Cold plasma demonstrates clean doom for bacteria

Researchers have demonstrated a prototype device that can rid hands, feet, or even underarms of bacteria, including the hospital superbug MRSA.

The device works by creating something called a plasma, which produces a cocktail of chemicals in air that kill bacteria but are harmless to skin. A related approach could see the use of plasmas to speed the healing of wounds…

Plasmas are known as the fourth state of matter, after solid, liquid, and gas. They are a soup of atoms that have had their electrons stripped off by, for example, a high voltage.

The new research focuses on so-called cold atmospheric plasmas.

Rather than turning a whole group of atoms into plasma, a more delicate approach strips the electrons off just a few, sending them flying…

The resulting plasma is harmful to bacteria, viruses, and fungi – the approach is already used to disinfect surgical tools…

Professor Gregor Morfill said that more testing of the devices is necessary before they end up in widespread use, but he said that there is already significant interest from industry.

RTFA. The systems have been miniaturized enough to be battery-operated and portable.

Cripes, I can see them supplanting underarm deodorant sticks someday.

German army chief, Minister, resign over Afghanistan air strike


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Germany’s top army officer has resigned over the disclosure that the defence ministry had withheld information about civilian casualties caused by a Nato air strike in Afghanistan.

The resignation of Wolfgang Schneiderhan, the Bundeswehr’s chief of staff, along with that of ministry state secretary Peter Wichert, was announced by Germany’s new defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg during a parliamentary debate on the future of Germany in Afghanistan.

Schneiderhan’s resignation amounts to an admission by the defence ministry that it suppressed information about civilian casualties which was ordered by the Bundeswehr – even though it had numerous sources of information, including from its own military police.

According to Nato information, 142 insurgents and civilians were killed in the attack on 4 September on two oil tankers, which had been seized by the Taliban in the northern region near Kunduz.

The then defence minister, Franz Josef Jung, initially dismissed reports that civilians had been among the victims. The ministry later backtracked, saying some civilians had been killed.

Now, Former German Defense Minister and current Labor Minister Franz Josef Jung has resigned over the fatal Afghan airstrike…

The German newspaper, Bild, said it had access to confidential documents and it posted a video of the airstrike on its Web site. It said German Col. Georg Klein was not able to rule out the possibility of civilian victims before he ordered the strike.

The newspaper said a report dated Sept. 6 — two days after the strike — made clear that it was impossible for Klein to verify information his informant had provided before he called in the airstrike.

Jung said Friday he was taking responsibility for miscommunication following the incident.

Bild reported that for days after the incident, Jung — who was then defense minister — repeated that there had been no civilian victims. That was despite Jung having videos and documents that proved the defense ministry knew about civilian victims and also had insufficient information before the strike was ordered.

The Fog of War claims victims at the top as well as on the battlefield. Though, of course, those at the top don’t get bloodied except in the metaphor.

World of Warcraft latest lawsuit target of obsessive gamer

After being banned from Sony’s PlayStation Network during a game of Resistance: Fall of Man, a San Jose, California gamer sued the electronics giant, alleging a violation of his First Amendment rights. That case was dismissed in September, but the plaintiff was undeterred. In addition to filing in an appeal in that case, earlier this month he filed a new suit against Microsoft and Nintendo.

In that case, he alleged that a broken Xbox 360 caused him undue stress, and that a Wii system update blocking access to the Homebrew Channel third-party program interfered with his inalienable right to pursue happiness.

With the big-three platform holders accounted for, the same plaintiff is now turning his attention to largest third-party publisher. The gamer, Erik Estavillo, provided GameSpot with copies of his latest civil suit, a case against Activision Blizzard…

The suit comprises a handful of complaints against Activision Blizzard, specifically relating to the company’s successful massively multiplayer online role-playing game, World of Warcraft. Specifically, the gamer accuses the publisher of maintaining a “harmful virtual environment” with “sneaky and deceitful practices…”

Beyond the monetary complaints, the suit also references the 2001 suicide of an EverQuest player, attributing it to a sense of alienation related to the game and mental health problems. The suit goes on to say the plaintiff has suffered from similar problems, including major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and Crohn’s disease, and he “doesn’t want to end up like [the EverQuest player] did as he relies on video games heavily for the little ongoing happiness he can achieve in this life, via the gaming medium.”

This is the kind of pitiful human being for which the religion gene still maintains itself in our DNA. I realize more and more people will lose that Stone Age mutation as we evolve as a species; but, extreme examples of egregious obsession still exist in sufficient number to plague the courts.

Delhi pays salaries of almost 23,000 ghost workers

The government of the Indian capital, Delhi, has been paying salaries to 22,853 civic workers who do not exist.

Salaries for the missing Municipal Corporation of Delhi workers add up to nearly $43m a year, City Mayor Kanwar Sain said in a statement.

The “gap” was discovered after the authorities introduced a biometric system of recording attendance.

Correspondents say it shows some civic officials created a list of “ghost workers” to siphon off state funds…

It was long suspected that the city was being defrauded by “ghost workers“, but the authorities had always denied the charge.

