Canada considers return to gender-neutral anthem

Canada’s federal government plans to look at changing the country’s national anthem “O Canada,” to make it gender neutral.

When parliament reconvened Wednesday and the minority Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced its agenda, the anthem was one of the smaller items that would be addressed in coming weeks, the Toronto Star reported.

The gender issue, politicians claim, rankling female constituents is the third line, which says “True patriot love in all thy sons command…”

The “O Canada” music and lyrics in French were first performed in Quebec City on June 24, 1880. They are gender neutral and have not changed. The English lyrics were written in 1908, the report said.

Sing along!

Gay prostitution scandal erupts at Vatican

The Vatican’s leading expert on missionary activities

The Vatican was today rocked by a sex scandal reaching into Pope Benedict’s household after a chorister was sacked for allegedly procuring male prostitutes for a papal gentleman-in-waiting.

Angelo Balducci, a Gentleman of His Holiness, was caught by police on a wiretap allegedly negotiating with Thomas Chinedu Ehiem, a 29-year-old Vatican chorister, over the specific physical details of men he wanted brought to him. Transcripts in the possession of the Guardian suggest that numerous men may have been procured for Balducci, at least one of whom was studying for the priesthood…

Balducci was arrested on 10 February, suspected of involvement in widespread corruption. A senior Italian government official, he is alleged to have to steered public works contracts towards favoured bidders. He has not been charged.

It was during this investigation into corruption that wiretaps revealed his alleged sexual activity. In one conversation, Ehiem tells Balducci: “I saw your call when I was in the Vatican, because I was doing rehearsals … in the choir … in St Peter’s.” He then suggests Balducci meet a man who he describes is “two metres tall … 97 kilos … aged 33, completely active.”

Balducci is also a senior adviser to the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, the department that oversees the Roman Catholic church’s worldwide missionary activities…

According to a report by the Carabinieri for prosecutors in Florence investigating the corruption scandal, there was a hidden side to Balducci’s life. “In order to organise casual encounters of a sexual nature, he availed himself of the intercession of two individuals who, it is maintained, may form part of an organised network, especially active in [Rome], of exploiters or at least facilitators of male prostitution.”


Was it cooking that made us human?

Cooking is something we all take for granted but a new theory suggests that if we had not learned to cook food, not only would we still look like chimps but, like them, we would also be compelled to spend most of the day chewing.

Without cooking, an average person would have to eat around five kilos of raw food to get enough calories to survive. The daily mountain of fruit and vegetables would mean a six-hour chewing marathon.

It is already accepted that the introduction of meat into our ancestors’ diet caused their brains to grow and their intelligence to increase. Meat – a more concentrated form of energy – not only meant bigger brains for our ancestors, but also an end to the need to devote nearly all their time to foraging to maintain energy levels. As a consequence, more time was available for social structure to develop.

Continue reading

Nutball Sheriff prepares for Islamist invasion

A Louisiana sheriff has begun training 200 local volunteers in basic hand-to-hand combats techniques as part of Project Exodus aimed at protecting the northwestern corner of the state from the danger of terrorists, the Shreveport Times reports.

Reporter Drew Pierson writes that Bossier Parish Sheriff Larry Deen’s policing plan involves “a mostly white group of ex-police volunteers and a .50-caliber machine gun” and was inspired in part from the Book of Exodus in the Bible.

“The buck stops with Larry Deen,” the sheriff says, according to the Times. “The liability stops with Larry Deen. I am the chief law enforcement officer in this parish, and it is incumbent upon me to protect all of the people in it…”

Doyle Dempsey, chief deputy for support services, says in the training video that if the project is successful “we will be ahead of the curve when it comes to fighting Islamic extremists.”

The volunteers will be armed provided weapons such as shotguns, riot shields and batons, the newspaper says, including a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on what the sheriff’s office calls “the war wagon.”

