It took just 16 minutes to steal super-tanker

Pirates leaving a hijacked vessel in October
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Pirates took just 16 minutes from boarding to seizing control of a $100-million laden Saudi oil super-tanker in the Indian Ocean.

The report also described the Sirius Star – with woeful defences, restricted manoeuverability and speed capacities owing to its 319,000-tonne oil cargo – as a lumbering prey for two speedboats carrying well-armed pirates also applying the element of surprise by operating well out of their normal range.

The Somali pirates approached the tanker, the length of three football fields, at 0648 GMT Saturday and were able to climb aboard using the simplest of rope and hook techniques.

At 0704 GMT, Britain’s Maritime Component Command centre in Bahrain reported that the tanker had been taken by the pirates.

Sounds like they could have been hijacked by the average wannabe gangbanger from El Paso.

Map redrawn by neocons – makes Pakistan uneasy

A redrawn map of South Asia has been making the rounds among Pakistani elites. It shows their country truncated, reduced to an elongated sliver of land with the big bulk of India to the east, and an enlarged Afghanistan to the west.

That the map was first circulated as a theoretical exercise in some U.S. neoconservative circles matters little here. It has fueled a belief among Pakistanis, including members of the armed forces, that what the United States really wants is the breakup of Pakistan, the only Muslim country with nuclear arms…

Pakistan, a 61-year-old country marbled with intertwining and often conflictual ethnic groups, is a collection of four provinces, which can seem to have little in common. Virtually every one of its borders, drawn almost arbitrarily in the last gasps of the British Empire, is disputed with its neighbors, not least Pakistan’s bitter and much larger rival, India.

If the Obama administration is indeed to convince Pakistanis that militancy, not the Indian Army, presents the gravest threat, it will not be easy…

Indeed, among ordinary Pakistanis, many still regard Al Qaeda more positively than the United States, polls find. Talk shows here often include arguments that the suicide bombings in Pakistan are payback for the Pakistani Army fighting an U.S. war.

The average American, talking head or civilian, doesn’t know about this crap. Neocon nutballs are so busy preaching to the converted, they rarely display their dementia before the public – except in terms of traditional red-baiting or racism at election time.

But, this crap is in print and cyberspace. You can be certain – as this article illustrates – segments of political life in the Middle East and South Asia are aware of imperial proposals. Just as the Brits and French organized the landscape to suit their “withdrawal” from colonial mayhem, everyone expects the United States to take their turn at being God.

RTFA. Interesting, useful, educational. All the things Right-Wingers hate.

Fish-Tech: Renewable energy from slow water currents

Slow-moving ocean and river currents could be a new, reliable and affordable alternative energy source. A University of Michigan engineer has made a machine that works like a fish to turn potentially destructive vibrations in fluid flows into clean, renewable power.

VIVACE is the first known device that could harness energy from most of the water currents around the globe because it works in flows moving slower than 2 knots (about 2 miles per hour.) Most of the Earth’s currents are slower than 3 knots. Turbines and water mills need an average of 5 or 6 knots to operate efficiently.

VIVACE stands for Vortex Induced Vibrations for Aquatic Clean Energy. It doesn’t depend on waves, tides, turbines or dams. It’s a unique hydrokinetic energy system that relies on “vortex induced vibrations.”

Interesting concept. Looks workable and – perish the thought – appears to be economical and easy to get into practical applications.

Giant roaming Protist provides new perspective on evolution

Groove-like tracks on the ocean floor made by giant deep-sea single-celled organisms could lead to new insights into the evolutionary origin of animals, says biologist Mikhail “Misha” Matz.

Matz and his colleagues recently discovered the grape-sized protists and their complex tracks on the ocean floor near the Bahamas. This is the first time a single-celled organism has been shown to make such animal-like traces.

The finding is significant, because similar fossil grooves and furrows found from the Precambrian era, as early as 1.8 billion years ago, have always been attributed to early evolving multicellular animals.

“If our giant protists were alive 600 million years ago and the track was fossilized, a paleontologist unearthing it today would without a shade of doubt attribute it to a kind of large, multicellular, bilaterally symmetrical animal,” says Matz, an assistant professor of integrative biology. “We now have to rethink the fossil record.”

We used to think that it takes bilateral symmetry to move in one direction across the seafloor and thereby leave a track,” explains Matz. “You have to have a belly and a backside and a front and back end. Now, we show that protists can leave traces of comparable complexity and with a very similar profile.”

I’m gobsmacked. I’ve never seen a one-celled animal that large. Never anything larger than a paramecium.

Cripes. You could keep these critters as pets.

