Twenty die on Russian nuclear submarine

Akula-class submarine in a snowy harbour

At least 20 people have died in an incident involving the failure of a fire extinguishing system on a Russian nuclear submarine.

Russian Pacific Fleet spokesman Igor Dygalo said both sailors and shipyard workers died in the incident, which occurred during sea trials. He said the submarine itself had not been damaged and there had been no radiation leaks.

The submarine, whose name and class have not been revealed, has been ordered to suspend sea trials and return to port in the far eastern Primorye territory, Capt Dygalo said.

There were 208 people on board at the time, 81 of whom were servicemen.

A shipyard source told the RIA Novosti news agency the vessel was the K-152 Nerpa, an Akula-class submarine, but this cannot be independently confirmed.

RIA said the trials were in the Japanese Sea and that the Nerpa was due to be leased to the Indian navy.

Think inclusion of the word “nuclear” in the headline increased the number of folks reading this article? You betcha.

Even though the nuclear powerplant is located in the aft and the fire was in the bow. That word just scares the shit out of people.

I always felt like I was inside a floating coffin in a submarine. It’s been almost thirty years since the last time and I still recall that feeling.

Feeling sleepy?

That’s because parts of your brain are actually asleep, according to a new theoretical paper by sleep scientists at Washington State University.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the researchers say, there’s no control center in your brain that dictates when it’s time for you to drift off to dreamland. Instead, sleep creeps up on you as independent groups of brain cells become fatigued and switch into a sleep state even while you are still (mostly) awake. Eventually, a threshold number of groups switch and you doze off.

Lead author James Krueger said the view of sleep as an “emergent property” explains familiar experiences that the top-down model doesn’t, such as sleepwalking, in which a person is able to navigate around objects while being unconscious, and sleep inertia, the sluggishness we feel upon waking up in the morning.

“If you explain it in terms of bits and pieces of the brain, instead of a top-down phenomenon, all of a sudden you can make sense of these things,” said Krueger. “The old paradigm doesn’t even address these things.”

Interesting stuff. Let’s face it – sleep plays such an important role in our lives. Screwed-up sleep is one more hindrance to get past for a life providing rewards up to your potential.

The 65 mpg Ford the U.S. can’t have

If ever there was a car made for the times, this would seem to be it: a sporty subcompact that seats five, offers a navigation system, and gets a whopping 65 miles to the gallon. Oh yes, and the car is made by Ford Motor, known widely for lumbering gas hogs.

Ford’s 2009 Fiesta ECOnetic goes on sale in November. But here’s the catch: Despite the car’s potential to transform Ford’s image and help it compete with Toyota Motor and Honda Motor in its home market, the company will sell the little fuel sipper only in Europe. “We know it’s an awesome vehicle,” says Ford America President Mark Fields. “But there are business reasons why we can’t sell it in the U.S.” The main one: The Fiesta ECOnetic runs on diesel.

None of this is stopping European and Japanese automakers, which are betting they can jump-start the U.S. market with new diesel models. Mercedes-Benz by next year will have three cars it markets as “BlueTec.” Even Nissan and Honda, which long opposed building diesel cars in Europe, plan to introduce them in the U.S. in 2010. But Ford, whose Fiesta ECOnetic compares favorably with European diesels, can’t make a business case for bringing the car to the U.S..

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Caught on CCTV: Murderer carrying his victim’s head in a bag

This was the gruesome moment an illegal immigrant who murdered his neighbour was captured on bus CCTV carrying his victim’s head in a bag.

Mohamed Boudjenane had murdered Lakhdar Ouyahia two days earlier, just hours after he had raped a Phillipino woman in his flat. The 45-year-old Algerian was obsessed with the woman and shaved off her hair after assaulting her.

He then killed Mr Ouyahia after believing the pair were having an affair, a court heard.

He was captured on CCTV carrying the head of Mr Ouyahia in a plastic bag on a bus to the Regents Canal in Maida Vale, west London. Boudjenane showed police where he had thrown the head in a canal and police divers recovered it from the water.

