28 August 2014

Testing the rule

Rico says he wonders if anyone's done a real scientific test of the 'five-second rule', which says you can safely eat something that been on the ground for five seconds or less...

Sad, but true

Rico says that the ladyfriend, lamenting the changes in him since his hospitalization, recently said "I miss you.", to which a Rico could only reply that he misses him, too...

Of course it is

Rico says he's been wrestling with getting the batteries changed in his trackpad, only to finally succeed at 11:11...

Churches in Ethiopia


The BBC has a slideshow about little-known (and difficult of access) churches in Ethiopia:
With their sheer cliffs, surreal rock formations, and vertical spires, northern Ethiopia’s Gheralta Mountains recall stretches of the southwestern United States’ red desert landscape. The primary difference: perched high and tucked away into these mountain cliffs are some of the country’s least-visited rock-hewn Ethiopian Orthodox cave churches, some of which are more than a thousand years old.
The Gheralta cluster, located in Tigray Province, includes more than thirty structures. Although local legend claims that these churches date to between the Fourth and Sixty Centuries, historians believe that they were more likely built from the Ninth to the Twelfth Centuries. That, and its location, makes the Gheralta cluster the geographic and artistic midpoint between the early Ethiopian Orthodox centers of Aksum, built from the Fourth to the Tenth Centuries in the north, and Lalibela, from the Twelfth to the Thirteenth Centuries, further south.
Rico says it's another place he won't be visiting...

Still unfound

The BBC has an article about the still-missing Malaysian airplane:
Australia says the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will focus on the southern part of the search area in the Indian Ocean. Officials said further refinement of satellite data found the plane may have turned south earlier than thought.
The announcement came as Australia and Malaysia signed an agreement on the search's next phase, which will see the two countries sharing costs.
The Beijing, China-bound plane disappeared on 8 March 2014 with 239 people onboard.
Based on analysis of satellite data, it is believed to have ended its journey in seas far west of the Australian city of Perth. Investigators do not know what happened to the flight, and finding its "black box" flight recorders is seen as key to understanding the factors behind its disappearance.
Australia, which is responsible for search and rescue operations, has been looking for the plane in an area about eighteen hundred kilometers off its west coast.
The latest detail on the plane's possible flight path came from an analysis of a failed attempted satellite phone call from Malaysia Airlines to the plane, said Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss. "The search area remains the same, but some of the information that we now have suggests to us that areas a little further to the south are of particular interest and priority," he told reporters in Canberra, Australia.
A Dutch contractor, Fugro Survey, will kick off the next phase in the search in September of 2014. Three vessels towing underwater vehicles will scan for the plane.
The search will focus on an area of about sixty thousand square kilometers, and is estimated to cost about fifty million dollars.
Malaysia's Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai signed the memorandum of understanding with Truss. The two were also briefed on search efforts, together with China's Transport Vice-Minister He Jianzhong. Most of the passengers onboard the flight were Chinese. The ministers issued a statement saying they "remain cautiously optimistic" that the plane will be found.
Rico says this is still a weird one...

Franklin lied

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy,
and wise.
Benjamin Franklin

Rico says he does, and it doesn't...

Apple for the day


Jack Linshi has a Time article about Apple v. Samsung:  
A US judge has rejected Apple’s bid to permanently ban sales of some Samsung phones that had recently been found to infringe Apple patents.
What Apple pitched as a “narrowly tailed ban” on some older Samsung models was denied by US District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, who had rejected Apple’s previous request to ban some Samsung sales in August of 2012, according to Bloomberg.
In its bid, Apple specifically identified certain features on nine of Samsung’s patent-infringing smartphones in order to give the South Korean firm a “sunset period” to alter those features, according to court documents.
But Apple’s latest court denial is perhaps its last, as both parties have toned down their multiyear patent war. In late July of 2014, Apple dropped its appeal of the 2012 case while also announcing that its quarterly profits and smartphone sales had jumped up from the previous year’s, a suggestion that its iPhone sales went largely unaffected by any Samsung patent infringements. Most recently, both Apple and Samsung agreed earlier this month to drop patent disputes against each other outside the US.
Rico says that, no matter what Lucy says, it's still an imitative POS...

History for the day

In 1963, two hundred thousand people participated in a peaceful civil rights rally in Washington, D.C., where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Civil War for the day


"There was some resistance to awarding a Union soldier the medal for Gettysburg, even 150 years after the fact. They didn't want us refighting the Civil War all over again."

Ron Kind, a Democrat from Wisconsin, who co-sponsored legislation to allow
Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing to receive a Medal of Honor for his heroism at the 1863 battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Some Southern lawmakers were hesitant.


The New York Times has an article by Peter Baker entitled Medal of Honor for a Civil War Hero 150 Years in the Grave:
More than 150 years after standing his ground against Pickett's Charge at the Battle of GettysburgLieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama.

Americans and freaks


DelanceyPlace.com has a selection from The Ordinary Acrobat by Duncan Wall:
In his museum, a person could experience in a day all the wonders of the world: animals, spectacle, and adventure. This similarity to the fairgrounds of Barnum's youth is particularly evident in Barnum's relationship with 'freaks' (aka human oddities, living curiosities). As a concept, 'freaks' date back to the ancient period. African Pygmies entertained the royals of Egypt, and Roman emperors delighted themselves with midgets dueling obese women. There were self-made and congenital or natural 'freaks.' Those self-made altered themselves through body modification, most frequently tattooing or piercing, but also through weight gain or starvation, such as the Fat Boy of Peckham and Giuseppe Sacco-Homann, the famous World Champion Fasting Man, both celebrities on the English fairgrounds. Natural 'freaks' were usually born with some kind of deformity or genetic condition: dwarfs, conjoined twins, and people with secondary sexual characteristics of the opposite gender (e.g., bearded women). Often they had a skill to complement their abnormality. Matthias Buchinger was born on 3 June 1674, in Nuremberg, Germany without arms or legs, but later learned to play a half-dozen instruments and perform calligraphy displays, which he did for the kings and queens of Europe.The first 'freak' display in the United States occurred in 1771, when Emma Leach, a dwarf, was shown in Boston, Massachusetts. Around 1840, full 'freak shows' began to emerge, traveling with menageries or in the company of 'handlers' who managed the promotion and exhibition of the stars, enhancing their natural deformities with a story or an exotic medical explanation. (As Tom Norman, Barnum's English equivalent and the handler of the Elephant Man, wrote in his autobiography: 'It was not the show, it was the tale that you told.')Barnum was of this tradition, and he excelled at it. According to his biographer, A.H. Saxon, nearly every famous freak of the period spent a few weeks in the showman's employ: R.O. Wickward, the skeleton man; Jane Campbell, 'the largest Mountain of Human Flesh ever seen in the form of a woman'; S.K.G. Nellis, the armless wonder, who could shoot a bow and arrow with his toes. Many of the freaks appeared as stars in his museum, either as roving attractions, as part of special exhibitions, or as spectacles in the theater in back. Sometimes Barnum toured with them as well. General Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton) (photo, right) was a twenty-five inch-tall four-year-old midget, who Barnum claimed was eleven. Barnum coached the boy to perform impersonations of various heads of state, including Queen Victoria, whom he visited on three separate occasions. In Paris, the duo played to Napoleon III and in a series of shows at the Salle Musard that sold out months in advance. 'The French are exceedingly impressible,' Barnum wrote of the visit in his 1896 autobiography Struggles and Triumphs, 'and what in London is only excitement in Paris becomes furor.'Given our modern mores and science, most people, circus historians included, lament these displays. At best they were grossly lowbrow, at worst debauched. Russian circus-historian Yuri Dimitriev once called them 'a disgrace to human dignity. They were an insult to the very essence of the circus, where the skill and beauty of the human body are celebrated,' he alleged, 'playing on the basest instincts of the gawking crowd.' But it's also important to consider the context. Though much of the interest in 'freaks' indeed derived from inconsiderate or malicious instincts, the 1850s were an age before photographs, cultural museums, or widespread literacy. Audiences were curious about the world, and Barnum played to this curiosity in his exhibits. He advertised his museum as an 'encyclopedic synopsis of everything worth seeing in this curious world'. He presented his artifacts, however strange, as part of the scientific revolution sweeping the globe. For example, he called his ape-man the 'missing link' in Darwin's theories of evolution. Barnum succeeded in this presentation because the museum's atmosphere was consistently middlebrow. A lifelong teetotaler, he prohibited profanity, sexuality, and liquor. In letters he referred to himself as the 'Director of Moral and Refined Exhibitions for the Amusement and Instruction of the Public.' 'Barnum's genius was in developing popular potential,' Bluford Adams, a Barnum scholar, told me. 'He would take an idea, make it safe for the middle classes, and then commercialize it to the hilt.'Approximately thirty-eight million paying visitors passed through Barnum's doors in that time span. This figure is particularly astounding given America's population at the time: thirty-two million just before the Civil War. The American Museum made P.T. Barnum rich. P.T. Barnum was one of the best-known men in the world in the nineteenth century. Though he is best remembered today for his reinvention of the circus, that came late in his life. His claim to fame during most of his career was the American Museum in lower Manhattan.
Rico says they don't make 'em like that any more...

