luni, 2 iunie 2008

See it before it happens

by Jeanna Bryner

Humans can see into the future, says a cognitive scientist. It's nothing like the alleged predictive powers of Nostradamus, but we do get a glimpse of events one-tenth of a second before they occur.

And the mechanism behind that can also explain why we are tricked by optical illusions.

Researcher Mark Changizi of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York says it starts with a neural lag that most everyone experiences while awake. When light hits your retina, about one-tenth of a second goes by before the brain translates the signal into a visual perception of the world.

Scientists already knew about the lag, yet they have debated over exactly how we compensate, with one school of thought proposing our motor system somehow modifies our movements to offset the delay.

Changizi now says it's our visual system that has evolved to compensate for neural delays, generating images of what will occur one-tenth of a second into the future. That foresight keeps our view of the world in the present. It gives you enough heads up to catch a fly ball (instead of getting socked in the face) and maneuver smoothly through a crowd. His research on this topic is detailed in the May/June issue of the journal Cognitive Science,

Explaining illusions

That same seer ability can explain a range of optical illusions, Changizi found.

"Illusions occur when our brains attempt to perceive the future, and those perceptions don't match reality," Changizi said.

Here's how the foresight theory could explain the most common visual illusions - geometric illusions that involve shapes: Something called the Hering illusion, for instance, looks like bike spokes around a central point, with vertical lines on either side of this central, so-called vanishing point. The illusion tricks us into thinking we are moving forward, and thus, switches on our future-seeing abilities. Since we aren't actually moving and the figure is static, we misperceive the straight lines as curved ones.

"Evolution has seen to it that geometric drawings like this elicit in us premonitions of the near future," Changizi said. "The converging lines toward a vanishing point (the spokes) are cues that trick our brains into thinking we are moving forward - as we would in the real world, where the door frame (a pair of vertical lines) seems to bow out as we move through it - and we try to perceive what that world will look like in the next instant."

Grand unified theory

In real life, when you are moving forward, it's not just the shape of objects that changes, he explained. Other variables, such as the angular size (how much of your visual field the object takes up), speed and contrast between the object and background, will also change.

For instance, if two objects are about the same distance in front of you, and you move toward one of the objects, that object will speed up more in the next moment, appear larger, have lower contrast (because something that is moving faster gets more blurred), and literally get nearer to you compared with the other object.

Changizi realized the same future-seeing process could explain several other types of illusions. In what he refers to as a "grand unified theory," Changizi organized 50 kinds of illusions into a matrix of 28 categories. The results can successfully predict how certain variables, such as proximity to the central point or size, will be perceived.

Changizi says that finding a theory that works for so many different classes of illusions is "a theorist's dream."

Most other ideas put forth to explain illusions have explained one or just a few types, he said.
The theory is "a big new player in the debate about the origins of illusions," Changizi told LiveScience. "All I'm hoping for is that it becomes a giant gorilla on the block that can take some punches."

A sincere man

By Adrian Wojnarowski

Just as Phil Jackson reached the cusp of catching him with his ninth NBA championship, Red Auerbach was on the telephone, grumbling over the legitimacy of that legacy. The emperor of the Boston Celtics resisted letting Jackson climb onto the coaching Olympus with him, insisting a fatal flaw of the Los Angeles Lakers coach still separated them.

“He’s never tried building a team and teaching the fundamentals,” Auerbach said. “When he’s gone in there, they’ve been ready-made for him. It’s just a matter of putting his system in there. They don’t worry about developing players if they’re not good enough. They just go get someone else.”

This would’ve made the possibility of Jackson’s 10th title so crushing to Auerbach. What could Red say now? Six years later, Jackson dares to do it Auerbach’s way. All those old Celtics kept wishing Auerbach had lived to see this return to Garden glory, but Auerbach would’ve loathed that this season be punctuated by Jackson using Boston to pass him for the most championships in coaching history.

These days, everyone is wondering: Has Kobe Bryant surpassed Michael Jordan?

That question is still too premature, but this one isn’t: Does the Los Angeles Lakers’ coach become the greatest coach in NBA history with another Finals victory?

Rest assured, nine titles now is far more impressive than nine back in Red’s day. Ten ends the argument.

Auerbach is the greatest general manager to ever live. He shaped and reshaped the Celtics for three different title eras. There were the Russell-Cousy Celtics and the Havlicek-Cowens Celtics and the Bird-McHale-Parish Celtics.

Whatever Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak did to steal Pau Gasol resembled the chicanery Auerbach routinely used to rouse rival owners and executives. Auerbach stole Bill Russell for ice show dates at the Boston Garden. He secured Larry Bird’s draft rights as an undergraduate. Dennis Johnson for Rick Robey. The rights to Joe Barry Carroll for Robert Parish and the pick that brought Kevin McHale. It goes on and on.

Ultimately, Auerbach has to be considered the greatest basketball mind in the game’s history. No one should ever dispute that. And yes, he was the greatest coach the sport had ever known, until Phil Jackson started driving vans in Albany of the Continental Basketball Association. People pretend like Jackson never paid his dues. He did. He won titles in the CBA. He coached his summers in Puerto Rico for the extra paycheck. Sure, he had been historically fortunate with Jordan and Pippen, with Shaq and Kobe, but let’s get something straight: No one – least of all Auerbach – ever won without great talent.

Of course, Auerbach always groused that coaching was so much easier today. This was flawed and, deep down, he knew it. Talent scouting in Auerbach’s era was as sophisticated as an envelope of newspaper articles an old buddy clipped and mailed. At the time, Auerbach had complete control of his ballplayers. There was no free agency, no arbitration. Auerbach was judge and jury on your job. Want a raise? He gave it. Want to work next season? His call.

For that reason, Auerbach could reach his players at the most base level: Fear. Auerbach claimed control that coaches today could only dream.

After Auerbach retired in 1967, his replacement won the ’68 championship. Remember? Bill Russell. As a player-coach. Imagine that now.

