Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sorry, I'm Canadian....Happy Canada Day




Saturday, June 29, 2013

Why are we so obsessed with celebrity culture? Is it part of our evolution ?

Composite of celebrities: Victoria and David Beckham; Paris Hilton; Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt; Kim Kardashian; Katie Price 

I love a good quote. One of my all-time favourite quotes comes from Mark Twain, who once wrote to his friend "I am sorry for the length of this letter, but I did not have the time to write a short one".
It's an apology I have often repeated and it's a wonderfully wry, pithy insight. Typical Twain, you might say. Except that it's not. Because, as the person who recently pulled me up for using it told me, the true author of the quote is in fact a less well-known French thinker, Blaise Pascal, who coined it in a letter to a colleague in 1657. I looked it up and they were absolutely right.

And it turns out not to be the only quote I've been abusing.  I'm sure most of you are familiar with Einstein's brilliant refrain: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." It's probably the most famous thing he said, apart from "E=mc2". Only, there's no record of him every having uttered these words. The first time they appeared in print was in 1981, in a Narcotics Anonymous pamphlet, some 25 years after the great man died.

There are many, many similar examples. Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin and Martin Luther King have probably said less than half the things you've heard them quoted on. Because quotes are just so much more quotable when they come from individuals who are famed for their wit and wisdom. It's OK because misattributing quotes exemplifies our tendency to give too much credit to celebrities.

Fame is a powerful cultural magnet. As a hyper-social species, we acquire the bulk of our knowledge, ideas and skills by copying from others, rather than through individual trial-and-error. However, we pay far more attention to the habits and behaviours demonstrated by famous people than those demonstrated by ordinary members of our community.

Albert Einstein and Mark Twain

Good quote, wrong person: Albert Einstein and Mark Twain

It follows that things are much more likely to catch on if they are associated with someone who is well known for one reason or another - even if the association is erroneous, as in the case of those Twain and Einstein misquotations. This raises the question of whether what is said is as important as who said it.
Another example of the way in which celebrities act as cultural magnets is that we frequently copy traits that have little, if anything, to do with what made them successful in the first place - like the clothes they wear, their hairstyles, or how they talk.

That's basically the reason that companies sponsor stars to use their products. Celebrities are always on the TV and in the media, so of course getting them to wear your brand of jeans or wristwatch is a great way to give them exposure. But it's not just about getting your products in the public eye. You wouldn't know from images on TV or in a newspaper or on a computer screen what kind of underpants David Beckham wears, what coffee George Clooney drinks, or what perfume Beyonce smells of.

Companies get celebrities to advertise these kinds of products because they know that our perceptions of value are actively influenced by fame. Celebrity endorsements not only make products more visible, they make them more desirable. So why is this? Part of our evolution perhaps? It makes sense. Celebrity culture may be very much a part of the modern world but it is rooted in our basic human instincts and has been crucial to the evolutionary success of our species.

 Prestige is a form of social status that is based on the respect and admiration of members of one's community.  It seems to be a unique characteristic of our species, and something that is universal to all human cultures. 

In other primates, social hierarchies are typically based on dominance, which is different from prestige because it implies fear, and the threat of violence. Individuals defer to more dominant animals because if they fail to let them have what they want then it would be perceived as a challenge to their status, which they will defend by force. Many types of hierarchy in human society are similarly characterized by dominance.

However, unlike other primates, we also differentiate social status in terms of prestige. In contrast to dominance, prestige is given voluntarily. It is freely conferred to individuals in recognition of their achievements in a particular field, and is not backed up by force. How did such systems arise?  It came as a result of  our acquiring culture and learning. It allowed our ancestors to recognize and reward individuals with superior skills and knowledge, and learn from them.

Although imitating prestigious individuals has generally helped promote the spread of  beneficial behaviors, it can also lead to copying traits that are of no use in themselves, or which may even be harmful. The reason for this is that prestige-biased learning is targeted at successful role models, rather than specific traits. This is precisely what makes it such a powerful and flexible tool... it makes sense to copy whoever happens to be doing best at a particular time and place.

However, because this strategy is somewhat indiscriminate, it can lead to people adopting all kinds of behaviours exhibited by a role model, including ones that have nothing to do with their success. This tendency explains our interest in what sports stars and singers wear, what car they drive, and where they go shopping.

Beyonce standing next to a bottle of perfume she is endorsing

In the past any useless traits we acquired as a result of prestige-biased learning were offset by the benefits of picking up useful skills. So, in the long-run, it was an effective, adaptive strategy.

The modern world is very different from the one in which our brains evolved, and the originally adaptive bias for imitating successful people has today morphed into an unhealthy obsession with celebrities, who we give far more attention to than they deserve.

The point can be illustrated by way of an analogy to diet. We have an evolved preference for sweet-tasting and fatty foods because they motivated our ancestors to seek out ripe fruits and meat, which are rich in essential nutrients. But in today's world of mass-produced confectionery and intensive agriculture, these previously adaptive tastes have led to a massive obesity epidemic and all the health problems it's associated with.

