Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 26 August 2011

Worker kills 3-foot rat in NY housing project... -

Worker kills 3-foot rat in NY housing project... - 

Housing Authority worker Jose Rivera was photographed with this giant rat at the Marcy Houses in Brooklyn.

It sounds like an urban legend: giant mutant-looking rats roaming a city housing project.

Only there's a picture.

A photo making the rounds shows Housing Authority worker Jose Rivera minutes after he speared the humongous rodent with a pitchfork at the Marcy Houses.

It's covered in white fur and looks well-fed. It appears to be about three feet long, including its hideously dangling tail.

And Rivera, 48, says it's not the only one. He insists that while he was filling a rat hole last week, three came running out - but he was only able to nail one.

"I hit it one time and it was still moving," Rivera said. "I hit it another time and that's when it died. I'm not scared of rats but I was scared of being bitten."

Naomi Colon, head of the Marcy Houses Tenant Association, said there have been sightings of the outsize rat for at least six years.

"The residents have told me that they've seen it running around with other rats. She lived with them. She ran into the same hole they ran in."

Animal experts who viewed the picture identified the animal as a Gambian pouched rat, which is a fairly common pet rat.

They're nocturnal, can grow to three feet and four pounds or more, and live seven or eight years.

Imports have been banned since 2003, when they were blamed for a monkeypox outbreak that sickened 100 people in the United States.

Dr. Paul Calle, director of zoological health at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the Marcy Houses specimen was probably an escaped or discarded pet who decided to join the regular rat race.

"They are a very social animal and live in big groups in the wild. Our Norway rats are the closest big rodents it could accompany," he said.

They can even be trained to sniff out landmines or even tuberculosis. "They're pretty remarkable animals," Calle said.

Tenants fear that the Gambian rat has been breeding with the Norway rats and spawning a super-breed of rodents - but zoo officials say not to worry.

The imported rat probably wouldn't mate with local rats, and it couldn't reproduce if it did, because each is from a different genus, Calle said.

Residents say that while the monster-sized rat may be the stuff of horror movies, the run-of-the-mill rats are an even bigger nightmare at the project where Jay-Z grew up.

"Even the cats are afraid of the rats. They get together and gang up on the cats, said resident Stephanie Davis, 44.

Pam Davis, 43, added, "They're here day and night. We don't dodge bullets. We dodge rats.They're so big, they should charge them rent."

The New York City Housing Authority had no immediate comment.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/08/25/2011-08-25_giant_rat_killed_by_pitchfork_in_marcy_houses_is_believed_to_be_.html

'Eyeborg' Man Turns Prosthetic Eye Into Video Camera -

'Eyeborg' Man Turns Prosthetic Eye Into Video Camera - 
Rob Spence

A film-maker who lost his eye during a shooting accident as a child has turned his prosthetic one into a video camera

Rob Spence told Sky News the technology is like something you would usually only see in films and as a result he got backing from experts in the field.
"It wasn't easy but because it's so like (science) fiction, engineers had a lot of fun making it.
"I was able to do it without a budget - it was a fun project for these guys."

The technology used is the same as in a wireless lapel microphone with a transmitter and receiver.
However, the wireless transmits a video signal rather than a sound signal from the tiny camera inside Rob's prosthetic eye.
The device is not connected to his brain and hasn't restored his vision.

But it records everything he sees, sending what he's looking at in real time to a computer.
Rob was commissioned to make a documentary by the makers of a new video game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which is set in the year 2027 and imagines a world in which cyborgs - part human, part machine - are the norm.
They asked him to look at how far away from their fictional world we are now.
According to Rob, technology is already advanced and the possibilities are endless in the future.
He said: "People are going to have the option of having superior arms, superior eyes at some point.
"People say no one would ever cut off their own arm and replace it, but if the technology gets there - and it looks like it will - people will think about it.
"They might be early adopters."

