Michelle Obama took her mother, daughters, and three of their friends to acclaimed Brooklyn pizzeria Grimaldi's yesterday, and what started out as a casual lunch is now reigniting longstanding tensions between two bitterly warring factions: the Chicago-style pizza crowd vs. NYC.
The Grimaldi's waiter who served the family, Rafal Harajda, told City Room that after they finished their meal of four pies—a plain, a pepperoni, a sausage and one with mushrooms, peppers and onions—the First Lady of the United States of America declared, "It was better than Chicago pizza." Which must cut like a pizza slicer for Chicago, seeing as Obama is from their hometown. Harajda later clarified the First Lady's statement, but did not contradict it.
When asked by the Chicago Tribune about his quote to City Room, Harajda clarified: "No, what she said was, 'It's the best pizza, and I'm from Chicago.'" Which is essentially the same thing, and it's just the kind of Biden-esque remark that could cost the President the support of Illinois Democrats and derail the completion of health care reform.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
In his new book The Warcraft Civilization, sociologist William Sims Bainbridge argues that the online game World of Warcraft portends the future of the real world. I spoke with him to find out more.
You've spent 2300 hours in World of Warcraft (WoW). Is it more than a game?
Like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings or Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung, WoW isn't just escapist fantasy. It's posing alternatives to the world we actually have today. It raises questions about environmentalism and colonialism; it asks how people are going to be respectful of each other in a world in which there aren't enough resources.
Tolkien believed that all good people could come together on the same side. This is one of the biggest questions that humanity faces: can we have a world consensus by which we're all partners in finding a solution? Or, like the Hoarde vs Alliance situation in WoW, are we doomed to be in separate factions competing ultimately to the death? It touches on very serious issues but in a playful way.
Schoolchildren were left in tears after their teacher was gunned down by a crazed hoodie in the playground - in a 'sick' role-playing stunt.
Terrified children - aged from 10 to 13 years old - watched as the supposed gunman strolled into the playground, took aim and shot the teacher, before running into the school's science lab.
Other staff in on the stunt rushed to the popular teacher's aid and appeared to give CPR in an attempt to save his life.
It was 10 minutes before the shocked pupils of Blackminster Middle School in Evesham, Worcestershire, were rounded up and taken into the school hall where teachers explained that the scenario had been mocked up as part of a forthcoming science lesson.
But pupils were left traumatised, with one having a panic attack and others being sick.
The 'shooting' happened on Tuesday after pupils were originally told there was a gun somewhere in the school.
Five minutes later, the alarm bell went and over 300 pupils were sent to the playground where three teachers could be seen running across the field before a loud sound, like gunfire, was heard and science and RE teacher Mr Kent fell to the ground and played dead.
Parents said their children were then sent back to their form rooms and called to the assembly hall ten minutes later, when the truth and a fit and healthy teacher was revealed.
However, the damage had already been done to a selection of pupils - and apparently included one girl whose father had been shot dead a few years ago.
Parents, with children at the school reacted angrily to the stunt and branded it 'inappropriate and beyond belief'.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Light can twist matter, according to a new study that observed ribbons of nanoparticles twisting in response to light.
Scientists knew matter can cause light to bend – prisms and glasses prove this easily enough. But the reverse phenomenon was not shown to occur until recently.
The researchers assembled strings of nanoparticles, which are tiny clumps of matter on the scale of nanometers (one nanometer is one billionth of a meter). In a darkened lab, the scientists linked nanoparticles together into ribbons. At first the nano ribbons were flat, but when a light was shone on them, they curled up into spirals.
The discovery was so novel, the researchers were skeptical of their own results at first.
"I didn't believe it at the beginning," Kotov said. "To be honest, it took us three and a half years to really figure out how photons of light can lead to such a remarkable change in rigid structures a thousand times bigger than molecules."
From NY Times:
The federal government is about to take a larger role in protecting airline passengers, starting with a new rule allowing travelers to get off a plane stuck on the tarmac for more than three hours.
That rule, which passenger advocates have long wanted, and others adopted by the Transportation Department signal a shift from a grass-roots fight for passenger rights to an era of stronger government-enforced consumer protections. The rules, officially labeled Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections, take effect April 29.