Similarly, we can think of the mass-media as junk food for the mind. Quick. Convenient. But not exactly nutritious. We gorge ourselves on images of wealth and success because they appeal to our appetite for prestige. But are celebrities actually good role models?

We still imitate them because our brains are programmed to associate prestige with adaptive behaviour. And because fame is the primary cue of prestige, the more attention celebrities get, the more they attract. It's not surprising then, that fame has become an end in itself. Because in the modern world, it does not really matter what you are famous for.

Indeed, while celebrities today get more attention and prestige than at any other point in human history. You may ask, what are celebrities for if they are not to be role models? Why give them the benefits of our prestige, if it is not reciprocated with anything that might be of use to us?

In pondering those questions, we would do well to reflect on the words of Samuel Johnson: "To get a name is one of the few things that cannot be bought. It is the free gift of mankind, which must be deserved before it will be granted."

At least, I think that was Samuel Johnson.

 Research materials derived from the studies of social anthropologist Jamie Tehrani.

War Photogaphy: From First Shot to Homecomings


Can photographs bring the full reality of war to those who have never been in battle? An exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC shows a range of photos - iconic and unknown, profound and not - all about war and its aftermath.

One photographer included in the exhibit, Louie Palu, believes photographs can be a safe way for people to reflect on war without becoming shocked or overwhelmed.
The BBC's Jane O'Brien talks to curators and photographers about what these photographs tell us about the realities of war and the people who fight in them.

Western US states baked by blistering heat wave

Western US states are baking in an extended heat wave, with temperatures threatening to break the all-time high recorded on Earth.

In Phoenix, Arizona, the mercury hit 47C (116F) on Friday, and in the desert of Death Valley, California, the thermometer approached 51C (123.8F). The heat wave is expected to last through the weekend. Cities in the region are opening cooling centres and officials fear the heat could delay air travel. The temperatures are about 10C higher than average for this time of year.

Most large aircraft can operate in temperatures up to 52C (125.6F), but readings as low as 47C (116F) could affect liftoff conditions. A US Airways spokesman said the airline would be monitoring temperatures in Phoenix "very closely".

Michael Fedo of Scottsdale, Arizona, said his family was spending less time outdoors as the temperature rose and that he had taken to going to the grocery store in the middle of the night.
"I've installed blackout shades on every window in my house," he said. "I'm a fourth-generation native of Phoenix so I expect it to be hot. But when it goes above 45C (113F) it hurts to breathe. The heat sucks the energy from your core."

The National Weather Service has issued a heat warning for several parts of the region, including Las Vegas, until Monday morning. Parts of five states including Colorado and Utah will see temperatures higher than ( 98.6F) over the weekend.
"We'll be at or above record levels in the Phoenix area and throughout a lot of the south-western United States," meteorologist Mark O'Malley said.

Temperatures in Death Valley in the California desert are forecast to reach 53C (127.4F) over the weekend. The hottest air temperature ever recorded on Earth, 57C (134.6), was marked there almost 100 years ago on 10 July 1913. Weather officials say the extreme weather is caused by a high-pressure system stuck over the area.

Scientists say the North American jet stream, the path of air that influences weather patterns, has become more erratic in the past few years, making weather systems more likely to become stuck in place.

The US Border Patrol's search, trauma and rescue unit has added extra personnel this weekend as the threat of exhaustion and dehydration rises for those attempting to cross the US-Mexico border illegally on foot. At least seven migrants were found dead in Arizona's desert last week in lower temperatures. Border officials in Tucson, Arizona, rescued more than 170 people suffering from the heat during a thirty-day period in May and June.

Utility officials planned to monitor electricity usage closely over the weekend but were not immediately concerned about overloads.
"While it's hot, people tend to leave town and some businesses aren't open, so that has a tendency to mitigate demand and is why we typically don't set records on weekends," said spokesman Scott Harelson of Phoenix-area utility Salt River Project.

And zookeepers at the Phoenix Zoo were expected to keep outdoor animals chilled with water hoses and concrete slabs cooled by internal water-filled pipes.

