Sleaze follows Trump like stink around road kill

❝ The U.S. Secret Service is the hot, new “amenity” at Trump Tower, where desperate brokers are trying to lure well-heeled clients into the building on Fifth Avenue that has served as President-elect Donald Trump’s home as well as his campaign and transition headquarters.

Less than a week after Trump was elected, prominent New York real estate agency Douglas Elliman blasted out an email with the subject: “Fifth Avenue Buyers Interested in Secret Service Protection?” to advertise a $2.1 million, 1,052-square-foot condo in the tower on 721 Fifth Avenue…

“The Best Value in the Most Secure Building in Manhattan,” it stated.

❝ Trump was the developer and sponsor of Trump Tower when it was built 33 years ago, but most of the 263 units are individually owned. Trump Tower does not retain a portion of the sales but since the building is managed by Trump Corporation, it retains a processing fee for unit sales which is about $2,000 per application plus $250 per additional adult dweller, as part of its service as manager of the building.

The condominium collects the common charge, but Trump manages the garage and vendors like the bar and restaurant in the building…

Not exactly a plus for the reputation of realtors, eh?

This Burmese Python was caught with remains of 3 deer in its gut – not in Burma; but, Florida

bobby-hill-and-friend
Click to enlargeWater District agent, Bobby Hill, with that 14 foot python

❝ Normally, what a snake eats for breakfast isn’t worth a headline. But this is no normal snake. And this was no normal meal.

The Burmese python is a massive snake native to Southeast Asia that arrived in South Florida in the 1980s, possibly released into the wild by careless pet owners. There are now as many as 300,000 of these invasive creatures slithering through the state, and they’ve been known to eat alligators, bobcats, rabbits, and birds.

❝ Now scientists have discovered that Burmese pythons — which can reach 18 feet in length and swallow a bobcat whole — are even more ravenous than they realized. In a new paper in Bioinvasions Records, a team of researchers describe slitting open the intestine of a dead 14-foot python and finding the remains of three different white-tailed deer. The snake appears to have gobbled them up, an adult and two fawns, in just 90 days.

❝ The implications are disturbing. “If this was just one snake that ate three deer in isolation, that’d be one thing” says Scott Boback, a biologist at Dickinson College and lead author of the study. But the incident comes alongside growing evidence that the Burmese pythons are ravaging native wildlife in South Florida’s Everglades. “When you put that all together, you’ve got to say, okay, something serious is going on here.”…

❝ However it happened, the notion that pythons may be gobbling up lots and lots of white-tailed deer is troubling. For one, deer are a major revenue source in South Florida, thanks to the sale of hunting licenses. There are also ecological implications — the elimination of deer could rearrange the region’s ecosystem in unpredictable ways.

But what’s even more worrisome, says Boback, is that it suggests there’s little limit to what pythons can devour. “They’re eating pretty much every vertebrate in the Everglades,” he says. “They’re basically taking all that diverse biomass and replacing it with python biomass. And we’ve seen this story before.”

❝ One huge worry is that the Everglades will see a repeat of what happened in Guam…

During World War II, heavy ship traffic brought the non-native brown tree snake to the island. There had never been a snake species on that island before, and the local birds had no idea how to evade it. In the decades since, 12 native bird species have gone extinct.

❝ …South Florida is struggling to figure out how to respond…The biggest challenge…is that Everglades National Park is so vast, stretching hundreds of miles across, and the pythons can easily hide in the park’s endless sea of grass. The snakes are rarely ever spotted unless they happen to cross over roads. “Roads are really the only place we can reliably detect them,” says Boback.

Back to the conventional wisdom that people are either ignorant or stupid. In the case of any invasive species everyone always pleads ignorant about what might happen when they release their old pet who got too big for apartment living. Not looking around for information in the age of the Internet – is stupid.

Here’s a mosquito bite you don’t want to look forward to!


James Gathany

Most people hate mosquitoes, and who could blame them? At best, we associate mosquitoes with itchy red bites. They also happen to be our most deadly animal adversary: 400,000 people died of malaria alone in 2015, which was a huge improvement from death tolls in recent years. The recent spike in Zika cases — and the spread of the disease into new regions like North America, thanks to global warming — has researchers working even harder to understand how the insects got so good at transmitting pathogens and how we might stop them.

❝ But if you think Zika sounds bad, just imagine contracting that virus and another exotic ailment from the same irritating little mosquito. According to new research from Colorado State University, that’s totally possible: The scientists were able to infect mosquitoes with both Zika and chikungunya, a virus that causes fever and joint pain in humans. And when they tested the amount of mosquito spit that would usually go into a single bite, they found enough copies of those viruses to simultaneously infect a human host. The team also confirmed previous reports that chikungunya and dengue virus could shack up in the same mosquito. It remains to be seen whether a nasty trifecta is possible, but all three of these viruses have been spotted in North America in recent years…

❝ The findings, Greg Ebel readily admits, are still preliminary—and the results don’t suggest that these concurrent outbreaks are common. In fact, he and his team aren’t even sure what would happen if a human was simultaneously infected with Zika and chikungunya at the same time…

But while it’s tempting to freak out over the possibility of a double or triple viral infection, Ebel and his colleagues are more concerned with how the viruses might interact inside mosquitoes than they are with theoretical human symptoms. The human scenario is a little too far-fetched to prompt immediate concern, but if the viruses behave strangely when they end up in the same mosquito, that could have implications for the transmission rate of any of those illnesses in humans.

