Thoughts Gallery June 2005
June 1
Image of the Day
A chubby baby smiles during a visit to Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Medical experts warned that at least 200 million people in China will suffer from obesity within 10 years if current trends spurred by unhealthy lifestyles continue
June 2
Image of the Day
Experts Gather to Discuss Antarctic Issues
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - More than 300 scientists, experts and government representatives gathered in Stockholm on Monday to discuss the environmental issues facing the South Pole, and the effects global warming and increased tourism may have on the icy continent. The two-week meeting brings together the 45 countries who have signed the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which governs the continent, to negotiate how best to handle international cooperation concerning research, environmental protection and tourism on Antarctica.
One of the key issues to be discussed will be a proposal to hold corporations responsible for oil spills and other accidents near the South Pole, and make them liable to pay damages. Other items on the agenda include so-called "bio-prospecting" by biotech companies searching for organisms to use in medicines or other applications. "Our common and challenging task is to manage this extraordinary continent for the benefit of our common environment, and for future generations," Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds said in her opening speech. "The Antarctic Continent is our largest joint nature reserve."
The meeting in Stockholm, the 28th international conference on the Antarctic, lasts until June 17. Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf is set to attend a scientific lecture on June 8. Under the Antarctic Treaty, the continent is designated as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science. Originally signed by 12 nations in 1959, the treaty established the continent as a rare model of cooperation. Signatories, which included the Soviet Union, Britain and the United States, agreed to demilitarize the continent, share scientific information from studies there and set aside territorial claims.
June 3
Image of the Day
British potato farmers were taking to the streets to call for the expression 'couch potato' to be struck from the dictionary on the grounds that it harms the vegetable's image.
June 4
Image of the Day
Homeless Shelter Stops Serving Bear Meat
JUNEAU, Alaska - A Juneau homeless shelter has stopped serving donated bear meat after learning the state prohibits nonprofit groups from accepting wild game meats such as bear, fox and walrus. "We didn't know that it is illegal," said Jetta Whittaker, executive director of the Glory Hole.
For years, the shelter accepted bear meat to supplement its meals for the homeless. The meat went into many recipes, including burgers, casseroles and spaghetti. But last year, Whittaker learned that serving it was contrary to rules set by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. This year, it has meant turning down five offers of bear meat. "That was 250 pounds of ground meat I could use for spaghetti sauce," said Bob Thompson, operations manager of the shelter. "We are protein-poor." The Glory Hole rarely gets offers of deer because venison is more palatable to most people while bear meat has a stronger, wild smell, Whittaker said. Some of the people served by the Glory Hole said they miss meat of any kind. David Kelley, who is staying at the shelter, said he appreciates the three meals a day but he is tired of eating starchy vegetables. "I will eat whatever you put in front of me," Kelley said. "But you cannot live by starches alone."
June 5
Image of the Day
Marijuana-Flavored Candy Blasted

ATLANTA - Marijuana-flavored lollipops with names such as Purple Haze, Acapulco Gold and Rasta are showing up on the shelves of convenience stores around the country, angering anti-drug advocates. "It's nothing but dope candy, and that's nothing we need to be training our children to do," said Georgia state Sen. Vincent Fort, who has persuaded some convenience stores to stop selling the treats. The confections are legal, because they are made with hemp oil, a common ingredient in health food, beauty supplies and other household products. The oil imparts a marijuana's grassy taste but not the high. Merchants call them a harmless novelty for adults and insist they advise stores to sell only to people 18 and older.
"There are more than 70 million people in the United States who smoke marijuana. We're catering to the audience of people who are in that smoking culture," said Rick Watkins, marketing director for Corona, Calif.-based Chronic Candy, which uses the slogan "Every lick is like taking a hit." An Atlanta company called Hydro Blunts markets a similar product under the name Kronic Kandy, which is made in the Netherlands. New York City Councilwoman Margarita Lopez introduced a resolution condemning the candies when she saw them at convenience stores near schools in her district. She plans to hold hearings this summer. At Junkman's Daughter, an Atlanta novelty shop, the suckers are sold near the cash register from a bucket labeled with a marijuana leaf. "We've got probably every weird kind of candy there is in here," owner Pam Majors said. "If it was anything you could get high off of, we wouldn't carry it, obviously."

