Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Gitmo Cookbook

The 2008 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

NUTRITION PRIZE. Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK, for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is.
The Role of Auditory Cues in Modulating the Perceived Crispness and Staleness of Potato Chips," Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spence, Journal of Sensory Studies, vol. 19, October 2004,  pp. 347-63.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Massimiliano Zampini. unable to attend the ceremony, was presented with the prize at a special ceremony, later in the month, at the
Genoa Science Festival.

PEACE PRIZE. The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) and the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.
REFERENCE: "The Dignity of Living Beings With Regard to Plants. Moral Consideration of Plants for Their Own Sake
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Urs Thurnherr, member of the committee.

ARCHAEOLOGY PRIZE. Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino of Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, for measuring how the course of history, or at least the contents of an archaeological dig site, can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo.
REFERENCE: "The Role of Armadillos in the Movement of Archaeological Materials: An Experimental Approach," Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino, Geoarchaeology, vol. 18, no. 4, April 2003, pp. 433-60.

BIOLOGY PRIZE. Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert, and  Michel Franc of Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, France for discovering that the fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than the fleas that live on a cat.
REFERENCE: "A Comparison of Jump Performances of the Dog Flea, Ctenocephalides canis (Curtis, 1826) and the Cat Flea, Ctenocephalides felis felis (Bouche, 1835)," M.C. Cadiergues, C. Joubert, and M. Franc, Veterinary Parasitology, vol. 92, no. 3, October 1, 2000, pp. 239-41.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Marie-Christine Cadiergues and Christel Joubert, unable to attend the ceremony, were presented with the prize at a special ceremony, later in the month, at the Genoa Science Festival.

MEDICINE PRIZE. Dan Ariely of Duke University (USA), Rebecca L. Waber of MIT (USA), Baba Shiv of Stanford University (USA), and Ziv Carmon of INSEAD (Singapore) for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine..
REFERENCE: "Commercial Features of Placebo and Therapeutic Efficacy," Rebecca L. Waber; Baba Shiv; Ziv Carmon; Dan Ariely, Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5, 2008; 299: 1016-1017.

COGNITIVE SCIENCE PRIZE. Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University, Japan, Hiroyasu Yamada of Nagoya, Japan, Ryo Kobayashi of Hiroshima University, Atsushi Tero of Presto JST, Akio Ishiguro of Tohoku University, and Ágotá Tóth of the University of Szeged, Hungary, for discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles.
REFERENCE: "Intelligence: Maze-Solving by an Amoeboid Organism," Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Hiroyasu Yamada, and Ágota Tóth, Nature, vol. 407, September 2000, p. 470.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Ryo Kobayashi, Atsushi Tero

ECONOMICS PRIZE. Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tybur and Brent Jordan of the University of New Mexico, USA, for discovering that professional lap dancers earn higher tips when they are ovulating.
REFERENCE: "Ovulatory Cycle Effects on Tip Earnings by Lap Dancers: Economic Evidence for Human Estrus?" Geoffrey Miller, Joshua M. Tybur, Brent D. Jordan, Evolution and Human Behavior, vol. 28, 2007, pp. 375-81.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Geoffrey Miller and Brent Jordan



Italian far-right party offers parents £1,300 to name their children after Mussolini

By Nick Pisa

An Italian far-right party is offering parents ¿1,500 if they name their children after dictator Benito Mussolini (pictured) or his wife RacheleAn Italian far-right political party is offering parents €1,500 (£1,273) if they name their children after Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini or his wife Rachele.

The tiny Movimento Sociale-Fiamma Tricolore (MS-FT) said the offer was open to residents in five councils where the population is dwindling.

Italians are already being offered €1000 (£800) if they have a child by the current centre-right government led by Silvio Berlusconi in a bid to up the falling birth rate.

MS-FT said the €1,500 would be given on condition that birth certificates are produced for the child in question proving that they are named Benito or Rachele.

They added that the money must be used for cots, clothes, food or other products specifically made for newborns and that receipts and spot checks would be carried out.

The five councils in question were in the south of Italy in the province of Potenza, an area suffering from chronic economic depression.

Vicenzo Mancusi, regional president of the MS-FT said: 'The initiative does not resolve the problem of the region's declining population, but it is a small attempt by a small party.'



Story Image 

By Stephen Wilkie

A FIENDISH plot by those dastardly Russians to eavesdrop on the Royal Family appears to have been foiled by our intrepid secret service agents.

An electric teapot presented to the Queen as a goodwill gesture nearly 20 years ago has been removed from Balmoral – as a security precaution.

It was feared that the ornate 2ft samovar standing in the corner of the drawing room in the late Queen Mother's house on the Aberdeenshire estate could have a listening device hidden inside it.

After a recent security sweep, spooks were concerned that the samovar could have been bugging not only the Royal Family's most intimate conversations, but also listening into the Queen's discussions with prime ministers and world leaders.


