Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 28 February 2014

Unveiled: World's largest aircraft flies for 3 weeks straight... -

Unveiled: World's largest aircraft flies for 3 weeks straight... - 

The HAV Hybrid Aircraft

The world's longest aircraft, consisting of part airship, part helicopter and part plane, has been unveiled and could be the key to greener more efficient planes in future as developers predict one day there could be as many of the hybrids as there are helicopters today.

The world’s largest aircraft which can stay airborne for up to three weeks and will be vital in delivering several tonnes of humanitarian aid as well as transporting heavy freight across the world, has been unveiled.
The 300ft (91m) ship is part plane, airship and helicopter, and there are plans to eventually use it to transport hundreds of tonnes of freight across difficult terrain throughout the world as well as deliver aid to risky areas.
It is environmentally friendly, being part airship filled with inert helium, and will also be used for surveillance and communications. Developers hope to make more of the 'green vehicles' which they hope to make capable of taking off from land, water, desert, ice and fields.
Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd (HAV), which created the hybrid craft, said they expect there to be as many airships as helicopters in the sky in years to come as they provide an environmentally friendly and efficient solution to transporting dozens of tonnes of freight and reaching hard to access areas.
The company also expects to create 'luxury' hybrids, with infinity pools stretching across hundreds of feet, and planes being used for things like safaris and whale watching because they run on often just one engine so are quieter than traditional vehicles and can access hard to reach areas.


Coal Fire Turns Australian Mine Into Mordor's Mount Doom -

Coal Fire Turns Australian Mine Into Mordor's Mount Doom - 

australia coal mine fire 1

A fire at the the Hazelwood open-cut coal mine has turned a large swathe of Morwell, Australia into something out of J.R.R. Tolkien's Mordor.

The fire at the mine has been blazing for three weeks and is believed to be the result of a bushfire started by an arsonist. The town of Morwell and its 14,000 inhabitants has been blanketed in smoke and authorities fear it could take months to completely extinguish the blaze. The town is about 150 km east of Melbourne.

There is speculation that the government of the province of Victoria may soon order a total evacuation. Tens of thousands of gas masks have been distributed, according to Vice.

The blaze poses a difficult challenge for firefighters because even when flames are extinguished the coal continues to smoulder. The fire can reignite at any moment and rages underground. Firefighters are concerned about the danger posed by landslides caused by the huge quantity of water being used on the flames.


'Dead' elderly man wakes up in body bag at funeral home... -

'Dead' elderly man wakes up in body bag at funeral home... -

Workers at a Mississippi funeral home say they found a man alive and kicking when they opened a body bag.

Holmes County Coroner Dexter Howard calls it a miracle that 78-year-old Walter Williams is alive.

The coroner was called to Williams' home in Lexington, a community north of Jackson, where family members believed he had died.

Howard says Williams had no pulse and was pronounced dead Wednesday at 9 p.m.

Early Thursday, workers at Porter and Sons Funeral Home were preparing to embalm Williams when he started to kick in the body bag.

Family members were called and Williams was taken to a hospital. Howard says he believes Williams' pacemaker stopped working, then started again.


STUDY: Stethoscopes Dirtier Than Physician's Hand... -

STUDY: Stethoscopes Dirtier Than Physician's Hand... - 

According to a new study, stethoscopes carry more bacteria, such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), than a physician’s hand.
After a physician’s exam, a stethoscope was found to be more contaminated with MRSA than all areas of the hand except the fingerprints, according to Dr. Didier Pittet, of the University of Geneva Hospitals in Switzerland, and colleagues. The fingerprints were the dirtiest.
The stethoscope averaged 89 colony forming units compared to 37 on the base of thumb, 34 on the base of the pinkie finger, and 8 on the back of the hand.
The researchers noted that most stethoscopes rarely get cleaned once a month.
“If we pay attention to hand hygiene, using an alcohol swab to disinfect the stethoscope between patients should have an impact on reducing a percentage of transmission from patient to patient,” Dr. Edward Septimus, of Texas A&M University in College Station and a member of the on antimicrobial resistance committee of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, told MedPage Today. “However, most hospitals have a policy of leaving a dedicated stethoscope in the room of each patient with MRSA.”
Dr. Dennis G. Maki of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison noted in an accompanying editorial that “there are many more patients on that same patient care unit with undetected colonization – patients who pose a greater risk of spreading these microorganisms that patients known to be colonized or infected and in isolation.”


CLAIM: Low-carb diets can lead to heart disease, cancer... -

CLAIM: Low-carb diets can lead to heart disease, cancer... - 

Low-carbohydrate diets are all the rage, but one nutrition expert has claimed that they may not be as healthy as we think.
According to Dr T Colin Campbell's new book The Low-Carb Fraud, giving up grains can mean putting yourself at a higher risk for heart disease, cancer and other regenerative diseases.
He says that not only are low-carb diets lacking in nutritional value, but they're actually even worse than the standard American diet.

The problem, says Dr Campbell, who has 40 years' experience in nutrition science, is that people who cut out carbs tend to load up on animal protein and fat, which heightens cholesterol levels, sometimes leading to disease.
Even the standard American diet is too high in protein and fat, an imbalance that is merely worsened with a low-carb diet.
Consuming more meat also leads to smaller consequences like headaches, rash, cramps and bad breath, also known as halitosis.