June 6
Image of the Day
Ryan Devany, a member of staff at Butterfly World, near Edinburgh, Scotland, gets a close look at two new baby green Yemen Chameleons hatched in the last two weeks. The chameleons may reach up to two feet in length.
June 7
Image of the Day
This photo released by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA) shows a view from inside a submerged aquaculture cage with Moi swimming near the surface, in the Pacific Ocean near Honolulu, Hawaii. The Bush administration announced a proposal to allow similar fish farming up to 200 miles off the nation's coasts. NOAA's pilot aquaculture projects have included these submerged cages for fish and long lines for mussels.
June 8
Image of the Day
A 500-year-old world map, that was the first to name a newfound continent west of Europe 'America,' was sold for one million dollars at an auction in London
June 9
Image of the Day
A woman on a flight from Singapore to Melbourne shows the 51 live tropical fish hidden in a specially designed apron under her skirt in this handout photograph from the Australian Customs Service. Customs officers became suspicious after hearing 'flipping' noises coming from the vicinity of her waist, and an examination revealed 15 plastic water-filled bags holding concealed fish
June 10
Image of the Day

Yet they don't let you take fingernail clippers on an airplane...
Man With Chain Saw, Sword Is Let Into U.S.
BOSTON - On April 25, Gregory Despres arrived at the U.S.-Canadian border crossing at Calais, Maine, carrying a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood. U.S. customs agents confiscated the weapons and fingerprinted Despres. Then they let him into the United States. The following day, a gruesome scene was discovered in Despres' hometown of Minto, New Brunswick: The decapitated body of a 74-year-old country musician named Frederick Fulton was found on Fulton's kitchen floor. His head was in a pillowcase under a kitchen table. His common-law wife was discovered stabbed to death in a bedroom.
Despres, 22, immediately became a suspect because of a history of violence between him and his neighbors, and he was arrested April 27 after police in Massachusetts saw him wandering down a highway in a sweat shirt with red and brown stains. He is now in jail in Massachusetts on murder charges, awaiting an extradition hearing next month.
At a time when the United States is tightening its borders, how could a man toting what appeared to be a bloody chain saw be allowed into the country? Bill Anthony, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said the Canada-born Despres could not be detained because he is a naturalized U.S. citizen and was not wanted on any criminal charges on the day in question. Anthony said Despres was questioned for two hours before he was released. During that time, he said, customs agents employed "every conceivable method" to check for warrants or see if Despres had broken any laws in trying to re-enter the country. "Nobody asked us to detain him," Anthony said. "Being bizarre is not a reason to keep somebody out of this country or lock them up. ... We are governed by laws and regulations, and he did not violate any regulations."
Anthony conceded it "sounds stupid" that a man wielding what appeared to be a bloody chain saw could not be detained. But he added: "Our people don't have a crime lab up there. They can't look at a chain saw and decide if it's blood or rust or red paint." Sgt. Gary Cameron of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would not comment on whether it was, in fact, blood on the chain saw. On the same day Despres crossed the border, he was due in a Canadian court to be sentenced on charges he assaulted and threatened to kill Fulton's son-in-law, Frederick Mowat, last August.
Mowat told police Despres had been bothering his father-in-law for the past month. When Mowat confronted him, Despres allegedly pulled a knife, pointed it at Mowat's chest and said he was "going to get you all."
