Wednesday, June 27, 2012

News You May Have Missed, No. 35

1. A new study shows that your daily cup of coffee might provide that health benefit. The study, published in Circulation Heart Failure, shows that, to a point, moderate coffee drinking may significantly lower the risk of heart failure. But, the study also found excessive coffee drinking may increase the chance of getting major heart problems. The research also found that 3 cups of coffee per day might prevent Alzheimer's in older adults. Two cups of coffee a day cuts overall of dying by 10%. And, green coffee beans may lead to weight loss. While there is a commonly held belief that regular coffee consumption may be dangerous to heart health, our research suggests that the opposite may be true, said senior study author Dr. Murray Mittleman, director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Looking at five studies of coffee consumption in Sweden and Finland that involved 140,200 people and 6,522 heart failure events, researchers determined that four northern European servings of coffee a day (about two commercial 8-ounce cups of coffee in the U.S.) helped prevent heart failure by 11%. But, when people consumed 10 northern European servings of coffee daily (about four to five average U.S. cups of coffee) the opposite effect was observed. The strength of the brew was not accounted for, but typically European coffee is stronger than coffee consumed in the U.S. Also, there was no indication whether the subjects were drinking caffeinated or decaffeinated drinks, though most of the coffee that's consumed in the study areas tend to contain caffeine. Currently, the American Heart Association says that people who have had heart problems shouldn't drink more than one or two cups of caffeinated beverages a day. The study authors hope this new evidence may change that.
2. The tower in London which houses Big Ben is to be renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honor of the Queen, the House of Commons has confirmed. The re-naming is the result of a campaign, backed by most Members of Parliment and the three main party leaders, to rename the tower in recognition of the Queen's 60 year reign. At present, the landmark is called The Clock Tower. The prime minister and the Labor Party leader have both previously described the move as a fitting tribute to the Queen. The clock and the tower are commonly known around the world as Big Ben. But, Big Ben was the nickname originally only given to the 13.5 ton bell within the tower.
3. Three ultra-Orthodox Jewish men have been arrested in Israel, suspected of defacing the national Holocaust memorial with anti-Zionist graffiti. One of the slogans daubed in paint on the walls of the memorial read,  If Hitler had not existed, the Zionists would have invented him. The suspects have admitted vandalizing the site, a police spokesman said. Suspicion for the attack had fallen on radical ultra-Orthodox Jews who oppose the creation of the state of Israel. One of the slogans, all in Hebrew, was signed World ultra-Orthodox Jewry. Another read, Thanks Hitler for the wonderful Holocaust you organized for us. Only thanks to you we got a state from the UN. A third said, Honorable government of Poland, stop allowing the Zionists to hold manipulative 'memorial' ceremonies in Auschwitz. Some ultra-Orthodox Jews believe a Jewish state can be established only after the coming of the Messiah, and that the state of Israel is therefore illegitimate. A small number of extremists believe the myth that Israel's founders conspired with Hitler to bring about the Jewish state. In a statement, Yad Vashem holocaust museum Chairman, Avner Shalev, said, I believe that it was important to know the identities of those who spray-painted the graffiti. The suspects are extremist ultra-Orthodox Jews, anti-Zionists, who are on the fringes of society, and do not represent the majority who respect the memory of the Holocaust. Yad Vashem was established in 1953 and commemorates the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II.
4. Sleep in a doghouse rather than jail, walk through town with a humiliating sign or cut off a child's ponytail as eye-for-eye punishment. Such unconventional sentences that shame defendants are steadily increasing and turning state courts into circus shows, a legal scholar said Monday. This is part of a disturbing trend that has developed in the last 20 years, said Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University. These are punishments that often appeal to the public and bring a type of instant gratification for the court. Turley cited a recent example which occurred in the State of Utah (USA) when a 13-year-old girl went to court for cutting a 3-year-old girl's hair into a bob with dollar-store scissors. The teen and her 11-year-old friend were referred to court for the March incident involving the toddler and for harassing another girl in Colorado by telephone. The judge agreed to cut back community service time if the mother of the teen chopped off her daughter's ponytail in court. The mother has since filed a formal complaint, saying the judge at the May hearing intimidated her into the eye-for-an-eye penalty. I fail to see how the court reducing itself to the level of a 13-year-old teaches a moral let alone legal lesson, Turley said. The court was doing precisely what the 13-year-old did to a child. Turley, who has written extensively on how shaming undermines justice, said the sentence conveys the wrong message.
Related Story: In a 2009 column for USA Today, Professor Jonathan Turley cited an abusive father in Texas given a choice of spending 30 days in jail or 30 nights sleeping in a doghouse. He chose the doghouse to be able to keep his job. In an Ohio case, a municipal judge sentenced two teens found guilty of breaking into a church on Christmas Eve to march through town with a donkey and a sign reading, Sorry for the Jackass Offense. The same judge later ordered a woman to be taken to a remote location to sleep outside for abandoning kittens in parks. Turley said Texas Judge Ted Poe made people shovel manure to degrade them. Poe parlayed his poetic justice into a congressional seat. And, Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio has faced complaints over orders that male inmates wear pink underwear. To some extent, we've seen the merging of law and entertainment in the last 10 years, Turley said, noting that citizens are being given a steady diet with television programs such as Judge Judy and Judge Brown. He said he has seen no evidence that shame sentences have any more impact than conventional ones and thought society had turned back the door on such primitive sentences in the 18th century. Turley said very few judges end up being disciplined.
5. Archaeologists in Greece's second-largest city,Thessaloniki, have uncovered a 70-meter (230-foot) section of an ancient road built by the Romans that was city's main travel artery nearly 2,000 years ago. The marble-paved road was unearthed during excavations for Thessaloniki's new subway system, which is due to be completed in four years. The road in the northern port city will be raised to be put on permanent display when the metro opens in 2016. The excavation site was shown to the public when details of the permanent display project were also announced. Several of the large marble paving stones were etched with children's board games while others were marked by horse-drawn cart wheels. Also discovered at the site were remains of tools and lamps as well as the bases of marble columns. Viki Tzanakouli, an archaeologist working on the project, told The Associated Press the Roman road was about 1,800 years old, while remains of an older road built by the ancient Greeks 500 years earlier were found underneath it. We have found roads on top of each other, revealing the city's history over the centuries, Tzanakouli said. The ancient road, and side roads perpendicular to it appear to closely follow modern roads in the city today. About 23 feet (7 meters) below ground in the center of the city, the ancient road follows in roughly the same direction as the city's modern Egnatia Avenue. The subway works, started in 2006, present a rare opportunity for archaeologists to explore under the densely populated city but have also caused years of delays for the project. In 2008, workers on the Thessaloniki metro discovered more than 1,000 graves, some filled with treasure. The graves were of different shapes and sizes, and some contained jewelry, coins or other pieces of art.
6. People are risking their health by working on smartphones, tablets and laptops after they have left the office, according to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. It says people have become screen slaves and are often working while commuting or after they get home. The society said poor posture in these environments could lead to back and neck pain. An online survey, of 2,010 office workers by the Society found that nearly two-thirds of those questioned continued working outside office hours. The organization said people were topping up their working day with more than two hours of extra screen-time, on average, every day. The data suggested that having too much work and easing pressure during the day were the two main reasons for the extra workload. The chairwoman of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Dr. Helena Johnson, said the findings were of huge concern. She said, While doing a bit of extra work at home may seem like a good short-term fix, if it becomes a regular part of your evening routine then it can lead to problems such as back and neck pain, as well as stress-related illness. This is especially the case if you're using hand-held devices and not thinking about your posture. Talk to your employer if you are feeling under pressure.
7. One of Europe's largest hoards of Iron Age coins has been unearthed on the British island of  Jersey and could be worth up to £10m, according to an expert. The Roman and Celtic coins, which date from the 1st Century BC were found by two metal detector enthusiasts. Dr. Philip de Jersey, a former Celtic coin expert at Oxford University, said the haul was extremely exciting and very significant. He said each individual coin was worth between £100 and £200 . Deputy Rob Duhamel Environment Minister said,  it was found under a hedge so perhaps this is an early example of hedge fund trading. Neither the exact number of coins found nor the exact location of the find has not been revealed, but archaeologists said the coin colection weighed about three quarters of a ton and could contain about 50,000 coins. The coins were found by Reg Mead and Richard Miles in a field in the east of Jersey. They had been searching for more than 30 years after hearing rumors a farmer had discovered silver coins while working on his land. The ownership of the coins is unclear. Mead said he had asked the States of Jersey for clarification. Deputy Duhamel said the owners of the site had indicated they would like to see the whole collection of coins on display at the Jersey Museum or the archive.
8. A rare original copy of U. S. President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, the document which freed the slaves in the southern states, sold Tuesday at a New York auction for more than $2 million. It is the second-highest price ever paid for a Lincoln-signed proclamation. The latest copy of the 1863 document was auctioned at the Robert Siegel Auction Galleries and went to David Rubenstein, managing director of The Carlyle Group, an  investment firm. The seller remained anonymous. The document will go on public exhibit somewhere in Washington, he said. The name of the institution is yet to be announced. Lincoln signed the proclamation during the Civil War, freeing all slaves in states then in rebellion. The proclamation also provided a legal framework for the emancipation of millions of other slaves as the Union armies advanced. Forty-eight copies were subsequently printed and Lincoln signed all of them. A century later, President Lyndon Johnson invoked the proclamation while presenting the Voting Rights Act to Congress. He said equality was still an unfulfilled promise for black Americans.


