Saturday, November 30, 2013

Black Friday... The Dark Side

 People enter Macy's Herald Square as the store opens its doors at 8 pm Thanksgiving day on November 28, 2013 in New York City

  Macy's in New York opened its doors early

Several outbreaks of violence occurred during the Black Friday shopping frenzy, as bargain-hunters besieged malls across the US. In Chicago police shot an alleged shoplifter; a robber shot a shopper in Las Vegas; and a California police officer was injured in a fight.

Black Friday, the day following the Thanksgiving holiday, is the biggest shopping day of the year. This year it began even earlier amid a trend for Thanksgiving openings. Twelve national chains opened their doors on Thursday, advertising aggressive discounts.

Some 15,000 shoppers stormed the flagship Macy's in New York City as it opened for the first time ever on Thanksgiving evening.  Pointing at the mobbed department store, Brazilian tourist Luis Figueiro told Reuters news agency: "This is madness. There are so many people here, you can't see any of the things on sale."

There were several incidents of retail-related insanity:
  • In Chicago, a police officer shot a suspected shoplifter driving a car that was dragging a fellow officer at a Kohl's department store. The suspect and the dragged officer were treated in hospital for injuries. Three people were arrested, reports the Chicago Tribune.
  • A shopper in Las Vegas who was carrying a big-screen TV home from a Target store on Thanksgiving was shot in the leg as he tried to wrestle the item back from a robber who had just stolen it from him at gunpoint, reports the Las Vegas Sun.
  • At a southern California Walmart store, a police officer's wrist was broken as he tried to break up a fight between two men in line outside; there were two more fights over merchandise inside, reports the San Bernadino Sun.
  • A 23-year-old man was doused with pepper spray and arrested after he allegedly attacked a police officer responding to an argument over a television at a Walmart in Garfield, New Jersey, reports the Star-Ledger.
  • Despite Walmart's pledge to overhaul its crowd-control measures, scenes of mayhem and madness were apparently filmed at a store in Fort Worth, Texas
  • Two arrests were made after a man was stabbed in an argument over a parking space at a Walmart in Virginia, reports local television station WVVA.
Workers' groups have protested that the trend towards Thursday opening means retail employees can no longer spend the day at home with their families, which is supposed to be the point of Thanksgiving.

Some retail analysts have begun to dub the holiday Black Thanksgiving, or Grey Thursday.  Workers held demonstrations on Friday outside Walmart stores in the city of Ontario, California, and in Elgin, Illinois, demanding better pay and conditions.

There was anecdotal evidence that the Thursday openings have led to an easing off in consumer footfall on Black Friday itself, though the increased popularity of online shopping could be another factor. By late Friday morning, the number of shoppers in many stores was more typical of a normal day than the usual frenetic start to the holiday season.  Downtown Manhattan, for example, was busy, but not at saturation level.

The celebration of Thanksgiving is always marked on the fourth Thursday in November. The day after is known as Black Friday because that was the time of year when retailers began making a profit, or moved out of the red and into the black.

Some 97 million Americans hit the stores and malls on Black Friday, according to the National Retail Federation. Last year on the day Americans spent $11.2bn.

Sabastian Valenzuela, left, and his older brother Alberto compare prices for iPad tablets at a Best Buy late in the evening on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, in Dunwoody, Ga

These two brothers were comparing iPad prices in Dunwoody, Georgia

People line up outside a Toys'R'Us store in Times Square before their Black Friday Sale in New York November 28, 2013.

There were queues outside Toys R Us in Times Square in New York

A group of protesters walk through the Walmart retail store parking lot on Black Friday in Elgin, Illinois, ON 29 November 2013

There were protests at Walmart stores - such as this one in Elgin, Illinois - by workers demanding better pay and conditions

 A customer gives the thumbs-up as she leaves with her purchased items outside Wal-Mart Thanksgiving day on November 28, 2013 in Troy, Michigan

These happy consumers leave Walmart in Troy, Michigan

A man pushes two televisions in a shopping cart at a Target store in Colma, Calif., on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013.

Modern Thanksgiving celebrations: Buying two TVs at Target in Colma, California

Black Friday shoppers carry out a purchased flat screen tv, seen here on Thursday November 28, 2013, at the Best Buy store in Fairfax, Virginia.

More happy TV purchasers in Fairfax, Virginia

Friday, November 29, 2013

Ask Maxy

Dear Maxy,
My supervisor  rarely states his desires clearly . But if I take  the initiative  or ask him  to  clarify , he makes me feel like an idiot . He is condescending  and highly critical  of most people . He also  is a non-stop gossip. He has portrayed  me to others as racist, womanizing  and incompetent .
He has control over my payable time  and my vacation requests  . He has the ear of management . I fear that  bring  any of this up  for discussion  will create  a level of retaliation  far worse  than the existing  reality.
Any Suggestions ?

Dear Any Suggestions ,
First, examine  your own behavior  to see whether  there is  cause  for such rumors  to take hold  and if so, correct it . Still, it is no  excuse  for your supervisor to  spread gossip . He also seems  ineffectual as a leader, because  he does not make his wishes clear and stifles attempts  by employees  to clarify .Normally , these  would be issues  to document  and then discuss  with human  resources  or the  supervisors boss. However, if you  worry  that  doing so  will create  more problems, you have two choices . Either conduct  yourself in a way  that is beyond  reproach  and do your best  to put up with it, or start looking for another job .

Dear Maxy ,
I love your column  and I hope you can clear up something  for me . What is the correct thing to do  when  sending  a sympathy card ? It seems  that most death notices  these days suggest  donating  to a favorite charity  "in lieu of flowers." But is it  OK just to send  a card ? Should  money  always be enclosed  ? My friend says yes  , but I had never heard  of this . Is this a religious  custom  or popular  in certain parts of our country ? I get a different answer  every time  I ask someone .

