Courts weigh Doomsday claims – right after Doomsday

Critics who say the world’s largest atom-smasher could destroy the world have brought their claims to courtrooms in Europe and the United States – and although the claims are getting further consideration, neither court will hold up next week’s official startup of the Large Hadron Collider.

The main event took place today in Honolulu, where a federal judge is mulling over the federal government’s request to throw out a civil lawsuit filed by retired nuclear safety officer Walter Wagner and Spanish science writer Luis Sancho.

Meanwhile, legal action is pending as well at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Last week, the court agreed to review doomsday claims from a group of professors and students, primarily from Germany and Austria. However, the court rejected a call for the immediate halt of operations at the LHC.

If this sounds to you like a blizzard of documents, you’re not alone. At today’s hearing, Judge Gillmor took both sides to task for filing so many disjointed documents and for failing to follow the local rules of the court.

Will the judge weather yet another storm of paperwork? Maybe not. She doesn’t want any more filings without her permission.

For a little more background on the tinfoil hat brigade, wander over here. My fellow editors and I at Dvorak Uncensored have posted a few times about the LHC.

Brazil’s president suspends spy agency snoopers

Brazilian intelligence chiefs have been suspended from duty amid allegations that their agency tapped the phones of top officials, politicians and judges. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva ordered that the agency’s leadership be removed while an investigation into the reports was carried out…

Veja magazine alleged that senior figures, including President Lula’s chief of staff and the head of the Senate, had had their phones bugged by the intelligence agency, known as Abin. The magazine published what it said was the transcript of a telephone conversation between the head of the Supreme Court, Gilmar Mendes, and an opposition politician, Demostenes Torres.

The agent, who was said to have provided the transcript, alleged that such illegal phone tapping was common…

President Lula was outraged by the reports.

Abin’s director general, Paulo Lacerda, and other top officials have been removed from their posts until an inquiry is completed.

If you think it unsurprising that it happened there – remember it can happen here.

First digital TV market goes live next week

Wilmington, N.C., next Monday will be the first city in the U.S. to make the switch to digital TV as Federal Communication Commission officials and local broadcasters conduct the first widespread test of the conversion to digital TV.

At noon, TV broadcasters throughout the Wilmington area will shut off their old analog TV signals and broadcast only in digital, providing the first real test of the mandated switch to digital TV. Congress has mandated that all TV broadcasters switch to digital broadcast in February. In an effort to help test the switch for the rest of the country, Wilmington is making the switch five months early.

Once the switch happens, old TV sets that rely on over-the-air analog TV signals will no longer work.

The transition is expected to affect more than 15 percent of U.S. households, which rely on free TV broadcasts. Wilmington is actually in better shape than most communities with only 7 percent of its households, or roughly 12,600 homes, being affected by the switch.

I have a few friends who expect widespread panic.

I figure the least-informed will presume their set died – go out and buy a new one – and will come home with a digital set that works and never realize what happened.

Are you lacking the Commitment gene?

There’s news for women who want a man who bonds instead of a James Bond: Scientists have identified a common genetic variation that appears to weaken a man’s ability to emotionally attach to one partner.

The study is the first to try to examine whether a hormone that encourages monogamy in animals plays a similar role in male humans. Before getting ideas about a DNA-fidelity test, though, women should consider that the study wasn’t designed to determine how much – or even whether – the gene in question is responsible for monogamy in humans.

“We can’t with any accuracy predict effects on behavior,” says Hasse Walum of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. “A lot of different things determine how happy you will be in a relationship.”

But women can now wonder, “What about his vasopressin 1a receptor subtype?”

Scientists running the studies quite correctly point out that a single gene doesn’t provide much more than a measure of potential behavior. Still – this could make for some great excuses in divorce court.

Nokia “Comes with Music” comes to market

Consumers in the U.K. will be the first to try Nokia’s Comes With Music on the 5310 XpressMusic phone.

The phone is expected to ship next month. The service, announced last December, packages mobile phones with a year of unlimited access to tracks in the Nokia Music store and the ability to keep all downloaded tracks even after the year is over, according to Nokia.

It’s no surprise that Nokia is launching Comes With Music with a retailer, and not a carrier, according to Carolina Milanesi , research director at Gartner. “I think this only represents a revenue potential for carriers if users download over the air, other than that there is no real incentive for them. Also if you are offering your own music offering this is in competition from what you already have,” she said.

Yet another variation on the mobile with music syndrome. Dunno. I’m still one of those who uses a cell phone only as a phone.

For photos, I own 2 cameras. A pocket camera that hides away everywhere I go. A Panasonic DMC-FZ50 for serious work. If I’m in the house, I have thoroughgoing entertainment center in the living room – and Klipsch speakers pumping whatever I wish to listen to in my home/office via iTunes storage and streaming. I have a good radio and speakers in the pickup – and if I’m outdoors, I’m happy listening to the wind and the birds.

Halfway solutions don’t appeal.

If you’re a healthy old geezer, you may not need a flu shot!

The widely-held perception that the influenza vaccination reduces overall mortality risk in the elderly does not withstand careful scrutiny, according to researchers in Alberta. The vaccine does confer protection against specific strains of influenza, but its overall benefit appears to have been exaggerated by a number of observational studies that found a very large reduction in all-cause mortality among elderly patients who had been vaccinated.