Police believe the dispute between the neighbors boiled over in the early-morning hours of April 24, when Despres allegedly broke into Fulton's home and stabbed to death the musician and 70-year-old Veronica Decarie. Fulton's daughter found her father's body two days later. His car was later found in a gravel pit on a highway leading to the U.S. border. Despres hitchhiked to the border crossing. After the bodies were found on the afternoon of April 26, police set up roadblocks and sent out a bulletin that identified Despres as a "person of interest" in the slayings, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The bulletin caught the eye of a Quincy police dispatcher because it gave the suspect's Massachusetts driver's license number, missing a character. The dispatcher plugged in numbers and letters until she found a last known address for Despres in Mattapoisett. She alerted police in that town, and an officer quickly spotted Despres. In state court the next day, Despres told a judge that he is affiliated with NASA and was on his way to a Marine Corps base in Kansas at the time of his arrest. After the case was transferred to federal court, Despres' attorney, Michael Andrews, questioned whether his client is mentally competent. Fulton's friends in Minto, a village of 2,700 people, told the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal that he was a popular musician, a guitarist known as the "Chet Atkins of Minto" and a 2001 inductee in the Minto Country Music Wall of Fame.

June 11
Image of the Day
Cuban refugees in a vintage blue floating taxicab being intercepted off the Florida Keys by the U.S. Coast Guard. A group of 13 Cubans set sail for the United States in a vintage blue taxi converted into an unwieldy but seaworthy vessel, Miami television station NBC6 reported. The makeshift boat was intercepted on by the U.S. Coast Guard about 20 miles (32 km) off Key West on the southern tip of Florida.
June 12
Image of the Day
I find this partially amusing, reminds me of the people burning US flags just to burn them and anger people that respect the flag.  It's not like if people tore a page from the bible you would get this same response from the Christian World, or would you....
This picture provided by the Islamic Jihad in the West Bank town of Jenin said to be taken with a mobile phone by Palestinian inmates at the Israeli prison of Megido in nothern Israel, shows the torn pages of a copy of the Quran, Islam's Holy book. The image was alledgedly taken Tuesday June 7, 2005 , according to Islamic Jihad representatives, Israeli soldiers tore three copies of the Quran while searching Palestinians and their possessions on Tuesday morning. Israel denied the charge and claimed the pictures were staged
June 13
Image of the Day
An assortment of charity wirstbands. British school has slapped a ban on students wearing the current fashion craze of charity wristbands during exams over fears they might use them to cheat
June 14
Image of the Day
Chimp paintings fetch 26,000 dollars at auction
LONDON - Three paintings by a chimpanzee named Congo were sold at auction to an American buyer for a total of 14,400 pounds. Congo's works went under the hammer in a sale that included works by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, French cubist Fernand Leger and US pop artist Andy Warhol. Presale estimates had put their price at between 600 and 800 pounds. The buyer, Howard Hong, said he was a great fan of modern and contemporary painting. Nicknamed "the Cezanne of the ape world" Congo turned out more than 400 paintings and drawings under the encouragement of anthropologist Desmond Morris. Morris championed the theory that chimps had artistic sensibilities and put on a show of Congo's works in the 1950s. Picasso is said to have had a Congo painting in his studio, in a style described as belonging to "the abstract expressionist school". "I doubt whether any work by a chimpanzee has ever been auctioned before," Howard Ruthkowski, modern and contemporary art specialist at auctioneer Bonhams, said before the sale.
June 15
Image of the Day
Japan loses commercial whaling vote

ULSAN, South Korea - Japan lashed out at anti-whaling nations on Tuesday after its proposal to resume limited commercial hunting was voted down by an international commission and its "scientific" harvesting heavily criticized. Japan had sought the approval of the 66-member International Whaling Commission for a management scheme it said would promote sustainable commercial whaling, but critics said the plan was riddled with holes and would allow for more whales to be killed. The proposal had little hope of being adopted because it takes a three-fourths majority of IWC states to approve major policy changes. It failed by 29 votes to 23 with five abstentions.