Study: World is getting fatter - obesity is spreading around the world and poses serious health threats -

Study: World is getting fatter - obesity is spreading around the world and poses serious health threats - 

The problem of obesity is spreading around the world and poses serious health threats.  The finding is part of a new special report on obesity, and how to combat it in the medical journal the Lancet.   The editor, Dr. Richard Horton, calls obesity a pandemic, and said it is one of the “huge threats facing governments which are likely to derail all their best attempts to improve the health of their nations while at the same time controlling costs.”

Obesity Around the World
The first study says nearly 1.5 billion adults in the world are overweight, and half a billion more are obese.  Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) more than 30.  That’s equivalent to an adult who's 5 feet 6 inches weighing more than 185 pounds, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s BMI calculator. 

“It is occurring in just about all countries, apart from the lowest income countries,” says Professor Boyd Swinburn, with the World Health Organizations Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention in Melbourne, Australia.  “There is quite a lot of evidence now coming out that this is being driven by changes in the food system,” he says. “The food supply: increasingly processed, available, affordable and highly promoted tasty food.”

The Lancet report says that the obesity rates for different countries vary dramatically due to environmental factors in those countries.  For example, they found “traditionally high levels of active transport," specifically bicycling, in the Netherlands contributed to a lower rate.  Only 1 in 10 women there were categorized as obese, while high levels of car use in the U.S. contributed to obesity.  In the United States one in three women are rated as obese.

The authors believe that the most effective way to stop obesity is governmental policies, including things like banning unhealthy food for children, shifting agricultural policies to promote health.

The report  also said trade "liberalization"  is  contributing to "global overconsumption."  The authors say that these kinds of governmental changes can be easier to sustain and more effective than other options to reduce obesity, though, as Swindon says, “There seems much more a willingness to spend money in drugs and surgery and health promotion programs, which work much more downstream, than there is to deal with the underlying cause right upstream.”

The Future of Obesity
Obesity is on the increase, and nations who fail to stop it could face consequences, according to the second study included in the Lancet’s series.

The report says that  following current trends, there could be 65 million more obese adults in the U.S.  and 11 million more obese adults in the United Kingdom by 2030.  Obesity can cause diseases including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain forms of cancer.

"If these trends continue, by 2030 50% (of) U.S. Men and 45% to 52% (of) U.S. women will be obese,” says Dr. Y Claire Wang of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, one of the authors of this study.

The report says that as obesity goes up, so will the amount of money spent treating people who suffer from it.  Wang adds, “In many cases being overweight at age 50 will not only double but actually triple or quadruple the incident rate for many diseases.”  In the next 20 years, the report concludes, obesity could result in   6–8.5 million cases of diabetes, 5.6–7.3 million cases of  cardiovascular diseases, and more than half a million new cancers in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

Wang anticipates that by 2030 the cost to treat people for these diseases in the U.S. will be about $66 billion a year, and 2 billion pounds a year in the U.K.

A Better Model for Weight Loss
Another part of the Lancet’s special report looks at how people can lose weight.

Many recommendations for weight loss suggest that people will slowly and continuously lose weight if they cut 500 calories a day from their diet.  Dr. Kevin Hall of the U.S. National Institutes of Health says it doesn’t really work that way.  He put it bluntly: “Let me be very clear.  This is wrong.  This does not happen.”  Hall says it would be true if your metabolism didn’t change, but we know it does.

In his report, the team created a computer program that could eventually be used by clinicians to model weight loss.  Team members say their program is a more accurate model and accounts for initial body composition and changes in metabolism as you diet.  The computer’s predicted weight loss is significantly less than other formulas suggested, but the authors believe it’s much more realistic.

Governmental Action
The final report in the series says governments must take the initiative in battling obesity.

“Governments certainly need to lead obesity prevention," says author Steven Gortmaker of the Harvard School of Public Health,  "but… so far few have shown any leadership whatsoever.  We’ve let the market do its work and it’s worked well to produce obesity.”

The report includes suggestions for ways governments can implement policies that  it says will reduce obesity and save money.  Proposals include a tax on unhealthy foods and beverages, school programs to promote good nutrition and physical activity, and cutting junk food advertising.  Gortmaker compares these proposals to measures against smoking, saying,“Tobacco taxes were really fundamentally important in altering intake of tobacco and now we see them everywhere.”