Pirates living like kings

MV Sirus Star anchored off Somalia coast after being hijacked
Daylife/AP Photo by William S. Stevens

As dawn breaks over the Indian Ocean each morning, elders in Somali pirate bases sip strong coffee and clutch mobile phones to their ears, eager to hear the latest from the gunmen out at sea.

Have any more ships been hijacked or ransom talks concluded? Any news of the Western warships hunting them?

Last weekend’s spectacular capture of a Saudi Arabian supertanker loaded with oil worth $100 million has jacked up the stakes in what is probably the only growth industry in the failed Horn of Africa state.

Massive ransoms have brought rapid development to former fishing villages that now thrive with business and boast new beachside hotels, patronized by cash-rich buccaneers who have become local celebrities virtually overnight

Just three years ago, maritime security experts estimated there were just five Somali pirate groups and fewer than 100 gunmen in total. Now they think there are more than 1,200…

The biggest lure now, of course, is the vast ransoms being paid for captured ships. Kenya says it thinks the pirates have received more than $150 million this year alone.

Next, they’ll be joining country clubs, invited to meetings in Davos.

McDonald’s sued over nude photos

A US couple is suing McDonald’s for $3 million after nude photos of the woman, which were on her husband’s mobile phone, ended up on the internet.

Phillip Sherman says he accidentally left his phone, with the photos, at a McDonald’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

He says staff promised to secure the phone until he could retrieve it.

Tina Sherman says she began receiving offensive calls and text messages about the pictures from her husband’s mobile phone after he left it at the McDonald’s on 5 July.

The couple then discovered that the nude pictures she had sent to her husband’s phone had been posted online.

I never spent much time in retail; but, I can sympathize with the McDonald’s manager who hired the dummy who did this. After sifting through the wealth of high-school drop-outs and undocumentados lined up to work there.

Saudi royals’ Mayo Clinic visit helps local economy

He stopped for a chuckle – the day before his clinic visit
Daylife/AFP/Getty Images

Members of Saudi Arabia’s royal family spent enough during a visit to the Mayo Clinic to give the area’s economy a shot in the arm, according to Rochester, Minnesota, officials.

Rochester officials say Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz arrived on November 15 for a checkup at the Mayo Clinic and was accompanied by at least five princes and hundreds of others in his retinue.

Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Brad Jones says a conservative estimate of the royal family’s spending on the trip to Mayo Clinic is up to $1.5 million.

Officials say that should offset the area’s economic woes. Jones calls that a “great shot in the arm.”

It’s always good to receive a visit from the King. Any one of our Kings.

Attacks on redheaded students investigated

Just in case you ever wanted an object lesson on how stupid your friends/children/kid’s friends are:

Thirteen high school students in Calgary have been suspended after a red-headed teen was beaten because of the colour of his hair. The Grade 10 boy was attacked in the locker room of St. Francis High School after gym class Thursday.

The victim was taken to hospital for examination, and a spokeswoman for the Calgary Catholic School District said Friday he sustained “some minor bruising” to his upper body.

CBC News has also learned that two red-haired, Grade 7 girls at St. Alphonsus Elementary/Junior High School were swarmed and kicked repeatedly by older girls on Thursday. Board spokeswoman Janet Sutherland said two students have been suspended in that case.

The attacks came on a day promoted by a Facebook group as Kick a Ginger Day. The Facebook group urged members to kick people with red hair — referred to as ginger kids — on Nov. 20.

The phenomenon appears to be linked to South Park, an animated TV show. An episode of the satirical show that originally aired in 2005 dealt with one character’s mindless prejudice against red-haired people.

Trouble is – you need really BIG signs and lessons accompanying satire – when it trickles down to idiots too dense to figure out what the satire is all about.

Ignorant student tries to hug a Panda. It’s a bear, dude!

“Do you want me to bite you?”

A college student in southern China was bitten by a panda after he broke into the bear’s enclosure hoping to get a hug.

The student was visiting Qixing Park with classmates on Friday when he jumped the 6.5-foot high fence around the panda’s habitat. The park in Guilin, a popular tourist town in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, houses a small zoo and a panda exhibit. It was virtually deserted when the student scaled the fence surrounding the panda, named Yang Yang, an employee said.

He said the student was bitten on the arms and legs. Two foreign visitors who saw the attack ran to get help from workers at a nearby refreshment stand, who notified park officials, the employee said.

“Yang Yang was so cute, and I just wanted to cuddle him. I didn’t expect he would attack,” the 20-year-old student, surnamed Liu, said in a local hospital, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

How many signs do you need to put up to tell people not to do something stupid?