Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 30 March 2012

Tracking Athletes Online as Legal Red Flags Flutter - Major universities like to keep an online eye on their athletes -

Tracking Athletes Online as Legal Red Flags Flutter - Major universities like to keep an online eye on their athletes - 

The business plan of Varsity Monitor is simple. Major universities like North Carolina, Nebraska and Oklahoma pay $7,000 to $10,000 a year and Varsity Monitor keeps an online eye on their athletes.
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Among the services the company and others like it provide is a computer application that searches social media sites that athletes are active on, looking for obscenities, offensive commentary or words like “free,” which could indicate that a player has accepted a gift in violation of N.C.A.A. rules.

“Every school, we work to customize their keyword list,” said Sam Carnahan, the chief executive of Varsity Monitor, which has offices in Seattle and New York and also provides educational programs to universities. “We look for things that could damage the school’s brand and anything related to their eligibility.” 

Yet what may look to some like a business opportunity, and to universities and their athletic departments like due diligence, appears to others to be an invasion of privacy.

“I think it’s violating the Constitution to have someone give up their password or user name,” said Ronald N. Young, a Maryland state senator who has sponsored a bill aimed at stopping universities from monitoring athletes digitally. “It’s like reading their mail or listening to their phone calls.”

The debate on college campuses mirrors the larger conversation throughout the country over how much access to personal online activities private individuals can be compelled to give to employers. University administrators face a tricky situation when it comes to players on social media, balancing issues of privacy while trying to guard against the possibility that an errant tweet or Facebook posting could result in trouble for an athlete or the athletic department. On March 12, North Carolina’s football program received a one-year bowl ban and lost 15 scholarships after an N.C.A.A. investigation that was spurred by a Twitter message sent by a player.

Read more -

Memo calls for Ct. State troopers to 'outperform' colleagues by writing hundreds of tickets - and get free pizza -

Memo calls for Ct. State troopers to 'outperform' colleagues by writing hundreds of tickets - and get free pizza - 

An internal state police memo obtained by a Connecticut news station reportedly challenges troopers to "outperform" their colleagues by issuing hundreds of tickets to drivers on Friday. 
The memo, obtained by WTNH-TV, calls for state troopers in one barracks to "issue at least 60 infractions / Misdemeanors each shift for a total of 180 infractions in order to outperform both Troop F and Troop G.
"One day Troop F issued 301 tickets. Troop G responded by issuing 345 in one day. We can do better," Lt. Anthony Schirillo wrote in the memo, according to the station.
"I am asking that everyone, myself included, contribute to this effort," Schirillo said. "NOTE if we happen to issue 350 tickets in one day that would be stellar."
A second memo obtained by the station reportedly says that "The master sergeant and I will buy pizza for the shift with the highest total."

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/03/30/memo-calls-for-connecticut-state-troopers-to-outperform-colleagues-by-writing/?test=latestnews

A nightclub in Montgomery, Alabama hosts 'Food Stamp Friday' discount night... - with “free shots at the door' -

A nightclub in Montgomery, Alabama hosts 'Food Stamp Friday' discount night... - with “free shots at the door' - 

A nightclub in Montgomery, Ala. is raising eyebrows by hosting a “Food Stamp Friday” party on April 6 that seems to glamorize life on the federal government’s food assistance program.

An invitation for the April 6 party obtained by The Daily Caller tells patrons of the Rose Supper Club in North Montgomery that the Friday night cover charge will be just $5 if a “food stamp card” is shown upon arrival.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was designed for Americans living at near-poverty levels.

According to the flashy, postcard-size flier advertising the party, there will be “free shots at the door.” The announcement’s artwork mimics an Electronic Benefit Transfer card, the debit card used by Americans to redeem their SNAP benefits.

Glamorizing federal assistance bothers some who have seen the posters.

“I just don’t understand how they are promoting this without anyone saying anything about it,” Stephanie Pope, a Montgomery resident who has seen the fliers in gas stations, told TheDC.

Orlando Rogers, an employee who answered the telephone at the Rose on Thursday, confirmed that the “Food Stamp Friday” party is taking place at the venue next month.

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2012/03/30/alabama-nightclub-raises-eyebrows-with-food-stamp-friday-party/

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Think Twitter's full of it? New site prints out all your Tweets (or favourite celebrity's) as rolls of toilet paper -

Think Twitter's full of it? New site prints out all your Tweets (or favourite celebrity's) as rolls of toilet paper - 
The site prints out all your Tweets - or anyone else's - as a roll of toilet paper

A new site prints out your Twitter feed on rolls of toilet paper - or you can pick your favourite celebrity and turn their words into wipes.
The site S***ter charges $35 for four rolls of paper printed with 140-word Tweets. 
The Tweets appear printed on sheets with about four Tweets per sheet.

'Obviously this is fairly tongue in cheek, but we’re reasonably pleased we monetized Twitter in a way that avoided advertising,' said founder David Gillespie, in an interview with Venturebeat, which found the company.
'We all have other jobs, though would obviously like to make it a full-time thing. I don’t know where the revenue is, it may very well wind up needing to be funded by brands. I can’t imagine Kleenex putting their name to it.'
The site's slogan is 'Social Media has never been so disposable.' 
Two hundred million Tweets are posted worldwide every day. 
Even Twitter's own users admit that much of what is posted via the popular microblogging service is not worth reading, according to a survey by Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. 
Around 130 million messages a day sent out on Twitter are not worth reading, says a survey of the site's own users. 
Account holders admit only a third of the tweets they receive are of any interest, and the rest are largely forgotten almost immediately.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2122318/Think-Twitters-New-site-prints-Twitter-page-favourite-celebritys-rolls-loo-paper.html

War On Words: NYC Dept. Of Education Wants 50 ‘Forbidden’ Words Banned From Standardized Tests - like Dinosaur Poverty -

War On Words: NYC Dept. Of Education Wants 50 ‘Forbidden’ Words Banned From Standardized Tests - like Dinosaur Poverty - 

George Carlin is rolling over in his grave.