Dear Chicago ,
A sympathy card  is always  appropriate and no , you do not have to enclose money . If the bereaved  is struggling  financially, it is  a kindness  to send something to help defray funeral costs but it is not mandatory . A donation  to a charitable  organization  is a suggestion  and also  not required . The point is to  express your condolences .

Dear Maxy ,
My sister's high school boyfriend  just contacted  me via  Facebook  and asked me  about my sister . He said he wants to get in touch with her  after something like 40 years . My sister is single  now , but I don't know  if I should connect them . This dude is seriously  a blast  from the past . My sister is kind of weird  about inviting  people into her life  ... just bringing  it up may start an argument . She is pretty reclusive  these days  . That's part of why  I thought I  might connect them . Do you think I should  set up a blind date  kind of thing for them ?
Should I tell  her and see  if she's interested  ? Or should  I leave it alone ?
Dear Sisterly,
Do not surprise your sister with a blind date . That would be awkward  and could easily backfire . Be respectful  to her  and let her know  that her high school beau  wants  to be in touch . Tell  her how he  reached out   and suggest that you share  her phone number  and address with him.
Being in touch  does not necessarily  mean dating  or even seeing each other . It can mean  an email or phone call . She may be open to something that simple .
If she  says yes, great . Make  the connection . Because  she may decline, do not promise anything  to the ex-beau  .  If she  does decline, tell  him you will deliver  the message  and if she wants  to, she will reach out .

Over 50 Suicides Among Canada's Afghanistan Vets

Another Canadian soldier, veteran of Afghanistan, has died of an apparent suicide, following the deaths, also suicides, of two Afghanistan vets in Manitoba and Alberta earlier this week.  A spokesperson for the Canadian Army has confirmed that warrant officer Michael McNeil died Wednesday at the Canadian Forces Base Petawawa in Ontario. The death is being investigated
News of McNeil’s death comes a day after it was revealed that two soldiers from Canadian Forces Base Shilo in Manitoba died by suicide a short time apart earlier this week. Master Cpl. William Elliott died at his home just outside the base, while Master Bombardier Travis Halmrast died in Lethbridge, Alberta.

“As the Commander of the Canadian Army, I am disturbed by the loss of three of our soldiers,” Lt.-Gen. Marquis Hainse said in a statement Thursday.
“The Canadian Army cares deeply for each and every member. It goes without saying that we take every death seriously and as such we will explore all facets of these situations to try and learn from them and reduce future occurrences while also providing the best support to the Army family whenever a death does occur.”

The deaths have raised questions about the treatment of Canada’s veterans and resources available to wounded soldiers and those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“They are giving them all this stuff they need over there to fight with tanks, guns and everything. They do the job over there and do it well, but when they come home and they need the help they don't seem to have it,” McNeil’s uncle, Frank McNeil, told CTV News.

The army said McNeil joined the Canadian Armed Forces in Oct. 1994. He had been deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan and his cousin was killed by Taliban snipers six years ago.
Elliott was a “decorated combat veteran” who toured in Bosnia and Afghanistan and had suffered back injuries in Afghanistan. His friend, Cpl. Glen Kirkland, told CTV News this week that Elliott was worried about being discharged from the army and not having financial security.
Halmrast, whose death is also being investigated, was said to be living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“I don't believe he got the help that he needed, no,” Halmrast’s sister Samantha told CTV.
“Especially in the state he was in right now, he needed more help. And I don't feel as though he got any.”

Defense Minister Rob Nicholson expressed his condolences to the soldiers’ families and friends in the House of Commons Thursday. Earlier in the day, Nicholson said the deaths were "very troubling," but noted that the Conservative government has spent millions of extra dollars to treat and counsel returning soldiers over the last two years. Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent said there is a “surge” of troubled soldiers who took part in the Afghan mission, and his office has been asking the government to improve services available to them

The military will undertake boards of inquiry into each death — routine procedures that look at the circumstances and systemic issues that may have led to a particular incident. That’s not good enough for NDP defence critic Jack Harris, who accused the government of failing its wounded soldiers.  Military inquiries into some 50 suicides since 2008 remain incomplete, Harris said. ( An update states there have been 70 suicides so far since 2002)
“We have had soldiers who’ve stood up for Canada and our allies when we asked them to. We should be standing up for them and I don’t think we’re doing that,” he said.

A number of mental health and defence experts have warned Canada could face a surge in post-traumatic stress disorder among soldiers over the next five years as the after-effects of a decade of fighting in Afghanistan begin to settle in.
Guy Parent, Canada’s veterans ombudsman, said both National Defence and Veterans Affairs need to anticipate the flood, but he prevaricated when asked whether he believes the steps taken to date have been sufficient.
“They’re getting ready,” Parent said.

Highway of Heroes.

401 Highway of Heroes; from the Canadian Forces Base at Trenton Ontario to the Don Valley Parkway Toronto.  There are fifty bridges between Trenton and Toronto  and  every one of them was full  as the  cortege of  hearses, military and police escort passed beneath them.  I stood on one of the bridges and it was a very emotional experience for me. I held hands with people I had never met and hugged them and felt like they were my family.  There were many days like this one during Canada's mission in Afghanistan  and we all gathered to say goodbye to our fallen Canadian heroes on their final journey  home to Canada. With such strong feeling for our military we are incensed that our government has not provided the care our physically and emotionally wounded soldiers need.
 Mr Harper, you keep letting us down . These men need caring and compassion and you seem lacking in both. Mark another one up to your coldness and crassness. You are in good company with your fishing buddy Rob Ford. See you on election day.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Polar Bear Cub Goes to the Dentist


Polar bear cub undergoes dental surgery in Winnipeg 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Sun's corona in High Defintiton

The sun is the largest and most massive object in the solar system. It is about 93 million miles from Earth. The sun's light and heat takes about eight minutes to reach us, which is another way to state the distance to the sun: 8 light-minutes.

