Washington - Richard Nixon considered Ted Kennedy such a threat that he tried to catch him cheating on his wife, even ordering aides to plant secret service bodyguards to spy on the senator's behaviour.
"Do you have anybody in the secret service that you can get to?" the US president asked his aide John Ehrlichman in a stark series of Oval Office conversations about Kennedy before the 1972 election. "Yeah, yeah," Ehrlichman replied.
"Plant one," Nixon said. "Plant two guys on him. This could be very useful."
Nixon made clear that the secret service protection afforded Kennedy before the 1972 election would be rescinded after. Then, said the president, "if he gets shot, it's too damn bad". His aides disdainfully referred to Kennedy supporters as "super-swinger jet-set types".
Tape recordings from the Nixon White House betray a preoccupation with the Kennedy mystique and how that might be used against the Republican president by the last surviving brother, who died on Tuesday aged 77. Nixon wanted a sharp and private eye kept on Kennedy's movements after the Chappaquiddick scandal, hoping to catch him with a woman other than his wife, Joan.
Nixon's men had investigators tail Kennedy on a Hawaii vacation and when he was at his Martha's Vineyard haunts.
Mortified, they told Nixon that Joan Kennedy wanted to wear "hot pants" to a White House function until her husband talked her out of it. But Ted's behaviour? In the aftermath of his scandal he was careful not to step out of line, the tapes suggest.
Friday, August 28, 2009
A Thai court Friday convicted and sentenced a female “Red Shirt” protester to 18 years in prison for insulting the country’s revered monarchy during anti-government rallies, an official said.
Daranee Charncherngsilapakul, 46, a hardcore supporter of Thailand’s ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was found guilty of making speeches that were insulting to the Thai royal family.
The judge at Bangkok’s main criminal court said her speeches at Sanam Luang park in the capital during three pro-Thaksin rallies in June and July last year were against the law of lese majeste, the court official told AFP.
“The court convicted the defendant on three counts and sentenced her for six years on each count,” she said.
“Although the defendant testified that she did not intend to insult the monarchy or make the public believe her, she could not escape her wrongdoing,” the verdict said.
Lese majeste — insulting the monarchy — is a serious charge in Thailand. Anyone can file a complaint, and police are duty-bound to investigate it in a country where the king is treated with almost religious adulation.
In a shocking case that has zoologists baffled, an ultra rare Sumatran tiger was killed and dismembered at a zoo in Indonesia. There are only 400 of the critically endangered tigers left in the wild--but that's not even the most appalling part of the story.
Well, it might be, but this is pretty despicable, too: just over 5 years ago, the Zoological Society of London had used this particular tiger to help train Indonesian veterinarians and zoologists. And one of those very veterinarians may be responsible for killing it, skinning it, dismembering it, and putting it up for sale on the black market.
As of Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, at least 4,335 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
The figure includes nine military civilians killed in action. At least 3,466 military personnel died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.
[...] The British military has reported 179 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 21; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, seven; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia and Georgia, three each; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand and Romania, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan and South Korea, one death each.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann took a leap into fantasy politics on Tuesday, suggesting that the current Republican obsession with health care reform creating “death panels” could easily lead into an all-out panic over zombies.
[...] At the same time, conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has begun describing supporters of health care reform as zombies. “They are having to send out multiple e-mails, war rooms, websites to instruct their brain-dead zombies on how to go out and show support for this abomination!” Limbaugh wrote recently. “It’s the Night of the Living Dead, in the daytime! Obama zombies marching around with little instructions and pamphlets and manuals.”
“The evidence is all around us,” Olbermann concluded, “and it’s hungry for our brains.” He then turned to former Saturday Night Live writer Max Brooks, known as “the Studs Terkel of zombie journalism.”
“Could we see the GOP using the zombie defense against Democrats?” Olbermann asked.
“If they did it would be counterproductive,” Brooks replied, “because Republicans would like a zombie outbreak.”