Many low-carb diets require that you only consume 15 to 20per cent of your total calories from carbs, which often eliminates nutritionally rich plant-based and complex carbohydrate foods that prevent diseases and promote health.
While the author admits that following a low-carb diet can lead to quick weight loss - which is likely the reason it is so trendy - he adds that in the long run, it can lead to dire consequences.
'Low-carb, high-protein, high-fat diets cause high cholesterol - a major indicator of heart disease and cancer risks,' he told Elle.com.
Bad balance: The problem, says Dr Campbell, is that people who cut out carbs tend to load up on animal protein and fat, which heightens cholesterol levels, sometimes leading to disease +2
Bad balance: The problem, says Dr Campbell, is that people who cut out carbs tend to load up on animal protein and fat, which heightens cholesterol levels, sometimes leading to disease
The latest trend in this category is the Paleo diet, also known as the Caveman diet - which, as Dr Campbell points out, is merely a 'slightly tweaked' version of other previous fads including South Beach, the Zone and Atkins.
Not only does the Paleo diet cut out complex carbs that are good for you, but it also promotes the consumption of meat, something cavemen didn't even have easy access to, he explains.
Instead of following a fad diet with no scientifically proven health benefits, Dr Campbell recommends the Whole Food, Plant-Based diet, or WFPB, which involves eating mostly intact vegetables, fruits and grains and limiting refined carbs and salt.
He also suggest restricting your intake of added oils and fats, claiming that following these guidelines can rid you of autoimmune diseases and type 2 diabetes and even slow down the effects of cancer.
'The only redeeming factor of low-carb diets could be their removal of high-carbohydrate products like cookies, cakes, and soft drinks,' he conceded.
'But that's only true if it's emphasized that refined carbs, not all carbs, are the problem.'


Thursday, 27 February 2014

Why Is the Cold U.S. Winter Killing Off Stinkbugs? -

Why Is the Cold U.S. Winter Killing Off Stinkbugs? - 

Humans aren’t the only species bugging out from the polar vortex, the winter weather system that’s still menacing large swaths of the United States with bone-chilling temperatures. 

Be glad you’re not an Asian stinkbug, which are dying off in large numbers due to the cold, a new experiment shows. The invasive insect, commonly called the brown marmorated stinkbug, has been plaguing homes and devouring agricultural crops in 38 states for years. 

Thomas Kuhar, a professor of entomology at Virginia Tech, and his team have been gathering stinkbugs for the past three years near his campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, to use in lab experiments. The bugs spend the winter outside in insulated buckets that mimic the walls, shingles, and attics that they inhabit when the temperature drops.

That normally works out quite well for the bugs—but this year stinkbugs have been, well, dropping like flies.

“In the previous two years, natural mortality averaged about 20-25 percent,” he wrote in an email. In January 2014, however, Kuhar’s team discovered that the subfreezing temperatures had killed off 95 percent of the population.

Normally the bugs have a twofold strategy for dealing with cold weather: first holing up in those walls or attics, and then activating cryoprotectants in their body that act like antifreeze, explained Kuhar. 

But Kuhar’s recent observations suggest that in weather this extreme, the stinkbug’s natural defense mechanisms may not be enough—even though they’re generally better adapted to colder climates.

How significant of an impact this year’s unseasonably cold weather will have on stinkbug populations at large remains to be seen.

“I wouldn’t say mass die-offs, but temperatures probably reached lethal levels for many insects,” said Kuhar, who added that the biggest threat to insect populations occurs when temperatures fluctuate drastically—for example, a cold snap after a warming trend.


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Chaos as company accidentally invites 61,000 people to job interview -

Chaos as company accidentally invites 61,000 people to job interview - 

Police called to quell anger after Swedish employment office sends out email to every jobseeker in Stockholm

Police dispersed an angry crowd of jobseekers outside an employment office in Stockholm on Wednesday after it called 61,000 people for a recruitment meeting by mistake.
"Something has gone wrong with the mailing list ... it has set off a very messy situation at the city office," said Clas Olsson, acting director of the employment office.
An email call for a recruitment meeting that should have gone out to about 1,000 jobseekers went out to considerably more people, about 61,000 – apparently all the registered job seekers in Stockholm, police said.
Hundreds of people expecting to attend crowded into the alley where the labour office is located and spilled into the adjacent street, a main thoroughfare running through downtown Stockholm.
Emotions were running high and office staff sounded the alarm, bringing police to the scene.

"When we got there it was very crowded and there were some upset feelings," Police Inspector Ulf Lindgren told Reuters.
Olsson told the Aftonbladet newspaper he did not know if the cause was a human or technical error.


South American Lizard Overrun Parts of Florida... -

South American Lizard Overrun Parts of Florida... - 

They're big and they're hungry.

Now, the tegu lizard is becoming a problem for Hillsborough County, Florida.

The tegu lizard was first spotted in rural Hillsborough County nine years ago. But since then reports have become more frequent.

The South American invader can grow up to four-and-a-half feet long and lays up to fifty eggs at a time.

Residents have seen them chowing down on local birds and animals and many fear their pets may be on the menu.

Biologists are setting traps in the Balm-Boyette Scrub Preserve to try to determine how big the problem is. 

As the weather heats up, the tegus will start coming out of their burrows ready to feed.

Read more: - 

'Techneck' wrinkles emerge from constantly looking at gadgets... -

'Techneck' wrinkles emerge from constantly looking at gadgets... - 

We all know smart phones are zapping our free time, our sleep and even ruining our sex lives but it seems they are responsible for the demise of our looks as well.
Whether it is on the daily commute, at our desks or even lying in bed, we are constantly looking down at our gadgets.
All this screen gazing means tech-obsessed Britons could be ageing faster than ever. As the head is constantly bent downwards a new wrinkle appears around the neck and it’s not helping our backs either.

Labeled the 'Techneck', the wrinkle around the neck and chin is caused by the modern day compulsion to always be checking handheld devices and computers. 

