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Archive for December 2nd, 2010

Keeping us safe from snow globe-wielding terrorists

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Mother Nature Network reader and friend Charlie D. shot this photograph at LaGuardia airport of a TSA poster warning travelers that “snow globes are not allowed through the security checkpoint” because our safety is their priority.

This would be funny if it wasn’t so stupidly sad. We’ve wasted billions of dollars on responding to the old attacks while creating an airport security apparatus that stomps all over average citizens while doing little to prevent an attack from any half-bright would-be terrorist. It’s airport security theater.

And you know you can’t have a snow globe in a theater. Heavens no. That would be far too dangerous.

It’s a stretch to come up with a new commentary about the inmates in charge of this asylum.

Yes, of course, a reasonable amount of security checks – and certainly intelligence services that get out of the country club once in a while – are all to the good. But, overreacting to each little prod and poke from semi-barbarous bandits keeps the United States the laughingstock of the whole world.

And drives the rest of us nuts!

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Written by Ed Campbell

December 2, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Snake oil company uses libel laws to silence critics in the UK

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You thought I was joking about the snake oil?

The company that produces Boob Job cream has been accused of being a “charlatan and a bully” for using libel laws to silence a plastic surgeon who criticised its product.

Rodial, which claims its cosmetic cream can increase a woman’s breast size by up to 8%, threatened to sue Dalia Nield after she said the product’s claim was “highly unlikely”.

Nield is being represented by Robert Dougans, the lawyer who also acted for science writer Simon Singh after he faced a similar libel for comments he wrote about the British Chiropractic Association.

But speaking in the house of commons yesterday, Conservative MP David Davis said that the ability of companies such as Rodial to use libel law against critics was a violation of ancient principles of English law.

“[Rodial's threat] would be ludicrous, bordering on the farcical, were it not so serious in its wider implications,” said Davis.

“It is a disgraceful tactic, and it should not be possible under a decently balanced judicial system…”

Yesterday, the supreme court made significant changes to the defence of “fair comment”, invoked by defendants in libel cases to show their criticisms are honestly-held views based on fact.

There is a slim chance that before this century is out British common law will have entered the last half of the previous century.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 2, 2010 at 3:00 pm

2 cleared, 1 guilty in white supremacist grenade and gun deal

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A federal jury on Wednesday acquitted two men and convicted a third in what prosecutors said was a conspiracy by white supremacists to sell grenades and guns to a purported national supremacist group member, who was really a government informant.

The jury at the U.S. District Court in Bridgeport found Kenneth Zrallack, 29, of Ansonia and David Sutton, 46, of Milford not guilty of conspiracy charges. Alexander DeFelice, 33, of Milford, was convicted of several conspiracy and weapons charges.

Federal prosecutors said Zrallack is the leader of the Connecticut-based Battalion 14 white supremacist group, formerly known as the Connecticut White Wolves. Officials said DeFelice is a Battalion 14 member who knows how to make explosives, while Sutton, who is black, has known DeFelice for years but isn’t a white supremacist…

The informant, convicted felon Joseph Anastasio, wore hidden recording equipment that captured hours of what prosecutors said were incriminating conversations on video and audio. Many of the recordings were shown to the jury.

Anastasio portrayed himself as a member of a national supremacist group, the Imperial Klans of America. He testified that he bought three grenades and some guns from the defendants and gave the weapons to federal agents.

Anastasio also testified that he was not a white supremacist and was “sick” and “upset” when he joined Zrallack and others as they waved Nazi flags near an outdoor Jewish menorah lighting ceremony in Fairfield last year…

An expert on white supremacist groups, Robert Nill, told prosecutors that the Connecticut White Wolves claim to have been founded on April 20, Adolf Hitler’s birthday, in 2002, and Zrallack formed the successor Battalion 14 in 2009. Court documents also say defendants in the case talked about their desires to kill President Barack Obama and leave an explosive-filled basketball at a New Haven playground so blacks would be killed.

If you haven’t lived and worked in Connecticut you probably aren’t aware of the pride felt in being the “Arsenal of America”. Every major city has some factory or other that got its start manufacturing weapons or ammo.

Add to that the lasting history of rightwing nutballs like the John Birch Society and DePugh’s Minutemen in southern New England and their antecedents like Father Coughlin’s National Union for Social Justice.

Tie together the ideology + job skills and you’re ready to arm our garden-variety fascists.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 2, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Too many one-night stands? Blame your genes

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Another excuse

Of all the shopworn, will-not-fly, don’t-even-think-of-trotting-it-out excuses for cheating on your significant other, the “I couldn’t help it” ploy has got to be the worst.