Next month a meeting at the United Nations will address noncommunicable diseases, including obesity.  The authors of these studies called for the world to take action.


When the playground becomes a pick-up zone -

When the playground becomes a pick-up zone - 

From the dog run to Whole Foods to the Apple Store, you don’t have to look far to see single people flirting it up. But when it happens at the playground (where the vast majority of parents are not so single), one tends to want to look away.

Once upon a time, I worked with a couple (call them Jack and Jill) who hadn’t had sex in the year since their daughter was born. While Jill “wanted to want sex,” she complained of feeling “touched-out” from breastfeeding and of being too tired for sex. A successful marketing executive, she had returned to work after an all-too-brief maternity leave, while Jack, a freelance writer, stayed home to take care of the baby.

Our weekly conversations focused on how sex-starved Joe had been feeling and his anger and humiliation at being constantly rejected.

“Every night it’s the same thing: Jill comes home and wants to spend all of her time with the baby, and then is too tired to do anything else –- especially sex. Why step up to bat if you know you’re going to strike out?” he lamented.

Just when they started making progress and having sex again, an incident occurred that set them back. Jill had been distracted by Jack’s iPhone buzzing and beeping and, as she turned off the ringer, she took at look at his messages.

She was shocked to discover that many of his e-mails and texts with other moms (mainly to make appointments for play dates) had a flirty, chatty energy.

“It’s not that they were sexual,” she said, “but they were funny, charming, and flirty - and trying way too hard.”

While Jack was furious that Jill had snooped on him and didn’t feel that he was doing anything wrong, he did eventually admit that it was nice to flirt, “and to know that I’m still attractive, at least to someone.”

When I was working on the book “Sex and the Baby Years,” I did some informal interviews at local playgrounds. One of the topics was flirtation and infidelity and how dynamics at the playground might have changed with the influx of stay-at-home dads.

Said Chloe, a mom of three who had been hitting the same playground for nearly a decade, “It used to be mainly moms and nannies, and maybe the occasional dad. But now there are all these stay-at-home dads and they’re cute and funny and interesting and they want to talk and talk and talk. I used to just throw on sweats and a ratty T-shirt, but now I’m getting dressed up and putting on lipstick and it’s much more of a scene. In many ways, it’s an added pressure.”

But Elizabeth, a recently divorced mom, felt different.

“I’m 39, with a 4-year-old son,” she explained. “Even when I get a night to myself, I just want to go to the gym and then go to sleep. Really, who’s going to be interested in me? Somebody with his own baggage, like a divorced dad. I’m definitely not looking to bust up any marriages, but I am looking.”

“I had to change playgrounds and stop going to group play dates,” said Shannon, a mom in a sexless marriage who wanted to up her passion-quotient, but felt like her husband was depressed and uninterested. “There was a dad who was very forward and cute and I started talking about my issues at home, and I knew I was getting into trouble when I was fantasizing about him and coming up with all of these romantic scenarios. I wasn’t ready to give up on my marriage.”

As for the guys I spoke with, many were similar to Jack: stay-at-home dads who were a little bored and very frustrated in their own sex lives. Most flirted for the attention and fun, but a few said that having an affair with a married mom would be perfect - both parties would be in it for the sex and not looking for a relationship, which made the idea all the more alluring.

Emotional infidelity has always been a gray area. It usually occurs when a person in a committed relationship forms a deep attachment to someone he or she is attracted to and pursues increasing intimacy, but without sexual activity - at least at the outset.

Emotional affairs are often the precursor to full-blown sexual affairs. Today, both men and women are having emotional affairs that start with the heart and the mind.

We’re all living, breathing sexual beings. Attraction doesn’t end once we’re in a relationship. Even the most happily coupled people are going to feel the familiar buzz of attraction when someone catches their eye or laughs at one of their jokes. But in her book “Not 'Just Friends,'” Dr. Shirley Glass reported that 82% of unfaithful people started out being acquaintances, neighbors, or co-workers with their affair partners.

