Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Lawyers always travel in gaggles

"Oh, please excuse me!" said the bunny. "I didn't mean to trip over you, but I'm blind and couldn't see you there."
 "That's perfectly all right," replied the snake. "It was MY fault. I didn't mean to trip you, but I'm blind too, and I didn't see you coming. By the way, what kind of animal are you?
""Well, I really don't know," said the bunny. "Since I'm blind, I've never seen myself. Perhaps you could examine me and then we'll both know?"
So the snake felt the bunny all over and said, "Well, you're soft and cuddly; you have long silky ears, a fluffy little tail and a twitchy little nose ... you must be a BUNNY RABBIT!"
 [The little blind bunny was so pleased at this that he danced with joy.] The bunny said, "I can't thank you enough. What kind of animal are you, sir?
"The snake said he didn't know, for the same reason. The bunny agreed to examine him, and when he finished the snake asked, "So, what kind of animal am I?
"The bunny said, "You're hard, you're cold, you're slimy, and I couldn't feel any balls -- I think you're a lawyer."

There was a loser who couldn't get a date. He went to a bar and asked this one guy how to get a date.

The guy said, "It's simple. I just say, I'm a lawyer."

So the guy went up to a pretty woman and asked her out. After she said no, he told her that it was probably a good thing because he had a case early in the morning.

She said, "Oh!!!! You are a lawyer?"

He said, "Why yes I am!", so they went to his place and when they were in bed, screwing, he started to laugh to himself.

When she asked what was so funny, he answered, "Well, I've only been a lawyer for 15 minutes, and I'm already screwing someone!"

Job Applicant: "I'm looking for a job as a consultant."
 Employer: "I'm sorry, we already have enough cosultants."
 Applicant: "That's ok, with my experience, I can be an advisor."
Employer: "More than we can use already."
Applicant: As he is getting desperate, "I'm not proud, I can do paperwork, I'll be a clerk, If you have too many, I'll start as a janitor."
 Employer: "It just doesn't seem that we have any openings for a person with your qualifications."
Applicant: As he stands up and angrily yells, " to work for you I'd have to be a low life, belly crawling, double dealing bastard!"
 Employer: "Well, why didn't  you say you were an attorney? Have a seat, we may have an opening."

Aussie Student Solves Riddle for Scientists..Finds Universe's Missing Mass

This NASA illustration photo shows stars that are forming in a dwarf starburst galaxy
SYDNEY: A 22-year-old Australian university student has solved a problem which has puzzled astrophysicists for decades, discovering part of the so-called 'missing mass' of the universe during her summer break. Undergraduate student Amelia Fraser-McKelvie made the breakthrough during a holiday internship with a team at Monash University in Melbourne, locating the mystery material within vast structures in the intergalactic medium called filaments.

The paper has been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Monash astrophysicist Kevin Pimbblet explained that scientists had previously detected matter that was present in the early history of the universe but that could not now be located. "There is missing mass, ordinary mass not dark mass ... It was missing to the present day," said Pimbblet. "We didn;t know where it went. Now we do know where it went because that's what Amelia found."

"It was thought from a theoretical viewpoint that there should be about double the amount of matter in the local universe compared to what was observed. Pimbblet said astrophysicists had known about the 'missing' mass for the past two decades, but the technology needed to pinpoint its location had only become available in recent years.

Fraser-McKelvie, an aerospace engineering and science student, was able to confirm after a targeted X-ray search for the mystery mass that it had moved to the filaments of galaxies, which stretch across enormous expanses of space.

Pimbblet's earlier work had suggested the filaments as a possible location for the "missing" matter, thought to be low in density but high in temperature.  "It was predicted that the majority of this missing mass should be located in large-scale cosmic structures called filaments - a bit like thick shoelaces," said Pimbblet.

He said the discovery could drive the construction of new telescopes designed to specifically study the mass.
"I cannot underscore enough what a terrific achievement this is. We will use this research as a science driver for future telescopes that are being planned, such as the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder, which is being built in outback Western Australia."

Pimbblet admitted the discovery was primarily academic, but he said previous physics research had led to the development of diverse other technologies."The pure research has knock-on effects to the whole society which are sometimes difficult to anticipate. "Whenever I speak to people who have influence, politicians and so on, they sometimes ask me 'Why should I invest in physics pure research?'. And I sometimes say to them: 'Do you use a mobile phone? Some of that technology came about by black hole research'."

This discovery is important because it is another piece of the puzzle which is our universe. It's part of the story of how the universe was formed and how we came to be. I, for one, would like to know.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

President Obama : This Is A National Tragedy

President Barack Obama speaks to the survivors of the Joplin, Mo. tornado. They are showing the world how to come together in the aftermath of disaster . President Obama spoke at a  memorial service ..."this is a national tragedy  and we will be with Joplin all the way."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gibbleguts Chuckles

Nana Hits the Hiway
Stay Home

Friday, May 27, 2011

Whatever Happened to Huguette Clark....Dead at 104

Huguette Clark 1932

Huguette with her father and sister

Huguette and her father William A Clark

What happened to Huguette Clark? Huguette M Clark was 15 in 1922; that makes her 104 this year. Clark’s father was William A Clark. Clark was a senator. He got rich through copper and he was known as the 'copper king' while he was alive. Clark was then the second richest man in America. His wealth was second  only to that of Rockefeller.