The New York City Department of Education is waging a war on words of sorts, and is seeking to have words they deem upsetting removed from standardized tests.

Fearing that certain words and topics can make students feel unpleasant, officials are requesting 50 or so words be removed from city-issued tests.

The word “dinosaur” made the hit list because dinosaurs suggest evolution which creationists might not like, WCBS 880′s Marla Diamond reported. “Halloween” is targeted because it suggests paganism; a “birthday” might not be happy to all because it isn’t celebrated by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Julie Lewis’ family celebrates Christmas and Kwanzaa, but she told CBS 2′s Emily Smith she wants her children to appreciate and learn about other holidays and celebrations.

“They’re going to meet people from all walks of life and they’re going to have to learn to adjust,” Lewis said.

Words that suggest wealth are excluded because they could make kids jealous. “Poverty” is also on the forbidden list. That’s something Sy Fliegal with the Center for Educational Innovation calls ridiculous.

“The Petersons take a vacation for five days in their Mercedes … so what? You think our kids are going to be offended because they don’t have a Mercedes? You think our kids are going to say ‘I’m offended; how could they ask me a question about a Mercedes? I don’t have a Mercedes!’” Fliegal said.


Concerns grow over children using tablet computers - can cause developmental difficulties, autism, or ADD -

Concerns grow over children using tablet computers - can cause developmental difficulties, autism, or ADD - 

Electronic tablets like the iPad are a revolutionary educational tool and are becoming part of childhood, but should be watched carefully so that overuse doesn't lead to learning or behavioral problems, experts say.
"It's a topic that really emerged in the last two years. You can't pull it from their hands," Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children's Technology Review, said this week at a New York panel titled "Baby Brains and Video Games."
According to a late 2011 survey of 2,200 parents and children in Britain and the United States, 15 percent of kids between three and eight had used their parents' iPad. Nine percent had their own iPad, while 20 percent had their own iPod.
The same study, by the marketing agency Kids Industries, found 77 percent of parents believed that using tablets was beneficial for their children and the same number thought the gadgets helped develop creativity.
Amid warnings from some researchers that tablets can cause developmental difficulties and problems including autism or attention deficit disorder, experts at the forum recommended not rushing to judgment.
"Technology maybe fosters some things and dampens others," Rosemarie Truglio, from the children's TV producers Sesame Workshop, said. "It's definitely about balance."
Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Education Initiative at the New American Foundation, said that critics blaming devices like the iPad for child developmental problems should differentiate "between a cause and an association."
Still, Guernsey, author of "Screen Time: How Electronic Media -- From Baby Videos to Educational Software -- Affects Your Young Child," urged parents to establish limits on use of electronic devices.
"Can they focus on a conversation, not look a screen for 30 minutes?" she asked.
Truglio noted that "researchers have proven they need adult-child interaction," in addition to the electronic helper. "Interactive doesn't mean educational," she said.
Annie Murphy Paul, author of "How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives," said there's no need to panic.
"Your brain is changing all the time, each time you learn something new," she said.

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Rapper "ZOEJA" Releases Trayvon Martin Tribute Calling for Race Riots - burning of houses, and the death of Zimmerman -

Rapper "ZOEJA" Releases Trayvon Martin Tribute Calling for Race Riots - burning of houses, and the death of Zimmerman -

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Vegans bash Starbucks for beetle coloring in frappuccinos - Stop using bugs to color your strawberry colored drinks -

Vegans bash Starbucks for beetle coloring in frappuccinos - Stop using bugs to color your strawberry colored drinks - 

Starbucks has the vegan community seeing red over what it recently began using to color its Strawberry Frappuccinos: beetles.

That's beetles as in ground up cochineal beetles — mostly found in Mexico and South America.
Gross as that may sound, it's a common, government-approved food coloring used widely throughout the food industry. It's in everything from some Yoplait yogurts to three Kellogg's Pop-Tarts flavors.
How Starbucks has evolved over the last 40 years
A Vegan website, ThisDishIsVeg.com, this month warned its readers that Strawberry Frappuccino was no longer vegan and now is using the beetles for coloring. Starbucks made the switch in January when it aggressively moved away from artificial ingredients.

For Starbucks, which is eager to get artificial ingredients out of its food and drinks, it's an unexpected PR problem. Never mind that Frappuccinos, in total, represent a $2 billion global business for Starbucks. "This is the quintessential modern day PR crisis," says PR expert Katie Delahaye Paine. "You try to be good and green, and someone is going to get you for it."
Daelyn Fortney, co-founder of the vegan website ThisDishIsVeg.com, was informed of the change by an anonymous Starbucks barista. She wants Starbucks to go back to using a vegan coloring like red beet, black carrots or purple sweet potatoes. She's posted a petition from her group on the website Change.org, under the heading, "Starbucks: Stop using bugs to color your strawberry colored drinks." Late Wednesday, it had 779 signatures.
"This was known as a drink that vegans can safely consume," she says. "We're not trying to cause any problems. Our point is, vegans are drinking this and it's not vegan."
But Starbucks says it's simply trying to do the right thing. "At Starbucks, we have the goal to minimize artificial ingredients in our products," spokeswoman Lisa Passe says.
Nutrition experts say it's the right idea, but the wrong execution. "Starbucks should be praised for getting rid of artificial ingredients," says Michael Jacobson, executive director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. But since some folks have allergic reactions to insects, he says, "Strawberry Frapuccinno should be colored with strawberries."