Joining the likes of 'laughter lines', 'crows' feet' and 'worry wrinkles'; the 'Techneck' is the latest face furrow and was identified following a surge of neck-related enquiries for treatment.
CACI, experts in non-surgical facelifts, have noticed the emergence of the new wrinkle amongst tech-obsessives and are offering to combat it with a treatment called the Microlift.
Dean Nathanson, Managing Director of CACI international commented: 
‘We're a hard working nation and our hectic everyday lives mean that keeping one's head down, be it buried in work emails or in an e-reader, is completely the norm.
‘Recently we noticed a surge in enquiries for our product, specifically to combat lines around the neck area.

Read more: - 

Store's mistake leads to New York man hitting $10M jackpot -

Store's mistake leads to New York man hitting $10M jackpot - 

A convenience store clerk's mistake has paid off in a big way for a western New York man.

Fifty-three-year-old Jerry Kajfasz of Lancaster won a $10 million jackpot from a $20 scratch-off ticket he purchased last month at a suburban Buffalo store.

He tells local media outlets he bought seven scratch-off tickets but the clerk nearly handed him an eighth one costing $20. Kajfasz caught the mistake and handed it back.

After winning a total of $25 from the tickets, he went back inside the store and used the winnings to buy the same $20 scratch-off ticket the clerk had almost given to him by mistake.

That Win for Life Spectacular ticket wound up being a winner with a guaranteed minimum jackpot of $10 million.

Kajfasz has already quit his printing job.


Spike In Dogs Eating Marijuana Since Legalized... -

Spike In Dogs Eating Marijuana Since Legalized... - 

An animal hospital in Denver is seeing an increasing number of dogs who have eaten edible marijuana and is finding that the diagnosis isn’t good.
VCA Animal Hospital is open 24 hours a day and they see hundreds of dogs every week from checkups to emergencies. Since Jan. 1 the clinic says dogs have been getting into their owner’s supply of marijuana, specifically edibles.
“What we are seeing is dogs getting into the baked products,” said Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald of VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital.
The concern is that edibles have a concentration of marijuana meant for controlled human consumption and dogs weigh far less than humans and have no control.

“The butter gets a higher concentration of THC, the active ingredient,” said Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald recently contributed to a year-long study in Colorado that tracked marijuana exposure in dogs. It causes symptoms ranging from disorientation to seizures and temporary comas.
“The one thing we see with almost all of them is urinary incontinence when they eat a bunch of it,” said Fitzgerald.
Those symptoms don’t just last hours, they last days.
“Half-life for a dog is 72 hours, maybe 96, before it gets out of their system,” said Fitzgerald.
There’s no antidote for marijuana but Fitzgerald said those worried about a pet’s recent exposure have a limited amount of time to take action before it’s too late.
“Don’t wait. Your vet is as far away as the telephone,” said Fitzgerald.
Doctors suggest that owners try and keep they’re marijuana out of their pet’s reach.


Why Apple's Unexpected Security Flaw Is a Real Nightmare for Users -

Why Apple's Unexpected Security Flaw Is a Real Nightmare for Users - 

There is an Apple enthusiast I know -- and I'm sure you have a similar friend -- who used to gleefully brag about all the suspicious links he could click on from his phone or computer with no fear of consequences.

But after Apple's confirmation this weekend that it was in the process of creating and issuing patches to resolve a massive security flaw in its operating systems and many of its connected programs, he's singing a different tune.

The SSL bug, as it's being called, is actually just a tiny logic error in a small piece in Apple's massive operating system -- but big things often come in small packages. In layman's terms, the flawed bit of code is supposed to be responsible for making sure that your computer's or your phone's Internet connection with other, secure servers across an Internet connection is itself secure from hackers. But because of the tiny error, which has reportedly been around at least since September 2012, your computer or phone has showed such connections as secure whether or not they actually were.

While the mechanics of the bug would make it difficult for a random person in Central Europe to gain access to your computer, it does make it very easy for the guy next to you on an unsecured WiFi connection to do exactly that -- and to get into your email, your bank accounts, your Facebook or any other secure application that would normally be slightly more private on a public WiFi server.

Now, if we were all being smart about our phones and our computers, this might not matter as much: You really shouldn't be conducting financial transactions on public WiFi connections or letting your phones automatically connect to any open network whether you have a Mac or a PC, or an Android phone or an Apple one. But in reality, Apple's perceived imperviousness from viruses and malware has left more than one person with the false impression that they, too, were impervious from a cyberattack.

Well, no more. Apple fans had a nice run, but it's time to face the fact that perhaps the only thing standing between most of us and a successful targeted cyberattack is our own behavior, not our operating systems.

So what should you be doing now? The same things you should've been doing all along.

1. Avoid Unsecured WiFi Networks

Between the increasing fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) engendered by a wired world and wireless companies' data caps, those unsecured WiFi connections represent quite a temptation -- and hackers know it. But unless it's an emergency, you should really avoid using them when at all possible. Change your phone settings to make sure you're not connecting to unsecured wireless systems automatically, keep your activity to a minimum and never, ever use them to log into a bank account, use a credit card or enter any kind of password.

2. Always Install Security Updates Immediately

We've all dismissed that little Apple pop-up box encouraging us to download the latest fix - and some of us have dismissed it more than once -- but it's time to stop the madness. Nothing you are doing on the Internet right now is more important than making sure no one else is poking around in your computer or your phone -- and whatever you are doing, including reading this article, is something you can start doing again pretty soon.

3. Don't Click on Weird Links From Strangers or Even Friends

You see them on Twitter -- little egg avatars that respond randomly with just a shortened link to something for no apparent reason. They're in your email inbox from friends you haven't heard from in a while. Sometimes, they even arrive by text. But if you can't tell where they lead, or even if you can but the links seem like an odd thing for someone to send you without context, don't click them. They were dangerous before, they're dangerous now and, patch or no patch, they'll be dangerous tomorrow.

