Lawnmower breaks land speed record – for lawnmowers

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

A British lawnmower has cut the world land speed record by reaching a new top speed of more than 86mph.

Rider Don Wales took the petrol driven mower into the record books at Pendine Sands, in west Wales.

The previous lawnmower land speed record was 80.792mph (130.022km/h) set in America – Mr Wales was recorded as reaching 86.069mph.

His team are now due to return to the same spot on Sunday in a bid to break the 100mph barrier

Any of the motorised grass cutters taking part must also be built primarily from lawnmower parts…

American Bob Cleveland set the previous land speed record on a lawn-mower at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, and was present at Saturday’s run in Wales.


Papier-mâché prince = deadbeat dad = busted!

A man who posed as an Austrian prince but is accused of being one of Michigan’s worst deadbeat dads has been arrested in New York City.

The U.S. Marshals Service, executing a warrant from Oakland County, found Josef Meyers, 50, hiding in a bedroom closet in a New York home, said Kevin Pettit, a spokesman for the service in Detroit.

Meyers, also known as the Austrian Prince Josef Franz Prach von Habsburg-Lothringen, was sought by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and county prosecutors on a 2009 warrant alleging failure to pay $250,000 in child support. Detectives from Oakland County worked with the marshals’ service on the case…

Meyers, who has children and a wife he never divorced in Michigan, was found in New York with another wife, Michelle Trico, and three other children, officials said.

His history includes a stint in the former Clinton Valley Center psychiatric hospital in Pontiac in his early 20s after an attack on his mother, an arrest in a major Livonia cocaine bust for which he was not convicted, a conviction for check kiting, and a lengthy period as a paid FBI informant, according to court records.

He legally changed his name to the regal Austrian name von Habsburg about 20 years ago, despite a law prohibiting a felon from changing his name.

Sounds like a certain portion of law enforcement hasn’t been too slick when it came to dealing with this scumbag.

I know the quality of paid informant depends almost entirely on having a pulse; but, you would think someone involved with the process of legally changing his name might have noticed he was a convicted felon.

Brits to let the United States be the Cops of the World

Becks provides target ranging advice
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The defence secretary, Liam Fox, wants to speed up the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, saying that Britain is not a “global policeman”…

While Hague indicated that the new coalition government was not planning a strategic break with existing UK policy on Afghanistan, Fox said expectations of Britain’s role in the country needed to change. He also risked angering the president, Hamid Karzai, by describing Afghanistan as a “broken 13th-century country”.

In an interview with the Times, published ahead of their arrival today, Fox said the goals of the mission in Afghanistan were primarily military rather than humanitarian.

“We have to reset expectations and timelines,” he told the paper. “National security is the focus now. We are not a global policeman.

“We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education policy in a broken 13th-century country. We are there so the people of Britain and our global interests are not threatened.”

Fox said he would like the forces to return to the UK as soon as possible, and ruled out any transfer of British troops from Helmand province to neighbouring Kandahar…

The visit was the first to Afghanistan by members of the new government and is intended to reflect the high priority being given to the conflict…

Britain has about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan – part of a US-dominated force that is expected to grow to around 140,000 at its height in a few weeks. Washington is sending more troops in a bid to seize insurgent-held areas before a planned withdrawal starting in July 2011.

Americans are always dumb enough to volunteer as cops of the world. It keeps corporate donations rolling – and politicians get to wallow in patriotism.

Extended civil commitment of prisoners is upheld

In a broad endorsement of federal power, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress has the authority under the Constitution to allow the continued civil commitment of sex offenders after they have completed their criminal sentences…

The federal law at issue in the case allows the government to continue to detain prisoners who had engaged in sexually violent conduct, suffered from mental illness and would have difficulty controlling themselves. If the government is able to prove all of this to a judge by “clear and convincing” evidence — a heightened standard, but short of “beyond a reasonable doubt” — it may hold such prisoners until they are no longer dangerous or a state assumes responsibility for them.

The challenge to the civil commitment law was brought by five prisoners. The case of Graydon Comstock was typical. In November 2006, six days before Mr. Comstock was to have completed a 37-month sentence for receiving child pornography, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales certified that Mr. Comstock was a sexually dangerous person.

Last year, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., unanimously ruled that none of the powers granted to Congress in the Constitution empowered it to authorize such civil commitments. But the decision was stayed, and Mr. Comstock has remained confined in a federal prison.

