Grim fate for an injured hunter

Spaniards were today horrified by the death of a hunter from Mallorca who fell 18 metres down an abandoned country well and, after several days enduring the pain of his broken limbs and with no hope of rescue, turned his shotgun on himself.

The corpse of the municipal police officer and keen hunter, who was named as Antonio M, was eventually found after a colleague discovered his car nearby, according to Spanish newspapers.

A search of the area revealed an open, dry well with no wall around it that was hidden by thick vegetation.

Rescuers who went down the well near the town of Calvià said they found the body of the 49-year-old man in a sitting position with a shotgun beside it.

Forensic scientists confirmed that the man had broken his legs in the fall and had sat at the bottom of the well for about three days.

They gave the cause of death as gunshot wounds and police said it was clear that he had killed himself, presumably after giving up hope of being found.

I’m sitting here reflecting on the endgame for this poor bugger. I can’t imagine thinking of an alternative, some solution to his dilemma.

Carrying a cellphone works if you have access. That ain’t very likely at the bottom of a dry well.

Tiger drives sales of physics book right out the back window


Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

It’s been a terrible week for Tiger Woods, but the golf star’s moment of madness at the steering wheel has brought a surge in sales for a book written by a science writer teaching at Sussex University.

A series of pictures released by Florida police of Woods’s wrecked SUV includes a shot of the back seat, complete with waterbottle, towel and furled umbrella. But there among the shards of tinted glass in the footwell sits a well-thumbed copy of a paperback with the golf-appropriate title clearly visible: Get a Grip on Physics.

This incidental role in Woods’s domestic drama has been enough to create a rush to get hold of the book, with the title’s sales rank on Amazon.com jumping from 396,224 earlier in the week to a high spotted yesterday by the Wall Street Journal of 2,268.

Speaking in a break between lectures this morning, the author, John Gribbin, said he was “delighted that anyboy’s reading my books. I just wish it was one that’s still in print.”

Part of a planned series on subject areas which was cancelled after poor sales, Get a Grip on Physics is an illustrated introduction to modern physics first published in 1999 which tells the story of developments in physics since the 1950s, charting the discovery of the four forces of nature, the search for grand unified theories and the beginnings of string theory…

Best known for In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat, an exploration of the mysteries of quantum physics still selling well 25 years after it was first published, Gribbin has amassed a back catalogue which ranges widely over modern science. His latest book is In Search of the Multiverse, which charts ideas about alternative realities from Hugh Everett’s many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics to recent developments in M-theory pointing to a landscape of alternative universes in string theory.

Perhaps Woods will see if he can find a universe in which none of this ever happened,” suggested Gribbin.

Har!

Jesus Christ rejected for jury duty in Alabama

Court officials in Alabama said a female potential juror’s name — Jesus Christ — raised eyebrows when she showed up for duty.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Scott Vowell said the 59-year-old Birmingham woman… presented officials with a name change form with “Jesus Christ” on it when she arrived for jury duty this week, the Birmingham (Ala.) News reported Wednesday.

Christ was excused from the criminal case in Judge Clyde Jones’s courtroom for being disruptive, officials said. They said she kept asking questions rather than answer those posed to her by officials.

You mean like, “Who do men say that I am?”

Euro Judges overrule Germany on father’s right to joint custody


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The German government says it will reform its custody laws after the European Court of Human Rights said a German man had suffered discrimination.

The Strasbourg court ruled that German courts were wrong to reject the unmarried father’s plea to have joint custody of his daughter, 14.

Under current German law, single fathers can only get joint custody if the mother gives her consent.

Germany’s justice minister says the custody law now needs changing. Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said there were plenty of cases where unmarried fathers “want to take responsibility for the child without entering into a power struggle with the mother”.

She told Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that the law ought to “take more account of the father’s interests”.

European Court judgments are binding on states that have signed the rights convention, meaning that they have to adjust their laws if a rights violation is exposed.

Overdue!

Google offers DNS experiment to speed up the Web

In an unusual move, Google announced Google Public DNS on Thursday, a new means by which users can utilize the Google DNS servers to access the Internet. Google has even added telephone support for those who choose to make the switch…

[Unusual? Another editorial comment from someone who doesn’t know diddly-squat about business.]

