Shoplifting coppers given up by giant Toblerone in body armor!

Two police community support officers were caught shoplifting groceries from Tesco after staff reportedly spotted a giant Toblerone tucked into one of the pair’s body armour…Shane Alborough and James Nouchin stole sandwiches, fruit juice and toilet cleaner while patrolling at a branch of Tesco in east London, it is alleged.

The pair’s haul included noodles, chocolate, nuts and bottled water, as well as a face wash and a box of Finish ‘All In One’ diswasher tablets, Snaresbrook Crown Court was told.

Their theft only came to an end when security staff noticed Alborough with a jumbo-sized Toblerone tucked into his force-issue vest last December 7, jurors heard.

Both officers were searched when they returned to the store in Green Street, Upton Park, the following day after they were seen taking further items without paying…

“They walked past the tills making no attempt to pay for the items and went to the store canteen…

They were later discovered eating in the supermarket’s canteen, where Nouchin had a sandwich and a drink on the table, while Alborough had the box of dishwasher tablets under his chair, the store detective added…

“The manager was in a difficult position as she was not dealing with ordinary shoplifters, she was dealing with serving PCSOs.

“She gave them an opportunity to pay for the items. Mr Alborough forgot to bring his debit card on the day and was unable to pay.

“Mr Nouchin was able to pay but he didn’t pay for everything…but instead put some items back on the shelf, including the nuts, two chocolate bars and the face wash, saying he no longer wanted them, which the manager was not at all happy about.”

Alborough, of Romford and Nouchin, of Ilford, Essex, deny two counts of theft.

The trial continues.

Protect and serve, eh?

Study finds most EV drivers go 1,050 miles on $30/month

The average EV user drives 1,050 miles per month and spends around $30 dollars in charging costs, saves around $75 per month in fuel costs and sheds 360 pounds of CO2 emissions compared to “regular” drivers. Want to know the top three electric vehicle-ready cities in North America? Portland, Dallas, and Nashville.

This data comes from EV drivers who use PlugShare, a mobile and web application developed by Xatori, a technology company focused on building innovative software for connected cars. PlugShare has grown its nationwide charging network to more than 100,000 users and 11,000 charging stations across the U.S….

Ironically enough, the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle are behind Dallas and Nashville at numbers four and five, respectively. Los Angeles doesn’t even crack the top 10. The article doesn’t define the methodology for what city makes the EV-ready city cut, or what it actually means. As for Portland, that’s got to be the city in Oregon and not the one in Maine.

Ayuh.

Wish I could crack the original cost for one of these critters for the going-to-town portion of our lives. Yes, I know none of the manufacturers are reaching anything like a small percentage of the scale required to begin lowering prices. Most of them are losing money as it is – though not as much as Republicans wish.

That number from PlugShare would save us about $45/month – and that’s not enough even for a couple of hermits who keep cars for decades at a time. 🙂

Fire ants use ancient survival skills to ride out hurricanes


Click photo to enlarge

A scene out of the Brazilian rainforest played out in a Fairhope puddle as fire ants native to the Amazonian jungle relied on an ancient trick to survive early June’s deluge.

After their nest was submerged under several inches of water in a park, the ants managed to create a floating raft composed only of their bodies. Chained together in a network of interlocking legs, bodies and mandibles, the entire colony drifted around on the surface of the puddle.

Crawling atop the writhing mass, worker ants could be seen carrying white larvae and the slightly more developed pupae of their young, rescued from the nursery areas of the sunken colony. Giant soldier ants, perhaps three times larger than the workers, marched back and forth across the top of the living vessel like sea captains surveying the horizon. And every now and then, the queen would emerge from the center of the mass, surrounded by thousands of her minions.

Scientists studying fire ants in their native Brazil have spent years puzzling over the ability of enormous colonies there to form floating lifeboats several feet across. In the frequently inundated bottomlands surrounding the Amazon, the ants have been known to float for months at a time. The mystery lies in the fact that ants are heavier than water, and a lone ant quickly sinks. How then do thousands of ants manage to stay afloat?