27 August 2014

Oops was a German naval term


Rico says it's sometimes the simplest thing (like not throwing the code books overboard) that changes history:

Philip Wilson, trustee and archivist of the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum and member of the Royal British Legion:
Hew Cleland Hoy, in his book How The War Was Won, published in 1932, says that enemy code books from sunken German ships found their way to 40 OB early in the War and these, which were luckily succeeded by similar captures in the course of time, proved of considerable assistance to the deciphering department. Suspecting this form of leakage, Germany tried to cover it up and, in 1916, altered the key of their principal Naval Signal Book. But as they, ignorant of our interception of their wireless, broadcast this to the High Seas Fleet one night at midnight, 40 OB was, within hours, once more in possession of the solution of the enemy’s naval communications.’
Sir Basil Thomson, in his introduction to this book, says Hoy was a private secretary to the Director of Naval Intelligence, Admiral Hall, whose handling of the Zimmerman-Carranza telegram (promising the states of New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona to Mexico, if she would declare war on the United States) that did more towards bringing America into the war than the sinking of the Lusitania had done, for if he had used the ordinary diplomatic channels it might never have reached President Wilson. In writing this book, Hoy makes it clear he was bound by the Official Secrets Act and, in making his compilation, says: ‘I have had to remember, and also to forget.’

Idiots for the day

Rico says that nothing irritates him more (barring rape and genocide, of course) than having perfectly good technology and not using it, as when the SEPTA bus shows up displaying the totally-useless SEPTA designator, rather than the normal route number...

Mysteries of the Civil War

ListVerse has a list of Civil War mysteries by Pauli Poisuo:
The Civil War (1861-1865) is one of the most important events in the history of the United States. Its four years of combat and chaos killed three-quarters of a million soldiers, abolished slavery, and shaped the fate of the entire nation.It also gave the world a number of strange secrets and intriguing mysteries. Let’s take a look at some of them: 
10 The Death Of Stonewall JacksonMost people who are familiar with Civil War history know that Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, the famous Confederate Lieutenant General, died a very peculiar death. His own men accidentally shot him in the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863.But what really happened on that fateful night? Although historians generally state that Jackson was shot because of the darkness and confusion on the battlefield, the waters of history have been fairly muddy on this particular subject. Jackson’s fame led many people—from both sides of the conflict—to claim that they were involved in his death, and conspiracy theories of murder and foul play have surfaced every once in a while.The question was finally answered in 2013, near the 150th anniversary of the great general’s death (which may or may not have been a happy coincidence). Two astronomers painstakingly calculated the phases of the moon during that fateful night. When Jackson was returning to his troops, the moon was so dim it would only have revealed his silhouette. When the fatigued, frightened soldiers were startled by this mysterious, soldier-shaped shadow, they instinctively opened fire, only to find to their horror that they had felled their own commander.

