Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Monday, 30 September 2013

Half Of US Population Accounts For Only 2.9% Of Healthcare Spending; 1% Responsible For 21.4% Of Expenditures -

Half Of US Population Accounts For Only 2.9% Of Healthcare Spending; 1% Responsible For 21.4% Of Expenditures - 

With the topic of peak class polarization once again permeating the airwaves and clogging up NSA servers, and terms like 1% this or that being thrown around for political punchlines and other talking points, one aspect where social inequality has gotten less prominence, yet where the spread between the "1%" and everyone else is perhaps most substantial is in realm of healthcare spending: perhaps the biggest threat to the long-term sustainability of the US debt picture and economy in general. The numbers are stunning.

According to the latest data compiled by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in 2010, just 1% of the population accounted for a whopping 21.4% of total health care expenditures with an annual mean expenditure of $87,570. Just below them, 5% of the population accounted for nearly 50% of all healthcare spending. Just as stunning is the "other" side: the lower 50 percent of the population ranked by their expenditures accounted for only 2.8% of the total for 2009 and 2010 respectively. Perhaps in addition to bashing the "1%" of wealth holders, a relatively straightforward and justified exercise in the current political climate, it is time for public attention to also turn to the chronic 1% (and 5%)-ers who are the primary issue when it comes to the debt-funding needed to preserve the US welfare state.

More of the report's findings:

In 2009, 1 percent of the population accounted for 21.8 percent of total health care expenditures and 20.5 percent of the population in the top 1 percent retained this ranking in 2009. The bottom half of the expenditure distribution accounted for 2.9 percent of spending in 2009; about three out of four individuals in the bottom 50 percent retained this ranking in 2010.
Those who were in the top decile of spenders in both 2009 and 2010 differed by age, race/ethnicity, sex, health status, and insurance coverage (for those under 65) from those who were in the lower half in both years.
Those in bottom half of health care spenders were more likely to report excellent health status, while those in the top decile of spenders were more likely to be in fair or poor health relative to the overall population.
While 15 percent of persons under age 65 were uninsured for all of 2010, the full year uninsured comprised 26.1 percent of those in the bottom half of spenders for both 2009 and 2010. Only 3.4 percent of those under age 65 who remained in the top decile of spenders in both years were uninsured for all of 2010.
Relative to the overall population, those who remained in the top decile of spenders were more likely to be in fair or poor health, elderly, female, non-Hispanic whites and those with public only coverage. Those who remained in the bottom half of spenders were more likely to be in excellent health, children and young adults, men, Hispanics, and the uninsured.


Art Exhibition Closes After 3 Patrons Suffer Apparent Seizures -

Art Exhibition Closes After 3 Patrons Suffer Apparent Seizures - 

Authorities have temporarily shut down a room-sized art installation with blinking lights in Pittsburgh, Pa. after three visitors reported seizure-like symptoms.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports the work titled “Zee” by Austrian artist Kurt Hentschlager opened Friday in downtown Pittsburgh.

An 18-year-old woman was treated at the scene Sunday afternoon after reporting seizure-like symptoms. District EMS chief Paul Sabol said she was the third person to report ill effects.

Before entering, patrons must sign a waiver that describes the exhibit as "intense stroboscopic light in combination with thick artificial fog, resulting in a loss of spatial orientation." People with photosensitive epilepsy, breathing or heart problems, migraines, claustrophobia or anxiety are warned not to go inside.

Sabol said changes could be made before the exhibit reopens. Hentschlager couldn't be reached for comment.

This isn’t the first time “Zee” has been blamed for seizures. Pittsburgh Cultural Trust spokeswoman Shaunda Miles tells the Tribune-Review that past exhibitions in 2008 and 2009 had similar seizure-like issues.


Flour Made From Insects Will Feed Underfed Populations - The product is called Power Flour -

Flour Made From Insects Will Feed Underfed Populations - The product is called Power Flour - 

Chew on this.

A team of MBA students were the recipients of the 2013 Hult Prize earlier this week, providing them with $1 million in seed money to produce an insect-based, protein-rich flour for feeding malnourished populations in other countries. The product is called Power Flour.

"It's a huge deal because we had a very ambitious but highly executable five-year plan in place," said team captain Mohammed Ashour, whose team hails from McGill University in Montreal. "So winning this prize is a great step in that direction."

Ashour, along with teammates Shobhita Soor, Jesse Pearlstein, Zev Thompson and Gabe Mott, will be immediately working with an advisory board to recruit farmers and workers in Mexico, where a population of roughly 4 million live in slum conditions with widespread malnutrition.

"We will be starting with grasshoppers," Ashour said.

He noted that the insect is already familiar to the local diet and currently sells at a premium because of a three-month harvesting season and because grasshoppers are typically hand-picked. But farmers have already expressed interest in raising grasshoppers on a mass level, according to Ashour.

While for Americans the idea of eating bugs remains mostly a novelty, in other areas of the world they are a common form of protein. The kinds of insects people consume from country to country varies, with the people of Ghana preferring palm weevils and in Botswana, caterpillars. The Power Flour product will vary ingredients according to those habits, adjusting production to the breeding cycles and nutritional profile of each culture.

In order to research their business plan, the members of the McGill Hult team have all consumed "kilos" of insects themselves, Ashour said.