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A single drug can shrink or cure human breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver and prostate tumours in mice -

A single drug can shrink or cure human breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver and prostate tumours in mice - 

A single drug can shrink or cure human breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver and prostate tumours that have been transplanted into mice, researchers have found. The treatment, an antibody that blocks a “do not eat” signal normally displayed on tumour cells, coaxes the immune system to destroy the cancer cells.

A decade ago, biologist Irving Weissman, of the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif., discovered that leukemia cells produce higher levels of a protein called CD47 than do healthy cells. CD47, he and other scientists found, is also displayed on healthy blood cells; it’s a marker that blocks the immune system from destroying the cells as they circulate. Cancers take advantage of this flag to trick the immune system into ignoring them. In the past few years, Weissman’s lab showed that blocking CD47 with an antibody cured some cases of lymphomas and leukemias in mice by stimulating the immune system to recognize the cancer cells as invaders. Now, he and colleagues have shown that the CD47-blocking antibody may have a far wider impact than just blood cancers.

“What we’ve shown is that CD47 isn’t just important on leukemias and lymphomas,” says Weissman. “It’s on every single human primary tumour that we tested.” Moreover, Weissman’s lab found that cancer cells always had higher levels of CD47 than did healthy cells. How much CD47 a tumour made could predict the survival odds of a patient.

To determine whether blocking CD47 was beneficial, the scientists exposed tumour cells to macrophages, a type of immune cell, and anti-CD47 molecules in petri dishes. Without the drug, the macrophages ignored the cancerous cells. But when the CD47 was present, the macrophages engulfed and destroyed cancer cells from all tumour types.

Next, the team transplanted human tumours into the feet of mice, where tumours can be easily monitored. When they treated the rodents with anti-CD47, the tumours shrank and did not spread to the rest of the body. In mice given human bladder cancer tumours, for example, 10 of 10 untreated mice had cancer that spread to their lymph nodes. Only one of 10 mice treated with anti-CD47 had a lymph node with signs of cancer. Moreover, the implanted tumour often got smaller after treatment — colon cancers transplanted into the mice shrank to less than one-third of their original size, on average. And in five mice with breast cancer tumours, anti-CD47 eliminated all signs of the cancer cells, and the animals remained cancer-free four months after the treatment stopped.

“We showed that even after the tumour has taken hold, the antibody can either cure the tumour or slow its growth and prevent metastasis,” says Weissman.

Although macrophages also attacked blood cells expressing CD47 when mice were given the antibody, the researchers found that the decrease in blood cells was short-lived; the animals turned up production of new blood cells to replace those they lost from the treatment, the team reported online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cancer researcher Tyler Jacks, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that although the new study is promising, more research is needed to see whether the results hold true in humans.

Read more -

OnStar Lets You Track Your Spouse for $0.12 a Day -

OnStar Lets You Track Your Spouse for $0.12 a Day - 

Suspicious spouses used to have to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars on private investigators to keep tabs on their significant other, but a new feature from General Motors’ OnStar division can do it for just over a dime a day.

The new service, dubbed Family Link, allows owners of OnStar-equipped vehicles from Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and Cadillac to track a family member through the OnStar website and receive email and text alerts when the vehicle arrives at a location or at a specific time.

“We are depending on subscribers to tell other family members that they’ve enabled the service on the vehicle.” –OnStar

OnStar vice president of subscriber services, Joanne Finnom, says Family Link is something subscribers have been asking for, and last year the company responded, enlisting 4,500 OnStar customers to test the service. Family Link was a hit, with Finnom saying the testers “told us it provides them peace of mind by staying connected to their family when they’re on the road.”

Family Link is being pitched to parents who want to keep tabs on their kids – the latest in a long series of products targeting minors with no legal recourse – but it could be used to track anyone driving an OnStar-equipped vehicle enrolled in the service. But with all location tracking services, the privacy and security implications are murky at best.

“It’s troubling,” says Parker Higgins of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Any time a new service like this is introduced you have to think beyond what’s described in the press release.”

OnStar representative Cheryl McCarron concedes that, “We are depending on subscribers to tell other family members that they’ve enabled the service on the vehicle,” but that’s an obvious leap in trust, not to mention the security issues surrounding multiple family members having access to a shared account with one username and password.

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Rise in Allergies Linked to War on Bacteria -

Rise in Allergies Linked to War on Bacteria - 

“Allergic diseases have reached pandemic levels,” begins David Artis’s new paper in Nature Medicine. Artis goes on to say that, while everyone knows allergies are caused by a combination of factors involving both nature and nurture, that knowledge doesn’t help us identify what is culpable — it is not at all clear exactly what is involved, or how the relevant players promote allergic responses.

There is some evidence that one of the causes lies within our guts. Epidemiological studies have linked changes in the species present in commensal bacteria — the trillions of microorganisms that reside in our colon — to the development of allergic diseases. (Typically, somewhere between 1,000 and 15,000 different bacterial species inhabit our guts.) And immunologists know that signaling molecules produced by some immune cells mediate allergic inflammation.

Animal studies have provided the link between these two, showing that commensal bacteria promote allergic inflammation. But these researchers wanted to know more about how.