9 Lost Confederate goldWhen the South eventually lost the war In April of 1865, a major mystery was shadowing the Union’s great victory. The country was torn by the conflict, and they desperately needed all the money they could get their hands on to rebuild. This is why the North was more than eager to get their hands on the Confederate war treasury. But the ”damn Yankees” were in for a surprise: The gold was nowhere to be found.To this day, no one truly knows what happened to the Confederate gold. Many theorize that it was divided up and buried by many plantation owners, to wait for the day when the South would rise again. Others say it was robbed by a ragtag team of Confederate and Union deserters, never to be seen again. Others still maintain that it just . . . disappeared.There are many legends about the location of this great treasure. One stash is said to be in Savannah, Georgia, buried in a cemetery under the name of a fake general. Another is supposedly in West Central Broward County, buried by an ambushed general who was trying to take it to Cuba.However, most of those stashes are probably nothing more than legends. Although no one truly knows where the gold is hidden, the actual value of the treasury was probably somewhere around $500,000—many times less than many Union generals reported. This means that if there indeed are stashes, there are either a lot less of them than most people think, or they’re much smaller. Still, that doesn’t stop people from theorizing.One particularly juicy rumor concerns a town called Danville, Virginia. Fairly reliable historical proof suggests that a former Confederate Navy official, James A. Semple, hid a large amount of Mexican silver dollars—thought to be a part of the Confederate treasure—in the area. Some say they have even found some of these coins. 
8 General Grant’s photographThe image is a very famous photo known as General Grant at City Point. It shows Ulysses S. Grant, Union general and future President of the United States, addressing his troops on horseback at their stations in City Point, Virginia. But a closer look at the picture will reveal some strange anomalies: Grant, a famous horseman, is sitting very uncomfortably on his steed. His head seems to be at a painful angle, as if he’s craning to see something. He seems like he’s mysteriously put on quite a bit of weight, and even his clothes seem to be from a completely different time period. What’s wrong with the famous general?Detective work by the Library of Congress revealed that photo manipulation was very popular in the old times as well. When you look closely, tiny scratch marks reveal that this majestic photograph is actually a skillful fabrication: the horse and body belong to Major General Alexander McCook, and the head is taken from another, less majestic portrait of Grant. Even the place in the picture is not what it claims to be: instead of City Point, the photo is actually set to the background of some Confederate prisoners captured at Fisher’s Hill. Although it is unclear why the photo was manipulated to such an extent, it was most likely for publicity purposes. The original portrait from which the mighty general’s face was cropped showed him standing in front of his tent like an ordinary soldier, leaning casually on a hunk of wood. Although that was probably a much more accurate picture of the down-to-earth general, it is safe to assume that the original was not quite as majestic as many would have wanted. 
7 Mystery photosWhen Private Thomas W. Timberlake of the 2nd Virginia Infantry was walking through the corpse-littered battlefield of Port Royal, Virginia, he happened to find a photo of a young girl. The problem was that said photo happened to lie exactly between two dead soldiers, one Confederate and the other Union. Timberlake took the photo with him, and it eventually found its way to the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia. The museum has a fairly good collection of similar mystery photos that soldiers from both sides of the war had given for safe keeping and never reclaimed, most likely because they died in battle. They depict people that are long dead, and although the museum occasionally manages to track down some of the people in the pictures, some of them— like the unidentified young girl found between the dead soldiers— are never identified. Their pictures remain sad, old mysteries of a time gone by, never reclaimed or recognized by anyone. 
6 Ghosts of Kolb’s FarmPerhaps because of its nature as a conflict where brother fought against brother, the Civil War has left behind quite a few ghost stories. From Gettysburg to Chickamauga, most major Civil War battlefields are notoriously infested with ghosts (at least, if you believe the legends). But a battle doesn’t always need to be massive and famous for its site to become haunted. Kolb Ridge Court was a small housing area on Kolb’s Farm, near Marietta, Georgia. On 22 June 1864, the area saw a fairly small battle that became known as The Battle of Kolb’s Farm. According to many, it was less of a large-scale battle and more of a skirmish; still, it was more than enough to leave the area with strange phenomena.The area survived the War, new houses were built, and new residents eventually moved in. The residents of one new house in particular have experienced extremely unnerving events, such as a mysterious (but seemingly solid) man in Civil War–era clothing walking in the house, unseen hands tugging their clothing, cold spots, and, most frighteningly, invisible beings playing with their power tools when no one is looking. Strangely enough, the residents eventually made peace with their Civil War ghost. They realized that the spirit was actually quite shy and only started tinkering if no one was paying attention to it. Now, they just let their spiritual housemate do its thing and live their lives in amiable co-existence. 
5 Army ItchWhen you’re fighting a war, you get used to many inconveniences. Bad food, constant manual labor, wet boots, and, of course, actually having to kill other human beings— all major drawbacks of the life of a wartime soldier. However, the Civil War had one extra horror to throw in the mix.The Army Itch was a dermatological terror that spread though the regiments, getting worse by the month throughout the conflict. It was a mysterious condition that caused men’s skin to swell and blister, to the point where they became a mass of sores and painful, pus-oozing lacerations. What’s more, their entire skin itched constantly and uncontrollably. Some men’s hands swelled so badly that their fingers couldn’t touch each other.The true cause of the itch remained a mystery until 2006, when researchers were able to determine its true cause as epidemic scabies, a particularly hostile mite infection that swept through the armies in the less-than-hygienic conditions of the barracks and battlefields. 
4 Fort MonroeOf all the Civil War sites that are reputedly haunted, it’s hard to name one that has classier ghosts than Fort Monroe. Fort Monroe has a particularly storied history, even for a Civil War–era military compound. It was one of the few Southern forts that weren’t captured at any point in the war. With its castle-like structure— complete with moat and sturdy walls— it was considered one of the mightiest fortresses in the country. Perhaps this is why Fort Monroe appears to be haunted by pretty much every significant person that ever visited it. The specter of Abraham Lincoln, a man who has been known to haunt quite a few places, has been seen in the guest room unsurprisingly known as the Lincoln Room. He’s always wearing a dressing gown and contemplating matters of state. If a huge, half-dressed ghost of a long-dead president is not terrifying enough, there’s always the phantom of the fearsome General Ulysses S. Grant, sometimes spotted within the fort’s Quarters Number One. Another one of Fort Monroe’s famous ghosts is Varina Davis, the wife of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis, who was imprisoned in the fortress after the South fell. Of course, Jefferson himself is also said to haunt the premises, along with Edgar Allan Poe, of all people. However, the most famous of the area’s ghosts is not a famous person at all. An area of the fort, aptly known as Ghost Alley, is said to be haunted by the Light Lady. She is a classic White Lady ghost, roaming the areas near Fort Monroe in search of her lost love, surrounded by a fog that seems to glow from within. Although many of these ghosts seem like classic campfire stories, it is worth noting that sightings have been reported for a long time, often by military personnel of sound mind and stature. Whether we believe these stories or not, the locals are happy to embrace the strange, spectral history of Fort Monroe, to the point where the local history museum happily arranges ghost tours of the place. 
3 The Disappearance Of The USS Keystone StateOn 9 November 1861, a steamer named the USS Keystone State disappeared. What made this strange were the circumstances: the Civil War–era ship was nowhere near the battlefronts, and the vessel had been unassumingly hauling passengers and iron goods from Detroit to Milwaukee on the Great Lakes. What’s more, the USS Keystone State was one of the largest, sturdiest steamers in existence, so its complete disappearance (and presumed sinking) was a surprise.For over a hundred and fifty years, the ship’s final fate remained a mystery. Finally, in 2013, a veteran shipwreck hunter found the mighty vessel at the bottom of Lake Huron, where it had lain all those years. It was determined that the USS Keystone State had sunk in a particularly nasty storm.But why was it attempting to make its voyage during such a terrible storm? Its finder has a possible explanation: it may be that the ship was involved in the war after all, and was actually carrying a large amount of military equipment for a special militia forming in Wisconsin. 
2 The Confederate Flying MachineYou have probably never heard of Dr. Finley Hunt, but if his invention had worked he’d probably be as famous as any of history’s great inventors. Halfway through the war, Dr. Hunt wrote a letter to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He had a very special suggestion: he could turn the tide of the war with a steam-powered military flying machine that could bomb the enemy from above— a truly groundbreaking idea at a time when the height of aerial technology was the hot air balloon. Hunt was a dentist by trade, and the Wright Brothers’ first successful flight was still some time away, but Davis became excited about the idea and introduced Hunt to General Robert E. Lee, who put him in contact with the Chief of the Engineer Bureau for the Confederacy. They immediately started researching the idea. At least on paper, Hunt’s idea was a fairly good one. Sadly, his lack of engineering background proved to be a hindrance to the project, and the Engineer Bureau soon reported that the machine could not be built. Its whole concept might have been lost in the annals of history if its blueprints hadn’t accidentally been found in a bookstore in 2011.But what if someone built Hunt’s flying machine after all? UFO sightings were commonplace in the later parts of Nineteenth Century, and some have speculated that at least some of these sightings could be because some other aeronautically minded inventor— perhaps one with more engineering talent than Hunt— ironed out the problems in his plans and made their own functional flying machine. Also, there’s this: while the Bureau dismissed Hunt’s invention as impossible, they absolutely loved his idea of using steam machines for military purposes, and promised to start discussing the idea ”in great measure”. History tells us they never got around to actually building any of these steam weapons, but who knows what war monsters they were secretly working on? If the war had lasted for a few more years, there’s no telling what sort of steampunk machines the South would have unleashed on their unsuspecting opponents. 
1 The Glowing SoldiersThe Battle of Shiloh was one of the bloodiest in the entire Civil War. It was a constant, two-day struggle that left little time for the medics to tend for the wounded, and the massive amount of wounded soldiers meant that many of them would be left just lying on the battlefield for days. As the wounded men lay in agony, a strange thing happened: some of their wounds started glowing. The eerie sheen was clearly visible in the dark, and no one could understand what was happening. However, the strangest part happened when the medics actually started treating the wounded: the soldiers with glowing wounds were healing much better than the ones with normal, non-glowing injuries.The phenomenon soon became known as Angel’s Glow. Its nature remained a mystery, and many suspected the healing shine was actually divine in origin.The strange secret of Angel’s Glow was finally solved in 2001 by two high school students who were investigating the phenomenon for a science fair project. They figured out that the glow on the wounded soldiers was most likely Panellus stipticus, a ”good” bacteria with bioluminescent properties that was transported to the wounds by the many insects that were infesting them. Although P. stipticus wouldn’t usually survive in human body temperature, it was able to survive in the hypothermic wounded soldiers, allowing it to fight the bad bacteria that were trying to infect their wounds.
Rico says all wars have their mysteries, but the Civil War seems to attract more than its fair share...