The CCTV did its job. Police were aided in tracking down the killer and providing evidence for his trial.

Crime-prevention is only aided by publicizing CCTV evidence in getting convictions. Spying on the public in general is only a hobby. So far.

“Little House on the Prairie,” adults-only version – WTF?

Finland has rated the DVD release of the much-loved children’s television series “Little House on the Prairie” suitable for adult viewing only.

To save money, Universal Pictures decided not to submit the series to state inspection. Finnish authorities charge 2 euros per minute for assessing the correct age limit on films and television series. Distributors who forego this can only sell their shows with a sticker saying “Banned for under-18s.”

“Long series can get quite expensive to check, and some use this exemption in the law to their advantage,” said Matti Paloheimo, Director at the Finnish Board of Film Classification.

Little House on the Prairie, which ran from 1974 to 1983, portrayed life in the U.S. West in the late 1800s and was based on the Laura Ingalls Wilder’s children’s book of the same name.

It remains popular in Finland, and is still shown weekly on Sunday mornings on state-owned broadcaster YLE.

A wonderful illustration of the lengths to which censorship and classification laws can go – and how cheap film producers and distributors can be.

Neither side in this one is going to win any awards for rational behavior.

Calabrian gangster gets liposuction – and arrested

Not exactly the red carpet treatment
Daylife photo/Reuters Pictures

A suspected Italian mobster who went into a clinic for liposuction surgery has ended up losing more than his excess weight. Domenico Magnoli, a suspected cocaine trafficker, also lost his freedom.

Soon after he regained consciousness, police officers disguised as nurses and visitors bearing flowers arrested him in his hospital room.

We performed a little operation of our own,” police spokesman Col Aldo Jacobello said.

“Our carabinieri were all in plainclothes, with a couple of them disguised as nurses and others as visitors bringing chocolates and a bouquet of flowers.”

Italian police say the 27-year-old French-born man is linked to the Ndrangheta, the powerful Calabrian crime syndicate which operates drug-trafficking rings between South America and western Europe.

Throw away the key!

UPDATED: 8-year-old boy charged in double homicide

It’s a crime that police officers in a small eastern Arizona community can hardly fathom yet have to deal with: an 8-year-old charged in the fatal shootings of his father and another man.

“Who would think an 8-year-old kid could kill two adults?” said St. Johns Police Chief Roy Melnick.

The crime that unfolded Wednesday evening sent shock waves through St. Johns, a community of about 4,000 people northeast of Phoenix. The boy had no disciplinary record at school, and there was no indication he had any problems at home, prosecutors said.

“It was such a tragedy,” said the boy’s defense attorney, Benjamin Brewer. “You have two people dead; you have an 8-year-old in jail. It tugs at the heart strings. It’s a shocker, no doubt about it.”

On Friday, a judge determined there was probable cause to show that the boy fatally shot his father, Vincent Romero, 29, and Timothy Romans, 39, of San Carlos with a .22-caliber rifle. The boy faces two counts of premeditated murder.

Melnick said officers arrived at Romero’s home within minutes of the shooting Wednesday. They found one victim just outside the front door and the other dead in an upstairs room…

The boy went to a neighbor’s house and said he “believed that his father was dead,” said Apache County attorney Brad Carlyon. Police later obtained a confession from the boy, Melnick said.

Brewer said police overreached in questioning the boy without representation from a parent or attorney and did not advise him of his rights.

“They became very accusing early on in the interview,” Brewer said. “Two officers with guns at their side, it’s very scary for anybody, for sure an 8-year-old kid.”

A judge has ordered a psychological evaluation of the child, who was being held at the Apache County juvenile detention center.

Prosecutors aren’t sure where the case is headed, Carlyon said.

A lot more information in this updated story. I still wonder what details will come out about this?

Pilot, blinded by stroke, guided to safe landing by RAF

Jim O’Neill

A 65-year-old private pilot who was left almost entirely blind when he suffered a stroke while flying solo at 15,000 feet was guided to a safe landing after a Royal Air Force jet was scrambled and its pilot talked the stricken flyer down.

