Thoughts Gallery February 2005
February 1
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Well within 2 days of moving out of the Dos Cabezas house it is rented. Compared to the 2 months it's been in the MLS, I always seem to get properties rented off of signs and drive-by traffic vs other realtors.
February 2
Image of the Day
This month is dedicated to round house designs which have caught my interest recently.  Especially after living in a cookie-cutter square box house with very few interesting architectural details or floor plan space designs.  We should let KB Homes be purely for rental homes vs. homesteads. That being said I do find there low price PSF on floorplans though.
February 3
Images of the Day
February 4
Image of the Day
Rare Plant Species Nearly Wiped Out
MARSHALL, Calif. - One of California's rarest plants was nearly wiped out of existence when county workers used a backhoe to unclog a roadside drain in the species' sole habitat. The Baker's larkspur, a purplish plant that blooms April through May and grows up to 2-feet tall, is found in only one place in the world — near a road in western Marin County. The damage followed heavy rains last October that pushed debris down a hillside and into the drain, flooding the road. The backhoe being used to clear the plug cut into the hillside at the exact spot where most of the Baker's larkspur grow. In minutes, a population of 100 plants was reduced to five.
"They had to clear it, but a little bit of notice would have been nice," Doreen Smith of the Marin Native Plant Society told the Marin Independent Journal. "We could have got in there and saved the plants." Although a 200-foot stretch of the hillside was marked to alert county workers about the Baker's larkspur, the backhoe crew didn't know the exact location of the plants, said road maintenance supervisor Pete Maendle. "The crews knew the area was sensitive, but it was an emergency situation," Maendle said. "When storms come you don't have time to make plans. It's unfortunate that this happened." Members of the Marin Native Plant Society, Marin County Public Works Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state Department of Fish and Game met Tuesday to discuss the fate of the plant and how to better protect it. There is a plan to grow the plant in less precarious areas, but attempts to move native plants and grow them elsewhere fail 90 percent of the time, said state biologist Gene Cooley.
February 5
Image of the Day
It will be interesting to see as the influence of the internet grows as to whether the power of the freedom of speech and expression is more powerful than the govenments that control the system itself
Iranian Cleric Blogs for Free Expression
TEHRAN - Blogging might not sound an appropriate hobby for a senior Iranian government official, particularly one who is a Muslim cleric. But presidential adviser Mohammad Ali Abthai has turned the practice of writing Internet journals, or blogging, into a powerful tool against the reformist government's hardline foes and a means to reach out to the country's disenchanted youth. Abtahi, 45, a mid-ranking cleric who last year quit his post as vice-president, says he learns more chatting with young people on the Internet than he does in any government report. "A lot of them criticize the (political) system and sometimes I tell them they are right. I talk to them very freely," he said in an interview at his spartan office in affluent north Tehran.
His popular web site (webneveshteha means "web writings" in Persian) receives dozens of messages a day, to which he replies scrupulously, often working until 3 a.m. "What do you think about moving to a secular political system? Yes or No???" asked one visitor, who called himself Gomnam. "Naturally the system of any country should be chosen by the majority of the people," was Abtahi's subtle reply.
While other Iranian clerics and officials also have Web sites, none are prepared to engage in debate on such sensitive issues with the public, Abtahi says. "I am the only window of the government that people can openly freely. That kind of contact between society and a cleric is very important and very unusual," he said. Internet use has proliferated in Iran in recent years. Official figures suggest there are more than 4 million users in the country of 68 million and the country ranks fourth in the world in terms of active Web logs. But Internet use, like other forms of entertainment and expression in Iran, is under threat.
Late last year more than 20 young Internet journalists, web technicians and bloggers were arrested and held for several weeks on charges ranging from endangering national security to insulting senior officials of the clerical establishment. Soon after their release Abtahi revealed details of their treatment in prison where they were kept in solitary confinement, subjected to physical and psychological torture and forced to write confessions admitting to their crimes. Writing in his Web log Abtahi described how members of a constitutional commission wiped tears from their eyes as they listened to the bloggers describe the beatings they received. It was a daring move but it worked. Abtahi's writings brought international attention to the case. Human rights groups and foreign governments called for an immediate inquiry.