To figure it out, Artis and his colleagues at Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine treated mice with a broad range of oral antibiotics to diminish or deplete their commensal bacteria and then examined different immunological parameters. They used a combination of five different antibiotics, ranging from ampicillin, which is fairly run of the mill, to vancomycin, which is kind of a nasty one.

They found that mice treated with antibiotics had elevated levels of antibodies known to be important in allergies and asthma (IgE class antibodies). The elevated antibodies in turn increased the levels of basophils, immune cells that play a role in inflammation, both allergic and otherwise.

This connection doesn’t only apply to mice but also to humans who have high levels of IgE for genetic reasons. People with genetically elevated levels of IgE are hypersusceptible to eczema and infections, and antibodies that neutralize IgE are used to treat asthma.

The antibiotic treatments and IgE did not act by promoting the survival of mature basophils, but rather by promoting the proliferation of basophil precursor cells in the bone marrow. Commensal bacteria limit this proliferative capacity.

That discovery is the real insight contributed by this paper. It has been well known for some time that IgE mediates allergies. But no one knew that bacteria living in the gut may use it to check the growth of immune precursor cells in the bone marrow. The finding might have wide-ranging implications and help us make sense of other chronic inflammatory disease states that have also been associated with changes in this bacterial populations. Commensal bacteria might impact these other inflammatory conditions — including cancer, infection, and autoimmune disorders — through this mechanism, as well.

Experts have puzzled over the enormous explosion of asthma and allergies in recent years, and been unable to pinpoint the cause. This paper suggests that perhaps the overuse of antibacterial products could be to blame.

Read more -

FBI Taught Agents They Could ‘Bend or Suspend the Law’ - and can gather information protected under US Constitution -

FBI Taught Agents They Could ‘Bend or Suspend the Law’ - and can gather information protected under US Constitution - 

The FBI taught its agents that they could sometimes “bend or suspend the law” in their hunt for terrorists and criminals. Other FBI instructional material, discovered during a months-long review of FBI counterterrorism training, warned agents against shaking hands with “Asians” and said Arabs were prone to “Jekyll & Hyde temper tantrums.”

These are just some of the disturbing results of the FBI’s six-month review into how the Bureau trained its counterterrorism agents. That review, now complete, did not result in a single disciplinary action for any instructor. Nor did it mandate the retraining of any FBI agent exposed to what the Bureau concedes was inappropriate material. Nor did it look at any intelligence reports that might have been influenced by the training. All that has a powerful senator saying that the review represents a “failure to adequately address” the problem.

“This is not an effective way to protect the United States,” Sen. Richard Durbin, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee overseeing the FBI, tells Danger Room about the inappropriate FBI counterterrorism training. “It’s stunning that these things could be said to members of our FBI in training. It will not make them more effective in their work and won’t make America safer.”

At the least, Durbin adds, “those responsible for some of the worst parts of this should be reassigned. I want FBI agents who were exposed to some of these comments to at least have a chance to be spoken to and given valid, positive information that can help them.”

One FBI PowerPoint — disclosed in a letter Durbin sent to FBI Director Robert Mueller on Tuesday (.PDF) and shared with Danger Room — stated: “Under certain circumstances, the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law to impinge on the freedom of others.” An incredulous Durbin told Danger Room, “Time and time again when that is done, it has not made us safer.” Like other excerpts from FBI documents Danger Room reviewed for this story, it was not dated and did not include additional context explaining what those “circumstances” might be.

FBI spokesman Christopher Allen did not dispute the documents’ authenticity. He said he would not share the full documents with Danger Room, and was “unable to provide” additional information about their context, including any indication of how many FBI agents were exposed to them.

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Tacocopter would deliver tacos via unmanned drone -

Tacocopter would deliver tacos via unmanned drone - 

The ability to have tacos delivered at their feet is an idea many people wouldn't hesitate to get behind — especially when the tacos are being delivered by a robot.

The Tacocopter — an unmanned drone helicopter that gives customers tacos on demand — would without a doubt be wildly popular were it to exist throughout the nation.

Taco-hungry Americans could order and pay for tacos on their smartphones, which would supply GPS coordinates to the drone. Once ordered, the tacos would be delivered as long as the customer remained in the ordering location.

It exists in the Bay Area — in concept, at least. For now, the Tacocopter, which has existed since July 2011, has been grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration, as would be any unmanned commercial drone. According to FAA regulations, "unmanned aerial vehicles" cannot currently be used for commercial purposes.

There are other minor problems with the project, such as its ability to navigate dangerous terrain or to keep the food it carries warm.

That hasn't stopped the Tacocopter's creators from dreaming big, though. They hope the Tacocopter website will serve as fodder for discussion of the future of food delivery — think of the implications for tailgating or outdoor barbecuing, for example.

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Student Loans on Rise -- for Kindergarten - more parents are turning to loans years before children start college -

Student Loans on Rise -- for Kindergarten - more parents are turning to loans years before children start college - 

Instead of saving up for their sons' college education, Bill Dunham and his wife are taking out loans for high school. Their eldest son will begin ninth grade at a school in Boston where annual tuition runs around $10,000 -- and they already pay $5,000 a year for their younger child. A project manager for a mechanical construction company, Dunham says the schools referred him to lenders who specialize in pre-college education loans. He's taking a loan to cover his son's full high school tuition, which he plans to repay over two years. "If we had the money, we'd pay it now," he says.


