Brazil to use satellite tracking against illegal ranching

Satellite photo of deforestation and fires in Matto Grosso, Brasil

Brazil took a step forward in protecting the Amazon rainforest this week, starting satellite surveillance of the cattle ranches that are among the chief culprits in the forest’s destruction.

The agriculture ministry will monitor more than 15,000 cattle ranches, many of which were established by clearing forested land, and stop ranchers from selling their cattle if they expand farms further by encroaching upon the rainforest.

We can now say that Brazil is doing its part,” said Agriculture Minister Reinhold Stephanes at the launch of the plan in Para, one of several states in the north of Brazil over which the world’s largest rainforest sprawls…

The scheme is one of the few measures taken to date by the farming ministry to control ranchers, showing heightened awareness of the link between success in exporting and the foreign consumers’ desire for more ecologically sound produce…

Ranchers who have been identified via the satellite images as illegally claiming forested land to expand their pastures will be unable to obtain a permit enabling them to transport their cattle to slaughterhouses.


Sexy nativity pisses off Los Angeles true believers

A clothing store on Robertson Boulevard is causing a stir with a new window display — a nativity scene with very sexual undertones.

Madison clothing store, located at W. 3rd Street and Robertson Boulevard, has put up a nativity scene featuring a scantily-clad Virgin Mary sprawled on the ground with a glittery, golden baby Jesus in her lap…

Some people have complained about the display, calling it risqué.

A group that works across the street from the store said sex, their religion and shopping in a single tableau is too much for them to handle.

Said one woman, “The way they have presented Mary in a very provocative position with a baby in her crotch, and that baby is supposed to be Jesus… No.”

If my understanding of the history of clothing in the Middle East is accurate, it’s not especially likely that too many folks were wearing underwear back then, anyway. Right?

UK snooker champion will get his weight in Pukka Pies

Ronnie O’Sullivan is trying for a 320-pie victory

This year’s UK Snooker Championship winner will be given his body weight in pies, supplied by the tournament sponsor, Pukka Pies. The English company are sponsoring the event for the first time and will reward Sunday’s winner with a delivery of pies “direct to their home.”

The four players in the semi-finals, Ding Junhui, Stephen Maguire, Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins have all been weighed before their matches start today, according to the company. A statement reads: “Based on an average of four pies per kilogramme, Sunday’s winner can expect to win anywhere between 356 pies and 276 pies…”

We are all excited about the chance of winning our body weight in pies,” said Ding Junhui. “We all made sure we were wearing a few extra layers of clothes for the weigh-in and I wanted to put a few snooker balls in my pocket but I wasn’t allowed.”

Har! Snooker fans are as addicted to extra calories as their counterparts in football and rugby.

Google leads consortium for world’s fastest internet cable

The Unity cable is part of another Google underseas consortium

In little more than a decade, Google has conquered the technology industry and become one of the world’s most powerful companies. Its latest undertaking, however, may be one of its most ambitious: a giant undersea cable that will significantly speed up internet access around the globe.

The Californian search engine is part of a consortium that confirmed its plans to install the new Southeast Asia Japan Cable (SJC), the centrepiece of a $400 million project that will create the highest capacity system ever built.

Google is undertaking the scheme with a number of Asian telecommunications companies, including Japan’s KDDI and India’s Reliance Globalcom. The agreement to build the submarine cable was first proposed three years ago, but negotiations finally came to a close on Wednesday as officials signed what they promised was a groundbreaking deal…

When it opens for business in 2012, the SJC will run 3,000 miles from Singapore to Japan – with branches reaching out to Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand and Guam. In total, it will consist of more than 5,000 miles of cable, sunk deep under the seabed…

The SJC is set to break records by allowing up to 17 terabits of data to be sent every second – the equivalent of around 250m telephone lines, and large enough to allow the contents of every single book in the British Library to be transferred 20 times per second.

And as if that was not enough, the line is also upgradeable and could eventually run as fast as 23Tbps – space for another 88m phone lines.

It’s no surprise to me to see Google ready and willing to invest in a communications project like this. It’s what corporations should be prepared to invest in – to offer leadership in technology.

Now, uh, how many of your local newspapers covered this story, eh.

Americans left home to wage jihad in Afghanistan – UPDATED

Several American men arrested in Pakistan this week amid suspicion that they were plotting terrorist attacks planned to go to Afghanistan, a Pakistani police interrogation report said.