Local newspapers, normally too scared of closure to publish anything critical of the judiciary, began writing their own accounts of the bloggers' ordeals. Finally, judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi met the bloggers and after hearing their claims promised to bring those responsible to justice. "There's been a change in the atmosphere," Abtahi said. "Now instead of the webloggers being under pressure it's the judiciary which is feeling the heat. "They'll definitely think twice before doing something like this again," he said. Abtahi's intervention was crucial, said Hanif Mazroui, 26, one of those arrested. "He was the only official who bravely accepted to write and talk about our case," he said. "As there is no free circulation of news in Iran, he accepted to pay the price of reflecting our views."
Fereshteh Ghazi, whose nose was reportedly broken during one interrogation session in jail, agreed. "Abtahi actually pressured high-ranking officials to follow-up our case. Because of our situation, we were scared to talk, but Abtahi had no such fear." The battle against censorship, however, is far from over. The judiciary recently ordered local Internet Service Providers to block access to several popular web sites including Orkut ( a global online friendship portal where Iran contributes the third-most members. Hardline officials say Orkut is immoral. Many entries do contain naked pictures of members and links to pornographic sites. But Abtahi, whose own Orkut entry boasts hundreds of friends, argues it does more good than harm. "I myself believe that Orkut, with all its negative points, should be encouraged," he said. "There are worse things for people to do."
Abtahi recently had to move his own Web site to a server in the United States after a series of problems he believes were related to his writings about the bloggers case. At the Web site, which he launched in 2003, he posts whimsical anecdotes about life in Iran's normally secretive corridors of power and amusing pictures of officials caught off-guard by his camera mounted on a mobile telephone.
February 6
Image of the Day
Students Launch Online Auction for College
MIAMI - At the end of each semester, Bentley College sophomore Shahzad Zia usually offers his used textbooks to the highest bidder on the most popular Internet auction sites. This spring, he plans to list them for a more exclusive community — and save money in the process. Zia plans to post his books on College Junktion, an online auction designed by college students, for college students, that opened for business Friday. Registration to the Web site — — requires a valid ".edu" e-mail address. Such addresses are reserved for people connected with schools.
President, CEO and University of Miami sophomore Jason Baptiste developed College Junktion with two friends living on the same dormitory hall. The idea grew from a bulletin board Baptiste passed while going for a cup of coffee on campus. "There was this board with hundreds of flyers of stuff for sale — a car here, a textbook there, this TV. The only way to get exposure was this board," he said. "I thought, 'What could I do to make this easier? Why not create a service to buy, sell and trade them on the Internet?'"
It's no longer a unique idea, with online giants Amazon's and eBay's massive auctions and the regional classifieds on craigslist. But Baptiste, 19, from Norwood, N.J., plans to combine auctions with networking features found on Friendster or thefacebook, which link users by common interests or acquaintances. Within the next few months, Baptiste said, photo sharing, calendars, blogs and user groups will be added to the site. Eventually, the friends-of-friends listed in a seller's network could become a potential pool of buyers he can contact directly.
February 7
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AIDS Blamed as S.Africa Reports Huge Jump in Deaths
PRETORIA, South Africa - South Africa's death toll soared by 57 percent in the five years to 2002, new figures on Friday showed, underscoring how the country's AIDS epidemic is cutting a swathe through its working-age population. Releasing figures from a widely awaited national mortality study, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) said reported deaths leapt to 499,268 in 2002 from 318,287 in 1997. The report looks likely to spark new debate over the extent of the AIDS crisis in South Africa, where President Thabo Mbeki's government is often accused by critics of both underplaying and underestimating the crisis.
       The study "provides indirect evidence that the HIV epidemic in South Africa is raising the mortality levels of prime aged adults," Stats SA head Pali Lehohla said in a statement. AIDS is increasingly seen as a threat to South Africa's future, with officials saying that up to 23 percent of its armed forces are infected with HIV and key industries including mining hard hit by the epidemic. Stats SA said that among adults over 15, deaths increased by 62 percent between 1997 and 2002.
