XIAM007

Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Thursday, 23 July 2015

The “Tree of 40 Fruit” - professor created a tree capable of bearing 40 different kinds of fruit! -

The “Tree of 40 Fruit” - professor created a tree capable of bearing 40 different kinds of fruit! - 


Technology is only as limited as the human mind, and when one can conceive a grand vision, it will no doubt be made manifest at some point or another.

Such statement applies to the enchanting-looking tree (pictured below) which is capable of bearing  40 different types of stone fruit, including peaches, nectarines, apricots, and almonds. Artist and Syracuse University professor Sam Van Aken is responsible for this magnificent wonder and achieved it by harnessing an ancient technique called “chip grafting.”

As NationalGeographic shares, the process is one of patience. Over a period of several years, Van Aken tediously spliced branches with buds of various varieties into a base branch called the “working tree.”

But his work is worth it, as once springtime comes, the “Tree of 40 Fruit” beautifully bears pink and purple blossoms. By summer, the tree begins to bear all kinds of fruit for harvest.

“Part of the idea behind the Tree of 40 Fruit was to plant them in locations that people would stumble upon them,” said Van Aken speaking to National Geographic in the video above. “And once they happened upon one of these trees, they would start to question ‘Why are the leaves shaped differently?’ ‘Why are they different colors?’”
Dozens of these trees have been planted around the U.S. You can find out here if a Tree of 40 Fruit is near you. - http://www.treeof40fruit.com/

Read more -
http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/news/150720-40-fruit-tree-vin?source=relatedvideo

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

New US Pentagon manual declares journalists can be enemy combatants -

New US Pentagon manual declares journalists can be enemy combatants - 



The Pentagon’s new thick book of instructions for waging war the legal way says that terrorists also can be journalists.

The description appears in a 1,176-page, richly footnoted “Department of Defense Law of War Manual” that tells commanders the right and wrong way to kill the enemy. It says it’s OK to shoot, explode, bomb, stab or cut the enemy. Surprise attacks and killing retreating troops also are permitted. But a U.S. warrior may not use poison or asphyxiating gases.

Going back decades, this is the Pentagon’s first comprehensive, all-in-one legal guide for the four military branches, who over the years had issued their own law of war pamphlets for air, sea and ground warfare.

The manual pushes aside the George W. Bush-era label of “unlawful enemy combatant” for al Qaeda and the like. The new term of choice: “unprivileged belligerent.”

An eye-catching section deals with a definition of journalists and how they are expected to stay out of the fight.

The manual defines them this way: “In general, journalists are civilians. However, journalists may be members of the armed forces, persons authorized to accompany the armed forces, or unprivileged belligerents.”

Lumping terrorist writers with bona fide scribes prompted one officer to call the paragraph “odd.” A civilian lawyer who opines on war crime cases called the wording “an odd and provocative thing for them to write.” 

Read more - 
http://governamerica.com/news/19659-new-pentagon-manual-declares-journalists-can-be-enemy-combatants

Leap second on June 30 will be 'mini-Y2K' - U.S. exchanges will pause around the leap second as a precaution -

Leap second on June 30 will be 'mini-Y2K' - U.S. exchanges will pause around the leap second as a precaution -  



Short on time? Don't worry. This month you'll get an extra second.

A "leap second" will be added on June 30 at midnight Coordinated Universal Time (or 8 p.m. EDT). Leap seconds are added occasionally to help keep the atomic clock synced up with the earth's rotation.

"The earth's spin isn't uniform, it's not constant," Nick Stamatakos, the chief of earth orientation parameters at the United States Naval Observatory, told USA TODAY Network.

Because of the earth's inconsistent speed, scientists in the 1950s created an atomic clock to keep precise track of time. However, as the earth's rotation sped up and slowed down, the atomic clock continued steadily ahead and the two time indicators grew farther apart.

To fix that inconsistency, scientists then created the UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) to help bridge the gap between the earth time and the atomic clock. However, the atomic clock continues to race ahead, so at least once every 10 years scientists add an extra second to the UTC to keep them closer together. It's particularly important for things like GPS navigation, Stamatakos said.