"Shobhita was recently researching in Thailand and tried everything from worms to water beetles," he said.

Even Gabe Mott, who identifies as a vegetarian, has consumed his fair share of basil-flavored palm weevil.

"He's a vegetarian for ethical and ecological reasons, and when he looked at insects, for him it was really not an issue as far as being a source of protein that is ecologically balanced," said Ashour.


'TomTato': Potato-tomato hybrid unveiled... - and were not genetically modified -

'TomTato': Potato-tomato hybrid unveiled... - and were not genetically modified - 

TomTato plant

A plant that produces both tomatoes and potatoes, called the TomTato, has been developed for the UK market.

Ipswich-based horticultural firm Thompson and Morgan said the hybrid plants were not genetically modified.

Similar plants have been created in the UK, but the firm said it was thought to be the first time they had been produced on a commercial scale.

Guy Barter, of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), said it was looking at the plant with "real interest".

Mr Barter said many of these plants - created by a technique known as grafting - had been created before but taste had previously been a problem.

"We're looking at it with real interest because Thompson and Morgan are a really reputable firm with a lot to lose, but I wouldn't rule out that it could be a very valuable plant to them," said Mr Barter, who is a contributor to BBC Gardener's World.

"In the past we've never had any faith in the plants - they've not been very good - but grafting has come on leaps and bounds in recent years.

"Many people don't have that much space in their gardens and I imagine this sort of product would appeal to them."

Thompson and Morgan director Paul Hansord claimed the tomatoes were tastier than most shop-bought tomatoes and said the plant had taken a decade of work.

"It has been very difficult to achieve because the tomato stem and the potato stem have to be the same thickness for the graft to work," he said.

"It is a very highly skilled operation. We have seen similar products. However, on closer inspection the potato is planted in a pot with a tomato planted in the same pot - our plant is one plant and produces no potato foliage."

The firm said the plants last for one season and by the time the tomatoes are ready for picking, the potatoes can be dug up.

It added both ends of the plant had been tested for alpha-solanine - a poison that can be produced in both crops depending on growing and storage conditions - and it had been certified as safe.

A similar product, dubbed the "Potato Tom", was launched in garden centres in New Zealand this week.


Sunday, 29 September 2013

MIT, Harvard scientists accidentally create real-life lightsaber -

MIT, Harvard scientists accidentally create real-life lightsaber - 

The force is clearly with them.

In a reported first, researchers at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a newfangled technology that theoretically could be used to construct an actual lightsaber.

Until now, photons, or the mass-less particles that constitute light, were thought to not interact, but rather simply pass through each other, just two beams of luminescence during a laser-light show.

"The physics of what’s happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.”
- Mikhail Lukin, Harvard physics professor

But according to the Harvard Gazette, scientists at the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms have improbably coaxed photons into hardened molecules you could, in fact, whack against each other in, say, a Bespin-based duel-to-the-death resulting in one person, sadly, losing a hand.

As a lightsaber-wielding Darth Vader once notably noted, “Don’t make me destroy you . . .”

“It’s not an inapt analogy to compare this to lightsabers,” Harvard professor of physics Mikhail Lukin told the Gazette.

“When these photons interact with each other, they’re pushing against and deflecting each other. The physics of what’s happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.”

Added MIT Professor of Physics Vladan Vuletic in an interview with WBZ-TV, “It has long been a dream to have photons of light beams interact with one another. . .We use laser beams and shine them in from six sides and these laser beams actually cool the atoms.

“Maybe a characteristic of a lightsaber is that you have these two light beams and they don’t go through each other as you might expect; they just kind of bounce off each other.”

However, don’t expect the new technology to soon result in a real-life, proverbial “elegant weapon for a more civilized age,” as exiled Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobe once put it.

Instead, the science behind the recent breakthrough will likely lead researchers to realizing the till-now coveted concept of quantum computing.

“What it will be useful for we don’t know yet,” Lukin reportedly said. “But it’s a new state of matter, so we are hopeful that new applications may emerge as we continue to investigate these photonic molecules’ properties.”

Now, if science would only allow the would-be smugglers out there to get their hands on a trusty blaster.

Read more -

Two American journalists are working to expose the role of the US in a “assassination program” -

Two American journalists are working to expose the role of the US in a “assassination program” - 

Contributor to The Nation magazine Jeremy Scahill and Rio-based journalist Glenn Greenwald are working on the project.
“The connections between war and surveillance are clear. I don’t want to give too much away but Glenn and I are working on a project right now that has at its center how the National Security Agency plays a significant, central role in the US assassination program,” Scahill said on Saturday.
“There are so many stories that are yet to be published that we hope will produce ‘actionable intelligence,’ or information that ordinary citizens across the world can use to try to fight for change, to try to confront those in power,” he added.
Greenwald was the first journalist who broke the revelations about US spying programs based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
“The really important thing to realize is the desire for surveillance is not a uniquely American attribute,” Greenwald was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
“America has just devoted way more money and way more resources than anyone else to spying on the world,” he added.
Greenwald also praised discussions by some South American governments to find ways to circumvent American control over the Internet.
“But I think it’s also very important to keep in mind that whenever governments, be it the US government or the Brazilian government or anybody else, starts talking about regulating the Internet, even when they tell you it’s designed to protect your privacy from the American government . There is also the danger that the Brazilian government or any other government or international institution will want to simply replace the United States as the entity that is monitoring your communications,” he said.
Court documents have shown that the NSA violated privacy rules for years with its surveillance practices.
The documents released over the past few months reveal a troubling picture of a super spy agency that has sought and won far-reaching surveillance powers to run complex domestic data collection without anyone having full technical understanding of the process.
The privacy violations were first revealed by Snowden in June. He leaked confidential information that showed the NSA collects data of phone records and Internet communication of American citizens.