The delicate matter of picking your nose

DelanceyPlace.com has a selection from Gulp by Mary Roach on the incredible antimicrobial properties of saliva, and the delicate matter of picking your nose:
As much as human saliva is a bacterial cesspool, it is also an antimicrobial miracle, with the former necessitating the latter. As a germ killer, saliva puts mouthwash to shame. Saliva has anti-clumping properties, which discourage bacteria from forming colonies on the teeth and gums. There are salivary proteins that retain their antimicrobial abilities even when they themselves are broken down. 'They may be even more effective than the whole protein of origin,' saliva researcher Dr. Erika Silletti is saying. 'It's incredible!'
Saliva's antimicrobial talents explain some of the folk medicine remedies that have been making the rounds since the 1600s. One 1763 treatise advocates applying 'the fasting saliva of a man or woman turn'd of seventy or eighty years of age' to syphilitic chancres of the glans penis. As with the ancient Chinese Materia Medica prescription of saliva 'applied below arms to counteract fetid perspiration,' one imagines (hopes) that an applicator other than the tongue was employed.
'It is a known observation among the vulgar that the saliva is efficacious in cleansing foul wounds, and cicatrizing recent ones, thus dogs by licking their wounds have them heal in a very short time', wrote the eighteenth-century physician Herman Boerhaave. He was correct. Wounds that would take several weeks to heal on one's skin disappear in a week inside the mouth. In a 2008 rodent study, animals that licked their wounds healed faster than those that could not (because their salivary glands had been disconnected, a wound, alas, that even saliva cannot heal).
More than just disinfecting is going on. Rodent saliva contains nerve growth factor and skin growth factor. Human saliva contains histatins, which speed wound closure independent of their antibacterial action. Dutch researchers watched it happen in the lab. They cultured skin cells, scratched them with a tiny sterile tip, soaked them in the saliva of six different people, and clocked how quickly the wounds healed, as compared to controls. Other components of saliva render viruses, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, non-infective in most cases. (Colds and flus aren't spread by drinking from a sick person's glass; they're spread by touching it. One person's finger leaves virus particles on the glass; the next person's picks them up and transfers them to the respiratory tract via an eye-rub or nose-pick.
In 1973, inquisitive cold researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine investigated 'the frequency of exposure of nasal mucosa to contact with the finger under natural conditions'; plainly said, how frequently people pick their nose. Under the guise of jotting notes, an observer sat at the front of a hospital ampitheater during grand rounds. Over the course of seven thirty- to fifty-minute observation periods, a group of over a hundred physicians and medical students picked their collective noses twenty-nine times. Adult Sunday school students were observed to pick at a slightly lower rate, not because religious people have better manners than medical personnel, but, the researchers speculated, because their chairs were arranged in a circle. In a separate phase of the study, the researchers contaminated the picking finger of seven subjects with cold virus particles and then had them pick their nose. Two of seven came down with colds. In case you needed a reason to stop picking your nose...
Rico says some things should be done privately...

History for the day


On 27 August 1962, the United States launched the Mariner 2 space probe, which flew past Venus in December of 1963.

Apple for the day


Time has an article about the new iPad:
In the midst of sluggish sales, Apple has been developing larger touch-screen devices in order to see off competition from rivals including Google and South Korean giant Samsung, according to Bloomberg.
The new 12.9-inch iPad will be launched in the spring, inside sources told Bloomberg, following the company’s release of a larger four-inch iPhone next month.
Apple’s ten-inch and eight-inch tablets have been unable to maintain a stable consumer base because of the release of larger smartphones by largely Asia-based competitors.
The new iPad’s thirteen-inch screen would be comparable in size to the largest MacBook Air on the market.
Rico says he'll have to start saving up...

Oops is, yet again, a gub term


The BBC has an article about an idiot who should've known better but paid the price for his stupidity:
A nine year-old girl killed her shooting instructor by accident while being shown how to use a high-powered submachine gun. The instructor was giving the girl a lesson at a shooting range in Arizona when the recoil from the automatic fire caused her to lose control of the Uzi.
Charles Vacca, 39, (video, at left) was shot in the head and died after being airlifted to a hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The girl was at the shooting range with her parents, who filmed the lesson.
The footage shows the instructor coaching her as she fires a single shot at a target at the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills, Arizona.
The Uzi then appears to be switched to automatic as the girl pulls the trigger and loses her grip of the weapon.
The video, edited and released by the Mojave County Sheriff's office, ends abruptly before the instructor is shot.
The website of the shooting range, called Bullets and Burgers, says children aged eight and older can shoot a weapon if they are accompanied by a parent and an instructor.
Range operator Sam Scarmardo told The Associated Press the rule was industry standard, but the range is reviewing its safety procedures.
Rico says there are very few people who can handle shooting full-auto, and nine-year-old girls ain't one of them...

26 August 2014

International scam for the day

Rico says this is getting to be as popular as the UPS scams... (And Ego is so apt, Rico can't believe it.)


-----Original Message-----
From Mr. Philip Ego
I have been waiting for you since to contact me for your Confirmable Bank Draft of five and a half million United States dollars, but I did not hear from you since for a couple of weeks now. Then I went to the bank to confirm if the draft has expired or getting near to expire and Dr. Wilson the Director, Bank of Africa, told me that before the draft will get to your hand that it will expire. So I told him to cash the five and a half million United States dollars to cash payment to avoid losing these funds under expiration, as I will be out of the country for a three-months course and I will not come back till end of the year.
What you have to do now is to contact FedEx Courier Services as soon as possible to know when they will deliver your Consignment to you because of the expiring date. For your information, I have paid for the delivering charge and insurance premium.
The only money you will send to the FedEx Courier Services to deliver your consignment direct to your postal address in your country is one hundred and five United States dollars only being Security Keeping Fee of the Courier Company so far. Again, don?t be deceived by any body to pay any other money except $105.00 US dollars.
I would have paid that, but they said no because they don?t know when you will contact them, and in case of demurrage.
You have to contact FedEx Courier Services now for the delivery of your draft with this information below:
Directors Name: Mr. Larry Moore
Company's Name: FedEx Courier Services
Email Address: larry-fedex2015@yandex.com
Tel/FAX: +2348180330504
Finally, make sure that you reconfirm your postal address and direct telephone number to them, again to avoid any mistake on the delivery, and ask them to give you the tracking number to enable you track your package over there and know when it will get to your address.
Let me repeat again, try to contact them as soon as you receive this mail to avoid any further delay and remember to pay them their Security Keeping Fee of $105.00 US Dollars for their immediate action.
Note: the FedEx Courier Services don?t know the contents of the box. I registered it as a box of African clothes.
They did not know the content was money. this is to avoid them delaying with the box. Do not let them know that box contents money okay.
I am waiting for your urgent response.
Yours faithfully,
Mr. Philip Ego

Just what we didn't need...

...radioactive wolves:

Pretty place with very strong guys

Rico says he'd like to visit Iceland some day (though not in the winter), but he'll pass on the competition:

Unveiled

Rico says he doesn't understand any of this behavior:

Scary bunch

Rico says he's not sure who or what is gonna take these guys out, but not Rico, thankfully (though he votes for a nuke):

Recently stupid selfies


Slate has an article by Kristin Hohenadel about scary behavior:
The famous photograph Lunch Atop a Skyscraper (photo, top), of eleven steelworkers blithely suspended on a crossbeam in the air above Manhattan while constructing the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center in 1932, remained a complete mystery for decades. Nobody knew who the photographer or the workers were or if the photo had been doctored until the mystery was partially unraveled in 2012, when two of the men in the photo were identified and the photograph was deemed to be real.
In recent years, the phenomenon known as rooftopping, pioneered by Tom Ryaboi, has gained mainstream traction. In rooftopping, daredevil photographers scale dizzying heights to capture unprecedented views of urban landscapes. Even though part of the thrill of those images is knowing that a human engaged in risky behavior to capture them, the photos seem to be more about the subject matter than the photographer.
But, in the age of the insipid selfie, even photographers often supersede their own subjects, as a recent slew of extreme selfies around the world can attest. This week’s extreme selfie publicity stunt involves photographers Daniel Lau (photo, bottom), Andrew Tso, and A.S., who climbed to the top of an 1,135-foot-tall Hong Kong skyscraper to take a short video that shows them eating bananas before panning out to reveal them using a selfie stick to shoot a vertigo-inducing money shot of their attention-seeking stupidity.
Narcissus is said to have drowned from staring too long at his own beloved reflection. Isn't it only a matter of time before the treacherous race for the world's most dangerous selfie ends in tragedy?
Check out the video below to see the stunt in action:


Rico says he won't be doing this, ever, and these guys will be lucky to survive the next one...

Hypocrites in the GOP? Really?