Minnesota Iceman

minnesota iceman
Minnesota Iceman's face from the 60s. 
Verbatim from the Huffington Post...Weird News
In the 1960s, the "Minnesota Iceman" was paraded from mall to fairground, leaving rumors of Bigfoot, missing links and government conspiracy in its wake.Then, just as quickly as the 6-foot-tall frozen beast surfaced, it vanished -- until now.
Earlier this year, Steve Busti -- owner of the Museum of the Weird in Austin, Texas -- bought the ice man from the family of its original owner in Minnesota. He's going to once again reveal the ape-like creature to the world starting July 3 at his museum.
Before his big purchase, Busti spent the last two years researching the Minnesota Iceman and trying to pin down its location. He found that the original exhibitor, Frank Hansen, had it in a freezer at his home for decades after its last showing. It's still unclear why the big, hairy popsicle's tour abruptly ended.
Somehow, Hansen managed to keep Mr. Freeze out of the public eye until he died about 10 years ago. Busti also learned that rumors of the Minnesota Iceman being discovered in Siberia were untrue.
"[Hansen] shot it in Wisconsin -- its eyeball's blown out and its arm is broken," Busti told HuffPost Weird News. "I couldn't believe it had been in Minnesota the entire time."
Hansen froze the remains and put them on display. What's not explained, however, is what the Minnesota Iceman really is. It's big. Hair covers its entire body. And it doesn't look too happy. It's easy to see why many continue to think it's proof of Bigfoot, and why others think it's simply a primate. From Wisconsin.
Below is a photo from Hansen's collection in the late 60s. Busti wouldn't show us photos of the Minnesota Iceman in its current state. You'll have to head to Texas to see for yourself.

minnesota iceman
The Minnesota Iceman's FULL BODY

Flooding in My Hometown

Torrential rains fell in the KW area ( Kitchener Waterloo) for hours today and left many drivers stranded

The town of Chatham Ontario fared badly as well. In fact most of Southern Ontario had flooding problems over-all  and cottage country in Muskoka  was particularly deep in flood waters.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The woman who lost all of her seven children

Sharon Bernardi and her son Edward

Sharon Bernardi and her son Edward, who died last year aged 21

Sharon Bernardi lost all seven of her children to a rare genetic disease. It has driven her to support medical research that would allow defective genetic material to be replaced by DNA from another woman. Every time Sharon got pregnant she would pray that this time it would be different.
She felt fine during pregnancy and the births went well, and then quickly something would start to go wrong.

Each of her first three children died within hours of birth and no-one knew why. "It took us a long time to get over the first one and then it happened again. I was bewildered," says Sharon, from Sunderland. "I was in shock."

After the third child died, doctors began to suspect that the deaths weren't coincidental. But genetic investigation didn't provide any definite answers. At the same time, her mother revealed that she'd had three stillbirths before Sharon had been born. Further investigations by doctors revealed that members of Sharon's extended family had lost another eight children between them.
"I didn't know about my mum's history," says Sharon. "There was no need for me to know. I was my mother's only child. And I think that in her era people didn't really talk about things as they do now."

Then along came Edward, Sharon's fourth child. This time the doctors were more prepared. For his first 48 hours, Edward received drugs and blood transfusions to prevent the lactic acidosis (a kind of blood poisoning) that had killed his siblings. Five weeks later Sharon and her husband Neil were allowed to take Edward to their home in Sunderland for Christmas.

Edward lived. Although his health was often poor and Sharon had to care for him a lot of the time, he was a cheerful, active boy. At the age of four he started to have seizures. It was then that the doctors were finally able to diagnose Edward's - and indeed Sharon's - problem.

Having gone through the history of Sharon's babies, doctors diagnosed Edward with Leigh's disease, a disorder that affects the central nervous system. The disease is caused by a defect in the mother's mitochondria, often referred to as the power plant of the cell.
"This is going to sound strange but I was relieved that, at last, I had an answer."

Not that the news made life much easier for Sharon. Her doctors told her that Edward could enjoy long periods of remission but that his health could also go down quite quickly. And meanwhile there was always the risk of Edward dying in one of his seizures, which could last for days.

"It's hard when you want to have a family, and you finally have a baby like Edward, and you think you're finally getting somewhere with your hopes and your dreams, and then somebody tells you that at any moment your child is going to die."

Sharon and Neil Bernardi were told that Edward was going to die before he was five. "Obviously, you either go down or you start fighting," says Sharon. Edward and his mother were fighters. In the end Edward survived into adulthood, dying last year at the age of 21.

Sharon and Neil kept on trying for a healthy baby but without luck. Although three more children were born, none lived beyond the age of two. Each time one of their children died, they told themselves that "the death was a one-off". After their last child had a heart attack and died in 2000 they stopped trying.

"People ask, what was different about Edward? How come he survived as a baby when he had all the problems that would later build up? I don't know but Edward had some fight in him. He was fighting to survive all his life. I think that was in his personality."

The death of all her children put strains on her marriage, and on the wider family. "It also affects the family, the grandparents, their hopes and dreams for their grandchildren." People have accused Sharon and Neil of being selfish for wanting what they cannot have - their own family of healthy children. "I don't think I am selfish," says Sharon. "I wanted my child to be healthy."

"In the last year of his life Edward was in chronic pain. He had dystonic spasms caused by things going wrong in his brain. His muscles would go into spasm for up to six hours at a time. Drugs could not help him. Part of Edward's body was beginning to fail."  The suffering of Sharon's children has convinced her of the need to pursue the kind of genetic therapies that would allow mitochondrial defects to be remedied.