The incident occurred…when the private pilot, Jim O’Neill, was flying his single-engine Cessna aircraft home from Prestwick in Scotland to Colchester in southeastern England, about 50 miles from London. The RAF said O’Neill was flying over north Yorkshire, about midway through his 350-mile flight, when he radioed a mayday, saying he could not see his cockpit instruments…

At first, the RAF controllers attempted to help O’Neill land at another RAF base about 10 miles east of the city of York, but when the pilot had failed in several attempts to find the airfield he was redirected to the Linton air base, about 20 miles to the northwest.

The Linton base’s chief flying instructor, Wing Commander Paul Gerrard, then took off in a Brazilian-made Tucano single-engine aircraft used to train RAF pilots, made a rendezvous with O’Neill’s plane, and flew alongside him at a distance of about 150 feet, Wing Hynd said.

He used his voice to guide him down by telling him to turn left and right, to lower the plane and to do his pre-landing checks,” the commander said. “At very short range he still couldn’t see the runway and it was only at the last minute that he could. He landed about half way down and came to a halt just at the end.”

Hynd said he knew of no other case when a blinded pilot had been successfully talked down by the RAF. “The RAF routinely practices shepherding but we are usually shepherding lost aircraft. We are not used to shepherding blind pilots, which is what makes this amazing”, he said.

Truly an amazing story. From the self-effacing politeness of Mr. O’Neill to the consummate professionalism of Wing Commander Gerrard – you couldn’t find a better tale to offer throughout the world. Ordinary people performing heroic acts.

Apple’s iPhone outsells BlackBerry

Over 39.9 million smartphones were shipped around the world in the July – September period, representing a 28 per cent increase, according to Canalys, the market data company.

Apple sold 6.9 million of the smartphones, giving it a 17 per cent share of the global smartphone market, putting it in second place behind Nokia (18.9 percent).

Blackberry, made by Research in Motion (RIM), recorded sales of 6.1 million, giving it 15.3 per cent of the market.

In terms of operating systems, Windows Mobile has 13.5 per cent of the market, and Symbian has 46.6 per cent of the smartphone market.

Pete Cunningham, senior analyst at Canalys said: “It was expected that Apple would figure among the smartphone leaders this quarter, with that huge initial new product shipment, it was just a question of how high up it would be and this is impressive.”

There’s a little bit of analysis in the article – to go along with the cold, hard facts.

Of course, I read an analyst, this morning, who said the iPhone will never succeed. Everyone in the world is waiting for the GPhone G2. Everyone he knows, at least.

The Dutch prepare to claim more land from the sea

Artist’s rendition added to satellite photo
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Today, just as they have for centuries, the Dutch need more land to house an expanding population. They also need to confront a new threat to their lands, roughly two-thirds of which lie below sea level: the specter of rising ocean levels associated with global warming.

So a government commission recently proposed pushing out the Netherlands’ shoreline to meet the challenge of an increase in the ocean’s levels; another commission proposed the construction of islands off the Dutch coast, like barrier reefs in the North Sea.

One such commission, inspired by Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which built several islands off its coast to form giant palm trees as part of a major urban development plan, suggested a bit whimsically that the Dutch islands be given the shape of plants, specifically tulips. One waggish blogger, alluding to the Netherlands’ traditional tolerance of marijuana, suggested cannabis leaves instead…

Dutch companies have gained renown in recent years by helping other countries reclaim lands from the sea. In addition to Dubai’s islands, the island for Hong Kong’s international airport was built by Van Oord, the dredging company. So, the Dutch government is asking its engineers and builders to come home and help battle the sea.

It is better and more economical to extend the coast one kilometer,” or 0.6 of a mile, “into the sea and strengthen the dunes along the seashore by dumping in a lot of sand,” he said.

“In the old days,” he mused, “the dikes were rigid, of concrete, but now we favor a soft coastline, in harmony with nature. It’s a return to the 17th century.”

I have to agree with the folks wanting to extend out from the shoreline. I’ve witnessed a couple of major dredging projects, especially as a lad in New England. They can be a boon to so many aspects of coastal life.