"The GPS will tell a user where his location is relative to the GPS spacecraft," he said. In order to do that, the GPS spacecraft has to know time very accurately and that time has to incorporate the earth speeding up and slowing.

"If you don't know the time accurately you can mistake where you are and your speed," according to Stamatakos.

"Having these leap seconds every so often is like having a mini Y2K every couple years," Stamatakos said. In advance, many people working with computer systems have tested them to see how they will deal with the extra second, he said.

The stock market is sometimes impacted because computers are so fast now that trading can happen in a second or less.

"Some U.S. exchanges will pause around the leap second as a precaution or will halt after-hours trading beforehand," according to MarketPlace's Mitchell Hartman.

"In every-day life, this extra second has practically no importance. However, in every field where exact time is needed (e.g. astronomy, navigation, spaceflight, but also computer networks for stock markets or energy supply, and much more) this second is of great importance," Wolfgang Dick, a spokesman for the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, the organization that maintains global time, told USA TODAY Network in an email.

What will you do with your extra second?

Read more - 
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2015/06/09/leap-second-atomic-clock-earth-rotation/27786459/

Obama And Hillary Both Had No Problem Using Confederate Flag During Presidential Campaigns -

Obama And Hillary Both Had No Problem Using Confederate Flag During Presidential Campaigns - 




In the wake of the Charleston shooting, and subsequent pictures of the shooter posing with a Confederate flag, Barack Obama this week said that the flag belongs in a museum.
It seems he has changed his tune in the last three years somewhere, however, given that he was using the symbol during his 2012 re-election campaign.

Indeed, Obama had his own Confederate flag campaign badge, which states “Where the confederate flag still flies, we have built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.”
The quote was taken from Obama’s racially heated speech in 2008, during which he also praised his mentor former pastor the controversial Reverend Wright.
Obama was not alone in using the symbol of the Confederate flag, synonymous with the South, to solicit political support.
Hillary clinton had her own brand of Confederate merchandise in 2008.




She’s also staying quiet about her husband’s previous use of the ‘racist’ symbol.




Strange given that she has also stated that the flag has no place in the US today.




And the fact that it flew above her house for 12 years:




While online auction site eBay declared it would prohibit Confederate flag merchandise, these items still remain available.

Walmart and other retailers have jumped on the bandwagon to ban a flag, as if this will make any difference to racial tensions currently playing out across the nation.
As Deborah Simmons wrote in her column for The Washington Times yesterday, “I ask, what happens after the flag comes down? Are racism and bigotry supposed to go poof?”
“It’s undeniable that the history and the heritage of South Carolina, rebel U.S. state of the first order, are intertwined. Period.” Simmons added, urging that the flag represents heritage.
“You cannot give true due to South Carolina and its history and heritage without marking the roles that blacks have played, as well as their history and heritage.” Simmons added.

Read more - 
http://www.prisonplanet.com/obama-and-hillary-both-had-no-problem-using-confederate-flag-during-presidential-campaigns.html

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The Ultimate Moral Hazard: 70% of Greek Mortgages Are In Default - "if the nation doesn't pay its debt, why should we" -

The Ultimate Moral Hazard: 70% of Greek Mortgages Are In Default - "if the nation doesn't pay its debt, why should we" - 



Just as we warned earlier in the year, total uncertainty about the future of Greece has enabled a growing sense of moral hazard as "if the nation doesn't pay its debt, why should we" sweeps across the troubled nation. As Greeks' tax remittances to the government, which were almost non-existent to begin with, have ground to a halt, so The FT reports, so-called 'strategic defaults' have become a way of life among Greece's formerly affluent middle-class..."I still owe money on the car and motorboat I can’t afford to use. Even a holiday loan I’d forgotten about...I’m living with my mother looking for work and waiting for the bank to come up with another restructuring offer."

As we detailed earlier this year, it appears taxpayers everywhere are learning from the best: their insolvent governments. In this case, Greek (non) taxpayers have decided to slow down their mandatory remittances to the government even more because the government may just not exist in two short weeks:

Most taxpayers have chosen to delay their payments, given that the positions of the two main parties leading the election polls are diametrically opposite: Poll leader SYRIZA promises to cancel the ENFIA and even write off bad loans, while ruling New Democracy acknowledges the difficulties but is avoiding raising issues that would generate problems and fiscal consequences.