"When you see somebody in pain you don't want to see somebody else in pain. You don't want to see a child who is born only to suffer and die before they're two, or if they do survive to have devastating disabilities."

"It's not about being selfish. It's not about wanting designer babies. It's not about doing injustice to people with disabilities. It's about trying to create a healthy baby. It's about trying to give a child a future."

Excuse me for having a negative opinion on this but, personally, I think this lady is the most selfish person I have ever learned about. After the first three babies died and after she found out about the birth history of others in her family, I think if she had an ounce of compassion she would never have put another child through that. Just look at what her son suffered. He was in agony; his life was hell. And she went ahead and had three more after him . They all died as toddlers, two year olds who suffered terrible illness and pain because of the completely self serving attitude of this woman. Scroll up and look at that poor boy's face. The whole story is there. As for three parent IVF....if it can eliminate such diseases then I am for it 100%.....The Genie

Three-parent IVF

  • Public consultation has begun into ethics of using three people to create one baby
  • Technique can be used to prevent mitochondrial diseases passed from mother to child
  • Baby would have genetic information from two parents and donor woman
  • About one in 200 children is born with faulty mitochondria

  • Leigh's disease

    • Caused by problems in mitochondria - tiny structures that are power stations in every cell
    • Particularly affects brain and nervous system
    • Usually begins in early childhood
    • Early signs include poor sucking ability, loss of head control and loss of acquired motor skills or movement

    US man falls into a coma...wakes up in Poland

    In March, Jacinto Rodrieguez  fell unconscious in an Iowa hospital and  woke up in  Mexico

    Sixty-nine-year-old Wladyslaw Haniszewski had lived in the U.S. for about 30 years. But when
     the New Jersey resident fell into a coma he awoke to find himself in his native country of Poland.
    The New York Daily News reports that Haniszewski fell victim to a growing phenomenon in
     which uninsured immigrants are deported by U.S. hospitals that do not want to get stuck paying
    for their treatment.

    “Imagine being carted around like a sack of potatoes," said Polish Consul General Ewa
     Junczyk-Ziomecka, who argues that Haniszewski was placed on a chartered flight while
     still unconscious,never giving his consent to being shipped to a hospital in a country he had
     not lived in for decades. The practice of medical repatriation has reportedly become increasingly common.
    One immigration advocacy group told The Associated Press in April that it has documented at
     least 800 cases of individuals being deported from hospitals without consent over the past six
     years in at least 15 states. However, the actual number is believed to be much higher because of the significant number of cases that go unreported.

    "It really is a Catch-22 for us," Dr. Mark Purtle, vice president of Medical Affairs for Iowa Health System, said at the time. "This is the area that the federal government, the state, everybody says we're not paying for the undocumented."

    There is an ongoing debate over the legality and morality of medical repatriation. Under U.S.
     law, hospitals are required to gain patient consent, from either the individual directly or an immediate family member, before having the individual deported. The federal government is
    not directly involved in the cases and does not pay for the cost of deportation. In April, "Colbert Report" host Stephen Colbert weighed in on the controversy, saying sarcastically, "It's totally unregulated, so hospitals avoid all the red tape usually involved in shipping the unconscious."

    Haniszewski has reportedly fallen on hard times in recent years. Friends tell the Daily News that he recently lost his apartment and job, and was forced to relocate to a shelter. The Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick is defending its actions, saying it took the necessary precautions before placing Haniszewski on an outbound flight.
    “The individual was informed regarding his discharge plan and care,” said hospital spokesman Peter Haigney. “As the hospital's understanding of the facts differs from the published reports, we are conducting a thorough review of the procedures and communications surrounding this gentleman's care.”

    However, Junczyk-Ziomecka contests the theory that Haniszewski consented to the move or was even informed of the decision. After all, he was still in a coma when he arrived in Poland and even now is unable to verbally communicate with hospital staff. He’s also estranged from his two daughters, who live in Poland.
    "He can smile from time to time, but he is unable to communicate," Junczyk-Ziomecka told the Daily News.

    “It’s an incredibly disturbing case,” Lori Nessel, director of the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University School of Law, told the Daily News. “This kind of action seems clearly illegal and also not ethical, but it’s hard to bring a legal action.”

    Thursday, June 27, 2013

    Ask Maxy

    Dear Maxy ,
    I am supposed to speak at my graduation  and don't know where to start . I have written down a speech with various ideas, but I am nervous  about them being in a jumble  and about my speech not having an impact . I am not worried about messing up because people will forget about it in a few weeks  ---but I am not sure I want people to forget about the speech! I want it to have an important enough impact for them to remember  it , but I am not particularly philosophical or profound . I also want it to be light enough for people to laugh . Where do I start ?
    Stage Fright
    Dear Stage Fright,
    Think about the big message  you want to share  with your class . What stands out for you as emblematic of the class ? What are your class strengths ? Do your best to remember funny stories  and moving moments  that you can use to reflect on your time together . Write an outline  for your speech  just as you used to do in English class . Build out your thoughts in an organized manner . Sprinkle in humor throughout while maintaining the tenor  of the core theme . As you write your speech , stick to your outline . Then read it out loud a few times  to see if it works as a spoken piece . Ask someone you trust to listen to you to help you edit  and refine .

