Friday, November 5, 2010

Driver distracted by ice cream, kills two.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for OMG LOOKOUT! From FOX News:
Police in the Vermont town of Woodstock say the driver of a car involved in a crash that killed two people was eating ice cream before she noticed she was in the wrong lane.

Forty-nine-year-old Judianne Wood of Stockbridge pleaded not guilty this week to two felony counts of grossly negligent operation of a motor vehicle with death resulting stemming from the May 5 accident on Vermont Route 12.

The Rutland Herald says that a Woodstock police officer talked to Wood while she was still sitting in her vehicle. She said told the officer she had been eating ice cream that she had brought from home.

Seventy-nine-year-old Marion Grover and her 82-year-old husband Paul died as a result of injuries suffered in the crash.

Cement mixer crashes through bridge, lands on passenger train.

This is so metal. From Daily Mail:
Seven people were injured when a cement mixer lost control smashing through the wall of a railway bridge and landing on a train below.

Paramedics are treating two people in the wreckage but it appears the vast majority of passengers had a miraculous escape.

Rescuers said the two people still in the train were not pinned down by debris but could not be moved because of their injuries.

The train was passing through Oxshott, in Surrey, on its way to London Waterloo when the huge vehicle left the road above.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

GOP-led House will mean less science funding.

From the NY Times:
Federal financing of science research, which has risen quickly since the Obama administration came to power, could fall back to pre-Obama levels if the incoming Republican leadership in the House of Representatives follows through on its list of campaign promises.

In the Republican platform, Pledge to America, the party vows to cut discretionary nonmilitary spending to 2008 levels. Under that plan, research and development at nonmilitary agencies — including those that sponsor science and health research — would fall 12.3 percent, to $57.8 billion, from the Mr. Obama’s request of $65.9 billion for fiscal year 2011.

An analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science looked at what would happen if all of the agencies were cut to the 2008 amounts. The National Institutes of Health would lose $2.9 billion, or 9 percent, of its research money. The National Science Foundation would lose more than $1 billion, or almost 19 percent, of its budget, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would lose $324 million, or 34 percent.

“These agencies would be more severely impacted by a rollback to 2008,” said Patrick Clemins, who directs budget programs at the association.

What will actually emerge from the final 2011 budget bills is “really unclear,” Mr. Clemins said. “The pledge is very vague in terms of what programs will be cut,” he said.

Mr. Clemins noted that Mr. Obama had already asked federal agencies to prepare for a 5 percent cut in their budgets for 2012.

The Democrats could try to push the budget bills through the Congress before the Republicans take power in January, but since the Democrats do not have the votes to end a Senate filibuster, success would be unlikely.

Rugby star in dog sex scandal.

Canberra Raiders and Australian rugby league star Joel Monaghan is under investigation after a photo emerged showing him in a compromising position with a dog.

Monaghan described the incident as a "simulated act" meant to be a prank.

"Joel can't blame anyone but himself for an act of stupidity that will haunt him for the rest of his life," manager Jim Banaghan said in a statement.

"Joel wants to make it clear that he was the one playing a prank on an absent team mate by simulating the act.

"There are no words of explanation that can be offered because none can be appropriate.

"Joel has to now face his family as well as fans and supporters with that shame and has already undergone counselling to help him cope with the consequences of what has happened."

Raiders Chief Executive Officer Don Furner said an investigation was under way.

"If he did it, it is something he will live with for the rest of his life," Furner told a media conference.

"We don't know whether it's authentic but I am as appalled as everyone else.

"If he did do it, I don't know why he would do it."

The incident reportedly happened during the Raiders' Mad Monday celebrations following their finals loss to Wests Tigers.

The NRL says it will await the outcome of the Raiders investigation.

The photo was reportedly posted on the internet on Monday before being taken down by the Melbourne radio station that had put it online.

The action was too late with the image being re-posted through Twitter.

Harry Potter fans are decimating India's owls.

Not that FOX News cares about conservation - they just hate witchcraft. Item!
Die-hard fans of the best-selling Harry Potter stories are seriously threatening India's owl population, as demands for the ultimate wizarding accessory increase, a wildlife group says.

Potter's snow-white owl Hedwig, his trusty messenger throughout the book and film series, is being blamed by animal groups and politicians for fuelling the trade in Indian owls, as fans look to ape every aspect of their young wizard hero.

A report released this week in New Delhi by wildlife group TRAFFIC-India, which found that 15 of the country's 30 species were for sale in markets, also blames the demand for owl parts in ancient rituals for driving the illegal trade.

The report's author, Abrar Ahmed, said that his research was sparked when a friend asked him to procure an owl for her son's Harry Potter-themed birthday party.