“During a zombie outbreak society would collapse,” Brooks explained. “The government would implode. We would all have to retreat to our homes surrounded by our guns. Sounds pretty right-wing to me.”
“This is in lockstep with the Republican strategy,” continued Brooks. “Right now, zombies are hot, they’re hip, they’re now — especially among young people. So what do Republicans do when something is hot and hip and now among young people? They attack it.”
Olbermann, however, got in the last word, suggesting yet another reason why Republicans might look favorably on a zombie attack. “If the zombies are looking for brains, they’ll only eat the Democrats.”
Scientists have produced four baby monkeys who each have three biological parents.
They used an IVF procedure designed to stop the spread of incurable inherited diseases.
Scientists believe the breakthrough could lead to the first genetically engineered children within a few years.
It has provoked an ethical storm, however. Critics say it is a step towards an era of hybrid children and warn that it erodes the sanctity of life.
The technique is intended to help women who carry genetic diseases. It involves transferring healthy DNA from the mother's egg cell into an egg donated by another woman.
Children conceived by the technique would inherit DNA from three sources - their mother, the donor and their father.
The new Australian Military Court, a centrepiece of reforms to the military justice system, has been declared constitutionally invalid.
High Court judges have unanimously ruled that legislation establishing the court required it to exercise the judicial power of the Commonwealth.
This was despite it being specifically declared not to be a court under the constitution and that it was to operate more in the manner of a tribunal.
For that reason it was constitutionally invalid, the judges said.
The decision means a former sailor, Brian Lane, won't face trial before the military court on charges of committing an act of indecency and assaulting a superior officer.
The High Court ordered that a writ of prohibition be issued barring the court from proceeding to try the charges against Mr Lane.
The charges relate to incidents in August 2005 when he was alleged to have been photographed placing his genitals on an army sergeant's forehead - a practice known as "teabagging" - while the sergeant was asleep.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Thirty to 50 percent of the entire U.S. population could be infected with swine flu this fall and winter, according to a report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
As many as 1.8 million people may end up in the hospital, and 30,000 to 90,000 could die, with a concentration among children and young adults, the presidential panel of the nation's leading scientists said today in outlining what it called a plausible scenario. That's more than twice the annual average of deaths typically associated with the seasonal flu, and those occur mainly in people older than 65.
"We're going to have people hospitalized and we will, unfortunately, have more deaths," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
The report says this swine flu is a "serious threat to our nation and the world." Because it's a new strain of the flu, people do not have a built-in immunity.
Officials in central Virginia approved a Walmart Supercenter early Tuesday near one of the nation's most important Civil War battlefields, a proposal that had stirred opposition by preservationists and hundreds of historians.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to grant the special permit to the world's biggest retailer after a majority of more than 100 speakers said they favored bringing the Walmart to Locust Grove, within a cannonball's shot from the Wilderness Battlefield.
Historians and Civil War buffs are fearful the Walmart store will draw traffic and more commerce to an area within the historic boundaries of the Wilderness, where generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee first met in battle 145 years ago and where 145,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fought and more than 29,000 were killed or injured. One-fourth of the Wilderness is protected.
But they could not sway supervisors, who said they didn't see the threat.
"I cannot see how there will be any visual impact to the Wilderness Battlefield," Supervisor Chairman Lee Frame said, casting a vote for the special use permit the retailer needs to build. "I think the current proposal ... is the best way to protect the battlefield."
The retailer said construction could begin in a year.
Nearly 400 people crowded into Orange County High School to attend the board's hearing. Some came dressed in period costume, including a dead ringer for Lee.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Current clinical evidence for using cranberry juice to combat urinary tract infections is 'unsatisfactory and inconclusive', according to Raul Raz.
