Image of oil spewing enthralling – for the first 2 minutes

It’s beginning to feel like this has been with us forever.

And harder for us to believe that one of these days, or months, or years, it will be gone.

It’s the live video feed from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. When BP engineers lowered those cameras in the first place, you can bet they never imagined that the resulting pictures would be watched by hundreds of millions of infuriated people around the world.

They were for in-house use — to monitor the well, a well that was intended to be an uncontroversial source of enormous profit for the oil company. The cameras were like the security cameras that most corporations install around their office buildings. Just a little something so the bosses can keep their eye on things…

The ceaseless image of the oil spewing has become like an international night light — except without the comfort. It’s always there. We can count on it, even though we’d prefer not to.

It has become the logo of the disaster. It is a ghastly portrait in perpetual motion. Every time there is a dash of hope that the oil will stop gushing, something newly bad happens. In recent days, it was the temporary removal of the containment cap deep in the Gulf. The oil surged harder. And we, in our spare moments, watched.

The television feed is like a heartbreaking mutation of those lava lamps from the 1960s and 1970s — those oddly shaped doodads with the colorful churn of liquid trapped inside, an undulating mixture hypnotic in its incessant and random kinetic swirl. The terrible difference, of course, is that the frantic churn from the oil pipe is not trapped. It is freely headed toward unwelcoming shores.

In my neck of the prairie, folks who maintain a fascination with that live feed are as demented as rubberneckers who hit their brakes and slow down to peer at carnage on the opposite side of the freeway after an accident.

But, the lazy dullards of the entertainment-as-news brigade really drive me to distraction when they stick a frame in the corner of “news” programs, hour after hour after hour showing that fracking bubbling pot at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. What are we supposed to learn from it? There’s nothing in that video as entertaining as a lava lamp is to a stoner.

About as useless as prayer groups gathering to implore some sky-dude to stop the leak.

Reality TV for truly stupid TV producers.

Priest really knows how to manage a charity – for himself


How to visit your parishioners in a real hurry!

A Catholic priest who drove a Ferrari, kept mistresses and siphoned off more than £2 million of charity donations has been jailed for fraud in France.

Father Antoine Videau, 64, received a three-year prison sentence for crimes that led to him being known as the “Playboy Padre”. He was revealed to have been in possession of 28 bank accounts around the world following his arrest.

Much of the money was being used to fund his multi-millionaire lifestyle which included regular visits to casinos in Las Vegas and Monte Carlo…

Father Videau, who was arrested in 2005 while parish priest in Calacuccia, Corsica, had denied fraud and abuse of confidence.

His crimes also included hiring out nunneries for social events, and then using the profits to maintain his lavish lifestyle.

He appointed himself executor of the half-a-million pounds estate of a deceased archbishop, making sure that everything went to him.

Meanwhile, Father Videau set up home with a young woman in La Ciotat, in the Bouches-du-Rhône area of France, making sure that nobody back in Corsica got to hear about her.

Is there any significant difference between this particular hustler and any other religion pimp?

He used the money for a hustlers’ lifestyle, fast cars and bimbos. The only difference with our all-American favorites is that they take out a certain amount of time to support reactionary politics.

He only did enough of that to stay in touch with the Vatican.

U.S. retains control of all military in South Korea

In its strongest move since the sinking of a South Korean warship, the Obama administration has said that the United States would retain control of all military forces in the South during any conflict with North Korea, which has been widely blamed for the attack on the ship in March that killed 46 sailors…

The decision is somewhat symbolic; the United States was not slated to give up wartime control of South Korean troops until 2012, and the new agreement extends the deadline to 2015. But the agreement allowed Washington and Seoul to take some action after months of struggling for ways to punish the North — and attempt to deter it from further violence — without provoking the country’s erratic leader, Kim Jong-il, to launch new attacks…

Where’s the beef?

In addition, Mr. Obama vowed to seek Congressional ratification for a long-stalled free-trade agreement with South Korea — a possibly risky political move that could please businesses but upset unions and their allies in Congress.

In an apparent attempt to satisfy those groups, the administration said that in exchange for pushing the trade deal forward, Mr. Obama would ask the South to drop restrictions on auto and beef imports; the restrictions have been particularly unpopular with unions…

Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he would support ratification as long as “the unscientific barriers Korea has erected against American beef” were removed.

Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, said he welcomed the decision. “I hope that this process will provide us an opportunity to address market access for autos and beef and increase the value of the trading relationship,” he said.