A Saudi cleric warns women that driving would affect their ovaries and bring "clinical disorders" upon their children -

A Saudi cleric warns women that driving would affect their ovaries and bring "clinical disorders" upon their children - 

A Saudi cleric sparked a wave of mockery online when he warned women that driving would affect their ovaries and bring "clinical disorders" upon their children.

The warning came ahead of an October 26 initiative to defy a longstanding driving ban on women in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

"Physiological science" has found that driving "automatically affects the ovaries and pushes up the pelvis," Sheikh Saleh al-Luhaydan warned women in remarks to local news website Sabq.org.

"This is why we find that children born to most women who continuously drive suffer from clinical disorders of varying degrees," he said.

His comments prompted criticism on Twitter, which has become a rare platform for Saudis to voice their opinions in the absolute monarchy.

"What a mentality we have. People went to space and you still ban women from driving. Idiots," said one comment.

"When idiocy marries dogma in the chapel of medieval traditions, this is their prodigal child," wrote a female tweeter.

Luhaydan, a member of the senior Ulema (Muslim scholars) Commission and former head of the Supreme Judicial Council, said that "evidence from the Quran and Sunna (the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed) completely prohibit (women's driving) on moral and social background."

An online petition titled "Oct 26th, driving for women" amassed nearly 12,000 signatures, while access to it was blocked in the kingdom on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia is the only country where women are banned from driving.


Breaking: Jesse Ventura, Howard Stern Set For 2016 Presidential Run -

Breaking: Jesse Ventura, Howard Stern Set For 2016 Presidential Run - 

Former Governor Jesse Ventura and radio personality Howard Stern are set for a sensational 2016 presidential run.
Breaking: Jesse Ventura, Howard Stern Set For 2016 Presidential Run 
Ventura will fly to New York this Wednesday to appear on Stern’s Sirius XM show, during which Ventura will formally request that Stern join him on the ticket.
Ventura told the Alex Jones Show that he is deadly serious about running for the White House with Stern as his VP. Due to Ventura’s refusal to entertain the notion of taking money from special interests, Stern, whose radio show brings in around $100 million a year, will be in charge of fundraising.
Although Ventura had to quit his radio show when he ran for Governor of Minnesota in order to comply with FCC regulations, Stern will not have to quit his current show because satellite radio is not subject to the same rules as terrestrial radio.
However, Stern has indicated he will probably quit his current show in 2015 anyway, leaving the path clear for a presidential campaign to begin the same year.
Off air, Ventura told Jones that Stern is one of the smartest people he knows and that his libertarian mindset make the two a perfect combination. It is likely that Ventura and Stern will attempt to secure the Libertarian Party nomination, which in 2012 was won by former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson.


Saturday, 28 September 2013

3-year-old found with 14 bags of marijuana in backpack... -

3-year-old found with 14 bags of marijuana in backpack... - 


New York City police said a 3-year-old girl was found in school Friday with more than a dozen bags of marijuana in her backpack.

Police said an employee of the New LIFE School in Harlem smelled marijuana on the girl at about 1 p.m. Friday.

They said the employee called police, who discovered 14 bags of the drug in the girl’s backpack.

As part of the investigation authorities questioned the girl and her parents.

On Friday night police arrested Kelly Mena, 24, in connection with the incident. Mena was charged with criminal possession of marijuana and criminal sale of marijuana.

Authorities said that Mena is apparently a friend of the girl’s father and that he allegedly placed the marijuana inside the girl’s pink Minnie Mouse backpack.

Read more -

Free Shotguns Giveaway In Orlando Neighborhood - in an effort to reduce crime -

Free Shotguns Giveaway In Orlando Neighborhood - in an effort to reduce crime - 

In an effort to reduce crime, the Armed Citizens Project (ACP) is offering free shotguns to residents in an Orlando, Florida neighborhood called Sunshine Gardens.

Ron Ritter is the Armed Citizens Project director in Florida. He is trying to convince gun dealers to give free or heavily discounted firearms to homeowners in Sunshine Gardens. The group also offers free gun training courses.

ACP members have been leaving fliers on homeowners’ front doors that say: “The Armed Citizen Project of Florida is seeking volunteers to reduce crime in your neighborhood by arming volunteer households with one free shotgun per household.”

Some gun control advocates have condemned ACP’s “controversial” shotgun giveaway, criticizing the fact that Sunshine Gardens is only 20 miles away from where George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin.

But ACP members insist their efforts are simply to reduce crime, and point out that what they are doing is completely legal.

Ritter said, “This is perfectly legal, permitting guns to be handed out… These guns have to be transferred through a [federally licensed firearms] dealer.”

ACP was started in Texas after a World War II veteran was burglarized and had no way to defend himself. The group offers free firearms and self defense instruction to those who live in at-risk areas in Texas. Now they are expanding into Florida.

