Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Man walks into diner with 5-inch knife in chest, orders coffee.

From FOX News:
WARREN, Mich. — A man who walked into a Michigan diner with a 5-inch knife stuck in his chest ordered a coffee and complained only about the cold weather.

The 52-year-old man, who has not been identified, called a 911 operator in Warren on Sunday night to ask that an ambulance be sent to Bray's, an eatery in neighboring Hazel Park.

He said he had been stabbed during an attempted robbery half a mile away, then walked to the restaurant and called 911 from a pay phone.

On a recording of the call, the man gives a vague description of his attacker before saying, "I'm gonna sit down at Bray's 'cause they got a chair and it's cold out here."

Restaurant employee George Mirdita tells The Detroit News the man calmly ordered coffee.

Police said Tuesday that the man is recovering.

How China wrecked the Copenhagen climate deal and blamed Obama.

A must read from The Guardian:

Copenhagen was a disaster. That much is agreed. But the truth about what actually happened is in danger of being lost amid the spin and inevitable mutual recriminations. The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful "deal" so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen.

China's strategy was simple: block the open negotiations for two weeks, and then ensure that the closed-door deal made it look as if the west had failed the world's poor once again. And sure enough, the aid agencies, civil society movements and environmental groups all took the bait. The failure was "the inevitable result of rich countries refusing adequately and fairly to shoulder their overwhelming responsibility", said Christian Aid. "Rich countries have bullied developing nations," fumed Friends of the Earth International.

All very predictable, but the complete opposite of the truth. Even George Monbiot, writing in yesterday's Guardian, made the mistake of singly blaming Obama. But I saw Obama fighting desperately to salvage a deal, and the Chinese delegate saying "no", over and over again. Monbiot even approvingly quoted the Sudanese delegate Lumumba Di-Aping, who denounced the Copenhagen accord as "a suicide pact, an incineration pact, in order to maintain the economic dominance of a few countries".

Sudan behaves at the talks as a puppet of China; one of a number of countries that relieves the Chinese delegation of having to fight its battles in open sessions. It was a perfect stitch-up. China gutted the deal behind the scenes, and then left its proxies to savage it in public.

Microbes survive 30,000 years inside salt crystal.

From New Scientist:
Thrifty microbes entombed in a salt crystal have survived for 30,000 years by feeding off the remains of algae that were trapped along with them. This is the most convincing example to date of long-term survival.

Brian Schubert, a microbiologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and colleagues studied salt crystals in a sediment core taken from Death Valley in California. The crystals contained tiny pockets of liquid, and the team found that they could grow live colonies of archaeans from samples of it. The team dated the liquid at between 22,000 and 34,000 years old

Vegans faced with dilemma of plants wanting to live too.

From the NY Times:
[...] Before we cede the entire moral penthouse to “committed vegetarians” and “strong ethical vegans,” we might consider that plants no more aspire to being stir-fried in a wok than a hog aspires to being peppercorn-studded in my Christmas clay pot. This is not meant as a trite argument or a chuckled aside. Plants are lively and seek to keep it that way. The more that scientists learn about the complexity of plants — their keen sensitivity to the environment, the speed with which they react to changes in the environment, and the extraordinary number of tricks that plants will rally to fight off attackers and solicit help from afar — the more impressed researchers become, and the less easily we can dismiss plants as so much fiberfill backdrop, passive sunlight collectors on which deer, antelope and vegans can conveniently graze. It’s time for a green revolution, a reseeding of our stubborn animal minds.

When plant biologists speak of their subjects, they use active verbs and vivid images. Plants “forage” for resources like light and soil nutrients and “anticipate” rough spots and opportunities. By analyzing the ratio of red light and far red light falling on their leaves, for example, they can sense the presence of other chlorophyllated competitors nearby and try to grow the other way. Their roots ride the underground “rhizosphere” and engage in cross-cultural and microbial trade.

“Plants are not static or silly,” said Monika Hilker of the Institute of Biology at the Free University of Berlin. “They respond to tactile cues, they recognize different wavelengths of light, they listen to chemical signals, they can even talk” through chemical signals. Touch, sight, hearing, speech. “These are sensory modalities and abilities we normally think of as only being in animals,” Dr. Hilker said.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Today is Frank Zappa Day!

From ThisIsBrandX:
The city of Baltimore declared today Frank Zappa Day in honor of the iconoclastic rock musician and composer, who was born there 69 years ago on Dec. 21, 1940. Last week the city's public art commission also announced that a bronze statue of Zappa would be erected outside of a public library sometime next year. When will Los Angeles, where Zappa raised his family and lived most of his adult life, follow suit? Maybe a nice statue somewhere in Laurel Canyon?

