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Old 12-22-2008, 09:49 AM   #1226
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http://www.realmagick.com/articles/14/2014.html

How Odin Became Santa Claus: Symbolism and Pagan Origins of a Gift-Giving Saint
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Old 12-22-2008, 09:50 AM   #1227
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http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmas_tree.htm

ALL ABOUT THE CHRISTMAS TREE
Pagan origins, Christian adaptation, & secular status
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Old 12-22-2008, 09:55 AM   #1228
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http://www.thothweb.com/article6941.html

NASA will give away old Shuttles for free
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Old 12-22-2008, 10:03 AM   #1229
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http://cryptogon.com/?p=5821

Banks Not Disclosing What They Did with Bailout Cash



http://cryptogon.com/?p=5831


Money Market Funds Closing Down as Yields Near Zero
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Old 12-22-2008, 10:03 AM   #1230
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http://cryptogon.com/?p=5828

Change: Rice Says That Obama Will Follow Bush Foreign Policy
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Old 12-22-2008, 10:11 AM   #1231
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http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...1217124418.htm

'Hobbit' Fossils Represent A New Species, Concludes Anthropologist
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Old 12-22-2008, 10:11 AM   #1232
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http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/...4375-22510639/

Uncovering ancient Egyptian secrets
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Old 12-22-2008, 10:12 AM   #1233
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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/ear...gle-Earth.html


Scientists discover new forest with undiscovered species on Google Earth
Conservationists have found a host of new species after discovering uncharted new territory on the internet map Google Earth.
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Old 12-22-2008, 10:12 AM   #1234
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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle5380532.ece

Microscopic plankton get the big picture

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Old 12-22-2008, 10:13 AM   #1235
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http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/11...ychosis_study/

Study clears cannabis of schizophrenia rap

No greater risk than general non-tokers

By Tim Worstall

Posted in Policing, 6th November 2008 13:19 GMT

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Regular readers will recall the confused mess (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05..._law_analysis/) that is this government’s cannabis policy. There has been a drop in cannabis consumption since it was downgraded from Class B to C, but nevertheless they want to put it back up to Class B again. Yes, we know all about the argument that what you ingest is entirely your business, it being your body and all that but morals are always trumped by politics.

In the comments section to our last piece the general consensus was that the policy was driven either by a craven servility to the Murdoch press or, as a daring alternative, a bending to Daily Mail woo woo. The general consensus however was that it was Puritanism, that awful fear that someone, somewhere, might be enjoying themselves and that this situation cannot be allowed to continue. We’re arguing over whose Puritanism, not whether.

There was one vaguely respectable argument that could be put forward on the prohibitionist’s side, that of cannabis induced schizophrenia. This has been increasing even as the general incidence of schizophrenia has been stable (or even falling, depending upon who you ask). That the rise was on the order of 500 people a year means it’s not a very important point, not when compared to 3 million regular tokers, but there are still those who will buy the argument that people should be stopped from harming themselves, even if the risks are very low.

There is certainly a correlation, but we should still want to know about causation before we take any further action. For it is possible, and it is a view advanced by some (like myself last time), that those who are about to become schizophrenic dose themselves on cannabis as they are known to on alcohol and any other substance that comes to hand to still the voices. Or perhaps there’s a milder version, that cannabis induced psychosis isn’t in fact cannabis induced at all, but is simply coincidental: that it’s an early marker of schizophrenia rather than something brought on by cannabis itself.

When we try to test this we also want to be very careful indeed about our sample groups. We really don’t want to be making the mistake that the World Health Organisation has been making with HIV testing in sub-Saharan Africa. Testing pregnant women to give you the incidence of a sexually transmitted disease in the general population really ain't all that clever: you’re testing the one group of the population where you have actual proof that they’ve been partaking in unprotected sex. It might be useful to get an idea of scale, but it's just not going to be all that accurate.

Fortunately, all of this is just what some scientists have done (http://www.reuters.com/article/healt...rpc=22&sp=true) (sadly, the full paper (http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/con...ort/65/11/1269) is not online for free access). We know that there is a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia (more accurately to three different conditions that we'll, for convenience sake, group together here). If we’re lucky we can also find a decent data set which we have indeed got, some 2.25 million Danes born between 1955 and 1990, and we know both their own treatments for either cannabis induced psychosis or for those varied schizophrenic type diseases. We can also track their familial relationships and see which of them did or didn’t suffer in these manners. Excellent, we can now try to test our correlation. Do people who have had cannabis induced psychotic episodes then go on to develop schizophrenia at a higher rate than their genetic predisposition (as evidenced by their familial incidence of schizophrenia) would lead us to believe they would?

