to lure tourists, and the breathless way they talk about it, seems cluelessly cruel. Article also includes pictures, but nothing graphic.

The good thing about cockfighting is that you get to see everything that happens behind the scenes. Just stand by the bar at the Club Gallistico San Miguel, and you will see men setting their cocks on plastic tables, that would otherwise be used for food and drinks.

Like stylists, the cock managers will skillfully clip the feathers on their bird´s neck to allow for greater mobility. They´ll sharpen it´s claws with a knife, and wrap its toes in sports tape. They´ll attach sharp razors on the bird´s legs, that will enable the cock to strike a fatal blow on its opponent. And the more superstitious managers may even douse a strange potion over their cock -- the bird of course -- hoping that this bit of magic will ensure victory.

Later in the article..

You may call this cruelty against animals. But it seems that cock fighting aficionados prefer to see their sport in a more enlightened form.

"We´re helping the process of natural selection" said Mr Gutierrez, an owner of thirty fighting cocks who kindly introduced me to the rules of the sport. "When two cocks meet in real life" he added with a shrug, "they will always try to kill each other over mating rights".

It may be too much Darwinism for some to bear, but Cockfighting is a legal sport in Colombia and there are hundreds of rings dispersed across big cities and small towns across the country. Bogota boasts 11 cock venues, with fights taking place every day except Tuesday.


Interesting: Socialist Norway thriving in global economic meltdown.

Science: Chemist shows how RNA can be the starting point for life.

Lame: Pearl Jam bassist mugged in Atlanta.

Dorky: Walgreen, Marvel form superteam.

World: Tamil Tigers giving up the fight?

Hot Cha Cha: Chinese sex theme park causing controversy.

D'oh: Drunk man drown in four inches of water.

Sad: Four US teens found murdered in Tijuana.

: Chernobyl fallout could help create space plants.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

GOP candidate for Senate calls Sen. Schumer "That Jew."

I think his excuse is lamer than the slur. I guess being Jewish means you don't believe in "traditional American values." From Arkansas News:

LITTLE ROCK — A self-professed gaffe-prone Republican state senator who is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s re-election bid said Thursday he regrets referring to Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., as “that Jew” at a Pulaski County GOP meeting last week.

“I don’t speak with a TelePrompTer, and if I had, that reference would have never made it in there,” Sen. Kim Hendren, R-Gravette, said in an interview with the Arkansas News Bureau. “I know I referred to him as Jew or Jewish, and I should not have done that. I got my foot in my mouth.”

The statement was first reported by Jason Tolbert on his conservative political blog, The Tolbert Report, after Hendren admitted to Tolbert he made the remark during his appearance at the GOP gathering.

Hendren said Thursday he made the remark in referring to comments Schumer made on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC, in which the New York senator said that “American traditional values” were behind them, a point Hendren said he strongly disputes.

“I was simply making a point about those two points. I believe in those traditional values like Andy Griffith, Aunt Bea, Barney and Opie. But now all that was lost with this statement,” Hendren said.

“I don’t have any issue with Jews or Jewish people or whatever the politically correct term they wish to be identified as,” he said. “I very much respect Senator Joe Lieberman.”

Evil corporation to spread its seed.

Few things scare me in this world more than Monsanto. From Reuters:

Monsanto Co (MON.N) said on Wednesday that it expects its U.S. gross profit from sales of seeds and traits to double by 2012 from the 2008 level, while its international businesses should grow by 85 percent.

The world's biggest seed company said it will launch a "high impact technology" product every one to two years, with the goal that each project will deliver more than $300 million in "gross revenue opportunities" by 2020 in the country where it is launched.

Among the company's top targeted product releases are its Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans and Genuity SmartStax corn, as well as a drought-tolerant corn and corn that uses nitrogen more efficiently, and an insect-protected soybean for Brazilian farmers.

Monsanto's sales of genetically modified trait developments in corn, soybeans and other crops have grown rapidly in the United States, and the company said Wednesday it expects its U.S. seeds and traits gross profit to double by 2012 from a 2008 baseline.

But the company is also looking for international growth and is projecting gains of nearly 85 percent from its international seeds and traits forecasted for the same time frame.

Monsanto has increasingly been focusing its long-term growth efforts on developing innovative seeds as its revenues from chemical herbicides peak.

Britain has lowest rape conviction rate in Europe.