4. Don't Take Your Security for Granted

It's easy enough in this day of virus checkers, malware spotters, supposedly impenetrable networks and browsers that won't let you visit suspicious sites to just think the tech companies have it covered -- but they don't. They can only protect you from what they know exists, and hackers are always out to make something new to avoid detection. Don't rely on technology over your own common sense.

Apple has already issued a patch for its phones and promised one for its computer operating system and connected programs affected by the SSL bug. [Update: They issued one just after this was published.] But once you download it, don't assume that you're safe. Let this be a wake-up call to some and a reminder to the rest of us that technology isn't an impenetrable force field against attacks: It's just a Maginot line against a direct attack.


Contagious WiFi virus goes airborne, spreads like common cold... -

Contagious WiFi virus goes airborne, spreads like common cold... - 

Computer science researchers have demonstrated for the first time how a digital virus can go airborne and spread via WiFi networks in populated areas at the same pace as a human diseases.

The “Chameleon” virus, designed by a University of Liverpool team, showed a remarkable amount of intelligence by avoiding detection and breaking into personal and business WiFi networks at their weakest points — spreading at an alarming rate.

Network Security Professor Alan Marshall said the virus doesn’t try to damage or disrupt established networks — instead, the virus slips in unnoticed to collect the data and log-in information of all users connected to the network via WiFi, and seeks other WiFi networks through them — a much more subtle, sinister and dangerous objective.

“WiFi connections are increasingly a target for computer hackers because of well-documented security vulnerabilities, which make it difficult to detect and defend against a virus,” Marshall said in a ScienceBlog report. “It was assumed, however, that it wasn’t possible to develop a virus that could attack WiFi networks — but we demonstrated that this is possible and that it can spread quickly.”

The secret to Chameleon is the method by which it avoids detection. Traditional computer antivirus programs look for viruses present on computers and the Internet itself. Chameleon sticks strictly to WiFi networks, bypassing secured, more heavily encrypted networks to enter and spread through weaker ones — especially free public access points like those found in cafes, on trains and in airports.

A lab experiment by the University’s School of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering and Electronics simulated what researchers likened to an airborne contagion attack against Belfast and London, entering WiFi  access points that connect public and private networks to the Internet.

The virus traveled fastest across access points within a 160 feet or less of each other, following similar rates of human infection by viruses among more densely populated areas.

“We are now able to use the data generated from this study to develop a new technique to identify when an attack is likely,” Marshall said.


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

This Man's $600,000 Facebook Disaster Is A Warning For All Small Businesses -

This Man's $600,000 Facebook Disaster Is A Warning For All Small Businesses - 

It continues to amaze me how people are completely ignoring what appears to be an incredible amount of shadiness inherent in Facebook’s business model. Whether or not this is intentional click fraud, it is clear that advertisers are not getting what they think they are getting. They won’t be fooled forever, and once they wake up to the money being wasted on fake “likes” and “clicks,” I’m curious to see what happens to their revenue.

The following article from SF Gate is a perfect followup to my post from a couple weeks ago: How Much of Facebook’s Ad Revenue is From Click Fraud?

Perhaps the most shocking passage from the entire article is the following:

Naturally, Brar began disputing his bill with Facebook. He wanted his clicks audited by a third party, to see how many were genuine. Then he discovered that Facebook’s terms of service forbid third-party verification of its clicks. That’s something all advertisers should be aware of before they spend a penny on Facebook.

Facebook is different from the rest of the online ad industry, which follows a standard of allowing click audits by third parties like the IAB, the Media Ratings Council or Ernst & Young.
Um, ok then…

Now more from the SF Gate:

Raaj Kapur Brar runs a small but successful empire of online fashion magazines from his base just outside Toronto. Some of his titles are huge online brands, such as Fashion & Style Magazine, which has 1.6 million Facebook fans.

That’s more fans than Elle magazine has.

Recently, however, Brar has fallen out of love with Facebook. He discovered  that his Facebook fanbase was becoming polluted with thousands of fake likes from bogus accounts. He can no longer tell the difference between his real fans and the fake ones. Many appear fake because the users have so few friends, are based in developing countries, or have generic profile pictures.
At one point, he had a budget of more than $600,000 for Facebook ad campaigns, he tells us. Now he believes those ads were a waste of time.
Facebook declined multiple requests for comment on this story.

Brar’s take is a cautionary one because Facebook has 25 million small businesses using its platform for one marketing purpose or another. Many of them are not sophisticated advertisers — they are simply plugging a credit card number into the system and hoping for the best. This is what can happen if you don’t pay careful attention to contract language, or the live, real-time results your campaigns on Facebook are having.

Here’s how Brar believes it went down: He became interested in advertising on Facebook in 2012, and he took it seriously. He went to Facebook’s local Toronto office where he was trained to use the advertising interface. They set up the campaign, and ran a small “beta” test. Then, in late October Brar pulled the trigger on a massive push through Facebook’s Ads Manager. He used Bitly and Google Analytics to measure the number of clicks his campaign was generating.

The results were disastrous, Brar says.

Facebook’s analytics said the campaign sent him five times the number of clicks he was seeing arrive on his sites, which Brar was monitoring with Bitly, Google Analytics, and his own web site’s WordPress dashboard. There was a reasonable discrepancy between the Bitly and Google numbers, Brar says, but not the five-fold margin between Google’s and Facebook’s click counts.

