Saturday, June 02, 2007

Opinion on Atheism

Atheism is just a fad, it's the latest thing people are catching on to either for attention, for a sense of "belonging" to a certain group, or just for the sake of being controversial. Why are people making such a fuss about it, (especially on the blogosphere)? There are people who worship all sorts of things and those who worship nothing at all, big deal. This fad will die down as fast as it started.
U.S. attacks Somalian base

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- At least one U.S. warship bombarded a remote, mountainous village in Somalia where Islamic militants had set up a base, officials in the northern region of Puntland said Saturday.

The attack from a U.S. destroyer took place late Friday, said Muse Gelle, the regional governor. The extremists had arrived Wednesday by speedboat at the port town of Bargal.

Gelle said the area is a dense thicket, making it difficult for security forces from the semiautonomous republic of Puntland to intervene on their own.

A local radio station quoted Puntland's leader, Ade Muse, as saying that his forces had battled with the extremists for hours before U.S. ships arrived and used their cannons. Muse said five of his troops were wounded, but that he had no information about casualties among the extremists.

A task force of coalition ships, called CTF-150, is permanently based in the northern Indian Ocean and patrols the Somali coast in hopes of intercepting international terrorists. U.S. destroyers are normally assigned to the task force and patrol in pairs.

CNN International, quoting a Pentagon official, also reported the U.S. warship's involvement. A Pentagon spokesman told The Associated Press he had no information about the incident.

"This is a global war on terror and the U.S. remains committed to reducing terrorist capabilities when and where we find them," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

"We recognize the importance of working closely with allies to seek out, identify, locate, capture, and if necessary, kill terrorists and those who would provide them safe haven," Whitman said. "The very nature of some of our operations, as well as the success of those operations is often predicated on our ability to work quietly with our partners and allies."

Puntland's minister of information, Mohamed Abdulrahman Banga, told the AP that the extremists arrived heavily armed in two fishing boats from southern Somalia, which they controlled for six months last year before being routed by Ethiopian troops sent to prop up a faltering Somali government.

"They had their own small boats and guns. We do not know exactly where they came from - maybe from Ras Kamboni, where they were cornered in January," he said.

Local fishermen, contacted by telephone, said about a dozen fighters arrived Wednesday, but Puntland officials said the number could be as high as 35.

The United States has repeatedly accused Somalia's Council of Islamic Courts of harboring international terrorists linked to al-Qaida and allegedly responsible for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The U.S. sent a small number of special operations troops with the Ethiopian forces that drove the Islamic forces into hiding. U.S. warplanes have carried out at least two airstrikes in an attempt to kill suspected al-Qaida members, Pentagon officials have said.


Thursday, May 31, 2007

Vending machine for live Lobsters

Claw game machine where you could win a live lobster. Source and full size pic here
Man described as a top spammer arrested

SEATTLE (AP) -- A 27-year-old man described as one of the world's most prolific spammers was arrested Wednesday, and federal authorities said computer users across the Web could notice a decrease in the amount of junk e-mail.

Robert Alan Soloway is accused of using networks of compromised "zombie" computers to send out millions upon millions of spam e-mails.

"He's one of the top 10 spammers in the world," said Tim Cranton, a Microsoft Corp. lawyer who is senior director of the company's Worldwide Internet Safety Programs. "He's a huge problem for our customers. This is a very good day."

A federal grand jury last week returned a 35-count indictment against Soloway charging him with mail fraud, wire fraud, e-mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

Soloway pleaded not guilty Wednesday afternoon to all charges after a judge determined that - even with four bank accounts seized by the government - he was sufficiently well off to pay for his own lawyer.

He has been living in a ritzy apartment and drives an expensive Mercedes convertible, said prosecutor Kathryn Warma. Prosecutors are seeking to have him forfeit $773,000 they say he made from his business, Newport Internet Marketing Corp.

A public defender who represented him for Wednesday's hearing declined to comment.

Prosecutors say Soloway used computers infected with malicious code to send out millions of junk e-mails since 2003. The computers are called "zombies" because owners typically have no idea their machines have been infected.

He continued his activities even after Microsoft won a $7 million civil judgment against him in 2005 and the operator of a small Internet service provider in Oklahoma won a $10 million judgment, prosecutors said.

U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan said Wednesday that the case is the first in the country in which federal prosecutors have used identity theft statutes to prosecute a spammer for taking over someone else's Internet domain name. Soloway could face decades in prison, though prosecutors said they have not calculated what guideline sentencing range he might face.

