Thoughts Gallery August 2005
August 1
Image of the Day
London Police Chief Defends Deadly Force

LONDON - London's police commissioner expressed regret Sunday for the slaying of a Brazilian electrician by officers who mistook him for a suspect in the recent terror bombings, but he defended a police shoot-to-kill policy as "the only way" to stop would-be suicide bombers. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair also said there were similarities between the explosives used in Thursday's failed bomb attacks and those detonated July 7. But he said investigators still had no proof the two strikes were linked. "The equipment in the bombs had all the elements that it should have but it didn't work," Blair told Sky News TV, referring to the explosives that failed to detonate properly Thursday on three subway cars and a double-decker bus. "It had some similarities" to the devices used in the July 7 bombings on three subway trains and a double-decker bus, killing 56 people, including four suicide attackers.
When asked if Thursday's attacks were connected to those of July 7, Blair replied, "We have no proof that they are linked but clearly there is a pattern here." Two of the suspected July 7 bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shahzad Tanweer, went whitewater rafting in Wales three days before the attacks, according to the National Whitewater Centre. Police refused to comment on a British Broadcasting Corp. report, attributed to unidentified officials, that said authorities were examining whether those involved in Thursday's attacks were on the same trip. Police have made two arrests after Thursday's botched attacks. Officers have not released the identities of those detained. But Blair added that officers were "still anxious for any sighting of the four individuals" who carried out Thursday's strikes. Closed-circuit TV stills of the suspects were made public last week.
Police carried out several controlled explosions to dispose of a suspect package found in northwest London, which they said may have been linked to devices used in the botched July 21 attacks. They refused to elaborate. The man shot Friday at the Stockwell subway station was identified as Jean Charles de Menezes, 27. Witnesses said he was wearing a heavy, padded coat when plainclothes police chased him into a subway car, pinned him to the ground and shot him five times in the head and torso in front of horrified passengers. Blair initially said Menezes was "directly linked" to the investigation of Thursday's attacks, but police then said Saturday he had no connection to the bomb attempts. "This is a tragedy," Blair said Sunday of the shooting. "The Metropolitan Police accepts full responsibility for this. To the family I can only express my deep regrets."
He also defended the shoot-to-kill policy, saying such action only applied when lives were believed to be at risk. "I am very aware that minority communities are talking about a shoot-to-kill policy," he said. "It's only a shoot-to-kill-in-order-to-protect policy." Blair said British police have drawn from the experiences of other countries, including Sri Lanka, that have dealt with suicide attackers. "The only way to deal with this is to shoot to the head," Blair said. "There is no point in shooting at someone's chest because that is where the bomb is likely to be." Blair spoke of the problem his officers faced.
"What we have got to recognize is that people are taking incredibly difficult fast-time decisions in life-threatening situations," he said. "What's most important to recognize is that it's still happening out there. There are still officers out there having to make those calls as we speak."  Police said Menezes attracted police attention because he left a building that was under surveillance after Thursday's attacks. They said he was then followed by surveillance officers to the station, and his clothing and behavior at the station added to their suspicions. Menezes was wearing a heavy coat while temperatures were in the 70s.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, who was visiting London, said his government and people were "shocked" by the killing, and he demanded a thorough investigation. "We cannot recover the life of the Brazilian citizen who died but it is very important to know all the details," Amorim said after meeting with a British official. He said Foreign Secretary Jack Straw expressed his deepest regrets in a telephone conversation. Amorim told Straw that Brazil was in total solidarity with Britain in the fight against terrorism, "but of course even in the fight against terrorism we should also be cautious to avoid the loss of innocent life."
Menezes was originally from the small city of Gonzaga, some 500 miles northeast of Sao Paulo. Local authorities said he was Catholic. Menezes was an electrician who had worked in Britain for three years, said his cousin, Alex Pereira, who also lives in London. "He was a 100 percent good guy who never did anything wrong and had no reason to run," Pereira said. "I don't think he ran from police. I don't think he would do that. They can't show anything that shows that he had." The shooting was an indication of the anxiety in the city of about 8 million people. A police watchdog organization, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said it would investigate the shooting but make sure not to hinder the bombings probe.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, said such an investigation was critical for reassuring the public.  "It's incredibly important that society remains united at such a tense time, it's very important that young Asian men don't feel that there is some kind of trigger-happy culture out there," Chakrabarti said.  Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said, "It's absolutely vital that the utmost care is taken to ensure that innocent people are not killed due to overzealousness."