In other words, people who are unfaithful to their partners weren’t looking for a relationship or seeking out strangers in a bar; it just happened.

In my professional experience, parents, especially news ones, are a particularly vulnerable lot: When you have a baby, sex goes from being something that used to be spontaneous to something that goes on a to-do list.

And as sex falls to the bottom of that list, relationships become increasingly vulnerable: to anger, resentment, indifference, and, yes, infidelity.

No wonder a recent study from the University of Denver reports that 90% of new parents experi­ence a significant decline in relationship satisfaction, or that, according to a recent survey by the online magazine Baby Talk, just 24% of parents say they’re satisfied with their post-baby sex lives, compared with 66% who were happy before they had children.

Flirting a little is a natural part of life. And many couples are able to channel that energy into their own relationships. But when flirting doesn’t get re-directed into the relationship, but rather is re-circulated outside the relationship, the air at home tends to get stale.

For parents who feel like they’re more connected to their peers than their partners, it’s probably time for a trip to the playground - together!


34 Pieces Of Evidence That Prove That The Middle Class In America Is Rapidly Shrinking -

34 Pieces Of Evidence That Prove That The Middle Class In America Is Rapidly Shrinking - 

Do you ever get the feeling that the middle class in America is shrinking?  Well, you are not imagining things.  A confluence of very troubling long-term economic trends has created an environment in which the middle class in America is being absolutely shredded.  Today, most American families would be absolutely thrilled if they could live as well as past generations did.  The dream of receiving a solid education, getting a good job, owning a beautiful home and enjoying the good things that America has to offer is increasingly becoming out of reach for a growing number of Americans.  The reality is that even though our population has grown, there are less jobs than there used to be.  A much higher percentage of the jobs that remain are low income jobs.  Millions of middle class American families are desperately trying to hang on as inflation far outpaces the growth of their paychecks.  Millions of others have fallen completely out of the middle class and are now totally dependent on the government for survival.  We once had the largest, most vibrant middle class in the history of the world, but now way too much unemployment, way too much inflation, way too much greed and way too much debt are all starting to catch up with us.  America is changing, and not for the better.

When most of us were growing up, we understood that there was an unspoken promise that if we got good grades, stayed out of trouble, worked really hard and did everything we were told to do, the system would reward us.

Well, today there are millions of Americans that have done all of those things but don’t have anything to show for it.

As large numbers of hard working people continue to fall out of the middle class, there is a growing sense that “the system” has betrayed us all.

Sadly, the truth is that the U.S. economy is dying.  The endless prosperity that we all enjoyed in the past is gone and it is never going to come back.

The following are 34 pieces of evidence that prove that the middle class in America is rapidly shrinking….

#1 In 1980, 52 percent of all jobs in the United States were middle income jobs.  Today, only 42 percent of all jobs are middle income jobs.

#2 Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#3 Only 63.5 percent of all men in the United States had a job last month. According to Bloomberg, that figure is “just slightly above the December 2009 nadir of 63.3%. These are the lowest numbers since 1948.”

#4 In 1969, 95 percent of all men between the ages of 25 and 54 had a job.  Last month, only 81.2 percent of men in that age group had a job.

#5 According to one recent survey, 64 percent of Americans would be forced to borrow money if they had an unexpected expense of $1000.

#6 The wealthiest 1% of all Americans now control 40 percent of all the wealth in this country.

#7 The poorest 50% of all Americans now control just 2.5% of all the wealth in this country.

#8 The wealthiest 1% of all Americans now own over 50% of all the stocks and bonds.

#9 According to the Washington Post, the average yearly income of the bottom 90 percent of all U.S. income earners is just $31,244.

#10 The average yearly income of the top 0.1% of all U.S. income earners is 5.6 million dollars.

#11 Between 1969 and 2009, the median wages earned by American men between the ages of 30 and 50 dropped by 27 percent after you account for inflation.

#12 Only the top 5 percent of all U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.

#13 During this economic downturn, employee compensation in the United States has been the lowest that it has been relative to gross domestic productin over 50 years.