Rare baby dinosaur fossil discovered in Alberta

Fossil hunters searching through Alberta's Dinosaur Provincial Park have turned up a rare specimen — the nearly complete fossilized skeleton of a baby dinosaur. The dinosaur was discovered by Philip Currie, a paleobiologist from the University of Alberta, and it belongs to a species known as Chasmosaurus belli. This horned, frill-headed dinosaur is related to Triceratops, and lived in southeastern Alberta, roughly 70 million years ago. Currie spotted the creature's frill jutting out from a hillside in the park, and he and his team realized the importance of their find when they unearthed it.

Researchers have uncovered many C. belli fossils in the area over the years, but this is now, apparently, the smallest nearly-complete specimen they've ever found. The only part of the skeleton that is missing is the forelimbs, which apparently fell down a small sinkhole that opened up underneath the remains at some point. According to LiveScience, the level of preservation for the rest is so good, though, that it even shows the details of the dinosaur's skin pattern in the rock beneath it.

Discovering an intact skeleton of a juvenile dinosaur is important because it gives researchers a reference point to work from when looking at bones from bigger, older specimens of the species. Although some species can change quite a bit as they age, in this case, the fossil showed them that while C. belli's head frills changed as they grew, the rest of their body proportions stayed pretty much the same. As Currie told LiveScience, this "means the adults were probably never moving that fast. There was never priority for these animals to run to keep up with the adults."

Adult specimens of C. belli can be up to 5 metres long and weigh around 2 tons. According to the researchers, based on the size of the fossil, this dinosaur was just a toddler, maybe around three years old when it died. No bite wounds or other injuries were noted, not even from scavengers, and it was discovered in layers of sediment like you'd find at the bottom of a river. Based on that, the researchers believe that it very likely was overcome by the current, drowned, and then was covered by sediments at the bottom of the river until they recently unearthed it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Sun...Up Close and Personal....Credit, Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory photos of the sun

In profile, the magnetic field lines emerging from several active regions were easily observed as they reached across from one magnetic pole to another (Sept. 4-5, 2013). When viewed in extreme ultraviolet light, the tracings of charged particles along the magnetic field lines are revealed. The bright, active regions are areas of intense magnetic forces. This level of detail for the entire Sun has never been available before the SDO mission became operational. The video clip covers about 18 hours of activity

 NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory photos of the sun
Elements of a feathery solar prominence shifted and twisted before finally erupting into space as observed in extreme ultraviolet light by SDO (Aug. 14-15, 2013). The dark matter that we see in the prominence is actually part of cooler gases suspended above the Sun's surface by powerful though unstable magnetic forces. The triggering mechanism is not well understood, but some change caused the prominence to break away from the Sun, a fairly common phenomenon.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory photos of the sun
When you put one-month videos of the Sun from periods about 2.5 years apart, the increase in solar activity is remarkable. We took video from October, 2010 and set it next to video from May, 2013 in the 171 Angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. The number and intensity of active regions, seen as brighter areas and numerous loops above them, increased dramatically as the Sun is approaching its maximum level of activity which is expected to occur either late 2013 or early 2014
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory photos of the sun
If you ever wanted to see an active Sun with lots of sunspots and wonderful active regions in exquisite detail, then your wait is over. We took pairs of high-resolution images from Dec. 4, 2011 about eight hours apart and with some image software magic transformed them into 3-D. The Sun appears rounded and the loops above active regions clearly stand out above the SunĂ¢s surface. Of course, you need 3-D glasses to get the effect. The movie starts with the sunspot image, fades into the extreme ultraviolet image (in the AIA 171 wavelength of light), and then back again several times. To create the 3-D effect, we selected an initial image, then a second image about 10 hours later. The rotation of the Sun creates sufficient perspective difference to convert the pair into 3-D. Note how the magnetically intense sunspots at the surface match up precisely with loops of magnetic field lines (viewed in UV light) arcing above them.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory photos of the sun
When viewed in profile, the intricate series of looping magnetic field lines appear graceful and well designed. In fact these very hot and energetic connections emerged from beneath the surface where powerful magnetic forces are engaged in a huge tug of war.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory photos of the sun
Two active regions rotating into view demonstrated quite clearly that they were ready for action (Nov. 11-13, 2013). The regions, viewed in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light, were spurting and flaring in a rapid-fire style as their tangled magnetic fields struggled against each other. Towards the end a prominence near the upper left erupted while a flare, seen as a white flash, burst from the leading region.

US B-52 bombers challenge disputed China air zone


Disputed islands in East China Sea (file image)
The islands have been a source of tension between China and Japan for decades

The US has flown two B-52 bombers over disputed islands in the East China Sea in defiance of new Chinese air defence rules, officials say. China set up its "air defence identification zone" on Saturday insisting that aircraft obey its rules or face "emergency defensive measures".

A Pentagon spokesman said the planes had followed "normal procedures". The islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are a source of rising tension between the two nations.
Japan has dismissed the Chinese defence zone as "not valid at all" and two of its biggest airlines announced on Tuesday they would heed a request from the government in Tokyo not to implement the new rules.

US Colonel Steve Warren at the Pentagon said Washington had "conducted operations in the area of the Senkakus".
"We have continued to follow our normal procedures, which include not filing flight plans, not radioing ahead and not registering our frequencies," he said. There had been no response from China, he added.

The aircraft, which were unarmed, had taken off from Guam on Monday and the flight was part of a regular exercise in the area, US defence officials said. Both planes later returned to Guam. The US - which has more than 70,000 troops in Japan and South Korea - had previously said it would not abide by the Chinese-imposed zone.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel called it a "destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region". The White House said it was "unnecessarily inflammatory". Japan has already lodged a strong protest over what it said was an "escalation" by China. Taiwan, which also claims the islands, expressed regret at the Chinese move and promised that its military would take measures to protect national security.

In its statement announcing the air defence zone on Saturday, the Chinese defence ministry said aircraft must report a flight plan, "maintain two-way radio communications", and "respond in a timely and accurate manner" to identification inquiries.
"China's armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not co-operate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions," the statement said.

Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airlines said on Tuesday they would stop filing flight plans demanded by China on routes through the zone following a request from the Japanese government. Singapore Airlines and Australia's Qantas have both said they will abide by the new rules. However, Australia summoned the Chinese ambassador on Tuesday to express opposition over the zone.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said "the timing and manner" of China's announcement were "unhelpful in light of current regional tensions".

No-one should be surprised that the US has acted as it has. Washington's first reaction to China's unilateral extension of its airspace was robust. The idea that Washington was going to start filing flight plans with China before flying over the East China Sea was a non-starter. But this is more than just a squabble over flight rules.
Washington is watching China's military build up, its arguments with neighbours, and its "blue-water" ambitions with alarm.  For seven decades the US has been the dominant military power in the region. China has given Washington notice that change is afoot. Peaceful management of that change is one of the great strategic challenges of the 21st Century.

Map of east china sea and declared air defence zone

Monday, November 25, 2013

Rosie, penned hundreds of desperate letters and poems from captivity....A Story of Slavery

'I'm trapped like a fly in a spider's web': Slave girl's agonized plea in one of 500 letters to the neighbor she was obsessed with

The youngest of the three British 'slaves' is seen in one of several pictures sent to a neighbour who she was said to be obsessed with
Rosie, 30, the youngest of the three female slaves, penned hundreds of desperate letters and poems from captivity

This is the slave held captive by ‘evil monsters’ in a ‘dark dungeon’ of a council house for more than three decades in London England. Rosie, 30, penned hundreds of desperate letters and poems from captivity, describing how she suffered ‘unspeakable torment’ at the hands of a couple who adopted her when she was a baby after her parents died in a fire. In a series of anguished letters, the terrified woman said: ‘I’m like a fly trapped in a spider’s web.’

Rosie was allegedly held prisoner almost her entire life along with a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 69-year-old Malaysian woman until they were rescued from an apartment in Brixton, South London, last month, The couple accused of keeping the women prisoner – an Indian man and his Tanzanian wife, both 67 – were said last night to be leaders of a radical Marxist group based in Brixton which collapsed in the 1970s and met the older victims through a ‘shared political ideology’.

The male suspect was known to police having being arrested in the 1970s, prompting questions about whether police missed opportunities to rescue the brainwashed women, who were regularly beaten. Last night officers were searching 13 addresses around London, as it was revealed that the couple moved frequently to avoid detection.

Letters sent to Marius Feneck from 'Rosie' one of the three women held captive in Brixton  
Letters sent to Marius Feneck from 'Rosie' one of the three women held captive in Brixton
The disclosures came as an astonishing series of heart-rending letters and photographs of the youngest victim emerged, in which she told of her despair at being held prisoner.
Starved of love, the victim sent letters and 220 poems to Marius Feneck, a neighbor she fixated on, telling him how she was locked up by ‘evil and racist’ monsters.
She said: "I want you to know the truth. These monsters here are absolutely evil and racist."

"I begged them that horrible night not to tear us apart, but they said they’d HARM YOU if I don’t promise to stay away from you... and then they imprisoned me here, locking all the doors and windows."
"I daren’t try anything because I know they’ll do something evil to you if I do... So I’m like a fly trapped in a spider’s web..."
"I apologize to you from the bottom of my heart for the evil actions of these crooks who dare to call themselves my “relatives. I HATE them!"
She goes on: "I suffer unspeakable torment, yet every bit is worth it, to keep my beloved safe."
"I will surely die if anything happened to you. I would gladly stay in this evil monsters’ dark dungeon for the rest of my life –  I would gladly give up my life (I call it life, but it’s not, it’s only existence... your ever loyal dragon Rosie."
She also posted dozens of photographs of herself to him, which reveal the cramped, sparsely furnished apartment that was her home. In one shot, she is seen cradling a stuffed  Santa Claus in a photograph she referred to as ‘Redhead Rosie’ with her ‘baby’.
She wrote: "I have to rest my legs a lot, they hurt! My ankles swell up, and my toes start cramping up."

Mr Feneck, 26, a welding student said he received knitted gifts which were sprayed with strong perfume and birthday cards. "One day I was speaking to Rosie and she told me she had come to Britain after her parents died in a fire and the people she was living with had adopted her but she didn’t say where she came from originally," he said.
"She began sending me photos of herself. They were signed darling love Red Head Rosie or Writer Rosie. She said things like she loved me and we were meant to be together."
He said the other women were frightened to tell him their names. "I spoke to them once or twice a year when I was passing," he said. "They would never volunteer names. If you asked they would change the subject."
Mr Feneck’s girlfriend, Rachael Price, 25, said she felt threatened when the girl began sending her abusive letters after she moved in with him . Miss Price said: "I felt quite disturbed, but I didn’t go to the police because I thought she had problems so I would just leave it."

Last night pressure was growing on Lambeth Council after it emerged that Rosie had first come to the attention of the social services 15 years ago.

Police are conducting house-to-house inquiries in the area around the housing association flat in Peckford Place, Brixton, south London
Police are conducting house-to-house inquiries in the area around the housing association flat in Peckford Place, Brixton, south London
 Her adoptive parents were reported to the police because Rosie, who was then 15, was not going to school. The councilor said: "The police passed the complaint to social services but they said they weren’t prepared to take any action."
Another senior councilor said  Lambeth’s social services, education and housing departments had all had contact with the household. Last night Lambeth Council refused to comment.

The accused couple were arrested last Thursday but released on bail after being questioned over false imprisonment and immigration offences. Last night Theresa May, the Home  Secretary, said tackling modern slavery in Britain was a ‘personal priority’. She said: "It is all around us, hidden in plain sight. Something most of us thought consigned to history books, belonging to a different century, is a shameful and shocking presence in modern Britain."

The first thing the youngest of the three women asked for after escaping the south London flat was make-up.The 30-year-old was freed into the care of the Freedom Charity along with a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 69-year-old Malaysian woman. Freedom charity founder Aneeta Prem told the Sunday Times: "It was the first thing that she asked me for and one of the things she was very, very keen on".
"She liked the way I did my make-up. I don't know if she had ever worn make-up. I ended up buying them all foundation, mascara, eye liners, powders lipsticks."
"They were absolutely thrilled and excited when I took the box of make-up out."