Jackson didn’t pick these Lakers, but he sure did develop them. Andrew Bynum has a chance to be one of basketball’s best centers. When most coaches disdain giving young players minutes, Jackson cultivated a bench of Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic. Through the years, he’s blended the development of talent with the manipulating of minds. In Chicago, he turned his own GM, Jerry Krause, into a common enemy for whom the Bulls to rally around. He created the model for working officials through the press, and reaching his players through the most untraditional of means. They meditated. They read books. He brought dignity and decorum to sideline coaching behavior that has become embarrassing from others. Jackson was a different coach, for a different time.

As arrogant as Jackson can be, his act still pales against Auerbach. Red’s been remembered as a kindly, grandfatherly man, but he was an arrogant winner and a sore loser. Everyone laughs about his ritual late in victories, but think about that: Lighting a cigar on the bench.

Auerbach hated the idea of Jackson breaking his record. To him, he was still that miserable New York Knick with sharp elbows. Truth be told, Auerbach never believed a coach could catch him in titles. Before he died, Auerbach talked to me about Lenny Wilkens passing him for most career victories and Pat Riley for playoff wins, but the nine coaching championships were different. Those banners were Auerbach’s measure of greatness.

“When Wilkens did it, it took him longer than me as a coach, but he still broke it,” Auerbach said. “And then subsequently other guys did it. It took Riley a little less time than me. Hey, these records are made to be broken. One guy broke Roger Maris’ home run record, and then a second and a third, and now they’ve blown it all to (crap).”

Before Jackson won his ninth in 2002, he sounded like a man who wanted Auerbach’s approval. He never did get it. He said he’d settle for a congratulatory cigar. “Unlit,” Jackson hoped.

Never, Auerbach insisted.

“It’ll stunt his growth,” he growled.

This was the basketball season Red Auerbach would’ve loved to see in Boston, but an ending that might have driven him mad. This is the year that Phil Jackson answers all of Auerbach’s doubts. He never tried building a team? Finally, Jackson did and maybe it’s for the best that Red is gone. For the first time, he’d have to concede: As coach, Phil Jackson had done it all. Mostly, he has nearly done the unthinkable: Pass Red as forever’s coach.

miercuri, 28 mai 2008

German couple try to sell baby on Ebay for 1 Euro

France-Presse Agency
Berlin - German police said Sunday they have taken a seven month baby away from a couple in Bavaria who are under investigation after putting the child for sale on Internet auction site Ebay.

The baby boy was put on sale on Tuesday at a starting price of one euro ($1.58) and was withdrawn from the site around two and a half hours later, police said. There had been no offers.

The mother said it was meant as a joke( a very sick joke!), but police failed to see the funny side, putting the baby into care and launching an investigation of both parents for attempted child trafficking, a statement said.

Does Wi-fi produce health risks?

UK health officials ordered an investigation into the hazards involved in the use of wireless broadband in educational institutions like schools. It has been found that the radiation emitted by wi-fi devices could be more than that of a standard mobile phone mast.

Wi-fi enabled devices operate at 2.4 GHz frequency - the range that you can find in a microwave or a FM radio of Radio Frequency Radiation (RFR) range. However, Microwave, having the similar wave length, is 100,000 times stronger than Wi-fi.

It should be noted that Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) refers to the safety standards when you handle any devices that emit radiation and is often based on the amount of heat produced by the radiation. It is natural that more radiation will produce more heat which eventually leads to health hazards, according to a scientific survey. Based on the safety standards prescribed, the SAR should be within 2W per kg of body mass.

If you use a mobile phone, it is estimated that its SAR is somewhat around 1 W/kg and this amount radiation is found to generate 0.25 degree C. So, the use of mobile phone does not pose health risk to users during normal usage.

While Wi-fi comes into picture, there is already a speculation that Wi-fi networks might involve health risks. During the typical usage, Wi-fi is estimated to cause just 0.1 W/kg which is well within safety standards. However, when you keep your pc or laptop very close to yourself, especially when you keep it on your lap, SAR could exceed 2 W/kg and this may prove to be hazardous to your health.

luni, 26 mai 2008

Oil above $133 a barrel and rising

Oil rose above $133 a barrel Monday on persistent worries about global petroleum supplies and the outlook for the U.S. economy and the dollar.

Reports of an attack by militants on an oil pipeline in Nigeria, one of Africa's largest oil exporters, also helped boost prices.

Light, sweet crude for July delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange was up 98 cents at $133.17 a barrel in electronic trading by afternoon in Europe. The contract rose $1.38 to settle at $132.19 a barrel on Friday.

Nymex floor trading was closed Monday for Memorial Day and it also was a holiday in Britain, resulting in lower trading volume than usual.

In London, July Brent crude futures rose $1.13 to $132.70 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

The dollar has weakened over the last week after a modest recovery, and investors will be watching economic data out of the United States to be released over the next few days for further clues about the health of the world's biggest economy.

"The dollar's been swinging down again," said Mark Pervan, senior commodity strategist at Australia & New Zealand Bank in Melbourne, and that's "going to sway sentiment."

Oil and other hard commodities are seen as hedges against a weakening dollar and inflation. Also, a weak dollar, the currency of international oil trade, makes petroleum products less expensive to Asian and European buyers.

This week, investors will be watching for what implications U.S. consumer confidence, new home sales, gross domestic product and other economic data might have for the dollar and oil prices, he said.

"It's a pretty price sensitive week for economic data," Pervan said. "The data we're seeing out of the U.S. at the moment looks pretty weak. You'd expect that trend to continue, pushing further down on the dollar."

The dollar, one of the factors that has fed oil's rally from about $65 a year ago, was lower against the yen, but up a bit against the euro in currency trading during the afternoon in Europe after losing ground Friday in New York.

The euro slipped to $1.5764 compared with $1.5775 on Friday, while the dollar fell to 103.41 Japanese yen from 104.17 yen Friday.

Prices also were supported when militants in Nigeria, a major supplier to the U.S. market, claimed they destroyed an oil pipeline and killed 11 soldiers in a gunbattle.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta says it attacked the pipeline operated by a Royal Dutch Shell PLC joint venture early Monday. Shell officials were not immediately available for comment, and a military spokesman had no immediate confirmation of any overnight incidents.