Working in the Hu Biolocomotion Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology, David Hu and his fellow researchers solved the mystery. Locking together “tarsus to tarsus,” Hu wrote in a scientific paper published in 2011, the network of ant bodies and legs forms a sort of waterproof fabric…

“Our intuition of water doesn’t hold at small scales. Water acts like a trampoline on the scale of ants,” Hu said. “The ants are surprisingly elastic. They can build these membranes that are quite strong. The water doesn’t penetrate the ants, which boggles our expectations.”

Hu said the research is applicable in the cutting edge field of modular robotics.

“Robots of the future will have a big bucket of parts. You dump them out and assemble a machine” purpose-built for the job at hand, Hu said.

“Ants are like that. There are millions of parts. They can assemble into something, like a raft, or a bridge, and do it without central control.”

Wow! The stuff of sci-fi- novels, movies and, someday, ordinary appliances.

Thanks, Ursarodina

AIG stock sale repays bailout – US Treasury makes a profit

American International Group Inc. (AIG) shares valued at $18 billion were sold by the U.S. government, converting a four-year bailout into a profit for taxpayers.

The U.S. sold about 553.8 million shares at $32.50 apiece, the Treasury Department said yesterday in a statement. The New York-based insurer bought $5 billion of the stock. The U.S. has recovered its full $182.3 billion commitment under the rescue with a profit of about $12.4 billion and still holds about 22 percent of the insurer’s shares for future sale, Treasury said. Every dollar made on those sales will be profit to taxpayers.

“To stabilize and then restructure the company with a very substantial positive gain for the American taxpayer is a significant accomplishment,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in the statement. “We need to continue the critical task of implementing Wall Street reform so that the American economy is never put in this position again.”

With the Treasury stake below 50 percent, the Federal Reserve will become the company’s regulator, the insurer said in a preliminary prospectus supplement. AIG may face capital requirements and limits on its ability to repurchase stock or pay a dividend, under Fed oversight, according to the document…

The U.S. needs to average about $28.73 a share on the sales to break even on the equity stake it acquired as part of a 2008 bailout, excluding unpaid dividends and fees, according to the Government Accountability Office. The first two offerings were priced at $29 a share, and the second two at $30.50. And yesterday’s sale was at $32.50 per share.

On ethical grounds, I opposed the bailout of banks and financial institutions. The potential crash IMHO would not have affected the American economy structurally. I was confident it would break even or be profitable, regardless. In contrast to the auto bailout where inaction would have pushed millions more into unemployment and have done structural damage to the heartland of our manufacturing economy.

Most of both classes of bailout have achieved what was the intent. We are coming back slowly and surely from the Bush crisis. Hopefully Americans won’t be gullible enough to vote the clowns back into office who supported the silliness and voodoo economics that initiated the crisis – almost pressing our nation into a repeat of the Great Depression.

We were fortunate to have a treasury secretary and president with sufficient economics education to institute reforms modern enough to get past the Hooverites in the Republican Party. Fortunate enough to keep from crushing a traditional core American industry. Smart enough to structure the financial bailout so that each segment repaired has returned a profit to the US Treasury.

If you have an attention span longer than reality TV allows for, you might recall that Republicans fought for the financial bailout – to rescue their buddies. And their terms wouldn’t have included a profit to taxpayers. Just as strong, they opposed the auto bailout because – after all – that was focused on saving a manufacturing industry and jobs for millions of working people. Not important to the list of Republican priorities.

U.S. to cover cancer treatment for 9/11 responders

The 70,000 surviving firefighters, police officers and other first responders who raced to the World Trade Center after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 will be entitled to free monitoring and treatment for some 50 forms of cancer.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health announced on Monday that responders as well as survivors exposed to toxic compounds from the wreckage, which smoldered for three months, will be covered for cancer under the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

The act, which also covers responders and survivors of the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon outside Washington, was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Jan. 2, 2011.