The investigation began when the authorities began receiving hundreds of complaints about Soloway, who had been featured on a list of known spammers kept by The Spamhaus Project, an international anti-spam organization.

The Santa Barbara County, Calif., Department of Social Services said it was spending $1,000 a week to fight the spam it was receiving, and other businesses and individuals complained of having their reputations damaged when it appeared spam was originating from their computers.

"This is not just a nuisance. This is way beyond a nuisance," Warma said.

Soloway used the networks of compromised computers to send out unsolicited bulk e-mails urging people to use his Internet marketing company to advertise their products, authorities said.

People who clicked on a link in the e-mail were directed to his Web site. There, Soloway advertised his ability to send out as many as 20 million e-mail advertisements over 15 days for $495, the indictment said.

The Spamhaus Project rejoiced at his arrest.

"Soloway has been a long-term nuisance on the Internet - both in terms of the spam he sent, and the people he duped to use his spam service," organizers wrote on

Soloway remained in federal detention pending a hearing Monday.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

British"Mirror" Reflects Slo Mo Images in Real Time

Time warp anyone? English art fans visiting the 19th century Belsay Hall can interact with images of themelves from a few seconds earlier by staring into the slo-mo Hereafter mirror created by United Visual Artists

What appears to be a conventional looking glass is in fact a flat video display embedded with a hidden high-speed video camera and a massive terabyte hard drive, reports Pixelsumo.

The camera enables the viewer to witness instant replay in slow motion while simultaneously viewing blurred real-time images.

And if that's not freaky enough, "Hereafter" periodically splices in previously recorded slo mo footage compiled over the course of the exhibition to create a ghostly "Where the hell did that chicken come from?" effect drawing on images photographed months earlier.

[Source via UAV]

Researchers Find ‘Skim Milk Cows’

In a few years, skim milk may come straight from the cow, it was reported this week.

Skim milk is usually produced by taking all of the fat out of regular milk, but in 2001, researchers found a cow that skipped that step. While screening a herd of cows, they found one with a natural gene mutation that makes her produce lower-fat milk than a normal cow.

Marge, as researchers later named her, makes milk that has 1 percent fat (as compared to 3.5 percent in whole milk) and is high in omega-3 fatty acids. And remarkably, Marge’s low-fat milk still has the same delicious taste as conventionally produced low-fat milk, according to the report in Chemistry & Industry magazine.

The low saturated fat content of Marge’s milk also means that butter made from it is spreadable right out of the fridge, while most butter has to come to room temperature before it can be spread on toast.

After researchers found that Marge’s daughters also produced low-fat milk, they surmised that the genetic trait was dominant and planned to breed herds of skim milk-producing cows. (Marge and her offspring live in New Zealand.)

ViaLactia, the company that owns Marge, expects the first commercial herd of cows supplying natural low-fat milk and spreadable butter for the market by 2011.

But because cows are normally selected for breeding because they give a high milk yield, this new selection criteria could mean the skim milk cows would produce less milk, said Ed Komorowski, technical director at Dairy UK and who is not affiliated with the research—so more cows could be needed to produce the same amount of milk.

And “normal” cows wouldn’t disappear, he told LiveScience, as their milk would still be needed to make fattier products such as cream.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Russian Submarine surfaces near beach

This is in Severodvinsk city, Russia. The beach is located near a marine base, so apparently this is not an unusual sight there.

Top 10 Poisonous Plants

(10) These cheerful yellow and white harbingers of spring, aka daffodils and jonquils, are actually mildly toxic if the bulbs are eaten in large quantities (Narcissus pseudonarcissus is shown). Some people confuse them for onions. Daffodil bulb diners tend to experience nausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhea. A doctor might recommend intravenous hydration and/or drugs to stave off nausea and vomiting if symptoms are severe or the patient is a child.

(9) Rhododendron Rhododendrons and azalea bushes (a variety of rhododendron), with their bell-shaped flowers, look great in the yard come springtime, but the leaves are toxic and so is honey made from the flower nectar. Eating either from these evergreen shrubs makes your mouth burn, and then you'll probably experienced increased salivation, vomiting, diarrhea and a tingling sensation in the skin. Headaches, weak muscles and dim vision could follow. Your heart rate could slow down or beat strangely, and you might even drop into a coma and undergo fatal convulsions. Before that, doctors will try to replace your fluids and help you breath more easily and administer drugs to bring back your normal heart rhythm.

