Colombian soldiers forced ‘drug smuggling’ Tory to eat coffee whitener

A Tory MP today revealed that he was forced to eat coffee whitener by Colombian soldiers who suspected him of drug smuggling.

Michael Fabricant, the MP for Lichfield and Burntwood, in Staffordshire, said he had been stopped by armed soldiers while on a trekking holiday in Colombia. The troops held him at gunpoint and forced him to eat his coffee whitener because they believed it to be cocaine.

“It took some explanation, as I don’t speak more than two or three words in Spanish, for them to accept it was Coffee Mate,” Fabricant – now safely back at Westminster – said.

“They didn’t want to taste it, as pure cocaine is fairly poisonous … so I had to eat several mouthfuls in front of them, with guns aimed at me, until they could see that it had no ill effect. Except afterwards I felt as sick as a dog.”

Tee hee. I went through the same trial with an immigration copper in Scotland. Except he thought I was carrying heroin in my backpack – instead of Woolite – so, he snorted some “just to check it out”. The silly git practically fell on the floor with soap bubbles coming out his ears.

His mates laughed at him so hard he got pissed off and stamped my passport requiring me to be out of the UK within 30 days.

Call the Feds to buy your duck stamp – and get phone sex!

NSFW if you click

People calling a federal phone number to order duck stamps are instead greeted by a phone-sex line, due to a printing error the government says would be too expensive to correct.

The carrier card for the duck stamp transposes two numbers, so instead of listing 1-800-782-6724, it lists 1-800-872-6724. The first number spells out 1-800-STAMP24, while the second number spells out 1-800-TRAMP24.

People calling that second number are welcomed by “Intimate Connections” and enticed by a husky female voice to “talk only to the girls that turn you on,” for $1.99 a minute.

Duck stamps, which cost $15 apiece, are required to hunt migratory waterfowl. The government uses nearly all the revenue to purchase waterfowl habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System. In 2006-2007, the latest figures available, duck stamp purchases brought in nearly $22 million…

The agency first learned of the mistake a few days ago, when a duck stamp owner informed them about the glitch. Levin said the agency has not received any complaints.

Sounds like most of the duck hunters who got the wrong number found the experience pleasurable enough – and didn’t see any need to complain.

Facebook for spies ready to launch

When you see people at the office using such Internet sites as Facebook and MySpace, you might suspect those workers are slacking off. But that’s not the case at the CIA, FBI and the National Security Agency, where bosses are encouraging their staffs to use a new social-networking site designed for the super-secret world of spying.

“It’s every bit Facebook and YouTube for spies, but it’s much, much more,” said Michael Wertheimer, assistant deputy director of national intelligence for analysis. The program is called A-Space, and it’s a social-networking site for analysts within the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies.

Instead of posting thoughts about the new Avenged Sevenfold album or Jessica Alba movie, CIA analysts could use A-Space to share information and opinion about al Qaeda movements in the Middle East or Russian naval maneuvers in the Black Sea.

The new A-Space site has been undergoing testing for months and launches officially for the nation’s entire intelligence community on September 22.

Of course, the material on A Space is highly classified, so it won’t be available for the public. Only intelligence personnel with the proper security clearance, and a reason to be examining particular information, can access the site.

What a chuckle. Maybe, this is just the world’s biggest honeypot? Maybe the intent is exactly what they say it is – and it gets to wring out hacking techniques at the same time?

Either road, every black or white hat hacker in the world will have a shot at it.

Seniors walk away memory problems

An Australian study has found that walking for two and a half hours a week can significantly improve memory problems in the over-50s.

The Fitness for the Ageing Brain Study, conducted over 18 months at the University of Western Australia, is believed to be the first in the world to demonstrate that moderate exercise can positively affect cognitive function.

Professor Lautenschlager said the results were very promising. “We found the improvement in memory occurred not only during the six month trial but also six and 12 months after completion of the supervised physical activity program’’ she said.

“We have known for a long time that exercise is a great way to improve cardiovascular health, but it may be that in the future exercise can also be recommended to protect against the ageing brain.”

“Unlike medication, which was found to have no significant effect on mild cognitive impairment, physical activity has the advantage of other health benefits such as preventing depression, quality of life, falls, cardiovascular function and disability.”

Makes me feel better. As a cranky old geek, there are occasional times when my walks with the dogs are less than recreation. Knowing that I’m actually doing myself some good reinforces that tiny corner of my brain that allows for smugness.

Retired general questions McCain’s mental rehab

A retired general at a Barack Obama campaign event said Republican presidential candidate and former prisoner of war John McCain’s support of the Iraq war could be due to a “lack of adequate psychological care” after McCain returned from Vietnam.

Retired Major Gen. Melvyn Montaño, a former head of the New Mexico National Guard, made his remarks during a “roundtable” in Santa Fe headlined by Michelle Obama, wife of the Democratic presidential candidate.

The crowd at the College of Santa Fe’s Greer Garson Theater roared. Michelle Obama didn’t comment on Montaño’s statement.

During the campaign event, at which Montaño appeared on stage with Michelle Obama, several wives of soldiers in Iraq spoke — sometimes emotionally — of their difficulties, including combat-related psychological problems.