Pro-whaling states were also dealt a blow on the first day of the meeting on Monday when a Japanese proposal to change voting procedures to a secret ballot was narrowly defeated. "The whole process has been a charade where anti-whaling nations have stalled implementation of an RMS (revised management scheme) for more than 10 years," said Minoru Morimoto, the head of Japan's delegation. The IWC's pro-whaling lobby has a slim majority for the first time since a moratorium on commercial whaling was introduced in 1986 following the accession of three states -- Gambia, Togo and Nauru -- to the commission. But the three were unable to vote because they had not yet paid their dues or their delegates had yet to arrive in Ulsan, a former whaling port.
Environmentalists fear that pro-whaling nations such as Japan and Norway may try to roll back conservation measures if they can swing a majority at the commission and critics accused Tokyo of delaying tactics. "The pro-whale slaughtering nations are using every tactical method they can to slow down any substantive vote until the new members arrive," said Ian Campbell, Australia's environment minister told Reuters. "It is becoming farcical." Australia's hopes of proposing an early resolution criticizing Japan's announcement that it plans to double its annual scientific catch of minke whales from 440 to 850 were scrapped due to proceedings Australia saw as slow.
Japan's well-flagged plan to dramatically expand its research program also includes hunting 10 fin whales a year for the first two years, although it says it will not hunt humpbacks for another two years. Australia, New Zealand and other anti-whaling nations have been highly critical of the plan and conservation groups said the program is actual commercial whaling in the guise of science. But any resolution on Japan's scientific whaling would have no impact on the program as it is not regulated by the IWC. Anti-whaling states say Japan exploits a loophole in the 19-year-old ban on commercial whaling to hunt the giant mammals in the guise of science, and that much of the whale meat ends up on store shelves and on the tables of gourmet restaurants. "It is commercial whaling by any other name," said Leah Garces, campaigns director for the World Society for the Protection of Animals, while Conall O'Connell, the head of Australia's delegation called it "an outrage."

June 16
Image of the Day
Solar-sailing era begins in space
Like many a sailing voyage, Louis Friedman's "cruise" began in a saltwater harbor. But his tiny craft's destination is unlike anything a wind-whipped sailor has ever experienced. Cosmos-1 is slated for launch from a Russian ballistic-missile submarine beneath the Barents Sea. If all goes well, the craft will unfurl its reflective sails 528 miles above earth to become the first spacecraft to harness the gentle nudge of sunlight for propulsion. The $4 million mission, spearheaded by the nonprofit Planetary Society in Pasadena, Calif., and privately funded, is designed to demonstrate that solar sails can play a key role for space travel within the solar system.
But first, the baby steps. "Getting into orbit and opening the sail will be big milestones," says Dr. Friedman, executive director of the Planetary Society. Beyond that "we'd be happy with any small change in acceleration we can measure" as the sails turn sunward and ease the craft into ever higher orbits. Since the 1920s, when two Russian scientists laid the conceptual foundation for solar sails, the notion has captured the imagination of rocket scientists and science-fiction writers. Like their oceangoing counterparts, solar sails are driven by pressure. But instead of wind, the pressure comes from light hitting the sails' reflective surface. Craft can be steered by changing the solar sails' orientation toward the sun. "Cosmos 1 is really a bold first step," says Neil Murphy, who heads the space physics group at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. NASA hopes to fly a solar-sail craft around 2010 as part of a program for testing new technologies.
       A solar sail can't overtake a chemical rocket on a cosmic drag strip. Its initial acceleration is far too slow. But because the acceleration is constant, over long distances solar sails - in principle - can draw even with and perhaps overtake their chemical counterparts. With the right design, a Pluto-bound solar-sail craft could make the trip in less than five years. A mission currently planned for Pluto, launched by a chemical rocket and getting a kick from Jupiter's gravity, is slated to take nine years. And since they don't need fuel or motors, solar sails leave more of a craft's mass available for scientific instruments or cargo.
Space visionaries have rubbed their hands over the space travel possibilities solar-sail craft might open. Among the options: cheap mail runs to Mars, or even unmanned visits to the sun's nearest stellar neighbors.