August 2
Image of the Day
 
Rail Tunnels Pose Dilemma in Terror Fight
WASHINGTON - The London bombings have focused attention on train security, but largely lost in the discussion of how to keep bombs off Americans rails is the potential danger from the nation's antiquated network of tunnels. Many tunnels, some of which are at least a century old, are basically unchanged from the time they were dug. They are poorly ventilated and escape routes tend to be narrow and difficult. "We're faced with how to best prevent a nefarious incident from happening, but what if one does happen?" said John Tolman, spokesman for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. "What's the best escape route? God forbid there was a fire underneath, what do you do?" Older tunnels tend to be deep and snug. Brian Jenkins, a counterterrorism expert with the think tank Rand Corp. said that makes an explosion even deadlier. "The blast has nowhere to go. It'll run back and forth through the carriages and cause the greatest number of casualties," Jenkins said. It also makes it harder for emergency workers to get through wreckage to put out the flames and help victims. In London on July 7, two bombs exploded in shallow tunnels. One blew up in a deep tunnel 70 feet below the street on the King's Cross Line. Twenty-one people died in the King's Cross tunnel, three times more than in each of the others.
Rail tunnels also are important conduits of commerce and for telecommunications cables. The Stevens Pass tunnel in the Cascade Mountains is the gateway for virtually all rail freight from the Port of Seattle to Chicago. Baltimore has firsthand experience with a train tunnel fire. In 2001, a freight train accident inside a 130-year-old tunnel caused a fire and flood that largely shut down the city and disrupted rail service for days from Washington, D.C., to Boston. Telecommunication systems along the East Coast were interrupted for weeks. There are nearly 900 miles of transit tunnels, according to the American Public Transit Association. The government does not have an inventory of rail tunnels that freight and passenger trains share. That makes it impossible to calculate the costs involved in upgrading them all to ensure speedier evacuations and better access for emergency crews. Amtrak is spending $480 million on safety improvements for tunnels linking Manhattan with New Jersey and Long Island. Steven Alleman, Amtrak's program director for fire and life safety in New York, said the work includes new ventilation systems, a new stairway system, an alternative power source for trains and water pipes to put out fires. Amtrak also plans upgrades for a tunnel that runs under Baltimore and one that runs under the Supreme Court behind the Capitol.
Dan Prieto, a homeland security expert at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said the Homeland Security Department should determine which tunnels are the most vital and vulnerable so scarce resources can be allocated properly. "States and locals are not in a position to determine the national strategic value of their local assets," Prieto said. Rep. Elijah Cummings (news, bio, voting record), D-Md., plans a measure that would require the department to evaluate the rail tunnels and report to Congress in a year.  "We are not prepared," he said.  Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said the department is working on plans to identify areas of concern.  Prieto estimates that only about $300 million in federal money has been budgeted to upgrade railway infrastructure since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., tried unsuccessfully to add $1.16 billion for rail security to the Homeland Security Department spending bill. Some $790 million of that total could have paid for building projects, repairs and equipment. But the Senate ended up voting to cut rail security money to $100 million, $50 million less than the House approved and $50 million less than was budgeted last year. Approval of the spending bill is not expected until September.
August 3
Image of the Day
A photo of Clione limacina, a pelagic snail. This specimen was collected from the deep Arctic Canada Basin. A team of 45 researchers from Canada, the U.S., China and Russia have just completed a vast exploration of the Canada Basin in the Arctic Ocean. As global warming continues to take its toll on the polar regions of Earth, the race is on to document these relatively unknown areas.
August 4
Image of the Day
Calif. Girl, 11, Avoids Felony Trial
FRESNO, Calif. - An 11-year-old girl who threw a rock at a boy during a water balloon fight escaped jail time Wednesday on a felony assault with a deadly weapon charge after lawyers worked out a deal in the emotionally charged case. Maribel Cuevas was ordered to meet with her young victim and talk about the fight under the deal — reached on the same day the girl was to stand trial. She did not have to plead guilty, and the charges will be dismissed if she stays in school and keeps out of trouble. Maribel spent five days in juvenile hall and a month under house arrest after throwing a 2-pound rock at 8-year-old Elijah Vang, cutting his forehead after he pelted her with a water balloon in April. The gash required Elijah to receive stitches.
Police responded with three cars while a helicopter hovered overhead, and said they arrested Cuevas for resisting arrest and scratching an officer's arm. Police described the rock as "jagged" and measuring 5.5 inches by 3.75 inches. Top brass on the force defended the response, but others took up Maribel's cause, saying it was no way to treat a childish crime. Supporters gathered outside the court, chanting "Free Maribel," and singing "We Shall Overcome." As she awaited her hearing, the girl dressed in pink sweat pants, a white sweat shirt and pink flip-flops was handed a bouquet of flowers.
Maribel's father, Martin Cuevas, said in Spanish after the proceeding that his daughter was not a criminal and had acted in self-defense. "I think everything will be fine," Martin Cuevas said in Spanish. "This way she'll be able to stay with my wife and me and go to school normally." As part of the agreement, the two children, with their parents present, will talk about what happened. The girl's lawyer said his main goal was to prevent her from pleading guilty to a crime. "They did not require any admission of wrongdoing, and once that obstacle was removed, the case was settled appropriately," said defense lawyer Richard Beshwate Jr. Police were expected to comment later in the day.