Read more -

Merely holding a cellphone in a car is illegal in Ontario, appeal court rules -

Merely holding a cellphone in a car is illegal in Ontario, appeal court rules - 

Ontario’s top court says it’s illegal to hold a cellphone while driving even if it’s not transmitting and no matter how briefly it’s in a driver’s hand.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario released a pair of decisions Friday ordering two people convicted under the Highway Traffic Act for violating the ban on using cellphones while driving.

In one case, Khojasteh Kazemi argued that she had just picked up her cellphone, which had fallen off the seat to the floor of her car when she stopped at a red light, when a police officer spotted her holding it.

A lower court judge dismissed Kazemi’s charge, ruling that there must be some “sustained physical holding” in order to convict, but the Appeal Court overturned that finding.

Road safety is best ensured by a complete prohibition on having a cellphone in one’s hand at all while driving
In the other case, Hugo Pizzurro was caught driving with a cellphone in his hand but argued the Crown couldn’t prove it was capable of sending or receiving at the time.

But the Appeal Court concluded the language in the law requiring a capability of sending or receiving applies only to devices other than cellphones as cellphones have that capability built in.

“Moreover, to impose the requirement that a cellphone held by a driver while driving was capable of receiving or transmitting would be unreasonable both for enforcement and for prosecution,” the court ruled.

“The legislature could not have intended that result.”

The Ontario legislature’s purpose in enacting the law was to ensure drivers focus “on one thing and one thing only: driving,” the court wrote, quoting then-Transportation Minister Jim Bradley.

“Road safety is best ensured by a complete prohibition on having a cellphone in one’s hand at all while driving,” the Appeal Court wrote in the Kazemi decision.

“A complete prohibition also best focuses a driver’s undivided attention on driving…In short, it removes the various ways that road safety and driver attention can be harmed if a driver has a cellphone in his or her hand while driving.”

The Appeal Court made similar comments in the Pizzurro case.

“To hold out the possibility that the driver may escape the prohibition because the cellphone is not shown to be capable of communicating, however temporarily, is to tempt the driver to a course of conduct that risks undermining these objectives,” the court wrote.

Read more -

Friday, 27 September 2013

Oregon shoppers find $100 bills in grocery items -

Oregon shoppers find $100 bills in grocery items - 

Grocery store shoppers in Salem, Ore., have been finding $100 dollar bills hidden inside egg cartons, behind bottles of formula, by the loaves of bread.

The manager of a Fred Meyer store in South Salem tells the Statesman Journal that seven customers have reported finding $100 bills in or near various types of groceries in recent weeks. April Richards says store employees aren't sure who is leaving the money behind.

Salem resident Ashley Beebehiser says she was shocked when she found $100 bill in a carton of eggs. She decided to turn it into the store. She'll get it back if no one claims it after 30 days.

Richard Silva says his wife also found a $100 bill at a Walmart store in South Salem Sunday. It was inside a pink candle.


Apple iOS 7 is sickening users, doctor confirms -

Apple iOS 7 is sickening users, doctor confirms - 

Now that’s what you’d call a rotten Apple!

The latest software powering Apple’s popular iPhones and iPads overhauls the look and feel of the interface, and features a variety of new digital animations and effects. But many users claim the new effects are more nauseating than nice.

“The zoom animations everywhere on the new iOS 7 are literally making me nauseous and giving me a headache. It's exactly how I used to get car sick if I tried to read in the car,” wrote one iPhone user on Apple’s support forums. That thread has been viewed over 15,000 times and features dozens of similar reports of carsickness and nausea.

“+1 here. Have headaches and nausea for past 3 days. Can't stand to look at my phone screen anymore while opening/closing apps. I just close my eyes or look away,” another user wrote.

Dr. George Kikano, division chief of family medicine at UH Case Medical Center in Ohio, told FoxNews.com those users are likely correct: the iPhone is making them carsick.

"There’s some validity to this, for people who are susceptible," he told FoxNews.com. But it's not the zoom animations that are responsible. It's a new "parallax" function that causes the background of the phone to subtly move back and forth, a feature that leads to an effect not unlike car sickness. 

 It’s no different than being in an IMAX theater," Kikano said. "The inner ear is responsible for balance, the eyes for vision. When things are out of sync you feel dizzy, nauseous. Some people get it, some people don’t, and some people get used to it."

Other experts said the effect is somewhat different. Charles Oman, a former director at NASA who has studied motion sickness for over 15 years, told ABC News that he's hesitant to call it motion sickness.

"It takes a couple minutes of sustained stimulation to activate motion sickness," he said. "If it were an immersive environment, like a headset or an IMAX screen, then I can believe it, but it's a little harder to believe on the small screens."


Too tempting? NSA watchdog details how officials spied on love interests -

Too tempting? NSA watchdog details how officials spied on love interests - 

The world learned in early June about the National Security Agency's stunning capability to spy on just about anyone it wants to. Now we're finding out that power was just too tempting for some of its own employees -- with the agency acknowledging that workers used NSA tools to spy on love interests.

In a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, NSA Inspector General George Ellard admitted that since 2003, there have been "12 substantiated instances of intentional misuse" of "surveillance authorities," and "SIGINT," or signals intelligence.