William Clark’s first wife, Kate, died in 1893. They had 4 grown children. In 1901, Clark , 62, married Anna Eugenia La Chapelle, 23. Their daughters were Andree Clark, born in 1902 and Huguette Clark, born in 1906. Andree Clark died in 1919, one week before her 17th birthday. Andree’s cause of death was meningitis. Huguette Clark, 22, married William Gower, 23, on Aug 18, 1928. Two years later, she divorced Gower. The grounds for divorce was allegedly due to desertion.

In 1928, Huguette Clark, then about 21-22 years old, was the owner of the Clark Estate, in Santa Barbara, which contained a salt water pond. Ms Clark donated $50,000 to excavate the pond and create an artificial freshwater lake. Huguette Clark named the place the Andree Clark Bird Refuge, in memory of her deceased sister. The Clark family donated more money to complete the project.

Huguette Clark has many mansions across America. Her houses were left empty for decades. Ms Clark was not seen for many years. No one really knows where Huguette Clark lived.  Ms Clark does not have any known heirs. it is not known to whom or what she will leave her fortune.

Huguette has a mansion called the Bellosguardo, in Santa Barbara, Ca. The property is worth approximately 100 million. Care takers worked at the Clark property for many years but have not met any of the Clark family. Ms Clark also has a large property in Connecticut but never lived there. Clark was only seen a few times in 30 years in her large New York apartment.

Wallace Brock, her attorney, received instructions via phone.  Brock said her mind was clear up until her death. Brock refused to pass messages for an interview.
It was hinted that Ms Clark may be living in a nursing home or hospital. Her eyesight and hearing were failing as she approached 104. In July 2010, The Today Show traced the location of Huguette Clark. They maintained the privacy of Ms Clark and refused to reveal her location.

Ms Clark actually lived in a hospital room somewhere in New York. Clark entered the hospital because she wanted to be cared for. All that money and no one to care for her. One of her grand-nephews has been in contact with her. He said she had a clear mind and was aware of her surroundings. Ms Clark lost interest in her friends and the outside world and  became extremely reclusive by choice. After her mother died in 1963, Ms Clark slowly began withdrawing from her small circle of friends and family and  chose to live her life quietly, away from people and society.

Clarke’s home in Santa Barbara, named Bellosguardo, is worth $100 million. Clark has not lived in Bellosguardo since her mother died in 1963. No one has lived there, although, it has been kept in good repair. Her mansion in New Canaan, bought in 1952, is for sale for $24 million. Clark never used the mansion at all. It's hard to say who made the decision to sell, Clark or her legal reps.

Clark allegedly lived in the 42 rooms in her New York Fifth Avenue apartments for the past 3 or 4 decades. Clark owns all of the 8th floor apartments and half of the 12th floor apartments. Clark’s belongings are housed in the apartments.
Her household help have seen her, from a distance, but only for a handful of times during the last 30 years.
Huguette Clark has grew more solitary and eccentric since her voluntary withdrawal into her own personal world. She refused to see her distant relatives. Ms Clark told them to stand at the sidewalk, while she stood above them, in the comfort of her apartment, and she would wave at them.
Ms Clark was generous to the doormen at her apartment building. She gave each doorman a check for $500 at Christmas time. Her household staff had very little to say about Ms Clark. They had rarely seen her in the huge apartment of 42 rooms. Sometimes, they saw a thin, shadowy figure walking around. The last her building’s staff saw of  her was in the 1980s, when they said an ambulance came to fetch Ms Clark.

A historian who spoke to Ms Clark 6 years ago, over the phone, said she displayed a clarity of mind. Ms Clark was hard of hearing, but she spoke distinctly and could relate anecdotes from her younger days. It was known that she read the New York Times every day and was aware of the present issues in society.
People who asked to see Ms Clark were turned away by her lawyer, Mr Bock. Relatives sent cards and sometimes flowers or gifts but they received no indication that Clark ever recieved those gifts.

Huguette’s father, William Andrews Clark Sr, lived from Jan 8 1839 to March 2 1925. William Clark was a businessman who made his fortune in mining, banking and railroads. Clark was so successful he turned his attention to becoming a politician. At his first attempt, Clark caused a scandal by buying votes to seat himself in the Senate. At his second attempt, Clark was successful and he became a Senator of Montana. Clark served from 1901 to 1907 and he was happy enough to step down after that term.
When William Clark’s mother died, he built a home to honor her memory. The Mary Andrews Clark Memorial Home was built and operated by the YWCA for young working women. The Home was built with a grand architecture and became very popular when it opened in 1914. In 1987, the Whittier Narrows earthquake made the grounds and building unsafe to reside in. Restoration work was done and by 1995, the Home was re-opened. The Home became a mow cost housing project for needy people earning less than $17 650 per annum.
The Mary Andrews Clark Memorial Home has been named as a Historic Cultural Monument by the LA Cultural Heritage Commission in 1976. The Home has been used as a location to film period films because of its architecture.