Well, looking at the 609 who had treatment for such pot induced freakouts and those 6,476 who were treated for the full blown nastiness, well, umm, no. Formally:

In terms of estimated rate ratios, persons who develop cannabis-induced psychosis are as predisposed to schizophrenia spectrum disorder and other psychiatric disorders as those who develop schizophrenia spectrum disorder without a history of cannabis-induced psychosis.

So at this point we can say that, no, that bad trip on some heavy **** does not lead on to schizophrenia. There’s no difference in incidence.

But the paper’s authors go much further:

Altogether, these findings, in addition to those of previous studies, indicate that cannabis-induced psychosis may not be a valid diagnosis but an early marker of schizophrenia.

That is, that the very idea of that bad trip is itself wrong. The disease is already there, simply wrongly diagnosed as being cannabis induced. And finally we get:

Rather, the degree of hereditary predisposition in individuals who receive treatment of cannabis-induced psychosis closely mirrors that in those who develop schizophrenia with no history of cannabis induced psychosis. The results agree with those of other studies that show that cannabis predominantly causes psychotic symptoms in those persons who are predisposed to develop psychosis or show signs of psychosis in the absence of cannabis use.

This goes a great deal further than my or anyone else’s original supposition, that pot consumption might cause problems only for those who are already predisposed to mental health problems. If it were simply this then we could deal with legalised pot simply by placing warnings upon it, as we do with nuts and nut allergies (umm, 'nut' possibly isn’t le mot juste there). But this finding goes further. There seems to be no evidence that cannabis consumption increases the incidence of these mental diseases at all. Incidence is the same for those who have had the "cannabis induced" version as it is in the general population, adjusting for the risks we perceive from the incidence of such problems in their immediate families. That there’s actually nothing to do with cannabis at all, that it just so happens that some who are becoming schizophrenic, something which is often marked by short episodes before it fully takes grip, happen to have been puffing 'erb when such episodes hit.

Thus there really is no logical leg for the government to stand upon in its reclassification of cannabis: there's not in fact one reason against the legalisation of the damn stuff and the increase in liberty and freedom that would result.

So, anyone think this is going to make any difference? No, thought not myself. OK, back to basics then, could the Murdochists and the Mailites let us know who is really to blame for the idiocy which is current drugs policy?
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Old 12-22-2008, 10:14 AM   #1236
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http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/12...lout_ceremony/

US Navy's robot stealth carrier plane unveiled

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Old 12-22-2008, 10:15 AM   #1237
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http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/12..._tracker_ware/

Ohio prof develops CCTV people-tracker 'ware

Boffins in Ohio have taken another step towards the global surveillance panopticon of the future, developing software which can autonomously track an individual through a city using CCTV cameras.

James W Davis, associate prof at the Ohio State computer science and engineering department, developed the new spyware with the aid of grad student Karthik Sankaranarayanan.

Davis and Sankaranarayanan's code works by using a pan-tilt-zoom camera to create a panoramic image of its entire field of view, and then linking each ground pixel in the picture to a georeferenced location on a map. This means that when the camera sees a person or vehicle, the computer also knows in terms of map coordinates where it is looking.

That in turn makes it possible for a new camera to be trained on the target as he/she/it passes out of the first one's field of view. In this way, a subject can be followed automatically anywhere that the monitoring computer has CCTV coverage. There's no need for a human operator to manually train cameras around, using up man-hours and sooner or later making a mistake and losing track.

"That's the advantage of linking all the cameras together in one system - you could follow a person's trajectory seamlessly," says Davis.
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Old 12-22-2008, 10:15 AM   #1238
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http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/12...d_at_risk_wmd/

Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/12...d_at_risk_wmd/
Censored scenes from the Congress WMD report

Last minute bioterror rewrites?

By George Smith, Dick Destiny

Posted in Government, 17th December 2008 12:52 GMT

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World at Risk, the final report (http://www.preventwmd.org/) of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, received a good build-up. Its publicity stretched from reports outlining a draft of it (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...901921_pf.html) in the Washington Post over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, with more news and private and public briefings the following week. We are, the general consensus went, in deadly danger.

This overriding message from the released copy was given in one sentence from the preface: "[Unless] the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013 ... The Commission further believes that terrorists are more likely to be able to obtain and use a biological weapon than a nuclear weapon."
Five years till doomsday?

The Houston Chronicle was one newspaper which took the grim pronouncement and made it worse, amplifying the fear and claiming, (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/...n/6142214.html) a little imprecisely, that the commission's message was "The United States can expect a terrorist attack using nuclear or more likely biological weapons before 2013 ..."