(8) Ficus Also known as weeping fig, benjamin tree, or small-leaved rubber plants, all ficus have milky sap in their leaves and stems that is toxic. There are about 800 species of ficus trees, shrubs and vines (Ficus benjamina is shown), many of which are cultivated indoors in pots and tubs and outdoors in warm areas where some varieties can grow to up to 75 feet tall. The worst that will happen is your skin will itch and puff up and your doctor will give you something for the allergy or the inflammation.

(7) Oleander Every bit of the oleander plant is toxic, unlike the case for other plants where just the flower or sap might be poisonous. Even accidental inhalation of the smoke from burning oleander is a problem. Other trouble comes from using the sticks for weenie or marshmallow roasts or drinking water in which the clusters of red, pink or white flowers have been placed. These evergreen shrubs (Nerium oleander is shown) are common as tub plants or in gardens in the Southwest and California, any locale that approaches the plant's native Mediterranean climate. Typically the symptoms involve a change in heart rate, be it a slow down or palpitations or high potassium levels. A doctor might prescribe a drug to bring your heartbeat back under control and try to induce vomiting with ipecac, pump your stomach or absorb the toxin with ingested charcoal.

(6) Chrysanthemum Also known as mums, orange and yellow varieties of these showy flowers often turn up in foil-wrapped pots on people's front steps around Halloween and Thanksgiving. There are 100 to 200 species of Chrysanthemums, and they generally grow low to the ground, but can turn into shrubs. Gardeners plant mums to keep rabbits away. Guess what? The flower heads are somewhat toxic to humans too. But not terribly. Touching them can make you itch and puff up a bit, but probably the doctor will just give you something for the inflammation and allergic reaction.

(5) Anthurium The leaves and stems of these bizarre-looking plants, with dark green, heart-shaped leathery leaves and a scarlet, white or green spike surrounded by a red, pink or white "spathe," are toxic. Also known as flamingo flowers or pigtail plants, eating tropical Anthuriums could give you a painful burning sensation in the mouth that then swells and blisters. Your voice might also become hoarse and strained and you might have difficulty swallowing. Most of this will fade with time, but cool liquids, pain pills and gluey herbs and foods like licorice or flaxseeds may bring relief.

(4) Lilly-of-the-Valley These darling droopers, also known as mayflowers, are entirely poisonous, from the tips of their tiny bell-shaped white flowers that coyly fall off like parted hair to the very water in which they might be placed. A little bit of Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) probably won't hurt much, but if you eat a lot, you'll probably experience nausea, vomiting, pain in the mouth, abdominal pain, diarrhea and cramps. Your heart rate might also become slow or irregular. A doctor might decide to clean out your stomach by pumping it or feeding you absorbing charcoal, and might give you drugs to bring your heart rate back to normal.

(3) Hydrangea These poofy-flowered bushes (Hydrangea macrophylla) are popular yard ornaments that can grow up to 15 feet tall with rose, deep blue or greenish-white flowers that grow in huge clusters and look as edible as cotton candy or a big bun to an imaginative mind. But those blooms will give you a belly ache that sets in sometimes hours after eaten. Typically, patients also experience itchy skin, vomiting, weakness and sweating. Some reports indicate that patients can even experience coma, convulsions and a breakdown in the body's blood circulation. Luckily, there is an antidote for hydrangea poisoning, and doctors might also give you drugs to address to ease your symptoms.

(2) Foxglove Foxglove is a magical looking plant that grows to 3 feet tall with drooping purple, pink or white flowers, sometimes dotted inside, along a central stalk. Its Latin name is Digitalis purpurea, which might sound familiar; leaves from the plant are a commercial source of the heart drug digitalis. If you eat any part of these plants in the wild, you too will likely have heart problems after a spell of nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea and pain in the mouth. A doctor might administer charcoal to absorb the toxin or pump your stomach, and might also administer drugs to bring your heart rate back to normal. Other names for this plant include fairy bells, rabbit flower, throatwort and witches' thimbles.

(1) Wisteria Wisterias form romantic cascades of sweetpea-like flowers that fall in lush blue, pink or white masses from woody vines that grow mainly in the South and Southwest. The entire plant, also known as a kidney bean tree, is toxic, though some say the flowers are not. Better safe than sorry, because most reports are that eating this plant will cause nausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhea that could require treatments such as intravenous hydration and anti-nausea pills.

UFO Buffs to Offer 'Proof' of Aliens

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Proof that a 12-foot creature with fiery red eyes spooked Braxton County schoolchildren in 1952. Proof that aliens crashed a spaceship near Roswell, N.M., in 1947. Proof that the U.S. military engaged alien spaceships in battle over the Atlantic Ocean more than 50 years ago.