       The report showed deaths increasing most rapidly for women and people aged between 20 and 49 -- both regarded as groups most susceptible to the AIDS virus, which affects an estimated one in nine of the country's 45 million people. "Death from AIDS of working age adults is a real and immediate crisis," the opposition Democratic Alliance said in a statement responding to the new numbers Friday. "Many of the adults who are dying, including nurses and teachers, are critical to South Africa's future. Yet the government has no comprehensive human resources plan in place to address this," the DA statement said.
February 8
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New Strain of HIV? How many kinds are out there?
A new and perhaps aggressive strain of HIV was discovered last week in New York City. In the infected patients, the virus progressed with unusual speed and displayed the hallmarks of resistance to three of the four major classes of HIV drugs. Just how many strains of the virus are out there?
So many that scientists don't even count them all. The virus changes at a very rapid rate, in part because it mutates quickly, and in part because it reproduces so often. In an infected patient, billions of virus particles are produced every day, and the genetic makeup of the virus changes by about 1 percent every year. The point at which scientists decide to call a particular variant a new "strain" is not well-defined.
Researchers do classify strains of HIV more broadly. There is HIV-1, which is responsible for the global epidemic, and HIV-2, a milder form specific to West Africa. HIV-1 is very similar to a virus found in chimpanzees, and HIV-2 appears to have jumped to humans from the sooty mangabey.
February 9
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Monster star burst was brighter than full Moon:
PARIS - Stunned astronomers described the greatest cosmic explosion ever monitored -- a star burst from the other side of the galaxy that was briefly brighter than the full Moon and swamped satellites and telescopes. The high-radiation flash, detected last December 27, caused no harm to Earth but would have literally fried the planet had it occurred within a few light years of home. Normally reserved skywatchers struggled for superlatives. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime event," said Rob Fender of Britain's Southampton University.
"We have observed an object only 20 kilometers (12 miles) across, on the other side of our galaxy, releasing more energy in a 10th of a second than the Sun emits in 100,000 years." "It was the mother of all magnetic flares -- a true monster," said Kevin Hurley, a research physicist at the University of California at Berkeley. Bryan Gaensler of the United States' Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, described the burst as "maybe a once per century or once per millennium event in our galaxy. "Astronomically speaking, this explosion happened in our backyard. If it were in our living room, we'd be in big trouble."
The blast was caused by an eruption on the surface of a known, exotic kind of neutron star called SGR 1806-20, located about 50,000 light years from Earth in the constellation of Sagittarius and about three billion times farther from us than the Sun. A neutron star is the remnant of a very large star near the end of its life -- a tiny, extraordinarily dense core with a powerful magnetic field, spinning swiftly on its axis. When these ancient star cores finally run out of fuel, they collapse in on themselves and explode as a supernova. There are millions of neutron stars in the Milky Way but, so far, only a dozen have been found to be "magnetars": neutron stars with an ultra-powerful magnetic field. Magnetars have have a magnetic field measuring about 1,000 trillion gauss, hundreds of times more powerful than that of any other object in the Universe. To give an idea of this in earthly terms, the field is so powerful that it could strip the data off a credit card at a distance of 200,000 kilometers (120,000 miles).
SGR 1806-20 is an even rarer bird. It is one of only four known "soft gamma repeater" (SGR) magnetars, so called because they flare up randomly and release gamma rays in a mammoth burst. Why this happens is unknown. One theory is that the energy release comes from magnetic fields which wrestle and overlap because of the star's spin and then snap back and reconnect, creating a "starquake" rather like the competing faults that cause an earthquake. What is sure, though, is that the outpouring of energy is massive.
The SGR 1806-20 spewed out about 10,000 trillion trillion watts, or about 100 times brighter than any of the several "giant flares" that have been previously recorded. Despite this energy loss, the strange star did not even pause, Britain's Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) said. "SGR 1806-20 spins once in only 7.5 seconds. Amazingly, the December 27 event did not cause any slowing of its spin rate, as would be expected," the RAS said.
