Spiders casting webs as lifeboats in Australia’s floodwaters


Thousands of spiders have cast eerie webs over vast areas of flood-hit Australia after being forced to seek shelter by the rising waters.

Experts said the spiders may be spinning the sticky webs to help them survive the deluge, which has forced thousands of people to leave their homes over the past week.

“What we’ve seen here is a type of wolf spider,” Owen Seeman, arachnid expert at Queensland Museum, told Reuters. “They are trying to hide away from the waters.”

The spider webs were seen near the inland city of Wagga Wagga in New South Wales, where 8,000 people were forced from their homes before the flood waters receded on Wednesday.

The Australian Museum’s entomology collections manager Graham Milledge said the spiders’ behavior was known as ballooning, and was typical after spiders are forced to flee from floods.

Better the spiders instead of the snakes. 🙂

Stanford convicted of defrauding investors of $7 billion

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission
Not exactly his usual chauffeur

The jury of eight men and four women yesterday convicted R. Allen Stanford on 13 of 14 charges including four wire fraud counts and five mail fraud counts carrying maximum penalties of 20 years in prison. No sentencing date has been set…

The founder of Houston-based Stanford Financial Group denied federal government allegations he’d lied to investors about the nature and oversight of the certificates of deposit issued by the bank and sold in U.S. by his securities firm, Stanford Group Co.

Once ranked 205 on Forbes magazine’s 2008 list of the richest Americans, with a net worth of $2.2 billion, Stanford has been jailed as a flight risk since being indicted in June 2009.

The forfeiture trial, which continues today, began about 2 1/2 hours after the jury rendered its verdict. Prosecutors want the panel to decide how much money Stanford must give up now that they’ve said he is guilty.

The funds, now on deposit in the U.K., Switzerland, Canada and Antigua, belong to Stanford bank depositors, Justice Department lawyer Andrew Warren told the jury at the outset of the second proceeding yesterday. “It includes the SocGen slush fund about which you’ve heard a lot about already,” Warren said, referring to money at a Swiss unit of Paris-based Societe Generale SA. “Every single dollar the U.S. is seeking is CD depositors’ money that stems from Mr. Stanford’s crimes and belongs to the victims of his fraud…”

The forfeiture phase is as important as the conviction,” said former Stanford prosecutor Paul Pelletier, who is now in private practice…“Fifty percent of a prosecutor’s job is to obtain the conviction,” he said. “The other 50 percent is to recover for the victims, and forfeiture goes a long way towards that goal.”

Funds recovered through this process will be returned to Stanford fraud victims. “It’s an absolute given,” Pelletier said. “Not a dime of this money goes to the U.S. treasury…”

Stanford was declared indigent and given a taxpayer- financed defense because all of his assets were frozen by court order in February 2009 when he was sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission…

The U.S. judge in Dallas overseeing that case appointed a receiver to marshal and liquidate Stanford’s holdings to repay investors. While Stanford waited in jail for his criminal trial to begin, the receiver sold his businesses, boats, six airplanes and stakes in a boutique hotel and golf course.

Stanford also lost the honorary knighthood given to him by the Antiguan government for his economic development efforts there. Antigua’s parliament stripped him of the title in November 2009.

Unlike his peers at Enron, Stanford assets may actually land in reduced quantities [of course] in the accounts of his victims.

The interconnected nature of politicians and pimps like Stanford never seems to end – and isn’t touched in the least by Congress or the Supreme Court. Lehman Brothers paper shuffle hustle, Enron’s scams and thefts, Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme were all aided by one or another politician. Whether it was the Parliament of the nation of Antiqua which awarded Stanford a knighthood for good works – or Phil Gramm of Texas removing oversight from Enron while his wife was on the Board of Directors, the country club collusion continues same as it ever was.

Though it is heartwarming to see one of these crooks sent away. It certainly wasn’t common in the days of Bush and Cheney – was it?

How a lightning strike ends up looking like a tattoo

It’s a terrifying way to get a temporary tattoo. To get the feathery looking, fern-like pattern running down this man’s left arm, he first needed to be struck by lightning.