Enslaved Women in London...Has the Whole World Gone Crazy

 What do we know so far?

Guard: Police stand in front of a property in Brixton, Borough of Lambeth, south London where three women were allegedly kept as slaves for at least 30 years
Guard: Police stand in front of a property in Brixton, Borough of Lambeth, south London where three women were allegedly kept as slaves for at least 30 years

Details about the story of three women who were rescued after allegedly being held as slaves in a south London house for 30 years have begun to emerge. Here is what we have been told so far.  The women were identified by the Metropolitan Police as a 30-year-old Briton, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 69-year-old Malaysian. Their names have not yet been released, but police have said they are investigating their relationship to each other. The police do not think they were trafficked to the UK.

Commander Steve Rodhouse said: "We believe that two of the victims met the male suspect in London through a shared political ideology, and that they lived together at an address that you could effectively call a 'collective'."

The Metropolitan Police believe the 30-year-old had spent her whole life in conditions of servitude. Officers have recovered a birth certificate for the woman, but no other official papers.  Det Insp Kevin Hyland, from the Met's Human Trafficking Unit, said the women were "highly traumatized".
He said they had been "held in servitude for at least 30 years with no real exposure to the outside world".

Aneeta Prem from Freedom Charity, who helped rescue the women, said they were doing
"remarkably well" considering what they had experienced. Police are making house-to-house inquiries in the Brixton area of south London as part of the investigation. The women were rescued from an address in Peckford Place, Brixton ( in the south of London)

 A man, 73, and a woman, 67, were arrested on the  21st of November on suspicion of being involved in forced labour and domestic servitude, as well as immigration offences. They have been released on bail but have not returned to the house where they were arrested. The pair are Aravindan Balakrishnan and his wife Chanda, neither of whom are British nationals.

Police said the couple came to the UK from India and Tanzania in the 1960s, and are said to have been in the UK "for many years". According to Marxist archives they were leading figures at the Mao Zedong Memorial Centre based in Acre Lane, Brixton, south London, in the 1970s.

Both suspects had previously been arrested by the Metropolitan Police in the 1970s, but the force declined to give details of what for. Police are carrying out door-to-door inquiries in Brixton. The couple has been linked to 13 addresses across London, police have said.

The Irish woman called Freedom Charity on 18 October and told them she had been held against her will at a house in London for more than 30 years, and said there were two others with her. She called the charity after seeing a TV documentary about forced marriage. Ms Prem said the woman had used the phone in secret, with the people in the house unaware that she had it.

Freedom Charity alerted the Met's Sexual Offences Exploitation and Child Abuse Command on the same day and it was passed on to the Human Trafficking Unit on 21 October.

After days of "sensitive negotiations" conducted by the charity, the British woman and the Irish woman left the house when the owners were not in, to meet with the police and workers from the charity on 25 October at an agreed location.

The women told them where the house where they had been held was, and the Malaysian woman was then rescued by the police.

Det Insp Kevin Hyland
Det Insp Kevin Hyland's Human Trafficking Unit has been investigating the case

All three were taken to what the police described as "a place of safety".  The Met Police Commander said the focus was on the women's physical safety "but their emotional and mental well being also".
"To gain the trust and confidence of highly traumatized victims takes time, and this must move at their pace, not anyone else's."
It probably appeared to the outside world that the three women and the two suspects were a "normal" family, the police said, living in an unremarkable house in a normal street. The commander said it was "not as brutally obvious as women being physically restrained inside an address and not allowed to leave".  The women had some "controlled freedom", and officers were trying to understand the "invisible handcuffs" that were used to exert control over the women.

Police do not believe the women were sexually abused, but said they had described being beaten.
The 30-year-old is alleged to have written more than 200 impassioned letters and poems to her neighbour over an eight-year period. In one of the letters, she said she felt like a "fly trapped in a spider's web" and described her "unspeakable torment".

The Police Commander said "trying to label this investigation as domestic servitude or forced labour is far too simple". He said the case appeared to be "a complicated and disturbing picture of emotional control over many years, brainwashing would be the most simplest term, yet that belittles the years of emotional abuse these victims have had to endure".

Christmas Light Record

An Australian family who put more than half a million Christmas lights on their house have claimed a world record - for the second time

Father-of-three David Richards, from Canberra, Australia, first entered the record books in 2011 with 331,038 lights - but was beaten by a family from New York. Now Mr Richards, his wife Janean and children Aidan, 13, Caitlin, ten, and Madelyn, six, have reclaimed the record with 31 miles of wire in their suburban home. Mr Richards, who is hoping to raise more than £50,000 for children's charities, said: 'I have always loved Christmas'.

Charles Manson Marries......What?

Star and Charles Manson.
Charles Manson Now
 Manson with Star and Grey Wolf...Manson supporters
Marlin Marynick of Regina has written a book about notorious criminal Charles Manson. The spider dangling by the book was made out of thread by Manson in jail and given to Marynick as a gift.
Serial killer Charles Manson is planning to marry his 25-year-old girlfriend behind bars, Rolling Stone reports. Manson famously is spending the rest of his twilight years at California’s Corcoran State Prison for a sensational series of cult murders he orchestrated in 1969. In an orgy of bloodlust, Manson and his minions slaughtered actress Sharon Tate, her unborn baby, her guests and a number of other victims.
After 44 years in prison, Manson is marrying his girlfriend who goes by the name of Star and looks eerily like one of his former disciples, Susan Atkins — who died in prison in 2004 —  according to Rolling Stone.

“Star!” Manson said. “She’s not a woman. She’s a star in the Milky Way.” Raised a Baptist, Star grew up in a town on the Mississippi River. She told Rolling Stone it was the psychopathic killer’s devotion to environmental causes that won her over and she moved to Corcoran, Calif. in 2007 to be near her husband-to-be.
“Yeah, well, people can think I’m crazy. But they don’t know. This is what’s right for me. This is what I was born for,” she told the magazine. “I’ll tell you straight up, Charlie and I are going to get married.”
“When that will be, we don’t know. But I take it very seriously. Charlie is my husband.”