At one point, data from Facebook indicated his ads had delivered 606,000 clicks, but the site itself registered only 160,000 incoming clicks from Facebook, according to data supplied by Brar. (160,000 clicks is a not insignificant return. After all, these are not clicks on a mere Facebook page, these are users who clicked through to an off-Facebook site.)

“I don’t know what to say, right? This is a huge loss. This ran for four days, then we just stopped the campaign,” Brar says.

Then, things got worse. Even though Fetopolis wasn’t advertising, the likes and new followers kept on piling up. Normally, an advertiser would be pleased at such a result, but every time Brar checked a sample of the new fans he found people with dubious names; a picture of a flower as a profile shot; and fewer than 10 friends — classic signs of a fake profile.

Naturally, Brar began disputing his bill with Facebook. He wanted his clicks audited by a third party, to see how many were genuine. Then he discovered that Facebook’s terms of service forbid third-party verification of its clicks. That’s something all advertisers should be aware of before they spend a penny on Facebook: Facebook has operated this way for a long time, and has a page for advertisers explaining in more depth why third-party click reporting may not match Facebook’s click counts. Essentially, Facebook suggests, if clicks are not measured in exactly the same way over the same time intervals then there will always be discrepancies.

Facebook is different from the rest of the online ad industry, which follows a standard of allowing click audits by third parties like the IAB, the Media Ratings Council or Ernst & Young.
This will all be exposed by the market sooner or later. I’m just shocked it is taking so long for people to put two and two together.


Selfies Spread Lice, Expert Claims -

Selfies Spread Lice, Expert Claims - 

Think twice before you get up close and personal for a selfie -- because that head-rubbing contact could allow lice to jump into your hair.

“I’ve seen a huge increase of lice in teens this year. Typically it’s younger children I treat, because they’re at higher risk for head-to-head contact. But now, teens are sticking their heads together every day to take cell phone pics,” Marcy McQuillan of Nitless Noggins, a lice removal service, told SFist.

Vanessa Mor of Oakland's Lice Control told CNET she's also seen an uptick in lice in teens and young adults. She didn't blame selfies, but didn't dismiss the idea either.

"That makes a lot of sense. In order to get it, you have to be direct contact -- sitting on the same towel, sharing headphones together or using someone else's hair curler, sharing hats, sweaters and scarves," Mor was quoted as saying.

But not everyone is buying the claim. In fact, one expert says this is a clear sign of someone selling something.

“Wherever these louse salons open a new branch, there always seems to be an epidemic. It’s good for business," Dr. Richard J. Pollack of the Harvard School of Public Health told NBC News.

Pollack, who also runs the pest identification and guidance service IdentifyUS, said he's seen no evidence that lice is spreading among selfie-snapping teens, or any other set of teens for that matter. Teens almost never have lice, he said.

In any case, the CDC has some tips for lice prevention -- and first on the list is to "avoid head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact during play and other activities at home, school and elsewhere (sports activities, playground, slumber parties, camp)."

So maybe you should skip the selfies... just to be safe.


How A Big Drug Company Inadvertently Got Americans Hooked On Heroin -

How A Big Drug Company Inadvertently Got Americans Hooked On Heroin - 

When she was 18, Arielle would come home every day and embark on what she calls an “Easter egg hunt." She wasn’t looking for candy. Arielle was hunting behind stairwells and inside closets in her suburban Long Island home for the OxyContin bottles her cousin brought home from work at a pharmacy and was hiding from her mother around the house.

“I found them one day, and I wanted to try them because all of my friends were already hooked,” said Arielle, who asked that her last name be withheld to avoid hurting her chances of getting a job. “I would see [my cousin] nodding out on the couch and not really being present, and that was how I wanted to feel. My best friend had just passed away, so I was numbing out the feelings.”

It took about a year before Arielle moved from prescription painkillers into the illegal drug that killed her best friend: heroin. She snorted it for the first time after tagging along with a friend who was going to buy some. "I was like, 'I love it,'" she said. Heroin was cheaper than prescription pills -- about $10 a bag, compared to $60 to $80 per pill -- and gave her a more potent high.

Her friend helped her inject the drug. “It was a feeling that I don’t think anyone should experience. Because once you experience it, you want to experience it over and over again,” she said. “ Next thing I know, I’m addicted.”

Arielle landed in a Long Island jail last year after she was caught breaking into a house and stealing money to buy drugs. Now 26 and living at a substance abuse treatment center, she says she's all too aware that her story isn’t unique.

Between 1996 and 2011, the number of people who ended up in substance abuse treatment centers in Suffolk County, where Arielle lives, as a result of heroin jumped 425 percent, according to a 2012 special grand jury report from the county’s Supreme Court. During the same period, the number of people who landed in substance abuse treatment for opioid pill use spiked 1,136 percent, the report found.

Long Island is one of many areas of the country where heroin addiction is reaching harrowing levels, according to Gregory Bunt, the medical director at Daytop Village, a New York-based substance abuse treatment center. The crisis is getting renewed attention after actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman died last month from an apparent heroin overdose. The rise in heroin use mirrors a decade-long spike in abuse of prescription opioids -- painkillers that are a medical cousin to heroin, but are legal as long as they’re prescribed by a doctor.

In recent years, more prescription drug abusers have started turning to heroin for a cheaper high as the price of pills skyrockets on the black market, Bunt said. Two factors have contributed to the cost increase: opioid addiction boosting demand and doctors becoming more cautious about prescribing opioids, decreasing supply, Bunt said.

Another reason for the price increase: The Drug War, according to a January 2012 report from Radley Balko. Government crackdowns have made it difficult for even reputable doctors to prescribe pain pills. To fill the void, doctors and others looking to make a buck off the prescription pills created so-called "pill mills" -- offices that prescribe pain medication in high volume and often serve people addicted to the drugs.