America, 2018

Top 5: Political Blunders

Number 5: "The Dean Scream"

We can all get a little excited…this political blunder might also rank as the number 1 political blunder that wasn't. After losing the Iowa Democratic Caucuses, Howard Dean delivered an impassioned concession speech, that involved a shrill, somewhat girly bellow that was at worst a little unpresidential. Yet, the popular media played and replayed this unfortunate display of emotion…and collectively, Democrats decided that the White House wasn't the place for dudes who sometimes yelp.

Number 4: Memorial service becomes Mondale's political funeral

Shortly before the U.S. Senate elections of 2002, Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone perished in a plane crash in the northern part of the state. At a memorial service organized by the Democratic party in Minneapolis, the atmosphere seemed to many to be more like a political rally for Wellstone's replacement Walter Mondale than a tribute to the departed senator. Then CNN himbo Tucker Carlson criticized the event, and Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura stormed out.

Mondale went on to lose the senate seat, and continues to fear getting a surprise body slam from Jesse "The Body".

Memorial services don't make for good political rallies. Just ask this guy...

Memorial services don't make for good political rallies. Just ask this guy...

Number 3: Dukakis' tank trip missfire

During the presidential election campaign of 1988, Democratic hopeful Michael Dukakis staged a photo op at a General Dynamics plant in Michigan in hopes of countering the perception that he would be soft on defence in the oval office. The footage of the diminutive Dukakis commandeering an Abrams tank had an effect that was opposite to the one intended, and the footage was featured in one of George H.W. Bush's attack ads

"Dukakis in the tank" remains shorthand for backfired public relations outings in political circles.

Number 2: "Bush in the flight suit"

Ok, Jr didn't lose an election over this…but this is still one of the gaffiest of political gaffe's. It also required some balls;  if you've effectively dodged service in Vietnam by being in the Air National Guard, you might not want to remind people by landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier in a fighter jet and struting to the podium to deliver a speech in a flight suit in the midst of a war. Even better, to boldly have displayed a banner in the background that read "mission accomplished" was akin to calling a presidential election during the primaries.

Bush spinmeister Ari Fleischer had claimed that the "Mission Accomplished" banner was the Navy's idea.

Number 1: The Trouble With Sarah

Where to start…$150 000 in clothing bills, a campaign team and a candidate that sometimes went "rogue", a penchant for not preparing for key interviews, an alleged lack of knowledge about geography (believing Africa was a country) and an overall aura of being intellectually "incurious".

If ever a candidate could have used a "do over" it was in John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate in the 2008 presidential campaign. This maverick move at first ignited his campaign…but then the interviews started. When people started to seriously consider the potential of a President Palin, a lot of feet got cold.

Judges reject Alaska offshore drilling plan

Court orders U.S. to re-examine potential impacts on natives, wildlife

Bowhead whales like this mother and calf migrate through the Beaufort Sea off northern Alaska in summer.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Federal regulators improperly granted Shell Oil permission for exploratory drilling in Alaska's Beaufort Sea, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Minerals Management Service to reconsider how exploratory drilling would affect wildlife and Inupiat Eskimo subsistence hunting and fishing.

The ruling was hailed by conservation groups.

"This decision confirms that the Bush administration rushed to approve Shell's drilling program in the Arctic Ocean without a full review of impacts to whales and the subsistence way of life for people in the region," said Eric Jorgensen, an attorney for EarthJustice, which represented some clients in the case.

Sierra Club Alaska spokeswoman Trish Rolfe said the Bush administration fast-tracked oil drilling at the expense of communities, wildlife and clean water.

"It's time to bring the science back into decision-making on oil drilling," she said.


Another bailout

Commentary: LBJ, King opened door for Obama's election

By Luci Baines Johnson

Editor's Note: Luci Baines Johnson is the younger daughter of Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th president of the United States. She is chairman of LBJ Asset Management Partners, Inc. and vice president of BusinessSuites, a nationwide office business service center. She also serves as a trustee of Boston University. She has four grown children, Lyndon, Nicole, Rebekah and Claudia, one stepson, Stuart, and eleven grandchildren.

Luci Baines Johnson says her father's dream was to give everyone the opportunity to achieve.(CNN) -- Forty-four years ago on November 2, 1964, I returned to Austin, Texas, with my parents and gave my last campaign speech at a rally in front of the Texas Capitol.

After campaigning in 26 states for five months I never got to vote for Daddy on November 3 -- I was just 16 and too young to vote.

My father's dream was to open the doors of opportunity to all Americans regardless of the color of their skin or the quantity of their pocketbook.

On November 4, Barack Obama made good on those dreams. He walked through the doors of opportunity -- flung open by Lyndon Baines Johnson, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the millions of men and women who supported the Great Society -- and succeeded because of the "content of his character, not the color of his skin."