#14 According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, health care costs accounted for just 9.5% of all personal consumption back in 1980.  Today they account for approximately 16.3%.

#15 Total credit card debt in the United States is now more than 8 times larger than it was just 30 years ago.

#16 There are fewer payroll jobs in the United States today than there were back in 2000 even though we have added 30 million people to the population since then.

#17 Since the year 2000, we have lost approximately 10% of our middle class jobs.  In the year 2000 there were about 72 million middle class jobs in the United States but today there are only about 65 million middle class jobs.

#18 The competition for even the most basic jobs has become absolutely brutal.  Approximately 7 percent of all those that apply to get into Harvard are accepted.  At a recent “National Hiring Day” held by McDonald’s only about 6.2 percent of the one million Americans that applied for a job were hired.

#19 It now takes the average unemployed worker in America about 40 weeksto find a new job.

#20 According to a report released in February from the National Employment Law Project, higher wage industries are accounting for 40 percent of the job losses in America but only 14 percent of the job growth.  Lower wage industries are accounting for just 23 percent of the job losses but 49 percent of the job growth.

#21 Half of all American workers now earn $505 or less per week.

#22 The cost of college tuition in the United States has gone up by over 900 percent since 1978.

#23 In the United States today, there are more than 100,000 janitors andmore than 317,000 waiters and waitresses that have college degrees.

#24 17 million college graduates are doing jobs that do not even require a college degree.

#25 According to one recent survey, 36 percent of Americans say that they don’t contribute anything at all to retirement savings.

#26 Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today, one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid.

#27 As 2007 began, there were 26 million Americans on food stamps.  Today, there are more than 45 million Americans on food stamps, which is a new all-time record.

#28 The number of Americans on food stamps has increased 74% since 2007.

#29 Today, one out of every four American children is on food stamps.

#30 In 1980, just 11.7% of all personal income came from government transfer payments.  Today, 18.4% of all personal income comes from government transfer payments.

#31 The number of Americans that are going to food pantries and soup kitchens has increased by 46% since 2006.

#32 One out of every six elderly Americans now lives below the federal poverty line.

#33 In the United States, over 20 percent of all children are now living in poverty.  In the UK and in France that figure is well under 10 percent.

#34 According to the Federal Reserve, the richest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.

As the middle class continues to shrivel up and die, the number of desperate people is going to continue to grow.

In the past, I have written extensively about how many Americans are already becoming so desperate that they will do just about anything for money.

Well, here are a couple more examples….

One unemployed man down in the Phoenix area that had reportedly robbed 12 banks told police the following about why he did it….

“I rob to survive.”

As millions more Americans fall into poverty, we are going to see a lot more crime.

Most of these people are not going to commit crimes because they enjoy them.  Rather, they will be doing what they feel they need to do in order to survive.

Not all of the shady activity will be so violent.  Desperation comes out in different ways.  For example, there are now actually websites where women advertise their “services” to potential “sugar daddies” that will help them with college expenses or support them financially.

Hopefully those reading this article will never resort to those kinds of things.

Yes, things are going to be tough, but there are always good alternatives if you are willing to look hard enough for them.

If you really need a job right now, pay close attention to the next couple of points.  Good jobs are very hard to come by in most areas at the moment, so you may have to be willing to make some sacrifices if you are desperate.

According to Bloomberg, there is a substantial shortage of truck drivers across the nation right now.

Driving a truck is really hard work, and it would take you away from home for extended periods of time, but the pay is pretty good.

If you are desperate for a job, this is something that you may want to look into.  There really is a shortage of truck drivers, and a paycheck is a paycheck.

Also, there are reportedly lots of jobs up in North Dakota right now.  Thanks to the oil boom up there, money is flowing and job opportunities are plentiful.

Just check out the following excerpt from a recent CNBC article about the employment boom going on in North Dakota right now….

Unemployment is a national problem in the U.S., but you wouldn’t know that if you travel through North Dakota.