But while many newspapers jumped on the story, it did not have quite the jolt announcements of this nature have had in the past. Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California, Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence & Terrorism Risk Assessment, immediately issued a blunt press release. (http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press.../12_2WMB.shtml) "Much in the report ... is important," it read. "However, it's time to retire the fear card." The American people needed to be educated about the threat, not terrified, it continued.

Even two years ago, such a statement would probably have been unheard of coming from a Congressional leader. Congress had done a lot to mitigate the threat, Harman wrote. And now it was "time for the rhetoric about the threat to calm..."

This writer hopes therefore that the rhetoric of imminent and catastrophic bioterrorism will be given quietus. During the election campaign, one of Barack Obama's chief policy advisors on the threat of bioterrorism was Richard Danzig, an assistant secretary of defense during the Clinton administration well known for his belief that the bioterror threat is unprecedented. And the World at Risk report uses a Danzig quote that speaks for itself: "Only a thin wall of terrorist ignorance and inexperience now protect us."

Over the past few years, The Register has written about the subject quite a bit, and readers know opinion is strongly divided on the subject. Generally speaking, there are reasonable critics who have been excluded from the press when reports are delivered, their input not sought.

In the report's introduction, the Commission claims it gathered the thoughts of two hundred experts. That's a big number, so this writer emailed Milton Leitenberg, an expert on bioterrorism and one of the well-known reasonable critics mentioned above. Since Leitenberg has written widely on the subject, the question was, had he been consulted by the commission? (Full disclosure: This writer has, in the past, collaborated with Leitenberg and exchanged findings with him.)

Leitenberg replied in email that he hadn't, nor had two other experts he contacted. But a staffer on the Commission had everything that he had written. Further email discussion followed in an informal trading of comments on aspects of the Commission report, the fruits of which are discussed.

It has not been widely pointed out that the Washington Post's November 30 story on a pre-release draft of the Commission report showed differences between it and the edition released the following Wednesday.

"The biodefense research industry that sprang up after 2001 offers potential solutions to a future attack, but also numerous new opportunities for theft or diversion of deadly germs, the report says," wrote Joby Warrick for the Post.

The final report deals with the first part of the assertion in some detail; the second part gets somewhat less attention. "The rapid growth in [biodefense] facilities and people handling select agents has increased the risk of accidents or intentional misuse by insiders," it states somewhat blandly.

More problematical is the draft's conclusion, as reported by the Post, on the result of attempts for a new Biological Weapons Convention accord under the Bush administration. "Efforts to strengthen the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention were dealt a symbolic blow in 2001 when the Bush administration withdrew its support for a new accord that had been under negotiation for six years," it said.

But in the Commission's final report, this has been turned around. While mentioning that the Bush administration's decision resulted in "widespread international criticism," the US government's primary objection - that "acquiescing to an international control regime [would] potentially jeopardize sensitive US information" - along with two others, were valid. The Commission seems to conclude the opposite of what had been reported by the Post - that since "verifying compliance to the BWC" has only become more difficult, the decision to walk away from it was seemingly justified.
Biodefense's internationalization

"Meanwhile, the growth in biodefense research seen in the United States has spread to dozens of countries, including developing nations such as Malaysia and Cuba that are investing heavily to develop world-class biotech industries," Warrick wrote of the draft report copy's findings. While the assertion that expansion has spread to "dozens" may be a bit of a stretch, the gist of this was apparently excluded from the final report.

(Backgrounder: "There are a sizeable number of countries that have maintained biodefense labs since the 1970's," emailed Leitenberg. In the 1980's: "UK, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Norway, Netherlands, of course the USSR/Russia, Israel - the latter two probably offensive rather than 'defense' - Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the CIS states after the dissolution of the USSR in 1992. In more recent years India, Taiwan, Singapore and some others have joined, but probably the most significant aspect is that these newcomers enlarged their programs substantially since the mid 1990's.")

In any case, if accurate, such things point to a final published position at odds in major ways with the original draft. One implication is that staff analysis was inverted, "[Presumably] by the politicians making up the Commission," emailed Leitenberg.

Currently, no state-less organizations (like al Qaeda or associated jihadi groups) possess the materials or means to produce biological weapons. Over the past few years, The Reg has written of the phenomenon in which government officials and experts have asserted the opposite or claimed it was only a matter of time before they acquired them.