Known as a “Lichtenberg figure,” for the German physicist who first described seeing a similar pattern while experimenting with static electricity, these reddish fern-leaf patterns are a skin reaction to a lightning strike. These dramatic “keraunographic” marks are sometimes referred to as “lightning flowers” or “lightning trees.” They tend to occur on the arms, back, neck, chest, or shoulders of lightning strike victims.

As the tech blog Gear Diary reported, Winston Kemp earned this intricate body art during a spring storm when he went outside to save his pumpkins. Ironically, Kemp is an electrician, but it wasn’t his job that put him in contact with this electrical jolt; it was a bolt from Mother Nature in his own backyard.

The 24-year-old says he saw something bright and heard something loud hit his neighbor’s yard, but he didn’t feel a thing…

Kemp says it didn’t hurt when it happened, but a few hours later his arm started to feel achy and sore. Big blisters started forming on his skin the next day, which his girlfriend, a pre-med student, carefully lanced and covered to prevent infection.

“The feathering marks are formed by the transmission of static electricity along the superficial blood vessels that nourish the skin,” says Dr. Mathew Avram, director of the Dermatology Laser and Cosmetic Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

“They’re the kind of marks that when an emergency medicine doctor sees it, you know exactly what the diagnosis is — a lightning strike,” he explains.

Not something I need. Though I’ve been way too close to lightning strikes several times in my life. It’s what happens when you spend time hanging out on mountain tops.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Ford ratings drop — Ford ships extensive fix for Microsoft software

The Ford Motor Company began adding touch-screen control systems to some of its most popular models two years ago as a way to stand out from the rest of the industry and draw in new customers. But after many buyers grew frustrated with flaws in the system, known as MyFord Touch and developed with Microsoft, Ford’s quality ratings plunged and a feature meant to increase loyalty instead damaged perceptions of the company.

MyFord Touch replaces many of the traditional knobs and buttons in a vehicle with touch screens, steering wheel-mounted controls and spoken commands…

Now Ford has issued a major upgrade that redesigns much of what customers see on the screen and tries to resolve complaints about the system crashing or rebooting while the vehicle is being driven. Ford said on Monday that the upgrade made the touch screens respond to commands more quickly, improved voice recognition capabilities and simplified a design that some say had the potential to create more distractions for drivers who tried to use it on the road. Fonts and buttons on the screen have been enlarged, and the layouts of more than 1,000 screens have been revamped.

“We expect that these improvements will put us back on track in the quality ratings,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president for global product development. “It’s more than just an update. This is a substantial upgrade.”

Ford is taking the unusual step of sending the upgrade directly to customers, who can install the new software in about an hour by plugging in a USB flash drive.

Dealers, which can perform the procedure if customers prefer, received the upgrade kits Monday, and the more than 300,000 customers with MyFord Touch in their vehicles can expect their USB drive in the mail later this week, Ford said.

Irritation with MyFord Touch was cited last week by Consumer Reports as a big reason that Ford fell to 10th place on this year’s Automaker Report Card, from fifth in 2011.

Lots of details in the article. Read ’em and make believe you’re surprised that version 1.0 of software from Microsoft sucks big time!

Make a face like that little kid in the eTrade commercial.

Some WordPress sites redirecting to malware

Result after sucuri.net scan

A piece of malware that masquerades as antivirus software has been found on 200,000 web pages or almost 30,000 unique sites, says computer security group Websense. The exploit, which mostly affects sites built with WordPress, places a short piece of injected code at the bottom of a page…

When a user loads the page, they’re redirected to a page in the .rr.nu top-level domain that mimics a Windows security scan, then asks them to download a malicious program to supposedly clear viruses from their computer. It’s a scam that’s been running in various forms for years, and Websense says it’s been tracking this particular threat for several months.

Although the source of the malware is unknown, over 85 percent of the affected sites are from the United States, and Sucuri Security has traced many of the cases to old WordPress installs, weak passwords, or vulnerable and malicious plugins. The exploit isn’t as widespread as something like DNSChanger, and so far the reports we’ve seen have been for smaller sites. However, for anyone who runs WordPress software, it’s something to watch out for.

Check your site at sucuri.net – which covers lots of crap script kiddie hacks like this. And, yes – I checked out sucuri.net before I used it. 🙂