Just about all of these cases involve an NSA employee spying on a girlfriend, boyfriend or some kind of love interest, or "loveint." Media reports had earlier claimed NSA workers were engaged in this kind of activity. The letter to Grassley gave specific details for the first time.

According to the letter, just prior to a polygraph examination in 2011 one NSA employee admitted that he queried information on his girlfriend's phone "out of curiosity."  However, that "subject retired in 2012 before disciplinary action had been taken."

Another employee went much further, tracking nine different telephone numbers for "female foreign nationals, without a valid foreign intelligence purpose" between 1998 and 2003 -- and listening to the phone conversations. The activity was uncovered after a female foreign national employed by the U.S. government, who was having sexual relations with the offending employee, told a colleague she thought her phone was being tapped.

In another instance, a female NSA employee admitted in 2004 to tapping a telephone number she found in her husband's cell phone "because she suspected that her husband had been unfaithful." In this case the NSA employee resigned before any disciplinary action.

The IG wrote that there are two additional open investigations into similar misuse of intelligence capabilities and yet another allegation for possible investigation.

Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that the NSA should have a zero-tolerance policy toward abuse.

"I appreciate the transparency that the Inspector General has provided to the American people. We shouldn't tolerate even one instance of misuse of this program," he said. "Robust oversight of the program must be completed to ensure that both national security and the Constitution are protected."


Drugs, caffeine, and chemicals found in Lake Michigan -

Drugs, caffeine, and chemicals found in Lake Michigan - 

Pharmaceuticals, caffeine and items such as toothpaste additives have been found farther out in the Great Lakes than ever before, according to a new study that also raises concerns about their levels.

The presence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products — or PPCPs — has previously gone largely unstudied within the Great Lakes, according to Rebecca Klaper, a co-author of the study released last month.

Klaper, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences, said the expectation has been that the Great Lakes’ huge volumes of water would dilute the PPCPs into undetectability. Lakes Michigan and Huron, which are connected, together have 2 quadrillion, or 2,000 trillion, gallons of water, for example.

Pharmaceuticals found in Lake Michigan 2 miles offshore from two Milwaukee wastewater treatment plants included a diabetes medication and a hormone used in birth-control pills. The new findings are alarming researchers, even as they continue to learn more about what the presence of PPCPs means. The concern is that the products, or mixtures of them, might affect fish and other aquatic life in ways that harm the ecosystem, Klaper said.

“If it does cause an impact, we need to start targeting some of our treatment processes,” she said.

Klaper and her team looked for 54 PPCPs and hormones in Lake Michigan surface water and sediment samples at varying distances from Milwaukee’s two main wastewater treatment plants. The samples were collected on six dates over two years.

Thirty-two of the PPCPs were found in Lake Michigan’s water and 30 in the lake’s sediments. The most frequently found products — detected as far out as 2 miles from the waste water treatment facilities — included:

■ Metformin, a prescription diabetes medicine.

■ Caffeine, found from some natural sources but also from coffee, tea, pop and energy drinks.

■ Sulfamethoxazole, an antibiotic used to treat ailments such as urinary tract infections and inner-ear infections.

■ Triclosan, an antibacterial and antifungal agent found in many consumer products, including toothpaste and antibacterial soaps.

Of the detected drugs and care products, 14 were found to be in concentrations of “medium” or “high” ecological risk, according to the study.

“The concentrations found in this study ... indicate a significant threat by PPCPs to the health of the Great Lakes, particularly near-shore organisms,” the research report states.

While only Lake Michigan was studied, PPCPs likely persist in other Great Lakes that take wastewater outflows, according to Klaper.

It’s alarming that the chemicals are found that far from shore in the new study, said Olga Lyandres, research manager for the Alliance for the Great Lakes, a nonprofit lake advocacy group.

“The argument used to be the lakes are so large, of course right by the discharge point you need to check for the stuff, but it’s not affecting the lake as a whole,” she said.

The number and variety of PPCPs making their way into the environment from many sources raises the concern, Lyandres said.

“There are some questions that are still unanswered,” she said. “You can study one chemical at a time, but in reality, we’re exposed to a chemical soup.”


Residents Want Concrete Traffic Safety Posts Removed Because They Look Like Penises... -

Residents Want Concrete Traffic Safety Posts Removed Because They Look Like Penises... - 

Photo Credit: KDKA

New traffic barriers, known as bollards, are causing some controversy in the Glendale section of Scott Township. It’s not the function, but the form.

“When you really look at all four close together, they look like male body parts, which I don’t think is appropriate,” says Glendale resident Pat Martin.

She raised the issue at Tuesday night’s township commission meeting.

“Everyone’s laughing about them,” she adds, “because of the way they’re put and what they resemble to people.”

Commissioners Eileen Meyers and Pat Caruso disagree.

“We looked through and found something that we thought was pleasing to the eye, but apparently to one person it was not,” Commissioner Meyers says.

Six more of the controversial posts have been installed further down the hill, at the intersection of Carothers and Magazine Street. That brings the total to 10.

Would they tear them all down?

“I can’t imagine spending taxpayers’ dollars for a situation like this because somebody has a narrow mind,” says Commissioner Caruso.

Director of Public Services Randy Lubin says cheaper options are possible.

“Is there something that could go over top of these bollards that we could retrofit,” Lubin says, “and again there will be a cost to that.”

To replace, to cover, or leave alone?