Frequently, I note the unforeseen successes that roll out of basic research. Scary stuff happens as readily, perhaps more often. All the more reason to continue searches simply to extend human knowledge.

Four students solve Facebook’s fake-news problem in 36 hours

❝ Facebook is facing increasing criticism over its role in the 2016 US presidential election because it allowed propaganda lies disguised as news stories to spread on the social-media site unchecked…

❝ Business Insider’s Alyson Shontell called Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s reaction to this criticism “tone-deaf.” His public stance is that fake news is such a small percentage of the stuff shared on Facebook that it couldn’t have had an impact. This even while Facebook has officially vowed to do better and insisted that ferreting out the real news from the lies is a difficult technical problem.

❝ Just how hard of a problem is it for an algorithm to determine real news from lies?

Not that hard.

During a hackathon at Princeton University, four college students created one in the form of a Chrome browser extension in just 36 hours. They named their project “FiB: Stop living a lie.”

❝ The students are Nabanita De, a second-year master’s student in computer science student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Anant Goel, a freshman at Purdue University; Mark Craft, a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Qinglin Chen, a sophomore also at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

❝ Their News Feed authenticity checker…classifies every post, be it pictures, adult content pictures, fake links, malware links, fake news links as verified or non-verified using artificial intelligence…

The browser plug-in then adds a little tag in the corner that says whether the story is verified.

Game, set and match. Facebook is one of the sponsors of that hackathon. Better take a closer look at the coders, Zuck.

Canadian diver may have found an Atomic Bomb we lost 66 years ago

❝ The water conditions were perfect — “beautiful, clear, green” — when Sean Smyrichinsky went diving last month off the north coast of British Columbia…

Using a DPV, or a diver propulsion vehicle, Smyrichinsky plunged 25 to 30 feet down into the bay…Ahead of him, a mysterious object emerged.

“And I thought, what a cool rock formation,” he said. “It’s perfectly round.”

As he approached the formation, Smyrichinsky discovered it wasn’t a rock, but something that appeared man-made.

It was perfectly round, he noted, with circles and bowls “the size of basketballs” cut into it.

❝ He rushed back to the surface to tell his friends, boat captain Richard Hamilton and fellow diver Chrissy Anderson, about the bizarre object he had spotted…

n the evenings, he consulted with fellow divers and fisherman in nearby boats to try to corroborate what he had seen. All of them dismissed him.

It wasn’t until Smyrichinsky was preparing to go home when an “old-timer” at a local village took him seriously…

❝ “…“Hey, maybe you found that old bomb they lost?”

“That old bomb,” the older fisherman explained, was from a U.S. Air Force B-36 bomber that had crashed over British Columbia in 1950.

The wreckage from the plane was discovered a few years later, in a remote location, but a Mark IV nuclear bomb that it had reportedly jettisoned ahead of time was never recovered…

❝ The Canadian Navy has since deployed a ship to explore the site of the crash and invited Smyrichinsky to join them — something that has particularly thrilled the diver, who usually lives in Courtenay, B.C., where he runs the Union Bay Diving shop…

Smyrichinsky’s discovery does match up with the location of the 1950 bomber crash, Maj. Steve Neta of the Canadian Armed Forces told CBC News.

Neta also told the news network that the lost bomb was a “dummy capsule” and is not likely a nuclear weapon.

“Nonetheless, we do want to be sure and we do want to investigate it further,” Neta told CBC News.

The Canadian naval ship should arrive later this week, and Smyrichinsky plans to join them later this month…

Is there a lost-and-found reward from Uncle Sugar?

Half-dressed female clown charged with chasing cars


Orange looks good for a clown suit

❝ A woman was arrested Thursday after numerous witnesses called 911 to report that a partially nude woman wearing clown makeup was chasing cars and jumping in and out of traffic on a country road in Cunningham.

Candice A. Kreidel, 37, was charged with disorderly conduct, public intoxication and making non-emergency 911 calls.

❝ According to an arrest warrant, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to the scene after “a series of calls about a white female wearing clown-like makeup, a stocking cap, and was either partially or completely nude that was running up and down Louise Road, chasing cars and jumping out in front of other cars.”

While a deputy was on the way to the scene, 911 received four calls from Kreidel “in which call takers were berated, threatened and cursed,” the warrant states.

❝ When the deputy went to Kreidel’s home on Louise Road, he found her in a sports bra, pajama-style bottoms, a stocking cap and wearing clown makeup on her face and body. She was also holding a beer.

❝ Kreidel was determined to be intoxicated and a danger to herself and others and booked into the Montgomery County Jail on $1,500 bond.

Not certain in what order this woman determines her priorities. No doubt, there is some confusion.

Snopes’ Field Guide to Fake News Sites and Hoax Purveyors


Click to reach the story

I hope you’ve realized by now that Trump, the Alt-Right flavor of racists and bigots, know-nothings and nutballs, aren’t going to disappear the day after the election. Aside from deliberate hoaxters – who think they contribute to humor – the truthiness brigade of white nationalists and conspiracy nutballs will roll right along.

There are sufficient nooks and crannies in the Web and uneducated American brains to store their lies and slander for centuries. But, please, don’t get used to it. Among other resources, check in with snopes.com every now and then. Please.