"We accept the validity of intelligence estimates about the current rudimentary nature of terrorist capabilities in the area..." reads the Commission's report. But it then considers that this does not preclude them from recruitment of real scientists who will not find the technical obstacles to making such weapons insurmountable. And, the argument continues, there is a new threat posed by synthetic genomics. The reconstitution of the Spanish flu is given as one example. For Newsweek magazine, Commission chair Bob Graham mentioned that one of his worst nightmares was "Should that fall into the hands of evil people with the appropriate capability for organization and technical dissemination, it could exceed the lethality of 90 years ago." But it is also worth mentioning that it has been US science and government money which brought the 1918 flu virus back.

Even prior to the Commission report, the impression has been given that the US biodefense effort has escaped from oversight. The report mentions $60 billion dollars being spent on new facility construction. Problems have cropped up - infections occurred - "exacerbated by the unbridled growth in the number of high-containment laboratories since 2001..."

"The government has recommended a site in Kansas for a new $450 million laboratory to study biological threats such as anthrax and foot-and-mouth disease," read a newspaper report on December 4.

"The Homeland Security Department’s choice of Manhattan, in central Kansas, (http://www.journalgazette.net/apps/p...25/1005/NEWS10) beat out intense competition from sites in Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas."

George Smith is a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny (http://www.dickdestiny.com/blog/dickdestiny.html), he blogs his way through chemical, biological, and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighbourhood hardware stores.
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Old 12-22-2008, 10:16 AM   #1239
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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sciencean...-thoughts.html


Elderly 'use rose tinted spectacles to overcome negative thoughts'
Elderly people are able to look at the world through rose-tinted spectacles because negative memories fade more quickly as we age, scientists have found.
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Old 12-22-2008, 10:16 AM   #1240
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http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...edicalresearch


The cleverness pill
Scientists are proposing we consider using more 'cognitive enhancers'. If you could pop a pill to raise your IQ, would you?
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Old 12-22-2008, 10:17 AM   #1241
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http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/...ds/7791419.stm

Woman injured in 'big cat' attack

An elderly woman has reported being attacked by a large cat in the Highlands.

Pat MacLeod, 74, from Ardross Road in Alness, told police she was injured by a 3ft-long cat while putting out her bins earlier this week.


Mrs MacLeod, who suffered deep cuts to her legs and cuts and scratches on her hands, needed stitches in hospital.

Police and Scottish Natural Heritage are trying to trace the cat, which has been described as grey coloured.

Mrs MacLeod said it was the second time she had been attacked by a cat outside her home and on this occasion the animal sprang at her as soon as she made eye contact.

'Shockingly strong'

She said the "shockingly strong" cat managed to drag her some distance and expressed concern about what might happen if a child encountered the animal.

Northern Constabulary said an unprovoked attack would be very uncharacteristic of a Scottish wildcat and suggested that the animal may be a hybrid of a domestic and feral cat.

A force spokesman said there had previously been sightings of big cats in the area, but no reports of attacks.

Police have advised anyone who sees a "unusually large" cat not to approach it or feed it.




http://www.bigcatmonitors.co.uk/
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Old 12-22-2008, 10:19 AM   #1242
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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/com...cle5324234.ece

The living dead
The afterlife has long been an article of religious faith. And now scientists are finally putting the idea to the test
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Old 12-22-2008, 10:20 AM   #1243
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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/sc...16prof.html?em

Specializing in Problems That Only Seem Impossible to Solve
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Old 12-22-2008, 10:20 AM   #1244
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http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008...inter-solstice


Thousands mark winter solstice and Yule festival across UK
Gatherings at Stonehenge and other ancient British landmarks mark start of longer days and shorter nights


http://www.speroforum.com/site/artic...ith+full+moons

Stone Age graves align with full moons
In the period from 3,300 to 3,100 BC there was an over frequency of 50 percent in the number of lunar eclipses that could be seen in Denmark
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Old 12-22-2008, 10:21 AM   #1245
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http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au...013571,00.html


Stains on Leonardo da Vinci panel turn out to be sketches



PARIS: The mystery is set in the Louvre and the clues are hidden behind a 16th-century masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci. Remind you of anything?

Lovers of Dan Brown novels will be salivating at the discovery of three previously unknown drawings on the back of one of Leonardo's major works. A curator spotted the sketches on the back of The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne when it was taken down in September for restoration.

Sylvain Laveissiere pointed out grey marks that had previously been dismissed as stains. To him they resembled a horse's head and a human skull.

When the painting was photographed with an infra-red camera at the Centre for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France, he was proved right.

On the wood on which the work was mounted was an 18cm by 10cm equine head and a 16.5cm by 10cm skull, complete with orbital and nasal cavities, jaw and teeth. The camera detected a third drawing, a 15cm-high infant Jesus with a lamb, which was invisible to the naked eye.