Randy Lubin has one more question: “What’s to say the next replacement isn’t going to offend somebody else?”


Thursday, 26 September 2013

Curiosity rover finds - About 2% of the soil on Mars' surface is water -

Curiosity rover finds - About 2% of the soil on Mars' surface is water - 

Curiosity, the Mars rover, reached out its robotic arm to hold a Canadian-made device over a dark grey rock sitting in a crater.

The tiny device, a cube just seven centimetres across, bombarded the rock with alpha particles and X-rays and then picked up the backscatter helping reveal a rock unlike any ever seen on Mars.

Jake_M, as the scientists have dubbed the Martian rock, resembles a type of volcanic rock found on ocean islands and continental rift zones on Earth.

It also raises the tantalizing possibility that there may be water beneath the Martian surface, say scientists, who describe the rock Thursday in a report published the journal Science.

“It was a good pick,” Ralf Gellert, at the University of Guelph, said of the Martian rock that was the first one analyzed using the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS).

Gellert leads the international team responsible for the powerful spectrometer, Canada’s $18-million contribution to the Martian rover that touched down on Mars just over a year ago.

Curiosity, which also carries an on-board geology lab, a rock-zapping laser and 17 cameras, is designed to get a better read on Martian geology and find out if the planet was ever habitable.

Curiosity has yet to find signs of life, which Gellert described as “the jackpot.”

But it has turned up plenty of evidence of water, which is essential to life on Earth and indicates life may have once had a foothold on Mars.

Curiosity found water in one of the first scoops of Martian soil it picked up, according to another of the five reports published Thursday. They focus on Curiosity’s first three months of exploration in the Gale crater.

“About two per cent of the soil on the surface of Mars is made up of water,” said Laurie Leshin of New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, whose team has a suite of instruments in Curiosity’s belly that assesses chemicals and elements.

Her team fed a scoop of dust and dirt from a sandy patch in the crater known as Rocknest into instruments that heated the Martian soil to a temperature of 835 C.

Baking the sample at such high heat revealed Martian soil contains not only water but chlorine — which can be toxic — and oxygen. Other experiments revealed the soil contains plenty of hydrogen.


The iPhone Is a Bigger Business Than Coca Cola and McDonald's Combined -

The iPhone Is a Bigger Business Than Coca Cola and McDonald's Combined - 

Eric Chemi, head of research for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, pulls an amazing stat. iPhone sales in the last year exceed all revenue to Microsoft, Amazon, Comcast, or Google. The iPhone alone outsells Coca-Cola and McDonald's, perhaps the world's two most famous brands, combined.

Put differently, but no less dramatically, a product that did not exist in May 2007 is now a bigger business than 474 companies in the S&P 500.

So there you have it. Apple is "dead money" in the words of one investor, and I don't know enough about the future to tell you he's wrong. But let's pause for a moment during the funeral procession to observe that the iPhone could be the most successful branded product in the history of the world, and that's something amazing to behold, no matter what direction the company's stock is headed this afternoon.


Engineers build first carbon nanotube computer -

Engineers build first carbon nanotube computer - 

Move over silicon. There’s a new player in town in the semi-conductor category. Meet the carbon nanotube. Its use in electronics means faster and more efficient devices. And now, engineers at Stanford University have successfully built the first computer to ever use carbon nanotube technology.

As electronic devices are getting smaller, the current standard of semi-conductor, silicon, is beginning to have problems. Transistors with silicon are now being fit into smaller spaces, which causes a device to waste power and generate more heat. An example of this would be how warm a laptop gets after a few hours of usage. Using carbon nanotubes would be a simple solution to resolve that problem.

Unfortunately, carbon nanotubes have limitations that have prevented their usage, at least in consumer electronics. These long thin microscopic lines of carbon atoms have a tendency not to grow in perfectly straight lines, something required for use in electronics. And sometimes, they don’t act the way they’re supposed to. Instead of being semi-conductors that can be turned on and off, they are sometimes always on, constantly conducting electricity.

The Stanford scientists started their project by fixing these issues. The most complicated process was figuring out how to work with misshapen carbon nanotubes. However, the scientists came up with an algorithm that would guarantee that these imperfect nanotubes still worked as expected on a circuit. That still left the problem of the always-on always-conducting nanotubes. After adding the nanotubes to a circuit, the research team then shut off all the carbon nanotubes that worked properly. Then, they added electricity into the circuit. That electricity burned up those nanotubes that were constantly conducting it so that they vaporized, only leaving the good nanotubes.


Mysterious cache of jewels turns up atop French glacier -

Mysterious cache of jewels turns up atop French glacier - 

It reads like the opening scene of an "Indiana Jones" movie.
A young man climbing a French glacier finds a cache of glittering jewels wrapped in bags stamped "Made in India" -- remnants, perhaps, of cargo from an ill-fated airliner called the Malabar Princess.
The best thing about it? This story is true.
It happened early this month on a glacier overlooking the southeastern French village of Chamonix, Albertville police Chief Sylvain Merly said Thursday.
The climber -- who Merly said asked to remain anonymous -- found the jewels inside a metal box atop the glacier. He turned them over to police in Bourg-Saint-Maurice on September 9.
Merly declined to characterize the stones, which are being described in French media as rubies, sapphires and emeralds. They're worth somewhere between €130,000 (about $175,000) and €246,000 ($331,600), Merly said.
French authorities are trying to trace ownership of the jewels. If proof of ownership can't be established, the unnamed 20-something mountaineer could stand to receive a portion of their value, Merly said.
Last year, alpinists found this diplomatic bag on Mont Blanc, believed to be from a 1966 Air India crash.