 She grew up near St. Louis, where her deeply religious family feared she'd lost her way ("I was smoking marijuana, eating mushrooms, not wanted to go to church every Sunday," she explains), so they locked her in her room for much of her high school years. A friend passed her some of Manson's environmental writing, and she started corresponding with him. When she was 19, she took the $2,000 she'd saved up working in a retirement home kitchen and hopped a train to Corcoran. Manson named her Star.

Star's resemblance to Manson Family member Susan Atkins is beyond striking, and Star seeks to distinguish herself from the woman known as Sexy Sadie, who was incarcerated for her role in the Tate-La Bianca killings until her death in 2009. "That bitch was fucking crazy," she tells RS. "She was a crazy fucking whore. "Oh Charlie, I did this for you." She didn't know what she was doing."

And Star says Manson is more devoted to her than any other girl: " He is going to marry me."
Star says there won't be any conjugal visits because "California lifers no longer get them." If they were an option, "we'd be married by now."
Manson, however, seems less convinced the impending nuptials are a reality, "Oh that," he says. "That's a bunch of garbage. You know that, man. That's trash. We're just playing that for public consumption."

Star, however doesn't seem to be aware that it's a scam. She is allowed a peck on the cheek and a hug at the beginning and end of each visit with the notorious killer. In solidarity with her imprisoned paramour, Star has also carved a cross into her forehead.

Former Los Angeles District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi — the man who almost sent Manson and his Family to the gas chamber before California killed the death penalty — and who wrote the seminal book on the case, Helter Skelter, said Manson’s attraction remains bizarrely strong.
“There are thousands of evil, polished con men out there, and we’ve had more brutal murders than the Manson murders, so why are we still talking about Charles Manson?” Bugliosi told Rolling Stone. “He had a quality about him that one thousandth of one per cent of people have. An aura. ‘Vibes,’ the kids called it in the Sixties. Wherever he went, kids gravitated toward him. This is not normal. I mean, I couldn’t get someone to go to the local Dairy Queen and get me a milkshake, OK? But this guy, I don’t know what it is. How the hell do I know?”

Christmas HoHo's

The Four Stages of Life: 
1) You believe in Santa Claus. 
2) You don't believe in Santa
3) You are Santa
4) You look
like Santa Claus.





Sunday, November 24, 2013

Holding Back the Waves

Photo: Woman wading through flooded Venice plaza
One of the biggest environmental worries is the rising sea level which is now threatening many coastal cities. Across the globe the seas are rising up to meet us. A profoundly altered planet is what our fossil-fuel-driven civilization is creating, a planet where Katrina-scale flooding will become more common and more destructive for the world’s coastal regions. By releasing carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, we have warmed the Earth by more than a full degree Fahrenheit over the past century and raised sea level by about eight inches. Even if we stopped burning all fossil fuels tomorrow, the existing greenhouse gases would continue to warm the Earth for centuries. We have irreversibly committed future generations to a hotter world and rising seas.
The aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, perhaps the most powerful storm on record to make landfall anywhere in the world, is a clear warning of the power of the weather and the elements to wreak havoc and destruction on us. The uncontrollable force of the environment attacking our cities is one of the most worrying threats facing the world, not least because, despite the immense danger it poses, there is little, in the short run, that we seem able to do to combat it. This will have huge consequences for our coastal cities. If we do not want the forced resettlement of millions, we are going to need some radical new solutions.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted a sea-level rise of between 18 and 59 meters by 2100. This could affect up to 634 million people who now live in low-lying coastal areas across the globe. More than 180 countries have populations in those zones, and two thirds of those have urban areas of more than five million people that are under threat.

Our usual response to threats of any kind is a demonstration of force and power. We fight attacks with weapons. We fight crime with police and harsh criminal punishments. You can therefore understand why we are stumped to find an immediate response to an environmental threat. Our natural reaction to any threat is to fight. But how do you fight wind and water?
Where our natural instinct is to do something bold, the argument of environmentalists that we should do the opposite – do less, make less, travel less, emit less – makes for hard reading. One  typical human response to rising sea levels and the threat of bigger storms and storm surges, has been to hold back the waves with hard engineering schemes made of concrete and steel. But flood defense barriers and storm drains do not come cheap and it is impossible to shore up thousands of kilometers of coastline globally.

So many coastal cities are going against the natural human grain and are increasingly turning to natural solutions, so-called soft engineering schemes, that redesign waterfronts to incorporate wetlands, oyster beds and other natural features. In New York, the emotional heartland of the skyscraper and of all things big, brash, steel and shiny, some scientists and engineers feel the soft approach to combating the elements might ironically be the most effective. Stephen Cassell is a New York architect who has designed an approach he hopes will influence town planning in New York. Rather than protect the city with hard defenses, his idea is to use nature to build its own protective barrier. If you build wetlands, beaches and marshes around the coastal regions, you are effectively building a sponge which not only absorbs the water but gradually lessens the impact of any waves of tidal attack on the city. A common rule of thumb, we are told, is that a wetland extending 14.5 kilometers out to sea will reduce the height of a storm surge by a meter.

The argument for the soft solution is not just about the effectiveness of the water barriers, it is also about the quality of life. You can walk on top of a concrete sea barrier but there is a limit to how enjoyable that is.  But if you build wetlands and beaches you introduce new wildlife and new environments which not only work to protect the city but improve the city as well. They offer people new things to enjoy and enhancements to their daily lives. It may not sound like a great rallying cry but it is heartening to know that brute force architecture can sometimes be beaten by pretty, sympathetic natural designs.

Earth Under Water


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Swimming With the Shark Whisperer

The United States averages just 16 shark attacks each year and slightly less than one shark-attack fatality every two years. Meanwhile, in the coastal U.S. states alone, lightning strikes and kills more than 41 people each year.