Google’s motivation, according to the company, is to both speed up Web browsing as well as provide enhanced security. “We believe that a faster DNS infrastructure could significantly improve the browsing experience for all web users,” Prem Ramaswami, of Google’s Public DNS Team, wrote in a blog post. “To enhance DNS speed but to also improve security and validity of results, Google Public DNS is trying a few different approaches that we are sharing with the broader web community…”

Users who want to try out the new Google DNS servers can change their DNS settings to 8.8.8.8 or 8.8.4.4, as its instructions describe. Google strongly recommends, however, that users copy down their existing settings. Interestingly, Google also provides telephone support for its Public DNS as well.

The new DNS settings are not for ISPs to use, as Google does not have a service-level agreement (SLA) in place. The project is characterized as “experimental”…

Although DNS servers are maintained by a user’s ISP, the OpenDNS project has maintained a similar open resolver project for a number of years. Ramaswami said in an interview that the Google will encourage other open resolvers to engage it in dialogue and to adopt some of the techniques Google’s Pubic DNS used to better improve the Web.

Ramaswami also emphatically denied that the company would in any way monetize the data it collected, referring to its privacy policies. “This is about making the Web faster, not about the data,” he said. “We’ve gone out of the way to make this true.”

Whingers will not believe this. Even if they can’t prove otherwise. Whining for the sake of it – is about as productive as a Donald Rumsfeld military campaign.

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C.I.A. continues to expand drone attacks inside Pakistan

Two weeks ago in Pakistan, Central Intelligence Agency sharpshooters killed eight people suspected of being militants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and wounded two others in a compound that was said to be used for terrorist training.

Then, the job in North Waziristan done, the C.I.A. officers could head home from the agency’s Langley, Va., headquarters, facing only the hazards of the area’s famously snarled suburban traffic.

It was only the latest strike by the agency’s covert program to kill operatives of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and their allies using Hellfire missiles fired from Predator aircraft controlled from half a world away.

The White House has authorized an expansion of the C.I.A.’s drone program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, officials said this week, to parallel the president’s decision, announced Tuesday, to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. American officials are talking with Pakistan about the possibility of striking in Baluchistan for the first time — a controversial move since it is outside the tribal areas — because that is where Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to hide.

By increasing covert pressure on Al Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan, while ground forces push back the Taliban’s advances in Afghanistan, American officials hope to eliminate any haven for militants in the region…

Yet with few other tools to use against Al Qaeda, the drone program has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress and was escalated by the Obama administration in January. More C.I.A. drone attacks have been conducted under President Obama than under President George W. Bush. The political consensus in support of the drone program, its antiseptic, high-tech appeal and its secrecy have obscured just how radical it is. For the first time in history, a civilian intelligence agency is using robots to carry out a military mission, selecting people for killing in a country where the United States is not officially at war.

On one hand, this is a means to an end. My experience with national liberation movements, what knowledge I have of Islamist bandits – passing themselves off as holy warriors – is that the end is what is worth considering in warfare.

On the other, international treaty agreements have a value extending beyond short-term military campaigns. Even when they’re honored in tacit acceptance of their abrogation by the politicians who whinge in public.

There is also the value of acting against insurgencies which limit a region’s population to the standards and way of life of the bandits rather than anything they might choose on their own – given the opportunity to be free of warring bands.

Chicken collagen good for aching joints

Chicken collagen can provide relief from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms. A randomised, controlled trial…has found that Chicken type II collagen (CCII), a protein extracted from the cartilage of chicken breast, is a safe and effective treatment for RA.

Wei Wei, from Anhui Medical University, China, worked with a team of researchers to test the novel treatment by comparing it to the established antirheumatic drug methotrextate, in 503 RA patients. Patients who received a 12-week course of CCII capsules showed significantly improved joint function, with fewer and milder adverse effects than those taking methotrexate…

RA is an autoimmune disease caused by the body mounting a response against its own cartilage — the rubbery tissue, composed mainly of collagen, which cushions and lubricates joints. By dosing patients with collagen in the form of CCII capsules, the researchers believe that ‘oral tolerance’ can be developed.

Wei said: “Oral tolerance is a reduction in autoimmune activity caused by repeated dietary exposure to the offending substance. Treatment of autoimmune diseases by induction of oral tolerance is attractive because of the few side effects and easy clinical implementation of this approach. Indeed, our work confirms that treatment with oral CCII leads to improvement in arthritis with no significant side effects.”

Rheumatoid arthritis is a tough one. Persistent, painful, tough to treat other than symptomatically.

With no side effects – and certainly no shortage of chickens on this planet – this could be a turnaround for a painful disease.