Berlusconi attacked in Milan


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi still in shock after an attack by a man described as deranged. He’s sitting in back of his limo just about to be transported to hospital. The attacker hurled a statuette striking the Prime Minister in the face at the end of a rally in Milan, Italy.

There isn’t much to say or do about someone truly mad. Stay out of their way. They must first be recognized to do that.

There apparently isn’t anything especially political about this act – though political opportunists will likely make much of it.

Whack-a-banker!

An arcade game that allows people to vent their anger at bankers has proved so popular the owner keeps having to replace worn out mallets.

Inventor Tim Hunkin introduced “Whack a Banker”, which is based on the older “Whack a Mole” game, at his arcade on Southwold pier in Suffolk.

Instead of players hitting pop-up moles with a mallet, within a set time, the target is pop-up bald figures.

Mr Hunkin said the game was “proving very popular”. “I keep having to replace worn-out mallets,” he said.

“The bankers are bald and all look the same because that’s how I think people see bankers, as faceless.”

When a customer wins a voice says: “You win. We retire. Thank you very much to the taxpayer for paying our pensions.”

When does “whack-a-pol” open to the public?

Nuns advertising a life of poverty, chastity and obedience

She is general superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie.

She has a…mission: to encourage women who may have felt a call by God to join a religious order to act. To pick up the phone and call the Sisters of St. Joseph. For help, she has hired one of Toronto’s top ad men, Terry O’Reilly, the popular host of CBC radio’s The Age of Persuasion.

It may be the first time a Canadian religious order has stepped into the pool of popular media for an ad campaign. Mostly, nuns have advertised in diocesan newspaper and other religious publications.

“The question everyone will ask is how do you live without sex?..”

“You live without sex, but not without love,” she says.

“I don’t feel unfulfilled. I feel I have a love relationship with God…”

O’Reilly’s team also had to address the poverty, chastity, obedience question. The ads they’re working on don’t get into details, he says…

We are tapping into women who already feel these stirrings, who are already considering that kind of life…”

“They are young adults looking to live together in large numbers, to do things together – they are looking for community,” says Sister Maureen Baldwin, a member of the Congregation of Notre Dame and executive-director of the National Association of Vocation and Formation Directors.

I wonder if our Canadian readers feel that this is where they would direct young women – to have a meaningful life?

In fact, the question applies to all societies where religion continues to diminish. I hope.

Houston makes history – largest US city to elect gay mayor


The new mayor and her family
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Annise Danette Parker was elected mayor of Houston on Saturday, winning her seventh consecutive city election and becoming both the first contender in a generation to defeat the hand-picked candidate of Houston’s business establishment and the first openly gay person to lead a major U.S. city.

Parker, Houston’s current city controller who first emerged in the public arena as a gay rights activist in the 1980s, defeated former City Attorney Gene Locke on an austere platform, convincing voters that her financial bona fides and restrained promises would be best suited in trying financial times. Parker, 53, will replace the term-limited Mayor Bill White on Jan. 1.

Her victory capped an unorthodox election season that lacked a strong conservative mayoral contender and saw her coalition of inside-the-Loop Democrats and moderate conservatives, backed by an army of ardent volunteers, win the day over Locke, a former civil rights activist who attempted to unite African-American voters and Republicans…

In many ways, the race was framed by the financial anxieties voters have experienced over the past 18 months. At the polls, voter after voter cited Parker’s experience watching over the city’s $4 billion budget as a primary consideration in their choice.

Instead of being turned off by a politician reluctant to promise the world, voters responded to Parker’s straight talk about all that might not be possible in the coming years…

Ray Hill, the dean of Houston’s gay activists, saw victory in more ways than one.

“For me, it means 43 years of hard work has finally paid off,” Hill said. “For Houston, it means we have finally reached the point where being gay cannot be used as a wedge issue to divide the community and prevent us from reaching our aspirations. Annise Parker is not our mayor — she is the city’s mayor.”