Why College Aid Makes College More Expensive
Endowments Grow, but Tuition Stays High
A New Challenge for College-Aid Seekers
It used to be that families first signed up for education loans when their child enrolled in college, but a growing number of parents are seeking tuition assistance as soon as kindergarten. Though data is scarce, private school experts and the small number of lenders who provide loans for kindergarten through 12th grade say pre-college loans are becoming more popular. Your Tuition Solution, one of the largest lenders in this space, says demand for the upcoming year is already up: This month, the total dollar amount of loans families requested rose 10% compared to a year ago; at that pace, the company expects its total funding to rise to $20 million for 2012-13. Separately, First Marblehead, which exited the market in 2008, reentered last year as demand for loans began to rise.

Much of this demand is coming from high-income families. Roughly 20% of families that applied for aid to pay for their children's kindergarten through 12th grade private school education had incomes of $150,000 or more, according to 2010-11 data, the latest from the National Association of Independent Schools. That's up from just 6% in 2002-03. Those who don't get approved for free aid, like grants, increasingly turn to loans, experts say.

For parents who sign up for pre-college loans the risks can be significant. To begin with, they could be repaying the loans for a long time. Sallie Mae's and Your Tuition Solution's pre-college loans have repayment periods of up to three and seven years, respectively. Loans at the Hawken School in Chesterland, Ohio, don't have to be repaid until after the child graduates college. That means parents could be on the hook to repay K-12 and college loans simultaneously. Already, about one in six parents of college graduates have loans, and they're projected to owe nearly $34,000 on average this year, according to FinAid.org. Taking on loans before college leaves parents at risk of owing larger sums of debt, experts say.

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Millions of dollars worth of loonies and toonies spilled onto Highway -

Millions of dollars worth of loonies and toonies spilled onto Highway - 

Provincial police and Brinks employees are on the scene of a serious multiple-vehicle accident north of Kirkland Lake guarding millions of dollars worth of loonies and toonies spilled onto Highway 11.

OPP Inspector Mark Andrews told the Toronto Star Wednesday the load of coins is unofficially reported to be worth at least $3 million and added there were unconfirmed reports of some passersby helping themselves.

“There is lots of security there now,” he said.

Andrews said two occupants of the large Brinks truck are in serious condition in hospital after it went out of control and struck a rock face shortly before 4 a.m. The Brinks truck was then struck by a van and a tractor trailer, which spilled its cargo of candies on the roadway as well.

“We weren’t able to get the second person out the Brinks vehicle until well after 8 a.m. It took quite a bit of time to cut them out,” he said.

Andrews, the OPP’s traffic and marine manager for northeastern region, said the two vehicles tried to avoid the wrecked Brinks truck but ended up smashing into it just south of Ramore, between Kirkland Lake and South Porcupine.

“Armoured vehicles have been involved in collisions before but they are usually not compromised so that may give you an indication of the severity of the impact,” said Andrews, a 28-year veteran of the OPP.

“We have never had a high value load like this spilled … we have never had a Brinks truck of any nature ever split open on us before.”

Andrews noted that because the highway is only two lanes and the accident in a remote area there was no opportunity for a detour, adding that northbound traffic was being rerouted to Highway 17. In addition, police also called the provincial environment ministry because the truck’s saddle tanks ruptured spilling diesel fuel.

Andrews told the Star “we told anecdotally that there may have been some people when things initially started to unfold” help themselves to the coins “but I am hoping that it was more speculation than it was fact.”

“I am really hopeful that proves to be a falsehood that people weren’t jamming stuff into their pockets while there were people screaming for help,” he said.

Brinks could not be reached for comment.


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A New Career Option For Ex-Cons: White-Collar Jail-Prep Tutor -

A New Career Option For Ex-Cons: White-Collar Jail-Prep Tutor - 

From insider trading to getting ready for life "on the inside" -- The Wall Street Journal reports that convicted white-collar criminals are increasingly paying for prison prep from former inmates.

Lessons include avoiding physical altercations (instead of raising your fists to a truculent fellow prisoner, curl your body into a ball on the floor) and deciphering jailhouse lingo: '"A 'cheese eater' is an informant. A 'blanket party' is throwing a blanket over an inmate, then beating him. 'Diesel therapy' is when trouble-making inmates are shackled and driven around in the back of a prison bus."

Among the "the panicky white-collar criminals" said to be using this service is Garrett Bauer, who "made tens of millions of dollars illegally trading on stock tips." Bauer used a distinctly modest financial metaphor to describe his plans for surviving the federal hoosegow: "I'm going to be new, so you don't want to stick your two cents in."

 Bauer's new-found timidity should serve him well in a setting where a man is expected to say "excuse me" when he bumps into someone, whether or not it's his fault. Other rules of prison etiquette include never sitting on another man's bunk, never watching TV in another man's chair, never reaching across someone else's plate at mealtime ("That could be immediately answered with a fork in your arm," says Mr. [Patrick] Boyce, a former stockbroker who completed 11 months in the pen in 2004"), and never removing another man's laundry from the machine.


10 Reasons Why The Reign Of The Dollar As The World Reserve Currency Is About To Come To An End -

10 Reasons Why The Reign Of The Dollar As The World Reserve Currency Is About To Come To An End - 

The U.S. dollar has probably been the closest thing to a true global currency that the world has ever seen.  For decades, the use of the U.S. dollar has been absolutely dominant in international trade.  This has had tremendous benefits for the U.S. financial system and for U.S. consumers, and it has given the U.S. government tremendous power and influence around the globe.  Today, more than 60 percent of all foreign currency reserves in the world are in U.S. dollars.  But there are big changes on the horizon.  The mainstream media in the United States has been strangely silent about this, but some of the biggest economies on earth have been making agreements with each other to move away from using the U.S. dollar in international trade.  There are also some oil producing nations which have begun selling oil in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, which is a major threat to the petrodollar system which has been in place for nearly four decades.  And big international institutions such as the UN and the IMF have even been issuing official reports about the need to move away form the U.S. dollar and toward a new global reserve currency.  So the reign of the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency is definitely being threatened, and the coming shift in international trade is going to have massive implications for the U.S. economy.

