McNugget looks like George Washington — sells for $8,100

A three-year-old McDonald’s McNugget resembling first US President George Washington has sold on eBay for $8,100.

Its owner Rebekah Speight, of Nebraska, said she auctioned it to raise money to send children to a summer camp. She said the chicken piece had been kept in her freezer since she took it home from a visit to McDonald’s with her children in 2009.

It was among leftover food she was set to bin until she took a closer look. “Sure enough, it was in the likeness of President George Washington,” she wrote in an explanation on the eBay site.

eBay temporarily took down the auction last month because it violated rules regulating expired food…But the site later sent Ms Speight, of Dakota city, an email saying it was “willing to make an exception to help your cause”.

The Sioux City Journal quoted Ms Speight as saying the auction had 44,795 views, with 1,610 people actively watching the proceedings.

Who buys this crap?

What happens when a Libertarian think tank challenges the corporate Republican bosses who fund it

From its perch in a spacious brand-new headquarters blocks from the White House, the Cato Institute has built on its reputation as a venerable libertarian research center unafraid to cross party lines. Now, however, a rift with one of its founding members — the billionaire conservative Charles Koch — is threatening the institute’s identity and independence, its leaders say, and is exposing fault lines over Mr. Koch’s aggressive and well-financed brand of Republican politics.

The rift has its roots, Cato officials said, in a long-simmering feud over efforts by Mr. Koch and his brother David Koch to install their own people on the institute’s 16-member board and to establish a more direct pipeline between Cato and the family’s Republican political outlets, including groups that Democrats complain have mounted a multimillion-dollar assault on President Obama. Tensions reached a new level with a lawsuit filed last week by the Kochs against Cato over its governing structure.

“We can’t be perceived as a mouthpiece of special interests,” Robert A. Levy, chairman of Cato’s board, said in an interview. “The Cato Institute as we know it would be destroyed.”

At a tense meeting in November at Dulles Airport outside Washington, David Koch and two family emissaries laid out what they described as the “intellectual ammunition” they envisioned that Cato could provide by supplying its brand-name research and scholars to Koch-financed political advocacy groups, according to Mr. Levy.

The one Koch-financed group mentioned by name at the meeting was Americans for Prosperity, which played a major role in the Republicans’ 2010 takeover of the House and is now preparing for the November election. Structured as a nonprofit, the group does not have to disclose its donors. It has backed Tea Party groups, organized rallies and paid for negative advertisements, drawing criticism from campaign finance watchdogs and Democrats over the flow of secret money to political causes…

…Mr. Levy said he balked at tightening ties between Cato and the Kochs’ advocacy groups, expressing concern that the brothers might try to select Cato’s research topics and the timing of its studies. Any perception of political influence could compromise Cato’s nonprofit status and stain its credibility, he said in an interview…

“This is an effort by the Kochs to turn the Cato Institute into some sort of auxiliary for the GOP,” said Edward H. Crane, who is president of Cato and co-founded it with Charles Koch. “What he is doing now is detrimental to Cato, it’s detrimental to Koch Industries, it’s detrimental to the libertarian movement.”

It’s also perfectly consistent with the class-based ideology of people like the Koch Bros. It’s their money, they founded the Cato Institute with their money, they own it. Ethics, responsible social practices have nothing to do with the operation of what is supposed to be an independent body that deals thoughtfully with the future of American society.

The Koch Brothers giveth and the Koch Brothers taketh away. That starts with money and concludes with intellectual freedom. Something libertarians always say they care about.

Volunteer invasive plant species hitchhiking into Antarctica

Annual bluegrass (above), the same weed that plagues gardens and golf courses around the world, is one of hundreds of alien species now invading Antarctica.

The icy continent’s only two native grasses have experienced a growth spurt as temperatures rise and ice melts, and biologists worry that the same conditions will facilitate an alien invasion that will threaten native ecosystems.

In a new effort to stem the onslaught, a team of biologists assessed the likelihood that these foreign species would take up residence on the icy continent, both now and by the year 2100, when the climate will likely be considerably warmer.

In a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they mapped “hot spots” where invasive plants are most likely to take root (warm colors in the map below):

Despite “Don’t Pack a Pest” campaigns and plenty of good intentions, tourists and scientists carry thousands of seeds and other detachable plant parts to the southern continent each year in Velcro hems, knit caps and dirty bootlaces.

For the new continent-wide assessment, Steven L. Chown of Stellenbosch University in Matieland, South Africa, and his colleagues sampled, identified, and mapped the sources and destinations of more than 2,600 plant parts that hitched a ride to Antarctica during 2007 and 2008. They found that each visitor transported fewer than 10 seeds on average, but the 30,000-plus Antarctic visitors per year were sufficient for invasive species to establish themselves on the Western Antarctic Peninsula.

Annual bluegrass is one of the true pioneers among them. This plant has been taking root near research stations for at least 25 years, but last year Polish biologists reported its intrepid spread into non-disturbed areas, some 1.5 kilometers from the nearest research station on the moraines of a retreating glacier on King George Island.

Human beings are as dangerous to wilderness eco-systems as rats.

Nursing home fire was started by meth lab in a resident’s room

A fire at a northeast Ohio nursing home Sunday that killed one and injured six others was caused by a meth lab that had been set up in one of the resident’s rooms…The deadly blast occurred in a second floor room of the Park Haven Nursing Home in Ashtabula at around 8:30 p.m., firefighters said, sending staffers scrambling to save the home’s three dozen elderly or disabled residents.