Elijah's family, which has since moved away, declined to press charges, but were prepared to testify for the prosecution. Chief Deputy District Attorney Michelle Griggs said her office decided to proceed without a trial because of the girl's age and because the Vang family wanted the matter resolved so they can return to their neighborhood "in a way that is safe so all these children can coexist together." The court order requiring Maribel and Elijah to talk about what happened "would be the most appropriate resolution to this matter. It allows Maribel to go back to the neighborhood and make amends," said Kimberly Nystrom-Geist, a court commissioner who presided over the brief hearing.
August 5
Image of the Day
I feel like this is the year of the giant catfish....
Duncan Rooke, 32, left and Stephen Buss, 30, as they haul in a record-breaking catfish in the River Ebro, near Barcelona in Spain on July 6, 2005. The 7ft 7in, (2.3 meters) 212lb (96kgms) female fish is the biggest freshwater catch ever made by a British angler and nearly pulled 32-year-old gas engineer Rooke back into the river once he had hold of her. After weighing the fish and burping her to get rid of the air in her stomach she was released.
August  6
Image of the Day
No link between sugar and obesity
SUN VALLEY, Idaho - There is no link between sugar and obesity because health problems linked to weight gain are caused by increased consumption of calories and a lack of exercise, a U.S. sugar industry group said. "Every major, comprehensive review of the total body of scientific literature continues to exonerate sugars intake as the causative factor in any lifestyle disease, including obesity," Andrew Briscoe, president and chief executive of the Sugar Association, said at the annual meeting of the main U.S. industry group American Sugar Alliance.
The Sugar Association promotes the consumption of sugar as a part of a healthy diet and lifestyle through the use of sound science and research, he said. The group's main point is that excessive consumption of calories and a lack of exercise would spur weight gain, regardless of sugar consumption. Briscoe said that U.S. per capita consumption of sugar has declined to an estimated 63 pounds in 2002 from 102 pounds in 1972. Including waste, spoilage and other loss, the actual per capita sugar consumption figure declines to 45 pounds per person. "We believe in calories in and calories out. Sugar is not a part of obesity issues," he said. Briscoe said most consumers on average estimate the number of calories in a teaspoon of sugar at 76 calories when the actual number is 15.
August 7
Image of the Day
The sun sets behind Palestinian fishing boats in Gaza City's seaport. Palestinian fishermen hope that Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip later this month will open up new coastal areas for fishing and boost Gaza's fishing industry. Israel is set to evacuate all 21 Gaza Strip settlements and four more in the West Bank in mid-August.
August 8
Image of the Day
Bleeping bikini to stop British babes from burn-up

LONDON - A new bikini which bleeps every 15 minutes to prevent holidaymakers from sleeping in the sun was to be shown off in Britain. The invention could stop the traditional ghastly seaside sight of bright-red Britons on beaches across the world. New Look, Britain's third-biggest women's clothes retailer, was to launch the Tan-Timer Bikini on Brighton beach on the south coast. Some 59 percent of Britons admit to nodding off in the sun, so the electronic device, which attaches to the swimsuit, bleeps every quarter of an hour to remind dozy Brits to wake up and seek shade or roll over to toast the other side. The bikini is to hit stores across the kingdom next week.
"As well as the health implication of over-exposing your skin to the sun, burnt or peeling skin is not a good look for the image-conscious," said New Look's marketing director Hash Ladha. "With 56 percent of men finding sunburnt peeling skin unattractive, we hope the Tan-Timer Bikini will help our customers avoid that mistake and feel confident when slipping on their summer dresses." A spokeswoman for the company said a male version could be in the pipeline

August 9
Image of the Day

I think tracking of racial profiles to determine minorirty status is an antiquated system that no longer accurately reflects how society percives itself or any useful information.

According to the population estimates based on the 2000 Census, about 50.2 percent of Texans are now minorities. In the 2000 Census, minorities made up about 47 percent of the population in the second-largest state.
Texas joins California, New Mexico and Hawaii as states with majority-minority populations — with Hispanics the largest group in every state but Hawaii, where it is Asian-Americans. Five other states — Maryland, Mississippi, Georgia, New York and Arizona — aren't far behind, with about 40 percent minorities.
Public policy analysts said these states and the country as a whole need to bring minority education and professional achievement to the levels of whites. Otherwise, these areas risk becoming poorer and less competitive. The nation should be more than half minorities by 2050, said Steve Murdock, a demographer at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

August 10
Image of the Day
The first cloned dog, 'Snuppy' an Afghan puppy is seen in a combo with his parents, an Afghan hound and Labrador 'mother'. The world's first cloning of a dog has raised concerns that scientists are one step closer to replicating human beings.