Overdue.

Defeating the hate campaign run by local conservatives and church nutballs was especially important.

Perhaps, one of the supports of American reactionary politics is falling by the wayside?

Apple expels 1,000 apps after review scam uncovered


Back at the beginning of the App Store
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Apple has sent a clear message to any developers who try to game its iTunes App Store. Software developer Molinker has been kicked out, along with more than 1,000 of its iPhone applications.

The Chinese developer had, according to some estimates, 1,000-plus applications in the store, most of which were copycat knockoffs of existing applications. When a friend of writers at the iPhoneography photography blog saw these rather poor applications consistently scoring 5-star reviews, they got suspicious.

Some investigation showed that Molinker’s applications were getting many top ratings and almost nothing in the 2-to-4-star range. In fact, the only other ratings were often 1-star, and likely the only truthful feedback on the apps’ pages.

This scam was so effective that the applications regularly rose to the tops of charts. One, called ColorMagic, even made it into the Staff Favorites section of the store…

After a week of typical Apple silence, iPhoneography wrote again, and received a reply direct from Schiller: “Yes, this developer’s apps have been removed from the App Store and their ratings no longer appear either.”

The scale of this purging is huge: 1,000 applications represents almost 1 percent of the entire App Store offering. This alone shows that Apple is happy to do whatever it takes to keep its house clean.

It also shows the power that Apple has over those that sell in its exclusive marketplace. Sure, Molinker was caught cheating, and punished, but Apple could pull the same trick on any developer, for any reason [I was waiting for the predictable paranoia to set in].

We don’t think that it would, but iPhone developers are a nervous bunch as it is, rubbing on rabbits’ feet and crossing their fingers as their creations make their way through a fickle and seemingly arbitrary approval process.

Customers who bought mediocre apps for a couple of bucks each can go ahead and try to get their money back from Molinker. Good luck!

Cripes! Anti-war bumper stickers are actually coming true.

The Kansas National Guard announced Friday the closing of 18 of its 56 armories, including facilities in Atchison, Garden City, Salina and Winfield.

Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the state’s adjutant general, said the closings were a result of the state’s tight fiscal situation and careful deliberation. The closings will be completed in most cases by the end of February.

“The tough decisions we are making today means jobs are saved,” General Bunting said. “We stayed as long as we could. This is a sign of the times…”

General Bunting said he and his staff members notified each community where armories are closing to break the news.

“We clearly understand that this is your community and your armory and you are clearly disappointed,” General Bunting said…

“We don’t like to close armories,” General Bunting said. “We like to be in as many countries counties as we can.”

Har!

Unexpected weakness in H1N1 may aid in creating future vaccines


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Researchers at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) have found what they believe is a weakness in H1N1’s method for evading detection by the immune system.

Comparing its genetic sequences going all the way back to the virus’s first known appearance in the deadly “Spanish flu” outbreak of 1918, they discovered a previously unrealized role of receptor-binding residues in host evasion, which effectively becomes a bottleneck that keeps the virus in check…

The researchers discovered several key residues involved in both antigenic sites and the receptor-binding site, the part of the protein that attaches to a cell and allows the virus to invade…

The common belief has been that the receptor binding could not change. “The site is known, but no one thought it was involved in the immune system. In order to recognize the receptor, that particular region has to be robust,” Ma said. “But it turns out this region is not only variable, but also interacts with the immune system…”

“If the binding is abolished, the virus dies,” said Jianpeng Ma, a Rice professor in bioengineering with a joint appointment at BCM…

It becomes a weak link and provides us with a window into the virus that we can monitor,” Ma said. “The virus’s bottleneck is our opportunity…”

“An underlying implication is that this may not be restricted to H1N1,” Qinghua Wang said. “It may apply to other influenza viruses as well. If studying viral evolution can help predict what will cause a severe problem in humans, you can actually pre-stock vaccines, which will save time.”

Bravo!