Over 375 shark species have been identified, but only about a dozen are considered particularly dangerous. Three species are responsible for most human attacks: great white (Carcharodon carcharias), tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier), and bull (Carcharhinus leucas) sharks.

Each year there are about 50 to 70 confirmed shark attacks and 5 to 15 shark-attack fatalities around the world. The numbers have risen over the past several decades but not because sharks are more aggressive: Humans have simply taken to coastal waters in increasing numbers.

While sharks kill fewer than 20 people a year, their own numbers suffer greatly at human hands. Between 20 and 100 million sharks die each year due to fishing activity, according to data from the Florida Museum of Natural History's International Shark Attack File. The organization estimates that some shark populations have plummeted 30 to 50 percent.
 I would be more worried about bees, the neighbor's dog, lighting, a ricocheted bullet or getting beaten to death with a shovel before I'd worry about being attacked by sharks. Of the 300 something species of shark, only about 14 have been known to attack humans. But, of course, you have to be in their part of the ocean to even have a remote chance of possibly triggering an attack response.

We also kill millions of times as many sharks for just their pectoral, dorsal and caudal fins than they kill of us. They are fierce, apex predators but they are also delicate and vulnerable to human hunting and interference with their environment. It is an environment we have polluted and caused to heat up. Their fate, like all aquatic animals, lies in our hands and depends on how we rectify global warming, ocean pollution and wholesale slaughter. 

Santa and Toddlers.....Holly Jolly

Don't all mothers love the time-honored tradition of having their child pictured on Santa’s lap? Nothing is more cute than to see little tots smiling brightly on Santa’s lap while sharing their most heart-felt wishes for Christmas morning. Of course, this is the stuff of fantasy. More often than not, this special event is tainted by the horrifying screams and shrieks of terror from children forced to sit on a strange man’s lap while having it documented forever. 










Bless em all
Including the long suffering Santas

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rob Ford Can Not Have My Job (A Little Conservative Back Pedaling)


LAC-MEGANTIC, Que. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is speaking out for the first time on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford — and keeping his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. Harper jokes that he's heard Ford say publicly he wants to be prime minister, a notion Harper says he clearly can't support.But when it comes to the Toronto mayor's future, Harper says that's for the voters of that city to decide.
Harper says the Conservative government's position is clear: there are strict drugs laws in place, and no one should be buying or using illegal drugs, especially sitting politicians.  Ford's admission to having smoked crack cocaine "probably in one of my drunken stupors" made him a target of international ridicule and resulted in his being stripped of most of his mayoral powers.

The Conservative government has said little on the controversy, however — in part because they have previously allied themselves with the popular, straight-talking mayor.
"I've heard Mr. Ford's statements to the effect that he would like to become prime minister of Canada; obviously this is not something I'm in favour of," Harper said at a news conference in Lac-Megantic, Que.
"In terms of his future in Toronto, that is for the residents of Toronto to decide."
As for Ford's admissions that he has smoked crack and purchased illegal drugs while sitting as mayor, Harper says, "we could never support the use or purchase of illegal drugs by anyone in political positions such as that."

Forensic Experts Claim That King Tut Died In A Chariot Accident

Tourists gather around the mask of the most fa...

Since the discovery of Egyptian King Tutankhamun’s body in 1922 by archaeologists Howard Carter and George Herbert, his life has served as a fascinating mystery to archaeologists and the public at large. He became Pharaoh at the tender age of 9 years old and reigned for 10 years before his untimely death at the age of 19.
Although several theories have been put forth for why the young Pharaoh died, several signs have pointed to the idea that he died in an accident involving a chariot. Now scientists working at the Cranfield Forensic Institute, working with car accident investigators, believe that they have confirmed this theory.

In addition to determining Tut’s cause of death, the researchers may have solved another mystery – namely, why Tut’s body appeared to have been burned, something that Howard Carter noted in his initial discovery of Tut’s mummy.

For that, the research team turned to fire investigators, who determined that that combination of embalming oils led to a chemical reaction that caused King Tut’s body to spontaneously combust after it was already in the coffin. In other words, it seems likely that King Tut’s mummification process was botched.

“I think what the project shows is that when it comes to ancient material there is always more to learn, and there probably will be in the future,” Naunton said in a statement. “But with this study we have taken a big step forward in terms of understanding what happened at the end of Tut’s life.”

There are many mummies of Pharaohs in museums the world over...many of them more exalted and powerful than Tut but the fascination with the boy king has never diminished since he was discovered in 1922. He gave us a window into a glorious Egyptian past and into the life and times of a young Pharaoh. He is far more celebrated now than he ever was in life.

Nuclear fusion milestone passed at US lab... Future, Self Sustaining Energy

Target alignment at NIF
  The achievement is the first of its kind anywhere in the world

Researchers at a US lab have passed a crucial milestone on the way to their ultimate goal of achieving self-sustaining nuclear fusion. Harnessing fusion - the process that powers the Sun - could provide an unlimited and cheap source of energy.

But to be viable, fusion power plants would have to produce more energy than they consume, which has proven elusive. Now, a breakthrough by scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) could boost hopes of scaling up fusion.

NIF, based at Livermore in California, uses 192 beams from the world's most powerful laser to heat and compress a small pellet of hydrogen fuel to the point where nuclear fusion reactions take place.
 During an experiment in late September, the amount of energy released through the fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel - the first time this had been achieved at any fusion facility in the world.

This is a step short of the lab's stated goal of "ignition", where nuclear fusion generates as much energy as the lasers supply. This is because known "inefficiencies" in different parts of the system mean not all the energy supplied through the laser is delivered to the fuel. But the latest achievement has been described as the single most meaningful step for fusion in recent years, and demonstrates NIF is well on its way towards the coveted target of ignition and self-sustaining fusion.