The report…sheds more light on a case that led Pakistani police to arrest five Americans Wednesday at a home in Sargodha, a town about 120 miles south of Islamabad. The men will be transferred to Lahore, Pakistan, for security reasons, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told CNN…

“They had deep interest in the religion, and they were of the opinion that a jihad must be waged against the infidels for the atrocities committed by them against Muslims around the world,” said the report, which refers to the five as college students.

The report focused on one of the suspects identified as Ahmed Abdullah Minni, a 20-year-old American born in Virginia. It said he regularly went online to watch attacks on the U.S. military in Afghanistan and that he left comments praising the actions. That caught the attention of militants, and he was eventually contacted by a person named Saifullah, the report says…

The report said the suspects made a plan with Saifullah to go from Pakistan to Afghanistan. They gathered in Karachi and left for Hyderabad on December 1. They tried to hook up with two militant groups — Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Jamaat ud Dawa — but neither showed interest…

Pakistani authorities arrested five men Wednesday, and a sixth man — the father of one of the five — was arrested afterward, police said. Officials said the six men include three Pakistani-Americans, an Ethiopian-American, an Egyptian-American and an Eritrean-American.

We can rest assured that Joe Lieberman and John Boehner will hold press conferences calling for Congress to hold full investigations on the role played by free access to Facebook and YouTube in this case. Having strong friends of freedom like this in Congress will guarantee, blah, blah.

Meanwhile, the latest rumor is these idiot kids will be deported back to the U.S. where they will be dealt with appropriately – or not – depending where we are in the election cycle.

UPDATE: Latest rumor says they’ll face trial in Pakistan before any chance of deportation.

Peace requires responsibility

I hadn’t planned on watching the acceptance speech – though I knew it would be a major statement on aspects of American foreign policy within President Obama’s personal vision. But, I was just up having my first cuppa, channel-surfing and caught CNN preparing to offer it live.

It was worthwhile watching and listening. Clarity and honesty, principles long missing from American politics.

There are policy points I don’t agree with – but, who the hell agrees with me all the time?

I suggest you watch the whole recording. Here’s a transcript of the speech.

Early cousin’ of T.Rex and Velociraptor found at Ghost Ranch

Researchers have unveiled a new species of dinosaur from the late Triassic period – a small, early relative of T.rex and Velociraptor.

The 2m-long dinosaur, named Tawa hallae, was found in a “bone bed” on the Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, US.

The discovery of this early theropod, reported in the journal Science, sheds light on early dinosaur evolution. The team says the find also highlights how dinosaurs dispersed across what was then the “supercontinent” Pangaea.

Sterling Nesbitt, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin in the US, led a team from a number of US research institutes that studied the fossilised dinosaur bones.

Dr Nesbitt told BBC News that the bone bed was first excavated in 2004, but his team made a larger excavation in 2006, discovering articulated dinosaur skeletons that were between 90% and 95% complete.

These remarkable specimens enabled the researchers to confirm, without doubt, that Tawa was a new type of dinosaur…

The finding provides strong evidence for an existing hypothesis that dinosaurs originated in what is now South America, and very soon diverged into three major lines…

This was at the time of the supercontinent Pangaea, when “you could walk from the North to the South Pole,” said Dr Nesbitt.

Absolutely delightful. I was involved with a small bit of reconstruction work at Ghost Ranch before I retired – a little while before that first excavation. Everything was marked out for the dig; but, they hadn’t started, yet.

Yes, of course, I poked around a bit. Just exercising my curiosity bone.

Too bad, Georgia O’Keeffe isn’t alive to witness the discovery at her old home and rambling grounds.

Student accidentally turns his chewing gum into explosive, and.. well, you guessed it

A Ukrainian chemistry student has been killed by exploding bubble gum that tore off half of his face, police said Thursday.

Vladimir Likhonos, a student at a regional branch of the Kyiv Polytechnical Institute, is thought to have accidentally dipped his chewing gum into explosives he was using for his studies, police spokeswoman Elvira Biganova told The Associated Press. She said the 25-year-old mistook the powder for citric acid, which he often added to prolong the gum’s taste.

Likhonos, from the town of Konotop, in northeast Ukrainian, blew off his entire jaw and most of the lower part of his face in Saturday’s accident. Medical workers who arrived on the scene attempted to treat his injuries but were unable to save him….

“Anybody could have mixed them up,” Biganova said.

You have to give Biganova credit for trying to think of something positive to say.

Darwin Award candidate, or simply a very tragic accident? Voice your assessment in comments.