Squatter squirrel

A cheeky young squirrel seems to be making it clear that this bird box is his now. Photographer Christine Haines was confronted by the juvenile grey squirrel in a nesting box in her garden in Spokane in Washington.

She says: “My husband had constructed nest boxes in our yard to attract Northern Flicker birds. One day I heard a strange noise coming from one of the boxes. I looked up and saw a young squirrel peering out. I grabbed my camera and was able to capture a few pictures with its mouth open. I believe the young squirrel was calling for its mother.”

Probably calling for MORE NUTS!

Government ministers stole millions in India mining scam

Karnataka’s Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa was involved in an illegal mining scam that cost the southern Indian state $400 million, according to an anti-corruption ombudsman.

Retired judge Santosh Hegde said he had evidence of a “huge racket” involving members of the state’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. Members of the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) parties are also accused…

The chief minister, who led the BJP to power for the first time in Karnataka in 2008, is holidaying in Mauritius and has not commented on the report…

Justice Hegde confirmed the report’s contents after it was leaked. He said he had “substantive” evidence that Mr Yeddyurappa had been involved in the alleged mining scam in mineral-rich Bellary district between March 2009 to May 2010…

Correspondents say illegal mining of iron ore has been rampant in Karnataka which produces about 45 million tonnes of iron ore a year and exports more than half of it to China.

“There has been a systematic plundering of ore with active support of politicians. Illegal mining has thrived only because of a lack of political will,” a senior police officer associated with the investigation told the BBC.

The report accuses Mr Yeddyurappa of benefiting through overvalued land sales to mining companies and kickbacks routed through trusts his relatives have a stake in.

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Researchers have created a vaccine against heroin high

Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute have created a vaccine that stops the high one gets from from heroin. Designed as a therapeutic option for those trying to break their addiction, the vaccine produces antibodies that stop heroin as well as other psychoactive compounds metabolized from heroin from reaching the brain to produce euphoric effects.

Previous efforts to create a clinically viable heroin vaccine have struggled because heroin is metabolized into multiple substances that each produce psychoactive effects. To overcome this problem the researchers, led by the study’s principal investigator, Kim D. Janda, targeted not just the heroin itself, but also the chemical it quickly degrades into, 6-acetylmorphine (6AM), and morphine.

They linked a heroin-like hapten (a small molecule that elicits an immune response only when attached to a large carrier) to a generic carrier protein called keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH), and mixed it with Alum, a vaccine additive, to create a vaccine “cocktail.” This mixture slowly degraded in the body, exposing the immune system to different psychoactive metabolites of heroin such as 6AM and morphine.

“Critically, the vaccine produces antibodies to a constantly changing drug target,” said G. Neil Stowe, who is first author of the new study. “Such an approach has never before been engaged with drug-of-abuse vaccines…”

The team also found that the heroin vaccine was highly specific, only producing an antibody response to heroin and 6AM and not to other opioid-related drugs tested, such as oxycodone, and drugs used to treat opioid dependence, such as methadone, naltrexone, and naloxone.

“The importance of this is that it indicates these vaccines could be used in combination with other heroin rehabilitation therapies,” said Janda.

“In my 25 years of making drug-of-abuse vaccines, I haven’t seen such a strong immune response as I have with what we term a dynamic anti-heroin vaccine,” Janda added. “It is just extremely effective. The hope is that such a protective vaccine will be an effective therapeutic option for those trying to break their addiction to heroin.”

Hope against hope. I’ve never held out a lot for junkies. That goes back to some work I volunteered for a couple centuries ago [or so it feels in retrospect].

I witnessed an amazing amount of success with some pretty damaged kids – those emotionally damaged by society and family. Never did see anything comparable with those self-damaged by chemical dependency.

Arizona manages to turn the weather into an event for bigots

The massive dust storms that swept through central Arizona this month have stirred up not just clouds of sand but a debate over what to call them.

The blinding waves of brown particles, the most recent of which hit Phoenix on Monday, are caused by thunderstorms that emit gusts of wind, roiling the desert landscape. Use of the term “haboob,” which is what such storms have long been called in the Middle East, has rubbed some Arizona residents the wrong way.

“I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob,” Don Yonts, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic after a particularly fierce, mile-high dust storm swept through the state on July 5. “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term..?”

Dust storms are a regular summer phenomenon in Arizona, and the news media typically label them as nothing more than that. But the National Weather Service, in describing this month’s particularly thick storm, used the term haboob, which was widely picked up by the news media.

Meteorologists in the Southwest have used the term for decades,” said Randy Cerveny, a climatologist at Arizona State University. “The media usually avoid it because they don’t think anyone will understand it.”

Obviously, they’re right.

