Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The United States Of Shame - What Is Your State Worst At? -

100,000 Dead Bats Fall From Australian Skies - Heatwave Blamed -

100,000 Dead Bats Fall From Australian Skies - Heatwave Blamed - 

dead bats

Around 100,000 bats are estimated to have died as a result of the recent heatwave in southern Queensland, an animal charity says.

The RSPC notes mass deaths in around 25 separate colonies across the region, with spokesman Michael Beatty telling ABC News: “The heatwave was basically a catastrophe for all the bat colonies in south-east Queensland.

“That’s obviously going to have a pretty disturbing impact on those colonies and those colonies are vital to our ecosystem.”

The smell of the corpses is also causing problems for locals, the channel adds, and survivors are being humanely euthanised by conservation workers and vets.

News.com.au described the scenes as “like we’re living in one of Alfred Hitchcock’s terrifying thought bubbles.”

Louise Saunders, Bat Conservation and Rescue Queensland president told the Courier Mail: “These (hot weather) events are really impacting on them.

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U.S. Navy Mistakenly Emails Reporter Plans To Dodge FOIA Requests -

U.S. Navy Mistakenly Emails Reporter Plans To Dodge FOIA Requests - 

The U.S. Navy has apologized for mistakenly sending Washington television reporter Scott MacFarlane an internal email plotting ways to dodge the reporter’s Freedom of Information Act requests for documents related to September’s Navy Yard mass shooting.

MacFarlane, an investigative reporter for NBC 4 in Washington, in December requested memos drafted by Naval Sea Systems Command officials shortly after the Sept. 16 shooting, along with photos of Navy Yard building 197, where the gunman fatally shot 12 people.

In an email intended for internal distribution, Robin Patterson, the Navy's FOIA public liaison, outlined strategies to thwart MacFarlane’s requests, which she called "another ‘fishing expedition.’”

“Recommend that you provide the requester with an estimate, as I can see the search and review, possible redactions, will be very costly,” Patterson wrote in the Jan. 2 email. “This may encourage the requester to 'narrow the scope.' Again another 'fishing expedition' -- just because they are media doesn't mean that the memos would shed light on specific government activities.”

Patterson went through each of MacFarlane's inquiries, strategizing reasons for rejecting the investigative reporter's requests:

DON2014F-0387: this one is specific enough that we may be able to deny. However, I want to talk with the FBI, as they may have all emails during that time, in their possession.
MacFarlane posted a screenshot of the email to Twitter on Tuesday, calling the Navy's blunder an “EPIC FAILURE.”

Navy administrator Steve Muck apologized to MacFarlane in an email, according to NBC News. The Navy also apologized via Twitter on Tuesday, affirming its commitment to the FOIA and “its vital role in providing transparency to the American public.”

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New PJs allow smartphones to read betime stories to children... -

New PJs allow smartphones to read betime stories to children... - 

smart PJs (smart pjs)

The bedtime ritual of a child putting on pajamas, cuddling with a parent, while reading a bedtime story has remained largely unchanged for centuries.

Until now.

Smart PJs are storytelling pajamas, that use mobile technology, similar to a QR code, to display bedtime favorites on a smartphone or tablet.

"Being a parent of 6 kids myself, I know kids like bedtime stories," says Juan Murdoch, founder of Smart PJs.

Murdoch came up with the idea while using QR codes in his real estate work in Idaho.

QR is short for Quick Response Code - the two-dimensional barcode consisting of square dots - that is easily scanned.

The bedtime stories are contained in the polka dots on the child's pajamas, which are available in pink or blue.

"You scan one of those dot patterns on the kid's pajamas - there are 47 different ones - and each one of those dot patterns is a bedtime story," says Murdoch.

To choose a story, parent or child launches the Smart PJs Stories app (free, in Apple Store for iOS, or Google Play for Android), and holds the device's camera over the dot patterns.

"You take the picture, and it automatically launches the story," Murdoch says.

Murdoch says most of the stories contained in the app are in the public domain.

"It's all the classics," Murdoch says. "Cinderella, The Gingerbread Man, Old Mother Hubbard, Humpty Dumpty."

Murdoch hired voice actors and artists to record the stories and illustrate the slides that correspond with the story.

Since many children practice reading while reading books at bedtime, Murdoch says he attempted to make the app educational, as well as entertaining.

"We put the actual words to the story on the screen," Murdoch says. "As the narrator is reading the story you can actually follow along."

Murdoch says despite being interactive, the pajamas are comfortable.

"Some people think there might be wires that are hidden in the pajamas, but that's not the case at all," Murdoch says.

While the comfort of Smart PJs might surprise some, the washing and care instructions will seem familar to most parents.

"The pajamas are 100 percent cotton, so they might shrink a bit," says Murdoch.

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