Robert Zubrin, president of the nonprofit Mars Society, goes a step farther and looks to the day when solar sails are hoisted around "arks" filled with colonists and the ecological support they would need to sustain themselves as they travel to distant solar systems. Dr. Zubrin, who has conducted light-sail studies for NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts in Atlanta, says that with the right kind of sail design, craft theoretically could achieve speed as high as 2 percent of the speed of light, which begins to make interstellar travel thinkable. The ark would get its push from powerful lasers instead of sunlight. Indeed, if the Cosmos 1 mission meets its major objectives, mission managers may try to give the craft a slight push with microwaves beamed from earth-based satellite dishes.
The 220-pound Cosmos 1 was built in Russia. The funding comes from Cosmos Studios, a multimedia company set up by Ann Druyan, wife of the late Carl Sagan, who cofounded the Planetary Society, as well as from other contributions. The craft's sail consists of eight triangular segments which combine to form a maneuverable mirror covering nearly 6,500 square feet. Each segment "is about as thick as the sandwich wrap in your kitchen drawer," says Dr. Friedman, the project's director. The plastic is coated with mylar to give it the reflective qualities it needs. The first three to four weeks of orbit represent a shake-down period to ensure all systems are functioning well. Then Friedman and his colleagues will see if they can use the sails to speed the craft enough to boost its orbit.
June 17
Image of the Day
Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes

WASHINGTON - A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights. The 5-4 ruling — assailed by dissenting Justice Sanday Day O'Connor as handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled in America — was a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They had argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.
As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue. Writing for the court, Justice John Paul Stevens said local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community. States are within their rights to pass additional laws restricting condemnations if residents are overly burdened, he said. "The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including — but by no means limited to — new jobs and increased tax revenue," Stevens wrote in an opinion joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. "It is not for the courts to oversee the choice of the boundary line nor to sit in review on the size of a particular project area," he said.
O'Connor, who has often been a key swing vote at the court, issued a stinging dissent, arguing that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers. "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," she wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms." Connecticut residents involved in the lawsuit expressed dismay and pledged to keep fighting.
       "It's a little shocking to believe you can lose your home in this country," said resident Bill Von Winkle, who said he would refuse to leave his home, even if bulldozers showed up. "I won't be going anywhere. Not my house. This is definitely not the last word." Scott Bullock, an attorney for the Institute for Justice representing the families, added: "A narrow majority of the court simply got the law wrong today and our Constitution and country will suffer as a result." At issue was the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for "public use."
       Susette Kelo and several other homeowners in a working-class neighborhood in New London, Conn., filed suit after city officials announced plans to raze their homes for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices. New London officials countered that the private development plans served a public purpose of boosting economic growth that outweighed the homeowners' property rights, even if the area wasn't blighted. "We're pleased," attorney Edward O'Connell, who represents New London Development Corporation, said in response to the ruling. The lower courts had been divided on the issue, with many allowing a taking only if it eliminates blight. O'Connor was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, as well as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
Nationwide, more than 10,000 properties were threatened or condemned in recent years, according to the Institute for Justice, a Washington public interest law firm representing the New London homeowners. New London, a town of less than 26,000, once was a center of the whaling industry and later became a manufacturing hub. More recently the city has suffered the kind of economic woes afflicting urban areas across the country, with losses of residents and jobs. The New London neighborhood that will be swept away includes Victorian-era houses and small businesses that in some instances have been owned by several generations of families. Among the New London residents in the case is a couple in their 80s who have lived in the same home for more than 50 years.
City officials envision a commercial development that would attract tourists to the Thames riverfront, complementing an adjoining Pfizer Corp. research center and a proposed Coast Guard museum. New London was backed in its appeal by the National League of Cities, which argued that a city's eminent domain power was critical to spurring urban renewal with development projects such Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Kansas City's Kansas Speedway. Under the ruling, residents still will be entitled to "just compensation" for their homes as provided under the Fifth Amendment. However, Kelo and the other homeowners had refused to move at any price, calling it an unjustified taking of their property.
