Friday, November 26, 2010

More than 1 in 3 South African men admit to rape.

Awful. From Yahoo! News:

JOHANNESBURG – A new survey says more than one in three South African men admit to having committed rape.

A 2010 study led by the government-funded Medical Research Foundation says that in Gauteng province, home to South Africa's most populous city of Johannesburg, more than 37 percent of men said they had raped a woman. Nearly 7 percent of the 487 men surveyed said they had participated in a gang rape.

More than 51 percent of the 511 women interviewed said they'd experienced violence from men, and 78 percent of men said they'd committed violence against women.

A quarter of the women interviewed said they'd been raped, but the study says only one in 25 rapes are reported to police.

A survey by the same organization in 2008 found that 28 percent of men in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces said they had raped a woman or girl. Of the men who had committed rape, one third did not feel guilty, said Rachel Jewkes, a lead researcher on both studies.

Two-thirds of the men surveyed in that study said they raped because of a sense of sexual entitlement. Other popular motivating factors included a desire to punish women who rejected or angered them, and raping out of boredom, Jewkes said.

"Rape is completely trivialized by a great number of men. It is seen as a legitimate activity," she said.

Jewkes believes South Africa's history of racial division and associated trauma is part of the reason of the high incidence of sexual violence in the country.

"Apartheid has contributed to culture of impunity surrounding rape in South Africa," said Jewkes. Men who were abused or experienced trauma during their childhood are much more likely to rape, she said, adding that apartheid destroyed family life, fostering violence and anti-social behavior.

The apartheid period also saw very little enforcement of common law, which has contributed to a culture of impunity, said Jewkes.

"We need to start interventions in childhood, focusing on building a more empowering childhood environment in South Africa, especially for boys," she said, "and we need to make it worth their while for women to report sexual violence."

The new study, conducted with a gender rights advocacy body, is the first community-based study of its kind with women in 12 years.

The group hopes to replicate the study across southern Africa.



French fast food chain to sell foie gras burgers.

From the Daily Mail:
It may be steeped in controversy and prohibitively expensive, but foie gras is a favourite Christmas delicacy in France.

Now, though, it is set to become a far more mainstream snack, as a fast food chain is launching a limited-edition foie gras burger.

Quick, which is a rival to McDonalds in France, will be selling the 'Supreme Foie Gras Burger' for just 5 euros, or 7.50 euros with fries and a soft drink.

The burger features pieces of foie gras atop a minced beef patty, with onion relish and rocket leaves.

It will be served at its 360 outlets across the country for three days only, from December 17 to 19.

Foie gras, which translates literally as ‘fatty liver’, is produced mainly in the southwest of France by farmers who force-feed poultry with large quantities of ground corn and wheat in order to swell the birds’ livers.

Once extracted the livers can fetch up to 100 euros per kilo at markets in the Aquitaine region and even more in Paris during the pre-Christmas shopping rush.

The move from the fast food chain is likely to enrage animal rights groups, who argue that methods used to create the delicacy causes unnecessary suffering to geese and ducks.

Defenders of animal rights fear that if Quick's three-day offer is successful, it may spark a consumer taste for foie gras, as well as demand for cheap eastern European imports.

Producers defend the practice, arguing that the birds actually enjoy being force-fed.

Tom DeLay found guilty of money laundering.

From the NY Times:
AUSTIN, Tex. — Tom DeLay, one of the most powerful and divisive Republican lawmakers ever to come out of Texas, was convicted Wednesday of money-laundering charges in a state trial, five years after his indictment here forced him to resign as majority leader in the House of Representatives.

After 19 hours of deliberation, a jury of six men and six women decided that Mr. DeLay was guilty of conspiring with two associates in 2002 to circumvent a state law against corporate contributions to political campaigns. He was convicted of one charge of money laundering and one charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

As the verdict was read, Mr. DeLay, 63, sat stone-faced at the defense table. Then he rose, turned, smiled and hugged his wife and then his weeping daughter in the first row of spectators. He faces between 5 and 99 years in prison, though the judge may choose probation.