The dwindling state revenues will not only hamper the next government’s fiscal moves, but, given that the fiscal gap will expand, also negotiations with the country’s creditors. The Finance Ministry will have to make plans for new measures and make sure that salaries, pensions and operating expenses are covered, especially in case the creditors do not pay the bailout installments which are already overdue.

Speaking to Kathimerini, a top ministry official confirmed the major slowdown in the rate of applications for debt settlement, and referred to post-election consequences from the shortfall in state revenues. The tax collection mechanism appears to be largely out of action while expired debts are swelling due to taxpayers’ wait-and-see tactics and the reduction in inspections. The same official pointed out that it is normal for revenues to lag during election periods, adding that this time there is no scope for shortfalls.
And now, as The FT reports, the situation has got far worse...

Strategic defaults have become a way of life among Greece’s formerly affluent middle-class. Many borrowed heavily as local banks competed to offer consumer loans at accessible interest rates after Greece joined the euro in 2001.

When the crisis struck they resisted changes to their lifestyle, convinced that it was only a blip on a continuous upward path to income levels matching those of Italy and Spain.

But they have since been forced to make harsh adjustments. With their own savings depleted and the country’s immediate future so uncertain — will Greece default on its debts and leave the euro? — many have simply stopped making payments altogether, virtually freezing economic activity.

Tax revenues for May, for example, fell €1bn short of the budget target, with so many Greek citizens balking at filing returns.
The government, itself, has contributed to the chain of non-payment by freezing payments due to suppliers. That has had a knock-on effect, stifling the small businesses that dominate the economy and building up a mountain of arrears that will take months, if not years, to settle.

“Business-to-business payments have almost been paused,” one Athens businessman says. “They are just rolling over postdated cheques.”

For Greek banks, mortgage loans left unserviced by strategic defaulters have become a particular headache, especially since the Syriza-led government says it is committed to protecting low-income homeowners from foreclosures on their properties

“There’s a real issue of moral hazard . . . Around 70 per cent of restructured mortgage loans aren’t being serviced because people think foreclosures will only be applied to big villa owners,” one banker said.
After six years of living in straitened circumstances, middle-class Greeks have also grown accustomed to shedding valuables inherited from their grandparents.

“There’s a big underground market in family heirlooms . . . many people feel a sense of shame at having to part with them so it’s not much talked about,” said Angelos, an appraiser for a Geneva-based antiques dealer.

“For buyers there are opportunities that only come along when there’s a real economic upheaval . . . in Greece it hasn’t happened since the second world war,” he adds.
As one middle-class father concluded, he is no longer embarrassed by his inability to pay, he says, because so many other parents are in the same situation.

”In the good years we took all these things for granted,” she says. “But the way Greece is headed with these people in charge [the Syriza government] I wonder whether I’ll ever have them again.”

Read more - 
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-06-23/ultimate-moral-hazard-70-greek-mortgages-are-default

When "Likes" Trump "Everyday Low Prices": Facebook Is Now Bigger Than Walmart -

When "Likes" Trump "Everyday Low Prices": Facebook Is Now Bigger Than Walmart -



Spot The Difference...




Lamb Genetically Modified with Jellyfish Sold as Meat by Paris Butcher - Yummy -

Lamb Genetically Modified with Jellyfish Sold as Meat by Paris Butcher - Yummy - 



The following article takes the concept of Frankenfood to a whole other level.

French authorities are looking into how a lamb genetically modified with jellyfish protein was sold as meat to an unknown customer, a judicial source told AFP on Tuesday.

The jellyfish-lamb, called “Rubis”, was sent to an abattoir from the National Institute for Agricultural Research in Paris late last year and somehow ended up on a butcher’s slab.

Yummy.

“A female lamb born to a sheep that was genetically modified as part of a medical research program was sold to a person in the Parisian region in October 2014,” said the National Institute for Agricultural Research in a statement, confirming a story first reported by Le Parisien newspaper.

