Recommendation for the job? Sleeping with a Senator?


Why is this man smiling?
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the powerful U.S. Senate Finance Committee, nominated his girlfriend to serve as a federal prosecutor earlier this year, the Democratic lawmaker’s spokesman said on Saturday.

Baucus recommended Melodee Hanes, who served on his staff at the time and has an ongoing romantic relationship with the divorced senator, and two others for the post of U.S. attorney in his home state of Montana, Baucus spokesman Tyler Matsdorf said.

Matsdorf said Baucus chose to nominate Hanes for the job because of her “extensive background as a prosecutor and extensive legal experience.” Hanes worked for Baucus from 2003 until earlier this year, and now holds a post at the U.S. Justice Department.

“While her personal relationship with Senator Baucus should in no way be either a qualifier or a disqualifier for the position, during the nomination process and after much reflection, both Senator Baucus and Ms. Hanes agreed that she should withdraw her name from consideration because they wanted to live together in Washington, D.C.,” Matsdorf said…

“Senator Baucus is currently in a mature and happy relationship with Melodee Hanes. They are both divorced, and in no way was their relationship the cause of their respective divorces,” Matsdorf said.

A few cheeky Congressional Republicans want an ethics investigation. As long as it only checks up on Democrats.

BTW, Baucus’ wife didn’t divorce him until just this spring.

Beware the attack of Killer Petunias

Scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Natural History Museum believe that carnivorous behaviour in plants is far more widespread than previously thought, with many commonly grown plants — such as petunias — at least part way to being “meat eaters.”

Carnivorous plants have caught the imagination of humans since ancient times, and they fitted well into the Victorian interest in Gothic horrors. Accounts of man-eating plants published in 19th century works have long since been discredited, but they continue to appear in different media including films (Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors) and books (Tentacula in the Harry Potter series). Even popular Japanese cartoon Pokémon includes some characters based on carnivorous plants (Bellsprout, Weepinbell and Victreebell).

Carnivorous plants fascinated Charles Darwin, and he and his friend Sir Joseph Hooker (Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew at that time) had an extensive correspondence concerning them. Darwin’s book Insectivorous Plants played a critical role in the idea that plants could eat animals being generally accepted. Before this, many botanists (including Linnaeus) had refused to accept that this could be the case.

Since Darwin’s time, several groups have been generally recognised as carnivorous plants (including sundews, Venus flytraps and pitcher plants). Various other plants have been suggested as possible carnivores by some authors, but wide acceptance of these has failed to materialise. Defining what constitutes carnivory in plants is a challenge, and authors include or exclude groups of plants on the basis of different sets of criteria.

Professor Mark Chase and co-authors from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Natural History Museum contend that carnivory and non-carnivory should not be treated as a black and white situation, and they view plants as being on a sliding scale between those that show no carnivorous characteristics and those that are real “meat eaters” such as the Venus flytrap…

Professor Chase says, “Although a man-eating tree is fictional, many commonly grown plants may turn out to be cryptic carnivores, at least by absorbing through their roots the breakdown products of the animals that they ensnare. We may be surrounded by many more murderous plants than we think.”

I wonder if I can come with a vegetable that will eat the fracking pocket gophers under our garden?

Sony finally notices hybrid/PHV/EV cars need batteries

Sony, which currently manufactures compact lithium-ion batteries, will spend 100 billion yen in the next few years to set up a high-volume production system for high-capacity batteries, according to Sony Executive Deputy President Hiroshi Yoshioka.

There have been several deals between the electronic and automobile industries in producing high-capacity lithium-ion batteries — on which EVs depend for power — such as that between Panasonic and Toyota. With Sony one of the last major electronics corporations to join the race, all eyes are on who will become its partner.

Sony currently manufactures 41 million compact lithium-ion batteries for laptop computers and cell phones every month at six factories in Japan and abroad. Last August, it spent 40 billion yen to reinforce its production capacity at two domestic plants, with plans to increase production to 74 million batteries a month by the end of October. Plans for increased production were halted, however, when business performance rapidly declined after the Lehman Shock last fall.