"Although Hedwig spends much of her time in a bird cage in Harry's room, real owls do not make good pets because they need room to fly and hunt for food," said Ahmed.

"Following Harry Potter, there seems to be a strange fascination even among the urban middle classes for presenting their children with owls," India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told the BBC at the launch of the report. Traditional practitioners in India, known locally as tantriks, also demand owl bones, feathers, claws and organs, as well as the bird's blood and tears, for ceremonial rituals, the report said.

The heavily-coveted "ear-tufts" -- feathery extensions on the heads of larger owls -- are thought to grant the birds greater magical powers, and fetch a high price for the tribal communities that make a living from the trade.

One ancient practice demands the mixing of ground ear-tufts with seeds and milk, before spraying the dried powder on a person's head in order to hypnotize them.

GOP to investigate "scientific fraud" of global warming.

You voted for change.... climate change. From Raw Story:
Fresh off a dramatic victory in which it retook the House leadership, the Republican Party intends to hold major hearings probing the supposed "scientific fraud" behind global warming.

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder related the news in a little-noticed article Wednesday morning.

The effort is a likely attempt to out-step the White House on energy policy moving forward. Legislation on energy and climate change reform, one of President Barack Obama campaign promises, has yet to materialize, though Obama's EPA recently classified carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

Holding hearings would please the Republicans' conservative base, which increasingly doubts the scientific basis for global warming -- especially human-induced global warming -- and provide a reflection of the new GOP's tenor.

Ron Brownstein of the National Journal reported last week that in Tuesday's midterm election, "virtually all of the serious 2010 GOP challengers" have denied that there is scientific evidence that global warming is even happening.

"The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe, even conservative ones," Brownstein wrote.

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists -- and just about every accredited international scientific institution in the world -- unequivocally agree that global warming occurring and is fueled by human activity.

Scientists say inaction will lead to an unmitigated spiral of polarized -- and over time rising -- temperatures, melting ice caps, rising sea levels and droughts, among other consequences.

The Republican belief to the contrary incubates the party's fervent opposition not only to cap and trade but to any measures reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Obama administration has long anticipated efforts from the GOP to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency, and plan to strongly enforce environmental regulations.

The deeply differing views of the White House and likely energy chairman, Texas Republican Joe Barton, suggests that conflicts over the issue are inevitable in the new divided government.

Coconuts removed from India for Obama's safety.

From BBC News:
Officials in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) have taken extraordinary measures to protect US President Barack Obama ahead of his visit.

In their effort to provide maximum security in the run-up to his visit on Friday, they have removed coconuts which may fall on his head from trees.

All coconuts around the city's Gandhi museum have now been cut down, an official told the BBC.

Every year in India people are injured or even killed by falling coconuts.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Germans fitted with bionic eyes.

From Sky News:
A ground-breaking eye implant has allowed three blind patients to see.

Within days of being fitted with the electronic device in their retina, the German patients were able to see objects on a table, including a cup and saucer.

One was even able to read his own name.

A British eye surgeon, who will lead the first UK trials of the device next year, said it was a significant advance.

Professor Robert MacLaren, from the Oxford Eye Hospital, said: "Until now this concept would have been considered only in the realms of science fiction. What surprised all of us was just how much resolution you can get from the implant."

The device consists of an electronic plate just three millimetres square, which is coated with 1,500 light-sensitive sensors.

Each sensor triggers an electronic pulse that stimulates nerves that lead to the brain. Patients see a rough black and white image.

The device has been developed by the German technology company Retina Implant AG.

It was fitted to three patients with the inherited condition retinitis pigmentosa, which gradually destroys the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye, causing blindness.

Invisibility cloak closer to reality.

Soon, women's locker room. Soon. Item!
Scientists in the UK have demonstrated a flexible film that represents a big step toward the "invisibility cloak" made famous by Harry Potter.

The film contains tiny structures that together form a "metamaterial", which can, among other tricks, manipulate light to render objects invisible.

Flexible metamaterials have been made before, but only work for light of a colour far beyond that which we see.

Physicists have hailed the approach a "huge step forward".

The bendy approach for visible light is reported in the New Journal of Physics.

Metamaterials work by interrupting and channelling the flow of light at a fundamental level; in a sense they can be seen as bouncing light waves around in a prescribed fashion to achieve a particular result.

But light waves can only be herded around by structures about the size of their wavelength - a property which is connected to their colour.

Until now, the most striking demonstrations of invisibility have occurred for light waves with a much longer wavelength than we can see. This is because it is simply easier to construct metamaterials with relatively large structures.

LHC set to create mini-Big Bang.

From BBC News:
Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are getting set to create the Big Bang on a miniature scale.