A lot of this is being fueled by China.  China has the second largest economy on the face of the earth, and the size of the Chinese economy is projected to pass the size of the U.S. economy by 2016.  In fact, one economist is even projecting that the Chinese economy will be three times larger than the U.S. economy by the year 2040.

So China is sitting there and wondering why the U.S. dollar should continue to be so preeminent if the Chinese economy is about to become the number one economy on the planet.

Over the past few years, China and other emerging powers such as Russia have been been quietly making agreements to move away from the U.S. dollar in international trade.  The supremacy of the U.S. dollar is not nearly as solid as most Americans believe that it is.

As the U.S. economy continues to fade, it is going to be really hard to argue that the U.S. dollar should continue to function as the primary reserve currency of the world.  Things are rapidly changing, and most Americans have no idea where these trends are taking us.

The following are 10 reasons why the reign of the dollar as the world reserve currency is about to come to an end….

#1 China And Japan Are Dumping the U.S. Dollar In Bilateral Trade

A few months ago, the second largest economy on earth (China) and the third largest economy on earth (Japan) struck a deal which will promote the use of their own currencies (rather than the U.S. dollar) when trading with each other.  This was an incredibly important agreement that was virtually totally ignored by the U.S. media.  The following is from a BBC report about that agreement….

China and Japan have unveiled plans to promote direct exchange of their currencies in a bid to cut costs for companies and boost bilateral trade.

The deal will allow firms to convert the Chinese and Japanese currencies directly into each other.

Currently businesses in both countries need to buy US dollars before converting them into the desired currency, adding extra costs.

#2 The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Plan To Start Using Their Own Currencies When Trading With Each Other

The BRICS continue to flex their muscles.  A new agreement will promote the use of their own national currencies when trading with each other rather than the U.S. dollar.  The following is from a news source in India….

The five major emerging economies of BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — are set to inject greater economic momentum into their grouping by signing two pacts for promoting intra-BRICS trade at the fourth summit of their leaders here Thursday.

The two agreements that will enable credit facility in local currency for businesses of BRICS countries will be signed in the presence of the leaders of the five countries, Sudhir Vyas, secretary (economic relations) in the external affairs ministry, told reporters here.

The pacts are expected to scale up intra-BRICS trade which has been growing at the rate of 28 percent over the last few years, but at $230 billion, remains much below the potential of the five economic powerhouses.

#3 The Russia/China Currency Agreement

Russia and China have been using their own national currencies when trading with each other for more than a year now.  Leaders from both Russia and China have been strongly advocating for a new global reserve currency for several years, and both nations seem determined to break the power that the U.S. dollar has over international trade.

#4 The Growing Use Of Chinese Currency In Africa

Who do you think is Africa’s biggest trading partner?

It isn’t the United States.

In 2009, China became Africa’s biggest trading partner, and China is now aggressively seeking to expand the use of Chinese currency on that continent.

A report from Africa’s largest bank, Standard Bank, recently stated the following….

“We expect at least $100 billion (about R768 billion) in Sino-African trade – more than the total bilateral trade between China and Africa in 2010 – to be settled in the renminbi by 2015.”

China seems absolutely determined to change the way that international trade is done.  At this point, approximately 70,000 Chinese companies are using Chinese currency in cross-border transactions.

#5 The China/United Arab Emirates Deal

China and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to ditch the U.S. dollar and use their own currencies in oil transactions with each other.

The UAE is a fairly small player, but this is definitely a threat to the petrodollar system.  What will happen to the petrodollar if other oil producing countries in the Middle East follow suit?

#6 Iran

Iran has been one of the most aggressive nations when it comes to moving away from the U.S. dollar in international trade.  For example, it has been reported that India will begin to use gold to buy oil from Iran.

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran are not likely to go away any time soon, and Iran is likely to continue to do what it can to inflict pain on the United States in the financial world.

#7 The China/Saudi Arabia Relationship

Who imports the most oil from Saudi Arabia?

It is not the United States.

Rather, it is China.

As I wrote about the other day, China imported 1.39 million barrels of oil per day from Saudi Arabia in February, which was a 39 percent increase from one year earlier.

Saudi Arabia and China have teamed up to construct a massive new oil refinery in Saudi Arabia, and leaders from both nations have been working to aggressively expand trade between the two nations.

So how long is Saudi Arabia going to stick with the petrodollar if China is their most important customer?

That is a very important question.

#8 The United Nations Has Been Pushing For A New World Reserve Currency

The United Nations has been issuing reports that openly call for an alternative to the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency of the world.

In particular, one UN report envisions “a new global reserve system” in which the U.S. no longer has dominance….

“A new global reserve system could be created, one that no longer relies on the United States dollar as the single major reserve currency.”

#9 The IMF Has Been Pushing For A New World Reserve Currency

The International Monetary Fund has also published a series of reportscalling for the U.S. dollar to be replaced as the reserve currency of the world.

In particular, one IMF paper entitled “Reserve Accumulation and International Monetary Stability” that was published a while back actually proposed that a future global currency be named the “Bancor” and that a future global central bank could be put in charge of issuing it….

