Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Miscellaneous

"Americans should be prudent in their use of energy during the course of the next few weeks. Don't buy gas if you don't need it." - GW Bush

Smart Whale Learns How to Catch Seagulls, Passes on Trick

AP, NIAGARA FALLS, CA - An enterprising young killer whale at Marineland has figured out how to use fish as bait to catch seagulls - and shared his strategy with his fellow whales. Michael Noonan, a professor of animal behavior at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., made the discovery by accident while studying orca acoustics. "One day I noticed one of the young whales appeared to have come up with a procedure for luring gulls down to the pool," the professor said. "I found it interesting so I noted it in my log."

First, the young whale spit regurgitated fish onto the surface of the water, then sank below the water and waited. If a hungry gull landed on the water, the whale would surge up to the surface, sometimes catching a free meal of his own. Noonan watched as the same whale set the same trap again and again. Within a few months, the whale's younger half brother adopted the practice. Eventually the behavior spread and now five Marineland whales supplement their diet with fresh fowl, the scientist said.

Elephant Grass Considered as Energy Source by Europeans

BBC - The fields of Europe could soon take on a shimmering silver colour as farmers grow giant grasses to try to mitigate the effects of global warming. The latest studies suggest one form of elephant grass would make a productive "energy crop" to be burnt in power stations to generate electricity.

Scientists told a Dublin conference the 4m-high Miscanthus needs little fertiliser to produce very high yields. . . "There's no reason why in 10 years' time this shouldn't be widely exploited," commented Professor Mike Jones, an Irish expert on plants and climate. "If we grew Miscanthus on 10% of suitable land in [the 15-member] Europe, then we could generate 9% of the gross electricity production," he told the British Association's Festival of Science. Burning biomass is broadly neutral in terms of its emissions of carbon dioxide, the major gas thought responsible for warming the planet.

"As the plant grows it is drawing carbon dioxide out of the air," explained Professor Steve Long, from the University of Illinois. "When you burn it, you put that carbon dioxide back, so the net effect on atmospheric CO2 is zero."

Sleep-Deprived Docs Act Like Drinkers

UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN - A new study of young doctors who are notoriously overworked shows that they're often so tired that they perform some activities as if they were hammered. The University of Michigan study was the first of its kind to do this kind of sleep/alcohol comparison--previously used on truck drivers, for example--on medical residents. The young doctors who were on a "heavy schedule" slept an average of 3 hours per night. From a press release: In findings published in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, 34 young pediatric residents showed similar impairments in vigilance, attention, and driving skills on standardized tests after they had been on duty overnight in the hospital and worked a month of 90-hour weeks, compared with when they had consumed three to four alcoholic drinks after a month of 44-hour weeks with no overnight duties. . .

In other words, after a month of 90-hour weeks with overnight shifts every fourth or fifth night, residents performed about the same as when they had a BAC (Blood Alcohol Level) of 0.04 percent after a month of 44-hour weeks of daytime shifts.

Katrina: FEMA to Reuters -- no photos of the dead


Here we go, down the memory hole....

REUTERS - "We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," a [FEMA] spokeswoman said in an e-mailed response to a Reuters inquiry.

The Bush administration also has prevented the news media from photographing flag-draped caskets of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, which has sparked criticism that the government is trying to block images that put the war in a bad light.

Hurricane Victims to Get Second Blow From Bush Regime

CAROLINE E. MAYER, WASHINGTON POST - The new bankruptcy law that goes into effect Oct. 17 could compound problems for people whose lives have been disrupted by Hurricane Katrina. The new law will make it harder and more expensive for people to completely wipe out their debts, and consumer groups that oppose the law say it couldn't come at a worse time for Katrina victims. For one thing, they note, many will be unable to provide the paperwork -- tax statements, pay stubs and six months of income and expense data -- required by the new law. Nor will they have the time to attend mandatory credit-counseling courses. Those groups are pushing Congress to delay the law's implementation date or change the law to guarantee that Katrina's victims will be able to get relief from their bills.

Debtors in the hurricane area who were planning to file before the Oct. 17 deadline can't even find a lawyer now, let alone an open courthouse, said Travis B. Plunkett, legislative director of the Consumer Federation of America. "They should have the right to file under the old law," Plunkett said. In the months ahead, hurricane victims -- or any victim in a natural disaster -- shouldn't have to face an increased burden of proof required by the new law, he said.

California Legislature Approves Same-Sex Marriage

Navy Thought Kerouac had 'Strong Schizoid Trends'

Worst English Phrasebook Ever

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