A few minutes later, Mr. DeLay said outside the courtroom that he would appeal the decision. He called the prosecution a political vendetta by Democrats in the local district attorney’s office, and revenge for his role in orchestrating the 2003 redrawing of Congressional districts to elect more Republicans.

“This is an abuse of power,” he said. “It’s a miscarriage of justice. I still maintain my innocence. The criminalization of politics undermines our very system.”

Thanksgiving miracle: Boys survive two months adrift at sea.

From NY Daily News:
Three teenagers miraculously survived nearly two months on coconuts, rainwater and a raw seagull before being rescued at sea this week.

The teens from the Tokelau Islands - Edward Nasau, 14; Samu Perez and Filo Filo, both 15 - were rescued Wednesday by a tuna boat after a crew member spotted their tiny aluminum dinghy in the Pacific Ocean, northeast of Fiji.

"We knew it was a little weird," the tuna boat's first mate, Tai Fredricsen, told stuff.co.nz. "We had enough smarts to know there were people in it and those people were not supposed to be there."

The boys had gone missing Oct. 5, and their families had already held memorial services following failed searches by the New Zealand Air Force.

They had been attempting to row their 12-foot boat between two islands in the New Zealand territory of Tokelau.

The badly sunburned seafarers were in remarkably good spirits, Fredericsen told the BBC.

"They've got a lot of gusto, a lot of strong mental spirit," he said. "Physically, they were in a bad way but mentally they are very strong."

The teens told their rescuers that they had started drinking seawater for the two days prior to their rescue, after having consumed most of their supply of coconuts.

"They did go for a period where they were only drinking fresh water, which they were capturing during the night," Fredericsen said.

The water collected on their boat's tarpaulin kept them nourished along with a seabird they managed to kill - and eat raw.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Find a local food bank.

While we stuff our maw with giblets this week, it's important to remind ourselves that 1 in 6 Americans face hunger. Please take a minute to find your local food bank and give what you can.

Food Bank Locator.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Scientists invent disposable, paper e-readers.

Wow, e-reading on paper! What will they think up next?? Item!
A breakthrough in a University of Cincinnati engineering lab could clear the way for a low-cost, even disposable, e-reader. Electrical Engineering Professor Andrew Steckl's research into an affordable, yet high-performance, paper-based display technology is being featured this week as the November cover story of ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

In the research, Steckl and UC doctoral student Duk Young Kim demonstrated that paper could be used as a flexible host material for an electrowetting device. Electrowetting (EW) involves applying an electric field to colored droplets within a display in order to reveal content such as type, photographs and video. Steckl's discovery that paper could be used as the host material has far-reaching implications considering other popular e-readers on the market such as the Kindle and iPad rely on complex circuitry printed over a rigid glass substrate.

"One of the main goals of e-paper is to replicate the look and feel of actual ink on paper," the researchers stated in the ACS article. "We have, therefore, investigated the use of paper as the perfect substrate for EW devices to accomplish e-paper on paper."

Flying snakes caught on tape.

Planes on a snake? From Science Daily:
Five related species of tree-dwelling snakes found in Southeast and South Asia may just be the worst nightmares of ophidiophobes (people who have abnormal fears of snakes). Not only are they snakes, but they can "fly" -- flinging themselves off their perches, flattening their bodies, and gliding from tree to tree or to the ground.

To Virginia Tech biologist Jake Socha, these curious reptiles are something of a biomechanical wonder. In order to understand how they do what they do, Socha and his colleagues recently studied Chrysopelea paradisi snakes as they launched themselves off a branch at the top of a 15-meter-tall tower.

Four cameras recorded the curious snakes as they glided. This allowed them to create and analyze 3-D reconstructions of the animals' body positions during flight -- work that Socha recently presented at the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD) meeting in Long Beach, CA.