The gems may be from the 1950 crash of Air India Flight 245, the "Malabar Princess." The plane smashed into nearby Mont Blanc during a storm, killing all 48 aboard. When it crashed, the plane was preparing to make a stop in Geneva, Switzerland, as it flew between Bombay -- now Mumbai -- and London.
French authorities say it's also possible the gems could have been aboard an Air India Boeing 707, the "Kanchenjunga," that crashed in nearly the same spot 16 years later. A diplomatic bag from that flight was recovered last year.
Adding a bit of intrigue to the story, the 1966 crash is the subject of scattered conspiracy theories suggesting the Air India flight, which carried the father of India's nuclear industry, Homi Bhabha, was shot down by a fighter jet or missile.
Debris from the wrecks routinely emerges from the bottom of the glacier, including metal, wire and even a piece of landing gear discovered in 1986, according to a Mont Blanc tourist site.


Dead grandma lives on in GOOGLE Street View... -

Dead grandma lives on in GOOGLE Street View... - 

A Beaverton man recently discovered one of the last pictures taken of his grandmother. Dustin Moore found the keepsake while searching Google Maps street views for his grandma's house in Northeast Portland.  The street view image captured her sitting on the porch reading the newspaper. 
"What surprised me was that Google captured one of the last few pictures of my grandma because she passed away less than a year after the picture was taken. I made the joke with my brother. I was like, ‘Well, grandma’s gone, but she still somehow lives on in Google and is watching over us,'" Moore said.
Moore posted his story on the social media site Reddit and it quickly became popular.  
“All of a sudden there was a bunch of comments like, ‘Oh, I recognize that. Your grandma’s awesome,’” Moore said. “I didn't really expect people to respond in that way – in the same way that I did.”

Grandma Alice was “everybody’s grandma,” he said. 
Google generally updates the site with new photos every six or seven years. Until then Grandma Alice lives on. 


Freeway bridge drops 2 feet - 'Instead of a bump, it's a dip' -

Freeway bridge drops 2 feet - 'Instead of a bump, it's a dip' - 

A span on the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge in Green Bay, Wisconsin, shows signs of buckling on Wednesday, September 25.

Call it the "cheese dip."
A 400-foot section of the Leo Frigo Bridge -- named after a late Wisconsin cheese scion -- suddenly sagged Wednesday, forcing police to close off the span that carries Interstate 43 over the Fox River some 120 feet below.
"There's a part that's sagging," a motorist told an incredulous 911 operator, according to recordings posted by CNN affiliate WLUK.
"A part that's sagging?" the operator asked.
"Instead of a bump, it's a dip," the driver said.
How safe is that bridge you're driving over?
It appears that one of the piers holding up the bridge sank about 2 feet into the ground, Gov. Scott Walker told reporters Wednesday.
The bridge, which carries 40,000 cars a day, will be closed indefinitely, state officials said.
"We understand the disruption this is going to cause to traffic," Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb told reporters Wednesday.
The bridge was built in 1980 and last inspected in August 2012, declared sound and renovated shortly thereafter, said Kim Rudat, regional communications manager for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.


Prozac use up -- in dogs... -

Prozac use up -- in dogs... - 

Not all pets are calm, and as a result some pet owners are giving their pets Prozac or Xanax. But is it the right thing to do?

Dogs are known for being full of life -- barking, running and playing. But when you have a pet that is overactive, uncontrollable or exhibiting anxiety should you turn to doggie drugs?

Pet expert and trainer Andrea Arden says she has seen a dramatic increase in the last 10 years of owners getting prescriptions for Prozac and Xanax from their vets to calm their pets down. She believes the reason for anxious pets is a change in the owner's lifestyle. Arden does not believe that drugs are the solution. She says owners need to spend more time with pets so they don't exhibit behavior problems. In fact, Arden says you have to be careful because Prozac and Xanax could actually harm your pet.

So before you resort to drugs, Arden suggests getting your dog trained and giving it some puppy love.

New York News


$5.25 Million For Senate Hair Care And 21 Other Ways Politicians Are Living The High Life At Your Expense -

$5.25 Million For Senate Hair Care And 21 Other Ways Politicians Are Living The High Life At Your Expense - 