You can’t help sneezing; you can’t help a hiccup. Skulking around, hiding receipts, erasing text messages and all the sundry other tasks that precede any decent assignation take a wee bit more conscious planning. And yet, according to a new study, it may be fair to say that while you jolly well could help cheating, your particular genes did make things more difficult.

Infidelity — and, for that matter, any act of fleeting, uncommitted sex — always has an element of risk about it. There’s the possibility of getting caught, there’s the possibility of catching something, there’s the possibility that the charmer in the bar will turn creepy in the boudoir. (Eliot Spitzer, we’re looking at your socks.) And while those risks are enough to keep most people on the straight, narrow and relatively chaste, for some folks danger has the opposite effect. It’s the very fact that things are dangerous that is the source of most of the thrills. If that weren’t the case do you think there would be any roller coasters, bungee jumpers or poisonous blowfish eaters?

Justin Garcia, a doctoral fellow in evolutionary biology and health at Binghamton University in New York, wanted to determine just what might distinguish people who are thrilled by sexual risk from people who recoil from it, and he already knew one place to look: the DRD4 gene, which helps regulate dopamine receptors…

“What we found was that individuals with a certain variant of the DRD4 gene were more likely to have a history of uncommitted sex, including one-night stands and infidelity,” he said. “The motivation seems to come from a system of pleasure and reward, which is where the release of dopamine comes in.” Garcia explains that the three big emotional elements of a dopamine rush are high risk, substantial rewards and variable motivation — or numerous ways the experience can pay off. All three x-factors are manifestly at play during a sexual romp…

Still, Garcia insists, “the study doesn’t let transgressors off the hook. These relationships are associative, which means not everyone with this genotype will have one-night stands or commit infidelity. [The] genes do not give anyone an excuse, but they do provide a window into how our biology shapes our propensities for a wide variety of behaviors.”

You still lose. Screwing up a good relationship ain’t worth it.

Not that there’s a surplus of good relationships.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 2, 2010 at 9:00 am

NASA press conference on extra terrestrial life – today!

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NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.

It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency’s website at http://www.nasa.gov.

For NASA TV streaming video and downlink information, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

I’m presuming there have been significant advances in exoplanet research, knowledge, conclusions. I ain’t going to miss the press conference.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 2, 2010 at 7:38 am

What’s in your pantry that “greens” nanotechnology?

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Gold nanoparticles, tiny pieces of gold so small that they can’t be seen by the naked eye, are used in electronics, healthcare products and as pharmaceuticals to fight cancer. Despite their positive uses, the process to make the nanoparticles requires dangerous and extremely toxic chemicals. While the nanotechnology industry is expected to produce large quantities of nanoparticles in the near future, researchers have been worried about the environmental impact of the global nanotechnological revolution.

MU scientist Kattesh Katti and his team have found a method that could replace nearly all of the toxic chemicals required to make gold nanoparticles.

Now, a study by a University of Missouri research team…has found a method that could replace nearly all of the toxic chemicals required to make gold nanoparticles. The missing ingredient can be found in nearly every kitchen’s spice cabinet – cinnamon.

The usual method of creating gold nanoparticles utilizes harmful chemicals and acids that are not environmentally safe and contain toxic impurities. In the MU study, Katti and researchers…mixed gold salts with cinnamon and stirred the mixture in water to synthesize gold nanoparticles. The new process uses no electricity and utilizes no toxic agents.

“The procedure we have developed is non-toxic,” Raghuraman Kannan said. “No chemicals are used in the generation of gold nanoparticles, except gold salts. It is a true ‘green’ process…”

Katti, who is considered to be father of green nanotechnology, and Nobel prize winner Norman Borlaug have shared similar views on the potential of green nanotechnology in medicine, agricultural and life sciences. Borlaug predicted a connection between medical and agricultural sciences. Katti, who is the editor of The International Journal of Green Nanotechnology, said that as more uses for nanotechnology are created, scientists must develop ways to establish the connection between nanotechnology and green science. The study was published this fall in Pharmaceutical Research.

Wow! I wasn’t familiar with this journal and most of my friends in and around Mizzou are either crazy about solar power – or explosions. Another one to add to the progressive list.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 2, 2010 at 6:00 am

Unmanned secret Air Force space plane to return to Earth

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An unmanned Air Force space plane that spent seven months in orbit is set to return to Earth.

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is scheduled to land at Vandenberg Air Force Base northwest of Los Angeles sometime between Friday and Monday, depending on the weather and other factors.

The Air Force Space Command said in a statement Tuesday the base has begun preparations for the landing.

The X-37B resembles a small space shuttle. Since it launched in April, space enthusiasts have speculated about its ultimate purpose. The Air Force has said the space plane was to serve as a test platform for unspecified experiments.

It’s a secret space plane on a secret mission. I expect we’ll all see it land on CNN.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 2, 2010 at 2:00 am

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