European countries with better conviction rates: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Croatia, about 30 more. From the Daily Mail:

Rape victims are to be asked how the criminal justice system is failing them after new research has revealed that Britain has the worst conviction rates in Europe.

The move by the policing standards watchdog, the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, aims to encourage more women to report rape.

It follows Home Office attempts to improve conviction rates appear to have floundered.

The project comes after London taxi driver John Worboys was left free to attack hundreds of women because police officers did not believe victims’ reports of being assaulted.

One woman was told that black cab drivers 'don’t do that sort of thing'.

Just 6.5 per cent of reported rapes in England and Wales lead to a conviction, despite a push to increase the number of victims coming forward, a new study revealed last night.

Two decades ago, despite fewer rapes being reported, the conviction rate was 19 per cent. Scotland has an even lower conviction rate at only 2.9 per cent.

Countries such as France, meanwhile, had a conviction rate of 25 per cent in 2006, according to the first Europe-wide study of rape conviction rates.

Britain came bottom of 33 countries in the study, which is based on 1,100 case files and takes account of different legal processes and varying official definitions of rape in each country.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Freaks survive because they're strange.

From Live Science:

If a blue jay sees a normal-looking salamander, it will eat it. But if the same bird sees a freak, it may let it go.

University of Tennessee researcher Benjamin Fitzpatrick says this discovery, which his team reports in the open access journal BMC Ecology, suggests why rare traits persist in a population.

Predators detect common forms of prey more easily, the scientists figure. The majority that share a common look are always on the dinner menu, while oddballs are left to reproduce.

"Maintenance of variation is a classic paradox in evolution because both selection and drift tend to remove variation from populations," Fitzpatrick explained today. "If one form has an advantage, such as being harder to spot, it should replace all others. Likewise, random drift [genetic change that occurs by chance] alone will eventually result in loss of all but one form when there are no fitness differences. There must therefore be some advantage that allows unusual traits to persist."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Man wins for worst way to be found dead.

It's official - accidental suffocation in a gas mask while masturbating beats out the guy who was squashed by a boulder while having sex with a chicken. Well done, sir!
A Holloway man found dead wearing a gas mask with his trousers around his ankles was performing a solo sex act that went wrong, a coroner has said.

Jeffrey Cutmore, of Isledon Road, Holloway, was discovered in his living room by paramedics on 17 February. He is said to have been wearing a Russian military-issue gas mask and watching pornography on his computer.

A friend had raised the alarm after Cutmore, 44, had failed to attend a hospital appointment a few days earlier. Post-mortem tests showed that he had been taking amphetamine and ketamine. However, the levels were not high enough to cause an overdose, and his death seemed to have been caused by lack of oxygen.

Dr Freddie Patel, a Home Office pathologist who carried out the post mortem, said: "He was wearing a full-head black rubber mask attached to an open-ended airway tube. It was like a balaclava and very tight-fitting.

"I think the cause of death was asphyxia. For some reason the mask is put on and cuts off the oxygen supply. It is often the case where they try to reduce oxygen to get a heightened sexual feeling – but unfortunately now and again it goes wrong."


Yuck: Top 10 most common ingredients in fast food.

Politics: Obama plans new antitrust effort.

Interesting: Somalian pirates may be part of larger corporate conspiracy.

Awesome: Someday we can have bones like Wolverine!

Yipes: Russian police have committed 18,000 crimes... in the past 3 months.

Sad: UN condemns Sri Lankan civilian bloodbath.

RUW: 5 new robots inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame. (Why are we honoring these heartless killers?? Damn you, Roomba!!)

Man accidentally kills wife with chainsaw.

From FOX News:
OTSEGO, Mich. — Michigan authorities say a man working in his yard accidentally killed his wife with a chain saw.

The Otsego couple were trying to cut a tree Sunday when the man hit his wife in the neck with the chain saw.

She died at the scene of the accident, about 35 miles south of Grand Rapids.

Sheriff's Deputy David Labonde lives nearby. He tells WOOD-TV he heard a cry for help and did what he could to help.

The sheriff's department says it's withholding the couple's names until other relatives are notified. The TV station says they're in their 40s.

Saudi judge: It's ok to beat spendthrift wives.

Women be shopping for burkhas, amirite? From CNN:
Husbands are allowed to slap their wives if they spend lavishly, a Saudi judge said recently during a seminar on domestic violence, Saudi media reported Sunday.