Last week, a series of supply warnings shook markets, and Thursday, a report that the International Energy Agency — the energy watchdog for the most industrialized nations — is in the process of lowering its forecast for long-term global oil supply, sent crude futures rocketing to an all-time high of $135.09 a barrel.

Investors are also worried about a growing squeeze on global diesel supplies as demand in China surges has sparked a massive run up in heating oil prices.

Over the weekend, China's top economic planning agency again urged oil and power companies to make sure there are enough supplies for earthquake-hit areas and for the Beijing Olympic Games in August.

"They certainly want to have a buffer of supply ... so there's pressure on the upside from demand in Asia," Pervan said.

The U.S. driving season officially kicked-off with the long Memorial Day weekend there, and even if demand for gasoline and diesel is lower than it was a year ago, it will still be stronger than it was in the preceding months, he said.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures rose 7.89 cents to $3.9445 a gallon while gasoline prices rose 2.95 cents to $3.4255 a gallon. Natural gas futures rose 18.2 cents to $12.039 per 1,000 cubic feet.


AP Business Writer Thomas Hogue in Bangkok, Thailand, contributed to this report.

duminică, 25 mai 2008

New survivalists

Energy fears looming, new survivalists prepare
By SAMANTHA GROSS, Associated Press Writer

BUSKIRK, N.Y. - A few years ago, Kathleen Breault was just another suburban grandma, driving countless hours every week, stopping for lunch at McDonald's, buying clothes at the mall, watching TV in the evenings.

That was before Breault heard an author talk about the bleak future of the world's oil supply. Now, she's preparing for the world as we know it to disappear.

Breault cut her driving time in half. She switched to a diet of locally grown foods near her upstate New York home and lost 70 pounds. She sliced up her credit cards, banished her television and swore off plane travel. She began relying on a wood-burning stove.

"I was panic-stricken," the 50-year-old recalled, her voice shaking. "Devastated. Depressed. Afraid. Vulnerable. Weak. Alone. Just terrible."

Convinced the planet's oil supply is dwindling and the world's economies are heading for a crash, some people around the country are moving onto homesteads, learning to live off their land, conserving fuel and, in some cases, stocking up on guns they expect to use to defend themselves and their supplies from desperate crowds of people who didn't prepare.

The exact number of people taking such steps is impossible to determine, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the movement has been gaining momentum in the last few years.

These energy survivalists are not leading some sort of green revolution meant to save the planet. Many of them believe it is too late for that, seeing signs in soaring fuel and food prices and a faltering U.S. economy, and are largely focused on saving themselves.

Some are doing it quietly, giving few details of their preparations — afraid that revealing such information as the location of their supplies will endanger themselves and their loved ones. They envision a future in which the nation's cities will be filled with hungry, desperate refugees forced to go looking for food, shelter and water.

"There's going to be things that happen when people can't get things that they need for themselves and their families," said Lynn-Marie, who believes cities could see a rise in violence as early as 2012.

Lynn-Marie asked to be identified by her first name to protect her homestead in rural western Idaho. Many of these survivalists declined to speak to The Associated Press for similar reasons.

These survivalists believe in "peak oil," the idea that world oil production is set to hit a high point and then decline. Scientists who support idea say the amount of oil produced in the world each year has already or will soon begin a downward slide, even amid increased demand. But many scientists say such a scenario will be avoided as other sources of energy come in to fill the void.

On the Web site, where upward of 800 people gathered on recent evenings, believers engage in a debate about what kind of world awaits.

Some members argue there will be no financial crash, but a slow slide into harder times. Some believe the federal government will respond to the loss of energy security with a clampdown on personal freedoms. Others simply don't trust that the government can maintain basic services in the face of an energy crisis.

The powers that be, they've determined, will be largely powerless to stop what is to come.

Determined to guard themselves from potentially harsh times ahead, Lynn-Marie and her husband have already planted an orchard of about 40 trees and built a greenhouse on their 7 1/2 acres. They have built their own irrigation system. They've begun to raise chickens and pigs, and they've learned to slaughter them.

The couple have gotten rid of their TV and instead have been reading dusty old books published in their grandparents' era, books that explain the simpler lifestyle they are trying to revive. Lynn-Marie has been teaching herself how to make soap. Her husband, concerned about one day being unable to get medications, has been training to become an herbalist.

By 2012, they expect to power their property with solar panels, and produce their own meat, milk and vegetables. When things start to fall apart, they expect their children and grandchildren will come back home and help them work the land. She envisions a day when the family may have to decide whether to turn needy people away from their door.

"People will be unprepared," she said. "And we can imagine marauding hordes."

So can Peter Laskowski. Living in a woodsy area outside of Montpelier, Vt., the 57-year-old retiree has become the local constable and a deputy sheriff for his county, as well as an emergency medical technician.

"I decided there was nothing like getting the training myself to deal with insurrections, if that's a possibility," said the former executive recruiter.

Laskowski is taking steps similar to environmentalists: conserving fuel, consuming less, studying global warming, and relying on local produce and craftsmen. Laskowski is powering his home with solar panels and is raising fish, geese, ducks and sheep. He has planted apple and pear trees and is growing lettuce, spinach and corn.

Whenever possible, he uses his bicycle to get into town.

"I remember the oil crisis in '73; I remember waiting in line for gas," Laskowski said. "If there is a disruption in the oil supply it will be very quickly elevated into a disaster."

Breault said she hopes to someday band together with her neighbors to form a self-sufficient community. Women will always be having babies, she notes, and she imagines her skills as a midwife will always be in demand.

For now, she is readying for the more immediate work ahead: There's a root cellar to dig, fruit trees and vegetable plots to plant. She has put a bicycle on layaway, and soon she'll be able to bike to visit her grandkids even if there is no oil at the pump.