Mark Twain, an author, wrote an essay on William Clark. Twain criticized Clark heavily for his crooked practices. Clark passed away at the age of 86, in his home, in New York. After his death, Clark’s massive art collection was donated to a museum. William Clark had two wives. His first wife gave him several children. One son, William Andrews Clark Jr, donated a library of rare books to the University of California, the LA branch. Clark’s second wife was named Anna and she gave him two daughters, Huguette and her sister. There was a controversy at that time regarding William’s marriage to Anna as no marriage certificate was found regarding that union. Ian Devine and Carla Hall Friedman of New York and Karine Albert McCall of Washington DC claimed to be descendants of William Clark’s first marriage.

Tuesday May 24 2011 – Ms Huguette Clark died in hospital. She was104 years old.  Ms Clark last stayed at Beth Israel Medical Center. When she died, Clark left behind $500 million.
Huguette Clark was buried at her family mausoleum, in the Bronx, in New York. Her lawyer, Wallace Bock, banned relatives from attending her funeral. Bock said Ms Clark instructed him to hold a private funeral for her. Ms Clark was buried on May 26 2011.

The Manhattan District attorney’s assistant visited Ms Clark in hospital during 2010 – 2011, to talk to her, after her relatives alleged Ms Clark’s accountant and lawyer were not acting in her best interests. The Supreme Court has issued subpoenas for documents and it could be months before the investigation yields any results. Ms Clark’s will has not been filed by her lawyer.

A colorful, crooked old man and a mysterious reclusive centenarian with a fabulous fortune and a missing will. Just your typical American family.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Facebook Page Calls for Beating Saudi Women

RIYADH  – A campaign has been launched on Facebook calling for men to beat Saudi women who drive their cars in a planned protest next month against the ultra-conservative kingdom's ban on women taking the wheel.
The call comes as activists are demanding the release of Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi woman who was jailed for defying the ban. The page, titled "The Iqal Campaign: June 17 for preventing women from driving," refers to the Arabic name for the cord used to hold on the traditional headdress worn by many men in the Gulf, advocating the cord be used to hit women who dare to drive.

It has drawn over 6,000 "likes" on the popular social networking website. Some on the page proposed distributing boxes of Iqals to youths and encouraging them use them to hit women who participate in the June 17 protest. One joked about the price of Iqals going up due to men buying them before the protest. The issue has sparked debate in the Saudi press.

The renowned novelist Abdo Khal, writing in Okaz, deplored the ban on women driving, and said he did not know "whether to laugh or cry" over the proposed Iqal campaign. Ahmed Sayed Atif, writing in Al-Watan, called for women be allowed to drive, and that they not arrested for not possessing a driver's licence, as can happen now.

Meanwhile, a Facebook page titled "We are all Manal al-Sharif: a call for solidarity with Saudi women's rights," has been growing in popularity, with its number of "likes" rising by about 5,000 to more than 19,000 in a day. "It is not a revolution, it is not a plot, it is not a gathering and it is not a protest -- we are only requesting to drive our cars," one post on the page said.

And a petition launched by Gulf intellectuals calling for the release of Sharif has garnered over 300 signatures.
According to Al-Watan, a 37-year-old Saudi woman who had repeated Sharif's experiment in driving in the town of Al-Ras, northeast of Riyadh, was arrested at a supermarket by a police patrol accompanied by members of the religious police. She was driving with her mother and aunt at the time, according to the newspaper, which said she was released a few hours later.

The Arab world and their treatment of women never ceases to amaze me. Women are treated as less than human. A camel gets more respect. They can't vote or be elected to a public office. They must be completely covered at all times when out of their homes, including their faces. They each must have a male guardian, be it a brother, cousin, husband. They are allowed to go nowhere without their guardian. The guardian controls the woman and everything she does. In point of fact he owns her. If she disobeys him, he can beat her or throw acid on her to disfigure or blind her or he might decide to set her on fire.The law rarely punishes men for these crimes.
  If she dishonors him, he can kill her. It is against the law to murder women but the law isn't all that strict and doesn't follow through with convictions. The guardian can also have his ward stoned.  I have barely scratched the surface.
To top it off Saudi women are not allowed to drive. It strikes me as odd that this is the restriction they are objecting to. Go figure.

 No I wasn't kidding about the acid attacks

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Link Between Climate Change and Joplin Tornadoes? Never!


  By Bill McKibben

Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn’t mean a thing.

It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected.

If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest — resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi — could somehow be related. And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold air.

It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods — that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these record-breaking events are happening in such proximity — that is, why there have been unprecedented megafloods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in the past year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. No, better to focus on the immediate casualties, watch the videotape from the store cameras as the shelves are blown over. Look at the news anchorman standing in his waders in the rising river as the water approaches his chest.

Because if you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its second hundred-year drought in the past five years, or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the past decade — well, you might have to ask other questions. Such as: Should President Obama really just have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal mining? Should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sign a permit this summer allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta? You might also have to ask yourself: Do we have a bigger problem than $4-a-gallon gasoline?

