Wearing ‘almost homeless’ sign, former executive hits the pavement


Daylife/AP Photo by Bebeto Matthews

Paul Nawrocki says he’s beyond the point where he cares about humiliation.

That’s why he weekly takes a 90-minute train ride to New York, where he walks the streets wearing a sandwich board that advertises his plight: The former toy-industry executive needs a job.

“Almost homeless,” reads the sign. “Looking for employment. Very experienced operations and administration manager.”

Wearing a suit and tie under the sign, Nawrocki — who was in the toy industry 36 years before being laid off in February — stands on Manhattan corners for hours, hoping to pass resumes to interested passers-by.

“When you’re out of work and you face having nothing — I mean, having no income — pride doesn’t mean anything,” Nawrocki said. “You need to find work. I have to take care of my family.”

I recall during the Nixon recession going door-to-door asking for leads for a job. I’d spend part of the day hitting factories where my skills might have been useful. The rest of the day door-knocking in neighborhoods around those factories.

This poor bugger? Bad enough his job description has been completely outsourced; but, he’s got to be in his mid-50’s or older. He doesn’t stand a chance.

Police in Iran detain 49 for “satanic” clothes


Heretic barber shop

Police have arrested 49 people this week in a northern Iranian city during a crackdown on “satanic” clothes.

Police confronted rascals and thugs who appeared in public wearing satanic fashions and unsuitable clothing,” Qaemshahr city police commander Mahmoud Rahmani told IRNA.

Rahmani also said that five barber shops were shut and 20 more warned for “promoting Western hairstyles…”

“Some individuals, not knowing what culture they are imitating, put on clothing that was designed by the enemies of this country,” Rahmani said.

“The enemies of this country are trying to divert our youth and breed them the way they want and deprive them of a healthy life,” he added.

I never quite understood how some so-called God was invested in clothes. Though few could be as tawdry as the professional prigs who make political hay from these campaigns.

Good thing we don’t face laws in the United States drawn up by religious nutballs. Oh.

Surfing with Islam – Down Under


An Australian artist has produced a range of Islamic surfboards in an attempt to create a greater understanding between East and West.

Phillip George was inspired by his trips to the Middle East and by riots in 2005 when Lebanese Australians were targeted on a beach in Sydney. He has called the range the Inshallah – or God Willing – surfboards and has put them on exhibition in Sydney.

There are 30 surfboards in all, each adorned with intricate Islamic motifs.

Delightful. Creative. Cripes – maybe even useful.

Cardiologist claims to have discovered cure for alcoholism

An eminent French cardiologist has triggered an impassioned debate in the medical world over his claim to have discovered a cure for alcoholism. Dr Olivier Ameisen, 55, one of France’s top heart specialists, says he overcame his own addiction to alcohol by self-administering doses of a muscle-relaxant called baclofen.

He has now written a book about his experience – Le Dernier Verre (The Last Glass) – in which he calls for clinical trials to test his theory that baclofen suppresses the craving for drink.

Widespread media coverage of his book in France has led to a rush of demands from alcoholics for similar treatment, and some doctors have reported unexpected successes after prescribing it.

With its eye-catching message, Le Dernier Verre has been an autumn best-seller – prompting thousands of recovering alcoholics to ask to be prescribed with baclofen.

Many prominent physicians condemn Ameisen’s book – though his only conclusion is that there should be clinical trials of baclofen.

Yes, there is a danger of doctors prescribing it for this off-label task. Media types will no doubt sensationalize Ameisen’s singular result – ignoring his call for scientific study. All the more reason for supervised clinical trials.

Russian ship enters Panama Canal


Russian destroyer Admiral Chabanenko passing through Panama Canal
Daylife/AFP/Getty Images

A Russian warship has entered the Panama Canal for the first time since World War II.

The Admiral Chabanenko had earlier completed manoeuvres with Venezuela’s navy, coinciding with a Latin American tour by the Russian president.

Correspondents say the Russian ship will send a symbolic message in what the US sees as its sphere of influence.

Ties between the two superpowers have become strained because of Washington’s plan for a missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic – something Moscow is firmly opposed to.

The whole Star Wars disaster Americans put paid to during the Reagan debacle – and revived by President Numbnuts. Opposed by most rational people.

Panama said the passage of the ship had no political significance, as the canal is “open to all the world’s ships”.

It will dock at Rodman, once the base for all US naval activities in South America.

Overdue – in a global economy, a global society.

Opening up the spectrum between electronics and optics

New European research on the last, hidden part of the electromagnetic spectrum is producing new, safe and non-destructive tests for medicine, security and industrial quality control.

