Scientists find a Jurassic sea monster that could crush a Hummer


Daylife/Reuters Pictures

A giant fossil sea monster found in the Arctic and known as “Predator X” had a bite that would make T-Rex look feeble.

The 50 ft long Jurassic era marine reptile had a crushing 33,000 lbs per square inch bite force, the Natural History Museum of Oslo University said of the new find on the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard…

“The calculation is one of the largest bite forces ever calculated for any creature,” the Museum said of the bite, estimated with the help of evolutionary biologist Greg Erickson from Florida State University.

Predator X’s bite was more than 10 times more powerful than any modern animal and four times the bite of a T-Rex, it said of the fossil, reckoned at 147 million years old.

Joern Hurum had said of the first fossil pliosaur that it was big enough to chomp on a small car. He said the bite estimates for the latest fossil forced a rethink.

This one is more like it could crush a Hummer,” he said…

Cripes. We have nothing else to do with leftover Hummers. Let’s take a few out to the deeps of the Pacific and troll for Pliosaurs.

Iraqi footballer shot dead by opposition fan


Let’s hope the tactic never makes it Glasgow
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

A soccer player in Iraq died on Sunday after he was shot in the head by a spectator in the stands.

The attack took place just as the striker was set to score a tying goal in the last minute of a game between two rival teams in Hilla, a city in the south of Iraq that is home to about 500,000 people.

The BBC reports, citing local security officials, that the striker was shot in the head during the final minute of the game, which was being played between teams from Sinjar and Buhayra. One suspect has been arrested and Iraqi police are continuing to investigate.

The killing comes at a time when some have pointed to increased soccer games as a sign that Iraq is finding some sense of normalcy. Mohammed Salih, a 28-year-old Iraqi, told an American reporter last week, “This is the first time since 2003 I’ve felt safe enough to come back to the stadium. There’s so much news about bad politics and poor security. Football is the only thing that brings relief to my soul.”

No doubt security will be raised even higher at the next Auld Firm Derby.

Texas Tech gets first look at new Vietnam War-Era Intelligence


One of the CIA’s private air forces

The CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence released six volumes of previously classified books detailing various aspects of the CIA’s operations in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the ’60s and ’70s. The works were distributed and discussed at a weekend conference hosted in Lubbock, Texas by Texas Tech University’s Vietnam Center and Archive.

The documents, penned by CIA historian Thomas L. Ahern Jr., draw on operations files as well as interviews with key participants to review American foreign policy and provide what CIA chief historian Gerald K. Haines calls a sharp analytical look at CIA programs and reporting from the field.

Ahern covers topics including the CIA’s rural pacification efforts in South Vietnam, efforts to stabilize and democratize South Vietnam following the fall of President Ngo Dinh Diem, intelligence officers’ failure to identify and monitor munitions supply lines to lower South Vietnam, and failed black entry insertion efforts into North Vietnam…

“One of the rights that Americans take pride in is their freedom to access information,” Steve Maxner said. “The government engages in activities that must remain out of the public eye, and that means that while failures often get a lot of press, many successes don’t. These books present a very honest look at both the successes and failures of the intelligence community during that time period.”

RTFA. There are links at the end to .pdf files of all six volumes. Should be a helluva read.

Chuck Norris sues – tears don’t cure cancer

Tough-guy actor and martial arts expert Chuck Norris has sued publisher Penguin over a book he claims unfairly exploits his famous name, based on a satirical Internet list of “mythical facts” about him.

Penguin published “The Truth About Chuck Norris: 400 facts about the World’s Greatest Human” in November. Author Ian Spector and two Web sites he runs to promote the book, including http://www.truthaboutchuck.com, are also named in the suit.

The book capitalizes on “mythical facts” that have been circulating on the Internet since 2005 that poke fun at Norris’ tough-guy image and super-human abilities, the suit said.

It includes such humorous “facts” as “Chuck Norris’s tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried” and “Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits,” the suit said, as well as “Chuck Norris can charge a cell phone by rubbing it against his beard…”

“Defendants have misappropriated and exploited Mr. Norris’s name and likeness without authorization for their own commercial profit,” said the lawsuit.

Har! I thought he could walk on water, as well – like all the other nutballs.

30-year veteran of Pennsylvania legislature convicted


Daylife/AP Photo by Matt Rourke

A 30-year veteran of the Pennsylvania State Senate has been convicted of committing $3.5 million in fraud, taking money from two nonprofits and using state employees to do political and personal tasks.

After more than four days of deliberation, a federal jury of 10 women and two men unanimously found the former senator, Vincent J. Fumo, guilty on all 137 counts of conspiracy, fraud, obstruction of justice and tax violations for using state employees and consultants to do political work and run personal errands.

Mr. Fumo, a Democrat who represented South Philadelphia, sat stony faced as the jury foreman repeatedly said “guilty” on all counts in a verdict that took 13 minutes to read.

Taking the stand in his own defense, Mr. Fumo admitted that his political work overlapped with his work as a state lawmaker, but he argued that it was acceptable for his employees to do personal chores for him because Pennsylvania has no written laws on the amount of assistance that they can give a lawmaker.

Smells like a lot of state legislators. Old-fashioned political machines may be sliding out of favor on the national scene – at least for one election – but, the wardheeler relationships with party bosses are masked at best by better public relations professionals.

