Thoughts Gallery May 2005
May 1
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A Burmese cat named 'Doogal' is seen in this combo picture as it sits on a toilet in Sydney. Doogal's owner, Jo Lapidge, invented a toilet training system for cats called the 'Litter-Kwitter.' Lapidge said she was inspired by the cat 'Mr Jinks' in the Hollywood film 'Meet the Fockers,' and invented the toilet training system after teaching 'Doogal' how to use the loo.
May 2
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New Computers Make Grocery Carts Smarter
CHICAGO - New supermarket carts equipped with touch screens will guide you to the tomatoes or toothpicks, let you order deli meat without standing in line and keep a running tally of your purchases. What they won't do is tell you how many fat grams or calories are in your cart. The idea is to make it easier for consumers to buy, not induce second thoughts that maybe you should put something back on the shelf. The touch-screen devices are on display at the supermarket industry's annual convention, being held this week in Chicago by the Food Marketing Institute.
"It helps save you time, and it helps save you money. It's all about making it easy for you," IBM Corp. executive Ken Lawler said in an interview. IBM's "shopping buddy" has been test-marketed at Stop & Shop stores in Massachusetts and is being rolled out this summer. A competing device called Concierge, made by Springboard Retail Networks Inc., is being tested by Canadian stores in June and July. "The whole model is driven by advertisers' need to get in front of consumers," said Springboard spokesman Michael Alexandor. "They're not watching 30-second TV ads anymore." People can use a home computer to make their shopping list. Once at the store, they can use their preferred customer card, or a key that fits on a keychain, to log into a system that will organize their trip through the aisles. If you're looking for toothpicks, you type in the word or pick it from a list, and the screen will display a map showing where you are and where you can find them.
The Concierge and IBM's cart are equipped with the miniature equivalent of GPS, the global positioning satellite system. Sensors can track the devices to see right where your cart is, so that as you turn into an aisle, the screen can show what's there on your list and which items are on sale.
The systems also keep a running tally of what you buy. Many stores do so already by signing shoppers up for preferred customer cards, but what's new is that the store can offer special discounts based on your buying habits or tell you while you're in the store that one of your favorite products is on sale. You scan the bar codes on items you are buying as you drop them into your cart. When you're finished, the device figures out your bill. Then you swipe your card or key and hand it to the grocery checker or insert it into a self-checkout stand and pay. All that's left is bagging the groceries. The buddy won't advertise things that don't fit with a shoppers' buying habits, Lawler said: "We don't want it to become a yakky box, or customers will tune out in a heartbeat."
There are differences between the Concierge and the shopping buddy. The Concierge is mounted on the handle of a shopping cart. With the buddy, shoppers get their carts first and then pick up a buddy as they walk into the store. It fits into a holder on the cart. The Concierge has a barcode scanner on the bottom of the panel, while the buddy has a detachable wand to scan your items.
Shoppers already say they like using the self-checkout stand, said Michael Sansolo, senior vice president of FMI. It's fast as well as entertaining — a mom can have her kids help bag the items, he said. FMI research indicates self-checkouts will outnumber checkouts with grocery clerks in the next 10 years, he said. Like self-checkouts, a smart grocery cart is a way to help stores make shopping trips more convenient, which, along with discounts and other incentives, can cultivate loyalty, Sansolo said.
That's vital in an industry that has very narrow profit margins and intense competition among different types of stores, from traditional supermarkets to supercenters, discount stores, limited assortment stores and warehouse clubs, as well as natural or organic stores and convenience stores. The new computerized shopping assistants don't come cheap. To buy the buddy devices and install sensors and charges will cost the average store about $160,000, Lawler said. Alexandor said the Concierge will cost stores about $500 apiece.

May 3
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Perry Lonzello, 48, holds a piece of toast with a drawing of runaway Georgia bride Jennifer Wilbanks on it that he posted on EBay on a whim Thursday in Newton, N.J. When the auction ended Sunday, Lonzello said a California man had submitted the winning bid of $15,400.