9. Prehistoric dots and crimson hand-stencils on Spanish cave walls are now considered the world's oldest known cave art, according to new dating results and is perhaps the best evidence yet that Neanderthals were Earth's first cave painters. If that is the case, the discovery narrows the cultural distance between us and Neanderthals and fuels the argument that the heavy-browed humans were not a separate species but only another race. Of the 11 subterranean sites the team studied along northern Spain's Cantabrian Sea coast, the cave called El Castillo had the oldest paintings. The oldest of them was a simple red disk. At more than 40,800 years old, this is currently Europe's oldest dated art by at least 4,000 years, said the study's lead author Alistair Pike, an archaeologist at the University of Bristol in the U.K. Pike's team teased out the new dates using a method that relies on known rates of decay in uranium, specifically uranium in calcium deposits that had formed over the paint. The mineral-based paint itself couldn't be dated, because it contains neither uranium nor the carbon needed for radiocarbon dating. In several cases, the Spanish artwork proved older than previously estimated based on indirect methods, such as stylistic comparisons with paintings at better dated sites, according to the study published in the journal, Science.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

News You May Have Missed, No. 34

1. A hairpin belonging to 16th century French Queen Catherine de Medici has been discovered at a royal residence outside Paris. What has conservators scratching their heads is exactly where it was found: down a communal toilet. Officials said it's the first time in modern history that a possession of the Renaissance royal has been found at Fontainebleau Palace. Though the queen was renowned across Europe for her lavish jewelry, much of her collection has been lost, sold or stolen over the centuries. The rare 9 centimeter (3.5 inches) pin was identified easily because it bore interlocking C's  for "Catherine." After the age-old soil was cleaned off, Fontainebleau Palace's conservator Vincent Droguet also noted a finish of white and green, known to be Catherine's colors. Less easy for the experts, however, was to explain why the personal possession of a queen known for luxury would end up in a Renaissance-era communal toilet as opposed to her royal one. The artifact was found by accident as archeologists dug around the toilet to prepare the surrounding area for restoration. Droguet called the find a mystery. Top of FormBut what would Catherine de Medici be doing there? Maybe it was a lady-in-waiting who took it. Perhaps it was stolen, and just fell in, he said.
2. Uriel Landeros, who called himself an up-and-coming Mexican-American artist said that he was looking to honor the work of Pablo Picasso. So, he tagged an original Picasso, uploaded a video of the act on YouTube and then did the same on Facebook. In the words of his Facebook friend Natalie Marie Vickio: What is wrong with you? The act of vandalism occurred at Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, in broad daylight, when Landeros spray painted an image of a matador slaying a bull alongside the word Conquista on Picasso's 1929  painting Woman in a Red Armchair. The whole thing was captured on tape by a witness and possible accomplice who closes in on the tag before eloquently asking what the fuck? The amateur filmmaker later identified Landeros as the culprit as well as calling the defacing pretty cool. The painting was immediately removed from the wall post-tag, the paint still wet. All spray paint has since been removed and the piece is set to return to the its home on the collection wall next week. Menil Collection spokesperson Vance Muse was surprisingly open to considering Landeros' tag as a possible artistic endeavor. He told television station KCRW, We certainly live in a time where, you know, art is appropriated. You know that sort of thing, but there are clearly limits to that. Although eventually he dubbed the act as one of vandalism, he did not jump to the conclusion as quickly. But, Muse was far from the most understanding when it came to Landeros' supporters. One  Facebook supporter suggested Picasso himself may have embraced the action.


3.Wesley Warren, Jr. of Nevada (USA) has a one-pound scrotum. But, he turned down an offer for free surgery to get rid of his bulging problem. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that  Warren declined an opportunity to have the Dr. Oz Show television program  pay for the medical expenses associated with the surgery, partially because they wanted exclusive interview rights.  Warren bristles at the notion that he won't get surgery because he doesn't want to lose the fame he's garnered because of his condition, which is caused by an excess of watery fluid collecting around his testicles Who would want to live like this?, he said. I just don't want to die during the operation. The Review-Journal previously reported that Warren's scrotum prevents him from holding down a job and makes it difficult for him to urinate properly. But, the surgery is complicated and it carries the risk, among others, that his penis and testicles could have to be completely removed if surgeons can't stop the bleeding. Warren's Facebook page created back in 2011 to raise money for surgery has the expected mocking comments but also has words of encouragement. Keep praying. God's going to fix this, one user wrote.


4. Glass jewelry thought to have been made in the Roman Empire has been found in a very unlikely place, an ancient Japanese tomb. Researchers from Japan's Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties announced  that three glass beads recovered from a Fifth Century burial site near Kyoto bear signs of Roman craftsmanship. This suggests that Roman influence reached as far as East Asia. They are one of the oldest multilayered glass products found in Japan, and very rare accessories that were believed to be made in the Roman Empire and sent to Japan, researcher Tomomi Tamura said. The gilt artifacts, which are 5 millimeters in diameter, contained traces of the chemical natron which Roman craftsmen used to melt glass. A natural salt, natron was also used by the Ancient Egyptians in the preparation of mummies. Researchers are now interested in finding out how the beads traveled more than 6,000 miles from present-day Italy to Japan. This is not the first evidence of contact between Eastern and Western civilizations in the ancient world. In 1954, an archeological dig at Helgo, Sweden, unearthed a 6th Century statue of Buddha from northern India. And in 2010, 2,000-year-old bones from a Roman cemetery in Italy were found to contain East Asian DNA.  