“A global currency, bancor, issued by a global central bank (see Supplement 1, section V) would be designed as a stable store of value that is not tied exclusively to the conditions of any particular economy. As trade and finance continue to grow rapidly and global integration increases, the importance of this broader perspective is expected to continue growing.”

#10 Most Of The Rest Of The World Hates The United States

Global sentiment toward the United States has dramatically shifted, and this should not be underestimated.

Decades ago, we were one of the most loved nations on earth.

Now we are one of the most hated.

If you doubt this, just do some international traveling.

Even in Europe (where we are supposed to have friends), Americans are treated like dirt.  Many American travelers have resorted to wearing Canadian pins so that they will not be treated like garbage while traveling over there.

If the rest of the world still loved us, they would probably be glad to continue using the U.S. dollar.  But because we are now so unpopular, that gives other nations even more incentive to dump the dollar in international trade.

So what will happen if the reign of the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency comes to an end?

Well, some of the potential effects were described in a recent article by Michael Payne….

“The demise of the dollar will also bring radical changes to the American lifestyle. When this economic tsunami hits America, it will make the 2008 recession and its aftermath look like no more than a slight bump in the road. It will bring very undesirable changes to the American lifestyle through massive inflation, high interest rates on mortgages and cars, and substantial increases in the cost of food, clothing and gasoline; it will have a detrimental effect on every aspect of our lives.”

Most Americans don’t realize how low the price of gasoline in the United States is compared to much of the rest of the world.

There are areas in Europe where they pay about twice what we do for gasoline.  Yes, taxes have a lot to do with that, but the fact that the U.S. dollar is used for almost all oil transactions also plays a significant role.

Today, America consumes nearly a quarter of the world’s oil.  Our entire economy is based upon our ability to cheaply transport goods and services over vast distances.

So what happens if the price of gasoline doubles or triples from where it is at now?

In addition, if the reign of the U.S. dollar as global reserve currency ends, the U.S. government is going to have a much harder time financing its debt.

Right now, there is a huge demand for U.S. dollars and for U.S. government debt since countries around the world have to keep huge reserves of U.S. currency lying around for the sake of international trade.

But what if that all changed?

What if the appetite for U.S. dollars and U.S. debt dried up dramatically?

That is something to think about.

At the moment, the global financial system is centered on the United States.

But that will not always be the case.

The things talked about in this article will not happen overnight, but it is important to note that these changes are picking up steam.

Under the right conditions, a shift in momentum can become a landslide or an avalanche.

Clearly, the conditions are right for a significant move away from the U.S. dollar in international trade.

So when will this major shift occur?

Only time will tell.


Made from Genetically Modified Bacteria Waste, Aspartame Risks Public Health -

Made from Genetically Modified Bacteria Waste, Aspartame Risks Public Health - 

Aspartame is one of the most used artificial sweeteners in the food supply today. It also happens to be one of the most dangerous.

Aspartame is used in thousands of products as a substitute to sugar, though consumers would actually be better off eating regular sugar.

Specifically, the toxic substance is often found in diet soft drinks and various candies.

You should also be aware that aspartame is even present in a number of lesser-known conventional products as well.

Millions either knowingly or unknowingly consume aspartame on a daily basis. However, if the public was aware of the various dangers aspartame poses to individual health, they would stop — or would they?

Aspartame is an addictive substance. Most people who consume diet sodas regularly soon develop a craving for it. This is because of aspartame’s addictive quality.

Soon after consuming the ingredient on a normal basis, many people find themselves unable to kick the habit.

This is concerning due to the fact that aspartame has been linked to a number of diseases, can impair the immune system, and is even known to cause cancer. Aspartame has even been found to create tumors in lab rats.

One study showed that of 48 rats experimented on, up to 67 percent of all female rats developed tumors roughly the size of golf balls or larger.

This is glaringly in contrast to the perceived nature of what a ‘sugar free alternative’ would entail, which is generally thought to be a ‘healthy’ substitute to sugar.

Aspartame works as an excitotoxin, stimulating a response in cells to simulate the effects of sweetness without actually being sweet. Over exertion of these cells leads to the various health conditions that currently wreak havoc on the public.

Excitotoxins have been found to stimulate cancer growth and metastasis. Aspartame, essentially, feeds cancer cells.

If this weren’t enough to convince you to drop the diet soda habit, the process by which aspartame is made involves a highly toxic and volatile and genetically engineered form of bacteria waste — hardly something that would be considered safe by a reasonable standard.

And yet, the ‘safe and reasonable’ FDA has approved aspartame for use. Knowing the gamete of health risks that aspartame is responsible for, and knowing the history of FDA approved products, your health becomes your own responsibility.

Being aware of its presence in over 6,000 products and counting is essential.


Economy must be getting better - 20% Less Bank Robbery's compared to last year -

Economy must be getting better - 20% Less Bank Robbery's compared to last year - 

During the third quarter of 2011, there were 1,094 reported violations of the Federal Bank Robbery and Incidental Crimes Statue, a decrease from the 1,325 reported violations in the same quarter of 2010.1 According to statistics released today by the FBI, there were 1,081 robberies, 11 burglaries, two larcenies, and one extortion of a financial institution2 reported between July 1, 2011 and September 30, 2011.