Also in Zappa news, today marks the release of a previously unheard concert from Philadelphia in 1976 on two CDs. The liner notes for "Philly '76," taking a cue from its bicentennial date, reproduce the Declaration of Independence, but with a twist: Endeavoring to show how history repeats itself, the Founding Fathers' claims against the King of England are highlighted, drawing parallels that probably would have made the independently minded composer smile.

Massive snowball fight in Times Square.

Neat photos from CNN:
Professional photographer dougkim ran into a massive snowball fight in Times Square on Saturday night. “The snowball fight was such an amazing spontaneous event and it has become such a hot topic online, I wanted to share these images which I feel capture the feel of an impromptu snowball fight at the height of a blizzard among strangers,” he said.

Tequila saves boy's life.

Is there nothing alcohol can't do?? From
A Galt teen is back home for the holidays after the successful, seven-month-long treatment of a brain tumor that was only discovered after he made a dangerous mistake before school one day.

Last May, 13-year-old Evan Hamilton took a dare from his friends at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt last May and downed eight shots of tequila as fast as he could.

He passed out and was rushed to the emergency room to be treated for alcohol poisoning, and a CT scan at the UC Davis Medical Center revealed a tumor in the brain of the unsuspecting eighth grader.

The dangerous lapse in judgment turned out to be a blessing, according to his family.

Lithuania hosted secret CIA torture prisons.

From BBC:
The CIA used at least two secret detention centres in Lithuania after the 11 September 2001 terror attacks on the US, a Lithuanian inquiry has found.

The report by a Lithuanian parliamentary committee says that in 2005 and 2006 CIA chartered planes were allowed to land in Lithuania.

It says that no Lithuanian officials were allowed near the aircraft, nor were they told who was on board.

Poland and Romania hosted similar CIA "black sites", media reports say.

In Lithuania, at least eight terror suspects were held at one centre on the outskirts of the capital Vilnius, the investigation found.

It was formerly a riding school and the suspects were reportedly held there between 2004 and 2005.

In August this year, US media reports claimed that Lithuania, Poland and Romania all hosted secret CIA interrogation centres.

But the parliamentary report appears to absolve Lithuania's political leaders of responsibility for any human rights violations that may have been committed by the CIA, the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports from Moscow.

It says even the president was unaware of exactly what the US intelligence service was doing.

Citigroup hacked by Russian cyber gang, millions stolen.

From ABC News:
In a bizarre case of cyber crime, the Wall Street Journal reported today that Russian hackers may have stolen tens of millions of dollars from Citigroup, a charge the bank denies.

Citing anonymous government officials, the newspaper reported that the hackers were connected to a Russian cyber gang and that two other computer systems, at least one connected to a U.S. government agency, were also attacked. The FBI is investigating the case, according to the Wall Street Journal, but the company has flatly denied the story.

"We had no breach of the system and there were no losses, no customer losses, no bank losses," the banking giant said in a statement. "Any allegation that the FBI is working a case at Citigroup involving tens of millions of losses is just not true."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dead Australian boy has miraculous powers.

A Sydney couple believes their son - "hand-picked by God" - could be Australia's first male saint.

Mike Tannous died three years ago but a mysterious oil that weeps from the walls of his bedroom has been hailed by his parents, George and Lina, as having helped heal dozens of people, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The oil started to appear in the Guildford home just weeks after the 17-year-old died in a car accident in September 2006.

"Mike is a messenger between us and God. He has healed so many people," Mrs Tannous said.

Extensive scientific testing of the oil has failed to identify exactly what it is but that has not stopped hundreds praying at the home.

The Tannous' push for sainthood for their son emerged as Mary MacKillop fever swept the nation.

NJ Transit bus stolen from mall.

A thief who stole a New Jersey Transit bus from a northern New Jersey mall remained at large Saturday afternoon, authorities said. The bus, which runs on the No. 73 line between the Livingston Mall and Newark, was taken from the mall's parking lot at about 7:30 a.m., said Dan Stessel, an NJ Transit spokesman.

It was found undamaged about 25 minutes later, parked about four miles away in the area of the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange. Stessel said the bus driver, whose name was not released, was on a layover before starting a return trip to Newark and went inside to use the mall's restroom. When the driver returned to the parking area, the bus was gone.

Chewing gum could detect malaria.

Chomping on a stick of gum could cheaply diagnose malaria and other diseases in developing countries.

Using a recent grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Andrew Fung and his colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles are developing Maliva, a malaria-detecting gum that could offer cheap, new way to diagnose or monitor diseases.

[...] When a person chews the gum, saliva, containing molecules produced by the malaria parasites, pour into the mouth. The magnetic nanoparticles are tipped with antibodies that latch onto these very molecules.

After a few minutes chewing, the gum would be removed and placed on a paper strip. The nanoparticles, bound to the malaria proteins, would show up as a thin line. No line, no malaria.

Credit card has 80% interest rate.