5. Yasser Lopez, 16, was said to be extremely lucky to survive after his friend accidentally fired a spear-gun into his forehead as it was being loaded. The force of the impact was said to be so strong that it knocked him into the lake where the two teenagers had been fishing. Lopez was airlifted to Miami's (Florida, USA) Jackson Memorial Hospital where doctors were only able to X-ray him after sawing off part of the spear so he could fit into the scanner. Miraculously, the three-inch spear went straight through his skull, narrowly missing his right eye and perforating the right side of his brain. Neurosurgeon Dr.Ross Bullock said Lopez was hugely fortunate that the spear missed every major blood vessel in his brain and did not pierce the left hand side, sparing his speech. After discovering in the X-ray that the part of the spear in Lopez's head was a screw tip, doctors managed to delicately remove it without damaging his brain. It was possible for us to figure out a strategy during the operation to be able to unscrew the tip of the spear, instead of having to get this whole spear dragged out through his brain, Dr Bullock said.


6. It is the first time fossils of vertebrates (animals with backbones that include ourselves ) have been caught in the performing the sex act. Nine pairs of fossils were found in a the Messel Pit, near Darmstadt in Germany. It is believed the copulating couples were overcome by poisonous gas at the bottom of a volcanic crater. Dr. Walter Joyce of the University of Tuebingen, Germany, said the turtles belonged to an extinct species known as Allaeochelys crassesculpta and anatomical evidence revealed each pair had a male and female member. It is believed volcanic gases were emitted from the lake from time to time and caused the death of many animals that lived in and around it which is why so many fossil vertebrates have been found in the sediment. Fifty million years ago the Messel Pit comprised a large series of lakes surrounded by lush, sub-tropical forests that supported an incredibly diverse range of life-forms. While most other similar sites are lucky if they contain partial skeletons, the pit boasts extensive preservation, even going so far as to preserve the fur, feathers, and 'skin shadows' of some species. And the diversity is no less astonishing, thanks in part to the periodic gas attacks. These include more than 10,000 fossilized fish of numerous species, thousands of aquatic and terrestrial insects, some with distinct colors still preserved, a plethora of small mammals including pygmy horses, large mice, armadillos, bats, predatory birds, frogs, salamanders and other reptiles. The Messel Pit was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site on 9th December 1995.

7. At least 10 Zimbabwean Members of Parliament have been circumcised as part of a campaign to reduce HIV and Aids cases. A small makeshift clinic for carrying out the procedures was erected in Parliament House in the capital Harare. Blessing Chebundo, chairman of Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against Aids, said his main objective was to inspire other citizens to follow suit. Research by the UN has suggested male circumcision can reduce the spread of HIV and Aids. A report by UNAids and the World Health Organization (WHO) said the risk of HIV infection among men could be reduced by 60%. More than a million people in Zimbabwe are believed to be HIV-positive, with about 500,000 receiving anti-retroviral treatment. The country was one of 13 African states identified in 2007 as a priority for the development of male circumcision programs by the WHO and UNAids. Chebundo said more than 120 MPs and parliamentary staff had shown an interest in the circumcision program. There are several reasons why circumcision may protect against HIV infection. Specific cells in the foreskin are thought to be potential targets for HIV infection. Following circumcision, the skin under the foreskin becomes less sensitive and is less likely to bleed, reducing the risk of infection. When Aids first began to emerge in Africa, researchers noted that men who were circumcised seemed to be less at risk of infection, but the reasons were unclear. The WHO says the practice is particularly effective in countries with high HIV rates. But it is not the whole solution. Promoting safe sex, providing people with HIV testing services and encouraging the use of male and female condoms are all seen as equally important. Some experts also say there is a danger in sending out a message that circumcision can protect against HIV because it could lead to an increase in unprotected sex.
8. Modern times are not without witch tales nor are they lacking in some of the cruel punishments that go along with such occult claims. The latest comes from Saudi Arabia where, according to the Saudi Arabian news agency SPA, a man was recently executed by beheading for practicing sorcery. The man, identified as Muree bin Ali bin Issa al-Asiri, was allegedly found with occult apparatus, including books and talismans from which he learned to harm God's worshipers, according to a statement released by the Interior Ministry. It also added that he had confessed to adultery with two women. Many Shiite Muslims like many fundamentalist Christians consider fortune-telling an occult practice and therefore evil. Making a psychic prediction, using magic, or even claiming to use magic is seen as invoking diabolical forces.
9. Scientists have calculated just how much extra weight the world is carrying due to overweight and obese individuals, with the United States ranking at the top of the Heaviest 10 List. The Lightest 10 List was composed entirely of African and Asian countries. Using data from around the world for 2005, researchers used body mass indexes (BMI, or a measure of body fatness) and height distributions to estimate average adult body mass. Then, they multiplied these results by population size to get a total mass, referred to as biomass.  They evaluated body mass using BMI thresholds of greater than 25 for overweight and greater than 30 for obese. The researchers calculated that the collective mass of the adult population in 2005 due to obesity was 3.9 million tons (3.5 million metric ton). Globally, average body mass for an individual was calculated at 137 pounds (62 kilograms).

For nations of 100,000 people or more, the heaviest people are found in: 1.United States; 2. Kuwait; 3. Croatia; 4. Qatar; 5. Egypt; 6. United Arab Emirates; 7. Trinidad and Tobago; 8. Argentina; 9. Greece; and, 10. Bahrain.
For nations of 100,000 people or more, the lightest people are found in: 1. North Korea; 2. Cambodia; 3. Burundi; 4. Nepal; 5. Democratic Republic of the Congo; 6. Bangladesh; 7. Sri Lanka; 8. Ethiopia; 9. Vietnam; and 10. Eritrea.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Knowledge Quiz, No. 39

      I dislike the term trivia. No knowledge is trivial. All information contributes to the whole of an intelligent human being. And, it is an essential part of critical thinking. That is why I did not call this a Trivia Quiz. Instead, I am calling it a Knowledge Quiz.
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Knowledge Quiz, No. 38
The answers are at the bottom
1. Who invented the microchip?
2. What is a catharsis?
3. Who were the Acadians?
4. How many moons does the planet Mars have?
5. Who wrote the classic opera, Don Giovanni?
6. In the 1920's, what was a vamp?
7. Who started the Volkswagen automobile company?
8. What are cataracts?
9. Where is Armageddon?
10. What the capital of Chili?
11. How many keys does a piano have?
12. Where did use of the term rock n roll originate?
13. What was The Magna Carta?
14. What is a tundra?
15. What is kimchi?
16. What was the Maginot Line?
17. What is a bustle?  
18. What is the vas deferens?
19. Who wrote the play, Long Day's Journey into Night?
20. Who was Robespierre?
1. Jack Kilby  (1923-2005) invented the microchip and along with Texas Instruments received U.S. patent # 3,643,138 for miniaturized electronic circuits. In 2000, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. He is also the recipient of the America's most prestigious honors in science and engineering, the National Medal of science (1969) and the National Medal of Technology (1990). He is also the inventor of the handheld calculator and the thermal printer.