    Dear Maxy ,
    My wife and I received many gift cards to restaurants as wedding presents last year . We haven't used them because  we are concerned about etiquette.
    When we use one of the cards, do we need to invite  the person that gave it to us to join us at the restaurant ? If so, do we need to cover the cost of their meal ? We don't want to be rude .
    Dear Newlyweds ,
    You would not invite  the gift-giver  to join you everytime  you use  a place setting or your new mixer, would you ? The gift cards are the same  . We do recommend , however, that you check to be certain the cards haven't expired .

    Dear Maxy,
    I live in New York City  and I am sure you know that rent is crazy expensive; Therefore , I have a roommate to help out . She was a friend of mine  prior to becoming my roommate . It seems that living with her is a lot more difficult  than just being friends . She is always trying to outdo everything I do as if there is some competition . If I say  that I want a certain bag  or if I am dating a great guy, she always try to one-up me. I don't know how to address the issue  without sounding harsh  or mean .
    Dear Mocked ,
    It is heart-to-heart time. Sit down with your roommate  and tell her  you want to talk  about something  that makes you feel uncomfortable . Point out  that now that you live together  you have  noticed  that she likes  to copy everything you do . Give her examples, such as the bag  or even the date . Suggest  to her that if your relationship is going to work, you both need your space . That includes space to express your individuality without  feeling that your roommate is going  to steal  your style or your friends .

    Tuesday, June 25, 2013

    Bloomberg Businessweek Calls Global Warming deniers stupid

    The Biggest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2012

    The Environment is Falling to Shit, and People are Taking Notice

    Arctic sea ice reached an all-time low in September; covering a mere 3.4 million square kilometers of Arctic Ocean, this year’s minimum was 800,000 square miles smaller than the previous record. Every month seemed to bring news of unprecedented heat. The record for “hottest 12-month period” was shattered no fewer than four times, and July was the hottest month in recorded U.S. history.
    Meanwhile, record-setting droughtswildfires and hurricanes rocked the planet; new research indicates parts of Antarctica are warming three times faster than previously believed. Bloomberg Businessweek called climate deniers stupid and even idiots are believing in global warming.

    I don't know, Bloomberg BusinessWeek...Is it a good thing when idiots believe in something??
    Anyhow, it's good to know people are taking notice at last.

    Super Moon


     I hope you got to see it. It is pretty awesome. The moon in Perigee...seen at it's closest point on June 23rd.

    Monday, June 24, 2013

    Italian ex-PM Berlusconi sentenced to seven years

    Composite image of Silvio Berlusconi (l) and Karima El-Mahroug (r)
    Both Silvio Berlusconi and Karima El Mahroug deny they had sex
    Italy's former PM Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to seven years in jail and banned from public office for having sex with an underage prostitute. But Mr Berlusconi remains a free man while he appeals against the Milan court ruling.
    Both the 76-year-old media tycoon and the Moroccan woman concerned, Karima El Mahroug, deny they had sex. "I intend to resist this persecution because I am absolutely innocent," Mr Berlusconi said after the verdict.  He is already embroiled in several other court cases. In October 2012 he was given a four-year sentence for tax fraud, which is also under appeal.
    This latest verdict ends a two-year trial which has frequently made the headlines, with its allegations of topless women and erotic party games. Mr Berlusconi was convicted of paying for sex with Ms El Mahroug, known as "Ruby the Heart Stealer", in 2010, even though she was 17 at the time.
    He was also found guilty of abusing the powers of his office, by arranging to have Ms El Mahroug released from police custody when she was detained in a separate petty theft case. Ms El Mahroug was one of a group of women invited to Mr Berlusconi's private residence for so-called "bunga-bunga" party evenings.
    Mr Berlusconi insists the alleged sex parties were actually dinners where female guests performed "burlesque" dancing.
     Chief judge Giulia Turri delivers the verdict
    Yet another hugely embarrassing, damaging legal defeat for Silvio Berlusconi. His many opponents will say that the trial and its outcome have exposed Mr Berlusconi for what he is. They will say it has shown him to be sleazy and morally unfit for leadership.
    But he will argue that the verdict was further evidence of a plot by a biased, left-wing judiciary that is trying to drive him out of politics.  And many among the millions of Italians who vote for Mr Berlusconi will believe that.