At the argument of the case in January, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, now President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court, said the law was needed “to run a criminal justice system that does not itself endanger the public.” She said 105 people had been confined under the law.

Ms. Kagan pointed to the Constitution’s “necessary and proper” clause as granting Congress the power to pass the law, though the clause is not ordinarily thought of as a source of free-standing authority. The clause gives Congress the right “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution” its other powers

Two of the most right-wing justices on the court wrote the dissent. The one I would agree with. Because it comes closest to my personal understanding of the Constitution.

We’re witnessing Congress – as it often does – committing an opportunist and cowardly act. Afraid to pass laws that fit the crime as they see it, they enable a judge to take the responsibility they have abdicated – on a case by case basis. Which is a further piece of antidemocratic behavior.

Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, dissented in the case, United States v. Comstock, No. 08-1224.

“The fact that the federal government has the authority to imprison a person for the purpose of punishing him for a federal crime — sex-related or otherwise — does not provide the government with the additional power to exercise indefinite civil control over that person,” Justice Thomas wrote.

Yes, as someone who has dissented loudly and publicly from some policies of this nation over several decades – I consider myself at equal risk of extra-legal penalties like this – for political reasons. Something that would hardly be news in the good old USA.

Quebec close to veil ban

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

A human rights group says there is no need under Canadian law to establish guidelines for when Islamic women can cover their faces…

Fillion said passage of Bill 94 could deny public services such as health and education to women wearing face veils.

A spokesman for the Quebec Bar testified that while a section of the bill states that people offering or receiving public services must have their face uncovered, it is only necessary for reasons of “security, communication or identification.”

Bill 94’s sponsor, Justice Minister Kathleen Weil, says the purpose of the legislation is to establish the principle that people have their faces uncovered for “reasons of security.”

Security, eh? Can’t they figure out how to include “defend the children”, as well? They usually march arm-in-arm.

Probiotic kefir reduced rate of infections in daycare children

The probiotic yogurt-like drink DanActive reduced the rate of common sicknesses such as ear infections, sinusitis, the flu and diarrhea in daycare children, say researchers who studied the drink in the largest known probiotic clinical trial to be conducted in the United States. An additional finding, however, showed no reduction in the number school days missed. The study led by Daniel Merenstein, MD, of Georgetown University School of Medicine (GUSOM), was funded by The Dannon Company, Inc., and published online [.pdf] in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Probiotic foods are continuing to increase in popularity and some are marketed for the potential benefits of probiotics such as Lactobacillus casei (L. casei) DN-114 001, the probiotic in DanActive. Studies in other countries have found that probiotics, which are live micro-organisms, produce positive health benefits in children, including the reduction of school days missed due to infections. However, most of the research was conducted outside the United States in structured conditions not comparable to normal everyday living…

“…To our knowledge this is the largest probiotic clinical trial conducted in the U.S. and provides much needed data,” say the authors of the study. “We studied a functional food, not a medicinal product; parents will thus feed their children without any physician input and we felt it was best to assess [the drink] under similar conditions.”

The study…was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study – the gold standard in clinical research design. It included 638 healthy children, aged three to six, who attended school five days a week. Parents were asked to give their child a daily strawberry yogurt-like drink for 90 consecutive days. Some of the drinks were supplemented with the probiotic strain L. casei DN-114 001 (DanActive), while others had no probiotics (placebo). Neither the study coordinators, the children, nor the parents knew which drink was given to which participant until the study ended. In addition to phone interviews with researchers, parents kept daily diaries of their child’s health and the number of drinks consumed.

Researchers found a 19 percent decrease of common infections among the children who drank the yogurt-like drink with L. casei DN-114 001 compared to those whose drink did not have the probiotic. More specifically, those who drank DanActive had 24 percent fewer gastrointestinal infections (such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting), and 18 percent fewer upper respiratory tract infections (such as ear infections, sinusitis and strep). However, the reduction in infections did not result in fewer missed school days or activities – also a primary outcome of the study.

I haven’t any special hangups about company-sponsored tests when the institute performing the tests has a reputation for peer-review and maintains standards. Georgetown University not only does both – they’re in the limelight enough that I would expect peer communities in other schools to keep an eye on those standards.

They make it clear from the git-go about who picked up the tab.

Interesting study.