Highlights of the report include:

Loot was taken in 89 percent of the incidents, totaling more than $9.3 million.
Of the loot taken, 25 percent of it, or more than $1.9 million, was recovered and returned to financial institutions.
Bank crimes most frequently occurred on Friday. Regardless of the day, the time frame when bank crimes occurred most frequently was between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
Acts of violence were committed in 5 percent of the incidents, resulting in 18 injuries, three deaths, and four persons taken hostage.3
Demand notes4 were the most common modus operandi used.
Most violations occurred in the Western region of the U.S., with 375 reported incidents.
These statistics were recorded as of October 28, 2011. Note that not all bank crimes are reported to the FBI, and therefore the report is not a complete statistical compilation of all bank crimes that occurred in the U.S.


A real-life Hamburglar has struck at a Maine McDonald's -

A real-life Hamburglar has struck at a Maine McDonald's - 

Police say a young man, seemingly inspired by the pattie purloining character once featured in McDonald's advertising campaigns, ran between a car and the takeout window at the Augusta restaurant Sunday night as an employee handed a bag of food to a driver.
A witness flagged down an officer leaving a nearby convenience store.
Lt. Christopher Massey, acting on a description of the hungry thief, found him in the parking lot of a rival fast food restaurant diving into a McDonald's bag.
Massey tells the Kennebec Journal the suspect swore and ran into the woods. He was never caught.
Massey says the three young men who had their food stolen didn't know the burger thief.
McDonald's replaced the stolen food, worth about $20.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/03/27/hamburglar-strikes-at-maine-mcdonalds/?test=latestnews

Chinese Gangster's Stolen Cell Phone Photos Go Viral -

Chinese Gangster's Stolen Cell Phone Photos Go Viral -

The new viral meme of the week: Chinese Gangster-ing.

Photos of a man who is thought to be a Chinese gangster are spreading across the Internet. The portly tough-guy throws caution to the wind as he bares his belly while showing off piles of money, fancy cars and, of course, a puppy.

There is no information on who the man in the photos is, or who uploaded them, but nonetheless they are here for our veiwing pleasure:

Read more -

Monday, 26 March 2012

'Cat-sized' rats invade Florida Keys; Grow Up to 9lbs... -

'Cat-sized' rats invade Florida Keys; Grow Up to 9lbs... - 

The Florida Keys' battle with an invasive species of giant rats isn't over yet.

On Grassy Key, a glut of Gambian giant pouched rats — originally bred and released by a local — have been foiling conservation officials' efforts to eradicate them, KeysNet reported Sunday.

Officials worry that if the hungry cat-sized rats make it to the mainland, they could wipe out some crops and upset delicate ecological balance.

"We thought we had them whipped as of 2009," said Scott Hardin, exotic species coordinator for Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

About 20 of the creatures, which grow to nine pounds and are often mistaken for possums, were trapped on the island during a trio of commission efforts last year, Hardin said.

"I would not imagine there's more than another couple of dozen at most. We've caught them all within a half-mile of each other," he said.

"We think they have not moved far but they clearly reproduced," he added.

Plans are in place to begin another round of trapping of the vermin in July or August.

The massive rodents first appeared on the island over ten years ago after a local exotic pets breeder let some escape, and they've proved plenty pesky since.


Scientists: Venice sinking five times faster than thought -

Scientists: Venice sinking five times faster than thought - 

Venice appears to have more nicknames than street names. It’s known as the "Queen of the Adriatic," the "City of Water," "City of Masks," "City of Bridges," "The Floating City," and "City of Canals."
But is Venice destined to become "The Divers' Paradise" much faster than we thought? New research by U.S. scientists suggests it is sinking more than five times faster than experts in Venice believe.
Saying that the city is sinking is just about as obvious as saying that the wind will always blow in Chicago. It’s just a thing of nature. And there’s nothing anybody can do to stop it.  

While Venetians and tourists know that Venice's appeal is due to its undeniable beauty, with its Gothic and Byzantine palazzos appearing to float on the canals and lagoon, much of the city's allure comes from the fact that it appears to be disappearing.
So you don’t need a scientist to tell you that Venice is sinking. In fact, sometimes they tell you otherwise. Back in the 1980s Venetians rejoiced at the news that the city had finally stabilized.  But, to use an Italian sailor’s jargon, that theory “loses water from all sides.”
It’s quite obvious to the naked eye (or rather, to the naked ankle when it floods) that parts of Venice are flooding more and more often. To tourists, walking in a flooded St. Mark’s Square might be a unique photo opportunity, but to Venetians it’s a sign of things to come. 


Popcorn Has More Antioxidants Than Fruit and Vegetables, Study Says -

Popcorn Has More Antioxidants Than Fruit and Vegetables, Study Says - 

Popcorn, when it's not slathered in butter and coated in salt, is already known to be a healthy snack food and now a group of scientists say it may even top fruits and vegetables in antioxidant levels.
The researchers said they found great amounts of antioxidants known as polyphenols in popcorn and explained that the substances are more concentrated in the snack, which is made up of about four percent water, while the antioxidants are more diluted in fruits and vegetables, many of which are made of up 90 percent water.
That's the same principle that gives dried fruits an antioxidant edge over their fresh counterparts.

One serving of popcorn has up to 300mg of polyphenols, which is much higher than previously believed and nearly double the 160mg for all fruits per serving, according to the researchers, who presented their findings at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego.
They also found that the crunchy hulls of the popcorn have the highest concentration of polyphenols and fiber.
"Those hulls deserve more respect," said researcher Joe Vinson of the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. "They are nutritional gold nuggets."
The scientists warned, though, preparation is key to culling popcorn's health benefits.
"Air-popped popcorn has the lowest number of calories, of course," Vinson guided.

Read more: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/health/2012/03/26/popcorn-has-more-antioxidants-than-fruit-and-vegetables-study-says/