Friday, April 23, 2010

Hero dog leads state troopers to injured owner.

Hero animals rule! Item.
Alaska State Troopers are presenting a special award to Buddy, a German Shepherd that led authorities to a fire at his owners' property near Willow.

Buddy will receive the engraved silver-plated dog bowl Friday afternoon in Anchorage.

Troopers say Buddy and his owner, 23-year-old Ben Heinrichs, were in the family workshop on the Caswell Lakes property April 4 when a heater ignited chemicals.

Heinrichs, who sustained minor flash burns on his face, dashed out as the fire grew. He then told Buddy "we need to get help."

The dog took off and eventually found a trooper responding to a call about the fire. Buddy led the officer through winding back roads to the house and the trooper guided firefighters to the scene.

Bush special counsel pleads guilty to withholding evidence.

From the Washington Post:
Scott J. Bloch, the former director of a federal office in charge of helping shield government whistleblowers from unfair treatment, plans to plead guilty to withholding information from congressional investigators after he had his office computer files professionally deleted in 2006.

U.S. prosecutors filed papers in federal court Thursday that accuse Bloch, who led the Office of Special Counsel through much of President George W. Bush's administration, of failing to truthfully answer questions about whether he arranged for private computer technicians to "scrub" his office computer and that of other political appointees. This type of filing, known as an information, is made public when a suspect is about to plead guilty to allegations.

Bloch came under criticism early in his tenure as special counsel for ordering that all mention of workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation be removed from the office's Web site and printed materials. Bloch said his office lacked the authority to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

He was abruptly removed from his post and barred from returning to his office in October 2008 after a meeting with White House officials.

The FBI began looking into allegations that he scrubbed his computer out of concern that he was trying to stop an inquiry into whether he violated the Hatch Act by mixing political activity with his official job.

Prosecutors said Bloch withheld information from the House oversight committee when it began investigating complaints about his office and allegations he was not properly protecting whistleblowers.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ninja slug discovered in Borneo.

Gotta love a scientist who names a slug after his girlfriend. From LiveScience:
An eccentric bunch of species have recently come out of hiding in the rainforests of Borneo, including the world's longest known stick insect — think two skinny pencils end-to-end, a slug that shoots "love darts," and a color-changing frog, scientists announce today.

[...] Ninja slug – This green and yellow slug (Ibycus rachelae) was discovered on leaves in a mountain forest at altitudes up to 6,233 feet (1,900 meters) in Sabah, Malaysia. The slug sports a tail that's three times the length of its head, which it wraps around its 1.6-inch-long (4 cm) body as if a pet cat. In fact, its discoverers initially planned to name the slug Ibycus felis, after its feline inspiration. Instead, they named it after the girlfriend of one of its discoverers, Menno Schilthuizen of the Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity 'Naturalis.'

Maybe there's more to the name than meets the eye: The slug species makes use of so-called love darts. Made of calcium carbonate, the love dart is a harpoon-like structure that pierces and injects a hormone into a potential mate. The dart could increase the slug's chances of reproduction.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Crocodile shows up at water aerobics class.

This is precisely why I don't exercise. Item!
A water aerobics class in northern Australia had a good reason to skip the morning workout: a crocodile was busy using its pool.

The 5-foot-long invader was spotted by workers Tuesday at the Howard Spring Holiday Park, outside Darwin, while they were cleaning the trailer park's pool for a class frequented by tourists, Australia's Northern Territory News reported.

"I bent down to the water and there it was, staring at me, less than 3 meters (10 feet) away," the park's manager, Geoff Thompson, told the newspaper.

At least one person did manage a workout.

"The crocodile gave one of the crocodile management rangers a bit of a runaround, having to chase it around the pool," Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife senior ranger Tom Nichols said in a statement.

Rangers believe the croc slipped in under a fence.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Painting whale makes a splash in art world.

Some cuteness for your Monday morning. Item!
A Beluga whale is making a big splash as an artist after picking up a paintbrush at an oceanarium in China.

Keepers at the Qingdao Polar Ocean World say Xiao Qiang started out when he simply grabbed a paint brush left behind buy a visitor and started playing with it.

Now the seven year old star's paintings are changing hands for hundreds of pounds among fans.

"He showed a lot of interest in painting right from the start so now all we have to do is give him the brushes and hold the paper while he paints with his mouth," said trainer Zhang Yong.

"His favourite colour seems to be blue and he's best of all at seascapes. His people always look like seals."

Experts say that dolphin-like Belugas - known as the sea canary because of their high pitched squeaks and twitters - have more soft tissue around their mouths than other whales which allows Xiao Qiang to manipulate a brush.

"He enjoys what he does and this turning of the head to paint is a natural movement that these whales perform in the wild when they are cleaning their food of sand," added Yong.

"They are brighter than other whales and he loves to play jokes on his keepers. Sometimes he deliberately paints them instead of the paper."

Outrage over cookbook's "black people" typo.

From Orange:
An Australian publisher has been forced to reprint thousands of cookery books after a pasta recipe calling for "salt and freshly ground black people" prompted outrage.

Bob Sessions, Penguin Group Australia's head of publishing, acknowledged the proofreader for the Pasta Bible should have picked up the error, but said it was nothing more than a "silly mistake".

The Pasta Bible recipe for spelt tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto was supposed to call for black pepper.

"We're mortified that this has become an issue of any kind and why anyone would be offended, we don't know," he told The Sydney Morning Herald.

"We've said to bookstores that if anyone is small-minded enough to complain about this... silly mistake, we will happily replace (the book) for them."

Penguin has said it would reprint 7,000 books, at a cost of £12,000, but books already in stores would not be recalled because doing so would be "extremely hard," Mr Sessions said.