$5.8 million for scientist in anthrax lawsuit

Stick it in your…database…John Ashcroft!

The Justice Department has agreed to pay $5.8 million to settle a lawsuit with former Army scientist Steven Hatfill, who was named as a person of interest in the 2001 anthrax attacks…

The deal requires the Justice Department to pay $2.825 million dollars up front and buy Hatfill a $3 million annuity that will pay him $150,000 each year for 20 years…

Five people were killed and 17 sickened by anthrax that was mailed to lawmakers on Capitol Hill and members of the news media in New York and Florida just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

After the attacks, Attorney General John Ashcroft called Hatfill “a person of interest” in the investigation and stories by various reporters followed. Hatfill had worked at the Army’s infectious diseases laboratory from 1997 to 1999. The anthrax attacks remain unsolved.

The settlement likely also means that former USA Today reporter Toni Locy will no longer face up to $5,000-a-day in fines in the case. A federal judge ordered her to identify the officials who discussed Hatfill. When she said she couldn’t remember, the judge ordered her to identify all her sources on the anthrax case.

I have to wonder how many unproductive millions were spent in the search for the real culprit. Uh, the snoop-suits did follow other leads. Right?

New Nano technique significantly boosts heat transfer

Copper nanorods deposited on a copper substrate

A new study from researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute shows that by adding an invisible layer of the nanomaterials to the bottom of a metal vessel, an order of magnitude less energy is required to bring water to boil. This increase in efficiency could have a big impact on cooling computer chips, improving heat transfer systems, and reducing costs for industrial boiling applications.

“Like so many other nanotechnology and nanomaterials breakthroughs, our discovery was completely unexpected,” said Nikhil A. Koratkar…who led the project. “The increased boiling efficiency seems to be the result of an interesting interplay between the nanoscale and microscale surfaces of the treated metal. The potential applications for this discovery are vast and exciting, and we’re eager to continue our investigations into this phenomenon.”

Boiling is ultimately a vehicle for heat transfer, in that it moves energy from a heat source to the bottom of a vessel and into the contained liquid, which then boils, and turns into vapor that eventually releases the heat into the atmosphere. This new discovery allows this process to become significantly more efficient, which could translate into considerable efficiency gains and cost savings if incorporated into a wide range of industrial equipment that relies on boiling to create heat or steam.

“If you can boil water using 30 times less energy, that’s 30 times less energy you have to pay for.”

Fascinating stuff. An advancement that can be applied to heat transfer throughout modern technology.

Rural “Scent of a Woman” – sort of

Not the ideal place for a dip

A woman fell into a tank of slurry as she tried to make “manure bombs” using her stockings, German police said.

The unfortunate woman stripped off her foul smelling clothes and fled the scene naked, along with a female accomplice wearing just her bra and pants.

The two women entered a farm in the northern village of Eberholzen, Lower Saxony, on Wednesday evening and started to fill the stockings from the slurry tank.

“One of them slipped into the manure tank, right into the cow muck,” said the spokesman. “The other one helped her out. We found their clothes in a field. One seems to have run off naked, the other in her underwear.”

The coppers are holding their clothes for them – unwashed – if they want to drop by and pick them up.

Romanian child rape victim allowed abortion

A Romanian government committee has decided to allow a pregnant 11-year-old who was raped by her teenage uncle to have an abortion, a government spokesman said Friday.

The girl is 21 weeks pregnant — too far along to have an abortion in Romania, where the limit is 14 weeks unless the pregnancy poses problems for the mother’s health, said the spokesman.

The girl’s parents had said they would take their daughter to Britain for an abortion if the committee did not allow her to have one in Romania. Abortions are legal in Britain up to 24 weeks…

Church groups have opposed an abortion for the girl, the government spokesman said. The Romanian Orthodox Church has urged the girl to keep the baby, and has said it will take care of the baby if the family wants to give it up for adoption, he said.

Still, she’s lucky not to live in South Dakota. Here’s their law as interpreted by a leading member of the SD State Senate:

“A real-life description [of a candidate for abortion] to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.”

Some of these cretins haven’t yet made it out of the 14th Century.

Pakistan peace committee massacred!

The bodies of 22 members of a government-sponsored peace committee were found dumped near South Waziristan Wednesday after fighting broke out between the Pakistani Taliban and a rival tribe, government officials said.

The peace committee was attacked by supporters of Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban, in the town of Jandola on Monday, not far from the Afghan border and about 300 kilometers,or 185 miles, west of Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province.

Some of the 22 bodies were found with bullet wounds, others had been slashed with knives, Marwat said.

The killings come after the Pakistani army reached a cease-fire with Mehsud’s forces earlier this year. It has pulled its soldiers back from Mehsud’s territory in South Waziristan. Under the terms of an accord, the military has exchanged prisoners with Mehsud’s forces.

The movement of Mehsud’s Taliban fighters into Jandola and the killings of the peace committee members from the rival Bhittani tribe are likely to raise questions about the accord between the army and the Taliban.

Like that phrase – “likely to raise questions”?

You have to be out of your fracking mind to place your life on the line for the Pakistan military, government and assorted regional politicians.

VW rolls out a Plug-In Diesel Hybrid

Volkswagen’s been toying with hybrids for awhile and got electric-vehicle advocates in a lather over the diesel-electric Golf it unveiled a few months ago. Now the company’s promising a plug-in hybrid by 2010 and the German government’s written a big check to make it happen.

VW boss Martin Winterkorn says gas and diesel engines will be around for a long time to come, but “the future belongs to all-electric cars.” The automaker is staking a claim to that future with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain it calls Twin Drive. It will debut in a Golf fitted with a 122-horsepower diesel engine and an 82-horsepower electric motor.

“While the e-motor on a typical hybrid model just supplements the combustion engine, the exact opposite is true on Twin Drive,” Winterkorn said during the car’s unveiling in Berlin. “Here the diesel or gasoline engine supplements the e-motor.”

Start-stop technology will save power and regenerative braking will help generate it. VW says the car will use lithium-ion batteries and have an all-electric range of 31 miles. The company recently signed a deal with Sanyo to develop li-ion batteries…

Cripes. A diesel-electric plug-in hybrid. Way too intelligent a design for American consumers.

Or am I too cynical?

As much as I love “Ruff Boy” – our old Dodge pickup truck – the one offering that could move me to buy a new truck would be a compact pickup with diesel-hybrid power. No, I’m not holding my breath!

No ice at the North Pole?

It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.

The disappearance of the Arctic sea ice, making it possible to reach the Pole sailing in a boat through open water, would be one of the most dramatic – and worrying – examples of the impact of global warming on the planet. Scientists say the ice at 90 degrees north may well have melted away by the summer.

“From the viewpoint of science, the North Pole is just another point on the globe, but symbolically it is hugely important. There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water,” said Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado…

“The issue is that, for the first time that I am aware of, the NorthPole is covered with extensive first-year ice – ice that formed last autumn and winter. I’d say it’s even-odds whether the North Pole melts out,” said Dr Serreze.

A certain number of Know-Nothings will predictably turn their heads away when this happens – this year, next year, whenever – and mumble something about extremist scientists. They will not read any science. They will not consult any peer-reviewed study. Some intellectually-lazy pundit will suffice.

Any and all problems will disappear. All’s right with the world.