May 4
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U.S. scientists create self-replicating robot
LONDON - Self-replicating robots are no longer the stuff of science fiction. Scientists at the Cornell University in Ithaca, New York have created small robots that can build copies of themselves. Each robot consists of several 10-cm (4 inch) cubes which have identical machinery, electromagnets to attach and detach to each other and a computer program for replication. The robots can bend and pick up and stack the cubes.
"Although the machines we have created are still simple compared with biological self-reproduction, they demonstrate that mechanical self-reproduction is possible and not unique to biology," Hod Lipson said in a report in the science journal Nature . He and his team believe the design principle could be used to make long term, self-repairing robots that could mend themselves and be used in hazardous situations and on space flights.
The experimental robots, which don't do anything else except make copies of themselves, are powered through contacts on the surface of the table and transfer data through their faces. They self-replicate by using additional modules placed in special "feeding locations." The machines duplicate themselves by bending over and putting their top cube on the table. Then they bend again, pick up another cube, put it on top of the first and repeat the entire process. As the new robot begins to take shape it helps to build itself. "The four-module robot was able to construct a replica in 2.5 minutes by lifting and assembling cubes from the feeding locations," said Lipson.
May 5
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'Frank and Jaime' : A gallery patron walks past full size NYPD (New York Police Department) wax figures 'Frank and Jamie' by Maurizio Cattelan during the preview of Christie's New York Post-War and Contemporary Art.
May 6
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Amazon Deforestation Up 6 Percent in 2004
BRASILIA, Brazil - Deforestation in the Amazon rain forest in 2004 was the second worst ever, figures released by the Brazilian government showed Wednesday. Satellite photos and data showed that ranchers, soybean farmers and loggers burned and cut down a near-record area of 10,088 square miles of rain forest in the 12 months ending in August 2004, the Brazilian Environmental Ministry said.
The destruction was nearly 6 percent higher than in the same period the year before, when 9,500 square miles were destroyed. The deforestation hit record numbers in 1995, when the Amazon shrank a record 11,200 square miles, an area roughly the size of Belgium or the American state of Massachusetts. The Amazon forest — which sprawls over 1.6 million square miles and covers more than half the country — is a key component of the global environment. The jungle is sometimes called the world's "lung" because its billions of trees produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Environmentalists were shocked with the new figures, which were announced nearly a year after the Brazilian government announced a $140 million package to curtail destruction. "It's a tragedy, a demonstration that more needs to be done by the government," said Paulo Adario, the head of Greenpeace's Amazon program. "Clearly, Amazon deforestation is not one of the government's priority right now." Government officials were expecting an increase in destruction of only about 2 percent. "We will intensify our actions to fight illegal deforestation in the most critical areas," Environment Minister Marina Silva said in a statement. She noted that deforestation in several Amazon states decreased compared to the previous period thanks to the government's efforts to implement "more lasting and effective" measures.
Brazil's rain forest is as big as western Europe and covers 60 percent of the country's territory. Experts say as much as 20 percent of its 1.6 million square miles has already been destroyed by development, logging and farming. Last year, the government announced that 9,170 square miles of rain forest had vanished in 2003, but it corrected the figure to 9,500 square miles.
May 7
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WEEEMAN (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Man), a new art installation designed by Paul Bonomini is erected before being officially unveiled on the south bank of the River Thames, by Tower Bridge, London.
May 8
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A visitor takes a close look at a composition named 'Timepiece,' in the form of the mechanical dragonfly by a Russian artist Nikolai Syadristy at Moscow's polytechnic museum. The head of the dragonfly is clockwork driven by two electric motors.
May 9
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A bee flies off a rose after collecting pollen from the flower, in Islamabad
May 10
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Preparing for BUGA : Workers mow grass along labyrinthine orange coloured paths in preparation of the BUGA, the German National Garden Show, in Munich.
May 11
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Spectators look at the reported world's largest building made of Lego pieces in Guenzburg, southern Germany. The model of Munich's new soccer stadium named Allianz-Arena was made of more than 1 million Lego pieces in about 4209 working hours.
