Scientists prove Bounce fabric softener sheets repel insect pests

For years, gardeners have claimed that putting Bounce® fabric softener sheets in their pockets is an effective way to repel pests like mosquitoes and gnats. Any Internet search will uncover countless articles about the bug-repelling properties of Bounce®. Are these claims valid or simply folklore?

The authors of a new study say that until now, no quantitative data has existed to substantiate these claims, but their latest research has revealed a definitive answer: Bounce® sheets do indeed repel adult gnats.

In a report just published in HortScience, Kansas State University Department of Entomology professor Raymond Cloyd and colleagues discussed a series of five replicated experiments they conducted to ascertain whether Bounce® dryer sheets…repel fungus gnat adults under laboratory conditions. “In all five experiments, the mean proportion of fungus gnat adults collected in the sample compartments containing the dryer sheets were significantly fewer, ranging from 12% to 18% ,whereas the compartments without dryer sheets contained 33% to 48% of the fungus gnats released in the arena”, said Cloyd…

The research team also analyzed the volatile compounds in the dryer sheets using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. One of the major volatile compounds detected in Bounce® was linalool, a colorless monoterpene alcohol used by cosmetic and perfume companies for its flower-like odor. Linalool—present naturally in plants such as lavender, marjoram, and basil—has been shown to be toxic to a number of different mites and insects. The experiments also indicated high levels of the volatile compound beta-citronellol, found in plants including rose geranium, citronella, and lemon balm, and known for its ability to repel mosquitoes.

I realize these are essentially natural products used for one or another reason in the fabric softener – and they obviously succeed in repelling some small flying insects. Of course, citronella has been around over a half-century and though some folks focus in worrywart fashion about using it as a concentrated insect repellent, I’m not aware of any testing agencies that caution against its use. Particularly in dilute fashion in fabric softener.

I.B.M. Supercomputer ‘Watson’ to challenge Jeopardy stars

An I.B.M. supercomputer system named after the company’s founder, Thomas J. Watson Sr., is almost ready for a televised test: a bout of questioning on the quiz show “Jeopardy.”

I.B.M. and the producers of “Jeopardy” will announce on Tuesday that the computer, “Watson,” will face the two most successful players in “Jeopardy” history, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, in three episodes that will be broadcast Feb. 14-16, 2011.

For I.B.M., “Watson” is an important test of artificial intelligence. Scientists there have been talking to “Jeopardy” about a man vs. machine match-up for the better part of two years. “If the program beats the humans, the field of artificial intelligence will have made a leap forward,” John Markoff of The New York Times wrote in April 2009.

In a news release, the companies said the format of “Jeopardy” was “the ultimate challenge” for “Watson” because “the game’s clues involve analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles and other complexities in which humans excel and computers traditionally do not.”

I.B.M. and the show’s producers have agreed that $1 million will be on the line. If “Watson” wins, all of the money will be donated to charity. If one of the humans wins, half of the money will be donated.

Cripes. Now, I’m going to have to watch the bloody show.

Not certain how adept or advanced IBM is at AI. They haven’t had to develop much of anything in the field for their usual tasks. Still, it may be interesting.

I’d rather see a supercomputer programmed by Apple or Google in the game.

U.S. sues BP and other companies over Gulf oil spill

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The Justice Department on Wednesday sued BP and eight other companies in the Gulf oil spill disaster in an effort to recover billions of dollars from the largest offshore spill in U.S. history.

The Obama administration’s lawsuit asks that the companies be held liable without limitation under the Oil Pollution Act for all removal costs and damages caused by the oil spill, including damages to natural resources. The lawsuit also seeks civil penalties under the Clean Water Act…

The federal lawsuit says inadequate cementing of the well contributed to the disaster. Similar charges were made by BP in its internal investigation, and by the independent presidential oil spill commission. But Halliburton Co., the contractor in charge of mixing and pumping the cement, is not named in the suit…

An explosion that killed 11 workers at BP’s Macondo well last April led to oil spewing from the company’s undersea well — more than 200 million gallons in all by the government’s estimate. BP disputes the figure…

The lawsuit alleges that safety and operating regulations were violated in the period leading up to April 20.

It says that the defendants failed to keep the Macondo well under control during that period and failed to use the best available and safest drilling technology to monitor the well’s conditions. They also failed to maintain continuous surveillance and failed to maintain equipment and material that were available and necessary to ensure the safety and protection of personnel, equipment, natural resources and the environment, the suit charges.

Democratic Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., a member of the House energy panel that is investigating the spill, acknowledged the government will have a tough fight on its hands since BP has already taken an aggressive stance regarding its liability.

“It may have taken these companies months to cap their well, but they will spend years trying to cap their financial obligations to the people of the Gulf,” Markey said. “That is why it is vital for the Obama administration to swiftly advance this legal action.”

And so it begins. I wonder if the suit will be resolved in my lifetime. Between judicial processes, laws written for lawyers, decisions promulgated to protect corporate wealth, it will be years if not decades for anything approaching justice. It’s the American way.

Killer claims conviction insufficient justification for dismissal – WTF?

A man jailed for killing his married lover is to take his former employers to tribunal after he was sacked following his conviction.