"An apple a day..." Not all medical problems require a state-of-the-art solution, and it would be nice to think that products from the corner shop could treat a widespread and uncomfortable ailment. Cranberry juice and related products have been touted as a simple solution for urinary tract infections, but Raul Raz, a member of F1000 Medicine, finds little to support this claim.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common complaint. Between 10% and 20% of women will suffer a UTI at least once, and a third of these will experience it recurrently. Some recent studies support the use of cranberry as a preventative, but Dr Raz, Director of Infectious Diseases at the Technion School of Medicine in Israel, and his associate Faculty Member, Hana Edelstein, advise the medical community that "cranberry should no longer be considered as an effective [preventative] for recurrent UTIs".
Cranberry contains hundreds of compounds, and it has been difficult to determine which might be responsible for any therapeutic effect, hindering its adoption. Raz and Edelstein point to differences in clinical trial design and the lack of standardization for doses and formulation. There is a range of potential side-effects including stomach upsets and weight gain. Cranberry can also interact badly with other medicines such as Warfarin, commonly used to treat heart disease.
According to the RUSH fan site RushIsABand.com, RUSH documentary filmmakers Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen were recently interviewed by Classic Rock magazine's Jerry Ewing about the first-ever feature film documentary on Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart.
"Geddy had been in [Dunn and McFadyen's previous documentary] 'Metal: A Headbanger's Journey' and we were thinking about other bands we could work with," explains McFadyen. "We felt that RUSH had always been overlooked by the critics so we met them on tour and they liked what we said. We started working on it, then IRON MAIDEN came about so we took a break to do that and raised the financing for the RUSH film. We've started on it now and done a load of interviews so now we're editing with a load of archival footage."
"We've been lucky. Not only have we had access to [RUSH management] SRO's archives but also Geddy, Alex and Neil's own personal archives," enthuses director Dunn. "I was just at Geddy's house this week. Going through his personal collection of memorabilia. I dug up some gems I don't think RUSH fans have ever seen so we're hoping to offer something new."
As RUSH fans themselves, Dunn admits this is making him feel like a kid let loose in a candy store.
"Well, Geddy's definitely the premier band archivist," Dunn says. "He has a massive collection of photographs and clippings. We even got our hands on Neil's handwritten lyric sheets from back when they were making 'Fly By Night', '2112' and 'A Farewell To Kings', and I don't think they've ever been seen before."
Queens gladiators emerged spattered but victorious last Thursday as cultural institutions from across the city converged in Flushing Meadows Corona Park for a fiery battle royale as surreal as anything since perhaps the spectacle of the 1964 World’s Fair.More here.
Teams from the Queens Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Bronx Museum of the Arts and Manhattan’s El Museo del Barrio joined a mystery team representing Staten Island for “Those About to Die Salute You,” an artistic face-off between the boroughs.
The frenzied, hour-long fight in a World’s Fair-leftover reflecting pool involved tomato projectiles, foam bats and more pyrotechnics than were probably allowed.
[...] Tableaux from the evening were not what one would see at a typical art show: a nude man in his 60s changing out of a tomato-soaked toga between two parked cars; a heavy metal band playing in the museum. Hundreds of people showed up in togas, some with the proper, two-layer Roman look, some with golden laurels, some in bedsheets with garden ivy in their hair.
An Australian town with deep historical ties to Japan has severed its sister city relationship with a Japanese village to protest an annual dolphin slaughter, civic leaders said Monday.
Councillors in the remote West Australian town of Broome voted unanimously to end sister city ties with Taiji at a meeting on Saturday because they felt the dolphin cull was unacceptable, said Broome's mayor, Graeme Campbell.
The decision was taken reluctantly, he said, as Broome's links to the southern Japanese village dated back to the late 1800s, when Japanese migrants pioneered the Australian town's pearl diving industry.
"It's a sad day for Broome, given the historical and cultural contribution made by many people from Japan to the town and the number of people living here who still have relatives in Taiji," he told AFP.
"It's very disheartening and sad for those people. It was a unanimous decision by council, none of us can condone the slaughter."
Animal welfare activists accuse Japan of slaughtering some 2,000 dolphins every year in waters near Taiji by driving them close to the shore then hacking them to death.
