Hou Yifan of China defends her title of Women’s Chess Champion

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

In the growing rivalry between the emerging superpowers China and India, Beijing scored a symbolic victory on Thursday: a Chinese woman won a chess match.

The woman, Hou Yifan, 17, easily retained the Women’s World Chess Championship title when she drew the eighth game of a match against Humpy Koneru, the best Indian woman to play the game.

The final score of the best-of-10 match was 5.5 points to 2.5 points. Despite the lopsided score, the victory was not as easy as it appeared, Ms. Hou said in a telephone interview from Tirana, Albania, where the match was held. “Every game was interesting. Both of us had chances,” she said. The difference was that “in the middle games, I caught her mistakes…”

The match was sponsored by Taci Oil International, whose chief executive, Rezart Taci, is president of the Albanian Chess Federation. Ms. Hou will receive 60 percent of the $267,000 prize fund, and Ms. Koneru 40 percent.

Ms. Hou became the youngest world champion in history last year when she was 16. The match against Ms. Koneru, 24, was Ms. Hou’s first defense of the title.

In some ways, the match was a competition between the world’s two most populous countries as well as the two players. In recent years, the Chinese have dominated women’s chess, but the overall world champion is Viswanathan Anand of India. Ms. Koneru had a chance to make India the holder of the chess world’s most important titles.

Though Ms. Hou is ranked No. 3 in the world among women and Ms. Koneru is No. 2, Ms. Hou was a slight favorite because she had beaten Ms. Koneru in the semifinals of last year’s championship as well as the one in 2008…

Though Ms. Hou is the world champion, Judit Polgar, a Hungarian, is the best female player and the only woman to ever be ranked among the world’s top 10. But she does not play in competitions that are limited to women, which is why she has never won the women’s title…

Ms. Hou added that she hoped to find time in her competitive schedule to go to college.

I have to know some more things,” she said. “I have to open my eyes to see the whole world.”


Virgin Mary’s Belt draws lines of True Believers in Moscow

From morning all through the night, tens of thousands of Russians have been lining up since Saturday in the cold with just one aim: to kiss a glass-covered reliquary that they believe holds the Virgin Mary’s belt.

They shuffle along, waiting for up to 12 hours without complaint in a line that stretches for miles. Within a few days, the organizers say, the wait could reach 24 hours. At any given time there are about 25,000 people, according to news media estimates, and as of Wednesday morning, 285,000 true believers had earned their moment before the belt, said the St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation, which organized the tour…

Of all the industrial nations, perhaps only Russia outdistances the United States in the religiosity of its people, two million of whom venerated the belt before its final stop in Moscow…

We came so that we will live well, be happy and healthy, for the sake of our children,” said Anna Kozlova, 68, a pensioner who joined the end of the line late Tuesday night with her daughter Oksana Kulikova, a nurse, wrapped, like her mother, in fur against the cold.

She said she planned to head straight to work after venerating the relic at the towering Cathedral of Christ the Savior, which has been open around the clock…

Moscow’s city government closed streets around the cathedral — causing those Muscovites not so inclined to venerate relics to rant about the even-worse-than-usual traffic jams. Mobile canteens were set up to feed the pilgrims, and heated city buses lined the embankment to offer respite from the cold. A free bus service is shuttling provincial visitors to train stations…

Next – I hear someone is bringing in Jesus’ jockey shorts.

U.S. leaves tons of gear behind in Iraq as a memorial to our corruption

At the peak of the United States’s war in Iraq, the U.S. military had more than 170,000 troops, 500 bases replete with tents and toilets, kitchens and motor pools, and an airline that flew hundreds of times a day across the country.

The U.S. withdrawal from Iraq after nearly nine years of war is believed to be one of the largest removal jobs in history. At the start of the year logistics experts calculated there were nearly 3 million pieces of equipment to be moved, from airplanes, helicopters and tanks to laptops and lights…

Since September 2010, around 2 million pieces of equipment have been redeployed, U.S. officials say, some back to the United States, others to Afghanistan or other locations…

“Someday I truly believe that future military classes … will study the logistics (of our) move out of Iraq.”

