Friday, July 23, 2010

Darth Vader robs Long Island bank.

From the NY Post:
Luuuuuke, I am your robber!

Times sure must be tough on the Death Star these days, as Darth Vader yesterday stooped to holding up a Long Island bank, cops said.

A robber dressed up as the "Star Wars" villain for a heist that likely netted enough cash to fill up a TIE fighter with gas for a couple of days.

As he robbed the Setauket Chase branch, the Sith Lord brandished a weapon for a more civilized age -- a semiautomatic handgun.

There was no telling whether he needed to use the force to make bank employees comply, cops said, but at one point, the Vader invader kneeled as if speaking to the Emperor and aimed his gun.
"He immediately displayed a gun and demanded cash from the teller," said Suffolk County Detective Sgt. William Lamb.

Apparently Darth's normal costume was out for cleaning, since the robber was caught on tape wearing a blue cape and camouflage pants when he showed up at the branch on Route 374 at 11:30 a.m.

After grabbing his cash, Vader escaped on foot through a parking lot.

"All of a sudden, I saw this guy with a mask, and he was running very fast by the window," said Louie Lin, a worker at a nearby Chinese restaurant. "It was pretty crazy. He had the whole outfit on."

Michael Aloisio, who works at another nearby restaurant, also saw Vader run by.

"I thought it was pretty comical, but I guess this guy was pretty serious about needing some money," he said.

"I always liked 'Star Wars,' but I never liked Darth Vader."

Cops found the fallen Jedi's lack of respect for the law disturbing.

"I'd say it's very unusual," Lamb said.

Police wouldn't say exactly how much money Vader got, but a photo showed a Alderaan-sized wad of cash in his hand.

A police source said Suffolk officers couldn't stop talking about the encounter with the dark side.

"The jokes are starting already," the source said. "The one where he's back up in the Death Star is the best so far."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New evidence that chili peppers fight fat.

From EurekAlert:

Capsaicin, the stuff that gives chili peppers their kick, may cause weight loss and fight fat buildup by triggering certain beneficial protein changes in the body, according to a new study on the topic. The report, which could lead to new treatments for obesity, appears in ACS' monthly Journal of Proteome Research.

Jong Won Yun and colleagues point out that obesity is a major public health threat worldwide, linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health problems. Laboratory studies have hinted that capsaicin may help fight obesity by decreasing calorie intake, shrinking fat tissue, and lowering fat levels in the blood. Nobody, however, knows exactly how capsaicin might trigger such beneficial effects.

In an effort to find out, the scientists fed high-fat diets with or without capsaicin to lab rats used to study obesity. The capsaicin-treated rats lost 8 percent of their body weight and showed changes in levels of at least 20 key proteins found in fat. The altered proteins work to break down fats. "These changes provide valuable new molecular insights into the mechanism of the antiobesity effects of capsaicin," the scientists say.

Scientists closer to creating electricity from sewage.

From Oregon State University:
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Engineers at Oregon State University have made a significant advance toward producing electricity from sewage, by the use of new coatings on the anodes of microbial electrochemical cells that increased the electricity production about 20 times.

The findings, just published online in Biosensors and Bioelectronics, a professional journal, bring the researchers one step closer to technology that could clean biowaste at the same time it produces useful levels of electricity – a promising new innovation in wastewater treatment and renewable energy.

Engineers found that by coating graphite anodes with a nanoparticle layer of gold, the production of electricity increased 20 times. Coatings with palladium produced an increase, but not nearly as much. And the researchers believe nanoparticle coatings of iron – which would be a lot cheaper than gold – could produce electricity increases similar to that of gold, for at least some types of bacteria.

“This is an important step toward our goal,” said Frank Chaplen, an associate professor of biological and ecological engineering. “We still need some improvements in design of the cathode chamber, and a better understanding of the interaction between different microbial species. But the new approach is clearly producing more electricity.”

In this technology, bacteria from biowaste such as sewage are placed in an anode chamber, where they form a biofilm, consume nutrients and grow, in the process releasing electrons. In this context, the sewage is literally the fuel for electricity production.

Israel jails Arab for "rape" after consensual sex with woman who thought he was Jewish.

I guess I should stop telling girls in bars that I'm a 7-foot-tall, totally ripped millionaire. From the Daily Mail:
A Palestinian man has been convicted of rape ‘by deception’ after having consensual sex with a woman who had believed him to be a fellow Jew.

Sabbar Kashur, 30, who had introduced himself as Daniel, was only charged with the offence when she later realised he was an Arab.

A court in Jerusalem made international legal history by jailing the delivery driver for 18 months despite acknowledging it had not been ‘a ‘a classical rape by force’.

The unusual case underscores the racial tensions between Israel's Jewish and Arab communities, where intimate relations between the two are often regarded as taboo.

The court heard that Mr Kashur misled the woman by introducing himself with a traditionally Jewish name during a chance encounter in central Jerusalem in 2008.

Mr Kashur, from the Arab sector of East Jerusalem, had also suggested he was a bachelor seeking a serious relationship.

