German government gets knickers bunched over deity gender

A minister in Angela Merkel’s government has sparked a pre-Christmas row among Germany’s ruling parties by suggesting God be referred to with the neutral article “das” instead of the masculine “der”.

Family Minister Kristina Schroeder made the comments when asked in an interview with German weekly Die Zeit how she explained to her young daughter the use of the masculine form for God.

“The article is not important,” she responded, adding that it was fine to use “das” instead of the traditional “der” when referring to God.

The remarks were immediately denounced by members of Schroeder’s own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU)…

Stefan Mueller, a CSU lawmaker, said he was “bewildered” by Schroeder’s “inappropriate” comments.

When pressed on the matter at a government news conference on Friday, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert backed Schroeder.

“If you believe in God, the article is not important,” he said. “If you speak to God in a different way, the prayers are still heard.”

Cripes. Another herd of elected officials with nothing better to do, eh?

Arsonist/gunman demented enough to be NRA spokesman


Two volunteer firefighters have been shot dead and two others left wounded after they were ambushed by a lone gunman at a blaze apparently set as a trap in New York state.

Lieutenant Michael Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka were killed when 62-year-old William Spangler opened fire at emergency responders arriving at the scene of a house fire, shortly before 6:00 am local time on Monday in the suburb of Rochester.

“This is still an active investigation, but I will say at first blush that it appears that it was a trap, that there was a car in a house that it was engulfed in flames, probably set by Mr Spangler, who later waited and shot the first responders,” said Webster police chief Gerald Pickering.

Spangler had spent 17 years in prison after killing his grandmother in 1981. He may have stolen the guns used in the shooting, said police.

“We have to keep in mind that Spangler was a convicted felon,” said Chief Pickering.

“So he is not allowed to possess weapons, so, did he legally possess these weapons? No, but we had all kinds of weapons larcenies, both in town and around the county, and in Wayne County as of late, so I don’t know where those weapons came from, but we are certainly going to find out.”

Spangler shot himself after attacking the firefighting crew, said police. He died on the scene…

The two wounded firefighters, Joseph Hofsetter and Theodore Scardino, were listed in guarded condition at a local hospital…

The gunman…left behind a note outlining his “clear intent” to burn his neighborhood to the ground and “do what I like doing best, killing people,” police said on Tuesday.

OK. So, we have yet another demented killer. There isn’t any shortage of those in our land, part of our culture. Extra emphasis on the culture part – because some of these nutball killings we’ve experienced recently have an occasional copycat aspect. The commonality is that weapons like the Bushmaster are in the wild legally. Whether killers acquire them legally or illegally is only part of the question.

What is important that clowns like LaPierre, the head of the NRA gun manufacturers lobby, will offer the same tired suggestion for “curing” the problem of too many guns in the hands of too many maniacs. Obviously, we should require all first responders – including fire department personnel and EMTs – to carry firearms. Dimwit. Not the kind of hair-trigger fool I ever would invite along for a day’s hunting.

Top 10 concept vehicles of 2012

Doomsday has passed without a gasp, so it looks like humanity still has a future. If the concept cars we saw during the past year are any indication, that future looks very bright. As we prepare to roll the calendars over to 2013, it’s time to celebrate the finest concepts that 2012 bestowed upon the world. From voluptuous supercars, to green fuel misers, to the downright abstract and outlandish, it was a big year for concepts and design studies.

I’m not including cuts of every one in this post. RTFA and choose your favorites to dream about. A couple of these will be seeing production real soon now. Here are two faves:

Hottest Concept We’ll See Next Year: McLaren P1

It’s almost not fair to put the McLaren P1 on a list like this. We’ve waited for the return of a flagship McLaren for so long, we would have been impressed with just about anything it rolled out. But, despite the difficulty of recapturing legend, the F1’s successor managed to exceed all expectations. A truly unique and stunning design, the P1 looked like nothing we’ve ever seen. Every component and aerodynamic feature threw down a gauntlet at the world’s most elite supercars, saying, “Think you can take me? 2013: Let’s do it.” McLaren has yet to reveal what “it” the P1 can do, but we know it will rattle track-side stands when it launches next year.

Best Conceptual Revival: Jeep Mighty FC

Jeep has been flirting with the idea of a bringing back a pick-up model for years, and the Mighty FC may have been the baddest conceptualization yet. Channeling Jeep’s Willys heritage, the Mighty FC concept combined a 2012 Wrangler Rubicon cab with a full-sized cargo box. It may look less maneuverable than the average Wrangler, but Jeep showed video evidence that it was nimble enough to master some of the scorched-slickrock rambles of Moab, Utah.

I’d buy one in a Moab minute.

New way suggested to prevent muscle loss, obesity and diabetes

Professor Ravi Kambadur

A research study from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has yielded important breakthroughs on how the body loses muscle, paving the way for new treatments for aging, obesity and diabetes.

The study found that by inhibiting a particular molecule produced naturally in the body, muscle loss due to aging or illnesses can be prevented. Blocking the same molecule will also trigger the body to go into a ‘fat-burning mode’ which will fight obesity and also treat the common form of diabetes.

The exciting discoveries have led NTU scientists to embark on joint clinical research with local hospitals to further validate their findings which were previously carried out on animals…

Associate Professor Ravi Kambadur and his team from the NTU School of Biological Sciences found that a protein called Myostatin, which controls muscle cell growth, is responsible for initiating muscle loss.

When excess levels of Myostatin is bound to a muscle cell, it induces heavy loss of mitochondria (the part of the cell responsible for energy production that keeps a cell alive), which in turn causes the muscle cell to waste or lose muscle tissue (atrophy) due to the ‘lack of energy’.

Under normal healthy conditions, small loss of Mitochondria is needed for the regeneration of new cells, but when a patient is suffering from chronic diseases or is bedridden (and muscles are not used often), this process is disrupted due to high levels of myostatin which results in increased mitochondrial loss and muscle atrophy…

Apart from regulating the growth and loss of muscle, myostatin also regulates whether the body will burn fat or carbohydrates during fasting and meal times.

Blocking myostatin keeps the body in “fat-burning mode” and promotes muscle growth at the same time — which could potentially make obesity a thing of the past.

Because obesity is one of the main causes of the most common form of diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, blocking myostatin could also treat diabetes. In the US, 90 to 95 per cent of diabetes cases are Type 2, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cripes – this sounds like it might even work on a cranky old geek like me.

Note to self: Keep an eye on this one. Bother your doctor about it.