August 11
Image of the Day
Yoichi Gomi (L), 104 years old, and his 103-year-old wife Kazono, who plan to claim the title of world's oldest married couple after hearing it had been awarded to two Americans, pose for a picture with their great grandson Seiya in their home in Yokohama Japan. Philadelphia residents Herbert and Magda Brown, registered by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's oldest couple, are 105 and 100 respectively.
"You have to have a lot of hope," said Yoichi, a former civil servant, when asked the secret of living a long life. "You have to want to be alive," he said. "What we enjoy most is spending time together," he added. His wife, who once worked as a nurse, appeared to shake her head as he spoke. "You get bored just living such a long time. I don't enjoy anything any more," she said. The couple have three children, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
August 12
Image of the Day
A South Korean man who played computer games for 50 hours almost non-stop died of heart failure minutes after finishing his mammoth session in an Internet cafe. The 28-year-old man, identified only by his family name Lee, had been playing on-line battle simulation games at the cybercafe in the southeastern city of Taegu, police said. Players compete at the World Cyber Games (WCG) 2004 in San Francisco, the world's largest video game festival with top gamers competing for over $400,000 in prizes.
August 13
Image of the Day
Chinese human foetus artwork?
BERN - A Chinese artwork comprising the head of a human foetus sewn to the body of a seagull has been withdrawn from a museum in Switzerland after causing a scandal, organisers said. "We have decided to withdraw this work from the exhibition because we are no longer able to handle the amount of interest it is generating," said Bernard Fibicher, curator at Bern's Museum of Fine Arts. The 1999 piece by Xiao Yu -- who aims to "provoke the viewer into reflecting on the absurdity of life," according to the museum's catalogue -- is part of an exhibition of contemporary Chinese art running until October 16.
It is one of the 320 works on display from the personal collection of Uli Sigg, a former Swiss diplomat and businessman who has assembled an unrivalled range of contemporary Chinese art over the past two decades. The foetus-seagull, which is pickled in formaldehyde, proved too much for a 29-year-old Swiss visitor, Adrien de Riedmatten.
He has filed a complaint against the museum for disturbing the peace of the dead and for allowing the portrayal of violence. The artwork already provoked a stir at the Venice Biennale several years ago, where Sigg saw the work and purchased it. According to Fibicher, Xiao Yu obtained the foetus from Beijing's Museum of Natural History, which was replacing it after several years on display. He then grafted it onto the seagull's body to "demonstrate against the monsters we create through genetic manipulation," said Fibicher.
The artist is also known for sewing live mice together and filming them when they try to walk -- but that particular work is not part of the Bern show. The museum said it is also organising a round table discussion on August 22, bringing together scientists and cultural experts to debate the representation of death in art.
August 14
Image of the Day
Malaysian Muslim men are allowed four wives under Islamic law, but a survey has found that the majority are satisfied with just one spouse, a report said. The poll of 13,000 Malaysians by the University Putra Malaysia showed that nearly 90 percent of Muslim men are one-woman men, while only five percent have two wives and 4.3 percent have three, the New Straits Times reported. While bigamy is outlawed for non-Muslims, the survey, carried out last year to track behavioural habits that could lead to HIV infections, found that four percent of Chinese men an three percent of Indian men had two wives.
August 15
Image of the Day
You read about McMansions being built in neighborhoods, this yatch sounds like a McYacht to me...
Yacht fuel mix-up leaves Chelsea boss fuming
LONDON - Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovitch was left fuming after the wrong sort of fuel was pumped into his luxury family yacht, forcing him to re-arrange his summer holiday, a report said. The Russian-born tycoon was said to be "disappointed" after the fuel mix-up involving his 72-million pound (100-million euro, 125-million dollar) yacht the Pelorus, while it was docked in Malta to prepare for his family holidays last month. Any motorist who has put diesel instead of petrol into a car will know the feeling -- although not the cost of the error -- filling up Pelorus' tank costs 120,000 pounds, and cleaning up the mess could cost at least one million pounds.
"The engineers discovered that the fuel that had been used was incompatible," Simon Borg Cordona, Abramovitch's Maltese agent, was quoted as saying by the Sunday Telegraph. The Pelorus, which is longer than the pitch at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground, is the world's fifth-largest yacht. Abramovitch was due to have joined it in mid-July with his wife and five children, but they were forced to re-schedule their holidays, flying instead direct to Sardinia where the yacht joined them later. A spokesman for the Royal Yachting Association said it was not "a common mistake, but an expensive one."
August 16
Image of the Day
This is the last remaining of the "Xanadu" houses, three of which were built in the 1980s. The other two have been destroyed, and this one remains in Kissimmee, Florida, but in very bad condition and is rumored that it might be torn down soon. I've heard that Ripley's Believe It or Not now owns the property and that they currently use it only for storage, but I have not been able to substatiate that info. The house was built by spraying polyurethane foam over inflated large bubbles and when it dried, the bubbles were removed. This construction type never took off and so no additional ones were constructed. That is so sad!