Since 2009, the world's highest-energy particle accelerator has been smashing together protons, in a bid to shed light on the fundamental nature of matter.

But now the huge machine will be colliding lead ions instead.

The experiments are planned for early November and will run for four weeks.

The LHC is housed in a 27km-long tunnel on the Franco-Swiss border and is managed by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern).

The collider consists of four different experiments and one of them, ALICE, has been specifically designed to smash together lead ions.

The goal of these collisions is to investigate what the infant Universe looked like. Colliding protons at high energies was aimed at other aspects of physics, such as finding the elusive Higgs boson particle and signs of new physical laws, such as a framework called supersymmetry.

Cern's spokesman James Gillies told BBC News that besides ALICE, the ATLAS and Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiments will also be temporarily colliding ions.
Big Bang

He said the tests could provide an insight into the conditions of the Universe some 13.7 billion years ago, just after the Big Bang.

They will look at the Universe fractions of a second after a tiny but very dense ball of energy exploded to create the cosmos as we know it today.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Girl, 13, avoids wheelchair with the healing power of breakdancing.

From the Daily Mail:
A teenage girl who was warned her curved spine could leave her in a wheelchair has defied doctors and taken up breakdancing.

Mia Latham, 13, was diagnosed with an S-shaped spine when she was just 11. She was told she would need metal rods inserted into her back to prevent damage to her heart and lungs.

But the determined youngster decided to take up yoga to try to straighten her spine without doctors' help.

Incredibly, Mia says the intense programme of exercises has managed to reduce the curve in her spine. She added that doctors said there is now no need for her to have the operation.

The sporty teenager has now taken up breakdancing - bending her body into all kinds of awkward positions.

Just 12 months after she was diagnosed, Mia can now perform a routine of body-popping moves similar to those performed by Britain's Got Talent star George Sampson.

However, a spokesman from the Scoliosis Association (UK) told Mail Online: 'The scientific evidence that extensive exercise "cures" scoliosis is sparse.

Teens trash Spike Lee over Absolut Brooklyn ads.

Well, at least he's not marketing Spike Lee joints. From NY Daily News:
Spike Lee put Bedford-Stuyvesant on the cinematic map, but some teens think he sold out the neighborhood with his Brooklyn-themed Absolut Vodka promo.

The kids did a survey of alcohol advertising posters and billboards in the area and found the logo designed by Lee dominated.

"I've seen his movies. I was a really big fan. But he lost respect from me," said Shenel Gunnis, 17.

"You're not supposed to be promoting stuff like that in areas that can barely afford food."

She's one of 10 teens who scoured Bed-Stuy this summer, mapping booze promos for the Children's Aid Society.

They tallied 56 and were surprised that Lee's limited-edition label - featuring the stoop of a Brooklyn brownstone - was the one that popped up over and over.

Frank Moore, 19, said he'd like to tell the "Do the Right Thing" helmsman that's just wrong.

"I'd be like, 'Why? Do you understand what you're doing ... that you're putting up an ad for liquor and you know there's an alcoholism problem here?'" he said.

"My thing with Spike Lee is you should use your prestige and position of power to help the problem, not add on to it."

Lee did not return a call left at his office and hung up on a reporter who reached him on his cell phone. A spokeswoman for Absolut had no immediate comment.

The limited-edition bottle rolled out last summer is emblazoned with the phrase "A Spike Lee Collaboration." In the ads, the bottle is superimposed on a photo of Brooklynites on stoops.

The teens felt Lee was trying to capitalize on borough pride.

"He was targeting us when normally he would make movies that would uplift our community," said Krystal Chapman, 17, a senior at the High School for Public Service in Crown Heights.

"I think it is hypocritical."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Study: Alcohol is more lethal than heroin or cocaine.

From Huffington Post:
Alcohol is more dangerous than illegal drugs like heroin and crack cocaine, according to a new study.

British experts evaluated substances including alcohol, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana, ranking them based on how destructive they are to the individual who takes them and to society as a whole.

Researchers analyzed how addictive a drug is and how it harms the human body, in addition to other criteria like environmental damage caused by the drug, its role in breaking up families and its economic costs, such as health care, social services, and prison.

Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, or crystal meth, were the most lethal to individuals. When considering their wider social effects, alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the deadliest. But overall, alcohol outranked all other substances, followed by heroin and crack cocaine. Marijuana, ecstasy and LSD scored far lower.

The study was paid for by Britain's Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and was published online Monday in the medical journal, Lancet.

Experts said alcohol scored so high because it is so widely used and has devastating consequences not only for drinkers but for those around them.

"Just think about what happens (with alcohol) at every football game," said Wim van den Brink, a professor of psychiatry and addiction at the University of Amsterdam. He was not linked to the study and co-authored a commentary in the Lancet.