What will be studied is the lies accepted as mandate. Agitprop given greater weight than historic fact. No-bid contracts and supply streams whose size, content and volume were determined by cronyism and donations to the Republican Party.

Never before has such a volume of death and destruction been wasted to satisfy the greed and corruption of so few.

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Jack Kerouac’s lost book found – and published

American author Jack Kerouac’s first ever novel, which was thought to be lost, has been published 40 years after his death.

The American writer, who was hailed the king of the Beat generation and a hero to many young men, penned The Sea Is My Brother aged 20, based on his years as a merchant seaman. It features correspondence with his best friend Sebastian Sampas and recalls his “life and experiences” at sea, says the book’s editor Dawn Ward.

“This book is really quite important as it shows how Jack developed his writing process,” she says. “The letters that support this period, show that he and Sebastian were reading very important writers and playwrights of the time. They were paying attention to changes in literature styles and autobiographical works.”

Ms Ward says the work is especially poignant as he “opens up and shows a side to him that we don’t normally see in his books.”

The manuscript, which was was discovered in the writer’s archive by his brother-in-law, came as a surprise to Kerouac experts, Ms Ward says.

“It was referred to briefly in letters, but nothing that led anyone to believe that there was this really large volume…”

On The Road, about a spontaneous road trip, was and still remains Kerouac’s most influential and famous book.

Ms Ward says it is the “great rhythm, flair and openness” that continues to attract people to the novel.

At the time, critics sat up and took notice of the work, hailing Kerouac as the voice of the Beat Generation – a group of post-WWII writers including poet Allen Ginsberg and William S Burroughs, who rejected conformity and materialism in favour of free expression and experimentation with drugs and sexuality…

Kerouac famously penned the work in three weeks, on one large roll of paper, so he could avoid reloading a typewriter…

“He was well known for just firing himself up on drugs and alcohol and writing and writing and writing. So there’s a kind of free flowing stream of consciousness quality to it. It has a kind of excitement and energy to it which makes it continually interesting…”

“Jack made a tremendous impact on American literature, not just as this cult figure, but also as this person who changed the rules,” says Ms Ward.

I think young people are still driven to his work because it is this exemplary of freedom.”

You got it, Dawn. As much as I and others from that period relished the outlaw life – and there were other significant voices before and during the same period, ranging from James Baldwin, Norman Mailer and Peter Bowman to Alan Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti – we often came back to Kerouac as the example of artist who cared for nothing but his art and his freedom.

If you had to throw away everything, destroy everything material you owned to break free – that was the choice you had to make.

Harvesting energy from insects to create tiny cyborg first responders

Insects have served as the inspiration for a number of Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs) that could be deployed to monitor hazardous situations without putting humans in harm’s way. Now researchers at the University of Michigan College of Engineering are proposing using actual live insects enhanced with electronic sensors to achieve the same result. The insect cyborgs would use biological energy harvested from their body heat or movements to potentially power small sensors implanted on their bodies in order to gather vital information from hazardous environments.

To harvest energy from insects, the researchers have designed a spiral piezoelectric generator that converts the kinetic energy from the insect’s wing movements into electricity. This power would be used to prolong the battery life of devices implanted on the insect, such as a small camera, a microphone or a gas sensor. The prototype piezoelectric generator was fabricated from bulk piezoelectric substrates and was designed to maximize the power output in a limited area.

“Through energy scavenging, we could potentially power cameras, microphones and other sensors and communications equipment that an insect could carry aboard a tiny backpack,” said Professor Khalil Najafi, the chair of electrical and computer engineering at the U-M College of Engineering. “We could then send these ‘bugged’ bugs into dangerous or enclosed environments where we would not want humans to go…”

Getting the insects to go where their handlers want them to is another part of the puzzle that needs to be solved before insect cyborgs can be deployed. But DARPA has been working on this, having put out a call some years back for research proposals for Hybrid-Insect-Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (HI-MEMS) interfaces to control the movement of living insects. Combining the two technologies could be just the thing to take insect cyborgs to the next level and see them used to monitor hazardous situations in the not to distant future.

Two thoughts immediately come to mind:

PETA is going to poop in their pants over this idea.

Can we trust the insect cyborgs to be loyal to their new human masters – or will they become double agents on behalf of the Dark Side.