Your brain starts to decline at age 27 – WTF?

Mental powers start to dwindle at 27 after peaking at 22, marking the start of old age, US research suggests.

Professor Timothy Salthouse of Virginia University found reasoning, speed of thought and spatial visualisation all decline in our late 20s. Therapies designed to stall or reverse the ageing process may need to start much earlier, he said.

In nine out of 12 tests the average age at which the top performance was achieved was 22.

The first age at which there was any marked decline was at 27 in tests of brain speed, reasoning and visual puzzle-solving ability.

Things like memory stayed intact until the age of 37, on average, while abilities based on accumulated knowledge, such as performance on tests of vocabulary or general information, increased until the age of 60.

I guess I’m not surprised. There’s a corollary in education that most people stop learning after age 26.

El Salvador elections move another nation to the Left


Mauricio Funes and his wife, Vanda Pignato, celebrate with supporters
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Mauricio Funes, a member of a political party that waged guerrilla war against the government 17 years ago, has claimed the presidency of El Salvador.

“This is the happiest night of my life,” Funes told a jubilant crowd at his election headquarters. “It’s also the night of greatest hope for El Salvador…”

Funes’ victory ended a 20-year hold on the presidency by the right-leaning ARENA.

“Now the ARENA party passes into opposition,” Funes said. “ARENA … can be assured that it will be listened to and respected.”

Although polls had indicated the race had tightened considerably in the past few weeks, most analysts had predicted that Funes would win.

The FMLN, which is the Spanish acronym for the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, was formed in late 1980 as an umbrella group for five leftist guerilla organizations fighting a U.S.-backed military dictatorship. The guerrillas and the government signed a peace pact in 1992 and the FMLN became a legitimate political party.

By some estimates, 75,000 Salvadorans died during the war.

United States foreign policy – regardless of which TweedleDeeDum party was in power – has generally opposed democratic self-determination in Latin America. The region has been a business preserve for U.S. corporations.

If the Obama administration turns away from that policy it would be as constructive and qualitative a change as ending the blank check for Israel in the Middle East.

Work nights, develop cancer ?!


Hoo da thunk it?

The Danish government has begun paying compensation to women who have developed breast cancer after long spells working nights.

It follows a ruling by a United Nations agency that night shifts probably increase the risk of developing cancer.

BBC Radio Scotland’s The Investigation has been hearing from experts and union leaders in Scotland who said the UK government should be doing more to tackle the dangers.

For years there has been growing evidence that night shifts are bad for you.

Among the symptoms: disturbed sleep, fatigue, digestive problems and a greater risk of accidents at work.

But these are the first government payments to women who have developed breast cancer after long spells on the night shift….

Dr Vincent Cogliano of the IARC [International Agency for Research on Cancer] said they reached their conclusion after looking at a wide number of studies of both humans and animals.

He said there was evidence to support the hypothesis that alterations in sleep patterns could suppress the production of melatonin in the body.

“Melatonin has some beneficial effects on preventing some of the steps leading to cancer,” he said.

“The level of evidence is really no different than it might be for an industrial chemical.”

A site that aims to broaden the purpose of Web search

Kosmix, a well-financed Silicon Valley start-up, is often described on blogs and news sites as a search engine that may someday rival Google.

As flattering as that notion may sound, it rankles Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman, the co-founders of Kosmix. And that is not because other start-ups making similar assertions have fallen laughably short of the mark. It is because Kosmix is trying to do something that is quite different from traditional Web search.

Kosmix, he said, is not about finding the best set of documents for a specific keyword or phrase. Instead, its goal is to “tell me more about something,” he said.

For a keyword or topic that a user enters, Kosmix gathers content from across the Web to build a sort of multimedia encyclopedia entry on the fly. For many queries, the results are pretty satisfying and look as if they have been compiled by a human editor, not a computer.

If Kosmix succeeds in attracting a large following, it may well be the latest challenge, not to Google, but to a long string of old and new media companies struggling to hold on to their audiences and make a living on the Web…

Late in 2007, a year before it released the Kosmix service to the public, the company put the same technology to the test on a more narrow service called RightHealth, which focuses on health information. A year later, RightHealth would be the second-most-visited health site, behind WebMD.

RTFA. An interesting approach to different issues than plain vanilla search.

They certainly hit a home run with RightHealth.

Rape complaints were not classified as crimes by the Met

This follows on from our earlier post on the taxi-rapist, John Worboys.

The Metropolitan police failed to investigate scores of rape allegations because officers did not record them as criminal offences, the Guardian has learned.

An internal review by Scotland Yard found that women who complained to police that they feared they may have been raped or suffered a serious sexual assault had their concerns dismissed in up to six London boroughs. In a breach of police policy, officers instead classed the incidents as crime related incidents [CRI], meaning the cases were not investigated properly, informed sources say…

The practice of dismissing women’s fears of rape and failing to class them as crimes is believed to have continued for several years and was ended last year. The review that identified the practice was triggered by the Worboys case.

When the procedure was corrected it led to a spike in recorded rape cases, up by 25% over the past year, at a time when overall crime in London fell.

RTFA. Reflect upon how much of policing can be politics – and shouldn’t have to be.