Better to join with the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 240 to 184 this spring to defeat a resolution saying simply that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” Propose your own physics; ignore physics altogether. Just don’t start asking yourself whether there might be some relation among last year’s failed grain harvest from the Russian heat wave, and Queensland’s failed grain harvest from its record flood, and France’s and Germany’s current drought-related crop failures, and the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, and the inability of Midwestern farmers to get corn planted in their sodden fields. Surely the record food prices are just freak outliers, not signs of anything systemic.

It’s very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there’s no need to worry because “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” I’m pretty sure that’s what residents are telling themselves in Joplin today.

Bill McKibben is founder of the global climate campaign 350.org and a distinguished scholar at Middlebury College in Vermont.

Canada Ranks 2nd in International Happiness Study

Called "Your better life index", the new measure is part of a wider program to measure well-being and progress of its member countries. The index covers 11 areas: housing, incomes, employment, social relationships, education, the environment, the administration of institutions, health, general satisfaction, security and the balance between work and family.
Australia ranked first in the overall happiness scale; Canada came second. The United States finished seventh, and Turkey finished last. The study, the first of its kind commissioned by the OECD, begs the question - can happiness really be measured, and if so why would we want to measure it? In a presentation to the OECD, in 2010, Ruut Veenhoven, a happiness expert from the University of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, wrote happiness can and should be measured regularly by governments and international organizations. "Measurement is necessary to assess whether happiness can be realistically raised, to select means to further happiness, and finally to assess the effectiveness of such policies.," he wrote.
Veenhoven notes that promoting happiness and well-being is a legitimate and important goal of government.
"So far the data show that happiness is a realistic goal for public policy," he wrote. "Greater happiness is also possible in most countries of the world (through policy initiatives). What is possible in (high ranking) countries like Denmark and Switzerland should also be possible elsewhere." He adds happier countries are generally economically prosperous nations, allow for political autonomy, and practice gender equality.
 Okay, so we are not quite number one. I'd still rather live here than Turkey. WTF are they doing to people in Turkey??
Even our Animals are happy

Egyptian Pyramids Found by Infra-Red Satellite Images

Two new finds are at Saqqara, an older but less known pyramid site than Giza Continue  More than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements were also revealed by looking at infra-red images which show up underground buildings. Initial excavations have already confirmed some of the findings including  two suspected pyramids.

"To excavate a pyramid is the dream of every archaeologist," says Dr Sarah Parcak. She has pioneered the work in space archaeology from a Nasa-sponsored laboratory in Birmingham, Alabama and says she was amazed at how much she and her team have found.  An infra-red satellite image shows a buried pyramid, located in the centre of the highlight box. "We were very intensely doing this research for over a year. I could see the data as it was emerging, but for me the "A-Ha" moment was when I could step back and look at everything that we'd found and I couldn't believe we could locate so many sites all over Egypt."

The team analysed images from satellites orbiting 700km above the earth, equipped with cameras so powerful they can pin-point objects less than 1m in diameter on the earth's surface. Infra-red imaging was used to highlight different materials under the surface.  Ancient Egyptians built their houses and structures out of mud brick, which is much denser than the soil that surrounds it, so the shapes of houses, temples and tombs can be seen. "It just shows us how easy it is to underestimate both the size and scale of past human settlements," says Dr Parcak.  And she believes there are more antiquities to be discovered.  "These are just the sites close to the surface. There are many thousands of additional sites that the Nile has covered over with silt. This is just the beginning of this kind of work."

Infra-red images clearly show patterns of streets and houses

Dr Parcak travelled to Egypt to see if excavations could back up what her technology could see under the surface.  An infra-red image shows a pattern of streets and houses in the buried ancient city of Tanis  They visited an area of Saqqara (Sakkara) where the authorities were not initially interested in her findings.
But after being told by Dr Parcak that she had seen two potential pyramids, they made test excavations and they now believe it is one of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt.  But Dr Parcak said "the most exciting moment was visiting the excavations at Tanis."

The centre of the square shows the outline of a pyramid

"They'd excavated a 3,000 year old house that the satellite imagery had shown and the outline of the structure matched the satellite imagery almost perfectly. That was real validation of the technology."
Among other things, the Egyptian authorities plan to use the technology to help protect the country's antiquities in the future. During the recent revolution, looters accessed some well-known archaeological sites.
"We can tell from the imagery a tomb was looted from a particular period of time and we can alert Interpol to watch out for antiquities from that time, that may be offered for sale."

 She also hopes the new technology will help engage young people in science and will be a major help for archaeologists around the world.  "It allows us to be more focused and selective in the work we do. Faced with a massive site, you don't know where to start.  "It's an important tool to focus where we're excavating. It gives us a much bigger perspective on archaeological sites. We have to think bigger and that's what the satellites allow us to do."
"Indiana Jones is old school, we've moved on from Indy, sorry Harrison Ford."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Whale Stranding in Scotland

Marine animal experts are trying to prevent a mass stranding by up to 100 pilot whales in South Uist in the Western Isles. Wildlife tour operator Steve Duffield has captured a series of images of the mammals

The whales were spotted in Loch Carnan on Thursday afternoon and some were said to have had cuts to their heads. It is thought the injuries may have been caused by attempts to strand themselves on the rocky foreshore of the sea loch. The Scottish SSPCA has said the whales' strong social bond meant healthy animals would follow sick and dying animals into shallow water.The Scottish SPCA and British Divers Marine Life Rescue have been monitoring the pod and have sent staff to the scene. Whale stranding was long a mystery to scientists. Now we know that the whales, very  intelligent mammals, are so socially and emotionally bonded, they will sacrifice themselves rather than abandon sick or dying pod members.