2. Catharsis is a Greek word meaning cleansing or purging. It is derived from the verb kathairein meaning to purify, purge. In drama, catharsis is a word that describes the emotional cleansing sometimes depicted in a play as occurring for one or more of its characters, as well as the same phenomenon as an intended part of the audience’s experience. It describes an extreme change in emotion, occurring as the result of experiencing strong feelings, such as sorrow, fear, pity, or even laughter.

3. The Acadians  are the descendants of the 17th-century French colonists who settled in the Acadia a colony of New France, present day the Canadian provinces  of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and parts of Quebec province and the U.S. state of Maine. Prior to the British conquest of Acadia in 1710, the Acadians lived for almost 80 years in Acadia. After the conquest, they lived under British rule for the next forty-five years. During the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the British deported approximately 11,500 Acadians. Approximately one-third perished from disease and drowning. Many later settled in Louisiana where they later became known as the Cajuns.

4. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos. They are thought to be asteroids which have been captured by the gravity of Mars. Both of the moons were discovered in 1877 by Asaph Hall (1829-1907). They are named after the Ancient Greek mythological figures, Phobos (panic/fear) and  Deimos (terror/dread) who  in accompanied their father god of war, Ares, into battle. Ares was known as Mars to the Ancient Romans.

5. Don Giovanni  is an opera in two acts with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). The Italian libretto was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte (1749-1838). It premiered at the Teatro di Praga in Prague on October 29, 1787.

6. A vamp was seductive woman who used her sexual attractiveness for the seduction and manipulation of men.  She was usually a heartless, man-eating seductress and a femme fatale. She was a stock character in movies and books of the 1920's and 30's. The character is a woman who, while not necessarily attractive, has a certain allure (usually this striking, exotic, overtly sexy glamour), and is usually a heartless, man-eating seductress. The term vamp is short for vampire.

7. The classic "beetle" design of the Volkswagen (translation: people's car) automobile was created by Irwin Komenda (1904-1966) . Volkswagen was founded in 1937 by a Nazi trade union. Hitler chose to sponsor the all-new, state-owned factory.

8. A cataract is a clouding that develops in the lens or lens capsule of the eye. They vary in degree from slight to complete opacity. Cataracts obstruct the passage of light to the eye. Cataracts typically progress slowly in causing vision loss, but if left untreated, can potentially blindness. The condition usually affects both eyes, but almost always one eye is affected earlier than the other. The causes of cataracts include long-term exposure to ultraviolet light, exposure to radiation, trauma, hypertension, aging, and diseases such as diabetes. Cataracts have no scientifically proven prevention and can be removed through surgury.

9. Armageddon (Hebrew: Har Megiddo; English: Mount Megiddo) is, according to the Bible, the site of a battle at the end of time (end times). It has been interpreted as either a literal or symbolic location. However, Armageddon (Har Megiddo) is an actual  spot in modern-day Israel on which ancient forts were built to guard the main road which connected Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The modern town of Megiddo is approximately 25 miles (40 km) west-southwest of the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee.

10. The capital of Chili is Santiago.

11. Almost every modern piano has 52 white keys and 36 black keys for a total of 88 keys. However, many older pianos only have 85 keys. Pressing a key on the piano's keyboard causes a felt-covered hammer to strike steel strings each making a different sound.

12. The phrase rocking and rolling originally described the movement of a ship on the ocean, but was used by the early twentieth century, both to describe the spiritual fervor of black church rituals and as a sexual phrase or analogy. Various gospel, blues and swing recordings, three of the roots of what would become known as rock n roll, used the phrase often in the 1940's. It was used in recordings and in reviews of what became known as "rhythm and blues" music aimed at a black audience. By 1942, Billboard magazine columnist Maurie Orodenker had begun using the term rock and roll in descriptions of upbeat recordings such as Rock Me by Sister Rosetta Tharpe . In 1951, Cleveland, Ohio (USA), disc jockey Alan Freed began playing the music while popularizing the phrase rock n roll to describe it. Since 1995, the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame has been located in Cleveland.

13. Magna Carta, (aka: Magna Carta Libertatum and The Great Charter of the Liberties of England) is an  English charter originally issued in the year 1215 and re-issued later in the 13th century in modified versions. The 1215 charter required King John to proclaim certain liberties, and accept that his will was not arbitrary. Magna Carta was the first document forced onto an English King by a group of his subjects in an attempt to limit his powers by law and protect their privileges. Despite its historical importance, by the second half of the 19th century nearly all of its clauses had been repealed in their original form. However, it influenced the early settlers in the New England colonies and it inspired later constitutional documents including the United States Constitution.

14. In physical geography, a tundra is an area in which tree growth is hindered by low temperatures and short growing seasons. The term tundra comes the Russian word tūndâ meaning uplands and treeless mountain tract. There are three types of tundra: Arctic tundra, alpine tundra, and Antarctic tundra. In a tundra, the plant life is mostly composed of dwarf  shrubs grasses, mosses and lichens.

15. Kimchi (also spelled: gimchi, kimchee, kim chee) is a traditional fermented Korean dish  made of vegetables with a variety of seasonings. There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi made with a main vegetable ingredient such as cabbage, radish, scallion or cucumber. It is often spicy, hot and red in color. Kimchi is also an ingredient i0n many Korean dishes.

16. The Maginot Line (French: Ligne Maginot), named after the French Minister of War Andre Maginot, was a line of concrete fortifications, tank obstacles, artillery casements, machine gun posts, and other defenses, which France constructed along its borders with Germany and Italy. It was constructed as a result of French experiences during World War I and in the days before World War II. It was strategically ineffective because the Germans went around the Maginot Line through Belgium and invaded northern France in 1940.

17. A bustle is a type of framework used to expand the fullness of the back of a woman's dress thereby making a woman appear to have a larger than normal backside. It was fashionable for a woman to use a bustle in the mid-to-late 19th century. Bustles were worn under the skirt in the back, just below the waist, to keep the skirt from dragging.

18. The vas deferens (plural: vasa deferentia; aka: ductus deferens) is part of the male anatomy of many vertebrates. It transport sperms from the epididymis (narrow, tightly-coiled tube connecting ducts from the rear of each testicle) in anticipation of  ejaculation. In humans, each is about 30 centimeters long and is surrounded by smooth muscle.

19. Long Day's Journey Into Night is a drama in four acts written by the American playwright Eugene O'Neill in 1941–42. The play is widely considered to be O'Neill's masterpiece. O'Neill posthumously received the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the work. The action covers a fateful day from around 8:30 am to midnight at the seaside Connecticut home of the Tyrone family in August 1912. The plot is semi-autobiographical. One theme of the play is addiction (alcohol or morphine) resulting in a dysfunctional family.