August 17
Image of the Day
Canadian divers search for missing cheese
MONTREAL - A team of divers are searching at the bottom of the "Baie des Ha! Ha!" in northeastern Canada for 800 kilograms (1,700 pounds) of cheddar sunk by an entrepreneur hoping to revolutionize cheese making. "A few years ago, a fisherman came to us and said he'd found a piece of Boivin cheese at the bottom of a lake where he'd been diving. He took it, hesitated, ate it and told us it was one of the best cheeses he'd ever eaten," dairy owner Luc Boivin told AFP. Stunned by the fisherman's gastronomic adventure, the dairy, established four generations ago, discovered that deep depths are good for cold storage and water pressure accelerates the cheese aging process. So the family cheese-dairy chucked 10 barrels containing the cheddar into 40 metres (130 feet) of water at the bottom of the "Baie des Ha! Ha!" in the Saguenay region. The owner asked divers to collect the cheese, but several searches Thursday returned empty-handed.  "We'll definitely find it," Boivin said, watched closely by Canadian authorities who wish to prevent the cheese from hitting store shelves because it is not possible to ensure the quality, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
August 18
Image of the Day
These images recall my reaction to this story...
Security Cameras Proliferate in Manhattan
NEW YORK - Six could be seen peering out from a chain drug store on Broadway. One protruded awkwardly from the awning of a fast-food restaurant. A supersized, domed version hovered like a flying saucer outside Columbia University. All were surveillance cameras and — to the dismay of civil libertarians and with the approval of law enforcement — they've been multiplying at a dizzying rate all over Manhattan. "As many as we find, we miss so many more," Alex Stone-Tharp, 21, said on a recent afternoon while combing the streets, clipboard in hand, counting cameras in the scorching heat.
A student at Sarah Lawrence, Stone-Tharp is among a dozen college interns enlisted by the New York Civil Liberties Union to bolster their side of a simmering debate over whether surveillance cameras wrongly encroach on privacy, or effectively combat crime and even terrorism — as in the London bombings investigation, when the cameras were used to identify the bombers. The interns have spent the summer stalking Big Brother — collecting data for an upcoming NYCLU report on the proliferation of cameras trained on streets, sidewalks and other public spaces. At last count in 1998, the organization found 2,397 cameras used by a wide variety of private businesses and government agencies throughout Manhattan. This time, after canvassing less than a quarter of the borough, the interns so far have spotted more than 4,000.
The preliminary total "only provides a glimpse of the magnitude of the problem," said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. "Nobody has a clue how many there really are." But aside from sheer numbers, the NYCLU says it's concerned about the increasing use of newer, more powerful digital cameras that — unlike boxy older models — can be controlled remotely and store more images. The group expects to eventually publicize its findings to convince the public that the cameras should be regulated to preserve privacy and guard against abuses like racial profiling and voyeurism. Privacy advocates have cited a case earlier this year in which a police videotape that captured a suicide at a Bronx housing development later turned up on a pornographic Web site.
The NYCLU plans to post an interactive map on its Web site pinpointing the location of each surveillance camera, and it may include a feature for the camera-shy that would highlight the least-surveilled route between two points. But the map could be obsolete on arrival. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to spend up to $250 million to install new surveillance cameras in the city's vast subway system. The New York Police Department also has requested funding for about 400 digital video cameras to help combat robberies and burglaries in busy commercial districts.
Police officers already watch live feeds from hundreds of cameras in city housing projects throughout the five boroughs, where "they are a proven deterrent," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. NYPD detectives also regularly rely on private security cameras to help solve crimes. After makeshift grenades exploded outside the British consulate in midtown Manhattan on May 5, they studied scores of videotape and concluded that a still-uniden tified cyclist likely tossed the devices before fleeing.
In London, British police used videotape from some of their Underground system's 6,000 cameras to help identify the suicide bombers on July 7 and the suspects in a failed attack on July 21. Elsewhere, Chicago recently spent roughly $5 million on a 2,000-camera system, which has been credited for reducing crime to its lowest point in some 40 years. In Washington, D.C., Homeland Security officials have announced plans to spend $9.8 million for surveillance cameras and sensors on a rail line near the Capitol. And in Philadelphia, where the city has increasingly relied on video surveillance, cameras caught a murder and ultimately led to the capture of a suspect.
The NYCLU's Lieberman concedes the cameras can help solve crimes. But she claims there's no proof that they deter terrorism or more mundane crime, and some critics say it just pushes crime to where the cameras aren't. "No one's saying there should be no video cameras, but let's not look at them as a quick fix," she said. Whether the cameras threaten or protect society, the interns have encountered hurdles in their counting. At one point, uniformed officers outside the Federal Reserve Bank demanded identification and warned, "if the information we had fell into the hands of terrorists, it would be a problem," said Peter Pantelis, 20, a student at the University of Pennsylvania. Susanna Groves, 19, of the University of Michigan, recalled finding herself staring up an ornate streetlight, convinced a hidden camera was snapping pictures of her. "I know I'm getting paranoid," she said. "But I also know there are a lot of cameras out there."