Terahertz waves occupy the part of the spectrum between light and radio, specifically between infrared and millimetre waves. With wavelengths of 0.1-1mm, THz waves can be used like light or x-rays to create detailed images of solid objects. They have the useful property of passing easily through packaging and clothes, and since they are non-ionising they are safer than x-rays.

But THz waves can probe the content of objects as well as their shapes, thanks to their ability to respond to chemical properties. This is because their frequency range of 0.3-3THz matches the natural molecular vibrations of many common substances and biological materials.

Add these two properties together and you have a scanner that can not only detect a hidden package, but also show what is inside. New European research on THz waves could enable applications that include detecting tumours beneath the skin, a new and powerful kind of microscope for biological research, and quality control in semiconductor and pharmaceutical factories, as well as smart security scanners.

There are a few not-so-easy technical, hardware problems which these folks feel they’ve solved. Or are on the way to solving.

Any road, it’s an interesting read. One which may prompt more study on your part. Or mine. The best reason why my brain thinks I’m still 26 years old.

Extortion demand over ‘porn downloads’

Thousands of internet users have been told they’ll be taken to court unless they pay hundreds of pounds for illegally downloading and sharing hardcore porn movies. Newsbeat’s found out that people across the UK have been accused of using file-sharing networks to get hold of dozens of adult titles without paying for them.

A German company called DigiProtect claims the users are breaking copyright law and is demanding £500 to settle out of court.

Lawyers say they have been contacted by hundreds of worried individuals over the past few weeks. Many deny copying the movies and say they have no idea why they were identified in the first place.

Michael Coyle said: “The cynical lawyer in me would say this is a money-making exercise. If you send out 10,000 letters and ask for £500 each time, you only have to get half to pay up and you’ve made a significant amount of money.”

Lawyers representing DigiProtect say the £500 demand is calculated as a token sum in damages for lost sales plus the “considerable” costs involved in obtaining evidence and legal fees.

DigiProtect sounds like the sort of sleazy protection racket the Mafia would run – given legal cover. The RIAA and culture vultures get exactly that kind of legal protection even as they screw most of the artists they supposedly are protecting.

All they want to protect is their bank accounts.

UK engineers call for green power from household waste

Household rubbish should be used to produce green power rather than being sent for recycling, according to energy experts.

At a briefing to launch a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers on dealing with waste, the authors said that converting waste could provide up to a fifth of the UK’s electricity needs in future and help the country meet its renewable energy targets.

The UK produces more than 300m tonnes of waste every year, enough to fill the Albert Hall every two hours. Most of this is buried in landfill, though new EU legislation will require a 50% cut in the practice by 2013…

Energy can be harnessed from waste in several ways, depending on the type. The two proven methods are combustion, where waste is burned to produce electricity and heat, and anaerobic digestion, a biological process where waste is treated to produce methane, which can then be used for fuel. The former is most suitable for dry waste while the latter is best for wet or organic waste.

There are fewer than 50 small-scale energy-from-waste plants operating in the UK at the moment, a combination of combustion plants and anaerobic digesters. This compares to several thousand in countries such as Denmark and Germany.

I clamber up alongside the fence-sitters in this either/or discussion. Folks looking for a magic bullet rarely comprehend natural complexity.

If push comes to shove, I’m on the side of producing energy instead of recycling. I’d rather replace finite consumables with our detritus. Of course, it doesn’t sound as if the Brits are any better than we Yanks when it comes to either practice.

Shrinking glaciers reveal hidden forests and a dynamic climate


David Mintz

Uniquely old tree remains have recently been uncovered by the thawing of the rapidly shrinking Kårsa Glacier west of Abisko in Lapland, in northernmost Sweden. The finds show that in the last 7,000 years it has probably never been so warm as during the last century.

“If the area hadn’t been covered by a glacier all these thousands of years, these tree remnants would never have made it. The finds yield information indicating that the 20th century was probably the warmest century in 7,000 years. The fact that the climate is so unique during the last century means that we must question whether this could be 100 percent the result of natural mechanisms,” says Leif Kullman, professor of physical geography, who is directing the project.

Pines and birches grew on the site of the glacier during parts of or perhaps the entire period between 11,800 and 7,000 years ago. This is shown by carbon 14 dating of the remains of trees that have now been uncovered. During that period, the glacier did not continuously exist, and the climate was warmer than at any time afterward.

The oldest tree, a pine, lived and died on the site of the Kårsa glacier around 12,000 years ago. The area is 400-450 meters above today’s timberline. This discovery places the thawing of ice at the end of the latest ice age in an entirely new perspective.

“Previous research indicated that Lapland was covered with ice at this time. These finds show that the ice melted and life returned much earlier than we previously thought,” says Leif Kullman.

Useful and interesting stuff. Just one of another thousand places I’d love to explore.