20.  Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre (1758-1794) was a French lawyer, politician, and one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revolution. He defended the abolition of both slavery and the death penalty. He supported equality of rights, universal suffrage and republican type of government. He was arrested and executed during the Reign of Terror in July, 1794. His supporters called him The Incorruptible but his adversaries called him dictateur sanguinaire (bloodthirsty dictator).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

News You May Have Missed, No. 33

1. A 10-year-old girl in Sweden has had a major blood vessel in her body replaced with one grown with her own stem cells, Swedish doctors report. She had poor blood flow between her intestines and liver. A vein was taken from a dead man, stripped of its own cells and then bathed in stem cells from the girl, according to an article published in the medical journal The Lancet. Surgeons said there was a "striking" improvement in her quality of life. A blockage in the major blood vessel linking the intestines and the liver can cause serious health problems including internal bleeding and even death. In this case, other options such as using artificial grafts to by-pass the blockage, had failed. Doctors at the University of Gothenburg and Shalgrenska University Hospital tried to make a vein out of the patient's own cells. It used a process known as "decellularisation". A doctor involved in the surgery said, The new stem-cell derived graft resulted not only in good blood flow rates, but also in strikingly improved quality of life for the patient. This is the latest in a series of body parts grown, or engineered, to match the tissue of the patient. Last year, scientists created a synthetic windpipe and then coated it with a patient's stem cells.
2. There are big plans in the city of Chiang Rai, Thailand, for a massive Buddhist temple that priests aim to make one of the most beautiful structures in the world. They have entrusted artist Chalermchai Kositpipat to design it in all-white with glittering glass and arrangements of rich symbolism derived from Buddhist and Hindu traditions. If Kositpipat has his way, according to the Huffington Post, the temple will also have images of Superman, Batman and Neo (from the movie The Matrix), all of which Kositpipat says will further Lord Buddha's "message."
3. Look far enough back in the human family lineage, and you'll find a fishy ancestor that looked surprisingly like a shark. In fact, this now-extinct fish was among the first to split from sharks, whose bones are made of cartilage, to evolve into a line of tough-boned species that includes everything from bony fish to human beings. A new analysis finds that this controversial class of animals was more shark-like than expected. The common ancestors of all jawed vertebrates today organized their heads in a way that resembled sharks, study researcher John Finarelli, a vertebrate biologist at University College, Dublin, said in a statement. Given what we now know about the interrelatedness of early fishes, these results tell us that while sharks retained these features, bony fishes moved away from such conditions. Finarelli and his colleagues examined a fish called Acanthodes bronni, part of the acanthodian group of fish, which included the earliest vertebrate animals with jaws. A. bronni lived about 290 million years ago, during the Paleozoic period. The shark family and the bony fish families split about 460 million years ago. A. bronni left few traces besides its fossil scales and fin spines. But a few fossilized, fragmented skulls survived millions of years in the ground and now reside in museum collections. The researchers made silicone rubber casts of these fossils in order to reconstruct the anatomy of the fish's heads.
4. If you’re challenged by the breathing difficulties associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), there are a number of things you might do to improve lung function, find relief, and stop the condition from progressing. An effective plan usually involves quitting smoking, avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke, taking prescribed medications, attending pulmonary rehabilitation sessions, and opting for oxygen therapy or even surgery in severe cases. According to recent research, however, COPD relief might be found in a glass of wine  “There have been several studies looking at the effects of drinking wine on lung function in patients with COPD,” says Brian W. Carlin, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Drexel University School of Medicine in Philadelphia and immediate past chairman of the COPD Alliance. “Those who drank a moderate amount of wine had higher lung volumes and had a lower risk of airway obstruction.”  Specifically, researchers in one recent study looked at lifestyle and medical history questionnaires answered by more than 100,000 members of Kaiser Permanente during a seven-year period and compared hospitalization rates among alcohol drinkers and non-drinkers. People who reported drinking one to two alcoholic beverages a day were about 25 percent less likely to have been hospitalized. The researchers found the biggest benefit among people who drank wine but no difference between those who preferred white or red. Other studies about COPD and alcohol have tried to understand how wine may help, suggesting, for instance, that the antioxidants in red wine, resveratrol in particular,might help stave off progression of the condition. “Proposed mechanisms include the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effects, and immune stimulation effects that occur secondary to resveratrol," explains Dr. Carlin. "There may be other components present in the wine itself that may be related to such effects as well.”  But right now all experts have are theories. More research is needed to understand the connection between COPD and alcohol.
5. Male representatives on the Sormland County Council in Sweden should sit rather than stand while urinating in office restrooms, according to a motion advanced by the local Left Party. Known as a socialist and feminist organization, the party claims that seated urination is more hygienic for men because the practice decreases the likelihood of puddles and other unwanted residue forming in the stall.  In addition, they maintain that it is better for a man's health because it more effectively empties the bladder, the newspaper, The Local, reported. A representative from the party said he hopes to move toward sitting only bathrooms. But, not everyone agrees. Men scatter urine not so much during the actual urination as during the 'shaking off' that follows, John Gamel, a professor at the University of Louisville, wrote while addressing the issue in 2009. As a result, forcing men to sit while emptying their bladders will serve little purpose, since no man wants to shake himself off while remaining seated on the toilet.
6. Japan Broadcasting Corporation reported that  architect Sou Fujimoto recently unveiled his public restroom for women only which has one transparency-enclosed toilet which is in the middle of a 2,160-square-foot private garden of cherry, plum and peach trees. The 6-foot-high-walled park is located beside a railway station in Ichihara City east of Tokyo. Japan is a world leader in fanciful toilets and Fujimoto said he thought the scenery would enhance the user's feeling of release.
7. Oxford University (U.K.) researchers have concluded that a set of skeletal remains which many Bulgarians attribute to John the Baptist probably belonged to a first century male from the Middle East. While that doesn't prove that the bones belonged to the man revered by Christians as the forerunner to Jesus, it does mean that those who believe the relics are the remains of the first century saint have a scientific case. The discovery of a sarcophagus containing a knuckle bone, a tooth, a skull fragment and other remains under an ancient church on an island off Bulgaria's coast, paired with a small urn bearing a Greek-language reference to John the Baptist, drew enormous interest when it was announced two years ago. Officials didn't wait for scientific evaluation before offering the relics up for public view; thousands waited for hours to catch a glimpse of the bones when they were displayed in Sofia, Bulgaria's capital. Oxford professor Thomas Higham, whose lab subjected the bone fragments to radiocarbon dating and DNA sequencing, said he was skeptical at first. We didn't expect results that would be consistent with the expected, or hoped for, results of our Bulgarian colleagues, he said in an interview. But, he promised that the find, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, would stand up to scrutiny. We're very confident about the genetics, he said. But, then he added, There are about eight or nine skulls of John the Baptist out there. They can't be all John the Baptist. Higham's research was funded with a grant from National Geographic.
8. A woman in Seoul, South Korea, was eating only a partially boiled squid when the squid (cephalopod)  injected its sperm bag into her tongue, according to research published in the Journal of Parasitology of the American Society of Parasitologists. The unidentified woman reportedly experienced a "pricking and foreign-body sensation" while she chewed and spat the squid out. She had to go to the hospital when she felt severe pain and several "small, squirming" creepy crawlies in her mouth. Doctors found that the squid had left "twelve small, white spindle-shaped, bug-like organisms" in the mucous membranes of her tongue and cheek. The woman's mouth had been essentially inseminated. Researchers think that the squid's sperm bags came out while the woman chewed her food. Squids have "sperm bags," which are ejaculatory apparatuses that attach themselves to a female's body before slowly secreting sperm. This is not the first time a squid has tried to fertilize a human mouth. There have been several incidents in Japan where people have complained of oral stings by their food.
9. German military divers are working to hoist the wreck of a Stuka dive bomber from the floor of the Baltic Sea, a rare example of the plane that once wreaked havoc over Europe as part of the Nazis' war machine. The single-engine monoplane carried sirens that produced a distinctive and terrifying screaming sound as it dove vertically to release its bombs or strafe targets with its machine guns. There are only two complete Stukas still around. The Stuka wreck, first discovered in the 1990s when a fisherman's nets snagged on it, lies about 10 kilometers (6 miles) off the coast of the German Baltic island of Ruegen, in about 18 meters (60 feet) of water. The divers have been working over the past week to prepare the bomber to be hoisted to the surface, using fire hoses to carefully free it from the sand. They have already brought up smaller pieces and also hauled up its motor over the weekend and they are now working to free the main 9-meter (30-foot) fuselage piece. Initial reports are that it is in good condition despite having spent the last seven decades at the bottom of the sea. Once the plane is brought to the surface, researchers will use the serial number to track down all of the information about this particular plane. The Junkers JU87,  known by most as the Stuka which is short for the German word for dive bomber Sturzkampfflugzeug, first saw service in the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War, being sent by Hitler to help the fascists. The only two known complete Stukas are on display at the Royal Air Force Museum in London and at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Both are later models.