August 19
Image of the Day
Dinosaur-era tree set for first auction sale
LONDON - Saplings of a giant tree that was a snack for dinosaurs and was believed to also be extinct until a chance discovery in Australia will be offered for sale to the public next month for the first time. Less than 300 of the trees -- which can grow to at least 40 meters tall and live for 1,000 years -- will be offered for sale through auction house Sotheby's individually and in lots. "Although the auction will be in Sydney, we expect telephone bidding from around the world," a spokeswoman for London's Kew Gardens, which put its sample on display in May, told Reuters. "The idea is to conserve the tree by selling it commercially around the world," she said, adding that individual samples were expected to fetch around A$2,000 with collections of cuttings of the original discovery priced at up to A$50,000.
Wollemi pines were only known from fossil records dating back 90 million years until a chance discovery in 1994 of a living cluster in the Greater Blue Mountains, 200 km (125 miles) west of Sydney, by wildlife officer David Noble. To this day, the exact location is a closely guarded secret to protect the 100 trees -- relatives of the modern day Monkey Puzzle -- from unwanted human interference. The tall, slender conifer has dark brown, bubbly bark and long, dark green leaves and is a member of the Araucariaceae family. The Kew Gardens spokeswoman said the so-called Collectors Edition release of trees which are about 3 meters (10 ft) tall grown from cuttings of the originals would be followed by sales next year of smaller propagated saplings.
August 20
Image of the Day
I like the clear visual lines of seeing through a staircase, verses and enclosed sheet rock or window wall behind the floow landing area.
August 21
Image of the Day
The corner window panes are lined up, with the open seamless adjacent windows giving a clear line of sight to the outside environment.
August 22
Image of the Day
I like the creative use of backsplash drawers and doorless corver shelving.
August 23
Image of the Day
A higher-than-usual number of hurricanes are expected to slam into the United States this year, a leading hurricane forecaster said, threatening areas trying to rebuild from last year's devastating storms. A London-based storm forecaster, raised its outlook for hurricane activity in the Atlantic this year by 30 percent from its July outlook on the expectation of higher-than-normal sea temperatures and winds in the region.
August 24
Image of the Day
This photo provided by Jeep shows 140 vehicles positioned by Jeep owners in the form of an American flag in Mount Pocono, Pa., to promote the National Anthem Project, a national effort to re-teach Americans the words to 'The Star-Spangled Banner.' Two out of three Americans do not know the words to the National Anthem, according to a Harris Poll survey. The flag, measuring 73 feet wide by 191 feet long, was created to celebrate the first year of this multi-year national education initiative of which Jeep is a national sponsor.
August 25
Image of the Day
Man Launches Ice Cream Stick Viking Ship
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - A former Hollywood stunt man now living in the Netherlands launched his greatest project to date Tuesday: a 45-foot replica Viking ship made of millions of wooden ice cream sticks and more than a ton of glue. Rob McDonald named the ship the "Mjollnir" after the hammer of the mythic Norse god of thunder, Thor. After the 13 ton boat was lifted into the water by crane, "Captain Rob," as he is known, stood calmly on the stern as a team of volunteers rowed the apparently sturdy vessel around the IJ River behind the city's central station. "I have a dream to show children they can do anything," McDonald said before the launch. "If they can dream it, they can do it." He said he was confident the ship would float, but organizers had prepared an alternate press statement just in case something went wrong. The biggest fear was that the ship's keel might be too light and it would capsize. But the launch went smoothly, and McDonald plans to apply for a mention in the Guinness Book of Records.
McDonald set the previous record in 2003 with a smaller version of a Viking ship built from 370,000 wooden ice cream sticks, which has been approved by the Guinness Book of World Records. McDonald, an American who lives with his Dutch wife and their son in the city of Emmeloord, had help from a host of advisers, sponsors and neighborhood children. He estimated that in all, he used up to 2.2 tons of glue and 15 million birch wood ice cream sticks donated by an ice cream manufacturer and found by neighborhood children. McDonald and his son Rob Jr., 11, fixed a final ceremonial "15 millionth" ice cream stick, made of gold, shortly before the launch. Rob Jr., sporting a Viking helmet and a wooden sword, appeared ready to go on a voyage of looting and pillaging. The inside of the boat was reinforced with fiberglass and it can be propelled by its modern mast and sail, or oars, or a backup motor. Afterward, the boat was moved back onto dry land and will be on display at Sail 2005, a major show for antique ships that begins in Amsterdam.