Slate has an article by Emily Tamkin about an all-too-typical politician:
In 2012, Tennessee Republican Representative Scott DesJarlais (photo, playing with his phone, which is probably smarter than he is) was exposed as having had extramarital affairs, having slept with his medical patients, and having supported his ex-wife's decision to get two abortions before their marriage, despite his staunchly public pro-life stance. Roughly one month later, he won re-election to Congress. It seems he may go on to do so again: DesJarlais officially won his recent Republican primary contest.
From the Washington Post:
Tracy's concession ends more than two weeks of drama that started after the race was too close to call the morning after the 7 August 2014 primary. It also marks a remarkable political comeback for DesJarlais, who has been weighed down by personal scandal.
DesJarlais will go into his race with the Democratic nominee, a retired accountant named Lenda Sherrell, as the favorite in a heavily conservative district. Mitt Romney won 65.3 percent of the vote in the district in the 2012 presidential election, to Barack Obama's 33.1 percent.
Days after certified election results showed DesJarlais narrowly outpaced state senator Jim Tracy by 38 votes in a closely-watched primary in the Fourth District, Tracy conceded, citing a desire to avoid a lengthy legal battle without a clear path to erasing his margin, even as he maintained that he saw potential problems with the vote.
Rico says that the electorate inevitably gets the representation they deserve...

Listen for the shots

Slate has an article (with an audio recording) by Ben Mathis-Lilley about the Michael Brown shooting:
An attorney representing a man who says he realized he had inadvertently recorded audio of the Michael Brown shooting has provided that audio to CNN:


Attorney Lopa Blumenthal says the recording was made during a video chat. The audio captures what seem like ten gunshot sounds— an initial group of six, then a pause, then four more. An autopsy of Brown's body performed at his family's request by an experienced forensic pathologist named Michael Baden indicated Brown was hit by at least six shots.
Eyewitness Dorian Johnson, a friend of Brown's, has said that officer Darren Wilson fired several shots at Brown after Brown had turned toward him and raised his hands. The Baden autopsy indicated that Brown had been shot exclusively in the front of his body.
Blumenthal says the man who made the recording has spoken to the FBI.
Rico says there's still more to come with this story... (But ten shots fired, at very close range, and only six hits? The cop needs retraining, and not just on arrest procedure.)

An early selfie


Megan Gambino has a Smithsonian.com article about a famous old photograph:
On 20 September 1932, high above 41st Street in Manhattan in New York City, eleven ironworkers took part in a daring publicity stunt. The men were accustomed to walking along the girders of the RCA building (now called the GE building) they were constructing in Rockefeller Center. On this particular day, though, they humored a photographer, who was drumming up excitement about the project’s near completion. Some of the tradesmen tossed a football; a few pretended to nap. But, most famously, all eleven ate lunch on a steel beam, their feet dangling nine hundred feet above the city’s streets.
You’ve seen the photograph before, and probably some of the playful parodies it has spawned too. My brother had a poster in his childhood bedroom with actors, such as Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio, photoshopped in place of the steelworkers. The portrait has become an icon of twentieth century American photography.
But how much do you know about it?
For the Irish filmmaker Seán Ó Cualáin, the mystery surrounding the photograph is a large part of its appeal. “There are so many unknowns,” he says. Who was the photographer? And who are the men They could be anybody,” says Ó Cualáin. “We can all place ourselves on that beam. I think that is why the photograph works.”
Ó Cualáin did not plan to tell the story of the photograph, but that’s exactly what he has done in his latest documentary, Men at Lunch, which debuted earlier this month at the Toronto International Film Festival. “It was a happy accident,” says Ó Cualáin. He and his brother, Eamonn, the film’s producer, were in a pub in Galway, Ireland when they noticed a copy of the photograph hanging in a corner. Beside the photograph was a note from the son of a local immigrant who left Ireland for New York City in the 1920s: "This is my dad on the far right and my uncle-in-law on the far left." They asked the bartender about the note and, "like all good Irish barmen," says Ó Cualáin, he put them in contact with Pat Glynn, the Boston, Massachusetts resident who had penned it, that very night.
The filmmakers’ curiosity led them on a journey from the supposed relatives of a couple of the men pictured to the Rockefeller Center photography archives in New York City and a storage facility in Pennsylvania where the licensing company Corbis holds the original glass plate negative.
In the process, the Ó Cualáin brothers confirmed that the photograph is real, and not a darkroom trick, as has been speculated. They turned up three possible photographers and, for the first time ever, unquestionably identified two of the men on the beam. Read more here.
Rico says it's another job he's thankful (given his loathing of heights) he never had...

Authentic? Not likely


Rico says the 'trashy but expensive' Bradford Exchange always has an ad in the NRA magazine (think there might be a connection between its members and their collectors?), and this month has one for this eighty-dollar POS:
The Civil War was a time of epic struggle and conflict that divided our nation like no other event in our history. Over a hundred and fifty years have passed, and still the spirit of those who served lives on. Now, this bold Pride of the South Pendant Necklace commemorates those pivotal times. A fine jewelry exclusive from The Bradford Exchange, it is the perfect way to carry a bit of history and honor those who served the South during the Civil War.
Boasting a distinctive dog tag design, this handsome pendant necklace is handcrafted of solid stainless steel. The center features bold black ion plating, with the Confederate flag and shield in red and blue enameling, crowned by three sculpted stars. CSA (for the Confederate States of America) and the years of the Civil War are engraved on a banner below. The words Pride of the South are engraved on the back, while a powerfully sculpted eagle head serves as the pendant's bail, extending to wrap its wings around each side of the dog tag. It's a distinctive way to show your pride and makes a dramatic gift; it even arrives in a jewelry pouch and gift box. But strong demand is expected, so don't wait, order now!
Rico says the print ad notes that it comes with a 'Certificate of Authenticity', whatever that means in this context... (Having ancestors on both sides of Da Wawah, Rico can afford to scoff.)

Billy on Robin



Time has an article about the late comedian:
Billy Crystal: "Robin Williams, what a concept" 
The past year was a tough one for Hollywood when it came to saying goodbye to all the great talents who passed away. While pop star Sara Bareilles sang a touching rendition of the Charlie Chaplin classic Smile, the Emmy Awards acknowledged James Avery, Maya Angelou, Lauren Bacall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Casey Kasem, Don Pardo, Harold Ramis, Mickey Rooney, Elaine Stritch, Shirley Temple, and many more, before ending with a special tribute (above_ to Robin Williams from the late actor’s friend Billy Crystal.
“He was the greatest friend you could ever imagine,” Crystal said in the tribute. “It’s very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in all of our lives.”
Watch the Emmys’ heartfelt tribute (above), which certainly improves upon the unexpectedly brief tribute the MTV Video Music Awards threw together last night...
Rico says he'll be missed, the loon...

Burning Man, back on


Laura Stampler has a Time article about this year's event:
Hippies and tech moguls alike will finally be able to get into Burning Man after rain delayed the festival’s opening.
While Burning Man’s official Twitter had warned attempted revelers that cops were turning away cars due to inclement weather, it announced that the festival’s Reno, Nevada gates would reopen Tuesday at 6 am local time.
Hundreds of stranded travelers took refuge in casinos or the local Wal-Mart parking lot, undeterred by the damp start to the desert event. “It’s the best festival in the world,” Jeff Cross told The Associated Press as he was unloading provisions from his RV parked outside of Wal-Mart. “And there’s no cellphones, no internet, no money, or corporate sponsors.”
Although that’s not the case for all Burning Man goers. Nick Bilton at The New York Times recently reported on the growing trend of a Silicon Valley elite infiltrating the egalitarian, counter-culture scene, in air-conditioned and wifi-equipped RVs.
The rain didn’t extinguish the Burning Man spirit for waylaid travelers camping at Pyramid Lake, the Reno Gazette-Journal reports. Dozens had to be told by local rangers that they had to keep their clothes on as they waited. “How can you not know that it is not okay to be naked in public?” one ranger said. Such behavior is acceptable at Burning Man, which will run through 1 September 2014.
Rico says that the Playa turns into nasty slick mud with even a little rain...