The result: Nearly four out of five people who recently started using heroin used prescription painkillers first, according to a 2013 study from the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.

“A lot of people who got in trouble with the prescription opiates are switching over to heroin, and they get more for their buck, so to speak,” Bunt said. In his experience, he added, much of the heroin available today is laced with other additives, like additional painkillers -- making it more dangerous.

“Once you inject the heroin that’s available today, you’re at very high risk for fatal overdose,” he said.


Packs of Chihuahuas are terrorizing an Arizona neighborhood, running through the streets and chasing kids -

Packs of Chihuahuas are terrorizing an Arizona neighborhood, running through the streets and chasing kids - 

Stray Chihuahuas are going wild in Maryvale, a neighborhood in Phoenix, Fox's KSAZ reported. The dogs are traveling in groups of 10 to 15.

"It makes it hard for the kids because they get chased down all the time when they're riding their little bikes," a resident told KSAZ. "And also the people that ride their cars. [The dogs] are always running after the cars and some of them get run over."

Chihuahuas are apparently the most common breed found in shelters, ABC News noted. The Maricopa County Animal Care and Control received 6,000 calls from Maryvale last year alone.

”Part of it is these animals aren’t spayed or neutered, so they’re out looking for a mate and are having babies, which also contributes to the problem," Melissa Gable with Maricopa County Animal Care and Control told ABC News, adding that residents are encouraged to call Animal Control if they see the stray dogs. The department will neuter them for free.

Chihuahuas are known to exhibit aggressive behavior despite their small size, according to Animal Planet. Despite weighing around 6 pounds, they have been known to go up against much larger dogs.

Last year, a 6-year-old girl wound up in the hospital after being attacked by a pack of Chihuahuas in Oregon, KPTV reported.


Monday, 24 February 2014

Tiny Crystal Is Oldest Known Piece of Earth, Scientists Say - dating to 4.4 Billion years -

Tiny Crystal Is Oldest Known Piece of Earth, Scientists Say - dating to 4.4 Billion years - 

Image: A 4.4 billion-year-old zircon crystal from the Jack Hills region of Australia is pictured in this handout photo

Scientists using two different age-determining techniques have shown that a tiny zircon crystal found on a sheep ranch in western Australia is the oldest known piece of our planet, dating to 4.4 billion years ago.

Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience on Sunday, the researchers said the discovery indicates that Earth's crust formed relatively soon after the planet formed and that the little gem was a remnant of it.

John Valley, a University of Wisconsin geoscience professor who led the research, said the findings suggest that the early Earth was not as harsh a place as many scientists have thought.

To determine the age of the zircon fragment, the scientists first used a widely accepted dating technique based on determining the radioactive decay of uranium to lead in a mineral sample.

But because some scientists hypothesized that this technique might give a false date due to possible movement of lead atoms within the crystal over time, the researchers turned to a second sophisticated method to verify the finding.

They used a technique known as atom-probe tomography that was able to identify individual atoms of lead in the crystal and determine their mass, and confirmed that the zircon was indeed 4.4 billion years old.

To put that age in perspective, the Earth itself formed 4.5 billion years ago as a ball of molten rock, meaning that its crust formed relatively soon thereafter, 100 million years later. The age of the crystal also means that the crust appeared just 160 million years after the very formation of the solar system.

The finding supports the notion of a "cool early Earth" where temperatures were low enough to sustain oceans, and perhaps life, earlier than previously thought, Valley said.

The zircon was extracted in 2001 from a rock outcrop in Australia's Jack Hills region. For a rock of such importance, it is rather small. It measures only about 200 by 400 microns, about twice the diameter of a human hair.


China's Naval Chief Says Smog is Best Defence Against US Laser Weapons... -

China's Naval Chief Says Smog is Best Defence Against US Laser Weapons... - 

Thick smog is the best defence against US laser weapons, a Chinese military chief has declared on national television.

Zhang Zhaozhong, the Navy Major General for the People's Liberation Army drew massive criticism when he made the statement on CCTV's Haixia Liang'an (Cross-Straits) current affairs programme, adding that lasers were "most afraid of smog".

He said: "Under conditions where there is no smog, a laser weapon can fire [at a range of] 10 kilometres. When there's smog, it's only one kilometre. What's the point of making this kind of weapon?

"It only works when the weather is good. The enemy will target you when the weather is bad.

"Once your enemy knows your disadvantages you are dead. This is a laser weapons' fatal disadvantage."

Zhang explained that smog was made up of tiny metallic particulate, known as PM2.5, and the higher its concentration the harder it is for lasers to get through.

He was speaking after the US navy announced it was preparing to deploy its first laser weapon aboard transport ship, USS Ponce, which is aimed at protecting US forces in the Persian Gulf.

But thousands of people took to social media site Sina Weibo to criticise Zhang's comments.

In response the major general said his statements were taken out of context and led to "misunderstanding".

He told Beijing Youth Daily: "I just stated a laser weapon's weakness. I don't support smog."

According to the World Health Organisation the presence of tiny pollution particles should not exceed 25 micrograms per cubic metre. In Beijing levels were recorded at almost 400.


Friday, 21 February 2014

Girl Scout does brisk business selling cookies outside pot dispensary... -

Girl Scout does brisk business selling cookies outside pot dispensary... - 

What's cooler than a Girl Scout selling cookies?

A business-savvy Girl Scout who sets up shop outside a cannabis clinic to rev up her sales skills.

Thirteen-year-old Girl Scout Danielle Lei did brisk business last Monday selling Dulce de Leches and other flavors outside The Green Cross medical marijuana clinic in San Francisco, Mashable reported.