For half a century, researchers have strived for controlled nuclear fusion and been disappointed. It was hoped that NIF would provide the breakthrough fusion research needed. In 2009, NIF officials announced an aim to demonstrate nuclear fusion producing net energy by 30 September 2012. But unexpected technical problems ensured the deadline came and went; the fusion output was less than had originally been predicted by mathematical models.

Soon after, the $3.5bn facility shifted focus, cutting the amount of time spent on fusion versus nuclear weapons research - which was part of the lab's original mission. However, the latest experiments will provide a welcome boost to ignition research at NIF, as well as encouragement to advocates of fusion energy in general.

It is markedly different from current nuclear power, which operates through splitting atoms - fission - rather than squashing them together in fusion. NIF, based at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is one of several projects around the world aimed at harnessing fusion. They include the multi-billion-euro ITER facility, currently under construction in Cadarache, France.

However, ITER will take a different approach to the laser-driven fusion at NIF; the Cadarache facility will use magnetic fields to contain the hot fusion fuel - a concept known as magnetic confinement.

Nuclear fusion at NIF

  • 192 laser beams are focused through holes in a target container called a hohlraum
  • Inside the hohlraum is a tiny pellet containing an extremely cold, solid mixture of hydrogen isotopes
  • Lasers strike the hohlraum's walls, which in turn radiate X-rays
  • X-rays strip material from the outer shell of the fuel pellet, heating it up to millions of degrees
  • If the compression of the fuel is high enough and uniform enough, nuclear fusion can result

Women 'held as slaves for 30 years'

Det Insp Kevin Hyland: "We have never seen anything of this magnitude before"

Three women have been "rescued" from a south London house as police investigate claims they were held as slaves for about 30 years. Last month officers were contacted by Freedom Charity after it received a call from a woman saying she had been held against her will for decades.

A Malaysian woman, 69, an Irish woman, 57, and a British woman, 30, were rescued from the house on October 25th. A 67-year-old man and woman were held in Lambeth and bailed until January. The women, who are said to be "highly traumatized", were found following delicate phone conversations between the charity and the 57-year-old, who had secretly gained access to a phone.

There followed a number of phone conversations over a week, and the three woman eventually left the property when the owners of the house were not around, the charity said. They were met by police and representatives from the group, and were then moved to a safe location. The 30-year-old had spent her whole life in captivity. Officers are trying to establish whether she was born in the house.

The first reaction is shock: if true, how could three women have been held as slaves for 30 years in an ordinary house, in a busy neighbourhood, in a great capital city? The questions will keep on coming. Did the neighbours suspect anything? Why didn't the women try to escape before? Did police, health workers or social services ever have cause to be concerned?

It's hard to believe that there was no such outside contact - especially given the police's belief that the 30 year old spent her childhood there. The issue of domestic servitude has risen up the political agenda in recent months - this case is certain to ensure that it stays there. Police said the relationship between the women was being investigated.

Det Insp Kevin Hyland, from the Metropolitan Police's Human Trafficking Unit, said: "We have seen some cases when people have been held for 10 years, but we have never seen anything of this magnitude before."  He added that the women had controlled lives and spent most of it indoors, but they had some freedom.

Mr Hyland said: "The women were released as soon as possible. There was a delay in the arrest. This was down to the fact that we had to work very carefully with these people who were highly  traumatized and it was very difficult to establish the facts. The last thing we wanted to do was increase that trauma."

Police said the facts behind the situation were being slowly established as specialist workers were assisting the women. Officers said there was no evidence of sexual abuse.

Aneeta Prem, Freedom Charity: "We've ensured they're in a place of safety"

"A television documentary on forced marriages relating to the work of Freedom Charity was the catalyst that prompted one of the victims to call for help," Mr Hyland said.

The phone call to the charity was made by the Irish woman on October 18th who said two others were being held with her. The charity contacted the police the same day and the information was passed on to the Met Police's Human Trafficking Unit on October 21st.
Freedom Charity
Further inquiries revealed the location of the house, and after "sensitive negotiations" by the charity the women agreed to meet with police at a location on October 25th.

The Irish woman and the British woman met the police and charity workers and showed the officers where they were being held. The 69-year-old Malaysian woman was rescued from the house and the trio were taken to a safe place.

Police said the two people arrested were not British nationals and it was "very unlikely" that the alleged victims were related to the suspects because of their nationalities. Aneeta Prem, founder of Freedom Charity, said it was investigating how the women had remained hidden for so long.

"In a very busy capital city we often don't know our neighbours. We're looking at people who were kept against their will in an ordinary residential street in central London," she said.

Ms Prem said of the initial contact with the Irish woman: "She said she had been held against her will.
"She was able to use a phone but that was done in a very secret way, the people in the house didn't know she had it.
"It was a process of just over a week where there was lots of phone calls and they gained the trust of the charity, and by doing that they felt confident to reveal enough information, and obviously the police were involved, and they managed to walk out of the house when nobody was around.
"We were waiting for them with the police and we managed to get them to a place of safety.
"They have absolutely nothing now and as a charity we're trying to support them.
"It was a very emotional time, when we got the message they were outside the front door the whole call centre erupted in cheers and there were tears, and everyone was incredibly emotional to know we had helped to rescue three ladies who had been held in such horrific conditions." Ms Prem said the two people arrested were considered the "heads of the family".

A Home Office spokesman said: "The home secretary is shocked by this appalling case and while the police need to get to the bottom of exactly what happened here, the home secretary has made clear her determination to tackle the scourge of modern slavery."

MP Frank Field, chairman of the modern slavery bill evidence review and vice-chairman of the human trafficking foundation, said: "It was incredibly brave for one of the victims to call for help - much more needs to be done to help victims come forward."


  • Launched in December 2010 to help children suffering from forced marriage or "honour" violence or at risk
  • Founded by London magistrate Aneeta Prem, who wrote a children's book about forced marriage which is recommended by the government
  • Designed an app with the Metropolitan Police to help young people at risk of forced marriage
  • Also works with the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Has called on the government to keep records of children who do not return to school after summer holidays in order to monitor forced marriages