If you want to live the high life, you don’t have to become a rap star, a professional athlete or a Wall Street banker.  All it really takes is winning an election.  Right now, more than half of all the members of Congress are millionaires, and most of them leave “public service” far wealthier than when they entered it.  Since most of them have so much money, you would think that they would be willing to do a little “belt-tightening” for the sake of the American people.  After all, things are supposedly “extremely tight” in Washington D.C. right now.  In fact, just the other day Nancy Pelosi insisted that there were “no more cuts to make” to the federal budget.  But even as they claim that things are so tough right now, our politicians continue to live the high life at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.  The statistics that I am about to share with you are very disturbing.  Please share them with everyone that you know.  The American people deserve the truth.
According to the Weekly Standard, an absolutely insane amount of money is being spent on the “hair care needs” of U.S. Senators…
Senate Hair Care Services has cost taxpayers about $5.25 million over 15 years. They foot the bill of more than $40,000 for the shoeshine attendant last fiscal year. Six barbers took in more than $40,000 each, including nearly $80,000 for the head barber.
Keep in mind that there are only 100 U.S. Senators, and many of them don’t have much hair left at this point.
But hair care is just the tip of the iceberg.  The following are 21 other ways that our politicians are living the high life at your expense…
#1 According to Roll Call’s annual survey of Congressional wealth, the super wealthy in Congress just continue to get much wealthier even though they are supposedly dedicating their lives to “public service”…
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) is the richest Member of Congress for the second year in a row, reporting a vast fortune that in 2011 had a minimum net worth surpassing $300 million for the first time.
McCaul is followed by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who reported a minimum net worth of $198.65 million, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who reported a minimum net worth of $140.55 million. The two lawmakers swapped places since last year’s list.
The lawmakers who round out the top five, Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), also flipped positions from 2010 to 2011, with Warner’s reported minimum worth rising about $9 million to $85.81 million and Rockefeller’s minimum worth rising slightly to $83.08 million.
#2 Amazingly, the 50th most wealthy member of Congress has a net worth of 6.14 million dollars.
#3 At this point, more than half of those “serving the American people” in Congress are millionaires.
#4 In one recent year, an average of $4,005,900 of U.S. taxpayer money was spent on “personal” and “office” expenses per U.S. Senator.
#5 Once they leave Washington, former members of Congress continue to collect huge checks for the rest of their lives…
In 2011, 280 former lawmakers who retired under a former government pension system received average annual pensions of $70,620, according to a Congressional Research Service report. They averaged around 20 years of service. At the same time, another 215 retirees (elected in 1984 or later with an average of 15 years of service) received average annual checks of roughly $40,000 a year.
#6 Speaker of the House John Boehner would bring home a yearly pension of close to $85,000 if he left Congress when his current term ends in 2014.
#7 At this point, quite a few former lawmakers are collecting federal pensions for life worth at least $100,000 annually.  That list includes such notable names as Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, Trent Lott, Dick Gephardt and Dick Cheney.
#8 The U.S. government is spending approximately 3.6 million dollarsa year to support the lavish lifestyles of former presidents such as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
#9 Nearly 500,000 federal employees now make at least $100,000 a year.
#10 During one recent year, the average federal employee in the Washington D.C. area received total compensation worth more than $126,000.
#11 During one recent year, compensation for federal employees came to a grand total of approximately 447 billion dollars.
#12 If you can believe it, there are 77,000 federal workers that make more than the governors of their own states do.
#13 When Joe Biden and his staff took a trip to London, the hotel bill cost U.S. taxpayers $459,388.65.
#14 Joe Biden and his staff also stopped in Paris for one night.  The hotel bill for that one night came to $585,000.50.
#15 When Biden and his staff visited Moscow for two days in 2011, the total hotel bill came to $665,445.00.
#16 During 2012, the salaries of Barack Obama’s three climate change advisers combined came to a grand total of more than $370,000.
#17 Overall, 139 different White House staffers were making at least $100,000 during 2012, and there were 20 staffers that made the maximum of $172,200.
#18 It is estimated that the trip that the Obamas took to Africa cost U.S. taxpayers about 100 million dollars.
#19 The Obamas only have one dog named “Bo”, but the White House “dog handler” reportedly makes $102,000 per year and sometimes he is even flown to where the Obamas are vacationing so that he can take care of the dog.
#20 There is always at least one projectionist at the White House 24 hours a day just in case there is someone that wants to watch a movie.  Apparently turning on a DVD player is too much to ask.
#21 In one recent year, more than 1.4 billion dollars was spent on the Obamas.  Meanwhile, British taxpayers only spent about 58 million dollars on the entire royal family.
So who pays for all of this extravagance?
The American people do of course.
Unfortunately, what most of our politicians fail to understand is that most families are struggling tremendously right now.
This week, Yahoo featured the story of a 77-year-old former executive that is now flipping burgers and serving drinks to make ends meet.  He says that he now earns in a week what he once earned in a single hour, but he is thankful to have a job in this economic environment…
It seems like another life. At the height of his corporate career, Tom Palome was pulling in a salary in the low six-figures and flying first class on business trips to Europe.
Today, the 77-year-old former vice president of marketing for Oral-B juggles two part-time jobs: one as a $10-an-hour food demonstrator at Sam’s Club, the other flipping burgers and serving drinks at a golf club grill for slightly more than minimum wage.
While Palome worked hard his entire career, paid off his mortgage and put his kids through college, like most Americans he didn’t save enough for retirement. Even many affluent baby boomers who are approaching the end of their careers haven’t come close to saving the 10 to 20 times their annual working income that investment experts say they’ll need to maintain their standard of living in old age.
So many Americans are barely making it from month to month at this point.  Most people work very, very hard for their money, and it is very discouraging to see our politicians waste our hard-earned tax dollars so frivolously.
Fortunately, there are signs that the American people are starting to get fed up with all of this.  According to a stunning new Gallup survey, more Americans than ever before (60 percent) believe that the federal government has too much power.
So what do you think?
Do you think that the government is too big and too wasteful?

Read more -