The flare, detected by satellites and telescopes operated by NASA and Europe, was so powerful that it bounced off the Moon and lit up the Earth's upper atmosphere. For over a tenth of the second, it was actually brighter than a full Moon, and briefly overwhelmed delicate sensors, RAS said.
Two science teams, formed by observations provided by 20 institutes around the world, will report on the blast in a forthcoming issue of the British weekly journal Nature. Many questions will be thrown up by the event, including the intriguing speculation that the dinosaurs may have been wiped out by a similar, closer gamma-ray explosion 65 million years ago, and not by climate change inflicted by an asteroid impact. "Had this happened within 10 light years of us, it would have severly damaged our atmosphere and possibly have triggered a mass extinction," said lead-author Gaensler.
The good news, he noted, is that the nearest known magnetar to Earth, 1E 2259+586, is about 13,000 light years away.
February 10
Image of the Day
'Crazy Frog' Ring Tone Set to Be a Single
LONDON - The "Crazy Frog" mobile phone ringtone -- loved and loathed in equal measure in Britain -- is to be released as a pop single. Television adverts plugging the "tune," featuring an animated frog wearing motorcycle helmet and goggles, with a broad smile and a visible tiny penis, have made it a huge success. The tone has been downloaded a million times.
"You either love it or hate it -- there's no in between," said BBC Radio 1 DJ Wes Butters, one of a group of DJs and producers who have formed the group "Pondlife" to release the song. The TV spots have prompted several complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority from viewers who object to their frequency and to the frog's genitalia. The ad has, however, been ruled acceptable by the Authority. Whether the single will be deemed acceptable by the public when it is released in April is an open question.
February 11
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Frustrated German Thief Caught Napping Red-Handed

Having broken into a car late at night, a would-be German thief's plans went badly wrong when he failed to pry out its radio, fell asleep clutching his screwdriver, and was woken, then arrested by police. "The police had an easy time of it," said a spokeswoman for police in the western city of Cologne. The car's owner alarmed police after spotting the man entering the vehicle. By the time officers arrived shortly afterwards, the man was already sound asleep.

February 12
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Spain Doctor Rebuilds Penises Cut Off for AIDS Cure
MADRID - Two Kenyan boys whose penises were cut off to be sold for making anti-AIDS potions have had them reconstructed in Spain, the doctor treating them said. The adolescent boys, from a remote region near the border with Uganda, were mutilated after being given drugged food or drink by strangers. "They had attacked them to cut off their penises to sell ... for making a type of potion which according to a local belief cures AIDS," Doctor Pedro Cavadas, from the Levante Rehabilitation Center told radio station Cadena Ser.
One of the boys also lost an ear trying to fend off his attackers after regaining consciousness during the mutilation. "It seems that the dose of medication that they gave him to knock him out ... was badly calculated, and so he woke up in the middle of the attack," Cavadas said. "He then tried to defend himself and because of this has a lot more injuries." Cavadas runs a foundation that carries out all types of reconstructive surgery in Kenya. The foundation's Web site said two people had been arrested in connection with penis mutilation, although it was not clear if they were linked to the attacks on the 12 and 14-year-old boys.
"The practice of mutilating the penises of virgin boys is not a tradition among Kenyan tribes. The object of this mutilation was to make a potion to cure HIV /AIDS," the Web site said. Cavadas, who noted this type of attack was rare in Kenya, said the boys had been transformed by their surgery. "They are fantastic, happy, their faces have changed and their lives have changed. They don't have to use a catheter ... and they can live like children, messing around and being naughty."
February 13
Image of the Day
Young Blood Gets New Meaning with Fresh Study
LONDON - Maybe Dracula had a point. The term Young Blood -- meaning an injection of youthful vigor -- could have a medical origin. Scientists at Stanford University found that wiring up an old mouse to the blood stream of a young one gave a major boost to muscle recovery time in the older one. By contrast, when old blood was pumped round the body of a young mouse, muscle recovery time became more prolonged, they said in the science journal Nature. It was not just muscles that benefited. The same was true of the livers of older mice. Researchers said the results suggested that the aging process lay less with the organs themselves than with the tired blood off which they fed.
