Chinese supermarket trying wifi/tablet-equipped shopping carts

It doesn’t have quite the appeal of sending a robot to do your shopping, but this Smart Cart service being trialed by SK Telecom could definitely take some of the hassle out of trolling the supermarket aisles.

Just launched at the Shanghai Lotus Supermarket in China, the system consists of WiFi-enabled, tablet PC-equipped shopping carts and a smartphone app that can be synchronized with the tablet. By utilizing indoor positioning technology and augmented reality, the shopping “Smart” cart becomes a virtual shopping aide.

The Smart Cart application allows customers to search for shopping and discount information, store coupons, as well as to create a shopping list.

After getting to the market, the app synchronizes with the tablet PC mounted to the cart’s handle, uploads the shopping list and authenticates the user. Wandering through the store’s aisles, customers get product and discount information linked to their current location within the store, which is established to within three feet via a WiFi network.

Way cool. I’m the sort of regular shopper who knows aisle-by-aisle what I’m looking for; but, that doesn’t allow for new goodies to tempt the palate.

Inside the giant cavern of the Hang Son Doong in VietNam

Click for large view + slide show

These breathtaking images capture the hidden depths of the world’s biggest cave passage – so large the end is yet to be found. Hidden in the depths of the Vietnamese jungle lies The Hang Son Doong, part of a network of over 150 caves.

Surrounded by jungle and used in the Vietnam war as a hideout from American bombardments, the cave passage is so large that it could hold a block of 40-storey skyscrapers. Its entrance was only rediscovered by British cavers in 2009.


Prescription drug junkie births are as disturbing as deaths

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription drug overdose deaths in Florida are up a staggering 265% since 2003. But it’s not just the deaths that have Florida officials worried; it’s the births.

“We saw the number of crack babies that died, and this is just another version of that,” Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti said. “We all need to be concerned.”

According to state health records, 635 Florida babies were born addicted to prescription drugs in the first half of 2010 alone. South Florida doctors and intensive care nurses report an dramatic uptick in babies born hooked on pills that their mothers abused while pregnant.

They go through withdrawal symptoms,” said Mary Osuch, the head nurse at Broward General Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit. “They’re crampy, miserable. They sweat. They can have rapid breathing. Sometimes, they can even have seizures…”

Marsha Currant, who runs the Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center near Fort Lauderdale, says prescription drug addiction overtook crack in 2009 as the main problem afflicting the pregnant women who are treated there…

Currant says new mothers who are hooked on prescription drugs are often reluctant to seek help for fear the authorities will take their babies from them.

“We wanted to have a place where women didn’t have to chose between getting treatment and having their children go into foster care,” she said.

Compounding the problem, women who are addicted to prescription drugs and find themselves pregnant cannot safely go off the drugs without medical supervision. They need to be weaned off slowly, or the baby will go into withdrawal in the womb.

Yes, Florida has a Tea Party governor who made his billions dispensing drugs. He’s so “serious” about the problem that he actually says stuff about it. And had to be dragged kicking and screaming into signing a bill requiring a statewide database tracking pill prescriptions. He calls it an invasion of privacy.

Meanwhile, Florida is the pill center of America. A situation which reflects a lax medical community as a whole – and a governor whose walk-in clinics established the record for the largest fine ever paid for Medicare fraud.

“Family Values” Tea Party Republican owes $100K child support

Freshman U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a tax-bashing Tea Party champion who sharply lectures President Barack Obama and other Democrats on fiscal responsibility, owes more than $100,000 in child support to his ex-wife and three children, according to documents his ex-wife filed in their divorce case in December.

“I won’t place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids and grandkids unless we structurally reform the way this town spends money!” Walsh says directly into the camera in his viral video lecturing Obama on the need to get the nation’s finances in order…

An intense, silver-haired firebrand, Walsh, 49, has taken cable TV by storm in recent weeks, becoming the unofficial spokesman for the “No compromise” faction of the Republican majority in the U.S. House — refusing to consider any debt crisis solution that includes raising taxes on the wealthy.