May 12
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24-eyed jellyfish is squids-in
PARIS - The box jellyfish, a denizen of tropical waters, has one of the most sophisticated optical systems in the marine world, with 24 eyes to give itself all-round vision even though it lacks a brain to handle what they see, scientists have found. Swedish researcher Dan-E Nilsson and colleagues found that the jellyfish, known for its cube-shaped head, has a cluster of eyes at each corner, making 24 in all.
Sixteen of the eyes are mere "pigment pits" that collect light, but the other eight have tiny lenses that are just one-tenth of a millimetre (0.004 of an inch) wide and surprisingly complex. The position of the retinas and the lack of a brain -- the jellyfish has a diffuse network of nerves rather than a central nervous system -- means it is unlikely that the eight camera-type eyes can focus on fine details. But that disadvantage is probably compensated by the positioning of the eyes and the refracted light provided by the lenses. Put together, they enable the jellyfish to get a broad view all the way around its head, thus helping it to navigate in a crowded coastal environment, the scientists suggest. The box jellyfish has trailing tentacles two to three metres (6.5 to 10 feet) long that can pack a lethal sting for swimmers. It feeds on small fish and crustaceans.
May 13
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German pensioner play chess in Bad Kissingen. A German woman in her eighties said she had been ordered by her pension fund to produce a certificate to prove she was still alive.
May 14
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Goliath Casket Company owner Keith Davis(R) and one of his employees sand the lid of the largest coffin the company has ever made -7 feet 3 inches (2.2 meters)- special ordered for a 900 lb(408 Kg) man in Alaska.
May 15
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I think it's time for me to start creating some modern art to sell and live off of in my spare time...
In this photo provided by the Queens District Attorneys Office, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown stands next to an oil painting titled 'Untitled 1982' by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat that was recovered after a trucker surrendered, and was charged in the theft of the painting valued at more than $1.5 million. Basquiat, a darling of art critics who was praised for his strong use of color and the social commentary in his work, died in 1988 at age 27 of a heroin overdose.
May 16
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Chinese dancers perform during the opening ceremony for the Fortune Global Forum titled 'China and the new Asian Century' in Beijing. Chinese President Hu Jintao said on Monday China would work hard to open up to the rest of the world and help foreign businesses investing in what has become the world's fastest-growing major economy.
May 17
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The 'Bat' logo of the Bacardi Company, is seen 'crop circled' into more than an acre and a half of fresh mint growing at Dalponte Farms, the largest mint farm in the United States.
May 18
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An Indonesian owner grooms her dogs in a pet fashion competition in Jakarta. Around 50 dogs, wearing outfits ranging from pink dresses to tartan coats, competed in the contest that awards winners with trophies and cash.
May 19
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Lesser panda standing on two legs charms Japanese zoo
TOKYO - A lesser panda is proving a hit at a zoo near Tokyo as it can stand on two legs like a human being for about 10 seconds, an unusual feat for the species, zoo officials said. The two-year-old male panda named Futa stands up several times a day when "it sees something interesting", said Hiroyuki Asano, an official of Chiba Zoological Park, southeast of the capital. "We have kept lesser pandas for nearly 20 years at this zoo, but I have not seen one like Futa, which can stand for such a long time," Asano said. "Futa is like an idol to his fans. I hope Futa will draw more and more visitors."
The furry, seven-kilogramme (15 pound) animal, whose natural habitat are the mountains of China and the Himalayas, was born in another zoo in central Japan. Unlike the black-and-white giant panda, the lesser panda has brown fur with a stripe on its tail. Futa, fed fruits and bamboo every day, has a female mate, and the zoo hopes they will have a baby panda in the near future.
May 20
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A man reads the British tabloid newspaper The Sun in London . The paper carries a front page picture showing imprisoned former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in his underpants and has other pictures inside of various aspects of his life in prison.