When drunk in excess, alcohol damages nearly all organ systems. It is also connected to higher death rates and is involved in a greater percentage of crime than most other drugs, including heroin.

Scientists creating giant cockroaches and dragonflies.

We are dooooooomed!! From the Geological Society of America:
The giant dragonflies of ancient Earth with wingspans of up to 70 centimeters (28 inches) are generally attributed to higher oxygen atmospheric levels in the atmosphere in the past. New experiments in raising modern insects in various oxygen-enriched atmospheres have confirmed that dragonflies grow bigger with more oxygen, or hyperoxia.

However, not all insects were larger when oxygen was higher in the past. For instance, the largest cockroaches ever are skittering around today. The question becomes how and why do different groups respond to changes in atmospheric oxygen.

The secrets to why these changes happened may be in the hollow tracheal tubes insects use to breathe. Getting a better handle on those changes in modern insects could make it possible to use fossilized insects as proxies for ancient oxygen levels.

“Our main interest is in how paleo-oxygen levels would have influenced the evolution of insects,” said John VandenBrooks of Arizona State University in Tempe. To do that they decided to look at the plasticity of modern insects raised in different oxygen concentrations. The team raised cockroaches, dragonflies, grasshoppers, meal worms, beetles and other insects in atmospheres containing different amounts of oxygen to see if there were any effects.

One result was that dragonflies grew faster into bigger adults in hyperoxia. However, cockroaches grew slower and did not become larger adults. In all, ten out of twelve kinds of insects studied decreased in size in lower oxygen atmospheres. But there were varied responses when they were placed into an enriched oxygen atmosphere. VandenBrooks will be presenting the results of the work on Monday, Nov. 1 at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver.

Antibiotics have long-term impacts on gut flora.

From EurekAlert:
Short courses of antibiotics can leave normal gut bacteria harbouring antibiotic resistance genes for up to two years after treatment, say scientists writing in the latest issue of Microbiology, published on 3 November.

The researchers believe that this reservoir increases the chances of resistance genes being surrendered to pathogenic bacteria, aiding their survival and suggesting that the long-term effects of antibiotic therapy are more significant than previously thought.

Antibiotics that are prescribed to treat pathogenic bacteria also have an impact on the normal microbial flora of the human gut. Antibiotics can alter the composition of microbial populations (potentially leading to other illnesses) and allow micro-organisms that are naturally resistant to the antibiotic to flourish.

The impact of antibiotics on the normal gut flora has previously been thought to be short-term, with any disturbances being restored several weeks after treatment. However, the review into the long-term impacts of antibiotic therapy reveals that this is not always the case. Studies have shown that high levels of resistance genes can be detected in gut microbes after just 7 days of antibiotic treatment and that these genes remain present for up to two years even if the individual has taken no further antibiotics.

The consequences of this could be potentially life-threatening explained Dr Cecilia Jernberg from the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control who conducted the review. "The long-term presence of resistance genes in human gut bacteria dramatically increases the probability of them being transferred to and exploited by harmful bacteria that pass through the gut. This could reduce the success of future antibiotic treatments and potentially lead to new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria."

The review highlights the necessity of using antibiotics prudently. "Antibiotic resistance is not a new problem and there is a growing battle with multi-drug resistant strains of pathogenic bacteria. The development of new antibiotics is slow and so we must use the effective drugs we have left with care," said Dr Jernberg. "This new information about the long-term impacts of antibiotics is of great importance to allow rational antibiotic administration guidelines to be put in place," she said.

Brazil: Massive oil discovery off Atlantic coast.

From Earth Times:
Rio de Janeiro - Brazil's state oil agency ANP Friday announced the discovery of a new giant oil reserve off the Atlantic coast.

The deepwater field, called Libra, could contain reserves of between 3.7 billion and 15 billion barrels, the agency said.

An evaluation provided by the certification firm Gaffney, Cline & Associates, showed the most probable quantity is somewhere between, with 7.9 billion barrels.

"It is important to emphasize, that this Libra field alone could contain more than Brazil's current known reserves of 14 billion barrels," the ANP said.

The field lies about 180 km off the cost of Rio de Janeiro, the agency said. The estimated volume is larger than the coastal Tupi field, which holds an estimated 5 to 8 billion barrels.

The announcement is the latest in a series of mammoth Brazilian oil discoveries since 2007. Most of them lie up to 7,000 metres deep and under a thick layer of salt, making them difficult and cost intensive to mine.

The months-long oil BP oil gusher off the US Gulf Coast earlier this year raised anew worries about the environmental and economic risk of drilling at such ocean depths.