Walsh admits he is not wealthy. Some of his financial problems — including losing his Evanston condo to foreclosure — were documented before his out-of-nowhere victory last fall in the 8th Congressional District in Chicago’s north and northwest suburbs…

Before getting elected, he had told Laura Walsh that because he was out of work or between jobs, he could not make child support payments. So she was surprised to read in his congressional campaign disclosures that he was earning enough money to loan his campaign $35,000.

“Joe personally loaned his campaign $35,000, which, given that he failed to make any child support payments to Laura because he ‘had no money’ is surprising,” Laura Walsh’s attorneys wrote in a motion filed in December seeking $117,437 in back child support and interest. “Joe has paid himself back at least $14,200 for the loans he gave himself…”

Walsh lives with his new wife and children in McHenry. He has not paid any of the $117,437 yet, Laura Walsh’s attorney, Jack Coladarci, said Wednesday.

My lifetime political dicho still stands: Republicans would have invented hypocrisy if Christians hadn’t beaten them to it.

Spanish grassroots party wins local political victory

Elena Biurrun, the mayor of Torrelodones, is not only new to the job but is also an unusual addition to the Spanish political landscape.

Rather than representing one of Spain’s two dominant parties, the governing Socialist Party and the main opposition Popular Party, Ms. Biurrun last month became mayor of this town of 22,000 on the outskirts of Madrid at the helm of a local party, Vecinos por Torrelodones, or Neighbors for Torrelodones.

Vecinos did not start out as a political party. Instead, it grew out of an environmental protest group that Ms. Biurrun and others formed to block a real estate project that had the backing of the town hall but would have threatened 128 hectares of protected woodland. The group’s successful environmental crusade, which went as far as filing a complaint with the European Commission, convinced members that they could make other improvements to life in Torrelodones by running for office.

Gonzalo Santamaría Puente, now the deputy mayor, said achieving cost cuts was relatively easy in a town with “an envelope culture,” whereby kickbacks would be offered to secure contracts. In addition, he said, most past contracts involved “useless middlemen who each had to get a share…”

Her victory also coincides with a youth-led movement that has been demanding an overhaul of Spain’s political system. The protesters have accused traditional parties and other institutions of putting their interests ahead of those of the citizens, even at a time of record unemployment…

Since taking office, Ms. Biurrun and her team have focused on renegotiating supplier contracts in a town that has debt totaling €13 million… The company that provides school bus services, for instance, recently agreed to cut the value of its contract by 30 percent.

At a time of austerity, another of Ms. Biurrun’s priorities is trying to lead by example. She cut her own annual salary to €49,000 from the €63,000 that her predecessor earned. Gone also are his chauffeur-driven car and round-the-clock police escort.

“Nobody in our team had previously held any party membership, and our only shared ideology is that of common sense,” Ms. Biurrun said in an interview. “Politics, at least at a local level, should be about providing the sound management that residents deserve rather than parading around with a party tattoo.”

Which goes to show that ordinary mortals can deliver a grassroots assault on the Establishment without ending up as flunkies for reactionary corporate interests. Of course, this movement – and a few others in my experience – is grounded in the needs of working people regardless of color or creed.

The last time Spain had a movement approximating our red-white-and-blue Tea Party – they were the Falange, headed by the fascist who eventually became dictator of Spain, Francisco Franco.

Do-it-yourself hernia surgery – with a butter knife?

A 63-year-old American man with a hernia plunged a butter knife into his abdomen to try to fix the problem, and later put a lit cigarette in the wound, according to police.

Police found the man lying naked on the porch of his apartment in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale in California Sunday night after his wife called to report his attempt at surgery, Glendale police spokesman Sergeant Tom Lorenz said.

He actually impaled himself with the butter knife,” Lorenz said. “He told his wife he was frustrated with this hernia, and he didn’t want to wait any longer for the medical procedure.”

Police officers watched as the man, after pulling the knife out of his abdomen, put a lit cigarette into the wound, Lorenz said.

“I don’t know if it was an attempt to cauterize or anything,” he said.

Police did not identify the man, but Lorenz said he committed no crime and was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He was taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he was put on a 72-hour psychiatric hold, police said.

There is no shortage of loonies on this planet. You do realize that don’t you?

And, yes, I do believe a significant number of them are in California.