The two then had consensual sex in a nearby building before Mr Kashur left before the woman, who has not been named, had a chance to get dressed.

When she later found out that he was not Jewish but an Arab, she filed a criminal complaint for rape and indecent assault.

After striking up a conversation, the two went into a top-floor room of a nearby office-block and engaged in a sexual encounter, after which Mr Kashur left.

It was only later that she discovered the Arab’s true racial background, lawyers said, leading her to file criminal complaint.

Although Mr Kashur was initially accused of rape and indecent assault, this was changed to a charge of rape by deception as part of a plea bargain arrangement.

Handing down the verdict, Tzvi Segal, one of three judges on the case, acknowledged that sex had been consensual but said that although not ‘a classical rape by force,’ the woman would not have consented if she had not believed Mr Kashur was Jewish.

The sex therefore was obtained under false pretences, the judges said.

‘If she hadn't thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated,’ they added.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Indonesian Muslims drop fatwa against expensive coffee.

Good news for java in Java. Item!
Indonesia's highest Islamic body today abandoned a proposal to ban Muslims from drinking the world's most expensive coffee, which is extracted from the feces of a small mammal called the civet.

It had considered issuing a fatwa against the rare coffee, made using beans picked out from the excrement of the nocturnal, cat-like creature, on the grounds it was unclean.

"After a long discussion among clerics here, we decided that it's not sinful for Muslims to drink the Luwak coffee," the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) chairman Ma'ruf Amien told a press conference.

"It's not haram [forbidden in Islam], as long as you wash the beans with water to remove the civet cat's droppings."

Locally known as Kopi Luwak, the beans come from the ripest fruits eaten by the civet, which are digested before being excreted and roasted. It is highly prized for its smooth flavor.

The beans cost up to $600 dollars per kilogram, and only 200 kilos are produced worldwide each year, according to Indonesia's association of coffee producers.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cops shocked pastor to death.

From the Denver Post:
Marvin Booker just wanted to get his shoes.

But deputies at the new Denver jail told him to stop. When Booker, who was being processed on a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia, didn't obey, he was held down, hit with electric shocks and then placed facedown in a holding cell, according to two inmates who watched it unfold.

Booker never got up. He was pronounced dead later that morning.

"I've never seen anything happen like that before in my life," said John Yedo, 54, who was being processed on a charge of destruction of property and said he witnessed the scene. "What I saw is not what you'd expect to see in America."

The two jail witnesses, who were both arrested in the early-morning hours of July 9 around the time Booker was being processed, were contacted and interviewed by The Denver Post separately. Both of them said they had not been questioned by police investigating the death of Booker, a homeless ordained minister who served the poor, but also a habitual criminal with a long string of arrests.

Capt. Frank Gale, spokesman for the jail, said he cannot comment on the ongoing investigation by the Denver Police Department and the Denver district attorney's office, and cannot confirm the inmates' accounts.

He said what happened at the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Facility would have been recorded on videotape.

"If in fact what they are saying is true, it should be reflected in the video," Gale said.

District attorney spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough said she couldn't comment during the investigation, which could take several more weeks. The coroner's office is awaiting test results before completing the autopsy report and determining how Booker died, she said. In the meantime, the deputies involved in Booker's case are still on the job.

Yedo has had one prior arrest, in 1974 on a drug charge. Christopher Maten, 25, the other witness, was arrested in 2005 for public consumption of alcohol. Neither is a career criminal. The versions the two suspects tell are nearly identical.

Russian deaths mount as heatwave and vodka mix.

From Comrade Jen. From BBC News:
Scores of Russians have died in the past few weeks amid a heatwave that shows no sign of breaking.

Many of the dead have drowned after taking a swim - often after having drunk too much vodka.

For the past two weeks temperatures across much of western Russia have soared past 35C, in the hottest and longest heatwave in decades.

Russia is also suffering what is thought to be the worst drought in more than 100 years.

There has been virtually no rain since winter and crops are shrivelling.

"We've had 10mm of rain, scorching hot temperatures over 35C, which have just burnt all the crops up," says Colin Hinchley, a Briton who now farms in Penza near the Volga river, in southern Russia.

"Winter wheat crops are 50% of the yield, and spring crops, in some cases, are going to be virtually none."

A state of emergency has been imposed in 16 Russian regions, and the government is increasing loans to try to help farmers avoid bankruptcy.

"It's a major calamity, the situation is extremely serious," said Viktor Zubkov, the first deputy prime minister responsible for agriculture.

n the centre of Moscow, teams of tanker trucks roam the streets spraying water to try to stop the asphalt from melting.

At lakes and rivers around Moscow groups of revellers can be seen knocking back vodka and then plunging into the water.

The result is predictable - 233 people have drowned in the last week alone.

In one incident six schoolchildren drowned, because the summer camp employees looking after them were drunk.

The heatwave is expected to last another week. By then Moscow may well have broken through its highest ever temperature of 36.6C.