India's Unwanted Girls...Millions Aborted

India's 2011 census shows a serious decline in the number of girls under the age of seven - activists fear eight million female foetuses may have been aborted in the past decade.
Kulwant has three daughters aged 24, 23 and 20 and a son who is 16.  In the years between the birth of her third daughter and her son, Kulwant became pregnant three times.  My mother-in-law said if I had a daughter, my husband would leave me. Thankfully, I had a son.” Each time, she says, she was forced to abort the foetus by her family after ultrasound tests confirmed that they were girls. "My mother-in-law taunted me for giving birth to girls. She said her son would divorce me if I didn't bear a son."
Kulwant still has vivid memories of the first abortion. "The baby was nearly five months old. She was beautiful. I miss her, and the others we killed," she says, breaking down, wiping away her tears.  Until her son was born, Kulwant's daily life consisted of beatings and abuse from her husband, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. Once, she says, they even attempted to set her on fire.  "They were angry. They didn't want girls in the family. They wanted boys so they could get fat dowries," she says.

India outlawed dowries in 1961, but the practice remains rampant and the value of dowries is constantly growing, affecting rich and poor alike.  Kulwant's husband died three years after the birth of their son. "It was the curse of the daughters we killed. That's why he died so young," she says.

Her neighbour Rekha is mother of a chubby three-year-old girl. Last September, when she became pregnant again, her mother-in-law forced her to undergo an abortion after an ultrasound showed that she was pregnant with twin girls.
"I said there's no difference between girls and boys. But here they think differently. There's no happiness when a girl is born. They say the son will carry forward our lineage, but the daughter will get married and go off to another family."
Kulwant and Rekha live in Sagarpur, a lower middle-class area in south-west Delhi.  Here, narrow minds live in homes separated by narrow lanes.

The women's story is common and repeated in millions of homes across India, and it has been getting worse.
In 1961, for every 1,000 boys under the age of seven, there were 976 girls. Today, the figure has dropped to a dismal 914 girls.  Although the number of women overall is improving (due to factors such as life expectancy), India's ratio of young girls to boys is one of the worst in the world after China.
Many factors come into play to explain this: infanticide, abuse and neglect of girl children.  But campaigners say the decline is largely due to the increased availability of antenatal sex screening, and they talk of a genocide.  The government has been forced to admit that its strategy has failed to put an end to female foeticide.
"Whatever measures have been put in over the past 40 years have not had any impact on the child sex ratio," Home Secretary GK Pillai said when the census report was released. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described female foeticide and infanticide as a "national shame" and called for a "crusade" to save girl babies.
But Sabu George, India's best-known campaigner on the issue, says the government has so far shown little determination to stop the practices.
Campaigners say India's strategy to protect female babies is not working

Until 30 years ago, he says, India's sex ratio was "reasonable". Then in 1974, Delhi's prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences came out with a study which said sex-determination tests were a boon for Indian women. It said they no longer needed to produce endless children to have the right number of sons, and it encouraged the determination and elimination of female foetuses as an effective tool of population control. "By late 80s, every newspaper in Delhi was advertising for ultrasound sex determination," said Mr George.  "Clinics from Punjab were boasting that they had 10 years' experience in eliminating girl children and inviting parents to come to them."

In 1994, the Pre-Natal Determination Test (PNDT) Act outlawed sex-selective abortion. In 2004, it was amended to include gender selection even at the pre-conception stage. Abortion is generally legal up to 12 weeks' gestation. Sex can be determined by a scan from about 14 weeks. Today, there are 40,000 registered ultrasound clinics in the country, and many more exist without any record.
The Indian women say anyone who wants to get a foetal ultrasound done, gets it done. In the five-star clinics of south Delhi it costs 10,000-plus rupees ($222; £135), In the remote peripheral areas of Delhi's border, it costs a few hundred rupees. Similarly, the costs vary for those wanting an illegal abortion.

Delhi is not alone in its anti-girl bias. Sex ratios have declined in 17 states in the past decade, with the biggest falls registered in Jammu and Kashmir.   Most offenders are members of the growing middle-class and affluent Indians - they are aware that the technology exists and have the means to pay to find out the sex of their baby and abort if they choose.