The cull is the subject of a recently released US documentary called "The Cove", in which filmmakers covertly recorded dolphins being killed near the village.
Campbell said the documentary had resulted in Broome being inundated with protests against the sister city relationship.
Rare lemurs are being hunted as an exotic delicacy in the midst of Madagascar's political unrest, conservationists say.
Since a March coup d'etat in the island country, long-nurtured conservation measures have quickly fallen by the wayside—making lemurs the targets of hunting gangs.
The criminals are fueling demand for a new bush-meat delicacy in the country's upscale restaurants, according to the nonprofit Conservation International.
No one knows how many lemurs have been killed, but species such as the golden crowned sifaka—considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature—are being targeted.
CAIRNS, Australia — A man who used a public toilet in a shopping mall was taken to a hospital to have the toilet seat removed from his backside after someone smeared it with glue in what an official condemned Monday as a sick joke.
Police urged possible witnesses to come forward after the 58-year-old man was humiliated in the northeastern city of Cairns by the prank.
An ambulance was called to help the man after he was found stuck by fast-acting adhesive glue to a toilet seat on Saturday in the busy shopping mall.
Paramedics removed the seat from the toilet and took him to a hospital, where medical staff used industrial solvents to get it off.
Cairns local government official Di Forsyth said the man, who was not identified, was not injured but was "extremely embarrassed" by his experience.
"I'm disgusted that a gentlemen has had to go through that because someone thinks it's funny," Forsyth said. "It's a sick joke."
Last orders have been called for the traditional pint glass, after the Government deemed them too dangerous to handle.
The Home Office has called in a team of designers to create a safer beer glass in a bid to reduce the number of violent assaults.
Pint glasses made from safety or shatterproof glass, have been introduced into pubs and clubs around Britain recently.
The popular shaped glasses are easy to stack and have a bulge below the rim to prevent them from chipping.
However, there are still around 87,000 violent incidents involving glassware each year, which costs an annual estimate of £100m in NHS, police and court costs.
Consultancy Design Bridge won the pitch to create a range of 'safer drinking vessel prototypes' that will be unveiled in December.
'The challenge is to not only develop a safer pint glass, but to ensure they are attractive to industry, manufacturers and consumers,' a spokesman from the Government funded Design Council said.
Under the 'Designing Out Crime' initiative, the firm will focus on two areas, looking at what can be added to the glass to make it safer, and ‘a complete paradigm shift’, which could look at using new materials or forms.
An Indian conjuror needed an armed guard out of town after his 'magic' provoked a riot.
Rajeev Patel had been performing on the street in Berhampur, eastern India, when he asked a young boy to join him for a special magic trick.
Witnesses said he then pulled down the boy's pants and asked him to hold a piece of clay before saying he would change it into a sweet.
One man in the crowd said: "We were all shocked when he just pulled the boy's pants down but if that wasn't enough he didn't even manage to do the spell and a lot of people though he was just putting it on so he could look at the boy's backside.
"They got furious and started shouting at him and then when he said he would try it again they just went mad."
"He failed and the crowd turned violent," added a police spokesman, after officers took two hours to quell a riot and give the hapless magician an armed guard out of town.
There were rumors back in June that actor Jeff Goldblum, 56, had met an unfortunate fate and had died while shooting a film. As everyone probably knows by now, Goldblum was part of a celebrity death hoax that spread around the internet.
Goldblum is not only very much alive, but is being seen flirting and cuddling his 21-year- old girlfriend, actress Tania Raymonde.
Their thirty-five-year age difference is not something new in Hollywood, or in the history of dating and mating, but it brings up the question; "how much of an age difference is too much?"
The old guideline for socially acceptable age differences in western culture was, the arbitrary, " half-your-age-plus seven," rule. Under this mathmatical formula you would take Goldblum's 56 years and divide by half (28) and then add seven more years for good measure. This would mean that it was fine if Raymonde was 35 years old. This would be a more familiar twenty-one-year age difference.