The case has been taken up by a public health court in Paris, a judicial source told AFP. 

Rubis “found itself on a plate! Who ate it? No one knows,” exclaimed Le Parisien on Tuesday.

France remains one of the staunchest opponents of GM research, ever since environmental protesters pressured the government into banning GM crops in the 2000s.

The European Union authorised the import and sale of 19 GM crops in April, but is likely to pass legislation allowing individual countries to block their use – in part thanks to demands from France.

Don’t worry my fellow Americans, that is France, something like this could never happen here. After all, Congress is hard at work making sure future Americans will have as difficult a time as possible identifying the source of their meat.

For example, let’s revisit last month’s post, Congress Moves to Eliminate Labels Showing Consumers Where Meat Comes from Following WTO Ruling, where we learned that:

A House committee has voted to get rid of labels on packages of meat that say where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered.

The House Agriculture Committee voted 38-6 to repeal a “country-of-origin” labeling law for beef, pork and poultry Wednesday — just two days after the World Trade Organization ruled against parts of the law. The labels tell consumers what countries the meat is from: for example, “born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States” or “born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.”

As usual, Congress is hard at work on behalf of their corporate sponsors.

Read more - 
http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2015/06/23/lamb-genetically-modified-with-jellyfish-sold-as-meat-by-paris-butcher/

Uber says it might track your location even when you're not using app - and access address book and use names it finds -

Uber says it might track your location even when you're not using app - and access address book and use names it finds - 



The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is looking out for you, Uber riders. The civil liberties advocacy organization has filed an FTC complaint against Uber over the company's apparent plan to download users' contacts and track user locations even when they aren't using the company's app. Uber's plans were announced in the form of a new privacy policy set to take effect July 15. Now that EPIC has stepped in, maybe that policy won't take effect after all?

USA Today reports:

Under the upcoming policy, the Uber app could collect precise location data about a customer's smart phone, even when the app is running in the background or they have turned off their GPS location finder.

If the app isn't on, Uber can figure out the user's approximate location from their Internet address.

If the user permits it, the Uber app can access the user's address book and use the names and contact information it finds there.

Uber spokeswoman Jessica Santillo said there was no basis for the complaint.

"We care deeply about the privacy of our riders and driver-partners," she said. "These updated statements don't reflect a shift in our practices, they more clearly lay out the data we collect today and how it is used to provide or improve our services."

In an May 28 statement, Uber said that the changes "would allow Uber to launch new promotional features that use contacts — for example the ability to send special offers to riders' friends or family."

EPIC's complaint says "this collection of user's information far exceeds what customers expect from the transportation service. Users would not expect the company to collect location information when customers are not actively using the app."

Uber says users can opt-out of the data collection, but that's not enough for EPIC, which argues opting out of this kind of invasive surveillance is too much of a burden for most users. If you disagree, walk into a random coffee shop and ask people if they've ever looked at the privacy settings on their cell phones.

The news about EPIC's FTC complaint against Uber comes one week after the company got a lot of horrible press with headlines like this one: "Uber Cracks Down on Chinese Drivers' Right to Protest."

Read more - 
http://privacysos.org/node/1760

US military to develop Star Wars-style Hoverbikes with a British company -

US military to develop Star Wars-style Hoverbikes with a British company - 



Science fiction-obsessed children of the 1960s might have been disappointed to know that half a century later they would neither live in space nor get their meals from pills. One thing that would have impressed them about 2015, though, is the ability to order your own personal hoverbike.

And you can do just that, even if it is currently a “request” for an order, with the delivery date uncertain. The machine is being developed by Malloy Aeronautics, a British-based firm, who have already had understandable interest in their creation from the US military.

The hoverbike, remote-controlled versions of which are already flying, is heavily based around drone technology, powered by four bladed fans protected by casing. The design is intended to provide stability, speed and, the company hopes, the same range as a small helicopter.

The initial version, using two fans, was built in 2011 by Chris Malloy, a New Zealand native then based in Australia. Powered by a 1200cc BMW motorbike engine, it was flown using motorbike-style controls.



