A 120-year-old device that perfectly mimics the song of a bird

Get out the headphones or turn up your speakers and prepare to be impressed by archaic 19th century engineering.

Relying on dozens of moving parts including gears, springs, and a bellows, this small contraption built in 1890 was designed to do one thing: perfectly mimic the random chatter of a song bird. At first I expected to hear a simple repeating pattern of tweets, but the sounds produced by the mechanism are actually quite complex and vary in pitch, tone, and even volume to create a completely realistic song. I think if you closed your eyes you might not be able to tell the difference between this and actual birdsong.

It’s believed the machine was built 120 years ago in Paris by Blaise Bontems, a well-known maker of bird automata and was recently refurbished by Michael Start over at The House of Automata. Can any of you ornithologists identify the bird?

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Ex-LAPD cop is stalking cops and their families

In the weeks leading up to his alleged shootings that left three dead and another wounded, former LAPD officer Christopher Jordan Dorner is thought of have stalked some of those named in a manifesto he is believed to have posted online, law enforcement sources told The Times.

Authorities were involved in a massive manhunt for Dorner, 33, and issued alerts across California and Nevada for the former cop, who is suspected of killing a couple in Orange County earlier this week and fatally shooting a Riverside police officer Thursday morning.

Dorner is suspected of visiting the homes of some of those named in the manifesto as he allegedly plotted out his attacks, according to the sources.

The Los Angeles Police Department had dispatched units across the area to protect at least 40 officers and others named in the rambling manifesto that Dorner…posted online.

Dorner was believed to be carrying multiple weapons, including an assault rifle.

Law enforcement authorities said they were concerned about Dorner’s military background and weapons training. The lengthy online message allegedly written by the former Navy Reserve lieutenant threatened “unconventional and asymmetrical warfare” against police.

Dorner received awards for his expertise with a rifle and pistol, according to military records obtained by The Times. He received an Iraq Campaign Medal and was a member of mobile inshore undersea warfare unit.

The former officer, who was fired from the LAPD in 2009, is suspected of shooting three officers, one of whom died, in Riverside County early Thursday morning…

Early Thursday, two women delivering newspapers in Torrance were shot by Los Angeles police who were guarding an officer named in the manifesto.

The women, shot in the 19500 block of Redbeam Avenue, were taken to area hospitals, Torrance police Lt. Devin Chase said. One suffered a minor wound, and the other was struck twice and listed in stable condition, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told reporters. “Tragically,” Beck said, “we believe this is a case of mistaken identity.”

Follow the link to the TIMES for multiple sidebars. Dorner is said to have tried to steal a boat – he was part of the LAPD’s harbor patrol. He’s also reported to be carrying a .50-calibre sniper rifle.

Satellites put small farms on China’s map of progress

The bare light bulbs, unheated rooms and elderly residents of the whitewashed village of Yangwang in eastern China make it seem an unlikely place for an experiment in cutting-edge satellite technology.

But the tiny village in Anhui Province was home to a pilot project that for the first time mapped farmers’ land, putting Yangwang on the front line of China’s efforts to build a modern agricultural sector that can underpin the country’s food security — a policy priority for the Communist Party.

The mapping is a tedious but crucial task to make farmers feel more secure about their rights so that they become more willing to merge fields into larger-scale farms. It could also help protect them from land grabs by local officials, a leading cause of rural unrest…

China’s annual rural policy document, released last week, calls for farmland titles to be defined nationwide during the next five years. It is a technical challenge that could cost $16 billion…

The satellite mapping will replace current deeds that often rely on descriptions like “Yang’s field borders Wang’s to the east.” Such colloquial formulations make villagers reluctant to remove dirt mounds that separate the plots for fear that they will no longer be able to identify what is theirs.

The mapping information will be compiled in searchable, centralized registries, allowing farmers to confirm what they own and giving officials better land-use information…

The project carries a hidden price tag for Beijing, which subsidizes grain production, fertilizer use and irrigation at an average rate of 150 renminbi per mu. The subsidies are based on area estimates that date from a time when farmers regularly underreported the size of their plots to avoid grain taxes…

Matou Township alone gained 45 percent more registered area with the more accurate mapping, to the delight of township officials and residents hopeful that greater subsidies would follow…

The berms that villagers use to identify their plots could disappear when fields are merged, he said, leaving villagers in need of some other way to prove what is theirs.

Just as China moved the whole nation’s economic culture from the Middle Ages to the 20th Century in a span measured by decades, now they have to change everything from mindset and attitude – adding precise measurement – to enable moving rural incomes in the direction of urban economies. That has already started; but, skipping more centuries with the aid of satellite GPS systems will accelerate the process.

Nigerian hookers offer week of free sex for an African Cup victory

How’s this for performance-related pay?

Nigeria, having beaten favourites Ivory Coast, are now down to the final four of this year’s African Cup of Nations.

And on top of the usual national pride yadda yadda blah blah, the Super Eagles’ football players will also be in line for a week of free sex from the country’s prostitutes, should they emerge victorious.

The official Association of Nigerian Prostitutes’ secretary Jessica Elvis said: “We want to congratulate the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles, for qualifying for the next round of the competition.

“To show our support for the national team, we’ll be declaring one week of free sex if the Super Eagles can win the trophy.”

Well – the Super Eagles defeated Mali, yesterday, in their semi-final. No doubt they’re resting up for the Final. And possible payback!

Are these the sleaziest coppers on Earth – stealing ID’s of dead children as cover for domestic spying?

The Metropolitan Police covertly stole the identities of about 80 dead children for use in operations by undercover police officers, according to a new investigation.

The practice, condemned as “gruesome” by Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, carried on for three decades as a means for police to infiltrate anti-racist, anti-capitalist and far-right protest groups. Officers obtained passports, driving licences and national insurance numbers under their new identities.

Two former members of the Met’s undercover Special Demonstration Squad told The Guardian they had adopted the identity of a dead child after scanning birth and death records to find a suitable match.

“You are looking for someone of a similar age to you who died, starting at age three or four and up to age 14 or 15,” said “Pete Black”, the adopted identity of a former undercover policeman who infiltrated environmental activist groups from 1993 to 1997. Victims of the identity theft included an eight-year-old boy who had died from leukaemia in 1968, and another who was killed in a car crash, said the report. Parents of the dead children were never made aware of the practice.

The Met said in a statement that…the practice was not “currently” authorised.

Give an ethically-challenged police body the opportunity and they will return to the worst of their practices. Many young people have a vague notion of what the FBI and their local lackeys did during the COINTELPRO days. The Red Squads are all behind us – we’re told.

Today, we witness discussions in Congress – with the White House occupied by a moderately conservative Democrat with a solid law degree from Harvard – on how the president can judge someone guilty and sentence him to death. No jury of his peers. The practice is only “currently” authorised.

We shouldn’t worry.