The case was one of six resolved by justices on Thursday. Still pending at the high court are cases dealing with the constitutionality of government Ten Commandments displays and the liability of Internet file-sharing services for clients' illegal swapping of copyrighted songs and movies. The Supreme Court next meets on Monday. The case is Kelo et al v. City of New London, 04-108.

June 18
Image of the Day
South Korea bans baseball players from wearing cabbage leaves
SEOUL - South Korean baseball authorities have banned players from using frozen cabbage leaves under their caps to cool down in the summer heat. The Korean Baseball Association (KBO) said cabbage leaves could not be considered part of the normal baseball uniform. "The KBO rules and regulations committee on Tuesday reached a decision that cabbage leaves should be considered as odd materials," a KBO spokesman told AFP. The committee took up the matter after the cap of pitcher Park Myung-Hwan of the Doosan Bears fell to the ground during game against Hanhwa Eagles on Sunday, revealing a frozen cabbage leaf.
Park said he began using cabbage leaves last year after hearing from a local TV station that US basbeall legend Babe Ruth had used them to cool off. "Park might have risked being ordered out of the ground if the other team, Hanhwa Eagles, had made an issue of the cabbage leaf," a KBO official said. KBO governs South Korea's eight professional baseball teams.
My horoscope says I should take a nap this week, but will I take one is the question...

You'll find yourself wanting to go deeper with someone early in the week. In fact, you may feel you're at a romantic impasse until you do. Don't fret -- it's just a bump on the windy road to romance, and although you're still confused on Wednesday and Thursday, by Friday you'll come to a new, powerful understanding with them -- with important implications for your love life. Saturday, you'll be really starting to groove on this new romantic perspective, and if you take a nap Sunday afternoon, chances are your dreams will begin to reflect the new changes shaping up. Go with the flow and enjoy it.
June 20
Image of the Day
Could you imaging a time when items would be sent back to North America for assembly, when Chinese labor is no longer the lowest cost of entry for blue collar workers...
China's Haier bids $1.28 bln for Maytag
Haier Group, the top Chinese appliance maker, and private equity giants Bain Capital and Blackstone Group have bid $1.28 billion for Maytag Corp., the No. 4 U.S. appliance maker, topping an offer from U.S. private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings LLC. Haier's global ambitions would be boosted by adding Maytag, which also makes Hoover vacuums and Amana and Jenn-Air appliances. Maytag has fallen on tough times amid rising raw material costs and competition from lower-cost makers.
June 21
Image of the Day
June 22 
Image of the Day
Giant Popsicle Melts, Floods New York Park
An attempt to erect the world's largest Popsicle in a city square ended with a scene straight out of a disaster film — but much stickier. The 25-foot-tall, 17 1/2-ton treat of frozen Snapple juice melted faster than expected Tuesday, flooding Union Square in downtown Manhattan with kiwi-strawberry-flavored fluid that sent pedestrians scurrying for higher ground. Firefighters closed off several streets and used hoses to wash away the sugary goo.
Snapple had been trying to promote a new line of frozen treats by setting a record for the world's largest Popsicle, but called off the stunt before it was pulled fully upright by a construction crane. Authorities said they were worried the thing would collapse in the 80-degree, first-day-of-summer heat. "What was unsettling was that the fluid just kept coming," Stuart Claxton of the Guinness Book of World Records told the Daily News. "It was quite a lot of fluid. On a hot day like this, you have to move fast."
Snapple official Lauren Radcliffe said the company was unlikely to make a second attempt to break the record, set by a 21-foot pop in Holland in 1997. The giant pop was supposed to have been able to withstand the heat for some time, and organizers weren't sure why it didn't. It had been made in Edison, N.J., and hauled to New York by freezer truck in the morning.