Whatever the shape of things yet to come, she said, she's done what she can to prepare.

sâmbătă, 24 mai 2008

Clinton & Obama on medical Marijuana


The Marijuana Policy Project is noting that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gave the following responses this past Saturday when asked by Oregon’s Willamette Week about her stances on medical marijuana:

What would you do as president about the federal government not recognizing Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Program as legal?
We’ve got to have a clear understanding of the workings of pain relief and the control of pain. And there needs to be greater research and openness to the research that’s already been done. I don’t think it’s a good use of federal law-enforcement resources to be going after people who are supplying marijuana for medicinal purposes.

So you’d stop the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s raids on medical marijuana grows?

What we would do is prioritize what the DEA should be doing, and that would not be a high priority. There’s a lot of other more important work that needs to be done.

Should medical marijuana be covered by insurance?

I don’t have enough information to know anything about that.

In contrast, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said the following during a March 22 interview with Gary Nelson, editorial page editor at the Mail Tribune of Medford, Ore.:

“When it comes to medical marijuana, I have more of a practical view than anything else. My attitude is that if it’s an issue of doctors prescribing medical marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma or as a cancer treatment, I think that should be appropriate because there really is no difference between that and a doctor prescribing morphine or anything else. I think there are legitimate concerns in not wanting to allow people to grow their own or start setting up mom and pop shops because at that point it becomes fairly difficult to regulate.

“Again, I’m not familiar with all the details of the initiative that was passed [in Oregon] and what safeguards there were in place, but I think the basic concept that using medical marijuana in the same way, with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that’s entirely appropriate…

“I would not punish doctors if it’s prescribed in a way that is appropriate. That may require some changes in federal law. I will tell you that — I mean I want to be honest with you — whether I want to use a whole lot of political capital on that issue when we’re trying to get health care passed or end the war in Iraq, the likelihood of that being real high on my list is not likely… What I’m not going to be doing is using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue simply because I want folks to be investigating violent crimes and potential terrorism. We’ve got a lot of things for our law enforcement officers to deal with.”

I am pretty sure they were questioned by somebody looking like this,

marți, 20 mai 2008

Why Are Americans So Proud Ignorants

Why Are Americans So Ignorant Of The Hell Their Greed Produces?

Americans believe that we "deserve" access to all of the planet's resources that will satisfy our every basic human need. Clean water, nutritious food, safety from the elements and from the aspects of nature that frighten us are simply expected to be delivered through the stores or the airwaves without end.

Americans firmly believe that our needs cannot really be satisfied unless we can also waste most of those resources. This comes from our complete inability to ever understand the reality of "enough".

We want our food "super-sized" but we throw away large portions of what we buy. We want our cars huge, fuel inefficient, poorly designed and heavy in order that we can feel "safe" from the other huge, fuel inefficient, poorly designed and heavy vehicles that clog the roads and spew filth into our air. We then sacrifice our own children and the children of the world to keep the cost of that fuel low.

We want our swimming pools full and our lawns green and our behemoth, ugly station wagons clean .

We want to pour pesticides and fertilizers onto our lawns and farms but we don't want to be reminded where all that toxic crap eventually flows to.

Americans just don't give a damn how wasteful and ignorant they are. They just want to get home from work or school so they can turn the TV on and sink into the fog of "entertainment" and "news" that never makes them feel uncomfortable. Americans don't want to see how the rest of the world lives and the misery and desperation that millions of human beings face every single day so that Americans can continue to wallow in wasteful materialism and ignorant over-consumption. If possible, and the corporate media makes it all quite possible, Americans simply don't want to be depressed or made to feel shame for their consumption of the world's wealth nor do they want any images placed before them that might make them lose a moment's worth of slumber. Hell, Americans just want the rest of the planet's passengers to either go away or shut up and let us enjoy our greed and stupidity in comfort.

When an American is thirsty, we can just go to the refrigerator for a cold beer or soda or just to the tap for water that we know is clean and healthy. Of course, we also let the tap run for a minute or so to make sure that the water is also cooler. We watch that water go spinning down the drain and I would bet that not one in a thousand Americans can tell you just where that wasted water flows to.

For too many of the rest of the world's inhabitants, water is more precious than gold. When they must endure a drought, you never see American corporate or military might being called on to provide that treasured substance by drilling wells or donating filtration systems or any other assistance. Americans believe that they have no responsibility to help these wretches. Instead, all Americans can muster sympathy for is their own greed and their constant demands for lower and lower taxes and the rest of the world's needy can go screw themselves.

Well, imagine, if you would, your child or your grandchildren or your brothers and sisters being forced to make the most horrendous choices in order to just stay alive for a couple more hours. Imagine the people you love having to make the unbelievably depressing decisions that the dying human beings below have been forced to make.

you must be ignorant if you don't notice

Go into your local fast food place. Take a quick peek into the trash receptacles they place around the dining area. Are most of them full? Can you see the remains of half-eaten burgers and orphaned French fries? Do you see overweight parents with their chubby little children ordering obscene amounts of fat and sugar?

Go to your local school. If they offer subsidized lunches, then go check out the trash cans there, too. Do you see the hundreds of pounds of uneaten food that is destined to be taken to the same dump as all of the old car batteries and sofas and paint cans and the other crap that our society casts off 24 hours a day, seven days a week? Have you noticed that, even though the kids throw away the vast majority of their meals at school, they're still mostly overweight, out of shape and already on their way to the massive coronary that their parents are just around the corner from? In fact, some of those kids are the poster children for the obesity epidemic in America. That food they threw away doesn't mean that they'll go hungry, of course, since all they'll have to do is walk out of the lunch room and buy themselves a sugar-filled Coke or Pepsi from the vending machines and maybe a candy bar or two in order to satisfy the unnatural and constant hunger that comes from the diabetes-inducing lifestyle.

Hell, look at the trash cans in your own home. How much wasted food will you find there? If you have a garbage disposal unit under your kitchen sink, how much edible food do you send into the sewers every single day of your life?

Want to bet that, first, we throw enough food away every day to sustain this little guy's needs and, second, we really don't want to know what he's eating?