The study included more than 700 matched elderly subjects, half of whom had taken the vaccine and half of whom had not. After controlling for a wealth of variables that were largely not considered or simply not available in previous studies that reported the mortality benefit, the researchers concluded that any such benefit “if present at all, was very small and statistically non-significant and may simply be a healthy-user artifact that they were unable to identify…”

The healthy-user effect is seen in what doctors often refer to as their ‘good’ patients— patients who are well-informed about their health, who exercise regularly, do not smoke or have quit, drink only in moderation, watch what they eat, come in regularly for health maintenance visits and disease screenings, take their medications exactly as prescribed— and quite religiously get vaccinated each year so as to stay healthy. Such attributes are almost impossible to capture in large scale studies using administrative databases,” said principal investigator Sumit Majumdar, M.D., M.P.H..

The finding has broad implications for patients, vaccine developers and for policy makers. You just may not need a flu vaccination unless there’s a specific flavor headed your way.

I’m one of those pain-in-the-butt healthy-user artifacts. Except for weight, I fit all the parameters. I usually get the flu shot each autumn.

And I probably will continue doing so. That’s what healthy users do.

Oil Royalty buys Manchester City

Change stadium name from Eastlands – to Middle Eastlands

The butt of many a joke only a matter of weeks ago as the full extent of Thaksin Shinawatra’s personal and financial problems emerged, Manchester City’s world has been turned on its head in the space of 24 mind-boggling hours as the former Prime Minister of Thailand sells the club to Arab royalty with wealth that dwarfs even that of Roman Abramovich. The arrival of Abramovich at Chelsea five years ago changed the landscape of English football, but the involvement of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi at City threatens to transcend even the enormity of the Russian’s achievements in West London.

Bankrolled by Abramovich’s millions, Chelsea won the league in the Russian’s second season at the club. Al-Fahim hopes for the same at City. “We are looking to make the same kind of impact at Manchester City that has happened at Chelsea in recent years,” Al-Fahim said. “That is what we want and we think it is achievable. The Premier League is a huge attraction for us. We looked at the likes of Arsenal and Newcastle United but we are very excited about becoming the new owners of Manchester City and have great ambitions.

“The target is to finish in the top four this season and then challenge for the Premier League title next year. We know that will require serious investment, but the bids we have already made for several players demonstrate how serious we are. We want to turn City into one of the biggest football clubs there is.”

Asked if the investors would be prepared to spend £200 million or more next summer to turn City into title challengers, Al-Fahim said: “Yes, if that is what it takes, we will do it.
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A growth industry – in your back yard

In California, more than 40 residents volunteered their back yards to an aspiring young farmer who could not afford to buy land of his own. In exchange for a weekly supply of produce, they would let him till their all-American lawns into rows of lettuce, broccoli, squash, and peas.

These weren’t Bay Area yuppies, either. In working-class Chico, about 85 miles north of Sacramento, the residents who offered property to Lee Callender, 28, last October included a real estate agent, a retiree, a school administrator, and a newspaper carrier, who offered a plot behind his trailer.

The term “foodie” is no longer reserved for an exclusive club of chefs and discriminating diners. Today, food has become a focus – and a cause – for a broad audience, from individuals such as the Chico residents offering their yards to an idealistic urban farmer, to corporations such as Chipotle, which recently said that each of its more than 730 restaurants will be required to buy a percentage of the produce it serves from local farms.

Sodexo, the world’s largest food-service company, now sources from 700 independent, regional farmers and is overhauling its menus to focus on seasonal and local ingredients. Wal-Mart revealed recently that it plans to buy and sell $400 million worth of locally grown produce at its stores.

Giving me a big smile. I’m not especially diligent about visiting our local farmers’ market. But, a fair piece of our produce is grown locally and offered through the Whole Foods where we do part of our grocery shopping.

A portion of our summer’s tomatoes and over half of the year’s herbs are grown in our courtyard. And we’re working at building up the soil for what will be our raised beds, next season.

Jumping for joy – and stronger bones

High impact activities such as jumping and skipping that can easily be incorporated into warm-ups before sports and physical education classes, have been shown to benefit bone health in adolescents.

The 10 minute school-based intervention, provided twice a week for about eight months, significantly improved bone and muscle strength in healthy teenagers compared to regular warm-ups.

Physiotherapist Ben Weeks said the warm-up which included tuck jumps, star jumps, side lunges and skipping with gradually increasing complexity and repetitions, was specifically designed to apply a bone-stimulating mechanical load on the skeleton. Students worked up to about 300 jumps per session by the end of the study.

Eighty per cent of bone mass is accrued in the first 20 years and especially around puberty due to the circulating hormones. This study targets a window of opportunity in adolescence to maximise peak bone mass with high-intensity, weight-bearing activity.”

Along with the process of dumbing-down American students, when was it that we lost simple attention to exercise like this?

I won’t drive you nuts with the [true] tale of walking forth-and-back to school, every day. Frankly, it was fun. The disciplined exercise that was part of every gym class in elementary school wasn’t fun; but, it obviously had good results.

I’d like to know why it disappeared – so, we don’t repeat the mistake.