Anecdotally, most people can point to some successful relationship that they know where there has been a difference of 15 or 20 years. But when that number climbs upwards, people might begin thinking of Anna Nicole Smith and J. Howard Marshall. Motives come into question when the age difference becomes far greater; especially if the elder partner has their money, social, or professional status at risk.
This is perhaps man's greatest achievement or evidence of our civilization's impending doom. Maybe it's both.
Meet the KFC "double down." Although no mention of it is made on KFC.com and we have never seen an ad for it ourselves, we are being lead to believe that it is real by Foodgeekery.com. They have crappy cell phone camera footage of a commercial (from Omaha, apparently) for the mysterious beast, as well as photographic evidence of it in the wild.
The sandwich consists of two fried chicken fillets wrapped around bacon, cheese and Colonel's sauce. It apparently tastes like you think it would.
Glenn Beck returns to Fox News Channel on Monday after a vacation with fewer companies willing to advertise on his show than when he left, part of the fallout from calling President Barack Obama a racist.
A total of 33 Fox advertisers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., CVS Caremark, Clorox and Sprint, directed that their commercials not air on Beck's show, according to the companies and ColorofChange.org, a group that promotes political action among blacks and launched a campaign to get advertisers to abandon him. That's more than a dozen more than were identified a week ago.
While it's unclear what effect, if any, this will ultimately have on Fox and Beck, it is already making advertisers skittish about hawking their wares within the most opinionated cable TV shows.
A Bogota man attacked a woman with an axe for selling him an incomplete chicken - one leg was missing, the man said.
"The children of the man came to buy a chicken, we sold it completely. Two hours later the man came and claimed I stole part of the chicken," victim Maria Ortiz told RCN news.
"He called me a #*$~%* and said he would kill me. I really feared for my life," the vendor added.
And right she was. The angry costumer followed Ortiz to her home and attacked her with an axe. Luckily, the victim came away with minor injuries at her arm and head.
The man was arrested for attempted murder.
Comedian Dan Antopolski has won a prize for the funniest joke of this year's Edinburgh Fringe.
The funnyman, who has previously been nominated for the Perrier award, picked up the trophy from TV channel Dave.
Nine comedy critics sat through thousands of jokes before choosing 27 for viewers to vote on.
The winning joke was a one-liner from 36-year-old Antopolski's show Silent But Deadly - "Hedgehogs. Why can't they just share the hedge?"
A cash machine operator has introduced Cockney rhyming slang to a number of its ATMs.
People wanting cash out of Bank Machine's ATMs in East London can choose to have their instruction given to them in rhyming slang, reports BBC online.
Customers will be asked to enter their Huckleberry Finn, rather than their Pin, and will have to select how much sausage and mash or cash they want.
The company plan to trial the rhyming slang in five cash machines for three months.
Ron Delnevo, managing director of Bank Machine, said: "We wanted to introduce something fun and of local interest to our London machines.
"Whilst we expect some residents will visit the machine to just have a look, most will be genuinely pleased as this is the first time a financial services provider will have recognised the Cockney language in such a manner."
On the same ground where a Civil War battle was fought almost a century and a half ago, Wal-Mart is now waging a fight to build a new superstore. But the proposal has been met with opposition from around the country, with Washington lawmakers and Hollywood actors trying to fend off the company's plans.
The dispute will come to a head on today, when the Orange County board of supervisors will vote on the matter.
At issue is the proposed superstore's proximity to the Wilderness battlefield, where on May 5, 1864, more than 160,000 soldiers fought a battle in the midst of the Civil War.
Critics say the new Wal-Mart would be too close to the battlefield. Not to mention, Wal-Mart already has four stores in a 20-mile radius of the area. Multiple members of Congress, including Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., have come down against the proposed store.
In an experiment performed in a Swiss laboratory, 10 robots with downward-facing sensors competed for "food" - a light-colored ring on the floor. At the other end of the space, a darker ring - "poison" - was placed. The robots earned points for how much time they spent near food as opposed to poison.
