Pick that shiny (police!) car to line out your drugs for snorting!

German police detained a nightclub reveler they caught trying to snort amphetamines off the top of their unmarked patrol car.

The 26-year-old began lining up the powdered drugs on the roof of the car in a disco car park, when the two police officers surprised him, a Nuremberg police spokesman said on Tuesday.

The man had no idea the normal looking vehicle belonged to the police, and it was coincidence that the officers — who were walking by their parked car — discovered him just as he was about to take the drugs.

He’s got horrible luck,” said Bert Rauenbusch, police spokesman in the southern German city.

Yeah, that’s one of the things you could say about him.

Foodborne illness costs U.S. $152 billion a year

Foodborne illnesses cost the United States $152 billion in health-related expenses each year, according to a study just released by consumer and public health groups.

Food safety advocates are hoping that the study will boost efforts in Congress to overhaul the nation’s antiquated food safety system.

Uh, don’t hold your breath!

Dozens of pathogens, many of them unknown, creep into the food supply each year, sickening millions. The price tag includes medical costs, lost productivity and quality-of-life, according to a study from the Produce Safety Project…

The latest study to delve into foodborne illnesses comes as Congress works to craft legislation that would mark the first major overhaul of the food safety system in 50 years…

“My hope… is that the sobering numbers of this report will compel the Senate to act immediately on food safety legislation,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who has vigorously pushed for food safety reform. “We literally cannot afford to wait.”

The Republican Party thinks the whole world can wait while they say NO another hundred times. The Democrats are still waiting to grow a backbone before they press even the simple majority they’ve had since the 2008 election.

RTFA. The rest of us are free to sicken and die.

Multiracial Americans recognized by the new census

This month, the Census Bureau will remind Americans that racial classifications remain an integral part of the country’s social and legal fabric while, at the same time, recognizing that racial lines are blurring for a growing number of people… The government will give the nation’s more than 308 million people the opportunity to define their racial makeup as one race or more.

The agency expects the number of people who choose multiple races to be significantly higher than the 2000 Census, when the government first allowed more than one race choice. Responses to this year’s survey will provide for the first time a glimpse at the evolution of racial identification: Those who were children in 2000 and were identified as one race by their parents may respond differently as adults today and select more than one.

It’s a historic opportunity to see how things have changed or how things have not changed,” says Nicholas Jones, chief of the Census Bureau racial statistics branch. Multiracial Americans are “one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in the country. There’s an increasing number of children born to parents of different races…”

At the same time, growing ethnic and racial diversity fueled by record immigration and rates of interracial marriages have made the USA’s demographics far more complex. By 2050, there will be no racial or ethnic majority as the share of non-Hispanic whites slips below 50%, according to Census projections…

• About three of 10 marriages involving Hispanics or Asians are now mixed-race, and almost one of six involving blacks are mixed race, according to an analysis by demographer Frey.

• About 9% of marriages involving non-Hispanic whites are mixed.

• A 10th or more of all marriages in 13 states — most in the West — were mixed race in 2008.

• Thirty-six states had at least a 20% increase in mixed-race marriages since 2000, including Florida, Virginia and Texas. A fifth of marriages in California and New Mexico were mixed…

“For the younger part of our society, race is going to be less of a factor when they decide partners, whom they’re going to church with, where they’re going to live,” William Frey says. “It won’t be exactly color-blind but much more color-blind.”

Excepting, of course, the larger proportion of decision-makers who own and control the economic and political structure of the United States. They’re stuck firmly into defending the racist analyses, the fears and answers determining foreign and domestic policies offensive to much of the world.

RTFA. Lengthy, lots of detail. Guaranteed to disturb those who still haven’t been able to get past Nixon-era politics.

Software sniffs out biometrics by focusing on your nose

Forget iris and fingerprint scans – scanning noses could be a quicker and easier way to verify a person’s identity, according to scientists at the University of Bath.

With worries about illegal immigration and identity theft, authorities are increasingly looking to using an individual’s physical characteristics, known as biometrics, to confirm their identity.

Unlike other facial features used for biometrics, such as eyes or ears, noses are difficult to conceal and also aren’t changed much by facial expression.

Dr Adrian Evans and Adrian Moorhouse, from the University’s Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, decided to investigate whether images of people’s noses could be used to recognise individuals. They used a photographic system called PhotoFace, developed by researchers at the University of the West of England (Bristol) and Imperial College London, to scan the 3D shape of volunteers’ noses and used computer software to analyse them according to six main nose shapes: Roman, Greek, Nubian, Hawk, Snub and Turn-up.