If you can look at this last photo and then toss away even a crumb from your plate, then it will only prove that Americans are too far gone into the vile sea of greed and ignorance and sloth to offer any hope of redemption. If you can look upon this image of hell on earth and not suddenly understand just how ghastly life is for the vast majority of this planet's youngest and most defenseless passengers, then I can only feel pity for the reality that America has dug itself into such a deep pit of filth and ego and gluttony and we will never be able to climb back out those stinking, slippery walls.

Read the caption under the photo. Look at the world that we have allowed, shit, the world that we ENCOURAGED to exist. If your heart doesn't break, if you don't lie awake at night in moral agony that America and Americans can ignore this nightmare that occurs every single day in tens of thousands of lives in hundreds of countries, then there is no possible hope for mankind.

I completely understand the photographer's actions. How can anyone sleep at night knowing the a child is dying so needlessly? How can we sit down in front of the TV with a bag of chips or some cookies knowing that we have done nothing to ease the pain that even one child endures? How can we make love to one another knowing that our children are dying from obesity while children everywhere are dying from such massive hunger and thirst? How can we write checks to save the whales or to adopt a wild horse or to save the redwoods when tiny, defenseless and heart broken, lonely children are dying every minute of every day? Have we become so hardened to the world's suffering that we will allow such misery to exist for a child but will ease it for some stupid damned Chihuahua?

What, in the name of whatever god you choose to worship, is wrong with us?

Now, what is this?

luni, 19 mai 2008

Banned from cruise 4Life

Are you one of those people who complains about every little thing that goes wrong on a cruise? Better be careful, or you just might find yourself banned from your favorite ships.

That's the takeaway from a fascinating story today at about a Cleveland couple that apparently complained just a little too much about their frequent trips with Royal Caribbean. The site says the fed-up line recently told them not to come back. Ever.

The site says that while Brenda and Gerald Moran liked sailing on Royal Caribbean, they had a habit of documenting all sorts of problems big and small that occurred during their cruises, from a birthday greeting delivered to the wrong cabin to a toilet malfunction that spilled sewage into their bathroom. And they weren't shy about talking about the problems in online cruise forums.

At first, Royal Caribbean tried to make nice by offering the couple a discount on a future cruise and other perks. But after the Morans kept posting at online site about their complaints -- and the compensation that they were getting out of Royal Caribbean by complaining -- the line changed its tune, says The site says the Morans received a phone call from a Royal Caribbean executive and then an official letter informing them they were banned from the line forever.

A spokesman for Royal Caribbean tells that the couple had complained about all but one of six cruises with the company since 2004. “In a small number of cases we agreed and compensated them appropriately. In most cases, however, we disagreed," the spokesman told the site. "Having concluded that we are unable to meet the expectations of the Morans, we have told them that they would be best served by sailing with another company."

The Morans, meanwhile, say they're now sailing on Norwegian Cruise Line.

English Prime Minister vs. Dalai Lama

Gordon Brown appeases Chinese Government by refusing to meet Dalai Lama at Downing Street

Press Release - May 12, 2008 .

Free Tibet Campaign is dismayed to learn that Gordon Brown is refusing to meet the Dalai Lama at Downing Street during the latter’s visit to Britain later this month. The Times reported today that Gordon Brown’s meeting with the Dalai Lama will take place instead at Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is understood that other religious leaders will also be at the meeting on May 23, enabling the Prime Minister to tell Chinese leaders that he is meeting the Dalai Lama in a religious rather than political capacity.

Anne Holmes, Acting Director of Free Tibet Campaign, wrote to the Prime Minister on hearing rumours that he not would meet the Dalai Lama at Downing Street, saying: “You will be the first world leader to meet the Dalai Lama since the current unrest began in Tibet and Tibetan regions of China. It is crucial at this time that the Dalai Lama be recognised for what he is: the legitimate symbol of the Tibetan people’s struggle for self-determination. Nothing could make this plainer than a meeting at 10 Downing St.”

Last year George Bush, the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel all faced down Chinese diplomatic pressure by receiving the Dalai Lama either in their offices or, in George Bush’s case, by conferring the US’ highest civilian honour on the Dalai Lama on Capitol Hill. Merkel went as far as to say that she would decide whom to meet and where, commenting: “I cannot sacrifice my principles for the sake of a trade relationship with China.”

Anne Holmes commented on today’s announcement: “By meeting the Dalai Lama at Lambeth Palace Brown has signalled his determination to appease the Chinese government. The Prime Minister must immediately reconsider his position and agree to meet the Dalai Lama at Downing St which is where he would meet any other world leader. The overwhelming message from Tibetans during recent protests inside Tibet was for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, showing that he is still considered the legitimate voice of the Tibetan people and that he holds the key to a lasting negotiated settlement.”

Matt Whitticase
Press Officer, Free Tibet Campaign


For further information please contact Matt Whitticase at
Or call on +44 (0) 207 324 4605/+44 (0)7515 788456


Dear Gordon, you could have at least a little chat with the great spiritual leader, like your friend George W.

vineri, 16 mai 2008

The Fusion Man Can Fly

by Mike Krumboltz

"No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings." That's what the poet William Blake wrote many years ago. Until recently, the line was just one of those metaphorical dealios, but now, thanks to a brave inventor, it can be read far more literally.

A Swiss aviation enthusiast named Yves Rossy has done what the rest of us only dream of. He has invented his own jet-powered flying suit. And, unlike the ones we made out of cardboard, his actually works.

Rossy, aka "Fusion Man," recently gave a performance for the astonished public and press. He soared high above the Alps at 186 mph, doing loops, flips, and figure eights. According to a post from, the daredevil even executed a perfect 360-degree roll to "impress the girls."

Earthbound folks eager to see footage of Mr. Rossy pushed queries on "flying man" and "fusion man" into the stratosphere. For whatever reason, 91% of the searches on "yves rossy" came from males. Why are men so much more interested? We haven't a clue, but we'll let you know if the trend continues when Rossy attempts his next flight across the English Channel.