The experimenters, engineers Sara Mitri and Dario Floreano and evolutionary biologist Laurent Keller, also gave the robots the ability to talk with each other. Each robot can produce a blue light that can be seen by the others and which can give away the position of the "food" ring. Over time, the robots evolved to deceive each other about the food ring.
Their evolution was made possible by the artificial neural network that controlled each of the robots. The network consisted of 11 "neurons" that were connected to the robot's sensors and 3 that controlled its two tracks and its blue light. The neurons were linked via 33 connections - "synapses" - and the strength of these connections was each controlled by a single 8-bit gene. In total, each robot's 264-bit genome determines how it reacts to information gleaned from its senses.
Researchers devised a system of rounds in which groups of ten robots competed for "food" in separate arenas. After 100 rounds, the robots with the highest scores - the fittest of the population, in the Darwinian sense - "survived" to the next round..
At the start, the robots produced blue light at random. However, as the robots became better at finding food, the light became more and more informative and the bots became increasingly drawn to it. The red ring is large enough for just eight robots, so they had to jostle each other for the right to "feed". The effects of this competition became clear when Mitri, Floreano and Keller allowed the emission of blue light to evolve along with the rest of the robots' behavior.
As before, they shone randomly at first and as they started to crowd round the food, their lights increasingly gave away its presence. The more successful robots became more secretive. By the 50th generation, they became much less likely to shine their lights near the food than elsewhere in the arena.
Tom Ridge, the first head of the 9/11-inspired Department of Homeland Security, wasn't keen on writing a tell-all. But in The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege...and How We Can Be Safe Again, out September 1, Ridge says he wants to shake "public complacency" over security. And to do that, well, he needs to tell all. Especially about the infighting he saw that frustrated his attempts to build a smooth-running department.
Among the headlines promoted by publisher Thomas Dunne Books: Ridge was never invited to sit in on National Security Council meetings; was "blindsided" by the FBI in morning Oval Office meetings because the agency withheld critical information from him; found his urgings to block Michael Brown from being named head of the emergency agency blamed for the Hurricane Katrina disaster ignored; and was pushed to raise the security alert on the eve of President Bush's re-election, something he saw as politically motivated and worth resigning over.
It's a recurring scene in desert movies - a group of lost people try to find their way through the dunes but end up walking round in circles.
Now scientists have shown that the old cliché really is true, and that without help from the sun or stars people are unable to walk in a straight line.
Researchers in Germany left six volunteers in a forest and asked them to keep going in the same direction. On cloudy days - with no sun to guide them - the volunteers ended up walking in circles and crossing their paths without realising it.
In a second experiment, volunteers were left in the Sahara for several hours with water and food.
Again, they were able to keep to a straight path only when the sun was visible. As soon as it went behind clouds they wandered aimlessly in loops.
Dr Jan Souman, who led the study, said: 'Those stories about people who end up walking around in circles when lost are true.
'People cannot walk in a straight line if they do not have absolute references, such as a tower or a mountain in the distance or the sun or moon, and often end up walking in circles.'
[...] Dr Souman, of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tubingen, added: 'One explanation offered in the past for walking in circles is that most people have one leg longer or stronger than the other - which would produce a systematic bias in one direction.'
But the researchers disproved that by showing that blindfolded volunteers walked in circles but without any preference for going clockwise or anti-clockwise.
Scientists have developed a vaccine for the common viral infection norovirus from a novel source: a tobacco plant.
The new vaccine was "manufactured" in a tobacco plant using a bioengineered plant virus.
This plant biotechnology opens the door to faster, more inexpensive ways to bring vaccines to the public quickly, especially in times when viruses mutate into unpredictable new strains, said Charles Arntzen, who reported on the vaccine at the American Chemical Society annual meeting, in Washingtopn, D.C.
[...] The new vaccine for norovirus is a step in that direction. Norovirus is a dreaded cause of diarrhea and vomiting that may be the second most common viral infection in the United States, behind the flu.