"You're going to see some hard evidence" at the Flatwoods Monster 55th Anniversary and Flying Saucer Extravaganza on Sept. 7-8 in Charleston, said promoter Larry Bailey. "That's a promise. That's not just promotional talk."

The UFO conference coincides with the 60th anniversary of an unexplained sighting of a crashed aircraft in New Mexico that is still a source of controversy and speculation of a government coverup. It's also the 55th anniversary of sightings of a noxious-odor-emitting monster in Flatwoods in Braxton County.

Freddie May, one of the boys who saw the monster after a fireball fell from the sky in September 1952, is scheduled to attend. He will refute those who dismiss the monster as a hoax and others who say it was a gaseous ball that formed during a meteor shower.

Also on the lineup is author-illustrator Frank Feschino, who penned "The Braxton County Monster: The Cover-Up of The Flatwoods Monster." His follow-up book, "Shoot Them Down," details aerial combat he says was waged in 1952 between U.S. aircraft and alien ships over the ocean.

Feschino spent 14 years researching the sighting and plans to present a 53-minute documentary on his findings at the conference.

Staton Friedman, a former nuclear physicist who helped investigate the Roswell crash and has published more than 70 papers on UFOs, is also scheduled to attend.


High-speed video of water balloon that does not burst

Submarine surfacing through 2 feet of ice

ARCTIC OCEAN (March 18, 2007) - Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Alexandria (SSN 757) is submerged after surfacing through two feet of ice during ICEX-07, a U.S. Navy and Royal Navy exercise conducted on and under a drifting ice floe about 180 nautical miles off the north coast of Alaska. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shawn P. Eklund (RELEASED)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mobile Promo Girl

Incredible Dubai Architecture

No other place in the world is so saturated in architectural "creative juice" right now, as Dubai. Powered by the government's idea of creating some kind of Flash Gordon /Buck Rodgers tourist trap (and by the injections of pure cash, of course), the place sports ridiculous amount of mind-boggling projects, part of which we covered in The Rotating City and Burj Dubai Highest Building articles. Now's the time for a quick overview of what's already on the plate, and what's coming on the (decidedly gourmet) Dubai's architectural menu. [Full Article Here]

Dubai Land

Lagoon Hotel

Burj Dubai: The tallest building in the world (for now)

Construction update:

- Designed by Chicago architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for Emaar Properties.
- Will house hotel and condominiums, be largely residential.
- Completion date: June 30, 2009
- 959 meters high, 189 - 200 floors?
- An observation deck will be located on the 124th floor.
- The top residential level will only be 8 meters wide.
- Will have the fastest elevators in the world with a speed of 700m/min (42.3 kmh / 26.1 mph)
- When finished, It will be almost 40% taller than the the current tallest buil
ding, the Taipei 101.

[More here]

Tree with a face

A staff photographer on the Shropshire Star spotted this melan­choly face on a tree standing in Ashton Road in Shrewsbury, next to Shrewsbury High School’s junior department, in January 2006. Staff and pupils had walked past the tree every day without noticing the striking simulacrum – or, at least, without drawing anyone else’s attention to it.

The Army's vision for soldier tech

The U.S. Army tends to be a poor cousin among Defense Department kin when it comes to high-tech systems; the big-bucks, high-profile technology programs tend to accrue to the Navy and the Air Force. It's also looking to take advantage of developments in areas from robotics to high-speed networks.

Enter the Future Combat Systems program, the Army's largest modernization initiative. Now about four years old, the program envisions a family of high-tech gear including sensors, aerial drones, and manned and unmanned ground vehicles, all fully networked and linked to individual soldiers. Pictured here in a recent training exercise is the program's Class I unmanned aerial vehicle; the UAV is intended to help dismounted soldiers with reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition.

While the timeline for developing the FCS systems extends well into the next decade, the Army hopes to get some components deployed as early as fiscal year 2008, which starts in October. And therein lies a very important rub.

Credit: U.S. Army

The Pistol shrimp

It uses its snapping claws for communication and as a "sonic weapon" to knockout it's prey with a heated collapsing bubble traveling at 100Kmh (62 mph). The video states that the resulting temperature momentarily reaches the temperature of the sun. I have found no other source that supports this. National Geographic states the temperature could reach 18,000 farenheit (9982.22 Celcius)

From Wikipedia: "The pistol shrimp snaps a specialized claw shut to create a cavitation wave that generates noise in excess of 180 to 200 decibels relative to 1 ╬╝Pa at a distance of 1 m, and is capable of killing small fish. The snap can also produce sonoluminescence from a collapsing bubble, also known as cavitation bubble (collapsing bubble). The heat generated by the snap exceeds more than 114 degrees Fahrenheit"

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Toxic sludge mud has been flowing out of a hole in indonesia for one year now (and counting)

Muziati, a refugee of Indonesia's "mud volcano", stares at her baby and hopes that the meagre food she gives him will be enough.