Yves Rossy, known as the 'Fusion Man,' flies with a jet-powered single wing over the Alps in Bex, Switzerland, Wednesday, May 14, 2008. Some people go fishing on their day off. Yves Rossy likes to jump out of a small plane with a pair of jet-powered wings and perform figure eights above the Swiss Alps. The revolutionary human flying machine comes after five years of training and many more years of dreaming

joi, 15 mai 2008

California's top court overturns gay marriage ban

Associated Press Writer


In a monumental victory for the gay rights movement, the California Supreme Court overturned a voter-approved ban on gay marriage Thursday in a ruling that would allow same-sex couples in the nation's biggest state to tie the knot.

Domestic partnerships are not a good enough substitute for marriage, the justices ruled 4-3 in striking down the ban.

Outside the courthouse, gay marriage supporters cried and cheered as the news spread.

Jeanie Rizzo, one of the plaintiffs, called Pali Cooper, her partner of 19 years, and asked, "Pali, will you marry me?"

"This is a very historic day. This is just such freedom for us," Rizzo said. "This is a message that says all of us are entitled to human dignity."

In the Castro, historically a center of the gay community in San Francisco, Tim Oviatt started crying while watching the news on TV.

"I've been waiting for this all my life," he said. "This is a life-affirming moment."

The city of San Francisco, two dozen gay and lesbian couples and gay rights groups sued in March 2004 after the court halted the monthlong wedding march that took place when Mayor Gavin Newsom opened the doors of City Hall to same-sex marriages.

"Today the California Supreme Court took a giant leap to ensure that everybody — not just in the state of California, but throughout the country — will have equal treatment under the law," said City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who argued the case for San Francisco.

The challenge for gay rights advocates, however, is not over.

A coalition of religious and social conservative groups is attempting to put a measure on the November ballot that would enshrine laws banning gay marriage in the state constitution.

The Secretary of State is expected to rule by the end of June whether the sponsors gathered enough signatures to qualify the marriage amendment, similar to ones enacted in 26 other states.

If voters pass the measure in November, it would trump the court's decision.

California already offers same-sex couples who register as domestic partners the same legal rights and responsibilities as married spouses, including the right to divorce and to sue for child support.

But, "Our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation," Chief Justice Ron George wrote for the court's majority, which also included Justices Joyce Kennard, Kathryn Werdegar and Carlos Moreno.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Marvin Baxter agreed with many arguments of the majority but said the court overstepped its authority. Changes to marriage laws should be decided by the voters, Baxter wrote. Justices Ming Chin and Carol Corrigan also dissented.

The conservative Alliance Defense Fund says it plans to ask the justices for a stay of their decision until after the fall election, said Glen Lavey, senior counsel for the group.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has twice vetoed legislation that would've granted marriage rights to same-sex couples, said in a news release that he respected the court's decision and "will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling."

The last time California voters were asked to express their views on gay marriage at the ballot box was in 2000, the year after the Legislature enacted the first of a series of laws awarding spousal rights to domestic partners.

Proposition 22, which strengthened the state's 1978 one-man, one-woman marriage law with the words "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California," passed with 61 percent of the vote.

The Supreme Court struck down both statutes with its sweeping opinion Thursday.

Lawyers for the gay couples had asked the court to overturn the laws as an unconstitutional civil rights violation that domestic partnerships cannot repair. A trial court judge in San Francisco agreed with gay rights advocates and voided the state's marriage laws in April 2005. A midlevel appeals court overturned his decision in October 2006.

luni, 12 mai 2008

Earthquake in China


Associated Press Writer

CHONGQING - A massive earthquake struck central China on Monday, killing more than 7,600 people and trapping nearly 900 students under the rubble of their school, state media reported.

The official Xinhua News Agency said 80 percent of the buildings had collapsed in Beichuan county in Sichuan province after the 7.8-magnitude quake, raising fears the overall death toll could increase sharply.

The earthquake sent thousands of people rushing out of buildings and into the streets hundreds of miles away in Beijing and Shanghai. The temblor was felt as far away as Pakistan, Vietnam and Thailand.

Xinhua cited the Sichuan provincial government as saying 7,651 people died. The communist leadership said late Monday that "thousands" had died, and that the quake also had caused deaths in three other provinces.
The quake was one of the deadliest in three decades and posed a challenge to a government already grappling with discontent over high inflation and a widespread uprising among Tibetans in western China while trying to prepare for the Beijing Olympics this August.
It hit about 60 miles northwest of Chengdu in the middle of the afternoon when classrooms and office towers were full. There were several smaller aftershocks, the U.S. Geological Survey said on its Web site.
The temblor struck hilly country leading up to the Tibetan highlands, toppling buildings in small cities and towns in the largely rural area. About 1,200 pandas — 80 percent of the surviving wild population in China — live in several mountainous areas of Sichuan.
The earthquake occurred in an area with numerous fault lines that have triggered destructive temblor before. A magnitude 7.5 earthquake in Diexi, Sichuan that hit on August 25, 1933 killed more than 9,300 people.
Xinhua said 50 bodies had been pulled from the debris of the school building in Juyuan town but did not say if the children were alive. Xinhua reported students also were buried under five other toppled schools in Deyang city.
Xinhua said its reporters saw buried teenagers struggling to break loose from underneath the rubble of the three-story building in Juyuan "while others were crying out for help."
Two girls were quoted by Xinhua as saying they escaped because they had "run faster than others."
Photos showed heavy cranes trying to remove rubble from the ruined school. Other photos posted on the Internet and found on the Chinese search engine Baidu showed arms and a torso sticking out of the rubble of the school as dozens of people worked to free them, using their hands to move concrete slabs.
Calls into the city did not go through as panicked residents quickly overloaded the telephone system. The quake affected telephone and power networks, and even state media appeared to have few details of the disaster.
"In Chengdu, mobile telecommunication convertors have experienced jams and thousands of servers were out of service," said Sha Yuejia, deputy chief executive officer of China Mobile.
Although it was difficult to telephone Chengdu, an Israeli student, Ronen Medzini, sent a text message to The Associated Press saying there were power and water outages there.
"Traffic jams, no running water, power outs, everyone sitting in the streets, patients evacuated from hospitals sitting outside and waiting," he said.
Xinhua said an underground water pipe ruptured near the city's southern railway station, flooding a main thoroughfare. Reporters saw buildings with cracks in their walls but no collapses, Xinhua said.
The earthquake also rattled buildings in Beijing, some 930 miles to the north, less than three months before the Chinese capital was expected to be full of hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors for the Summer Olympics.
Many Beijing office towers were evacuated, including the building housing the media offices for the organizers of the Olympics, which start in August. None of the Olympic venues was damaged.
"I've lived in Taipei and California and I've been through quakes before. This is the most I've ever felt," said James McGregor, a business consultant who was inside the LG Towers in Beijing's business district. "The floor was moving underneath me."
In Fuyang, 660 miles to the east, chandeliers in the lobby of the Buckingham Palace Hotel swayed. "We've never felt anything like this our whole lives," said a hotel employee surnamed Zhu.
Patients at the Fuyang People's No. 1 Hospital were evacuated. An hour after the quake, a half-dozen patients in blue-striped pajamas stood outside the hospital. One was laying on a hospital bed in the parking lot.
Skyscrapers in Shanghai swayed and most office occupants went rushing into the streets.
In the Taiwanese capital of Taipei, 100 miles off the southeastern Chinese coast, buildings swayed when the quake hit. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
The quake was felt as far away as the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, where some people hurried out of swaying office buildings and into the streets downtown. A building in the Thai capital of Bangkok also was evacuated after the quake was felt there.
A magnitude 7.8 earthquake is considered a major event, capable of causing widespread damage and injuries in populated areas.
The last serious earthquake in China was in 2003, when a 6.8-magnitude quake killed 268 people in Bachu county in the west of Xinjiang.
China's deadliest earthquake in modern history struck the northeastern city of Tangshan on July 28, 1976, killing 240,000 people.