Roger Kearney, 57, was found guilty of killing Paula Poolton and hiding her body in the boot of her car near Swanwick station in Hampshire in 2008.

He claims he was unfairly dismissed from his postman job

Royal Mail said his dismissal was in line with its procedures…”We do not feel that it is right, or in the public interest, for a criminal convicted of such a serious crime to bring an action of this kind…

Kearney, of Sarisbury Green, was convicted of murder in June and jailed for life with a 15-year minimum tariff.

It isn’t just over the fringe benefits is it? Certainly the basics of healthcare are covered for the time he’ll be spending in the slammer.

World pie-eating competition sets new record

Britain’s annual raspberry to slimming gurus and lettuce-based diets drew gasps as the record for demolishing a saucer-sized meat pie was demolished by an awesome 12 seconds.

Crumbs flew yesterday in the traditional setting of Harry’s Bar, opposite Wigan’s most popular multi-storey car park, as a middle-aged civil servant stormed to victory over the biggest bunch of rivals yet fielded.

Neil Collier, 42, took only 23.91 seconds to down the steaming slab of carbohydrate and snatch the coveted title of world pie-eating champion from 37-year-old Barry Rigby.

“He just seemed to open his throat and down it went,” said organiser Tony Callaghan, whose antics have boosted Northern pastry, meat and gravy for 19 years. “He’s from Bolton, mind, which is a crying shame for a Wiganer to have to say, but he’s certainly learned how to eat pies somewhere. Probably in Wigan…”

Next year’s championship is already heading for a place in history through the probable introduction of fifth and sixth officials, ahead of the international football authorities. Coining a new word, just to add to his satisfactory day at Harry’s, which he owns and runs, Callaghan said: “We intend to be particularly scrutineerinous of both competitors and pie meat. Adlington maybe, but our pies will only ever be sourced from the finest herds of beef-yielding cows that graze the majestic plains of the north-west of England.”

The previous record was 35.86 seconds, and other landmarks have included the brief and immediately discontinued use of vegetarian pies in 2007.

Fans of proper football worldwide will rejoice in the continuing saga of this aspect of food culture central to enjoyment of our favorite sport.

Appeals court rules Feds need warrants for e-mail

Doesn’t it suck having to save my civil liberties?

Police must obtain search warrants before perusing Internet users’ e-mail records, a federal appeals court ruled today in a landmark decision that struck down part of a 1986 law allowing warrantless access.

In case involving a penile-enhancement entrepreneur convicted of fraud and other crimes, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said that the practice of warrantless access to e-mail messages violates the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits “unreasonable” searches and seizures.

“Given the fundamental similarities between e-mail and traditional forms of communication, it would defy common sense to afford e-mails lesser Fourth Amendment protection,” the court ruled in an 3-0 opinion (PDF) written by Judge Danny Boggs, a Reagan appointee.

The court affirmed the conviction of Steven Warshak, who was charged with defrauding customers of his “natural male enhancement” pills, but sent his case back to a lower court for a new sentence. Warshak remains liable for a $44 million money laundering judgment as well…

Today’s decision striking down part of the 1986 Stored Communications Act rebuffs arguments made by the U.S. Department of Justice, which insisted the law was constitutional. In a brief (PDF) filed during an earlier phase of the case, prosecutors argued that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply because “compelled disclosure of e-mail is permissible under most providers’ terms of service.”

Kevin Bankston, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who wrote an amicus brief in this case, called it a key decision because it’s the “only federal appellate decision currently on the books that squarely rules on this critically important privacy issue.”

Wasn’t there a time – somewhere back in the dim recesses of history – when we could count on our government to work at supporting our freedoms, preserving liberty and privacy for ordinary citizens?

Beckenbauer admits he’s lost faith in FIFA

Beckenbauer and Sepp Blather

The man who led Germany to a World Cup win both as a player and a coach admits he has lost faith in FIFA due to the way the voting process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments was handled.

Franz Beckenbauer, a member of FIFA’s executive committee, criticized football’s governing body after the amount of votes each bidder received was made public.

Beckenbauer was one of the 22 FIFA members who voted in the process and claims he was assured that the details would remain private.

Yet soon after it was announced that Russia had won the right to host the 2018 competition, and Qatar had secured the 2022 version, media were reporting that two of the favorites, England and Australia, attracted just two votes and one vote respectively.

It led to an angry reaction from representatives of the England and Australia bid teams and Beckenbauer acknowledges his faith in FIFA has been shaken as a result.

I am disappointed with the way FIFA dealt with the result. The seven losing countries were treated disgracefully, particularly England and Australia, Beckenbauer told German newspaper Bild…

“All of us ExCo members were told ahead of the ballot that neither we nor the public would ever know the exact number of votes for each country. After each round of voting we were told only which country had been ruled out.
“Then, a few hours later, I was hearing from journalists what the exact voting had been. It’s certainly affected my confidence in FIFA.”

There are thousands of ordinary fans who lost faith in FIFA years ago – as anything other than a club for self-seeking, greedy business-turds who happen to have some cachet inside the world of sport. Their opinions, decisions, reek of gold and gravy. They deserve about as much respect and deference as the average con artist on work-release from prison.