Although tarmac delays of three or more hours are increasingly rare, they still occur and leave misery in their wake, as a diverted Virgin America flight demonstrated on March 13, when passengers were stuck on a plane for more than four hours at Stewart International Airport in Newburgh/New Windsor, N.Y.
Other policies may affect far more travelers, including one that requires more disclosure about airline delays before a ticket purchase so customers can avoid flights that perform poorly. That marketplace pressure could provide an incentive for the industry to address the causes of delays.
Airlines will have to publish within their search results the on-time record for each flight and how often it has arrived more than 30 minutes late, highlighting flights that have arrived more than a half hour late more than half the time. Airlines will also have to note the cancellation rate for any flight canceled more than 5 percent of the time.
A gang of Ninja-style crooks staged a daring Fifth Avenue smash-and-grab in Midtown early yesterday, swiping $100,000 worth of pricey goodies from the boutique of high-end Italian designer Emilio Pucci, police sources said.
The crooks were dressed head to toe in basic black -- not at all like Emilio Pucci's styles, which are a riot of color. Cops believe there were at least three thieves at work.
Around 3:48 a.m., the crew smashed a glass door of the store -- which is down the street from Trump Tower -- and ran inside, authorities said.
Security video shows that within two minutes, they snatched dresses, T-shirts, handbags, belts, sunglasses, shoes and scarves, said a store spokesperson. The thieves stuffed the goods into a large plastic bag and fled.
The break-in triggered an alarm system -- but the thieves were gone by the time police arrived, said the sources.
In the hours after a monkey on the lam fell into a woman's pool and then swiped some fruit from her backyard tree, fans of the wily primate cheered it for avoiding capture.
"Go little monkey, go! No cages for you," wrote a guy named Jack on the "Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay" Facebook fan page. (There were more than 16,000 fans of the elusive monkey as of Wednesday morning.)
"I sure hope 'they' don't catch you!" wrote a woman named Kathleen. "Why can't 'they' just leave you alone?"
The rhesus macaque monkey has avoided capture for nearly a year. Authorities don't know where the animal came from, but some believe it could have gotten separated from a troupe of wild monkeys in an Ocala-area state park, some 118 miles north of St. Petersburg. Another possibility: the animal could have escaped from an unpermitted owner.
The creature has captivated people in Tampa Bay and beyond -- possibly because of his ability to outwit the humans trying to catch him.
"It's something that you can kind of cheer for," said Amy Ellis, a Pasco County employee who has become a fan of the monkey on Facebook. "Every day there's so much bad news. He's kind of like a little hero."
The monkey was even featured two weeks ago on "The Colbert Report" with host Stephen Colbert poking fun at the creature, who has been shot numerous times with tranquilizers, apparently unfazed. One trapper claimed the monkey was becoming a "drug addict" because of all the shots.
A protest by hundreds of students led organizers to cancel a Tuesday night speech by American conservative commentator Ann Coulter at the University of Ottawa.
A spokesman for the organizers said Coulter was advised against appearing after about 2,000 "threatening" students crowded the entrance to Marion Hall, posing a security threat.
"It would be physically dangerous for Ann Coulter to proceed with this event," said conservative political activist Ezra Levant inside the hall. "This is an embarrassing day for the University of Ottawa and their student body . . . who chose to silence her through threats and intimidation."
A protest organizer, international studies student Mike Fancie, said he was pleased they were able to stop Coulter from speaking.
"What Ann Coulter is practicing is not free speech, it's hate speech," he said. "She's targeted the Jews, she's targeted the Muslims, she's targeted Canadians, homosexuals, women, almost everybody you could imagine."
A police force nominated themselves and won a public relations award for the way they handled a tragedy - of a schoolgirl knocked down and killed by a speeding patrol car.
The family of Hayley Adamson have reacted with anger that Northumbria Police put themselves forward for the prize after the horrifying smash.
Hayley, 16, was killed when a speeding patrol car with no blue light or sirens on smashed into her in May 2008.
After a five-day trial at Newcastle Crown Court, PC John Dougal was jailed for three years after being convicted of driving at 94mph moments before he ploughed into her in the late-night tragedy.