August 26
Image of the Day
SOCIAL SECURITY:
Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, introduced the Social Security (FICA) Program. He promised:
  1. That participation in the Program would be completely voluntary,
  2. That the participants would only have to pay 1% of the first $1,400 of their annual incomes into the Program,
  3. That the money the participants elected to put into the Program would be deductible from their income for tax purposes each year,
  4. That the money the participants put into the independent "Trust Fund" rather than into the General operating fund, and therefore, would only be used to fund the Social Security Retirement Program, and no other Government program, and,
  5. That the annuity payments to the retirees would never be taxed as income.
Since many of us have paid into FICA for years and are now receiving a Social Security check every month -- and then finding that we are getting taxed on 85% of the money we paid to the Federal government to "put away," you may be interested in the following:

Q: Which Political Party took Social Security from the independent "Trust" fund and put it into the General fund so that Congress could spend it?
A: It was Lyndon Johnson and the Democratically-controlled House and Senate.
Q: Which Political Party eliminated the income tax deduction for Social Security (FICA) withholding?
A: The Democratic Party.
Q: Which Political Party started taxing Social Security annuities?
A: The Democratic Party, with Al Gore casting the "tie-breaking" deciding vote as President of the Senate, while he was Vice President of the U.S.
Q: Which Political Party decided to start giving annuity payments to immigrants?
A: That's right! Jimmy Carter and the Democratic Party. Immigrants moved into this country, and at age 65, began to receive SSI Social Security payments! The Democratic Party gave these payments to them, even though they never paid a dime into it!

August 27
Image of the Day
Canadian condos secured by barely lifting a finger
VANCOUVER - The latest luxury condominium project on Canada's westcoast will be the first residential building in the world to replace key door locks with biometric security. Instead of fumbling with keys, tenants will be able to scan their fingerprint to access their apartment in a new high-rise building now under construction in the tony Yaletown neighborhood in downtown Vancouver. "This technology is usually found in financial, government or high security applications," said developer James Schouw. "But, it has become cheaper, more reliable, and everyone lately is concerned about security."
"Now, you never have to worry about losing your keys," he said. Scanners will also be set up at the front door, parking garage, bike storage area, and in the elevators to prevent indiscriminate access. If someone loses a finger or has their arms full with bags, the system will recognize several fingerprints encoded from both hands. Some buyers worried that along with hindering burglars, the security will hinder impromptu visits by friends and family, but a concierge will usually be available to scan guests' fingerprints too and give them temporary access, Schouw said. The 71 units in the two-phase building were listed for sale from 600,000 dollars (500,000 US) to 4.25 million dollars (3.5 million US).
August 28
Image of the Day
Photos capture human footprint on Africa
WASHINGTON - One hundred thousand images, 70,000 miles and 21 countries later, conservationist J. Michael Fay thinks Bono, Live 8 and the G-8 have been misguided.  Fay, a biologist and member of the Wildlife Conservation Society and National Geographic Society, spent seven months flying at low altitudes across Africa, and he has mapped enough of the human footprint on his trip to be disturbed, he said at a news conference Wednesday to highlight his findings. "People aren't connecting the dots," he said of African relief efforts. "We gotta stop talking about poverty alleviation, and we gotta start talking about sustainable development." Fay said he believed international aid to Africa must be transformed to preserve the continent's basic resources instead of extracting them for wealthy nations. Natural resources and conservation management should be part of the psyche of African governments and people worldwide to help make African countries more self-sustaining and so that the world won't keep seeing them as places of constant crisis, he said. Fay said he had seen mass graves in AIDS-ridden South Africa as well as dehydrated and dead hippos at Katavi National Park in Tanzania, which he said was a result of the World Bank's rice-development efforts, which made money but took away water from wildlife.
Fay and pilot Peter Ragg of Austria left South Africa in June 2004 to look at the "interface between humanity and what nature provides for humanity," and to find answers to questions about the origins of the land's most troubled spots, such as Sudan and Niger. "Darfur, in my opinion, was something we could have seen 30 years ago," Fay said, referring to the region in Sudan where more than 100,000 people have died and millions have been displaced during two years of fighting between black African tribes and Arab militias. Fay pointed to the ecological warning signs: limited habitable space, little productivity of goods and a heavy human "footprint." It wasn't all disheartening. Fay said he saw examples of a budding commitment to sustainable development. Namibia's healthy soil, grass and wildlife, for example, are the result of a new "conservancy" system that grants communities control over their land with encouragement from the government to produce wisely. Fay also was amazed to see tens of thousands of lechwe, a type of antelope, alongside humans in Zambia, offering hope that nature and humanity can coexist. "There is no silver bullet. We can't say we're going to change the world overnight," he said. "Humans have a natural tendency to consume; we take that as a given. But we have to take the natural resource base as a fundamental." In 2001, Fay walked through miles of African forests to survey wildlife. His findings there led to the creation of 13 national parks in Gabon, which preserve some of the last wild places in Africa from deforestation due to logging.