Mr george believes they should start prosecuting doctors who perform these tests and abortions."Otherwise, by 2021, we are frightened to think what it will be like."
But all is not lost. Some states, such as Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh - which saw the gap between numbers of boys and girls widen in 2001 - have shown an improvement. That is cause for some cheer, campaigners say.
Well, I say it is genocide, mass murder, butchery, carnage, assassination of babies; take your pick. This is shameful in a supposedly enlightened society. There are still people who are vicious, ignorant and evil; as usual, they are men.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Obama Would do it Again

President Obama has indicated he would order a similar operation to that which killed Osama Bin Laden if another militant leader was found in Pakistan. He said the US was mindful of Pakistani sovereignty but said the US could not allow "active plans to come to fruition without us taking some action".

The killing of Bin Laden by US forces in a Pakistani garrison town on 2 May strained ties between the two allies.President Obama was speaking to the BBC ahead of a European visit. Asked what he would do if one of al-Qaeda's top leaders, or the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, was tracked down to a location in Pakistan or another sovereign territory, he said the US would take unilateral action if required. "Our job is to secure the United States," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr during a wide-ranging interview. "We are very respectful of the sovereignty of Pakistan. But we cannot allow someone who is actively planning to kill our people or our allies' people. We can't allow those kind of active plans to come to fruition without us taking some action."

Bin Laden, the Saudi-born leader of al-Qaeda, was killed in a raid by US Navy Seal commandos. They stormed the compound where he was living in Abbottabad, a town that is home to Pakistan's main military academy. The discovery that Bin Laden had been living there embarrassed the Pakistani military, and led to renewed suspicions that he had enjoyed protection from some members of the Pakistani security forces.
The Islamabad government strongly denied such suggestions and said the US raid had undermined the country's sovereignty.

A resolution approved by Pakistani MPs earlier this month said the country would "no longer tolerate such actions and a repeat of unilateral measures could have dire consequences for peace and security in the region and the world".  Pakistan has been a major ally in the war against militants in neighbouring Afghanistan.
But US-Pakistani relations have also been strained by drone strikes targeting militants in the border area in recent years.

On Afghanistan, Mr Obama said that while the conflict could not be solved militarily, raising troop levels had put the Taliban "back on its heels" in a way that could facilitate the brokering of a political reconciliation.
"Ultimately it means talking to the Taliban," he said, adding that the "Taliban would have to cut all ties to al-Qaeda, renounce violence and they would have to respect the Afghan constitution".

President Obama is due to leave for Europe later on Sunday. He will first visit the Irish Republic, then the UK, France, and Poland. He is expected to discuss a range of issues, including the upheavals in the Middle east and North Africa, the war in Afghanistan, and the downturn that has forced European governments to adopt austerity measures.

Deadly Nato Tanker Explosion in Pakistan

 A Nato oil tanker has exploded in northwest Pakistan, killing at least 15 people, say officials. Police said the tanker, transporting fuel to Nato forces in Afghanistan, was hit by a bomb overnight near the town of Landi Kotal in the Khyber region.

People gathered to collect spilt fuel when another fire broke out, said one senior police official. At least 14 other Nato tankers were damaged in a separate attack nearby, at the Torkham border crossing. The region is a crucial transport route for supplies destined for Nato forces in Afghanistan but the convoys frequently come under attack from militants and criminals.

Local official Shafeerullah Wazir said the tanker was hit by a small bomb in the early hours of the morning.
"The oil tanker caught fire after a blast caused by a small bomb before dawn," the AFP news agency quoted him as saying. "Villagers from nearby houses rushed and started collecting oil coming out of the destroyed tanker after the fire had been extinguished. "Suddenly the fire erupted again and at least 15 people including five young boys who had been collecting oil in their buckets were burnt to death."

There were no injuries at the separate attack at Torkham. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but there has been an increase in Taliban activity since al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was killed in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad on 2 May. In the deadliest incident, more than 80 people were killed by a twin suicide bombing targeting police recruits in the north-west.

On Friday, one person was killed and 10 injured when a Taliban suicide bomber attacked a US consulate convoy in Peshawar - the first attack on US interests since US commandos killed Bin Laden.

The Pakistani Taliban said the bombing was to avenge his death.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Amondawa Tribe Lacks Abstract Idea of Time

The Amondawa tribe was first "discovered" by anthropologists in 1986 in the Amazon Valley. The Amondawa lack the linguistic structures that relate time and space - as in our idea of, for example, "working through the night".
The study, in Language and Cognition, shows that while the Amondawa recognize events occuring in time, it does not exist as a separate concept. The idea is a  controversial one, and further study will bear out if it is also true among other Amazon languages.

The Amondawa were first contacted by the outside world in 1986, and now researchers from the University of Portsmouth and the Federal University of Rondonia in Brazil have begun to analyze the idea of time as it appears in Amondawa language. "We're really not saying these are a 'people without time' or 'outside time'," said Chris Sinha, a professor of psychology of language at the University of Portsmouth. "Amondawa people, like any other people, can talk about events and sequences of events."
"What we don't find is a notion of time as being independent of the events which are occcuring; they don't have a notion of time which is something the events occur in."

The Amondawa language has no word for "time", or indeed of time periods such as "month" or "year".  The people do not refer to their ages, but rather assume different names in different stages of their lives or as they achieve different status within the community. But perhaps most surprising is the team's suggestion that there is no "mapping" between concepts of time passage and movement through space.