When either one of these creeps lets some concern for healthcare, unemployment, jobs and education slip past their political radar, pigs will be flying and lobbyists will be out of a job.

And America’s imperial army will be homeward bound from foreign lands where they’re stationed. If you hadn’t noticed, the Armed Forces Network is sending out World Cup Coverage to our military in 177 countries and territories.

Want to save a buck and reduce the deficit – Mr. and Mrs. Tea Party? Bring The Troops Home!

Perennial grain crops – next agricultural revolution

Earth-friendly perennial grain crops, which grow with less fertilizer, herbicide, fuel, and erosion than grains planted annually, could be available in two decades, according to researchers writing in the current issue of the journal Science.
 
Perennial grains would be one of the largest innovations in the 10,000 year history of agriculture, and could arrive even sooner with the right breeding programs, said John Reganold, a Washington State University Regents professor of soil science and lead author of the paper with Jerry Glover, a WSU-trained soil scientist now at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas.
 
“It really depends on the breakthroughs,” said Reganold. “The more people involved in this, the more it cuts down the time…”

“People talk about food security,” said Reganold. “That’s only half the issue. We need to talk about both food and ecosystem security.”
 
Perennial grains, say the authors, have longer growing seasons than annual crops and deeper roots that let the plants take greater advantage of precipitation. Their larger roots, which can reach ten to 12 feet down, reduce erosion, build soil and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.  They require fewer passes of farm equipment and less herbicide, key features in less developed regions…

Developing perennial versions of our major grain crops would address many of the environmental limitations of annuals while helping to feed an increasingly hungry planet,” said Reganold.

Can’t you just see the beancounter marketing directors of Monsanto or ConAgra reading this article? They’d have to change their drawers afterwards.

OTOH, there is hardly a class of human being more reluctant to adapt to change than peasants and other farmers. It will take progressive agriculture to implement progressive science – and perennial grains.

EU aims for new world record in stupid regulations


“I’ll take this one, those two, that one under the brown one…
Please weigh them and wrap them up for me!”

Shoppers will be banned from buying bread rolls or eggs priced by the dozen under new food labelling regulations proposed by the European parliament.

Under the draft legislation, to come into force as early as next year, the sale of groceries using the simple measurement of numbers will be replaced by an EU-wide system based on weight.

WTF?

It would mean an end to packaging descriptions such as eggs by the dozen, four-packs of apples, six bread rolls or boxes of 12 fish fingers.

The legislation could even see special unit-based promotional packs offering ‘eight chocolate bars for the price of six’ banned, according to a report in trade magazine, The Grocer…

Politicians with the mindset of bureaucrats combine the worst of two worlds. Egregious – they consider nothing more important than their moment’s whim. Rigid – nothing affects their understanding of questions other than the narrowest of definitions.

Get ready to ask your grocer for 752 grams of egg. 1167 milliliters of ale.

Anything truly stupid that can be constructed to make shopping more difficult, abstract, and abstruse for consumers – but simplifies record keeping for the tax man – is guaranteed to satisfy the dullards with limited intelligence and an abundance of political power.

Off-the-shelf cancer detection


Healthcare Industry special

Using an off-the-shelf digital camera, Rice University biomedical engineers and researchers from the University of Texas…have created an inexpensive device that is powerful enough to let doctors easily distinguish cancerous cells from healthy cells simply by viewing the LCD monitor on the back of the camera.

The results of the first tests of the camera were published online this week in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.

Consumer-grade cameras can serve as powerful platforms for diagnostic imaging,” said Rice’s Rebecca Richards-Kortum, the study’s lead author. “Based on portability, performance and cost, you could make a case for using them both to lower health care costs in developed countries and to provide services that simply aren’t available in resource-poor countries…”

Three tissue types were tested: cancer cell cultures that were grown in a lab, tissue samples from newly resected tumors and healthy tissue viewed in the mouths of patients.

Because the nuclei of cancerous and precancerous cells are notably distorted from those of healthy cells, Richards-Kortum said, abnormal cells were easily identifiable, even on the camera’s small LCD screen…

Richards-Kortum said software could be written that would allow medical professionals who are not pathologists to use the device to distinguish healthy from nonhealthy cells. The device could then be used for routine cancer screening and to help oncologists track how well patients were responding to treatment.

Portable, battery-powered, ideal for use in developing and 3rd-world nations.

Affordable might even be nice for countries like the United States which tries to govern everything from honesty to health – with processes governed by a low bid process and the most expensive hardware and practitioners.