New law


Katy Steinmetz has a Time article about kill switches for your smartphone:
California state senator Anthony Canella, a Republican from Ceres, joined fellow lawmakers in approving a measure, SB962, by state Senator Mark Leno, a Democrat from San Francisco, California, requiring all new smart phones come equipped with a "kill switch," that disables the device if lost or stolen. California Governor Jerry Brown signed historic legislation on 25 August 2014, mandating that every smartphone sold in California after 1 July 2015, must be equipped by default with a kill switch, a feature that can render the device useless if stolen.
Proposed by state senator Mark Leno and endorsed by a bevy of law-enforcement officials, the new law, the first of its kind in the nation, is designed to curb cell-phone theft in cities like San Francisco, where more than 65% of all robberies involve stolen phones, or Oakland, where it’s 75%.
“California has just put smartphone thieves on notice,” Leno said in a statement. “Starting next year, all smartphones sold in California, and most likely every other state in the union, will come equipped with theft deterrent technology when they purchase new phones. Our efforts will effectively wipe out the incentive to steal smartphones and curb this crime of convenience, which is fueling street crime and violence within our communities.” Leno, a San Francisco–area Democrat, and other proponents of the kill switch have argued that, if manufacturers are obliged to make these changes for the most populous state in the nation, they’re more likely to alter all devices, in anticipation of similar legislation in other states.
Many of the biggest telecommunication companies, such as Apple, Google, and Samsung, agreed earlier this year to voluntarily add kill-switch capability on phones after 1 July 2014. However, the companies did not agree to enable the kill switch by default, so much as make it available as a feature. “The bill requires theft-deterrent technology to come standard on all smartphones sold in California, a departure from the status quo, where consumers are required to seek out and enable the technology,” Leno’s office said.
The law will apply to all phones sold to consumers online or in physical stores in California, regardless of where the phones are manufactured. The law does not specify exactly how manufacturers must implement the kill switch, though it must allow a phone owner to remotely “brick” their phone and erase data, as well as turn the phone back on if it should be misplaced instead of stolen.
Officials like Leno have said they’re more interested in seeing the system implemented than dictating precisely how it works.
San Francisco district attorney George Gascón, also a proponent of the bill, previously asserted that carriers and manufacturers were reluctant to install the switches because it could encroach on the lucrative seven billion dollar phone-insurance market. A wireless association that represents major carriers like AT&T and Sprint, known as CTIA, has said hesitance was due to security concerns, like the potential for phones to be killed by hackers. CTIA said in a statement that their members have already gone to great lengths to protect smartphone users, citing actions like the voluntary agreement made earlier this year, as well as education campaigns. And the association insinuated that such mandated changes may yield costs that are passed onto wireless consumers.
“Today’s action was unnecessary given the breadth of action the industry has taken,” said CTIA vice president Jamie Hastings. “Uniformity in the wireless industry created tremendous benefits for wireless consumers, including lower costs and phenomenal innovation. State-by-state technology mandates, such as this one, stifle those benefits and are detrimental to wireless consumers.”
Advocates like Gascón, however, believe that this is a first step toward a new kind of uniformity. “This epidemic has impacted millions across the nation, and millions more around the globe,” he said. “But today we turn the page,” he said in a statement. “Seldom can a public safety crisis be addressed by a technological solution, but today wireless consumers everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief.”
Rico says it seems simple enough; hopefully the next iPhone that Rico buys will have it...

More stupid criminals


Rico knows 'stupid criminal' is redundant, but there's no better phrase for the senseless killing of a Philadelphia grandmother and her friend, as Morgan Zalot explains in the Philadelphia Daily News:
Even after someone pumped bullets into her grandson outside her Holmesburg rowhouse last month and she started receiving threatening phone calls, 67-year-old Dollie Evans, affectionately known as Grandma on her block, wasn't afraid.
"Dollie wasn't scared of nobody," a friend who calls herself Miss B said outside Evans' house on Vista Street near Torresdale Avenue. "That's the type of person she was."
A day after someone walked into Evans' house and executed her and 59-year-old Ruby Thomas, a friend who'd been staying at the house, police, friends and relatives of both women were trying to piece together what happened.
Why would someone kill the women who were, by all accounts, beloved in the neighborhood? According to police, officers were called to the rowhouse about 5:30 pm after a report of gunfire. When they arrived, the front door was ajar. Inside, they found the women shot in the head in the living room and bedroom, police said.
Miss B said that her friend kept a big dog, one that reminded her of Stephen King's Cujo, but that the dog had been put outside at the time of the murders, suggesting that whoever is responsible may have known the victims. "That dog would've never let people in there," Miss B said.
The slayings sent shock waves through the block, where neighbors say there have been at least three shootings recently. Police confirmed that a 36-year-old man had been shot several times outside the same house on 5 July 2014. A spokeswoman said that he was uncooperative with investigators.
"My grandkids could've been out there," said one neighbor, who declined to give her name. "It's crazy you can't walk out the door without peeking to see if anything's gonna happen." She and others recalled the victims as kind, warm women. "Every morning, I'd sit out here and talk to them," another neighbor, Tina, said. "They were good to my kids."
Miss B said that, in the winter, Evans gave her a fur coat. Evans went by Grandma in the neighborhood because she was always quick to offer a place to stay or a bite to eat, she said. "You never had to be hungry as long as you were in her presence," Miss B added.
She said that recently Evans had been talking about whoever had shot her grandson, and whoever had called her with the threats, but she wasn't shaken. "She stood there and said: 'They can't kill me. They gotta do more than that,' " Miss B recalled. "I think she felt something."
Thomas' brother sobbed yesterday as he stood, looking at the well-kept garden of tomato plants and marigolds that flanked the porch of the house where his sister was killed. "She had her own problems, but she was good to everybody," Joey Thomas said, as tears rolled down his cheeks. He added that his sister grew up in the area and leaves behind a daughter.
"The whole neighborhood will miss her."
Rico says the idiots responsible should be hunted down and shot...

Nantucket for the day

Rico says his mother sent him this article, from the new N magazine, about her doctor when she lived on the island. He's now into drone photography:



Idiot for the day

Rico says that Saunders (see story below) was a candidate, but Mari A. Schaefer has an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about the winner:
An Upper Darby man police are calling Uncle Drunk allegedly let his eight-year-old nephew steer his car in traffic while he was drinking beer recently.
Clarence Hairston, 58, of the 600 block of Littlecroft Road, has been charged with driving under the influence, endangering the welfare of a child, reckless endangerment, permitting an unauthorized person to drive a car, and related crimes, said Michael J. Chitwood, superintendent of police.
Upper Darby Officer Frank Devine spotted a 2008 Chevrolet Impala blocking the intersection of Gilford and Copley Roads. The car was making a series of abrupt "stop and goes" and nearly hit a parked car, Chitwood said. "The car windows were completely fogged." The officer approached the car and allegedly saw Hairston in the driver's seat with the child on his lap.
Hairston was holding a half-empty 25-ounce can of beer and a second empty can was on the floor, said Chitwood. Hairston allegedly had been operating the gas and brake and letting the child steer. Another nephew, nine, was sitting in the back.
Hairston was arrested and taken to Delaware County Memorial Hospital, where he refused to submit to a blood test, Chitwood said. The children were returned to their mother, who had let Hairston babysit. "He put an entire neighborhood at risk because of his stupidity," said ChitwoodHairston is being held in the Delaware County jail on $15,000 bail.

Use an accordion...


...go to jail.

It's an old joke, but Jessica Parks has an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about one:
The package that led the Whole Foods Market in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania to evacuate staff and shoppers for the second time in a month turned out to be "a suspicious accordion", Plymouth Township Police Chief Joseph F. Lawrence said.
Around 2:30 pm, police received a call about a "suspicious" suitcase beside a trash can near the store's front door, according to the police report.
The store, and neighboring ones at the Plymouth Meeting Mall, were cleared for about three hours as police and dogs scoured the market. The Montgomery County Sheriff's Department's bomb squad X-rayed the package and determined it was an accordion. It was unclear if police identified the instrument's owner.
The evacuation was the second in a month because of a potential threat at the market. Police say they are searching for a former employee they think made the first, a bomb threat on 8 August 2014.
Travis Cornell Saunders, 30, formerly of North Philadelphia, faces a felony charge of making terroristic threats and seven misdemeanor charges, including reckless endangerment. According to police reports, Saunders called Plymouth Township police and made veiled references that the area was about to "blow up", and a former roommate called Philadelphia police to report that Saunders had said he would put a bomb at the store. Saunders had recently been fired, Lawrence said.
The market, part of the mall, was closed for about two hours on 8 August 2014 while police searched for explosive devices. They found none.
An arrest warrant was sent around Philadelphia and Montgomery County, but Saunders has yet to be found, police said.
Deputy Chief John C. Myrsiades said that the store was not in danger, and that "it was more of a person that Saunders was trying to harass."
Anyone with information about Saunders' whereabouts is asked to call Detective Jeffrey McGee at 610-279-1901.
Rico says it's a two-fer, with 'idiot for the day' for Saunders.