However, “the world economy is on its way to recovery,” according to Yoshioka, leading Sony to decide not only to reinstate the investment plans that had been put on hold, but also to begin manufacturing high-capacity lithium-ion batteries, which are used for storage batteries in EVs and solar power generators, hoping to help haul itself out of its rut…

Asked about potential partners in the automobile industry, Yoshioka seemed confident that options were still available, indicating that Sony is hoping to shop its prototypes to various car manufacturers. “The collaboration of electronics and automobile companies over lithium-ion battery production for EVs is still a relatively new phenomenon,” he said. “And while we are considered late in entering the market, we still have plenty of chances to have our case heard.”

I understand that by 2012 they will consider researching these new-fangled electric wristwatches.

How about eagle-flavored chips?

Some Australians are up in arms over a new kangaroo and emu flavored chip, horrified that people are encouraged to eat the nation’s coat of arms which depicts the iconic Australian animals.

Complaints to Australia’s Advertising Standards Bureau said the “BBQ Coat of Arms” chips were degrading for native wildlife and sent the wrong message to Australian children.

“It implies that it is perfectly OK to kill kangaroos and emus just for fun!” said one complaint.

But the company manufacturing the chips rejected the charge, saying the kangaroo and emu flavored chips celebrated Australia’s heritage.

I guess I should be happy the turkey never made it to national bird here in the GOUSA.

Slim-Fast recalled for possible bacterial contamination


Skinny bacteria

The U.S. maker of Slim-Fast products is recalling 10 million cans of its diet-supplement beverage because it might make people sick.

Unilever United States is voluntarily recalling all of its ready-to-drink Slim-Fast products in cans because a production issue might have introduced Bacillus cereus, a micro-organism that can cause diarrhea, nausea and/or vomiting, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration…

The company ordered the recall after quality inspections of its canned products. The recall covers all Slim-Fast products in cans, regardless of UPC number, best-by date, lot code or flavor, it said.

Consumers are urged to immediately discard canned Slim-Fast products and contact the company for full refunds, it said.

That’s a bit more than an Oops!

Native Americans hope for the best from healthcare reform


Republican Health Care Plan

The meeting last month was a watershed: the leaders of 564 American Indian tribes were invited to Washington to talk with cabinet members and President Obama, who called it “the largest and most widely attended gathering of tribal leaders in our history.”

Topping the list of their needs was better health care.

“Native Americans die of illnesses like tuberculosis, alcoholism, diabetes, pneumonia and influenza at far higher rates,” Mr. Obama said. “We’re going to have to do more to address disparities in health care delivery.”

The health care overhaul now being debated in Congress appears poised to bring the most significant improvements to the Indian health system in decades. After months of negotiations, provisions under consideration could, over time, direct streams of money to the Indian health care system and give Indians more treatment options.

Some proposals, like exempting Indians from penalties for not obtaining insurance, may meet resistance from lawmakers opposed to expanding benefits for Indians, many of whom receive free medical care.

But advocates say the changes recognize Indians’ unique status and could ease what Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, calls “full-scale health care rationing going on on Indian reservations.”

“We’ve got the ‘first Americans’ living in third world conditions,” Mr. Dorgan said.

RTFA. Decent health care within reach is unbelievably difficult on most tribal reservations.

Mediocre care has been the rule ever since that much-beloved conservative Ronald Reagan decided to gut the budget for Public Health. I witnessed our best-known compassionate conservative in action when I lived within the medical community in the Navajo Nation.

He wanted to do away with Indian Health Service hospitals altogether. Let ’em go to town if they’re sick. Even if the nearest Anglo town was 200 miles away.

Seen a UFO? Don’t call the MoD – anymore

For more half a century paranoid fantasies about flying saucers, little green men and alien invasions were officially indulged by the existence of a department within the Ministry of Defence that investigated UFO sightings.

But after more than 11,000 sightings spawning countless conspiracy theories, the department has been scrapped. The UFO hotline is no more…

Are we alone in the universe? The MoD doesn’t care any more. When you ring the old hotline number, you get a terse recorded message: “Please note it is no longer MoD policy to record, respond to, or investigate UFO sightings,” it says.

The U.S. government isn’t much better. Not since Project Bluebook days – and I think that was designed to keep an eye on complainers.

Your only choices, nowadays, are local law enforcement – when they finished chuckling at you, try one of the fanboys.