Five of the 200 volunteers are black, the Times says. Women will only be used in a “support role,” Deen says, indicating non-combat activity…

Deen elaborates on Operation Exodus on his Web site here:

As evidenced by recent terror threats, it is apparent that homegrown terrorists are in our midst. With the easy accessibility of the Internet, it is quite possible that these local and international terrorists can form a national or multiple location attack on our nation at any given moment. And no matter whether we are a direct target or not, fear and panic will still permeate our community. Control will have to be regained to ensure the safety of our residents. That is where Operation Exodus comes into play. It utilizes preventive measures to safeguard Bossier Parish from the fear and outcry that will inevitably transpire.

I think it’s time to expand upon the accepted political definition of “eejit” to include “dumfuk”.

The volunteers will be armed by local government; but, they’re not a militia. Uh-huh.

World’s most admired companies

The view, of course – coming from a Fortune magazine survey – is defined by other businessmen. There are social and ethical components because in many industries and trades, those qualities are part of profitability.

I’d probably omit advertising agencies, especially those specializing in politicians – and oil companies.

And the winners are

Which companies have the best reputations? Apple tops the list for the third year in a row. Who else made the top 50 this year?

Apple, Google, Berkshire Hathaway, Johnson & Johnson,

If you’d like to see the whole list, look over here.

And here’s how they ran the survey.

Why did this catch my eye? The geekness. Look back a decade. Did you ever think 3 of the Top 5 most admired companies would come from the world of high tech?

Chile earthquake altered Earth’s axis, shortened day

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Saturday’s Chile earthquake was so powerful that it likely shifted an Earth axis and shortened the length of a day.

By speeding up Earth’s rotation, the magnitude 8.8 earthquake—the fifth strongest ever recorded, according to the USGS—should have shortened an Earth day by 1.26 millionths of a second, according to new computer-model calculations by geophysicist Richard Gross of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

For comparison, the same model estimated that the magnitude 9 Sumatra earthquake in December 2004 shortened the length of a day by 6.8 millionths of a second.

Gross also estimates that the Chile earthquake shifted Earth’s figure axis by about three inches (eight centimeters)…

Likewise, as a portion of Earth’s mass drew in ever so slightly and quickly during the Chile earthquake, the planet began spinning a bit quicker.

To use a more vulgate analogy, the Earth’s bunghole – puckered.

Thanks, Mr. Fusion

Mass loss from glaciers overestimated before satellites used – The rate of melting continues to accelerate!

The melting of glaciers is well documented, but when looking at the rate at which they have been retreating, a team of international researchers steps back and says not so fast.

Previous studies have largely overestimated mass loss from Alaskan glaciers over the past 40-plus years, according to Erik Schiefer, a Northern Arizona University geographer…

The research team, led by Étienne Berthier…says that glacier melt in Alaska between 1962 and 2006 contributed about one-third less to sea-level rise than previously estimated…

Schiefer said the team plans to use the same methodologies from the Alaskan study in other glacial regions to determine if further recalibrations of ice melt are in order. These techniques use satellite imagery that spans vast areas of ice cover.

Previous methods estimated melt for a smaller subset of individual glaciers. The most comprehensive technique previously available used planes that flew along the centerlines of selected glaciers to measure ice surface elevations. These elevations were then compared to those mapped in the 1950s and 1960s. From this, researchers inferred elevation changes and then extrapolated this to other glaciers.

Two factors led to the original overestimation of ice loss with this method, Schiefer said. One is the impact of thick deposits of rock debris that offer protection from solar radiation and, thus, melting. The other was not accounting for the thinner ice along the edges of glaciers that also resulted in less ice melt.

Schiefer and his colleagues used data from the SPOT 5 French satellite and the NASA/Japanese ASTER satellite and converted the optical imagery to elevation information. They then compared this information to the topographical series maps of glacial elevations dating back to the 1950s.

While the team determined a lower rate of glacial melt during a greater than 40-year span, Schiefer said other studies have demonstrated the rate of ice loss has more than doubled in just the last two decades.

The geographers expect that rate of acceleration to continue. But, like any solid science, establishing greater baseline accuracy always aids in understanding results, projections, predictions.