    The prosecution said the women were part of a prostitution system set up for his personal sexual satisfaction. Although frequenting prostitutes is not a crime in Italy, having sex with one who is under the age of 18 is an offence punishable by a prison sentence.
    The sentence imposed by the Milan court is one more year than the six-year term demanded by the prosecution. As soon as he heard the verdict, Mr Berlusconi's lawyer Niccolo Ghedini announced an appeal.
    "This is beyond reality," Mr Ghedini told reporters outside the court. "The judges even went beyond the prosecutors' request."
    But Mr Berlusconi will not have to spend any time in jail unless the lengthy appeals process is exhausted. Even then he may escape prison because of lenient sentencing rules for people over the age of 70.
    The judgement could have major political repercussions for Italy, analysts say. The guilty ruling could weaken current Prime Minister Enrico Letta's coalition government, which depends on the support of Mr Berlusconi's centre-right party, People of Freedom (PdL).
    Despite Mr Berlusconi's statements of loyalty to Mr Letta, many analysts believe he could withdraw his support if he decides the government is not giving him enough protection.

    Silvio Berlusconi's trials

    • Convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail for paying for sex with underage prostitute. Free pending the outcome of appeals process.
    • Convicted and sentenced to a year in jail for arranging leak of police wiretap. Also free pending appeals.
    • Accused of tax fraud over deals his firm Mediaset made to purchase TV rights to US films: Convicted in October 2012; Sentence upheld by appeals court in May
    • Two other corruption cases involving tax evasion and bribery of a British lawyer: Expired under statute of limitations

    Egyptian statue moves on it's own...Ancient curse perhaps??

    Bosses at the Manchester Museum have been left spooked after 10 inch-tall relic dating back to 1800 BC has been found to ‘spin’ of its own accord in its glass case. Recently curators have repeatedly found the relic, which has lived in the museum for 80 years, facing the wrong way, and installed a video camera to investigate.

    To their shock, the time-lapse footage clearly shows the statue doing a slow 180 degrees turn, so slow in fact, it is invisible to the naked eye.  Even more mysteriously, the statue does not appear to rotate any more than 180 degrees, and only spins in daylight hours when visitors are passing.  The mystery of the rotating statue has hit the headlines and has been called the' strangest thing to hit Egyptology in decades.'

    Curator Campbell Price offers one theory on the mystery in the Daily Mail: ‘In Ancient Egypt they believed that if the mummy is destroyed then the statuette can act as an alternative vessel for the spirit. Maybe that is what is causing the movement.’ Others believe footsteps of passing visitors makes the statuette turn on its glass shelf. Either way, it’s a mystery that doesn’t look like it’s going to be solved anytime soon.

    Sunday, June 23, 2013

    Robots with Transplanted Human Brains...And That's Just the Start

    NEW YORK, N.Y. - Can the City That Never Sleeps become the City That Never Dies? A Russian multimillionaire thinks so. Dmitry Itskov gathered some of humanity's best brains — and a few robots — in New York City on Saturday to discuss how humans can get their minds to outlive their bodies. Itskov, who looks younger than his 32 years, has an aggressive timetable in which he'd like to see milestones toward that goal met:
    — By 2020, robots we can control remotely with our brains.
    — By 2025, a scenario familiar to watchers of sci-fi cartoon show "Futurama:" the capability to transplant the brain into a life-support system, which could be a robot body. Essentially, a robot prosthesis that can replace an ailing, perhaps dying body.
    — By 2035, the ability to move the mind into a computer, eliminating the need for the robot bodies to carry around wet, messy brains.
    — By 2045, technology nirvana in the form of artificial brains controlling insubstantial, hologram bodies.

    The testimony of the neuroscience experts invited to Itskov's Global Future 2045 conference at Lincoln Center in the New York City's Manhattan borough indicate that Itskov's timetable is ambitious to the point of being unrealistic. But the gathering was a rare public airing of questions that will face us as technology progresses.

    Is immortality desirable, and if so, what's the best way to get there? Do we leave behind something essentially human if we leave our bodies behind? If you send your robot copy to work, do you get paid? Japanese robotics researcher Hiroshi Ishiguro's presentation started out with a life-size, like-like robot representation of himself on stage. The robot moved its lips, nodded and moved it eyes while a hidden loudspeaker played up Ishiguro's voice. Apart from a stiff posture and a curious splay of the hands, the robot could be mistaken for a human, at least 10 rows from the stage.

    Ishiguro uses this android or "Geminoid" (after the Latin word for "twin") to meet with students at a research institute two hours away from the laboratory where he also has an appointment. He controls it through the Internet, and sees his students through a webcam. "The problem is, if I use this android, the research institute says it cannot pay for me," Ishiguro said, to laughter from the audience of hundreds of journalists, academics, Buddhist monks and futurism enthusiasts. Ishiguro flew to the U.S. with his robotic twin's head, the most valuable part, in the carry-on luggage. The body rode below, in the luggage compartment.

    To Itskov, who made his money in the Russian Internet media business, the isolated achievements of inventors like Ishiguro are not enough. He wants to create a movement, involving governments and the United Nations, to work toward a common goal.
    "We shouldn't just observe the wonderful entrepreneurs â€1/8 we need to move ahead systematically," Itskov said in an interview. "We are really at the time when technology can affect human evolution. I want us to shape the future, bring it up for public discussion, and avoid any scenario that could damage humanity."

