Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Bilbo Baggins will be worth $10NZ
New Zealand to release commemorative ‘The Hobbit’ coins worth thousands of dollars ahead of next month’s premier of director Peter Jackson’s latest Tolkien epic.
Hobbit coins, featuring characters such as Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the wizard, will be legal tender in the country, New Zealand Post said – although their face value will be only a fraction of the cost collectors will be expected to pay.
The most expensive, made from one ounce of pure gold, costs more than 350 times its face value. It will set Tolkien enthusiasts back NZ$3,695 but has a face value of just NZ$10.
The cheapest is available for almost 30 times its face value – a NZ$1 coin retailing for NZ$29.90…
Jackson, who was responsible for the Oscar-winning adaptation of Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, announced earlier this year that he would make three films from “The Hobbit” book, rather than two as originally planned…
New Zealand enjoyed a huge tourism boom after the original trilogy and is hoping to repeat the success with the Hobbit movies, launching a campaign branding the country “100% Middle Earth” to coincide with the premiere.
According to my friends, the smartest brown trout in the world live there. A long, long time.
Nearly nine out of 10 registered U.S. voters own a cell phone — almost half of which are smartphones. And many voters are using cell phones to get and share election information or news…
In September, Pew surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. adults and found that — even though text messaging is generally the most popular thing people do with their phones (other than talking) — texting doesn’t appear to be hugely popular in relation to this year’s election. This year, fewer than one in five mobile-enabled voters have sent campaign-related text messages to people they know, and only 5% had subscribed to receive text messages directly from a candidate or other group involved in the election.
Furthermore, while 45% of cell-owning registered voters use smartphone apps, only 8% use apps that come from a campaign, political party or interest group.
Overall, self-designated political conservatives appear to be the least advanced, and active, when it comes to mobile technology. Pew found that while liberal, conservative and independent voters are equally likely to own a cell phone, only 40% of conservative voters own a smartphone, significantly fewer than liberal (56%) or moderate (55%) voters. Also, only 68% of conservatives use text messaging, compared to 78% of moderates and 81% of liberals.
Getting news is a popular election-related activity: 27% of cell phone-owning voters do this, especially those under age 50. Liberals (37%) are more likely to get election or political news on their phones than moderates (28%) or conservatives (25%)…
Members of the Party-formerly-known-as-Republican figures they might start a coal shortage if they use their phones too much.
Julia Gillard, Australia’s prime minister, has verbally attacked the country’s opposition leader, labelling him as a hypocrite and a misogynist during a tirade in parliament that has garnered international media attention.
During a heated day in parliament on Tuesday, Gillard unleashed on Tony Abbott’s character after he called for the dismissal of Peter Slipper, the speaker of parliament, for lurid text messages he sent to a former member of staff…
In a fiery response, Gillard accused Abbott of possessing double standards when it came to sexism.
“I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. I will not,” she said.
“And the government will not be lectured on sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now, not ever.
“If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror, that’s what he needs.”
She then recounted previous…quotes by Abbott, which she said had repeatedly offended her personally.
I wish Democrats understood they might actually increase the tiny edge of respect they have over Republicans by calling them out for their bigotry and backwardness.
At the height of the tangerine season in Croatia’s Neretva river delta, two pickup trucks scour a maze of water channels carrying an odd-looking contraption: a mortar-like pipe spraying orchards with sterilized flies.
Each launch sends into the air thousands of males of the fruit fly, one of the most harmful orchard pests, in what advocates say is a prime example of how nuclear science can benefit both agriculture and the environment.
They have been bombarded with radioactive Cobalt-60 in an Israeli biotechnology plant to make them sterile in a bid to reduce the fly population and the damage they wreak on the crop…
“It is essentially a form of birth control,” IAEA head Yukiya Amano said. “The result has been a drop of no less than 75 percent in fruit fly damage” in Neretva, where nine out of ten people are involved in the citrus fruit industry…
The sterilized males outnumber the local fruit flies and gradually take the place of normal males. They can mate, but there is no offspring. Consequently, the number of larvae, which feed on ripening tangerines, quickly declines…
Jorge Hendrichs, who heads a joint pest control program of the IAEA and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agency, said the SIT method was a win-win because it enabled farmers to fight a pest which “can easily eliminate 30 to 100 percent of the crop” and at the same time use fewer pesticides…
For other countries – like the United States, Japan and Chile – the main thing is to prevent new pest outbreaks. “They want 100 percent assurance that the product you are exporting is 100 percent free, not one worm,” he said…
Greenpeace – which opposes nuclear energy on safety grounds – said blah, blah, blah.
If you mention the work “radioactivity” our current generations of ignoranuses panic and dash about forming circular firing squads – much in the same manner as obedient Catholics volunteered to inform on witches and Jews during the Inquisition.