Arab News, a Saudi English-language daily newspaper based in Riyadh, reported that Judge Hamad Al-Razine said that "if a person gives SR 1,200 [$320] to his wife and she spends 900 riyals [$240] to purchase an abaya [the black cover that women in Saudi Arabia must wear] from a brand shop and if her husband slaps her on the face as a reaction to her action, she deserves that punishment."

Women in the audience immediately and loudly protested Al-Razine's statement, and were shocked to learn the remarks came from a judge, the newspaper reported.

Arab News reported that Al-Razine made his remark as he was attempting to explain why incidents of domestic violence had increased in Saudi Arabia. He said that women and men shared responsibility, but added that "nobody puts even a fraction of blame" on women, the newspaper said.

Brits use wallabies as lawnmowers.

If I had a wallaby, I'd name him Wally B. The B stands for Bloodletter. Or Bouncy. From Ananova:
British gardeners are increasingly buying wallabies as pets to trim their lawns.

Private orders for the marsupials have jumped in recent years as landowners seek new ways of keeping their grass neat, reports The Times.

Wallaby enthusiasts say the animal is a cuter, friendlier and more exotic alternative than sheep.

A pair of wallabies are not cheap, with males costing £150 and females around £650, in addition to food and bedding costs.

But Waveney Wildlife, Britain's biggest private supplier, reports a doubling in wallaby orders in five years, driven by growing interest from individuals.

McDonald's now has power to grant PhDs.

When I grow up, I'm going to go to Bovine University! From Breitbart:
US fast food giant McDonald's is hoping to offer PhDs, after receiving approval to award its own nationally recognised qualifications in Britain, according to the company's "chief people officer."

Speaking to the Financial Times, David Fairhurst said the company's new power to award qualifications made it "a university in its own right", and added that the company wanted to award qualifications equivalent to university degrees.

"One day, I'd love to see us doing a PhD, I definitely think we should go as far as we can," he told the business daily.

He cautioned, however, that the company wanted to perfect its current training regimen, which includes courses in shift management that are equivalent in level to A-levels or high school courses, before putting together a post-graduate qualification.

McDonald's was one of nine employers or employer groups last year that received the power to award qualifications, which Britain wants to encourage so that more workers will have recognised certificates to increase their employability.

The company has long sought to challenge the perception that it only creates low-level, poorly-paid "McJobs".

High school class sets record for longest drum roll.

Neil Peart does this every day. With his MIND. From the Charlotte Observer:

They didn't just break the record, they shattered it.

Percussionists from Rock Hill High School set a new Guinness world record Saturday for the longest, single drum roll, as 28 students combined to sustain the roll on one snare drum for 27 hours, 23 seconds. Quantcast

That easily broke the previous record of 24 hours, 23 seconds held by a high school in Michigan. Rock Hill High's effort began at 5 p.m. Friday at the Rock Hill Galleria and ended at 8 p.m. Saturday to cheers from dozens of people who had gathered to watch the final minutes.

The event raised around $3,600 for Rock Hill High's Band of Distinction to buy new equipment.

[...] To set the new record, Skellett and his students stayed overnight at the Galleria, with students taking turns on the roll. Proper hand-offs were crucial, because one slip-up would have ruined it.

Some students played longer than others, but no one played longer than junior Jason Piers.

Piers set what is believed to be the longest drum roll by a single person at 4 hours, 10 minutes, besting the previous mark by two minutes. Not only did he have to sustain the roll for that long, he did it in the wee hours of Saturday morning as other drummers took advantage of the downtime to get some sleep.

Genius orangutan engineers zoo escape.


An “ingenious” 62 kilogram orangutan short circuited electrical wires and climbed a fence using a makeshift ladder in an aborted escape attempt from Adelaide Zoo today.

The elaborate plot by 27-year-old Karta got her to within metres of the public, and resulted in the closure of the zoo on one of its busiest days of the year.

The alarm was raised by a member of the public about 11am.

Zoo curator Peter Whitehead said Karta had twisted a stick into hot wires that encircled her enclosure, short circuiting the wires and allowing her to enter a vegetated area near the concrete and glass fence that separated her from the public.

She then piled up sticks, grass and plant roots and used them to climb onto the fence.

”You're talking about an animal that's highly intelligent, Mr Whitehead said.

Sean Penn and Natalie Portman?

I normally don't judge matters of the heart, but... barfaroony. From
Sean Penn's marriage to Robyn Wright Penn reportedly ended because he had started seeing actress Natalie Portman.