Ideas such as an event having "passed" or being "well ahead" of another are familiar from many languages, forming the basis of what is known as the "mapping hypothesis". The Amondawa have no words for time periods such as "month" or "year." But in Amondawa, no such constructs exist.
"None of this implies that such mappings are beyond the cognitive capacities of the people," Professor Sinha explained. "It's just that it doesn't happen in everyday life."
When the Amondawa learn Portuguese - which is happening more all the time - they have no problem acquiring and using these mappings from the language.

The team hypothesises that the lack of the time concept arises from the lack of "time technology" - a calendar system or clocks - and that this in turn may be related to the fact that, like many tribes, their number system is limited in detail.

Small societies like the Amondawa tend to use absolute terms for normal, spatial relations - for example, referring to a particular river location that everyone in the culture will know intimately rather than using generic words for river or riverbank.

The team would like to go back and simply verify it again before the language disappears - before the majority of the population have been brought up knowing about calendar systems."

Mysterious Schwarzenegger Mistress Revealed

....LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A scandal over Arnold Schwarzenegger's love child switched on Wednesday to the mystery woman at the center of one of Hollywood's best-kept secrets. As America's top comedians lampooned the former California governor and "Terminator" star, U.S. media hunted down the member of his household staff with whom he admitted fathering a child, while he was married to Maria Shriver.
The woman was identified in numerous media reports as Mildred Baena, a 50 year-old separated former housekeeper at the Schwarzenegger household, who has a registered address in the central California city of Bakersfield. Some reports said that Schwarzenegger bought the house for her last year. Television crews and reporters swarmed to the property on Wednesday but found no-one at home.

Schwarzenegger's spokesman declined comment, citing a request on Tuesday for privacy for all those involved. Celebrity website TMZ.com published a birth certificate which appeared to confirm that the child, a boy, was born in October 1997, making him now 13 years old. If correct, it would mean that Schwarzenegger's out of wedlock son was born a week after Shriver delivered the couple's fourth child, Christopher, in September 1997.

Shriver, a member of the Kennedy political family and a former TV journalist, made her first public appearance since the scandal broke, appearing at the side of Oprah Winfrey at a farewell show for the TV talk show host in Chicago on Tuesday night."You've given me love, support, wisdom, and most of all, the truth," Shriver told her old friend Winfrey.

Celebrity website Radaronline.com in a joint investigation with the tabloid Star magazine claimed that the housekeeper was fired by Schwarzenegger after 20 years service in a bid to save his marriage to Shriver. The woman had earlier told the Los Angeles Times that she decided to retire in January 20. The power couple announced last week they had separated earlier this year. Meanwhile comedians are having a field day with the man now dubbed the "Sperminator".

Long-time Schwarzenegger pal Jay Leno joked on "The Tonight Show" on Tuesday that, "He kept this hidden for over a decade, which is pretty shocking. I had no idea he was that good an actor."
Conan O'Brien quipped that "Arnold has made two 'Juniors' that he doesn't want to talk about. Remember that movie from 1994?"

Schwarzenegger's private life is expected, however, to have few repercussions on his bid to return to show business after ending his term as California governor in January. The producers of upcoming movie "Cry Macho" and animated TV comic book series "The Governator" told the Hollywood Reporter they were going ahead as planned. In a stroke of irony, "The Governator" stars Schwarzenegger as a crime-fighting superhero with a lair underneath his home so secret that not even his wife and kids are aware of it.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant, editing by Christine Kearney)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

US Sanctions Target President Bashar al-Assad

Bashar al Assad
President Assad has said the security forces made some mistakes in their handling of protests. The United States has imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for human rights abuses. It represents the first time Mr Assad has been targeted specifically by the international community for his government's crackdown on protesters.

President Barack Obama last month imposed sanctions on his brother Maher, his cousin and an intelligence chief. A US state department official said it was time for Mr Assad "to lead a political transition or to leave".
Meanwhile, Mr Assad has said his security services made some mistakes in their handling of demonstrations, the al-Watan newspaper reported. He attributed the shortcomings to a lack of experience with such situations, which he said would normally be the police's responsibility.

Mr Assad also "gave assurances that Syria had overcome the crisis" and that "events were coming to an end", the newspaper added.The admission came as  new reports arrived of attacks on civilians in Tal Kalakh, near the border with Lebanon, which has been besieged for several days. Activists say at least 27 people have died.

The executive order signed by Mr Obama on Wednesday punishes Mr Assad and six senior Syrian officials for human rights abuses. It is not everyday that the US imposes sanctions on the president of a country. North Korea and Iran are listed as state sponsors of terrorism by the State Department and face tough sanctions. Kim Jong-il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are Washington's bete noires. Yet they personally face no sanctions. Bashar al-Assad is now in the company of the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, and the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.

Although it is symbolic move because Assad and the other officials have no assets here, it is a strong signal that Washington now sees Mr Assad as personally responsible for the crackdown. They had so far avoided making a direct link between him and the violence, holding to their view of him as a reformer. They have not asked him to step down yet, but a US official said Mr Assad had a choice - lead a transition to democracy or leave. It also means the US and Europe will no longer be satisfied by the half measures that Mr Assad's resorted to so far to maintain his image as a reformer.