May 21
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'Pig-Ball' Soccer Match Staged in Russia
MOSCOW - In this game, everyone stinks and hogging the ball is to be expected. Ten squealing, wriggling piglets pushed (and licked) a soccer ball around a small caged pen Sunday in what organizers said was Russia's first-ever "pig-ball" championships. The event, staged as part of an agricultural exhibition on Moscow's outskirts, is set up like soccer, with two teams of five piglets. Instead of goals, the teams try to move the ball into painted, half-circles located at the pen's corners. To move things along, the ball is slathered in mashed carrots.  Whether there's any athletic skill involved — aside from aggressive licking — is an open question. "Why pigs?" said Nariner Bagmanyan, one of the event's organizers. "It's more interesting and you know, this kind of thing doesn't happen anywhere." Cheered on by dozens spectators, the winning piglets got a trophy for their efforts — and a trough of mashed carrots. Organizers, along with the newly formed Federation of Sport Pig Breeding, said next year they planned to recruit pig-ball teams from around Russia.

May 22
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Miss IMF ('I am fat') Thanchanok Mekkeaw, 25, raises her arms and smiles as she weighs in at the Miss IMF ('I am fat') contest at an elephant ground at the zoo in Nakhon Pathom province, about 56 km (35 miles) south of Bangkok. The contest is held to select the contestant who best exhibits the characteristics of an elephant by virtue of her grace, elegance and size, and the winner will lead a jumbo banquet and help promote elephant conservation causes in Thailand
May 23
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Tran Thie Het Nhanny lies in a cardboard box next to her brother, who begged on the streets of Saigon, Vietnam, in 1973. When the photo was distributed in Feb. 1973, it inspired Americans to raise money to bring the baby to the U.S. to undergo surgery to correct a congenital heart defect. Associated Press photojournalist Chick Harrity, who shot the famous photo during his coverage of the Vietnam War, was reunited with Nhanny during a Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony by the White House News Photographers' Association and attended by President Bush at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington.
May 24
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Cities Hope Signs Shame Lax Homeowners

DAYTON, Ohio - Carol Viers' home is freshly painted, the lawn recently mowed and there is new decorative latticework affixed to the front porch. But just feet away, weedy vines choke a vacant, two-story house. The windows are boarded up and an overstuffed chair sits upside-down in the back yard. "It's an eyesore," Viers said — and city leaders agree.
Dayton has joined a small number of cities nationwide that try to pressure property owners into cleaning up their act by posting large signs on rundown, vacant houses identifying the owners and how to contact them. "We're basically calling it shaming," said Bill Nelson, director of Dayton's building services department. "Even if it has only marginal success, the impact will help some of our neighborhoods." The house next door to Viers' is one of two in the city with signs so far. When Viers thinks about the house, a look of disgust crosses her face. She calls it a magnet for homeless people and a firetrap. "It should have been torn down years ago," she said.
City officials hope neighbors and concerned citizens who see the signs will pressure owners to fix up the homes. The wooden signs, about 5 feet long and 3 feet high, are bolted onto the front of the houses. In Peoria, Ill., officials began putting up similar signs a few weeks ago, installing five of them.
Owners of two of the properties have since made significant improvements. One owner has begun repairing the porch, which was missing its roof and some of the floor. "We seem to be getting some results," said John Kunski, the city's inspections director. "I don't think it's a cure-all, but I think it's a tool we can use." Lynchburg, Va., used the idea for a couple of years in the mid-1990s. Rachel Flynn, Lynchburg's director of planning and development, said just the threat of putting up a sign prompted action in half the cases. "It did have a good effect," she said.
There are about 2,700 vacant structures in Dayton, which has a population of about 166,000. Officials say about 10 percent of the vacant homes and commercial properties have been neglected to the point that they are considered nuisances. Nelson said the city plans to put up 10 more signs at structures with peeling paint, holes in the roof and falling gutters. Finding the owners has proven difficult and when the owners are found, they are often unresponsive, Nelson said. He hopes the signs will change that. The sign on the house next to Viers' home identifies the owner, but there is no telephone number — only an address in South Carolina. Attempts to reach the owner by telephone were unsuccessful.