Star magazine reports Penn, 48, and Portman, 27, have been together since at least March 17, when spies say they were spotted kissing for over 45 minutes at the Tower Bar in LA's Sunset Tower Hotel.

The pair first got to know each other when they teamed up in May 2008 as jury members at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

"She stimulates him in ways no other person has, mentally or professionally," a source told Star magazine.

"There's a lot more there with Natalie than any of the other girls Sean's been with."

Man sues over sex ban.

From Ananova:
A Kenyan man is suing the organisers of a politically motivated sex ban for causing him "anxiety and sleepless nights".

James Kimondo is seeking damages for the ban which was called by women's groups in a bid to force political leaders to put their rivalries aside, reports the Daily Telegraph.

"Since the women called for the sex boycott, my wife has denied me my conjugal rights. This has caused me anxiety and sleepless nights," he said.

"I have been suffering mental anguish, stress, back aches, lack of concentration," Mr Kimondo told reporters outside the Nairobi High Court.

The strike ended on Wednesday with the organisers claiming it had been a success.

The leaders of the G10, a coalition of women's groups, argued that the country's male leaders should not have time for matters of the flesh when the country is ensnared in economic and political turmoil.

Oldest human hairs found in hyena dung.

More proof for my theory that humans evolved out of piles of poop. From Yahoo:

While excavating in Gladysvale Cave, near Johannesburg, South Africa, a team of researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand discovered an ancient brown-hyena latrine. Upon inspection, hyena coprolites - fossilized dung - appeared to contain uncannily hair-like structures.

Lucinda Backwell, a paleontologist in the group, took a sediment block containing several coprolites back to the lab for a closer look. She and a colleague carefully removed forty of the "hairs apparent" from one of the coprolites and subjected half to scanning-electron microscopy. Sure enough, fossilized hairs they were, and five showed remarkably preserved surface scales.

Comparing the scales to those of a variety of animals - an admittedly tricky undertaking - Backwell's team concluded that human hairs were the best match.

Dating of the cave's limestone layers showed that the dung had been deposited sometime between 257,000 and 195,000 years ago. During that period, both early Homo sapiens and a relation, H. heidelbergensis, roamed the South African landscape.

Iran frees US journalist.

It's great to wake up to good news. From Yahoo:

TEHRAN, Iran – A lawyer for a U.S. journalist jailed in Iran says she has been freed from prison after an appeals court suspended her eight-year jail sentence.

Roxana Saberi, a 32-year-old dual Iranian-American citizen, was convicted last month of spying for the U.S. and sentenced to eight years in prison. An appeals court reduced her jail term on Monday to a two-year suspended sentence.

Her lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, tells The Associated Press that she was released and is "now out of jail."

Earlier Monday, Saberi's father, said he would make plans to return home with his daughter in the next few days. Saberi parents live in Fargo, North Dakota and had traveled to Iran to seek her release.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Enraged NY senator rips off car door to beat up photographer.

From Newsday:
A state senator has been stripped of his leadership positions following allegations that he assaulted a New York Post photographer.

Brooklyn Democrat Kevin Parker was arrested Friday night on a charge of criminal mischief after the incident outside his parents' home.

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith released a statement saying he considered the charges serious and had stripped Parker of his positions as Majority Whip and chairman of the energy committee

Post photographer William Lopez says the trouble began when he took the lawmaker's picture for a story about how he was having trouble paying his mortgage.

He says the senator became enraged, chased him, damaged his camera and ripped a panel off his car door.

Parker hasn't responded to requests for comment.

Woman suing police over karaoke melee.

Even Beaver County (wherever that is) can't escape karaoke-fueled mayhem.
A woman who claims a Monaca police officer beat her during an arrest last year has agreed to enter the county’s first-time offender program on a charge related to that incident.

Patricia Turosik, 45, of 116 Autumn Lane, Center Township, agreed to enter the county’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program on a charge of disorderly conduct stemming from a brawl at the since-closed Monaca Croatian Club on Sept. 8, 2007.

Turosik will serve six months’ probation on the misdemeanor charge, and, if she fulfills all the requirements of the probation program, she can have her record expunged.

[...] In her lawsuit, Turosik said that a club employee had argued with her during a karaoke event, and she poured a beer on his head. The employee punched Turosik, setting off a brawl that ended up outside the club.