February 14
Image of the Day
So it's randomly odd how I was able to buy this teddy bear the day before this article came out as a gift for Erin.  My car died today on Valentine's Day, of all days to stop working when I have too many errands to run.  I had to get a ride home with a co-worker Alex, and have him pick up Noah and drop us off at our campsite... house.  We ended up eating food from Central Market, which was overpriced and unappetizing.
'Crazy' Teddy Bear Won't Be Sold Anymore
After weeks of protests, Vermont Teddy Bear Co. has agreed to stop producing and marketing a "Crazy For You" bear that had angered advocates for the mentally ill, four advocacy groups said Thursday. Company spokeswoman Nicole L'Huillier said the statement issued by the groups was "a little bit inaccurate," but would not immediately elaborate.
The $69.95 bear — which comes with a straitjacket and commitment papers — no longer appeared on the company's Web site Thursday. The Valentine's Day bear was criticized as insensitive by mental health advocates and Republican Gov. James Douglas. The Vermont chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and three other groups said their representatives met with company president and chief executive Elisabeth Robert on Tuesday. "We praise Ms. Robert and Vermont Teddy Bear Company for its resulting decision ... to take the courageous step of responding by ceasing all future production and marketing of the `Crazy Bear' product," the groups said.
As recently as last week, Robert extended her apologies to anyone offended by the bear, but said it would not be taken off the market. "We're not in a position to be told what we can and cannot sell," she said. The company has said that its plan was to market the product through Valentine's Day, and then discontinue it. In their statement, the mental health groups said they hoped the story would have a happy ending. "The public dialogue that emerged across the country as a result of this controversy has produced significant benefits by identifying and underscoring the ongoing importance of addressing the stigma and stereotypes still associated with mental illness," they said.
** February 15 **
Image of the Day
Had a nice relaxing dinner at the restaurant the Melting Pot.  An interesting eating concept, considering I grew up eating this in a more traditional oil cooking method.  Very good food, eating a four course meal over 2.5 hours.  Relaxing is a relative term though when you throw in entertaining a 16 month old during this process, and imagine eating in a small 6x8 space to eat/cook your food in.  I think you could get away with just eating the cheese fondue and salad, or the salad and dessert fondue.  I surprised Erin with some flowers, that were supposed to be for valentines day, but due to extremely bad luck, from my car dying.
February 16
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February 17
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Robo-Toddler Learns to Walk Like a Human
WASHINGTON - The difference between man and machine is shrinking. Scientists have developed a robot that "learns" to walk like a toddler, improving its step and balance with every stride. The walking robot looks more like a moving Erector set than a human being, but the machine has the unmistakable gait of a person strolling along. The robot uses its curved feet and motorized ankles to spring its legs forward, its arms swinging at every step to help with balance. Researchers on Thursday showed off the learning, walking robot, along with two less-advanced models, at the national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A report on the research appears this week in the journal Science.
       The machines use what the researchers called a "passive-dynamic design" that closely mimics the way humans walk. Earlier robots required powerful machines to stroll, with each leg, knee and ankle requiring motorized assistance. The effort requires a lot of energy.  The passive dynamic design uses gravity, along with muscle-like springs and motors. The energy required is just a fraction of that needed by other walking robots, said Andy Ruina, a Cornell University researcher. Ruina said the walking robots move like humans, falling and catching themselves as they move forward. This essentially is the same movement people use, a motion toddlers must master to walk. "We let the machines take care of a lot of the motion," he said. In contrast, most walking robots, such as Asimo, developed by the Honda Motor Co., require a motor to power every motion.