“I was taking a break, and I looked through the window and I saw an explosion of fire,” nurse Deanna Bigley told the local Star Beacon newspaper. “There was this guy and he was engulfed in flames,” she said. “One of our residents put him out, but then the fire started up and he had to be put out again.”

Witnesses say one nurse, 28-year-old Kristi Hance — who is reportedly pregnant — returned to the blazing building several times to help residents escape. “She just kept going back in to get people,” Bigley said. “The smoke was thick and black, but she went back in to help.”

Seven people, including three residents, two non-residents, and two others, were injured in the blaze. One man died from his injuries Monday…Police didn’t identify him, and it was unclear if he lived or worked at the facility.

Ashtabula fire Chief Ron Pristera told local station WKYC television that crews found evidence of a “shake-and-bake” style meth lab in the room where the fire started. “Shake-and-bake” is a fast but highly combustible way of making meth that involves mixing the ingredients together in a single bottle or container and then shaking it, according to news reports.

Meth heads who use the “shake-and-bake” method often end up with a few grams of meth — or a trip to the local burn ward…

In a Facebook post Monday, Hance praised her coworkers’ bravery. “I in no way acted alone!” she wrote. “Every single staff member on duty last night was completely fierce and totally heroic…We are their caretakers and that is what we are there to do.”

Kudos to the staff members who risked their lives for the people in their care. A normal instinct in a cataclysm like an explosion and fire is to get your own butt to safety.

Nursing home staff aren’t exactly the highest paid job category in the United States. But, these folks took their mandate of care seriously – with sufficient conviction to risk their own lives for the residents of the nursing home. I wish you well.

UK schoolchildren adept with iPhone — can’t tie their shoelaces

Future tree

British schoolchildren are more confident using a DVD player or iPhone than tying their shoelaces, research claims

As many as 45 per cent of children aged between five and 13 can’t tie their shoe laces – but 67 per cent can work a DVD player, according to a poll. The study showed a large proportion can log on to the internet, play on computer games, use an iPhone or iPad and work satellite television services like Sky Plus.

But 65 per cent can’t make a cup of tea, while 81 per cent can’t read a map and 87 per cent wouldn’t be able to repair a bicycle puncture…

And when asked if they cared about the environment a third said ‘no’ – with half of these saying it was because ‘in the future we’ll be able to live in space.”

Survival expert Ray Mears said he was shocked by the findings, from electricity provider npower. He added: “I can’t believe our young people are so ill-equipped when it comes to practical skills…

“Simple skills like putting up a tent can teach you important lessons that can’t be learnt without doing them yourself. “You learn how to work in a team and communicate with your peers as well as how to work under pressure and use logic. Most importantly, you also learn how to look after yourself and know your strengths…”

Working with Mr Mears, the company hopes to inject a passion for the great outdoors back in to the heart of the country’s children.

Clare McDougall, from npower, said: “These figures show that there has never been a better time to teach our young people some great new skills. “We really believe that if young people spend more time outdoors they will learn to love and respect the environment and they’ll want to preserve it for future generations.”

RTFA for the top 10 things British kids can do – and can’t do.

Reflect upon your own children, kids in your neighborhood. How well do they stack up?

Republicans come up with yet another pledge about sex – WTF?

Before you can join the Laurens County Republican Party in South Carolina and get on the primary ballot, they ask that you pledge that you’ve never ever had pre-marital sex — and that you will never ever look at porn again.

The LCGOP unanimously adopted a resolution that would ask all candidates who want to get on the primary ballot to sign a pledge with 28 principles, because the party “does not want to associate with candidates who do not act and speak in a manner that is consistent with the SC Republican Party Platform.”

Among the principles, according to Vic MacDonald & Larry Franklin of the Clinton Chronicle, is standard fare like opposition to abortion and upholding gun rights, as well as “a compassionate and moral approach to Teen Pregnancy” and “a high regard for United States Sovereignty.”

But then they get even more specific. From the Chronicle:

You must favor, and live up to, abstinence before marriage.
You must be faithful to your spouse. Your spouse cannot be a person of the same gender, and you are not allowed to favor any government action that would allow for civil unions of people of the same sex.

You cannot now, from the moment you sign this pledge, look at pornography.

It is unclear how they will precisely determine this (or regulate it), but an unidentified potential candidate for office in Laurens County told the Chronicle that candidates will be interviewed by a three-person subcommittee, who will then recommend to the full executive committee whether to allow the candidate on the ballot…

Chairman Bobby Smith clarified in a statement Monday that “due to various legal issues” the LCGOP cannot require that the candidates sign the pledge if they meet all of the other qualifications for a run. But, he said, the committee “reserves the right to vet its candidates and will encourage all candidates to uphold the principles of the party’s platform as well as petition candidates to sign a pledge to do so. However, no candidate will be denied access to the Republican Party primary ballot for refusing to sign the pledge.”

This whole secret society pledge routine moves from curiosity to clown show – every time these nutballs come up with a new pledge.

I figure they’re going to add secret handshakes, word clues, maybe invisible ink tattoos that appear when licked by the pure of heart – before the national Republican Convention. That way they’ll be able to vote in unison and march in lockstep during the convention.

Sooner or later they’ll issue armbands.