June 23
Image of the Day
U.S. car customiser ZAP caused a stir on May 24 2005 by announcing it had ordered $1 billion worth of Smart minicars from DaimlerChrysler, but any deal seemed far from certain. California-based ZAP, which modifies the Smart car to meet U.S. safety and emissions standards, acknowledged it was still awaiting confirmation that the order would be filled. A German team fit 13 people into a Smart car as they attempt to break the Guinness World record at London's Trafalgar Square.
June 24
Image of the Day
Ad campaign poster from the Polish Tourist Office(PTO). In a tongue-in-cheek dig at the French fear of eastern European competition, the Polish tourist board is using the image of a handsome plumber to promote Poland as a holiday destination.
June 25
Image of the Day
Grandfather kills leopard with his hands
NAIROBI - A 73-year-old Kenyan grandfather reached into the mouth of an attacking leopard and tore out its tongue to kill it, authorities said. Peasant farmer Daniel M'Mburugu was tending to his potato and bean crops in a rural area near Mount Kenya when the leopard charged out of the long grass and leapt on him. M'Mburugu had a machete in one hand but dropped that to thrust his fist down the leopard's mouth. He gradually managed to pull out the animal's tongue, leaving it in its death-throes. "It let out a blood-curdling snarl that made the birds stop chirping," he told the daily Standard newspaper of how the leopard came at him and knocked him over.
The leopard sank its teeth into the farmer's wrist and mauled him with its claws. "A voice, which must have come from God, whispered to me to drop the panga (machete) and thrust my hand in its wide open mouth. I obeyed," M'Mburugu said. As the leopard was dying, a neighbor heard the screams and arrived to finish it off with a machete. M'Mburugu was toasted as a hero in his village Kihato after the incident earlier this month. He was also given free hospital treatment by astonished local authorities. "This guy is very lucky to be alive," Kenya Wildlife Service official Connie Maina told Reuters, confirming details of the incident.
June 26
Image of the Day
Married men earn more if wives do the chores?
Married men earn more than bachelors so long as their wives do the housework, according to a report Wednesday from Britain's Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER). Academics Elena Bardasi and Mark Taylor found that a married man whose wife is primarily responsible for the cooking and cleaning earns about 3 percent more than comparably employed single men.
But that wage premium disappears if wives go out to work themselves or don't do most of the housework. "It has been fairly well documented that married men earn more than single men," Taylor, a labor economist, told Reuters. "However, our research established the wage premium is related to the wife doing the chores," said the academic who teaches at the University of Essex in eastern England.
He said analysis suggests there could be two explanations for the results: A marriage might allow a husband and wife to focus their activities on tasks to which they are most suited. Traditionally, this would result in the man concentrating on paid work enabling him to increase productivity and in consequence his wages.
Taylor said another explanation could be that marriage may increase the amount of time a man has to hone work-related skills which could trigger higher wages. Taylor and Bardasi analyzed the hourly wages of 3,500 men who have been interviewed annually since 1991 as part of the British Household Panel Survey. "We looked at all types of jobs from unskilled up to managers and professionals," Taylor said.
June 27
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Hold the anchovies -- for a long time
BRUSSELS - Spain's key anchovy fishing ground in the Bay of Biscay will be closed for three months from July because of plummeting stocks, the EU executive Commission said. Anchovies are an essential ingredient in Spanish cooking and Spain has caught 200 tonnes since the beginning of the year, just 1 percent of the annual catch, according to the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) which advises the EU on fisheries policy. The European Commission said it would review new French and Spanish data on anchovy stocks in July.
June 28
Image of the Day
I had imagined Robocop to be a little more sturdy and indestructible that this wheeled robot appears to be...
Japanese alarm company Sohgo Security Services Co. displays the company's newly developed security robot 'Guardrobo D1' (R) in Tokyo. The robot, which is equipped with a fire extinguishing system, will be introduced into their security system within a year, company officials said.
June 29
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Australian spin bowler Shane Warne undergoes laser hair treatment at the Advanced Hair Studio (AHS) in London. After taking more scalps than any other Test cricketer, Warne turned his attention to his own thinning locks. The treatment involves weekly sessions under a metal contraption containing lasers that are designed to stimulate the scalp, running chemicals into his hair and taking special capsules. "It's great my hair is growing back and my hair loss has stopped," he said.