       A robot designed by Russ Tedrake of Massachusetts Institute of Technology is equipped with sensors that help the machine learn to walk in a way similar to humans' gait. Appropriately, the machine is called "Toddler." The robot's sensors measure the machine's motion, tilt and rate of movement and then direct small motors to adjust and compensate for changes.  "It can learn to walk in 20 minutes," Tedrake said. "Once it learns to walk, then it adapts its gait to new terrain." He said the sensors take measurements at the rate of 200 times a second and constantly send new instructions to the motors that control the tilt and motion. The sensors also direct actuators that control the tension on springs in the robot ankles. This helps the machine push forward with each stride. "Every time it takes a step, it changes the parameters a little bit, based on its experience," Tedrake said. "It will walk on any surface and adjust the way it walks."
       In effect, the robot changes its stride just as humans do when moving from sand to grass to pavement. He said the machine even has learned to walk on a treadmill, making adjustments as the surface tilts or speeds up. The robot can start on its own and even walk backward. The big advantage of the passive-dynamic robots is that they require about the same energy that humans use to walk. This is only one-tenth of the energy needed to make Asimo go, Ruina said. The less energy used, the longer that the robots can operate without needing new batteries. "For a robot to ever be practical, it will have to be able to run for a long time," Ruina said.
February 18
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Bush to Sign Bill Curbing Lawsuits
President Bush is wasting no time signing a bill that he says will curtail multimillion-dollar class action lawsuits against companies. The first legislative triumph of Bush's second term is a historic step toward "breaking one of the main shackles holding back our economy and America's work force — lawsuit abuse," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. The House approved the bill by a 279-149 vote Thursday as businesses finally saw success after a decade of efforts to reduce their legal liability from cases where a single person or a small group can represent the interests in court of many thousands of people. While businesses failed to get the measure to apply to suits already in the courts, Bush planned to offer immediate help by signing the bill Friday. The president has described class-action suits as often frivolous. Businesses complain that state judges and juries have been too generous to plaintiffs.
The bill "will help protect people who are wrongfully harmed while reducing the frivolous lawsuits that clog our courts, hurt the economy, cost jobs, and burden American businesses," Bush said. Under the legislation, class-action suits seeking $5 million or more would be heard in state court only if the primary defendant and more than one-third of the plaintiffs are from the same state. But if fewer than one-third of the plaintiffs are from the same state as the primary defendant, and more than $5 million is at stake, the case would go to federal court. Consumer groups and trial lawyers fought against the bill, but lost their struggle when Republicans gained seats in last fall's elections and Democrats defected on the issue.
"The House of Representatives joined the Senate in sending a clear message to the nation: the rights of large corporations that take advantage of seniors, low-wage workers and local communities are more important than the rights of average American citizens," said Helen Gonzales of USAction, a liberal, pro-consumer activist group. Changing the legal system — including class-action, medical malpractice and asbestos injury lawsuits — has been a priority of Bush, the GOP and businesses. They have criticized what they see as a litigation crisis that enables lawyers to reap huge profits while businesses and consumers are stuck with the bill.
Bush and other Republicans say greedy lawyers have taken advantage of the state class-action suit system by filing frivolous cases in places where they know they can win big dollar verdicts. Meanwhile, those lawyers' clients get only small sums or coupons giving them discounts for products of the company they just sued, GOP lawmakers contend. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said that moving those cases to federal court will ensure that state judges will no longer "routinely approve settlements in which the lawyers receive large fees and the class members receive virtually nothing." But Democrats say Republicans just want to protect corporations from taking responsibility for their wrongdoing by keeping them clear of state courts that might issue multimillion-dollar verdicts against them.
Federal courts are expected to allow fewer large class action suits to go forward, which Democrats say means more businesses will get away with wrongdoing and fewer ordinary people will be protected. "It's the final payback to the tobacco industry, to the asbestos industry, to the oil industry, to the chemical industry at the expense of ordinary families who need to be able go to court to protect their loved ones when their health has been compromised," said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. "And these people are saying that your state isn't smart enough, your jurors aren't smart enough" to hear those cases. The bill also would limit lawyers' fees in settlements where plaintiffs get discounts on products instead of financial settlements. The measure links the fees to the coupon's redemption rate or the actual hours spent working on a case.