People simply are unread and inexperienced enough to know that descriptions of radioactive half-life have nothing whatsoever to do with the effects of radiation on sterilized products. There is no radioactive residue left behind to contaminate your fruit compote.
Scientists have pinpointed a gene that enables rice plants to produce around 20% more grain by increasing uptake of phosphorus, an important, but limited, plant nutrient.
The discovery unlocks the potential to improve the food security of rice farmers with the lowest value phosphorus-deficient land allowing them to grow more rice to add to global production, and earn more.
The gene — called PSTOL1 which stands for Phosphorus Starvation Tolerance — helps rice grow a larger, better root system and thereby access more phosphorus. Farmers can apply phosphorus fertilizers to increase productivity but on problem soils phosphorus is often locked in the soil and unavailable to plants.
Also, phosphorus fertilizer is often unaffordable to poor farmers. Adding to the problem is that phosphorus is a non-renewable natural resource and rock phosphate reserves — the source of most phosphorus fertilizers — are running out…
…Dr. Sigrid Heuer, senior scientist at the International Rice Research Institute, said…”We’ve known for a long time that the traditional rice variety Kasalath from India has a set of genes that helps rice grow well in soils low in phosphorus”…
“We have now hit the jackpot and found PSTOL1, the major gene responsible for improved phosphorus uptake and understand how it works,” Heuer saiFd…
The discovery of the PSTOL1 gene means that rice breeders will be able to breed new rice varieties faster and more easily, and with 100% certainty their new rice will have the gene.
One of the special benefits of the new strains is their suitability for poorer upland farmers growing rice without irrigation.
The gene is being offered through modern hybridization techniques though I don’t doubt there will be GM versions as well. Neither of which may satisfy Luddites; but, then agronomists are not trying to improve crops just to stroke the farming-as-religion crowd.
Poor farmers and nations in need are the legitimate target market.
L.V. and Tina Hall – 2 years before she died
Around midnight on June 1, 2007, Tina Hall was finishing her shift in a place she loathed: the mixing room at the Toyo Automotive Parts factory in Franklin, Ky., where flammable chemicals were kept in open containers.
A spark ignited vapors given off by toluene, a solvent Hall was transferring from a 55-gallon drum to a hard plastic bin. A flash fire engulfed the 39-year-old team leader, causing third-degree burns over 90 percent of her body. She died 11 days later.
After investigating the accident, the Kentucky Labor Cabinet’s Department of Workplace Standards cited Toyo for 16 “serious” violations and proposed a $105,500 fine in November 2007…
The violations didn’t stick. Every one of them went away in 2008, as did the fine, after Toyo’s lawyer vowed to contest the enforcement action in court. Last month, in a move believed to be unprecedented in Kentucky, the Department of Workplace Standards reinstated all the violations because, it said, the company hadn’t made promised safety improvements.
The case was another black eye for state-run workplace health and safety programs nationwide. In all, 26 states administer their own programs under federal supervision. Several have been criticized in recent years for capitulating to lawyered-up employers, performing subpar inspections and shutting out accident victims’ families.
RTFA for lots of details, examples of states rights and local bureaucracy used as you would expect – to walk away from responsibility to provide safe conditions for working people. Like many smoke-and-mirrors state programs, these exist because of lax administration by a federal bureaucracy equally unconcerned about those they are chartered to protect.
Kentucky is just one example of a state with employers let off the hook by states rights and state responsibilities. But, the case of Tina Hall, burned to death from a terrible fire stinks even more because a department run by cowards and cowed civil servants backed away from prosecution and penalties simply because the company responsible threatened to contest the case.
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission
Firefighters will spend the next two weeks setting homes ablaze on a small island in New York Harbor for one purpose: Saving lives.
Eighteen abandoned townhouses on New York City’s Governors Island, formerly housing for members of the Coast Guard, have been turned into a setting for roaring fires in experiments aimed to develop new strategies firefighters can use to save lives.
“They are bringing the lab out to the firefighters,” said Dan Madryzkowsky, a fire protection engineer from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which conducted the tests with the FDNY and Underwriters Laboratories, a non-profit group.
The idea behind this and other experiments taking place on Governors Island is to find flaws in fire-fighting techniques that, in many cases, haven’t changed in decades.
At the same time, modern households have undergone dramatic shifts, with organic materials, such as cotton and feathers, largely replaced by more affordable synthetic materials introduced in the 1970s.
With the change came a disturbing trend, said Fire Department deputy assistant chief Robert Maynes. The new materials have shortened the time it takes a house to burn, and cause fire to burn even hotter. Where more natural homes would take 17 to 20 minutes to burn, modern homes can be engulfed in five minutes…As a result, Maynes said, an increase in burns and fatalities started to show up in fire department statistics in 1983.