Danielle was able to sell 117 boxes within two hours outside the cannabis clinic -- 37 more than what she sold within the same time frame at a local Safeway the next day, according to Mashable.

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"It's no secret that cannabis is an appetite stimulant -- so it's not shocking that a lot of our patients came and purchased cannabis, and then saw the cookies and purchased them," said Holli Bert, a spokesperson for The Green Cross. "But it wasn't just patients, staff members and neighbors also bought the cookies. I personally bought five boxes. It turned out to be a big success."

Bert said that Danielle's mother had contacted The Green Cross to set up the sale outside the store.

"We were happy to have her (Danielle) come -- she is extremely business savvy," Bert said.

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Danielle's mother Carol takes her two daughters to different places around San Francisco to sell cookies so that "they can learn about different environments," Mashable reported.

Carol told NBC Bay Area that the family is not doing any interviews.

Green Cross is so happy with the outcome that they have invited Danielle back to their store on Saturday, Feb. 22, from 4 to 6 p.m. for a repeat performance.

The Green Cross posted about Danielle's visit on its Facebook page, including a link to an external poll, which asks people whether Girl Scouts should sell cookies outside legal marijuana shops.

The Girl Scouts of Northern California don't have a problem with this business strategy.

Dana Allen, the organization's marketing and communications director, told Mashable that "the mom decided this was a place she was comfortable with her daughter being at."

"We're not telling people where they can and can't go if it's a legitimate business," she said.

Read more -

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Company to Launch Tiny Satellites That 'Bypass' Internet Censorship... -

Company to Launch Tiny Satellites That 'Bypass' Internet Censorship... - 

Coming Soon: Free Internet From SpaceOuternet wants to use tiny satellites to take the whole world online—even in countries where dictators wish they wouldn’t.

If all goes according to plan, North Koreans will soon have free, uncensored Internet provided by satellites the size of toaster ovens.

That's part of a project called Outernet, which hopes to launch hundreds of tiny satellites—known as CubeSats—to provide Internet to every person on Earth. Forty percent of the world's people currently don't have access to the Web. In a little more than a year, Outernet plans to have a fleet of 24 satellites operational and testing to pave the way for a globe-spanning network.

The satellites won't be providing conventional Internet right away. They'll initially be used for one-way communication to provide services like emergency updates, news, crop prices, and educational programs. Users will help determine what content is offered.

The project's backers say knowledge is a human right—one they intend to provide even in countries where dictators have thus far limited access. "We exist to support the flow of independent news, information, and debate that people need to build free, thriving societies," said  Peter Whitehead, president of the Media Development Investment Fund, Outernet's backer. "It enables fuller participation in public life, holds the powerful to account and protects the rights of the individual."

It will be at least five years before Outernet can offer the more interactive Web as we know it, which allows users to both access information and upload it, said Syed Karim, MDIF's director of innovation.

Worldwide Internet could be available sooner, Karim said, if telecom giants invested in a few mega-capacity satellites like North America's ViaSat-1. Three years and $12 billion is all it would take to get the job done, he estimated. "We don't have $12 billion, so we'll do as much as we can with CubeSats and broadcast data," Karim said.

How much will it cost? Putting a 10x10x10-centimeter payload into orbit runs more than $100,000. A 34x10x10 satellite—the biggest unit Outernet is considering—costs more than $300,000 to launch. Now, multiply that by hundreds of satellites. "We want to stay as small as possible, because size and weight are directly related to dollars," Karim said. "Much of the size is dictated by power requirements and the solar panels needed satisfy those requirements."

To determine the range and size of its global fleet, Outernet will have to determine the gain on its signal. A higher gain would lower the satellite's reach but provide faster speeds. The first fleet's testing will help determine the right balance.

While Outernet's engineers test and prepare for launch, they're seeking support from those who believe in their cause. In addition to traditional donation sources like Paypal, they're also accepting online currencies like bitcoin and Dogecoin (bitcoin blockchains are among the initial services the one-way signals will offer). They're also asking NASA to let them test their technology on the International Space Station.


The "Ukraine Situation" Explained In One Map -

The "Ukraine Situation" Explained In One Map - 

Sadly, everything you need to know about the crisis in Ukraine in one worrisome map which summarizes all the relevant "red lines."

Given this - is there any doubt this will not end with peaceful resolution.

As Martin Armstrong warned this morning:

BOTH the USA and EU will now fund the rebels as Russia will fund Yanukovych. At the political level, Ukraine is the pawn on the chessboard. The propaganda war is East v West. However, those power plays are masking the core issue that began with the Orange Revolution – corruption. Yanukovych is a dictator who will NEVER leave office. It is simple as that. There will be no REAL elections again in Ukraine. This is starting to spiral down into a confrontation that the entire world cannot ignore.


What Happens When A Black Man And A White Man Try To Break Into The Same Car? -

What Happens When A Black Man And A White Man Try To Break Into The Same Car? - 

The man trying to get into Jason Roberts' car was clearly a professional.

His movements were quick, skilled and evidently practiced. He began to attract the notice of skeptical onlookers. Who was that man breaking into the Mazda? Shouldn't someone do something?

A "professional" was exactly what he was, and, having called AAA for help getting into his locked car, Roberts expected nothing less. He was, however, unnerved by the stares of the people questioning the motives of a mechanic who was only trying to help. Then it hit him -- they were suspicious because, unlike him, the mechanic was black.

Roberts, a host on the YouTube channel Simple Misfits, decided to replicate the situation, this time camera in hand, so that everyone could witness the same unacceptable double standard that he had. He didn't realize how intense the response would be. Watch the video above to see for yourself (warning: NSFW language).