February 19
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Strip Club Artfully Slips by Anti-Nudity Law
BOISE, Idaho - A strip club in Boise, Idaho has found an artful way to prance past a city law that prohibits full nudity. On what it calls Art Club Nights, the Erotic City strip club charges customers $15 for a sketch pad, pencil, and a chance to see completely naked women dancers. In 2001 the Boise City Council passed an ordinance banning total nudity in public unless it had "serious artistic merit" -- an exemption meant to apply to plays, dance performances and art classes. "We have a lot of people drawing some very good pictures," said Erotic City owner Chris Teague, who has posted many of the drawings around the club. Teague said he got the idea when a customer asked if he could get in for free to sketch the dancers. Realizing that "art classes" were exempt from the law, Teague decided to bill Mondays and Tuesdays as art nights, and let the dancers go without their G-strings and pasties. In the two months since they began, Art Club Nights have drawn full crowds of 60 people but no police citations, he said.
February 20
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February 21
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Mobile Phone Virus Found in United States
SAN FRANCISCO - The world's first mobile phone virus "in the wild" has spread to the United States from its birthplace in the Philippines eight months ago, a security research firm said. The virus, called Cabir, has spread slowly into 12 countries and marks the beginning of the mobile phone virus era, which could one day disrupt the lives of many of the world's 1.5 billion mobile phone users.
The biggest impact of the relatively innocuous virus, found in about 15 variations so far, is draining mobile phone batteries, said Mikko Hypponen, director of Finnish anti-virus research company F-Secure (FSC1V.HE). Hypponen said Cabir was found on Monday in a technology gadgets store in Santa Monica, California, when a passing techie spotted a telltale sign on the screen of a phone in the store. "It's interesting (the Cabir variant) has now been found in the United States, but it's not the end of the world," said Hypponen.
The mobile-virus threat will grow in the future as virus-writers become more sophisticated and phones standardize on technologies that make it easier for viruses to spread across not just specific devices but the whole industry. The danger is small at the moment, in part because of the range of handheld technologies. This is unlike the personal computer world dominated by the Windows operating system made by Microsoft Corp. Also, many handheld device makers have recently released new mobile phones equipped with anti-virus software.
The store owner's phone had also been infected, Hypponen said. Both devices were Nokia. Analysts say the various features in smart phones make them more vulnerable to viruses than voice-only phones. Hypponen said it was likely other devices in the area were also infected by Cabir, although there was no confirmation of that. Unlike computer viruses that spread quickly around the world via the Internet, Cabir spreads slowly because it travels only over short distances through a wireless technology known as Bluetooth. It also requires a user to restart the phone after it has been exposed for the virus to take hold.
In cases where Cabir spread to different countries, an infected phone has typically been carried by the user to another country. Cabir has been found in countries ranging from China to the United Kingdom. In November, another virus program known as "Skulls" aimed at advanced mobile phones was sent to security firms, not to consumers, as a so-called "proof of concept" to alert them of the virus writer's capability.
February 22
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Farmer Paints Pigeons to Ward Off Predators

AMSTERDAM - A Dutch farmer has painted pigeons pink and green to ward off hungry birds of prey and it seems to have worked, a Dutch newspaper reported Wednesday. "I'm crazy about the birds ... Naturally, birds of prey are going to eat pigeons, but preferably not here," the farmer told the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper. He began painting the birds with environmentally friendly, water-based paint a year ago. "The colors make the pigeons seem unsuitable as prey. The birds of prey simply don't recognize them anymore," he said.

February 23
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A display showing an American soldier's uniform with the slogan 'Bush Lied I Died' is seen on a home in Sacramento, Calif. Since Stephen and Virginia Pearcy put up the effigy, it has been vandalized twice and put up again. Police are investigating the vandalism reports as well as a claim by a military mother that the display should be investigated as a hate crime.
February 24
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A pair of tropical kissing fish, locally called Jie wen yu', kiss at a pet shop in Shanghai February 14, 2005. The kissing fish, an aquarium fish that puckers its lips, is a popular gift during Valentine's Day in China. A pair costs 50 yuan ($6).