History for the day


On 26 August 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote, was declared in effect.

Rico says, as the ad has it, 'you've come a long way, baby'...

Vatican for the day

The New York Times has an article by Laurie Goodstein titled Ex-diplomat for the Vatican could be tried:
The former Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic is accused of paying boys there to engage in sexual acts, and his diplomatic immunity has been revoked.
Rico says they should hang him, but probably won't...

History for the day


DelanceyPlace.com has a selection from James Buchanan by Jean H. Baker:
Perhaps the most credentialed person to ever serve as President, Pennsylvania's James Buchanan is usually not remembered at all or, if he is, then only as the failed predecessor to Abraham Lincoln:
On 4 November 1856, Americans chose James Buchanan, an experienced politician and diplomat, as their fifteenth president. After the election of James Madison in 1808, no president had ever come to office with more impressive credentials. Nor, to this day, has any matched the range of Buchanan's public positions. The Pennsylvanian had served in his state legislature in his twenties, had gone on to the House and the Senate in his middle years, and had interrupted his legislative career to serve in James Polk's cabinet as Secretary of State from 1845 to 1849. Earlier, Andrew Jackson had appointed him minister to Russia; Franklin Pierce had sent him to the Court of St. James in London, England as the American minister in the 1850s, and both Polk and his predecessor, John Tyler, had offered Buchanan a seat on the Supreme Court. As a prominent Democrat proposed for high appointive posts by every Democratic president from the 1820s on, he had been a hopeful contender for a presidential nomination in 1844, and a serious one in 1848 and 1852. Four years later, in 1856, the year in which he was finally nominated, Buchanan led the voting through eighteen roll calls at the Democratic convention.
As a loyal member of the Democratic party, Buchanan represented one of the few remaining national institutions in the United States when he was elected President. By that time, churches had separated into northern and southern factions; newspapers printed only sectional versions of the events of the day, and the new Republican party had no following south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Only the democracy remained the voice of all the people, North and South. As the male citizens of the American Republic contemplated their presidential choice in 1856, many had good reason to select Buchanan, an 'available' man with an outstanding dossier of national and international service, believing he could solve the deepening divide between the sections. 'Old Buck' might be just the man to bring harmony to the nation.
Four years later, Buchanan left the presidency in disgrace, condemned by Republicans, vilified by northern Democrats, and dismissed even by the southerners whom he had tried so hard to please, and whose personal affection he craved. The President, for all his prospects in 1856, had been unable, as he had pledged in his oath of office, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. Despite his promises to resolve the recurring differences over slavery, he had failed. He had divided his party, thereby ensuring the election of the Republican Abraham Lincoln in 1860. And that election led to the secession of South Carolina, followed by six other states in the lower South. A month before Buchanan left office, these seven southern states formed a separate nation, proclaiming themselves the Confederate States of America. On 4 March 1861, when this discredited President traveled home to his estate outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, not only had the United States been destroyed; it stood on the brink of a civil war.
For Buchanan, it became a point of pride that war did not break out on his watch. While technically correct, in fact he had set the stage for its arrival six weeks after his departure from the presidency. Earlier, he had not succeeded in bringing Kansas into the Union as a Democratic state. His Kansas policies had infuriated both northern Democrats and southerners. Nor had he been able to gratify his expansionist obsession of buying Cuba, for it is not only twentieth-and twenty-first century presidents who view that island with unflagging interest. By every measure except his own, whether that of his contemporaries or later historians, Buchanan was an abysmal failure as chief executive.
Rico says he could've been a great President, except for that damned slavery problem...

25 August 2014

Too small?

Rico's arch-perv friend Dave forwards the reasonable question, are Brazilian thongs too small?, and provides the answer:


Rico says we agreed that's not possible...

More Ebola for the day


Jina Moore has another BuzzFeed article about Ebola:
This morning Makasha Kroma shivered with fever. Her head still hurt; that hadn’t gone away. And she was vomiting a lot. That’s why she’d ended up here, at a holding center where people suspected to have Ebola wait, in a dark classroom (photo), for the results of their tests. These things— headache, fever, vomiting— are the early signs.
Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids. It has no treatment, besides hydration, no cure, no proven vaccine. Since February of 2014, it’s ravaged West Africa, infecting more than two thousand people in four countries and killing more than eleven hundred.
Kroma came to the West Point holding center with her sister, her three children, a cousin named Bindu, and two other family members. They are all women, or girls— most caregivers in Liberia are— and they washed Kroma’s clothes, fed her rice, wiped down her body, and cleaned up her vomit with a rag and some chlorine.
Those are the kinds of chores that give you Ebola. And the girls had no gloves. All the gloves the Ministry of Health brought this place when it opened yesterday, all hundred and fifty of them, were gone by the middle of the night.
That’s when three people escaped. Because Sam Tarplah and his staff didn’t have any gloves, they couldn’t restrain the patients who wanted to flee. They could only plead.
“We begged them, told them people are coming tomorrow to help you,” Tarplah said. “But there was no way we could fight them.”
Two escaped by climbing the back wall, according to health care workers in a clinic next door. Another, a woman with five children, simply took off, Tarplah said.
Tarplah is a registered nurse who’s worked in health care in Liberia since 1989; he opened this holding center for the Ministry of Health on Thursday, and had eight patients. On Friday, before the escape, he had thirty.
West Point is becoming a hot spot in a hot spot in the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. It’s an informal community, a slum with no running water or toilets. People can live seven or more to a single dwelling, and the density is dangerous: a positive Ebola patient disappearing into the maze of metal shacks can be a public health horror story.
Today, things got even worse.
A mob descended on the center at around 5:30 pm, chanting, “No Ebola in West Point! No Ebola in West Point!” They stormed the front gate and pushed into the holding center. They stole the few gloves someone had donated this morning, and the chlorine sprayers used to disinfect the bodies of those who die here, all the while hollering that Ebola is a hoax. They ransacked the protective suits, the goggles, the masks. They destroyed part of Tarplah’s car as he was fleeing the crowd.
Jemimah Kargbo, a health care worker at a clinic next door, said they took mattresses and bedding, utensils and plastic chairs. “Everybody left with their own thing,” she said. “What are they carrying to their homes? They are carrying their deaths.” She said the police showed up, but the crowd intimidated them. “The police were there but they couldn’t contain them. They started threatening the police, so the police just looked at them,” she said.
And then mob left with all of the patients. “They said, ‘The President says you have Ebola, but you don’t have Ebola, you have malaria. Get up and go out!’” Kargbo said.
“What’s going to happen when they come to our clinic? In two to five days?” Kargbo asked, referencing the early period when newly infected patients begin to show their first symptoms. “We’re going to turn them around” and send them to a different hospital, she said. Kargbo said the staff at the clinic have no protective gear. They were already afraid about treating possible Ebola patients, and the riot means more infections as escaped sick patients infect their families, and as looters sleep on mattresses where the Ebola-infected have died. “We can’t let them turn around and come back and infect us,” Kargbo said. “I have four sons. I am a single mother. I’m not going to let that happen to my children. I’m not going to let anybody infect me, to die of the disease and leave my children.”
Tolbert Nyenswah, the assistant minister of health, told BuzzFeed they intend to quarantine all of West Point, a serious measure that would require meticulous planning and heavy security. Nyenswah could not be reached for comment on today’s riot, or its effect on the quarantine plan.
Bindu, the 22-year-old who had been quarantined in the center while caring for her dying cousin, told BuzzFeed that the family wouldn’t leave before Kroma got her results. They wanted to follow the rules and stay as safe as possible. But that didn’t mean they wanted to be stuck in there with no cell phone, no electricity, no visitors, surrounded by strangers vomiting and collapsing and dying on the floor in front of them. “We just want to go home,” she said through a window. Now nobody knows where she, or the dying Kroma, has gone.
Rico says wait until they're chanting No Ebola in West Point! but they mean West Point in New York...