Not everyone was put out by the use of the term. David Wilson of Goodyear, Ariz., said those who wanted to avoid Arabic terms should steer clear of algebra, zero, pajamas and khaki, as well. “Let’s not become so ‘xenophobic’ that we forget to remember that we are citizens of the world, nor fail to recognize the contributions of all cultures to the richness of our language,” he wrote.

Bigots will go to amazing lengths not only to be offended; but, to enforce their bigotry upon everyone else. Whether you ordered Freedom Fries in the Congressional cafeteria after the French government was bright enough to ignore George W’s call for a crusade in Iraq – or adult enough to carry on acknowledging that we have an American-born president in the face of racists and their nutball cousins’ paranoid prattle – accepted terminology from a craft, science or trade is the preferred and legitimate guide for language.

Leave bigotry to the professionals. We already have sufficient numbers of that Kool Aid Klan.

Florida Republicans cut budgets for public schools – but want taxpayers to pay for private, religious schooling

A proposed constitutional amendment to lift the ban on public funding of religious groups should be ripped from the 2012 ballot because it is “misleading and insufficiently specific,” according to a lawsuit filed by Florida’s largest teachers union…

“This is designed to open the state treasury to voucher schools, but this is not what the ballot summary says,” said Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association…

By attacking the ballot summary as “misleading,” the teachers union takes aim at a sensitive issue for the Republican lawmakers, who have watched in recent years as the Florida Supreme Court used that very reason to block a series of constitutional changes from the ballot.

In response to the legal challenges, the GOP-controlled Legislature passed a new law this year requiring the attorney general to fix any ballot titles or summaries a court deems problematic and return it to the ballot within 10 days.

The teachers union is also trying to reverse that law in their suit, saying it violates the separation powers provision in the state Constitution…

The ban on public funding of religious institutions, known as the Blaine Amendment, was cited by the 1st District Court of Appeal in an earlier ruling against the program…

Instead of giving religious institutions the right to public funding in the U.S. Constitution, plaintiffs argue the Florida change would mandate it. Union attorneys, led by Ron Meyer, also argue the ballot summary falsely implies the change is required by the U.S. Constitution.

Meyer also said the ballot title of “religious freedom” is deceptive.

Not that deception is new to political practices either side of the aisle. Historically Democrats have pulled the wool over voters eyes in many cities and states – the usual reason being good old-fashioned graft and corruption.

The New Wave of Republican lies is a lot more ideological. They’d love to return the nation to 19th Century standards of citizenship and practices – including forcing religion down the throats of everyone, official kowtowing to the wants of corporate crowned heads, dismantling any additions to civil rights in the past century – all paid for by taxes destined solely for the backs of ordinary working people.

Massive solar tower planned for Arizona desert

An ambitious solar energy project on a massive scale is about to get underway in the Arizona desert. EnviroMission is undergoing land acquisition and site-specific engineering to build its first full-scale solar tower – and when we say full-scale, we mean it! The mammoth 800-plus meter (2625 ft) tall tower will instantly become one of the world’s tallest buildings. Its 200-megawatt power generation capacity will reliably feed the grid with enough power for 150,000 US homes, and once it’s built, it can be expected to more or less sit there producing clean, renewable power with virtually no maintenance until it’s more than 80 years old…

Enviromission’s solar tower is a simple idea taken to gigantic proportions. The sun beats down on a large covered greenhouse area at the bottom, warming the air underneath it. Hot air wants to rise, so there’s a central point for it to rush towards and escape; the tower in the middle. And there’s a bunch of turbines at the base of the tower that generate electricity from that natural updraft…

Then, raise that tower up so that it’s hundreds of meters in the air – because for every hundred metres you go up from the surface, the ambient temperature drops by about 1 degree. The greater the temperature differential, the harder the tower sucks up that hot air at the bottom – and the more energy you can generate through the turbines.

The advantages of this kind of power source are clear:

Because it works on temperature differential, not absolute temperature, it works in any weather;

Because the heat of the day warms the ground up so much, it continues working at night;

Because you want large tracts of hot, dry land for best results, you can build it on more or less useless land in the desert;

It requires virtually no maintenance – apart from a bit of turbine servicing now and then, the tower “just works” once it’s going, and lasts as long as its structure stays standing;

The critter is scheduled to start producing power in 2015. If we had a public power company that made it to the 20th Century – if not the 21st – we could do something similar here in New Mexico.

From a separate temporal view, we’ve known how to evaluate the physics of propositions like this for decades. Computer modeling of the process, processes like this, isn’t new either. But, to return to my theme song about computational analysis, the amount of computing horsepower easily and cheaply available to recheck the physics, the details of design, has scaled up beyond comprehension compared to even a decade ago. And software to match sits inside off-the-shelf laptops with graphics sufficient to educate any VC worth his or her greenbacks on how well a project like this one will produce a return.

The only people who aren’t likely to get it – are the fracking politicians and bureaucrats who sit in the way of any kind of progress in this nation. And that could have changed by now, too – but, hasn’t.