The reconstructions were coupled with an analytical model of gliding dynamics and the forces acting on the snakes' bodies. The analyses revealed that the reptiles, despite traveling up to 24 meters from the launch platform, never achieved an "equilibrium gliding" state -- one in which the forces generated by their undulating bodies exactly counteract the force pulling the animals down, causing them to move with constant velocity, at a constant angle from the horizon. Nor did the snakes simply drop to the ground.

Instead, Socha says, "the snake is pushed upward -- even though it is moving downward -- because the upward component of the aerodynamic force is greater than the snake's weight."

"Hypothetically, this means that if the snake continued on like this, it would eventually be moving upward in the air -- quite an impressive feat for a snake," he says. But our modeling suggests that the effect is only temporary, and eventually "the snake hits the ground to end the glide."

Hackers taking holographic liberties with Microsoft's Kinect.

Hey, at least someone is having fun with Kinect! From NY Times:
When Oliver Kreylos, a computer scientist, heard about the capabilities of Microsoft’s new Kinect gaming device, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on it. “I dropped everything, rode my bike to the closest game store and bought one,” he said.

But he had no interest in playing video games with the Kinect, which is meant to be plugged into an Xbox and allows players to control the action onscreen by moving their bodies.

Mr. Kreylos, who specializes in virtual reality and 3-D graphics, had just learned that he could download some software and use the device with his computer instead. He was soon using it to create “holographic” video images that can be rotated on a computer screen. A video he posted on YouTube last week caused jaws to drop and has been watched 1.3 million times.

Mr. Kreylos is part of a crowd of programmers, roboticists and tinkerers who are getting the Kinect to do things it was not really meant to do. The attraction of the device is that it is outfitted with cameras, sensors and software that let it detect movement, depth, and the shape and position of the human body.

Companies respond to this kind of experimentation with their products in different ways — and Microsoft has had two very different responses since the Kinect was released on Nov. 4. It initially made vague threats about working with law enforcement to stop “product tampering.” But by last week, it was embracing the benevolent hackers.

“Anytime there is engagement and excitement around our technology, we see that as a good thing,” said Craig Davidson, senior director for Xbox Live at Microsoft. “It’s na├»ve to think that any new technology that comes out won’t have a group that tinkers with it.”

Freemason kills mom with ceremonial sword.

Maybe he saw the fnords. From the NY Post:
An actor who had a part in "Ugly Betty" repeatedly stabbed and killed his mother with a Freemason ceremonial sword this morning, cops said.

Yannick Brea, 55, was found in her second-floor Brooklyn apartment around 2:20 a.m. with multiple stab wounds. Her son, Michael Brea, 31, was taken into custody and then to Kings County Hospital, where he is undergoing psychiatric evaluation.

Cops were called to a domestic disturbance at the home earlier in the evening but left shortly thereafter. Neighbors Vernal Bent and his mother Phyllis said they heard yelling from the floor below between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. and called 911.

"I heard a shriek and a woman yelling 'help me'," Vernal Bent said. "We called 911 and we kept hearing screams and then we didn't hear them any more. Michael was chanting Biblical phrases and kept calling for Moses, Jerusalem and the 'architect of the universe'."

Taliban leader in peace talks was an imposter.

From the NY Times:
KABUL, Afghanistan — For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.

But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little.

“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”

American officials confirmed Monday that they had given up hope that the Afghan was Mr. Mansour, or even a member of the Taliban leadership.

NATO and Afghan officials said they held three meetings with the man, who traveled from in Pakistan, where Taliban leaders have taken refuge.

The fake Taliban leader even met with President Hamid Karzai, having been flown to Kabul on a NATO aircraft and ushered into the presidential palace, officials said.

The episode underscores the uncertain and even bizarre nature of the atmosphere in which Afghan and American leaders search for ways to bring the nine-year-old American-led war to an end. The leaders of the Taliban are believed to be hiding in Pakistan, possibly with the assistance of the Pakistani government, which receives billions of dollars in American aid.

Many in the Taliban leadership, which is largely made up of barely literate clerics from the countryside, had not been seen in person by American, NATO or Afghan officials.