marți, 6 mai 2008

Can Shevchenko be gay?

with those underpants, no wonder a lot of people might think that!

what about this guy?

marți, 29 aprilie 2008

Hillary's secret wish

... and she wants it at the white house.

Hillary Clinton Campaign

she's doing all of this just to get revenge.

her husband did it with Monica in the white house,

so, now she wants to do it, too.

Your brain on sleep

By Emily Laber-Warren, Women's Health

As we struggle to allot enough time to the job, kids, family, friends, Lost, and Joaquin Phoenix message boards, sleep stands out as a suspiciously long block of idle hours. We set the alarm early, stay up late, and order a tall whatever-we-want to help us get by on the minimum. But the fact is: When you lose sleep, you lose your health.
Experts say most of us need about 8 hours of sleep a night, but half of us don't get it. And more than 80 percent of working women report exhaustion. According to the National Sleep Foundation's annual survey, in 2005 U.S. adults got, on average, just 6.9 hours of sleep a night. Now researchers are discovering that a decline in sleep time means a decline in your health.

Some examples:
Getting just an hour or two less sleep than needed per night can impair brain function.
Insufficient sleep is associated with cancer, heart disease, obesity, and dia-betes not to mention early death.
It's also a risk factor for depression, infertility, miscarriage, and postpartum depression.

To top it off, sleeping less to do more doesn't even work: People who skimp on sleep may be devoting more hours to getting things done, but they work more slowly and accomplish less. "There really isn't a good substitute for sleep," says Donna Arand, Ph.D., a psychologist and the clinical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Kettering Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio.

Scientists haven't yet grasped all the functions of sleep, but they know that sleep is needed every bit as intensely as food or water. It enables our bodies to regulate temperature and fight off infection. It may help our brains retain things we learned the previous day. If you take a peek inside your body and brain during a typical night's sleep, you'll find out how it rejuvenates you and why you should care.

Let's start at the beginning, as your day is winding down....

9:34 P.M.
It's been a crazy week, but with your 2-year-old tucked in, tonight you found a much-needed hour to address invitations to your mom's retirement party. Now it's not even 10 o'clock and you're actually in bed, alone, with a mug full of peppermint tea and a new cookbook you've been dying to page through. When you start having trouble grasping the distinction between chiffon and meringue, you realize you're getting drowsy and reach for the light.

10:01 P.M.
At this moment your bloodstream is full of a sleep-triggering chemical called adenosine. Adenosine is created whenever your body does work. So as you went about your day thinking, talking, driving, digesting adenosine was accumulating, gradually telling your brain that it was time to sleep. If you were to drink a cup of coffee right now, it would jolt you awake because caffeine wedges itself into the places in brain cells where adenosine would normally attach, preventing the fatigue signal from reaching your brain.

10:03 P.M.
When you're awake, the electrical activity in your brain is varied slow, fast, strong, faint. But when you fall asleep, your brain waves slow and synchronize. You initially enter a doze, known as Stage 1 sleep, from which you can be easily awakened. Falling asleep should take at least 5 minutes; tonight it took you 2. According to experts, that's a sign of a problem it means you're overtired. "One of the major misconceptions is that it's a good thing if you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow," says Kathryn Lee, Ph.D., a sleep specialist and nursing professor at the University of California at San Francisco. "Actually, it means you're a sleep-deprived person."

Over the next hour or so, you transition into increasingly intense slumber. Next comes Stage 2. This is "baseline" sleep over the course of the night you'll spend half your time in this state, but not all at once. Right now you spend just 15 to 20 minutes here before entering Stages 3 and 4, known as slow-wave sleep, the deepest and most restorative kind. You're breathing evenly and slowly, the very picture of serenity. Then everything changes. You shift into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Your brain emits a cacophony of electrical signals, it's as active as when you are awake. But you're not awake, of course. REM sleep is the phase when most dreaming occurs. Your eyes dart back and forth, and the muscles in your arms and legs are paralyzed. Sleep researchers believe this inertia may have evolved to prevent us from acting out our dreams.