June 30
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It's interesting to see the start of a database that will end up being used for other purposes in the end once the data has been gathered and assembled...
Pentagon Creating Student Database
The Defense Department began working yesterday with a private marketing firm to create a database of high school students ages 16 to 18 and all college students to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches. The program is provoking a furor among privacy advocates. The new database will include personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying. The data will be managed by BeNow Inc. of Wakefield, Mass., one of many marketing firms that use computers to analyze large amounts of data to target potential customers based on their personal profiles and habits. "The purpose of the system . . . is to provide a single central facility within the Department of Defense to compile, process and distribute files of individuals who meet age and minimum school requirements for military service," according to the official notice of the program. Privacy advocates said the plan appeared to be an effort to circumvent laws that restrict the government's right to collect or hold citizen information by turning to private firms to do the work.
Some information on high school students already is given to military recruiters in a separate program under provisions of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act. Recruiters have been using the information to contact students at home, angering some parents and school districts around the country. School systems that fail to provide that information risk losing federal funds, although individual parents or students can withhold information that would be transferred to the military by their districts. John Moriarty, president of the PTA at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, said the issue has "generated a great deal of angst" among many parents participating in an e-mail discussion group.
Under the new system, additional data will be collected from commercial data brokers, state drivers' license records and other sources, including information already held by the military. "Using multiple sources allows the compilation of a more complete list of eligible candidates to join the military," according to written statements provided by Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke in response to questions. "This program is important because it helps bolster the effectiveness of all the services' recruiting and retention efforts." The Pentagon's statements added that anyone can "opt out" of the system by providing detailed personal information that will be kept in a separate "suppression file." That file will be matched with the full database regularly to ensure that those who do not wish to be contacted are not, according to the Pentagon. But privacy advocates said using database marketers for military recruitment is inappropriate."We support the U.S. armed forces, and understand that DoD faces serious challenges in recruiting for the military," a coalition of privacy groups wrote to the Pentagon after notice of the program was published in the Federal Register a month ago. "But . . . the collection of this information is not consistent with the Privacy Act, which was passed by Congress to reduce the government's collection of personal information on Americans." Chris Jay Hoofnagle, West Coast director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, called the system "an audacious plan to target-market kids, as young as 16, for military solicitation." He added that collecting Social Security numbers was not only unnecessary but posed a needless risk of identity fraud. Theft of Social Security numbers and other personal information from data brokers, government agencies, financial institutions and other companies is rampant. "What's ironic is that the private sector has ways of uniquely identifying individuals without using Social Security numbers for marketing," he said.
The Pentagon statements said the military is "acutely aware of the substantial security required to protect personal data," and that Social Security numbers will be used only to "provide a higher degree of accuracy in matching duplicate data records." The Pentagon said it routinely monitors its vendors to ensure compliance with its security standards.
Krenke said she did not know how much the contract with BeNow was worth, or whether it was bid competitively. Officials at BeNow did not return several messages seeking comment. The company's Web site does not have a published privacy policy, nor does it list either a chief privacy officer or security officer on its executive team. According to the Federal Register notice, the data will be open to "those who require the records in the performance of their official duties." It said the data would be protected by passwords. The system also gives the Pentagon the right, without notifying citizens, to share the data for numerous uses outside the military, including with law enforcement, state tax authorities and Congress. Some see the program as part of a growing encroachment of government into private lives, particularly since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "It's just typical of how voracious government is when it comes to personal information," said James W. Harper, a privacy expert with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. "Defense is an area where government has a legitimate responsibility . . . but there are a lot of data fields they don't need and shouldn't be keeping. Ethnicity strikes me as particularly inappropriate." Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the Social Security Administration relaxed its privacy policies and provided data on citizens to the FBI in connection with terrorism investigations.