Unbelievable. From FOXNews:
The bloated APR is how First Premier Bank, a subprime credit card issuer, is skirting new regulations intended to curb abusive practices in the industry. It's a strategy other subprime card issuers could start adopting to get around the new rules.

Typically, the First Premier card comes with a minimum of $256 in fees in the first year for a credit line of $250. Starting in February, however, a new law will cap such fees at 25 percent of a card's credit line.

In a recent mailing for a preapproved card, First Premier lowers fees to just that limit — $75 in the first year for a credit line of $300. But the new law doesn't set a cap on interest rates. Hence the 79.9 APR, up from the previous 9.9 percent.

"It's the highest on the market. It's the highest we've ever seen," said Anuj Shahani, an analyst with Synovate, a research firm that tracks credit card mailings.

Minorities might not benefit from stem cell research.

From BusinessWeek:
Human embryonic stem cell lines currently used for research come mostly from white donors, a new report finds.

That could mean that nonwhites will benefit less from any medical breakthroughs that emerge from that research down the line, experts say.

Blacks could be especially affected. In fact, none of the most widely used stem cell lines studied showed any traces of recent African ancestry, the team reported online in a Dec. 16 letter in the New England Journal of Medicine.

To increase the diversity of embryonic stem cell lines, the researchers urge increased efforts to include stem cells from other populations.

Hackers steal S. Korean-US military secrets.

From Yahoo! News:
South Korea's military said Friday it was investigating a hacking attack that netted secret defense plans with the United States and may have been carried out by North Korea.

The suspected hacking occurred late last month when a South Korean officer failed to remove a USB device when he switched a military computer from a restricted-access intranet to the Internet, Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae said.

The USB device contained a summary of plans for military operations by South Korean and U.S. troops in case of war on the Korean peninsula. Won said the stolen document was not a full text of the operational plans, but an 11-page file used to brief military officials. He said it did not contain critical information.

Won said authorities have not ruled out the possibility that Pyongyang may have been involved in the hacking attack by using a Chinese IP address — the Web equivalent of a street address or phone number.

Protein found that helps prevent liver damage.

From Yahoo! News:
A protein switch called TAK1 helps prevent liver damage, including inflammation, fibrosis and cancer, according to a team of scientists from the United States and Japan.

Learning more about how TAK1 works could improve understanding about the development of liver disease and cancer, and lead to new therapies, the researchers noted in their report, released online the week of Dec. 14 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"TAK1 appears to be a master regulator of liver function," study co-leader Dr. David A. Brenner, a professor of medicine and dean at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, said in a university news release.

It was already known that TAK1 activates two proteins that play a role in immunity, inflammation, programmed cell death and cancer. But it wasn't clear whether TAK1 promotes or prevents liver cancer.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Patrick Stewart to be knighted.

Yet another snub to Scott Bakula. From the Daily Record:

Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart is to be knighted in the New Year's Honours.

The 69-year-old movie star and thespian will be one of the big names in the honours list announced by the Queen.

Patrick has had a 50-year career in theatre and films including 16 years with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

But he is best known as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men films.

Senior sources said the Queen was an admirer of the famously bald star.

The truth about hangovers revealed in drunken study.

From LiveScience:
If you've ever had one too many drinks during a night out, you're probably familiar with the dreaded aftermath: the hangover. Turns out, your liquor of choice could influence your morning headache.

A new study finds that, compared with vodka, if you down too much bourbon, you're likely to have a worse hangover. But when it comes to your next-day activities, it doesn't matter which of the two beverages you drink, your performance is likely to be the same.

The study involved 95 participants ages 21 to 33 who were heavy drinkers, but had no history of alcohol abuse. Their arduous task: Get drunk. And they got paid — $450, to boot!

The authors weren't simply looking at the effects of alcohol, however. They were specifically interested in the levels of toxic substances called congeners in the alcohol. These compounds are byproducts of alcohol fermentation, and they are partly responsible for the alcohol's color. Darker liquors and wines have more congeners than lighter ones — for instance, the amount of congeners in bourbon is 37 times the amount in vodka, according to the study.

NFL asks players to donate their brains to science.

I guess since they're not using 'em anyway... From HuffPo:

The NFL is partnering with Boston University brain researchers who have been critical of the league's stance on concussions, The Associated Press learned Sunday.

The league now plans to encourage current and former NFL players to agree to donate their brains to the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, which has said it found links between repeated head trauma and brain damage in boxers, football players and, most recently, a former NHL player.

"It's huge that the NFL actively gets behind this research," said Robert Cantu, a doctor who is a co-director of the BU center and has spoken negatively about the league in the past. "It forwards the research. It allows players to realize the NFL is concerned about the possibility that they could have this problem, and that the NFL is doing everything it can to find out about the risks and the preventive strategies that can be implemented."