    Itskov says he tries to eliminate his "selfishness" day by day, and has spent about $3 million promoting his vision. He organized the first conference on the theme in Russia last year.
    But in bringing the idea to the U.S., a cultural difference is apparent: Itskov's desire for a shared, guiding vision for humanity does not mesh well with the spirit of the American high-tech industry, which despises government involvement and prizes its freedom to pursue whatever projects it wants.
    Space entrepreneur and X-Prize Chairman Peter Diamandis articulated that spirit at the conference; the freewheeling capitalist system, he said, is one of the strongest engines for effecting change.
    "The rate of change is going so fast â€1/8 I do not believe any of our existing government systems can handle it," he said.

    Archbishop Lazar Puhalo of the Orthodox Church in America, who has a background in neurobiology and physics, offered another critique at the conference.
    "A lot of this stuff can't be done," he said. If it can be done, that's not necessarily a good thing either, the robed and bearded patriarch believes.
    "I'm not too fond of the idea of immortality, because I think it will be deathly boring," he said, with a twinkle in his eyes. Giving up our bodies could also be problematic, he said.
    "There's a lot of stuff in them that makes us human. I'm not sure they can be built into machines," Puhalo said.

    Itskov acknowledges that his vision would leave part of the human experience behind. But he believes it would be worth it.
    "We're always losing something for what we're doing. We're always paying," Itskov said.

    There is something to be said for robotic bodies if a person is sick or disabled. What freedom from pain....what freedom of movement. How would Stephen Hawking feel about the idea, for instance ?
    But there would be too much missing : taste, eating, smell, touch, holding someone, sensing your body and feeling it work, feeling the burn of your muscles. And the thing everyone has avoided  And that's just to name a few things we would lose along with our physical self.
    I think they will have to improve on the concept a bit  more before I sign up.  Maybe by 2045 they will have a handle on those little glitches too, hollogramically speaking.

    Thanx Yahoo

    Immortality? Ethical Dilemmas

    For John Harris, saving a life and delaying its end is one and the same. Using this logic, Harris, a bioethicist at the University of Manchester, England, figures that scientists have a moral duty to extend the human life span as far as it will go, even if it means creating beings that live forever.
    "When you save a life, you are simply postponing death to another point," Harris told LiveScience. "Thus, we are committed to extending life indefinitely if we can, for the same reasons that we are committed to life-saving."
    But the loss of a child and the passing of an elderly person are not the same thing at all, says Daniel Callahan, a bioethicist at the Hastings Center in New York. The first is premature, while the latter comes, hopefully, at the end of a well-lived life.     
    "The death of an elderly person is sad, because we lose them and they lose us, but it's not tragic," Callahan said. "One can't say this is a deranged universe to live in because people die of old age."
    This is just one of several ethical and moral arguments that have cropped up in recent years as labs around the world aim at the dream of immortality, or at least to extend lives well beyond the century mark. Among other debates:
    • Will everyone have an equal chance to drink from a fountain of youth?
    • If people live longer but are miserable for decades, will views on suicide and euthanasia change?
    • In an immortal society, how do you make room for new generations?
    A world of 112-year-olds
    The life expectancy for the average American is 77.6 years. Extending life spans will be an incremental process, most experts say. But there is great promise.  A 1990 study by University of Chicago biodemographer Jay Olshansky and colleagues calculated that even if the risk of death from cancer in the United States were reduced to zero, average life expectancy would increase by only 2.7 years. If the risks from heart disease, stroke and diabetes were also eliminated, life expectancy would increase by another 14 years, the researchers found.

    In contrast, repeated experiments have shown rodents fed 40 percent fewer calories live about 40 percent longer. For reasons that are unclear, this "caloric restriction" regimen also postpones the onset of many degenerative diseases normally associated with aging.  If these effects can be replicated in humans, the average person could live to be 112 years old and our maximum life span could be extended to 140 years, says Richard Miller, a pathologist who does aging research at the University of Michigan.

    The moral imperative
    Furthermore, if rodent experiments are any guide, the future's elderly will be fitter, Miller said, with the average 90-year-old resembling today’s 50-year-olds in mind and body. For these reasons, Miller believes aging research could have a far greater impact on improving public health than trying to cure diseases individually. 
    “If you’re really interested in increasing healthy lifespan, aging research is more likely to get you there in a quick and cost-efficient way than trying to conquer one disease at a time".

    "If extending life also prolongs health, as animal studies suggest, then the argument for anti-aging research being a moral imperative is strengthened", says Harris, the University of Manchester bioethicist.   "It is one thing to ask, 'Should we make people immortal?' and answer in the negative. It is quite another to ask whether we should make people immune to heart disease, cancer, dementia, and many other diseases and decide that we should not,” Harris contends.
    But even if humanity decides to green-light anti-aging research on moral grounds, other thorny ethical issues remain, ethicists say. Uppermost among these is the problem of social injustice.