August 29
Image of the Day
It sounds a little corny. A farmer looking for love has planted a personals ad, using corn stalks in a cow pasture. It reads: "S.W.F Got-2 (love symbol) Farm'n." Underneath is a 1,000-foot-long arrow pointing single white females to his house. "It only took me about an hour — I did it with a corn planter in May," Pieter DeHond said Wednesday as he removed weeds from the 18-acre field. "I was just horsing around." In place of a newspaper ad, DeHond said he decided on an impulse to use up the extra corn seed left after spring planting at his 200-acre Pleasure Acres farm in western New York. "I wouldn't place a personal ad in the paper. To me it seems desperate," he added, laughing. "This is more of a fun thing. I put this out in a field where nobody could see it unless you flew over it."
August 30
Image of the Day
Nanotech researchers report big breakthrough

An advance in nanotechnology may lead to the creation of artificial muscles, superstrong electric cars and wallpaper-thin electronics, researchers report. Nanotechnology has tantalized researchers for decades, promising a new era in stronger and lighter electronic materials. Nanotechnology is the science of engineering such properties at the molecular, or nanometer, scale. For all its promise, the technology has mostly been locked in laboratories. In today's edition of the journal Science, however, scientists from the University of Texas and Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization report the creation of industry-ready sheets of materials made from nanotubes. Nanotubes are tiny carbon tubes with remarkable strength that are only a few times wider than atoms. They can also act as the semiconductors found in modern electronics. The same sheet, emitting polarized light after the voltage is applied through incandescent heating. This is fundamentally a new material," says team leader Ray Baughman of the University of Texas at Dallas in Richardson.
• Self-supporting, transparent and stronger than steel or high-strength plastics, the sheets are flexible and can be heated to emit light.
• A square mile of the thinnest sheets, about 2-millionths-of-an-inch thick, would weigh only about 170 pounds.
• In lab tests, the sheets demonstrated solar cell capabilities, using sunlight to produce electricity.
The team has developed an automated process that produced 2&frac• three• quarters;-inch-wide strips of nanotubes at a rate of about 47 feet per minute. Other methods take much longer to create nanotube sheets. "The technique is most elegant and the applications they've shown are quite impressive," says nanotube expert Shalom Wind of Columbia University in New York. Industry and academic researchers are already regarding nanotubes with avid interest, he adds. F uture applications that scientists have discussed include creating artificial muscles whose movement is electrically charged, or race cars with stronger, lighter bodies that could also serve as batteries, says chemist Andrew Barron of Rice University in Houston. "We could see this on Formula 1 (racing) cars by next season, says Barron. "This is a jumping-off point for a technology a lot of people will pursue."
Wind is more cautious about the future. "We'll really have to wait to see the impact this has and whether it will pan out in commercial technology." The federal government has made nanotechnology a research priority in recent years. Funding for the scientists' research came from the Defense Department, the Texas government and a partnership of nanotechnology labs. The research team suggests first using the nanotube sheets as transparent antennae for cars or as electrically heated windows. "We do need to think of a catchier name than 'nanotube sheets,' " Baughman says.

 
August 31
Image of the Day
Green Party Seeks Foreign Ownership Ban

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - New Zealand's minority Green Party wants to ban land sales to overseas investors, saying the country should be reserved for residents, not foreigners who rarely visit the picturesque South Pacific nation. "If you want to buy a slice of heaven, you need to make New Zealand your home," Greens co-leader Rod Donald said. Among foreigners who have bought up chunks of New Zealand is Canadian singer Shania Twain who last year paid more than 21 million New Zealand dollars ($15 million) for a 33-year lease with automatic renewal rights on a landmark piece of alpine ranching country on South Island. The singer Cher also is rumored to be considering buying property in New Zealand. "Shania Twain and Cher and other stars may be nice people — but they need to make a commitment to New Zealand instead of treating us like a plaything," Donald told The Associated Press.
Overseas interest in New Zealand property has soared in recent years, in part because the "Lord of the Rings" movies showcased the country's spectacular landscape and party because the South Pacific nation is considered a safe haven from terrorists. Donald, whose party may end up in a ruling coalition with New Zealand's Labour Party following elections next month, said the policy was aimed at tightening the rules on foreign investment and halting land sales to "foreign investors who hardly ever set foot on our soil." In a statement releasing the party's foreign investment policy, he said while foreigners would be excluded from buying land and houses, those choosing to live in New Zealand would be able to buy property. He said the Greens also want to tighten the rules on foreign investment in buildings, businesses and aquaculture operations.
There is growing public concern in New Zealand that foreign landowners are buying up some of the nation's most prized real estate and at the same time reducing access to beaches and mountain regions. "The Green Party welcomes ... foreign investments that create jobs and bring new technology to New Zealand," Donald said. "What we don't want is asset strippers who buy up iconic businesses and bleed them dry." Last year the Labour-led government tightened controls on sensitive land sales to overseas buyers. Under the new rules, foreign buyers must get approval of their plans to manage any historic, heritage, conservation, or public access factors affecting any land, as well as proposals for its economic development.