His flashing blue lights and siren were switched off as he followed what he thought was a stolen car in Newcastle's West End.
Hayley's mother Yvonne Adamson, of the Fenham area of the city branded the move as ‘sick’.
Police officers have since visited the family and apologised saying the nomination, for which the won a 'gold' award, was never intended to cause offence.
Tomorrow would have been Hayley's 18th birthday.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Lame: Officials chop down 6,000 trees to prevent public sex.
Lame: JetBlue gets $30 million bribe to stay in NY.
Awesome: Britain department store launches divorce registry.
Tech: Why are keyboards QWERTY?
Science: Some galaxies snack on each other.
Games: Nintendo announces 3-D system to replace DS.
A wedding guest was arrested by police after a man was seriously wounded playing 'Russian roulette' in front of a horrified bride and groom.
The guest had been giving a toast when he pretended he was playing the deadly game with a gun that he claimed he thought was entirely empty.
But then he gave the gun to another guest - and it turned out that he had been tragically wrong.
The second guest also fired the handgun against his head - and dropped to ground as a rubber bullet exploded into his skull.
The first guest can be seen standing in shock for a split second after the shot is fired.
The film of the incident has sparked horror after being posted on the web.
A Russian said to be the world's cleverest man has turned down a $1 million prize for solving one of mathematics' toughest puzzles.
Dr Grigory Perelman, 44, who lives as a recluse in a cockroach-infested flat in St Petersburg, said through the closed door: "I have all I want."
The prize, the equivalent of £660,000, was given by the US Clay Mathematics Institute for solving the Poincare Conjecture, reports the Daily Mail.
Dr Perelman posted his solution on the internet but failed to turn up to receive his prestigious Fields Medal from the International Mathematical Union in Madrid four years ago.
At the time he stated: "I'm not interested in money or fame. I don't want to be on display like an animal in a zoo.
"I'm not a hero of mathematics. I'm not even that successful, that is why I don't want to have everybody looking at me."
Neighbour Vera Petrovna said: "I was once in his flat and I was astounded. He only has a table, a stool and a bed with a dirty mattress which was left by previous owners - alcoholics who sold the flat to him.
"We are trying to get rid of cockroaches in our block, but they hide in his flat."
The Poincare Conjecture was more than 100 years old when Perelman solved it - and could help determine the shape of the universe.
The food in famous paintings of the meal has grown by biblical proportions over the last millennium, researchers report in a medical journal Tuesday.
Using a computer, they compared the size of the food to the size of the heads in 52 paintings of Jesus Christ and his disciples at their final meal before his death.
If art imitates life, we're in trouble, the researchers conclude. The size of the main dish grew 69 percent; the size of the plate, 66 percent, and the bread, 23 percent, between the years 1000 and 2000.
Supersizing is considered a modern phenomenon, but "what we see recently may be just a more noticeable part of a very long trend," said Brian Wansink, a food behavior scientist at Cornell University.
The community organizing group ACORN announced Monday it is closing its operations amid falling revenues.
The announcement came a day after the board of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now met and approved the steps required "to responsibly manage the process of bringing its operations to a close over the coming months," an ACORN statement read.
The group's remaining state affiliates and field offices will close by April 1, and a plan will be developed to pay its debts, the statement said.
"ACORN's members have a great deal to be proud of -- from promoting homeownership to helping rebuild New Orleans, from raising wages to winning safer streets, from training community leaders to promoting voter participation -- ACORN members have worked hard to create stronger communities, a more inclusive democracy and a more just nation," it said.
The 40-year-old liberal group was crippled by scandal six months ago when a pair of conservative activists posing as a pimp and a prostitute secretly videotaped two ACORN employees appearing to give them advice about setting up a prostitution ring and evading the IRS.
The video led to the employees being fired.
Afterward, Congress halted Housing and Urban Development grants to ACORN.
In a news release issued Saturday, ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis said the group had faced "a series of well-orchestrated, relentless, well-funded, right-wing attacks that are unprecedented since the McCarthy era. Our effective work empowering African-American and low-income voters made us a target. The videos were a manufactured, sensational story that led to rush to judgment and an unconstitutional act by Congress.