10. In Lorain, Ohio (USA), Municipal Court Judge Mark Mihok sentenced Durrell Brooks to 3 days in jail for contempt of court because the defendant's pants were so low they showed his underwear, NewsNet5 television station reports. Brooks was in court for a friend's traffic violation when the supposed-sagger approached Mihok's bench. As Brooks walked back from the bench, Mihok caught a glimpse of the defendant's underwear and decided to arrest him. Mihok told the station that Brooks is the third person in the past month he's detained for courtroom dress code violations. They’re all adults who come into this court, so they should know how to dress themselves at this point, Milhok told the Chronicle Telegram. I hope it’s a fad that ends soon. The judge issued no warning to Brooks. Mihok said he does not think his requirements are unreasonable. At least you have to have your pants up, Mihok said. I don’t think I’ve set the bar too high.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Religious Humor

A Story

On their way to get married, a young Catholic couple was involved in a fatal car accident. The couple found themselves sitting outside the Pearly Gates waiting for St. Peter to process them into Heaven. While waiting they began to wonder; could they possibly get married in Heaven?
When St. Peter arrived they asked him if they could get married in Heaven.
St. Peter said, "I don't know. This is the first time anyone has asked. Let me go find out," and he left. Then the couple sat and waited for an answer for a couple of months.

While they waited, they discussed the pros and cons, If they were allowed to get married in Heaven, should they get married, what with the eternal aspect of it all? "What if it doesn't work? Are we stuck in Heaven together forever?"

Another month passed. St. Peter finally returned, looking somewhat bedraggled.
"Yes," he informed the couple, "You can get married in Heaven."
"Great!" said the couple. "But we were just wondering; what if things don't work out? Could we also get a divorce in Heaven?"
St. Peter, red-faced with anger, slammed his clipboard on the ground.
"What's wrong?" asked the frightened couple

"O, come on!", St. Peter shouted. "It took me 3 months to find a priest up here! Do you have any idea how long it'll take to find a lawyer?"

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

News You May Have Missed, No. 32

1. At a town meeting in Middleborough, Massachusetts, USA, residents voted 183-50 to approve a proposal from the town police chief to impose the penalty on the use of  obscene language in public. Officials insist the proposal was not intended to censor casual or private conversations, but instead to crack down on loud, profanity-laden language used by teens and other young people in the downtown area and public parks. I'm really happy about it, Mimi Duphily, a store owner and former town selectwoman, said after the vote. I'm sure there's going to be some fallout, but I think what we did was necessary. Ms Duphily, who runs an auto-parts store, is among the downtown merchants who wanted to take a stand against the kind of swearing that can make customers uncomfortable. They'll sit on the bench and yell back and forth to each other with the foulest language. It's just so inappropriate, she said. The measure could raise questions about constitutional free speech rights, but state law does allow towns to enforce local laws that give police the power to arrest anyone who "addresses another person with profane or obscene language in a public place. Matthew Segal, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot prohibit public speech just because it contains profanity. The ordinance gives police discretion over whether to ticket someone if they believe the cursing ban has been violated. Middleborough, a town of about 20,000 residents, has had a bylaw against public profanity since 1968. But, because that bylaw essentially makes cursing a crime, it has rarely if ever been enforced, officials said, because it simply would not merit the time and expense to pursue a case through the courts.


2. Mother gorillas use a type of "baby talk" when communicating with infants, according to scientists. The team of scientists studied captive western lowland gorillas, watching and filming the animals as they interacted.  These animals have a wide repertoire of communication gestures, so the team focused on facial expressions and hand signals used in play.They published their findings in the American Journal of Primatology. Eva Maria Luef from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, led the research.She and her colleague Katja Liebal filmed 120 hours of footage of the gorillas at Leipzig Zoo and Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal Parks in the UK. Analyzing this footage revealed that, when they played with infants, adult females used more tactile gestures than they used with other adults; they would "touch, stroke and lightly slap" the youngsters. The infants also received more repetition, explained Dr Luef. She described one particularly motherly gesture which the researchers call "hand-on". This is where mothers put the flat hand of their hand on top of the (infant's) head, said Dr Luef. It means "stop it". Gorillas often use this gesture with one another; it is a signal that appears to mean that an animal has "had enough". But with an infant, the female would repeat the action several times.The researchers describe this motherly communication as "non-vocal motherese". They say that it helps infants to build the repertoire of signals they will use as adults, in order to communicate with the rest of the gorilla group. It also shows that older animals possess a certain awareness of the infants' immature communication skills, said Dr. Luef. Gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and humans all belong to the great ape family. The best of the non-human communicators are the chimpanzees. In the wild, the animals use up to 66 distinct gestures, each with a different meaning.
3. Lifestyle advice given to tackle male infertility may be futile and could delay other options, according to researchers in the UK. Their study in the journal Human Reproduction said smoking, alcohol consumption and being obese did not affect semen quality. However, they warned that avoiding them was still "good health advice". Wearing boxer shorts rather than tighter underwear was linked to higher sperm levels. Advice for doctors by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence says men should be warned about the impact of smoking, drinking and taking recreational drugs on their sperm. A study by researchers at the Universities of Sheffield and Manchester compared the lifestyles of 939 men with poor sperm quality with 1,310 men with normal sperm quality. The study showed there was little difference in the number of mobile sperm between patients who never smoked and those who had a 20-a-day habit. There was "little evidence" that recreational drug use, a high BMI or excessive alcohol consumption affected sperm quality. However, wearing boxer shorts rather than tighter underwear was linked to higher sperm levels. Although if they are a fan of tight Y-fronts, then switching underpants to something a bit looser for a few months might be a good idea, said Dr. Andrew Povey, from the University of Manchester.
4. Exhaust fumes from diesel engines do cause cancer, a panel of experts working for the World Health Organization said. It concluded that the exhausts were definitely a cause of lung cancer and may also cause tumors in the bladder. The researchers based the findings on research in high-risk workers such as miners, railway workers and truck drivers. However, the panel said everyone should try to reduce their exposure to diesel exhaust fumes. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization, had previously labeled diesel exhausts as probably carcinogenic to humans. IARC has now labeled exhausts as a definite cause of cancer, although it does not compare how risky different carcinogens are. It is thought people working in at-risk industries have about a 40% increased risk of developing lung cancer. The impact on the wider population, which is exposed to diesel fumes at much lower levels and for shorter periods of time, is unknown. Diesel exhausts are now in the same group as carcinogens ranging from wood chippings to plutonium and sunlight to alcohol. Dr. Christopher Portier, who led the assessment, said, The scientific evidence was compelling and the Working Group's conclusion was unanimous, diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans. Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide.