When Roberts attempted to break into his car, he set off the alarm again and again, but received only a few raised eyebrows. When actor Quentin Brunson took his turn, Los Angeles police were on the scene within two minutes, greeting him with profanity and a harsh attitude.

"Let me see your fucking hands," ordered the first cop to arrive. "Get up against the wall."

Roberts stepped in immediately, but heavy questioning followed. "One thing that he was telling me that was really surprising is that there was a female cop -- I believe she was Caucasian -- she came up to [Brunson] and she asked, 'Oh, why are you so nervous? What's wrong, why are you trembling?'" Roberts told The Huffington Post.

According to Roberts' account, Brunson calmly explained to the cop that he'd never been arrested before. The police officer responded, "You've never been arrested before?"

Roberts' goal for the experiment, he said, was to raise awareness. The video is spreading on the Web just days after Michael Dunn, a white man who fired on a group of black teenagers in Florida, killing one, was convicted on three attempted murder counts but escaped his most serious charge of first-degree murder. Dunn's verdict has revived conversations about how white and black Americans face markedly different levels of suspicion and hostility in many situations.


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Wife calls 911 over hubby's hookup request - her husband wanted her to 'hook up with HIS own sisters' -

Wife calls 911 over hubby's hookup request - her husband wanted her to 'hook up with HIS own sisters' - 

A 58-year-old South Carolina woman called 911 because her husband wanted her to "hook up with his sisters," police said.

The woman told deputies she and her 72-year-old husband have "had some sex problems for the past two years," according to a Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office report obtained by The Smoking Gun.

Not only did the woman not want to hook up with her sisters-in-law, she wanted to know if there was a way she could prohibit them from coming to her house, according to the report.

Caught up in a sticky situation, the responding deputy wrote that he "explained the no-trespass law."


NIGHTMARE: New test suggests antidepressant Paxil may promote breast cancer... -

NIGHTMARE: New test suggests antidepressant Paxil may promote breast cancer... - 

A team of researchers from the City of Hope in Duarte has developed a speedy way to identify drugs and chemicals that can disrupt the balance of sex hormones in human beings and influence the development and progress of diseases such as breast cancer.
In a trial screening of 446 drugs in wide circulation, the new assay singled out the popular antidepressant paroxetine (better known by its commercial name, Paxil) as having a weak estrogenic effect that could promote the development and growth of breast tumors in women.
This is important because as many as a quarter of women being treated for breast cancer suffer from depression -- a condition most commonly treated with antidepressants known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), including Paxil, which has been on the market since 1992. Almost a quarter of American women in their 40s and 50s are taking an antidepressant, mostly SSRIs.
Last summer, the Food and Drug Administration approved the marketing of a low dose of paroxetine -- repackaged under the commercial name Brisdelle -- as a nonhormonal treatment for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.
About 70% of breast cancers in women are sensitive to estrogen, meaning that the hormone found plentifully in females of child-bearing age contributes to their growth.
The novel screening method developed at City of Hope, described in a forthcoming issue of the journal Toxicological Sciences, also identified two antifungal medications -- biconazole and oxyconazole -- as having an anti-estrogenic effect similar to that of medications prescribed to prevent breast cancer and its recurrences in women. Incidental to their intended use in combating fungal infections, those medications inhibit the action of aromatase, an enzyme that converts androgens -- hormones more plentiful in males but present in both sexes -- into estrogen.
Less surprising, the high-throughput screening mechanism identified bisphenol A -- a compound used in the manufacture of plastics and epoxy resins -- as an estrogen promoter capable of raising breast cancer risk.
The discovery that Paxil behaves as an endocrine-disrupting chemical may shed light on growing suspicions about the medication in women who have had breast cancer. A 2010 study found that breast cancer patients in Canada who were taking Paxil were more likely than those taking other antidepressants to die of breast cancer when there was a substantial overlap in their use of that antidepressant and of tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer recurrence.
The researchers surmised that paroxetine, which was taken by about a quarter of the depressed breast cancer patients in the study, might block the production of a liver enzyme needed to metabolize tamoxifen. The authors of the latest research said paroxetine's "weak estrogenic" effect "may be responsible, in part, for the observed reduction" in tamoxifen's effectiveness in that study.
The finding that paroxetine has estrogenic effects "has implications for patients with estrogen-sensitive breast cancer who are on other medications," said Shihuan Chen, professor and chairman of City of Hope's department of cancer biology and lead author of the study.
To confirm paroxetine's estrogenic action, the researchers performed a further analysis that found that many of the genes whose activity is altered by paroxetine are genes that also respond to estrogen. But the researchers said the assay does not show whether the antidepressant medication alters the activity of estrogen directly or by indirect means. 


What's Wrong With These Two Charts -

What's Wrong With These Two Charts - 

By now the weather apologists will have let you know that the latest economic data disappointment - housing starts and permits - both of which crashed in January, is solely due to the weather (the same apologists who will tell you that any good news is due only to the "recovery"). Alas, this time even the most cursory glance beneath the headlines reveals just how sad the lies truly are.

Presenting Exhibit A: the all important housing permits, which predate starts by 2-3 months, broken down by region. If indeed the weather was to blame, it would be the region that was hit the worst by the polar vortex, i.e., the Northeast, which would have been most impacted. Instead, we find that the one region where the 'weather impact" was double that of the Northeast, was the West, i.e., California, where balmy weather resulted in a seasonally adjusted permits crash of 26%!

Next, Exhibit B: Housing starts broken down by region. Same logic - if it was indeed the snow's fault that activity ground to a halt, the Northeast region would have cratered (and other regions would have flatlined at worst). Instead, we get this:

It is almost as if nobody even wants to put any effort into the lies anymore.

Read more -