"For ACORN as a national organization, our vindication on the facts doesn't necessarily pay the bills. I know that ACORN's dedicated community members will continue to speak out for justice and organize in their communities."
ACORN's announcement was welcomed by Matthew Vadum, senior editor of the Capital Research Center, a conservative think tank based in Washington. "I won't be shedding any tears," said Vadum, who said he has been studying the organization for years and written extensively on the organization. "ACORN is a thoroughly corrupt organization that abuses taxpayer dollars and breaks the law at every opportunity. To suggest that it was set up is laughable."
He added in a telephone interview, "For ACORN to claim that it's a victim of McCarthyism, as I've seen CEO Bertha Lewis do repeatedly, doesn't even pass the laugh test. It can't be taken seriously."
On March 1, prosecutors cleared the group of criminal wrongdoing related to the videos. And on March 10, U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon declared unconstitutional the law blacklisting ACORN and allied organizations from receiving federal funds, according to ACORN.
In 2008, Republican groups seized on allegations of voter registration fraud by the group in Florida and several other states, claiming its workers were trying to push the election in Barack Obama's favor.
Founded in 1970, ACORN called itself "the nation's largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people." The group said it had more than 400,000 member families organized into more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters in 110 cities.
Besides voter registration, the group focused on issues such as predatory lending, the minimum wage and funding for public schools, according to its Web site. It also provided free tax return preparation for low-income people and screening for state and federal benefit programs.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Check it out here.
For most of us, it'll have no affect. Except in turning us Communist.
Scientists have long been stymied by human regenerative healing -- that is, wholesale regrowth of, say, a severed limb -- an ability inherent in some species but lost on humans. But new research suggests the ability to regenerate isn't based on something newts and flatworms have that we don't; rather, it's something we do have that's keeping us from regenerating tissues. Researchers think a gene called p21 may control regenerative healing, and that by switching it off, humans could perform our own regeneration.
The new research suggests that the potential to heal without scarring -- or possibly even to regrow a limb, albeit in a limited manner -- may lie dormant in human cells, kept in check by the p21 gene. A group of lab mice engineered to lack p21 were able to regenerate surgically removed tissue to the point that no evidence of the surgery remained. Holes punched in their ears -- a standard procedure for tagging lab animals -- also healed perfectly, leaving behind no traces of scar tissue or previous damage.
Essentially, switching off the p21 gene allows adult cells to behave like pluripotent stem cells, reorienting themselves into whatever kind of tissue they need to be. But naturally there is a give-and-take; p21 is closely intertwined with another gene, p53, a cell-division regulator that, if allowed to run amok, can lead to many types of cancers. The p21 gene acts as a safety valve for p53, stopping cell division in the case of DNA damage. So switching off p21 can allow cells to engage in regenerative healing, but the risks of doing so include rampant cell division (read: cancer).
Have you seen a truly unwanted guest - I'm talking about a rat - scurrying about your hotel lately?
Chances are you have, if TripAdvisor.com's unscientific "rat" analysis conducted for USA TODAY's Hotel Check-In at all resembles reality. By analyzing its January and February U.S. hotel reviews, TripAdvisor found that reviewers mentioned the word "rat" 31% more times vs. a year ago.
The analysis, of course, is not scientific. The uptick could easily be explained by an increase in the number of reviewers writing about escaping "the rat race" or partying at hotels favored by "the Rat Pack."
But it could also hint at a slight uptick in rat sightings this year vs. last year.
Riding the coattails of a historic health care vote, the House on Sunday also passed a broad reorganization of college aid that affects millions of students and moves President Barack Obama closer to winning yet another of his top domestic policies.
The bill rewrites a four-decades-old student loan program, eliminating its reliance on private lenders and uses the savings to direct $36 billion in new spending to Pell Grants for students in financial need.
In the biggest piece of education legislation since No Child Left Behind nine years ago, the bill would also provide more than $4 billion to historically black colleges and community colleges.
The bill was paired with the expedited health care bill, a marriage of convenience that helped the prospects of each measure. That combined measure passed 220-211.
"We are pairing this historic health reform with another opportunity that cannot be missed – the chance to make the single largest investment in college affordability ever at no cost to the taxpayers," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.