The decision addresses concerns over the rising health toll for emergency workers in the wake of the attacks, when aircraft slammed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York and the U.S. military command center in northern Virginia…

Illnesses related to the Sept. 11 attacks have caused an estimated 1,000 deaths. Last week, the New York City Fire Department etched nine more names into a memorial wall honoring firefighters who died from illnesses after their work at Ground Zero, bringing the total to 64.

Cancers to be covered include lung and colorectal, breast and bladder, leukemias, melanoma and all childhood cancers.

The program had already covered respiratory diseases such as asthma and pulmonary fibrosis, mental disorders including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as well as musculoskeletal conditions.

But researchers have known that responders and survivors, including local business owners and residents, were exposed to a complex mixture of chemical agents, including human carcinogens…

Pulverized building materials created a toxic pall of cement dust, glass fibers, asbestos, crystalline silica, metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides and dioxins – “a total of 287 chemicals or chemical groups,” the WTC health program reported in 2011.

…The program’s science advisory committee wrote to Dr. John Howard noting that 15 compounds in the smoke, dust and gas at the WTC site are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as known to cause cancer in people…They therefore recommended that the program cover cancers that met any of three criteria: cancers caused by any 9/11 compound which the IARC classifies as a human carcinogen, cancers where high levels of inflammation have been documented, and cancers that epidemiology studies suggest that responders are at higher risk for than the general population…

Malignancies caused by compounds in the debris include respiratory system cancers, from the nose to the lungs. They have been linked to arsenic, asbestos, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, nickel and silica dust, all of which were in WTC air.

Cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum and liver have been linked to tetrachloroethylene, asbestos, lead or polychlorinated biphenyls, also in the toxic cloud and dust.

The generally dangerous life of firefighters finally aided in developing the information needed to prove the cancer vectors. There already was a definitive, large body of data on the lives of NYC firefighters. This was able to show the spike in cancers compared to firefighters in years past who weren’t exposed to the unique toxins of 9/11.

Rust-Tracker developed to fight Ug99 stem rust in wheat


Ronnie Coffman, right, with project collaborator Germa Bedada

Top wheat experts reported a breakthrough in their ability to track strains of a deadly, rapidly mutating wheat pathogen called stem rust that threatens wheat fields from East Africa to South Asia.

Using data submitted by farmers and scientists, creators of Rust-Tracker, a global cereal rust monitoring system, say they can monitor 42 million hectares of wheat in 27 developing countries in the path of a wind-borne disease so virulent it could quickly turn a healthy field of wheat into a black mass of twisted stems and dried-up grains.

At a symposium in Beijing organized by the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) Sept. 1-4, scientists reported significant progress developing and introducing 20 new varieties of rust-resistant wheat…Studies presented in Beijing reported on progress with isolating genes that confer resistance to the Ug99 fungus in a wild relative of wheat from Israel and Lebanon. An estimated 85 percent of wheat in production, including most wheat grown in the Americas, Asia and Africa, is susceptible to Ug99 and its variants…

In using Rust-Tracker specialists use smartphones and tablets to collect and submit field data that generates “risk maps.” Researchers use the maps to determine the path of virulent strains of stem rust, assess the severity of the threat and prepare farmers to resist it.

“The only manageable solution for farmers who cannot afford fungicides when rust hits is to replace their crop with new rust-resistant varieties,” Ronnie Coffman said. “Planting only 5 percent of a nation’s wheat fields with seed from resistant varieties would allow replacement of susceptible varieties within a year, if Ug99 should appear.

“It’s frustrating,” Coffman continued. “We have the technology to prevent a tragedy that could destroy crops in one of the world’s most important wheat-producing regions. But the funding is not in place to get enough rust-resistant wheat seed multiplied fast enough and into the hands of the people who need it….”

Because China is the largest wheat producer and consumer in the world, threats to its wheat crop or any significant decline in production could have an impact on food security, according to Coffman, who is also director of international programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Wheat is the third leading grain crop in China after rice and maize, with 24 million hectares under cultivation. Yearly production stands at 115 million tons, which is 17 percent of the world’s production.

Overdue.

Though I have to wonder to what extent alternative methods of planting and cropping might aid resistance?