The researchers performing the experiments on Governors Island hope that each home, outfitted with more than 100 sensors which measure oxygen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, airflow through the houses and heat levels, would give them valuable information in fighting fires.
Bravo. Sensible use, smart experiments, designed to elicit info which can save lives.
The United States has a dignity problem. The concept of dignity is recognized by law in countries all over the world. It is a cornerstone of both international humanitarian law, which governs the treatment of prisoners of war, and international human rights law.
But it has little power in American jurisprudence. A robust recognition and protection of dignity is precisely what we need, particularly if we are to understand how racism has broken its tether and become enshrined again in state laws and policies across the United States.
Take racial profiling — the single most explicit manifestation of racial prejudice in the United States today. Nearly 700,000 individuals a year are subject to the brutal indignity of the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy. The vast majority are young African-American and Latino men…
Stop-and-frisk policing is only one aspect of the national indignity of racial profiling. Police surveillance of law-abiding Muslims (here again the New York police play a central role) and the pulling over of motorists for “driving while black” are two others. Rather than recognize how these practices strike at our bedrock constitutional rights to due process, equal protection and freedom from unreasonable searches, the Supreme Court recently doubled down on racial profiling. It decided that the discretion of police may be complemented by the discretion of jail officials to strip-search the 14 million Americans who are arrested each year.
In this way, the conservative majority on the court is turning back the clock on the greatest successes of the civil rights movement — the understanding that the Civil War amendments to the Constitution were designed to uphold the inherent dignity of blacks as human beings and citizens…
The court appears poised to do the same next month in the case involving Arizona immigration law, which gives local police the right to demand proof of citizenship from people they suspect are here illegally…Chief Justice John Roberts insisted on limiting the parameters of the case by stating at the outset of the solicitor general’s argument, “I’d like to clear up what (this case is) not about. No part of your argument has to do with racial or ethnic profiling…” So, the Court may not include discussion of profiling in their decision. Baloney!
The meek acquiescence of the solicitor general to this judicial bullying was a failure of colossal proportions. The conservative majority may have the power to legalize racial profiling in this country, but they should not be permitted to pretend they are doing anything else.
It’s beyond contempt to watch the broad swath of Americans who lie out loud about racism and bigotry in this country. From creeps like Roberts – who lied through his teeth to get Senate confirmation – to your friendly neighborhood air conditioned cop car, Americans practically deny that slavery and racism, Jim Crow and segregation ever existed. Hundreds of years as the law of the land disappear like a Walt Disney dissolve from John Wayne to Midwestern cities appearing – without noticing the thousands of Native Americans who were slaughtered.
If “polite” Americans refuse to admit to or discuss bigotry they presume it will vanish. Wrong! You still need some elbow grease and that magic cleanser is called truth.
Here are some photos from the annular eclipse on May 20, 2012. All taken in Albuquerque, New Mexico right next to the airport.
Myself and my friend, Dave, were the first two there as we got there early. Shortly another car rolled in, and another. We ended up having about 15 cars there. Most people were from out of state. Our "neighbors" came in from North Carolina.
The U.S. Agriculture Department confirmed on Tuesday a California dairy cow had mad cow disease…the fourth such U.S. case since it was first found here in 2003, but said no parts of the animal entered the nation’s food supply.
John Clifford, the USDA’s chief veterinary officer, said there was “no cause for alarm” from the animal, which was found at a rendering plant that processes diseased or sick animals into non-edible products for use in things like soap or glue…
While there is no evidence that humans can catch it from drinking the milk of an infected cow, fears of a potential backlash among consumers and big importers of U.S. beef caused Chicago live cattle futures drop sharply…
The USDA is still tracing the exact life of the infected animal, which was found at an undisclosed rendering facility in central California.
The carcass of the cow, which the USDA said was infected by an “atypical” form of the disease, would be destroyed. The cow was not believed to have contracted the disease by eating contaminated food, the USDA added.
“There is really no concern for alarm here with regards to this animal. Both human health and animal health are protected with regards to this issue,” Clifford told reporters…
“The impact should not affect exports. Now, I’m not saying it may or may not, but it should not,” Clifford said, noting that the United States has been recognized by authorities as having taken steps to control its risks for the disease.
Beef exports plunged nearly 75 percent in 2004 in the wake of the first U.S. incident in late-2003, with USDA reporting net cancellations of beef sales in five out of the first six weeks following the news.
The panic factor is always underestimated – by choice – in press conferences of this character. Officials stand around with their fingers crossed behind their back – hoping they’re right about contagion, hoping they’re right about panic.
The Luddite Left will go bonkers. The populist right and the Kool Aid Party will find some way to blame Obama [does he even drink white milk?]. California politicians of both lame parties will back up the dairy industry regardless of standards.
The important task is what we’ve done best in the past. Isolate the cause after it’s found. Keep the food supply up to reasonable standards – whatever that might be.