11:38 P.M.
One 90- to 110-minute sleep cycle ends and the next begins. Each of the following cycles will contain a different proportion of light, medium, deep, and REM sleep.

Although experts don't yet fully understand what sleep is for, they know it is crucial: Rats normally live 2 years or more, but when deprived of sleep they die within 3 weeks. If you stay awake for 24 hours straight, you will involuntarily begin undergoing regular bursts of "microsleep" 2- to 3-second intervals in which you essentially lose consciousness. An Australian study published in the journal Nature found that people kept awake for 28 hours did as poorly on a hand-eye-coordination test as did people who were legally drunk (having a blood alcohol concentration of 1.0).

But you don't have to pull an all-nighter to feel the effects of sleep loss. The past few nights, you've stayed up late to work, pay bills, help your husband pack for a business trip. You think you do fine on 6 hours' sleep, but you're actually accumulating a "sleep debt." Recent research shows that spending just a couple of hours less in bed each night for a week or two -- basically your normal schedule lowers your spirits. "Sleep deprivation has significant impacts on mood in healthy individuals," says J. Todd Arnedt, Ph.D., a University of Michigan sleep specialist. "People get more depressed; they may get more anxious." Sleep loss also slows your reflexes and impairs your memory, judgment, and mental acuity. In a landmark 2003 University of Pennsylvania study, people who were limited to 6 hours of sleep per night for 2 weeks did significantly worse on tests of alertness and reasoning than people who got their full 8 hours.

But get this: The subjects in the Penn study had no idea how impaired they were. They reported an initial increase in sleepiness, but as time wore on they did not complain of additional exhaustion, though their test scores continued to decline. "One of the first things that goes in our brain is our insight," says Joyce Walsleben, Ph.D., a psychologist at New York University's Sleep Disorders Center. "A sleepy person generally does not perceive how badly they are functioning."

Thankfully, your sleep debt can be paid, and you don't have to make up every lost hour. When you're overtired you slip more quickly into slow-wave sleep and stay there longer, which helps you recover faster. But don't make a practice of playing catch-up repaying your sleep debt works only in small doses (and there's no set ratio for how much makeup time is needed). If the deprivation is chronic, catching up won't work. "When you stress the system, you can recover. Will it always recover 100 percent? Some of those problems are more likely to stay with you as time goes on," says Damon Salzman, M.D., director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in White Plains, New York.

3:21 A.M.
You're awakened by a noise...Olivia! You grope for your slippers, go into her room, then sit with her as she sinks back to sleep. If only it were that easy for you. Back in bed, you can't stop your mental gears from grinding. Should you ask your sister to chip in for the party expenses? What will you say in your toast?

3:56 A.M.
You glance at the clock for the third time and feel the pressure. Recent research reveals that getting an hour or two less sleep than you need on a regular basis doesn't just slow your brain and make you irritable, it's a risk factor for illness, including heart disease and diabetes. Sleep loss also hampers your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and the flu. And it might make you fat. People who sleep less than 7 hours a night are more likely to be obese, and in 2004 researchers at the University of Chicago discovered one of the reasons why. In people who had slept just 4 hours for two consecutive nights, they found an 18 percent decrease in leptin, a hormone that tells your brain you're full, and a 28 percent increase in ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger.

4:03 A.M.
You happen to be in the second half of your menstrual cycle. That means your body is producing lots of progesterone, a reproductive hormone that in animal experiments has been shown to induce sleep. So you fall back to sleep. If instead you were about to get your period, a time when progesterone levels drop, you might have had more trouble. If this is a monthly problem, experts suggest you take sleeping pills just for those couple of days.

4:25 A.M.
The time between now and your alarm the last few hours of sleep may be especially important: Recent research suggests that this is when your brain rehearses what you learned the previous day. And "sleeping on it" does more than help you remember new things it may make you better at them. In a 2002 study, scientists asked people to type a sequence of numbers over and over. The volunteers got faster with practice, then plateaued. Tested later in the day, they performed no better, but the next day, after the benefit of a good night's sleep, they sped up an additional 20 percent. Curtailed sleep eliminates those sorts of gains.
So as for that cake-decorating class you took yesterday: Right now, your brain is reviewing how to color the icing and choose the appropriate nib for the pastry bag. Thanks to tonight's sleep, when you bake a cake for your mom's party, you'll fashion sugary roses more expertly than you did in class. "It will feel sort of magical to you, but your performance will have improved," says Robert Stickgold, Ph.D., a Harvard Medical School neuroscientist who coauthored the typing study.

7:00 A.M.
Banh banh banh banh...You fumble for the alarm. You've never been a morning person now it turns out your preference for sleeping in is genetic. Coordinating basic daily needs to earth's 24-hour light/dark cycle is so crucial to survival that even the most primitive creatures possess internal biological clocks. These clocks tell them when to forage for food, when to rest, when to mate, when to migrate. In humans the clock regulates sleep through the release of the hormone melatonin that substance sold as a sleep aid at health food stores.

In recent years biologists have discovered at least 10 "clock" genes, and these genes, it turns out, occur in more than one variety. Some people inherit genes that make them natural early birds; others are born to be late risers. It's biology that makes your inner morning person reassert itself after cramming for a deadline. "When the pressure to change goes away, you're likely to slip back," Dr. Salzman says.

Now that you've showered, though, you're feeling unusually chipper. It's been a while since you felt so rested. You actually have the energy to multitask, scanning the headlines as you make Olivia's lunch. And when you snap her into her car seat to drive her to day care and yourself to work, that extra sleep will make you both safer. The National Transportation Safety Board estimates that driver fatigue causes at least 100,000 auto accidents a year; crashes are more likely in people sleeping less than 6 hours a night.

Maybe, you think, you should try harder to get enough sleep. You make an effort to accomplish so many other things. And what could be more important than your mood, your health, and your family's safety? "It's just a matter of prioritization," says Eric Olson, M.D., codirector of the Mayo Sleep Disorders Center in Rochester, Minnesota. "People have to decide where sleep falls in how they're going to spend the 24 hours we're all limited to."

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