Whilst the researchers used a relatively small sample, they found that nose scanning showed good potential for use as a biometric, with a good recognition rate and a faster rate of image processing than with conventional biometric techniques such as whole face recognition…

”There’s no one magic biometric – irises are a powerful biometric, but can be difficult to capture accurately and can easily be obscured by eyelids or glasses. “Noses, however, are much easier to photograph and are harder to conceal, so a system that recognises noses would work better with an uncooperative subject or for covert surveillance…

The researchers plan in the future to build up a larger database of noses to test and refine the software to see if it can pick out individuals from a larger group of people, or distinguish between relatives from the same family.

So – keep your nose clean and stay out of trouble!

Spanish coppers bust Mariposa botnet ring

Spanish police have arrested three men accused of masterminding one of the biggest computer crimes to date — infecting more than 13 million PCs with a virus that stole credit card numbers and other data.

The men were suspected of running the Mariposa botnet, named after the Spanish word for butterfly, said Spain’s Civil Guard.

Mariposa had infected machines in 190 countries in homes, government agencies, schools, more than half of the world’s 1,000 largest companies and at least 40 big financial institutions, according to two Internet security firms that helped Spanish officials crack the ring…

Mariposa initially spread by exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft Corp’s Internet Explorer Web browser. It also contaminated machines by infecting USB memory sticks and by sending out tainted links using Microsoft’s MSN instant messaging software, he said.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company did not immediately have any comment…

Panda Security Senior Research Advisor Pedro Bustamante said that one of the three was caught with 800,000 personal credentials when Spanish police arrested him.

Mariposa’s the biggest ever to be shut down, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. These things come up constantly,” said Mark Rasch, former head of the U.S. Department of Justice computer crimes unit.

Maybe just the tip of the iceberg; but, it feels like there has been a measurable increase in arrests, lately.

Overdue. Welcome.

‘Hastening death’ for children in extreme pain, terminally ill


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

A survey of parents who had a child die of cancer found that one in eight considered hastening their child’s death, a deliberation influenced by the amount of pain the child experienced during the last month of life, report Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers in the March issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

The study, the first to explore this sensitive area, suggests that many parents worry that their children will suffer from uncontrollable pain, and that some parents might consider that an early death would be preferable.

The researchers say the findings underscore the importance of managing patients’ pain, and of communicating with parents about the tools available for easing progressive pain.

The problem is that conversations about these family worries may not always happen,” said senior author Joanne Wolfe, MD…

In response to the hypothetical vignettes, 50 percent of parents said they endorsed hastening death in situations of uncontrollable pain or if the child was in an irreversible coma.

Parents were 40 percent more likely to approve hastening death for a child experiencing extreme pain than for a terminally ill child in a coma…

“We’ve come a long way, because we have a good palliative and supportive care program for children with cancer,” said Wolfe, who is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

But she acknowledged, “I can never promise that their child will be pain free. We still have quite a way to go in figuring out the best way to ease suffering at the end of life.”

Dr. Wolfe notes this area is not given high priority for research funding agencies. I have to wonder how much of that reflects budget priorities – and how much is cowardice in the face of American politics and the predominance of superstition in that landscape.

The topic is one we’ve visited here before. Generally from the perspective of we – ourselves – having the right to determine or predetermine a sane and rationale end to our own lives. Here we’re examining the prospect of taking responsibility for the life and death – – and pain – of a child.

Tunisian Desert Ants navigate by stereo smell


Artist’s impression of an ant’s odor map

Desert ants in Tunisia smell in stereo, sensing odours from two different directions at the same time.

By sniffing the air with each antenna, the ants form a mental ‘odour map’ of their surroundings. They then use this map to find their way home, say scientists who report the discovery in the journal Animal Behaviour.

Pigeons, rats and even people may also smell in stereo, but ants are the first animal known to use it for navigation…

Each day, individual ants will leave the nest entrance and travel up to 100m in search of food. When they find some, they return straight home, somehow finding their tiny nest entrance again within a bleak, relatively featureless desert landscape.

But Dr Markus Knaden’s team has now found that the insect does much more than that.

First, they placed four odours marked A, B, C and D around a barely visible nest entrance.

They then tested the ants by removing and placing them in a remote location, without a nest entrance but with the same four odours. The ants immediately headed to exactly where their nest should have been, confirming that they use the odours as olfactory landmarks.

When the odours were mixed up, the ants became confused and unable to navigate their way home.

“They had learned the olfactory scenery,” Dr Knaden told the BBC.

This seems so logical you have to agree with Dr. Knaden and presume other species are doing the same. He has decades of interesting experimentation ahead.