When Daddy signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law, he said he feared he was handing his beloved South over to the Republican Party for a generation, but if that was the price he had to pay for social justice he gladly did it. Sadly it's been more than a generation since he said those prophetic words.

I never got the chance to vote for my father. But when I cast my vote for Barack Obama, I was casting a vote to support the same causes of social justice and equal opportunity to quality education, decent health care and a clean environment for all Americans that Daddy and the supporters of the "Great Society" worked so hard on and achieved so much for.

As I cast my vote, I could hear Daddy's words to the Congress about the Voting Rights Act, recalled in his memoir "The Vantage Point," ringing in my ear.

"Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but it is really all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice, and we shall overcome."

On November 5, I stood in my office with one Jew, one naturalized American, one Catholic, four Protestant women, two white and two black. Among them was a McCain supporter. We joined arms and sang:

"We shall stand together

We shall stand together

We shall stand together now

Deep in my heart I do believe

We shall overcome someday"

Election Night 2008 we overcame.


Obama to Take On Torture?


Obama aides are wary of taking any steps that would smack of political retribution. That's one reason they are reluctant to see high-profile investigations by the Democratic-controlled Congress or to greenlight a broad Justice inquiry (absent specific new evidence of wrongdoing). "If there was any effort to have war-crimes prosecutions of the Bush administration, you'd instantly destroy whatever hopes you have of bipartisanship," said Robert Litt, a former Justice criminal division chief during the Clinton administration. A new commission, on the other hand, could emulate the bipartisan tone set by Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton in investigating the 9/11 attacks. The 9/11 panel was created by Congress. An alternative model, floated by human-rights lawyer Scott Horton, would be a presidential commission similar to the one appointed by Gerald Ford in 1975 and headed by Nelson Rockefeller that investigated cold-war abuses by the CIA.

The idea of such panels is not universally favored among Obama advisers. Some with ties to the intelligence community fear the demoralizing impact on intelligence officers, said one source who had discussions with Obama aides about the idea. But during the campaign, both Obama and Eric Holder, slated to be nominated as attorney general, sharply criticized the use of torture and the legal rulings that permitted them. Holder called some Bush counterterror policies "excessive and unlawful."


The First Thanksgiving

Starving for Change

AP photo / Kiichiro Sato, file

Leah Poare visits a food pantry in Columbus, Ohio. Even with the help of free groceries, Poare and her husband limit themselves to one full meal a day, usually in the evening, so that their three children, ages 6, 7 and 17, can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.

By Chris Hedges

Elba Figueroa worked as a nurse's aide until she got Parkinson's disease. She lost her job. She lost her health care. She receives $703 a month in government assistance. Her rent alone costs $750. And so she borrows money from friends and neighbors every month to stay in her apartment. She laboriously negotiates her wheelchair up and down steps and along the frigid sidewalks of Trenton, N.J., to get to soup kitchens and food pantries to eat.

"Food prices have gone up," the 47-year-old Figueroa said, waiting to get inside the food pantry run by the Crisis Ministry of Princeton and Trenton. "I don't have any money. I run out of things to eat. I worked until I physically could not work anymore. Now I live like this."

The pantry, which occupies a dilapidated three-story art deco building in Old Trenton, one of the poorest sections of the city, is one of about two dozen charities that struggle to provide shelter and food to the poor. Those who quality for assistance are permitted to come once a month and push a shopping cart in a U shape around the first floor where, clutching a piece of paper with allotted points, they can stock up on items using the pantry's point system according to the number of people in a household. The shelves of the pantry hold bags of rice, jars of peanut butter, macaroni and cheese and cans of beets, corn and peas. Two refrigerated cases hold eggs, chickens, fresh carrots and beef hot dogs. "All Fresh Produce 2 pounds = 1 point," a sign on the glass door of the refrigerated unit reads. Another reads: "1 Dozen EGGS equal 3 protein points. Limit of 1 dozen per household."

The swelling numbers waiting outside homeless shelters and food pantries around the country, many of them elderly or single women with children, have grown by at least 30 percent since the summer. General welfare recipients receive $140 a month in cash and another $140 in food stamps. This is all many in Trenton and other impoverished areas have to live on.


Luxury £1.4 million doghouse built for two great Danes

Being sent to the doghouse will be a luxury rather than a punishment for two great Danes who are having a £1.4 million home built around their every need.

The dogs' owner, a surgeon, has asked her builders to design her house in the Cotswolds so that it can provide all the essentials her pets will need when she is away.

The entry system uses retina scans to verify the animals' identity and cameras will allow the owner to watch their movements from another room or via the internet.

Automatic dispensers will ensure the drinking and eating bowls - both self-cleaning - are filled with just the right amount of chilled, filtered water or dry food.

There will also be a spa bath and the climate of the house can be controlled remotely over the internet.