Malloy then set up his eponymous company in Berkshire, in part funded by money from the seed-funding website Kickstarter. The firm first developed a drone in the new four-fan design, now on sale for as little as £595 excluding VAT. They are also building the planned four-fan hoverbike, with some investment from the US Army Research Laboratory.

Grant Stapleton, co-director of the company with Malloy, said no one had as yet flown on the new-version hoverbike: “At the moment, that’s radio controlled, it’s flown as an unmanned vehicle. We haven’t put someone on it yet and won’t do for a little bit, while we’re working on its flight performance, things like that.”

Part of the testing involves a scaled-down prototype on which is perched Buster, a 3D-printed mannequin fitted with a video camera. Those impatient for a hoverbike can download and print their own Buster.

Stapleton refused to be drawn on how fast the eventual bike could travel, or to what height: “We’re still designing it, so we don’t know its full speed or altitude. We’ve got estimates, but it’s not really appropriate to say, yet. When you build a prototype, it’s going to be slow and clunky at first, but we’ll find out things that will improve its performance by significant percentages.”

Bigger versions could come later, too, he said: “At the moment, we’re just looking at it being able to carry one person, but we’ll see where we go from there. It’s not unreasonable to expect it to carry more people, but we haven’t developed that as yet.”

The company is to set up a base in Maryland so it can develop the hoverbike closer to the US military, and is working on the design with a US firm, Survice.

Stapleton said the eventual design would have many possible roles: “We would certainly have a lot more interest in the civilian and humanitarian uses, that’s the part that excites me, personally. It’s a product that’s very versatile, small and inexpensive.

“It can get into places that a regular helicopter wouldn’t, and costs a lot less to use. And it’s considerably safer, with these ducted fans – if you bump into something, it’s not going to cause an accident or cause any damage.”

As yet, the creation, officially called the Hoverbike Helicopter, does not have a price, or a target date for the first deliveries. “Now taking requests for orders,” says the company’s website, tantalisingly.

Read more - 
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jun/23/hoverbike-us-military-star-wars

Monday, 22 June 2015

Study links erectile dysfunction drugs that include Viagra has been linked to a risk of the skin cancer melanoma -

Study links erectile dysfunction drugs that include Viagra has been linked to a risk of the skin cancer melanoma - 



While the research in the Journal of the American Medical Association stops short of proving that the drugs cause melanoma, researchers said their findings warrant a closer look at medications known as PDE5 (phosphodiesterase type 5) inhibitors.

They include sildenafil, vardenafil and tadalafil,which go by brand names such as Viagra, Levitra, Cialis and others.

Using Swedish medical records spanning 2006 to 2012, researchers found about 4,000 cases of melanoma. Of those patients, 11 percent had filled at least one prescription for a PDE5 inhibitor to treat erectile dysfunction.

When comparing these men to a control group of cancer-free men selected randomly from the same registry and matched by age, researchers found the risk of melanoma was 21 percent higher in men who took the erectile dysfunction drugs.

However, the most pronounced risk was seen in men who had filled a single prescription (32 percent higher).

The risk of melanoma in men who filled multiple prescriptions was 14 percent, which was not statistically significant, according to the study led by doctor Stacy Loeb of New York University.

Researchers were also puzzled by the finding that men taking ED drugs were more likely to be diagnosed with low-grade melanoma, not advanced or high risk cancers.

Study authors stressed that the risk of melanoma they found among erectile dysfunction drug takers was modest, and would translate to about seven additional cases of cancer per 100,000 men taking PDE5 inhibitors.

"The observed association may reflect confounding [other factors that can influence outcomes] by lifestyle factors associated with both PDE5 inhibitor use and low-stage melanoma," concluded the study.

According to Chris Chapple, Secretary General of the European Association of Urology, the findings are an "interesting observation" but more research is needed.

"This paper reports a previously unreported potential association," said Chapple, who was not involved in the study.

"It's an interesting observation, but it should not be a trigger for any change in current clinical practice relating to the use of drugs for the treatment of erectile dysfunction such as Viagra and related compounds."

Read more - 
http://www.timeslive.co.za/lifestyle/2015/06/22/Study-links-erectile-dysfunction-drug-with-skin-cancer