"He has to be fed rice juice (formed during cooking) because there's no milk," Muziati says of conditions in a makeshift shelter in Porong on the main island of Java.

"He is small for his age," she adds of her six-month-old boy.

Muziati is among more than 15,000 people who have been forced from their homes across Sidoarjo district in East Java since last year when steaming mud began spewing from the depths of the earth at an exploratory gas well.

One year after the May 29 disaster started, thousands are still living in shelters, and the flow of toxic sludge shows no sign of stopping.

Muziati was three months pregnant last year when she lost her job at a prawncracker factory that was submerged in the massive flow.

Six months later, on the day she gave birth, an embankment, hastily built to contain the hot mud, burst and later swallowed her home.

Muziati, her husband Sudarto and neighbours sought shelter wherever they could before moving to a vacant market building in nearby Porong where they survive on rations of rice from the drilling company blamed for the disaster, Lapindo Brantas.

"Nobody cares enough to even visit us. Not the mayor, not the governor," says Sudarto.

Nine villages, industrial areas and farms over more than 600 hectares (1,500 acres) have been engulfed by the thick mud as authorities grapple with the extent of the disaster.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered Lapindo, an Indonesian firm, to pay 3.8 trillion rupiah (420.7 million dollars) in compensation and mud containment efforts.

But Sudarto and his family have refused an initial cash payment of 20 percent of the value of their homes and land. Like many of the 3,200 sheltering in Porong, they want Lapindo to buy their land so they can rebuild elsewhere.

"We are not beggars, we just ask for our rights," says Sudarto who has named their baby David Lapindo -- after the firm, which has links to welfare minister Aburizal Bakrie, one of the nation's richest men.

The disaster has left international engineers scratching their heads and environmentalists fuming about damage to the local ecosystem.

Massive dykes have been built around the volcano to contain the mud, and heavy machinery works overtime carrying dirt and pebbles to strengthen the embankments.

"The dykes are very vulnerable," says security guard Waliyanto pointing to muddy water leaking from the walls around the crater.

Cracks have led to larger leaks, forcing authorities to declare the area off-limits to the public.

The sludge has reached a depth of up to 20 metres in the worst-hit areas with rooftops barely visible. Villages in the outer areas, caked in mud, have been abandoned for safety reasons.

Initiatives to stop the flow have ranged from the scientific to the spiritual.

Engineers spent two months trying to plug the hole with chains of large concrete balls dropped into its core, but the move appears to have failed. Authorities continue to try and channel mud from the dams into a nearby river.

Ahmad Chairusin, 64, arrived at the dykes earlier this month from nearby Kediri town, convinced that he can stop the flow through prayer.

"I fast and pray here twice a day," Chairusin told AFP.

"We should look inwards to ourselves, what have we done wrong (to spark the flow)?" he asks, adding that "the only thing we can do is pray and pray."

Others, including healers and mystics, regularly perform rituals at the dykes, make offerings and cast spells.

Despite the efforts, some 120,000 cubic metres of sludge -- equivalent to 48 Olympic-sized swimming pools -- continues to spew daily from the hole, says Ahmad Zulkarnain, a spokesman for the government agency set up to tackle the crisis.

Supari, 40, remembers watching animals and plants die as the mud moved across the district last May. He never thought the flow would reach his village outside Indonesia's second city of Surabaya so quickly.

"The mud spread so fast, it flooded my house before I could save many of my belongings," he says, adding that he fled in the middle of the night with his wife and two sons.

In the chaos, Supari says he left behind the deeds to his home, the documents he needs to prove ownership and gain compensation.

He used to earn four million rupiah a month selling snacks to schools, and sometimes clothing and coal briquettes. But worrying about his family's future now consumes him.

"It's not that there are no jobs now, but I cannot think straight. Riding this motorcycle taxi is all I dare do," says Supari, motioning to the bike.

"I usually get lucky on Sundays, I guide tourists around the mudflow site."

Supari and his family have rented a house nearby and, unlike other residents, refuse to sell their land. "I cannot sell the land, it has been passed down for generations."

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