February 25
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An aerial view taken of Japan's newest international airport built on a man-made island off Tokoname, central Japan. The Chubu Centrair International Airport, equipped with a 3,500-meter (11,550-feet) runway, officially opens Thursday February 17, 2005, to join two other international airports at Narita and Osaka as a regional hub. It operates 24 hours a day.

February 26
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NYC Sued by Protester Arrested While Dressed as Hummer
NEW YORK - A woman who was arrested while dressed as a gas guzzling Hummer sued New York City on Tuesday for putting the brakes on her one-person protest in front of an SUV dealership during the Republican National Convention. Georgianna Page, who spent eight hours creating her large cardboard box costume, charged the city violated her civil rights when she was arrested and detained for several hours on Aug. 31. No charges were ever filed against her, the suit said. The complaint, filed in Manhattan federal court by the New York Civil Liberties Union, seeks unspecified damages.
       According to the suit, Page heard there would be a peaceful protest in front of the Manhattan Hummer dealership that day and she arrived wearing her "Hummer" costume and a hand-lettered sign that read "Vampire Utility Vehicles: This is Your War." Police arrested her for obstructing traffic, but Page said she had never left the sidewalk and did nothing wrong. Page was arrested on a day that the police picked up 1,100 other people, most of whom have since had their cases dismissed, the NYCLU said.  A spokeswoman for the city's legal department said it had not received the suit and could not comment.
February 27
Image of the Day
A Monarch butterfly sits among a forest in the Mexican state of Michoacan in this November 1997 photo. A new study of aerial photographs taken over the last 29 years shows damage or destruction of 44 percent of the once-pristine forest that serves as wintering grounds for the Monarch butterfly in its annual migration from the United States and Canada.
February 28
Image of the Day
China's Consumer Society Booming
For decades, while China was closed to business from the United States, American companies lusted over the boundless merchandise market that such a big country was certain to offer one day. Now that day has come: China has surpassed the United States in consumption of every basic food, energy and industrial commodity except oil. The Chinese have overtaken the Americans in refrigerators, watch 1 1/2 times as many television sets and use 1-2/3 as many cell phones. Only in automobiles does China still lag, with barely one-tenth the number of motor vehicles the United States has on its roads.
        A report released by the environmental advocate Earth Policy Institute said, however, that per capita consumption in China remains far below that of the United States. China's 1.3 billion people ate 64 million tons of meat in 2004, for instance, compared with 38 million tons consumed by the 297 million people in the United States. That's an annual intake of 108 pounds of meat — mainly pork, with half the world's pigs in China — for every Chinese and 279 pounds of steak, hot dogs and fried chicken for every American. Fertilizer to grow more food is a measure of more growth to come in China's food consumption. It was double that of the United States in 2004, and both countries cover roughly 3.8 million square miles.
        Steel is the commodity that most reflects a modernizing country, and China was using more than twice as much as the United States by 2003. "Steel consumption has climbed to levels not seen in any other country," the report said. The consumption report said American dominance in automobiles — 226 million to 24 million — is one reason the United States uses three times as much oil as China. Another major fossil fuel product, coal, amounts to two-thirds of China's energy consumption, and its homes and factories burn 40 percent more than those in the United States.
The report was issued on the day the Kyoto Protocol was enacted by 35 industrialized states. The protocol is designed to cut into pollutants caused by fossil fuels, the so-called greenhouse gases. The protocol has no effect on greenhouse gas production in either country. As negotiated, the protocol considers China a developing country that needs not cut back. The United States withdrew from the protocol four years ago. To feed its consumption, China imports massive quantities of grain, soybeans, iron ore, aluminum, platinum and many other products, which the report said puts its economy "at the center of the world raw materials economy. Its voracious appetite for materials is driving up not only commodity prices but ocean shipping rates as well."
      Many of those goods come through government-to-government agreements from countries rich in resources, such as Brazil, Kazakhstan, Russia, Indonesia and Australia. Ironically, China keeps its trade balance stable partly by maintaining the largest trade surplus of any country ever with the United States, $162 billion in 2004. That was one-fourth of the overall record $617.7 billion U.S. trade deficit.