    Who will have access?
    Most scientists and ethicists agree that life-extension technology will likely be very expensive when first developed, so only a small number of wealthy individuals will be able to afford it. Existing social disparities between rich and poor could become even more pronounced.  The fortunate few who could afford the therapy would not only have significantly longer lives, but more opportunities to amass wealth or political power and to gain control of economic or even cultural institutions, critics say.

    Harris points out, however, that the modern world is already rife with similar injustices. The average life expectancy of people in the United States, for example, is about 78 years, but only 34 years in Botswana, which has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in Africa. In Ethiopia, where HIV infection is much less prevalent, life expectancy is 49 years.

    Developed nations also have access to medicines and life-saving procedures, such as organ transplants, that are beyond the reach of poor nations. Yet Americans don’t typically consider themselves wicked because they have access to things like kidney transplants while people in other countries don’t.

    Similarly, Harris says, the fact that only the rich would have access to life extension technology is not a good enough reason to ban it. For one thing, denying life-treatments to one group of people will not save another. Secondly, new technologies often start off expensive but become cheaper and more widely available with time.
    "Injustice may be justifiable in the short term because that is the only way to move to a position where greater justice can be done. That’s true of all technologies.”

    Centuries of torment
    Another thing to consider is the effect longer lifetimes will have on some of our cherished values, ethicists say. For example, in the United States, the right to life is considered something that every person is entitled to, and both suicide and euthanasia are considered culturally and socially unacceptable.  But in a world where human lives are measured not in decades, but in centuries, or millennia, these values might need to be re-examined. One reason: Immortality will not mean invincibility. Diseases and wars will still kill, strokes will still maim and depression will still be around to blunt the joys of living.

    The question of when, if ever, is it okay for someone to end their own life or to have someone else end it for them is already a topic of fierce debate. An answer will become even more essential if by telling someone they must live, we condemn them to not just years, but decades or centuries of torment.

    Generational cleansing
    Also, Earth can support only so many people. If everyone lived longer, generations would have to be born farther apart to avoid overcrowding.  To ensure ample generational turnover, Harris says, society might need to resort to some kind of "generational cleansing, which would be difficult to justify.” This would involve people collectively deciding what length is reasonable for a generation to live and then ensuring individuals died once they reached the end of their term.

    Such actions would require radical shifts in our attitudes about suicide and euthanasia, Harris said. People would either have to stop thinking that saving lives is important, or they’ll have to stop thinking that there is something wrong with deliberately bringing about death at a certain point.
    “We've grown up with a certain set of expectations about life and death, and if those expectations change, a lot of other things will have to change as well,” Harris said.

    Hmmmm....A lot to think about. However I agree with assisted suicide. Sometimes condemning someone to live can be the cruelest act of all.

    Thanx Yahoo

    Saturday, June 22, 2013

    Trees Have Faces

    Some trees are laughing at us

     'Nerd' tree

    Granny tree

    Sad Tree

    Elephant Man tree

    Doubtful tree

      Terrified tree 

     Monster skeleton tree

     Screaming Tree

     Children eating tree

    You figure this one out

    serious tree

    Crazy tree
    Puckering for a kiss tree

    Smiling tree

    Obama promises to outline US climate plan


     President Obama has promised to outline his plan to deal with climate change in a speech at Georgetown University on Tuesday. He said it would include measures to reduce carbon pollution and to lead global efforts to fight climate change.

    Mr Obama has said repeatedly he would tackle climate change, but has been blocked by Congress.
    He is believed to be planning to pass the new measures by executive action, meaning he will bypass Congress.
    "There's no single step that can reverse the effects of climate change," he said in a video message.
    "But when it comes to the world we leave our children, we owe it to them to do what we can."

    He made similar points earlier this year at his inauguration and in his State of the Union address.
    He returned to the theme in Berlin on Wednesday: "We know we have to do more, and we will do more." Mr Obama also promised at the beginning of his first term in office in 2009 to provide global leadership on climate change.

    But his attempts to introduce a cap-and-trade scheme to reduce carbon emissions were thwarted by his opponents in Congress. Many Republicans argue that his attempts to tackle climate change are wasteful and give too much power to the state. US media report that Mr Obama is now intending to introduce a series of executive actions, which can be put into effect by various federal agencies without Congress approval.

    The measures reportedly will include tighter regulation of coal-fired power plants and making more land available for wind farms and other renewable energy projects. White House energy and climate adviser Heather Zichal told a forum in Washington a few days ago "we are very much focused on the power plant piece of the equation". She said the plan would also boost energy efficiency of appliances and buildings.

    Mr Obama has come under pressure to cut emissions from power plants. from prominent figures in north-eastern states hit by Super storm Sandy in October 2012.' Thumbs up Mr Obama.' Thankyou for standing firm  on the issue.