The other sign was put on a house that has blistering paint, broken shutters and a garage door that was falling down. The house is owned by US Bank, which assumed ownership after the house went into foreclosure. The bank has put the house up for sale and hired a real estate management company to keep the grass cut and do other upkeep. "It's in a maintaining process," bank spokesman Steve Dale said. One neighbor said he worries the sign will have a negative effect. James Coleman, 39, lives across the street in a house with neatly kept landscaping, his front yard blanketed with ivy. "The house itself is an eyesore, but it just makes it worse," Coleman said. "It makes it stand out."

May 25
Image of the Day
This image released by the British Museum shows a hoax cave painting of a primitive man pushing a supermarket trolley which was on display in the British Museum in London. The work was planted by an anonymous 'art terrorist' called Banksy and museum staff were alerted May 18, 2005, after he put a message on his website, saying that the 10in by 6in rock, 'had remained in the collection for quite some time'. This is not the first time Banksy has stuck fake objects to gallery walls and waited to see how long it takes before curators notice
May 26
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This computer screen shot shows a fake website from the British hacker group called the Lad Wrecking Crew. Angered by the growing number of Internet scams, online 'vigilantes' have started to take justice into their own hands by hacking into suspected fraudulent sites and defacing them.
May 27
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Alaska scientist warns of impact of permafrost thaw

ANCHORAGE - A warming climate has heated much of Alaska's permafrost to temperatures just below freezing and drastic changes are expected in the coming decades as that layer of frozen soil thaws, a prominent scientist said. Vladimir Romanovsky, an associate professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Geophysical Institute said the impact is already apparent. In Fairbanks a path has buckled into undulating waves, houses are slumping into thawed ground and stands of birch trees are toppling as dying forested areas melt into swamps.
Melting permafrost has even opened up a gaping hole in the earth near his office at the university. "It's a great place to study permafrost, right behind the building," Romanovsky said. He presented a summary of his research into changes in the permafrost at an energy symposium in Anchorage. Over the past 30 years, soil temperatures have risen 1 degree to 3 degrees Celsius, according to Romanovsky's study. Along the trans-Alaska pipeline, the permafrost temperatures rose by 0.6 degrees to 1.5 degrees Celsius in 20 years. Because permafrost holds methane, the thaw will also accelerate the climate-warming greenhouse effect created by gases in the atmosphere "This methane will be released into the atmosphere, adding directly to the greenhouse gases," Romanovsky said.

May 28
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Photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation shows Tillman County, Okla., resident Michael Crossland posing in November 2004 with a 31-point Whitetail deer he killed. The trophy deer is expected to be a new state record, but has been confiscated by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation because of a legal dispute over whether Crossland had permission to hunt on the land.
May 29
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In a photo from Tim Pruitt and provided by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Tim Pruitt, of Alton, Ill., holds a 124-pound blue catfish early Sunday morning, May 22, 2005, that he hooked late Saturday on the Mississippi River near Alton. The fish is 58 inches long and 44 inches around. It took Pruitt more than a half-hour to drag the fish into his boat. It is the largest of its kind in state history, and is expected to be certified a world record by the International Game Fish Association. The fish has been kept alive and will be on display in a tank at the Cabela's Outfitter store in Kansas City, Kan., according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
May 30
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A giant dominatrix teddy bear wearing a leather mask and brandishing hand-cuffs has been banned from sober Zurich's street display of man-sized model bears, the project's artistic director said. While tourists pose for snaps next to a brightly-painted and benign array of models such as the 'schoolteacher bear' and the 'skier bear,' 'Baervers' -- a pun on the German for perverse -- has been deemed too steamy for the financial capital's streets. The bear appears here in a yard in Zurich.
May 31
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Cambodian Royal oxen eat corn during the annual ploughing ceremony in Phnom Penh. The oxen choose between seven bowls of rice, corn, green beans, grass, sesame, water and wine to predict the upcoming farming year. The tradition is hundreds of years old and followed closely by the poor nation's estimated 13.6 million people, the majority of whom are farmers