Ebola for the day


Jina Moore has a BuzzFeed article about the Ebola crisis:
Dr. Wvannie Scott-MacDonald wanted to talk about some good news. She oversees the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, and it had become one of the grimmest places in the country; no small distinction in an area wracked by one of the deadliest disease on earth.
Roughly a month ago, the hospital’s lead doctor died of Ebola, a rare but highly fatal virus currently burning through three West African countries. No one had known the contagious patient he was treating even had the disease, which spreads through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, and the doctor’s death caught the staff by surprise.
So the JFK hospital shut its doors, and just about every other health facility in the country did the same. It was an extreme reaction to an extreme disease: Once Ebola’s symptoms announce themselves, many people die within days. Until just a week ago, Liberia’s capital had only thirty-three beds for confirmed patients. In Liberia’s health facilities, everything was contaminated; no one was prepared. Most doctors and nurses rarely used rubber gloves, and hardly anyone had personal protective equipment (PPE), the head-to-toe “space suit” that’s considered essential when treating Ebola-infected patients.
Across the country, there’s too little equipment in too few health facilities. Supplies move slowly; Ebola, on the other hand, is infamously fast, and health care workers are especially exposed. In Liberia, they make up ten percent of the dead so far, according to the latest numbers from Liberia’s Ministry of Health.
So it was some small miracle when MacDonald reopened the maternity wing in her hospital two weeks ago. But it is not business as usual. There’s not a nurse in the ward who isn’t wearing a hospital gown and a long apron. Most cover their hair with what looks like a surgeon’s version of a shower cap, and everyone wears latex gloves, even the few who look like they’re just doing paperwork.
In the old says, all those layers would be alienating. “Now it’s a different type of care we give,” she said. “We want to care, but we have got to care in a different way, by caring for ourselves first.”
That also means triaging patients according to the relative risk they present, not the medical risk of their condition, but the infection risk of where they’re coming from. MacDonald and her team are fairly confident in the health of women who’ve been to JFK for checkups throughout their pregnancy. But strangers scare them.
“Anyone we don’t know? Red flag,” MacDonald said. “Anyone from a hot spot? Red flag.”
Hot spots are parts of Monrovia where Ebola cases are spiking. “Red flags” get attended by people in full PPE: masks, goggles, double gloves and all.
Last week, a woman no one in JFK had seen before could be found writhing on a gurney in the corner of an examination room. She was from a “hot spot”, but needed a Caesarean section.
“That’s a dozen people who are going to have to be in PPE,” MacDonald said. “Two surgeons. Two midwives. The anesthesiologist. The people who clean the bedding. The people who clean the equipment. The people who mop up the room after…”
PPE is cumbersome to get on, time-consuming to remove, and the suit isn’t reusable. They’re not cheap, either. The World Health Organization, the United States, and China, among other donors, have sent PPE to the country. But the supplies are creeping along, and right now, MacDonald is outfitting her staff with personal donations from old friends who ship gear from the US by DHL. “It’s the fastest way to get it in the nurses’ hands,” she said. But it’s not foolproof, either: Last week, two boxes got stuck in Customs because of confusion over whether MacDonald should would have to personally pay an import tax on the goods.
Still, MacDonald and her staff are more than making do. On a recent morning, nearly forty women waited for regular prenatal checkups. In just the first week the ward reopened, fifteen babies were born here, and gloved-and-garbed nurses seemed lighthearted, even relieved to be back at work.
That didn’t surprise MacDonald. “Newborn babies give you such joy,” she said. “You see life again.”
Rico says these are tough women dealing with very tough problems...


Jina Moore has another BuzzFeed article about the Ebola crisis:
It takes five grown men to get Orusko A. Gar Gar’s body into the back of the truck. He is in a thick black plastic bag with four wide handles, one at each corner. The men are other-worldly in bleach-white plastic suits, goggles, and red plastic bandanas wrapped around their noses and mouths, knotted tight beneath their white hoods.
These men are polyethylene pallbearers, slinging hands through handles, hoisting their uncooperative load, and swinging Gar Gar toward the industrial blue pickup truck.
Theirs may be the deadliest job on Earth right now. Ebola is at its most contagious in a human body when that body has just died.
Neighbors and relatives gather and watch, a cautious fifteen feet or so away. One is Gar Gar’s son, 28-year-old Prince, who knew he shouldn’t touch his sick father’s body. Another is Gar Gar’s brother, D. Wheaye, who says he accompanied a health ministry decontamination team to spray the body four days earlier, the day Gar Gar died. The team had protective gear, but the brother did not, and now he wonders if he could have gotten Ebola from that.
The body was sprayed where Gar Gar fell— right next to his bed, toes pointed directly upward— and it waited there for four days because the dead body management team doesn’t come unless a test confirms the person had Ebola. There’s only one lab that can do this in the country, and each test takes a full day to process. The lab, like the burial crews, gets backed up quickly.
Gar Gar’s head hits the truck bed first, and it sounds like a small boulder crushing a tin shack. The rest of his body clunks arrhythmically, and someone drags him toward the cab. This truck could fit another dozen or so bodies like his— and that’s just what it will do, when next it collects the previous night’s dead from the Ebola isolation facility at the nearby ELWA hospital.
Ebola is a rapid killer— symptoms show within three weeks, but most people here say their family members are dead within days, sometimes hours. It’s the clinical last rites of its victims that take time.
Korvayan and his team need around fifteen minutes to suit up and spray themselves with chlorine, which kills the virus, and another fifteen minutes to strip down. They do this for every body they retrieve, and in between, there’s bagging the body and maneuvering it out. Don’t trip. Don’t drop him. Don’t catch the plastic coffin on any jagged edges.
“I carried sixteen bodies yesterday,” Korvayan said. All four teams the Red Cross runs in Monrovia— they are the only group allowed to move the dead to burial or, more often, cremation— picked up forty-one. No one can remember now, as Ebola spikes in communities around the capital, if that’s normal or not.
His crew is younger than him by two decades. But they’re tired too. There is Yenti, who has a happy spirit, but this work could demoralize even the most sprightly soul. “It’s common that we see maggots,” he said. “Sometimes the eyeballs are falling out of their heads. Or the tongue. The tongue falls out. And then I have to pick up his head, because you have to hold the head along with the feet and the body.”
Yenti and the others make fifteen hundred dollars a month, paid by the Red Cross— a fortune in impoverished Liberia, and more than seven times what one worker said the health ministry paid him during an earlier phase of the outbreak— but they agree that it’s not enough.
How could it be? They are carrying a human cluster bomb— a corpse riddled with virus eager to spring out and find a new host. Ebola kills its victims by overwhelming them: too much virus, destroying too many cells too fast. And once it has killed its host, the virus sits in the flesh and the blood, dormant, waiting for new flesh, new blood to invade and reproduce.
The young crew says they’re here because they want to help the country. “I want to protect my living Liberians,” says one crew member. “Not the dead. They are gone. But the living.” Improperly disposing of corpses— touching them or burying them without those plastic bags— is an easy way to spread the disease, and probably how Ebola moved from the rural north to the capital. Still, he’s not taking any chances. “I told my wife not to come near me until the work is over,” he said. “But all my body hair is gone, man.” He holds up skinny, bare forearms, smooth as a child’s. “Burned away from chlorine.”
Korvayan, the team leader, has been doing this job for four months. No vacation. No rest. Every day a work day. At 36, he’s not as young as his teammates, and four months in, he’s not as idealistic. He’s seen the outbreak swell, and the latest expert reports estimate that the Ebola crisis won’t let up. It could be six months, Doctors Without Borders says, before it’s under control. If Ebola won’t quit, in two weeks, at the end of August, Korvayan will. “I just need to rest,” he said.
Rico says that these are tough guys dealing with unbelievably tough problems. (And you wonder how well we'll do, when it gets here...)
 

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