5. Delaying fatherhood may offer survival advantages, say US scientists who have found children with older fathers and grandfathers appear to be "genetically programmed" to live longer. The genetic make-up of sperm changes as a man ages and develops DNA code that favors a longer life - a trait he then passes to his children. The team found the link after analyzing the DNA of 1,779 young adults. Their work appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Experts have known for some time that lifespan is linked to the length of structures known as telomeres that sit at the end of the chromosomes that house our genetic code, DNA. Generally, a shorter telomere length means a shorter life expectancy. Like the plastic tips on shoelaces, telomeres protect chromosomal ends from damage. But in most cells, they shorten with age until the cells are no longer able to replicate. However, scientists have discovered that in sperm, telomeres lengthen with age. Dr. Daniel Eisenberg and colleagues from the Department of Anthropology at Northwestern University studied telomere inheritance in a group of young people living in the Philippines. Telomeres, measured in blood samples, were longer in individuals whose fathers were older when they were born. The telomere lengthening seen with each year that the men delayed fatherhood was equal to the yearly shortening of telomere length that occurs in middle-aged adults. Telomere lengthening was even greater if the child's paternal grandfather had also been older when he became a father. Although delaying fatherhood increases the risk of miscarriage, the researchers believe there may be long-term health benefits.
6. A Massachusetts, USA, man was arrested Friday after he allegedly threw a pair of jeans doused in wasabi sauce into his girlfriend's face after an argument. The incident took place when the couple were in the victim's car after watching the Boston Celtics basketball team lose Game 6 of their NBA conference final to the Miami Heat. The defendant, John McGuinness, was reportedly enraged after his girlfriend, whose name has not yet been released, received a text message from a friend. The couple argued until the victim dropped McGuinness off at his home, cops told CBS television news in Boston. But, the altercation did not end there. McGuinness sent a text message to his 21-year-old girlfriend from his home, in which he threatened to throw a $200 pair of her jeans outside. In response, the victim drove back to the defendant's residence. The woman found McGuinness, 22, standing on his lawn with the pair of jeans, which he had apparently doused in wasabi sauce. The defendant then forced down the window of his girlfriend's car and took her cell phone, prompting the victim to leave her vehicle, the Cape Cod Times reported. McGuinness then allegedly threw the sauce-covered trousers in his girlfriend's face. According to the Boston Globe, McGuinness was charged with battery and assault.
7. Hidden for nearly 100 years for being too "graphic," a report of "hooligan" behaviors, including sexual coercion, by Adelie penguins observed during Captain Robert F.Scott's 1910 polar expedition has been uncovered and interpreted. The naughty notes were rediscovered recently at the Natural History Museum in Tring, England, and published in the recent issue of the journal Polar Record. George Levick, a surgeon and the medical officer on Scott's famous 1910-1913 expedition to the South Pole, called the Terra Nova expedition, detailed his account of the penguins' seemingly odd behaviors in a four-page pamphlet Sexual Habits of Adélie Penguins in 1915. Levick observed and recorded details on the lives of the Adélie Penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) colony on Cape Adare. Some of the things he noticed profoundly shocked him, said the museum's bird curator Douglas Russell, who discovered the pamphlet. For instance, Levick noted the penguins' autoerotic tendencies, and the seemingly aberrant behavior of young unpaired males and females, including necrophilia, sexual coercion, sexual and physical abuse of chicks, non-procreative sex and homosexual behaviors. Considered too explicit for society at the time, the pamphlet wasn't published. It remained hidden in the bird collections at the museum to be uncovered recently by Russell. Levick's notes were decades ahead of their time and possibly the first ever attempt to reveal the more challenging aspects of bird behavioral strategies to the academic world, Russell said in a statement. At the time, Levick was so shocked by what he saw he recorded the events in Greek to disguise the information, at one point writing, There seems to be no crime too low for these penguins. 100 copies of Levick's pamphlet were originally printed. Only two are known to exist today.
8. The prize money given to Nobel laureates is to be cut by a fifth, the foundation behind the prestigious awards said on Monday, after a decade of overspending that has stretched its finances. The Nobel Foundation said the money for the awards, given for excellence in the fields of science, literature and peace, would fall to 8 million Swedish crowns ($1.12 million).The capital that forms the base for the awards was donated in the will of dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel and is managed by the foundation, which was set up in 1900.The foundation said in a statement that costs had exceeded returns from interest and investments on the capital over the past decade, making it necessary to lower the prize money from the previous 10 million crowns. It is the Nobel Foundation that is responsible for the prize money remaining at a high level over the long run, said Chief Executive Lars Heikensten. We have made the assessment that it is important to take necessary measures in good time. The foundation said it had also begun work to cut costs in administration and expenses related to the Nobel Prize celebrations, which take place every December in Stockholm and Oslo. This year's laureates will receive the reduced prize money. ($1 = 7.1626 Swedish crowns)
9. The owner of a Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, specialty pizzeria offering a delicacy-laden version says at $450 a pop, he's only sold one, but the scaled down $120 versions are moving. The founder of the Steveston Pizza Co., Nader Hatami, told The Province newspaper his C6 pizza is topped with black Alaskan cod, thermidor of lobster and comes with a side dip of Russian Osetra caviar. His second priciest offering is named the C5 and is topped with smoked steelhead fish, lobster ratatouille and Icelandic scampi. It costs $120 and Hatami says he sold seven of them. I never thought I'd sell so many, he said. There are no walk-in quick orders, as customers have to order the C5 or C6 at least 24 hours in advance, he said. Hatami's offerings are far from the world's priciest pizza offerings, however. In 2008, an Italian chef offered to send a staff of three to customers' homes to create a $12,000 pizza containing mozzarella di bufala (water buffalo cheese), lobster and three types of caviar, all dusted with hand-picked Australian salt.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Truth About American Democracy

At the close of The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin(1706-1790), a delegate at the convention was asked by a woman, Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy? A republic, replied Franklin, if you can keep it.
Democracy is often confused with being a republic. In some definitions of  a republic, a republic is a form of democracy. Other definitions make republic a separate, unrelated term. In spite of Abraham Lincoln's statement about the U.S. being a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, The United States is a republic, but if the definition of democracy is majority rule, the U.S.A. is not now and never has been a democracy.
According to John M. Scheb and John M. Scheb II's book,  An Introduction to the American Legal System, The United States is a constitutional republic and representative democracy in which majority rule is tempered by minority rights protected by law. That may be true in theory, but not in practice.
Since its inception, The United States politicians have been ambivalent about trusting the nation's people to vote and systematically prevented people from voting. At one time or another in U.S. history only land-owners could vote; there was a tax which many could not afford to pay on voting; there were tests that a citizen had to pass to vote; women could not vote; African-Americans could not vote; Asians could not vote; Hispanics could not vote; and, Native-Americans could not vote. And, there are on-going cases of a candidate who failed to get a majority of the vote being "elected", court-ordered selection of a winner in a election, voting manipulations, and overt voting frauds,
Here are some historical and contemporary on-going instances of why America is not a true democracy and that government of the people, by the people and for the people is just an illusion.