The state’s unemployment rate hovers around 3 percent, and “Help Wanted” signs litter the landscape of cities such as Williston in the same way “For Sale” signs populate the streets of Las Vegas.

“It’s a zoo,” said Terry Ayers, who drove into town from Spokane, Wash., slept in his truck, and found a job within hours of arrival, tripling his salary. “It’s crazy what’s going on out here.”

Yes, it is really, really cold up in North Dakota.  There is very little housing available in the boom areas and for most of you it would require some significant sacrifices to take a job up there.

But there really are lots of jobs available up in North Dakota.  If you are desperate, you may want to really consider looking into it.

Now for the bad news.  Unfortunately, it is looking increasingly likely that we could have another major financial crisis some time fairly soon.

As I wrote about yesterday, Europe is a financial nightmare right now.  I honestly do not see any way that they are going to be able to fix things.

Fear is seemingly everywhere in Europe right now.  A recent article in The Telegraph entitled “Market crash ‘could hit within weeks’, warn bankers” postulated that we could be on the verge of a horrifying repeat of the financial crisis of 2008….

“The problem is a shortage of liquidity – that is what is causing the problems with the banks. It feels exactly as it felt in 2008,” said one senior London-based bank executive.

“I think we are heading for a market shock in September or October that will match anything we have ever seen before,” said a senior credit banker at a major European bank.

So you might want to try to get whatever kind of a job that you can right now before the next wave of the financial crisis hits.

Dark clouds are gathering on the horizon and things do not look promising.  The coming economic storms are going to be very hard on the middle class in America.

The number of good jobs is going to continue to decline and our paychecks are going to get stretched tighter and tighter.

The “system” is not going to save you.

The “system” is failing.

You better get ready.


British firm advertises for naked female web coders -

British firm advertises for naked female web coders - 

Now here's a dream job. An advertisement has appeared on the UK version of Craigslist looking for female web coders who are prepared to work in the nude.

Chris Taylor of Nude House says he's a naturist himself, and that the office is warm and private - and great fun. Customers never meet the staff, he promises, and won't know they're in their birthday suits.

On the company website, he says it's the "ultimate experience for nudist self-expressions" and  suggests that "The company may also operate the other nude activities - if the staff desire."

His requirements are simple. "There is nothing hard with this other than understanding the web and being able to design web pages," reads the ad. "You can work part-time or full-time - it is up to you."

But there is just one more thing that applicants apparently need for the job - breasts.

Taylor is remarkably unabashed about the stipulation, which he seems to think is perfectly normal. "It's because they'll be working for me in my house, and I want females," he told TG Daily. "I don't want to look at men."

Somehow, though, I don't think I've got the job.


Webcam hacker uses "hot steam" ploy to get nude pics - had ability to remotely tap into women's webcams -

Webcam hacker uses "hot steam" ploy to get nude pics - had ability to remotely tap into women's webcams - 

This Apple repair tech wanted a little more than just the ability to remotely tap into women's webcams.

He wanted to increase his chance of seeing them naked. 20-year-old Trevor Harwell allegedly installed malware on the computers he was supposed to be fixing, which would cause them to randomly display the following bogus error message:

"You should fix your internal sensor soon. If unsure what to do, try putting your laptop near hot steam for several minutes to clean the sensor."

Harwell is reported to have been arrested, but only after his scheme actually worked, according to the local authorities.

While even the least tech-savvy person would probably be able to realize the error was bogus, all of the victims were clueless.

It took one of Harwell's customers' mother to realize how unusual the message was, as she's the one who kicked off the investigation.

According to a report in the LA Times, hundreds of thousands of pictures were taken from Harwell's PC as part of the criminal case against him.

This isn't the first time people taking their computers in somewhere to be fixed found they had been tampered with. There have been reports of people finding porn on their PC after sending it in for repairs, or of other malicious software being installed.

People bringing in their computers have also faced legal action, as companies like Geek Squad find child pornography or other illegal material during their check-up of a PC, which they turn over to authorities.

In short, be careful when you send something as personal as your computer into a third-party entity, because it's never fully safe.

Read more -