Montaño served in the Air Force in Vietnam in 1968. His statement about McCain came after one of the Iraq veteran’s wives said that all members of the military should undergo mandatory psychological tests along with their physical examinations upon leaving the military.

Michelle Obama responded [to the topic]: “War is costly. That’s the first thing the commander in chief should be saying to us: that if we’re going to war, it’s going to cost a whole lot of money. And if we’re not going to pay for the whole thing — not just bullets and tanks — but for medical care and mental-health support and support for veteran’s families … that’s part of the cost of war and we have to, as a nation, have to say ‘yes we are either going to do that, or we’re not going to war.’ ”

When fools with no appreciation or understanding of the horrors of war start one – they should be required to lead the charge into battle.

Arthritis meds may increase likelihood of dying from lung fungus?

The Food and Drug Administration ordered stronger warnings about the risk of potentially deadly fungal infections on four medications widely used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other serious illnesses. The FDA has received 240 reports of patients taking such drugs as Cimzia, Enbrel, Humira, and Remicade, known as TNF-alpha blockers, who said the drug lowered the body’s defense to infections. Overall, 45 patients died. They developed histoplasmosis, a fungal infection which spreads throughout the body.

The drugs work by suppressing the immune system to keep it from attacking the body and they are approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, plaque psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis and Crohn’s disease. But the treatment can leave patients vulnerable to other complications, or diseases.

“FDA has asked the manufacturers of these four drug products to highlight existing warnings of fungal infections,” Dr. Jeffrey Siegel, clinical team leader at the FDA…He added that the box warning must be upgraded to “strongly warn doctors to consider the occurrence of histoplasmosis and other fungal infections.”

The agency is also investigating a possible link between the four medications and cancer in young patients. The FDA had received 30 reports of cancers, mainly lymphomas, in patients who began taking the medications when they were 18 or younger. The agency said it has a six-month timeline for the review. “We intend to meet that timeline,” Siegel said.

Scary stuff. Once again, you have to question the thoroughness of FDA pre-release testing.

Iraq Veterans turned away from Republican convention

A formation of 60 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans marched in uniform to Xcel Energy Center to deliver a briefing on veterans’ issues to Senator McCain on the opening day of the Republican National Convention.

IVAW member Wes Davey led the march and attempted to deliver the briefing to Senator McCain’s staff. Despite numerous mailed, faxed, and in-person invitations to meet, McCain’s office refused to send anyone to receive the briefing. When Davey, a retired Army First Sergeant and former St. Paul police officer, attempted to deliver the briefing, he was escorted off the premises.

Davey is a father of five and grandfather of seven. He served 28 years in the Army, including a tour in Iraq in 2003. His oldest child has served two tours in Iraq. “After being an NCO for all those years, I care deeply about all those still serving in Iraq,” said Davey about his reasons for organizing this march

Senator McCain has consistently voted against veterans interests. In a recent report, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America gave Senator McCain a “D” rating to Senator Obama’s “B+.” Disabled American Veterans reports that Senator McCain only voted for legislation that benefited veterans 20% of the time while Senator Obama supported veterans’ needs 80% of the time.

IVAW will continue to press both political parties for its three points of unity: an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq, reparations for the Iraqi people, and full benefits for returning veterans.

As strongly as I have opposed colonial and imperial war – I hold no brief against those who join the military from love of their country. You’ve served us honorably. More so than most of those in Congress – and all of the current occupants of the White House.

Why dewdrops stay on the rose

Ah, roses. Their heady fragrance and delicate petals glistening with dew could soften the hardest heart.

But take a sharper look at the dewdrops. They bead, rather than spread—and that’s because the material composing the petal surface doesn’t bond well with water. Yet the droplets don’t roll off. What binds them to the petals?

To find out, a team of chemists led by Lin Feng of Tsinghua University in Beijing peered at the petals with a scanning electron microscope. What they saw was a carpet of minuscule bumps covered with even tinier ridges. To confirm that those structures — and not the chemical makeup of the petals — are what grip the water droplets, Feng’s team made a plastic cast of the petal surface. As with the original petal, water droplets stuck to the cast, even when it was turned upside down.

It’s the texture, then, that does the trick.

Even though I know the explanation, the beauty is no less.

French return from vacation to discover the “electronic Bastille”

Opposition to a new security database is gaining momentum in France as people return to work after a summer break during which the government authorized the state to store personal information on people as young as 13. The decree creating the “Edvige” electronic database appeared in the official gazette on July 1, when the country was winding down for the summer, but news of its content has been gradually filtering out and is now stirring fierce criticism.

The Edvige database has no place in a democracy,” wrote Michel Pezet, a lawyer and former member of a body charged with protecting French citizens from electronic prying. “There is nothing in the decree that sets limits or a framework. Whether the database is used with or without moderation depends only on orders from up high. The electronic Bastille is upon us,” he wrote.

The decree says the aim is to centralize and analyze data on people aged 13 or above who are active in politics or labor unions, who play a significant institutional, economic, social or religious role, or who are “likely to breach public order”.

The information that can be collected includes addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, physical appearance, behavioral traits, fiscal and financial records, and details about people who have personal ties with the subject.

There was, of course, a previous government in France that enjoyed such power. It was headed by whatsis name? The guy with all the friends in Berlin.

Oh yeah. Philippe Pétain.