·       The Founding Fathers of the U.S. were wary of the people. So, they built in voting safeguards. For one thing, the people don't elect the President. Electors in the individual states do, and these electors are not bound to vote for the candidate who won the state. Originally, there was no direct election of Senators. The state governor appointed them. The life-time appointments to Federal judgeships are made by the President. Supreme Court lifetime appointments are the result of Presidential selection and Senate approval. So, the people have no control of their Federal Courts.
·       There is no right to vote in the Constitution of the United States, so each state's standards have evolved separately unless federal laws were passed that applied to every state. When this country was founded, only white men with property were permitted to vote (although freed African-Americans could vote in four states). White working men, all women, and all people of color were denied the ability to vote.
·       By the time of the Civil War, most white men were allowed to vote, whether or not they owned property, thanks to the efforts of those who championed the cause of frontiersmen and white immigrants (who had to wait 14 years for citizenship and the right to vote, in some cases). Literacy tests, poll taxes, and even religious tests were used in various places, and white women, people of color, and Native-Americans still could not vote.
·       In 1866, the 14th Amendment to the federal Constitution was passed, guaranteeing citizenship to the former slaves and changing them in the eyes of the law from 3/5 of a person to whole persons. Then, in 1869, the 15th Amendment guaranteed the right to vote to black men, with most women of all races still unable to vote.
·       1869 also marked the beginning of Black Codes, or state laws that restricted the freedoms of African Americans. Among the freedoms restricted was the freedom to exercise the right to vote. Literacy tests, poll taxes, hiding the locations of the polls, economic pressures, threats of physical violence, and other strategies to suppress the African-American vote were either found in the Black Codes or flowed from them.
·       While strategies to prevents citizens from voting are no longer legal, the allocation of voting machines in 2004 so that whites in Republican-leaning districts had short lines and minorities and the poor in Democratic-leaning districts were forced to miss work to wait in long lines. It was the equivalent of placing a new poll tax on African-American and other minorities and on poor voters.
·       Initiatives to promote voting for women have been traced back to the 1770's, but the modern movement for a vote for women traces its beginning to the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, when supporters of a Constitutional Amendment to allow women to vote came together. While their movement was slowed during the Civil War years, the two major suffragist organizations united after the war and pushed forward with a movement that culminated, after many difficult years, in the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.
·       Some Native-Americans became American citizens if they gave up their tribal affiliations in 1887, but many did not become United States citizens until 1924. Many Western states, however, continued to deny the right to vote through property requirements, economic pressures, hiding the polls, and condoning of physical violence against those who voted.
·       Asian Pacific-Americans were considered "aliens ineligible for citizenship" since 1790, and interim changes to naturalization and immigration laws in 1943, 1946, and 1952 give the franchise to some but not all immigrant Asian Pacific-Americans. Nevertheless, because citizenship is a precondition of voting, immigrant Asian Pacific-Americans did not vote in large numbers until after 1965, when the immigration and naturalization laws were changed.
·       Asian Pacific-Americans born on American soil were American citizens and had the right to vote. When 77,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were illegally put in American concentration camps during World War II, their right to vote was not allowed.
·       Mexican Americans in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas were supposed to get voting rights along with American citizenship in 1848, when the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War. Property requirements and literacy requirements were imposed in those states to keep them from voting, and violence and intimidation were used against anyone who dared to exercise the franchise.
·       The Sons of America organized in 1921 to fight for equality and the right to vote, but all Mexican-Americans did not receive the right to vote until 1975.
·       The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, enacted thanks to the pressures of Dr. Martin Luther King and a powerful civil rights movement, banned literacy tests and provided federal enforcement of voting registration and other rights in several Southern states and Alaska. Five years later, the Voting Rights Act of 1970 provided language assistance to minority voters who did not speak English fluently. Asian Pacific-Americans and Latinos were major beneficiaries of this legislation.
·       Thanks to a movement led by handicapped Americans and their supporters, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was passed. It provided for ballot and poll access for those with disabilities. Enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and other laws continued.
·       After the 2000 election, the nation was confronted with over a million ballots never being counted, and numerous allegations of fraud in Florida and elsewhere. The courts forced the recount in Florida to stop, and it was only months later (right after the September 11 attacks, so few were listening) that re-counters hired by major news organizations found that if all the valid, machine-rejected votes had been counted, the man occupying the White House would have lost the election. A biased Supreme Court stopped the recount and in a 5 to 4 decision, installed George W. Bush as President even though Bush had decisively lost the popular vote. The Republican majority on the Court installed the Republican candidate and thereby nullified the election and ignored the preference of the majority of the people.
·       In the 2004 election, the struggle continued, as challenges were raised to unfair voting practices in Ohio and other states. The use of electronic voting machines that leave no paper trail, massive removals of alleged felons from voter rolls, misallocation of voting machines so that minority districts have disproportionately fewer machines, and other issues were prevalent.
·       There is systematic prevention of small political parties from getting television coverage, from getting on the ballot, and from participating in debates. This insures that the major parties, the Democratic and Republican Parties, always win elections.
·       There is no democracy in the U.S. Senate. Any individual Senator can prevent legislation for being voted upon by putting a "block" on it. A small group of Senators can prevent a vote by filibuster, talking non-stop and continuously to prevent a vote until those who want a vote are forced to give up.  In addition, it takes 60% of its member and not a majority (51%) to pass legislation.
·       In recent elections, many candidates have won elections without getting a majority of the vote. A typical example of this is the 2010 election of the governor of the state of Maine. In a 5 candidate race, Paul LePage won with 31.1% of the vote. LePage has proven to be an arrogant and ignorant governor.
·       In advance of the 2012 election, Republican Florida governor Rick Scott is attempting to purge primarily 180,000 Hispanic Democrats from the voting rolls. He is claiming that they managed to get on the voting rolls in spite of the fact that they are not citizens. The action is illegal and there is no evidence to support Scott's claim. Florida Democrats and voting rights groups are charging the administration of Republican Governor Rick Scott with voter suppression. Officials are telling the Justice Department they plan to continue an effort to remove people who are not U.S. citizens from the state's voting rolls. Democrats and voting rights group are charging the administration of Republican Governor Rick Scott with voter suppression and the head of the Justice Department's voting section advised Florida officials that Federal law clearly prohibits purges of voting lists within 90 days of an election, and Florida is already within that window. Rick Scott has the lowest approval rating of any state governor in the U.S.
·       Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), was  Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the First Amendment of The Constitution  prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. In short, it decrees that corporations are the same as citizens. In a 5 to 4 decision, the Court stated that unlimited funds by corporations can be spent on political campaigns and on advertising. The advertising can be inaccurate, prejudiced and contain deliberate lies and distortions. Most corporations and their millionaire CEO's are Republican and the 5 justices of the court who voted for the decision were all Republicans.  90% of the American people disapprove of the decision and the Supreme Court's approval rating is the lowest in recent history.
·       America has one of the lowest voting rates of any industrial country in the world. And, voter turnout in all elections has been on the decline since the 1960's.  In Presidential elections in the last 40 years, there have been between 50.1% and 58.6%. In non-Presidential years, it has been 36.4% and 39.8%. That is below the number of people who vote on their choice of a winner on the television talent show, American Idol.