The others named are:
Vice-President Farouk al-Sharaa
Prime Minister Adel Safar
Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar
Defence Minister Ali Habib
Abdul Fatah Qudsiya, the head of Military intelligence
Mohammed Dib Zaitoun, the head of the Political Security Directorate

Mr Obama wanted to "increase pressure on the government of Syria to end its use of violence and begin transitioning to a democratic system that ensures the universal rights of the Syrian people", an official said.
The US and EU have already imposed sanctions on other senior figures close to Mr Assad, but have so far stopped short of targeting him. The new measures freeze any assets they have in US jurisdiction and make it illegal for Americans to do business with them.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Washington says the direct impact will be minimal, however, as it is unlikely that any of those targeted hold any assets in the US. But the move is a tough message to Syria, and it is a sign the US is close to full giving up on Mr Assad as a potential reformer, she adds.

It has not yet called on the Syrian leader to go, although one senior state department official said on Wednesday that he had a choice now. "We are saying that we oppose his behaviour and that he needs to stop his policies of repression and mass arrests and begin a political transition that ensures fair representation and democratic rights for Syrians," the official told reporters. The administration's insistence on not punishing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has puzzled foreign policy experts around Washington. "We are also saying that Assad is isolating himself from the international community due to his egregious actions. It is up to Assad to lead a political transition or to leave."

Human rights activists say more than 850 people have been killed and thousands arrested in the operation launched to quell dissent in March. The Syrian government blames most of the violence on "armed criminal gangs", saying they have killed more than 120 soldiers and police.
The sanctions were announced the day before a major speech on the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa by Mr Obama. Stay strong Mr Obama, don't lose courage now. The world looks to you to protect innocent and helpless people from killers and tyrants. You showed us your strength in the manner in which you handled al Qaeda leader bin Laden.... Hang tough sir.

Man Has His Hand Amputated to Recieve Bionic Arm

Practicing with hybrid bionic hand
Brain signals control movement
Patrick, also from Austria recieved his bionic hand last year

An Austrian man has voluntarily had his hand amputated so he can be fitted with a bionic limb.  The patient, called "Milo", aged 26, lost the use of his right hand in a motorcycle accident a decade ago.  After his stump heals in several weeks' time, he will be fitted with a bionic hand which will be controlled by nerve signals in his own arm.

The surgery is the second such elective amputation to be performed by Viennese surgeon Professor Oskar Aszmann. The patient, a Serbian national who has lived in Austria since childhood, suffered injuries to a leg and shoulder when he skidded off his motorcycle and smashed into a lamppost in 2001 while on holiday in Serbia.
Milo used a hybrid hand before deciding on the operation While the leg healed, what is called a "brachial plexus" injury to his right shoulder left his right arm paralysed. Nerve tissue transplanted from his leg by Professor Aszmann restored movement to his arm but not to his hand.
A further operation involving the transplantation of muscle and nerve tissue into his forearm also failed to restore movement to the hand, but it did at least boost the electric signals being delivered from his brain to his forearm, signals that could be used to drive a bionic hand.

Then three years ago, Milo was asked whether he wanted to consider elective amputation."The operation will change my life. I live 10 years with this hand and it cannot be (made) better. The only way is to cut this down and I get a new arm," Milo told BBC News prior to his surgery at Vienna's General Hospital.

Milo took the decision after using a hybrid hand fitted parallel to his dysfunctional hand with which he could experience controlling a prosthesis. Such bionic hands, manufactured by the German prosthetics company Otto Bock, can pinch and grasp in response to signals from the brain that are picked up by two sensors placed over the skin above nerves in the forearm.  In effect, the patient controls the hand using the same brain signals that would have once powered similar movements in the real hand. The wrist of the prosthesis can be rotated manually using the patient's other functioning hand (if the patient has one).

Last year, a 24-year-old Austrian named Patrick was the first patient in the world to choose to have his hand amputated, again by Professor Aszmann, and a bionic replacement fitted. He lost the use of his left hand after being electrocuted at work. He can now open a bottle quickly and tie his own shoelaces.

"My reaction was 'Oh my god, I've got a new hand!'," said Patrick. "I can perform functions which I did with my normal hand with the prosthetic arm," he said, recalling his response to first being fitted with a bionic hand. "I think it was very cool - I did not do things with my hand for three years and then you put on the new hand and one moment later, you can move it. It's great."

Patrick is already testing a new hand, which its makers say will give him much greater movement. The hand has six sensors fitted over nerves within the lower arm, rather than the two on his current prosthesis.
Multiple signals can be read simultaneously, enabling the patient to twist and flex their wrist back and forward, again using the same brain signals that would have powered similar movement in the real hand.

Professor Oskar Aszmann prefers to calls these elective amputations "bionic reconstruction" and has been working closely with Otto Bock, who have a research and production facility in Vienna. Science fiction often predicts the way our future will go. I remember watching the 'Bionic Man' as a kid and never thought I would see the reality come to pass.