Har! Anyone over there learn how to manage the graveyard vote, as well?

Historic 1st for Iran – steal the medal from Nobel Prize winner

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Iran has confiscated the Nobel peace medal and diploma of Shirin Ebadi, the human rights lawyer who is one of the hardline regime’s most outspoken critics. Her bank account has also been frozen on the pretext that she owes almost $400,000 in tax.

The seizure of the award, unprecedented in its 108-year history, caused outrage in Oslo, where the Nobel Peace Committee is based. The Norwegian Government summoned the Iranian envoy to protest, and the committee said that it would make a formal complaint…

Geir Lundestad, secretary of the committee, said that Iran’s action was unacceptable. “A laureate has never been treated like that. Even political dissidents such as [Andrei] Sakharov and [Lech] Walesa were better treated in their countries,” he added, referring to the Russian dissident and the Polish trade union leader, both of whom won the prize while living in the Soviet bloc.

In 2003 Dr Ebadi became the first Iranian and first Muslim woman to win the peace prize, which was awarded for her campaign for democracy and human rights. She was abroad during President Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in June and has spent the past five months travelling the world to draw attention to the regime’s alleged electoral fraud and suppression of the opposition. “I am effectively in exile,” she said recently.

She revealed the loss of her Nobel medal in an interview on Radio Farda, a US-backed Persian language station. She said that the regime had frozen her bank accounts and pension, as well as those of her husband, who is still in Tehran. She continued: “Even my Nobel and Légion d’honneur medals, my Freedom of Speech ring and other prizes, which were in my husband’s safe, have been confiscated.”

Norwegian officials said that the medal had been taken from a bank deposit box.

My family and I have enjoyed friendly links with citizens of Iran over many decades. As students, as engineers and builders – as a supporter of movements of national liberation my personal experience with Iranians has always found me with people of good will, kindness and courage.

The same does not apply to the theocrats in charge of the government of that nation. Like so many examples of the particular breed of religion-based bureaucrat, there is no appreciation of freedom of thought or dissent. We share the sadness of the Iranian people.

Forest area bigger than Canada can be restored to our planet

Only one fifth of the world’s forests remain but an area bigger than Canada could be restored without harming food production, a global alliance dedicated to restoring forests has announced…

“This is a first go at identifying the total scale of this opportunity. The next stage is to work at a country level to identify what we would restore in the real world,” Tim Rollinson, GPFLR chairman and director general of the British Forestry Commission told Reuters in an interview.

Marginal agricultural land, where productivity was low, had the most potential for restoration, the study found. “There are opportunities in almost every continent. The most potential is in Africa; there are substantial areas in China and India, as well as parts of Brazil…”

World leaders are meeting at a U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen in less than two weeks and there are fears that deforestation and agriculture issues will be at the bottom of a long list of responses to climate change to be discussed…

By 2030, the restoration of degraded forest land could make a 70 gigatonne cut in greenhouse gases — the same as from avoided deforestation — or even twice that amount, based on preliminary estimates in the report…

Forests once covered more than 50 percent of the world’s land area. That has declined to less than 30 percent due to unsustainable logging and conversion to other land uses such as grazing, industry, towns and cities, the GPFLR report said.

The profit from diverse deciduous and coniferous forests can make such a project sustainable. Most folks are ignorant of the agricultural history of, say, New England. Two centuries ago, almost denuded of trees, the region had more sheep than people. That agribusiness moved west to Texas and Colorado and forests returned, mostly through hard work from the Civilian Conservation Corps and also natural reseeding.

Significant industrial plantations – unfortunately monocultural – were also developed and add to the mix of forest which now covers a significant portion of rural, northern New England. Regardless of motive, the forests are back.

Irish police, Irish church, worked together to cover up child sex

Ireland’s police colluded with the Catholic church in covering up clerical child abuse in Dublin on a huge scale, according to a damning report on decades of sex crimes committed by priests.

The devastating report on the sexual and physical abuse of children by the clergy in Ireland’s capital from 1975 to 2004 accuses four former archbishops, a host of clergy and senior members of the Garda Síochána of a cover-up.

The three-volume report found that the “maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church and the preservation of its assets” was more important than justice for the victims…

Rather than investigate complaints from children, gardai simply reported the matter to the Dublin Catholic diocese, the report says. The Garda Síochána is accused of connivance with the church in stifling at least one complaint of abuse and letting the alleged perpetrator flee the country.

Irish justice minister, Dermot Ahern said there should be no hiding place for abusers. “The persons who committed these dreadful crimes will continue to be pursued. They must come to know that there is no hiding place. That justice – even where it may have been delayed – will not be denied,” he said…

The report states that senior clerical figures covered up the abuse over nearly 30 years and that the structures and rules of the church facilitated that cover-up. It says that state authorities facilitated the cover-up by allowing the church to be beyond the reach of the law.

How can you be assured a police body is doing their job – when you discover a whole body of criminal responsibility is corrupt? As corrupt as the pedophiles they should have been investigating.