A spokeswoman for the Louvre said the discovery was "amusing and moving". It is also mysterious, because the drawings appear to have gone unnoticed for 500 years. "They were not meant to be kept," said Bruno Mottin, from the Louvre's art laboratory. "They had been largely wiped out, which explains why no one had spotted them until now."

The Louvre said there was evidence to suggest the sketches - in black stone or charcoal - were indeed by da Vinci.

"We're being very careful," said Vincent Pomarede, head of paintings at the Louvre. "But what is troubling is thesimilarity with drawings that are already known."

The skull resembles those in Leonardo's other sketches, and the horse's head is reminiscent of those in The Battle of Anghiari - a lost masterpiece known only because it was copied.

The baby Jesus appears to be a draft for the figure in The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne.

Jill Burke, an Italian Renaissance specialist at Edinburgh University, said: "It would be quite typical of his working style for him quickly to sketch out ideas that came into his head on whatever paper - or, in this case, panel - was tohand."

The Louvre will carry out tests to try to confirm the identity of the author.

The Times
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Old 12-23-2008, 06:14 AM   #1246
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http://www.disinfo.com/content/story...cebook-Profile

Rod Blagojevich's Deleted Facebook Profile



Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich's Facebook profile was deleted immediately following his arrest by the FBI. Luckily, Gawker has some screen shots of Blago's recent activity, and it's pretty hilarious: hamming-it-up photos and posted notes in which he discusses his humble approach to the task of picking a successor for Obama's vacated Senate seat. ("To give you a low-down, I'm looking for a candidate that will prioritize the average Illinoisan who is too burdened by taxes and economic hardship.") Unfortunately, in recent days, the comments from his constituent "friends" turned vicious: "Rot in hell you scum bag." "Is that a toupee?" "Just wanted to say goodbye. I'm glad you've been arrested."
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Old 12-23-2008, 06:15 AM   #1247
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Couple to Have Britain's First Baby Genetically Modified to be Free of Breast Cancer Gene

Fiona Macrae, Daily Mail: The first British baby designed to be free of breast cancer is due to be born next week.

The child's parents opted for genetic screening tests in the hope of freeing their children from the disease which has blighted the lives of their relatives for generations. Without screening, any girl they had would have been likely to develop a fast spreading, hard-to-treat form of breast cancer.

Doctors at University College Hospital, London, created embryos through IVF then screened them for the deadly gene before transferring only healthy ones into the womb. The sex of the baby is not known.

Paul Serhal, medical director of the hospital's assisted conception unit, said the pioneering treatment, which was carried out on the NHS, allowed the parents the chance of a healthy family. Many more couples could benefit from pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD.


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/ar...ncer-gene.html
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Old 12-23-2008, 06:19 AM   #1248
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http://www.chycho.com/?q=node/1935

Eight major undersea Internet communication cables cut in 2008: We most definitely do live in interesting times

In early February 2008 at least five major underwater Internet cables were cut in just a few days, sending large portions of the Middle East into communication blackout.

Two days ago, on 19 December 2008, we learned that three of the four internet sub-cables that run from Asia to North America were damaged ... "Industry experts told The Times that two sub-sea cables went down just off Alexandra, causing the mass disruption. It happens to a single cable typically once a year, and companies have developed the fail-safe of redirecting traffic to a second cable should this occur."...

I found this last statement by “Industry experts” to be the most telling bit of information from the above news. What are the odds of eight Internet cables accidentally being severed in one year when it “happens to a single cable typically once a year”? Extremely unlikely would be an intelligent guess.
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Old 12-23-2008, 06:20 AM   #1249
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http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...1215121559.htm

ScienceDaily (Dec. 19, 2008) — A person's unconscious attitudes toward science and God may be fundamentally opposed, researchers report, depending on how religion and science are used to answer "ultimate" questions such as how the universe began or the origin of life.


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DUH!
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Old 12-23-2008, 06:24 AM   #1250
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http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2...chemistry.html

Science Behind Mysterious ‘Fifth Taste’ Revealed



It’s appetizing news for anyone who’s ever wanted the savory taste of meats and cheeses without actually having to eat them: chemists have identified molecular mechanisms underlying the sensation of umami, also known as the fifth taste.

The much-loved but historically unappreciated taste is produced by two interacting sets of molecules, each of which is needed to trigger cellular receptors on a tongue’s surface.

“This opens the door to designing better, more potent and more selective umami enhancers,” said Xiaodong Li, a chemist at San Diego-based food-additive company Senomyx. Li co-authored the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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