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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

'Drunk' referee helped from pitch

Drunk referee
Sergei Shmolik is helped from the field

Most football fans will, at some point, have wondered aloud whether the referee was drunk when he gave that penalty or missed that blatant foul. But in the case of a Belarusian referee last week, the fans' worst suspicions were proved completely right.

Sergei Shmolik was refereeing a Belarusian Premier League match between FC Vitebsk and FC Naftan Novopolotsk on July 5 when, during the second half, the crowd noticed that he had begun behaving strangely.

By the end of the match (which ended in a 1 – 1 draw) reports suggest that Shmolik was barely able to move. Following the final whistle, after complaining of 'back pain', he had to be helped from the field – a tricky process which seemingly involved him walking like Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Shmolik was taken to hospital to receive treatment for his 'back pain' – where tests discovered that he had a high level of alcohol in his blood.

According to reports, the Football Federation of Belarus will have a disciplinary committee investigate Shmolik's behaviour.

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Sexiest Politicians: Shirtless in Swaziland to Topless in Italy

By: Lois Smith (View Profile)

There are some truths universally acknowledged in the United States: John Edwards is super sexy and so is San Francisco bad-boy mayor Gavin Newsom (especially when he’s talking about true love, which he seems to do a lot).

But have you heard about Italy’s Minister for Equal Opportunities, Mara Carfagna—risque model and beauty queen turned national politician?

And—hold onto your britches, gals—when you hear former Prime Minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi, sing an Elvis song, you’ll realize the King may not be dead after all.

I’ve combed countries near and far for the sexiest politicians. Take a look at the winners:

Mara Carfagna
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi just tapped Mara Carfagna to be Italy’s Minister for Equal Opportunities. Before entering politics, Carfagna’s career spanned stints as a TV personality, a topless model for raunchy photo shoots, and a sixth-place finish as Miss Italy. According to The Daily Telegraph, seventy-one-year-old Berlusconi told Carfagna at an awards dinner last year that if he wasn’t married, he would “gladly marry” her. Berlusconi’s wife, according to the report, sent a letter demanding an apology for embarrassing the budding politician. You can check out Carfagna’s official Web site.

Photo source: alexiej2007 on flickr (cc)

Tania Derveaux
While Mara Carfagna has put her naked days behind her, one of Belgium’s senatorial candidates, Tania Derveaux, has stripped all clothes—and sense or propriety—from her bid for office. She is the NEE political party’s leading candidate for Senate, and launched an advertisement in which she posed naked and offered to create 400,000 new jobs (a parody making fun of other candidates’ outlandish promises).

Once the advertisement made the rounds, she received hundreds of emails asking for 400,000 blowjobs. Her response: “If this would get us even more media attention, I’m willing to give 40,000 blowjobs to make the statement. According to my planning, this would take me 500 days to tour around the world, visiting all the ones who signed up for a blowjob on this page, giving eighty blowjobs per day. So the offer is limited, sign up while you still can.”

The NEE (which means “no” in Dutch) party is a political protest group offering alternatives to established political parties in Belgium.

Photo source: NEE political party Web site

Maxime Bernier
The guy is just sexy. The Foreign Affairs Minister of Canada likes biker girls: his girlfriend (or at least until recently) is Julie Couillard, a chick who in the 1990s was romantically involved with Hells Angels member Gilles Giguere (until he was gunned down in 1996 before facing trial on weapons and drug charges, according to Thestar.com.)

So why is Bernier painted as a bad man because of his romance? I think it makes him a Hunter Thompson-style gonzo politician who may like to shimmy into leather when he’s not meeting with world leaders—and that’s pretty cool.

Photo source: NationalPost.com

Rahul Gandhi
He is a grandson of assassinated Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and a member of the Indian Parliament. Rahul represents the Amethi constituency and is affiliated with the Indian National Congress political party.

More than anything, he has some sweet dimples and looks sexy—and erudite—in glasses that he sports from time to time. As a member of a political dynasty, he definitely has the Kennedy-esque quality that makes you want to hunt him down and give him a squeeze.

Photo source: topnews.in

Ruby Dhalla
She is one of the first two Sikh women on Parliament Hill in Canada. A liberal member of Parliament, she represents Brampton-Springdale, Ontario, and currently serves as Critic for Social Development. According to her Web site, Dhalla was raised by a single mother and, as one of the youngest female members of Parliament, works tirelessly to empower women to become involved in politics.

Photo source: Ruby Dhalla’s Web site

King Mswati III
I am the proud owner of a very random King Mswati III t-shirt, and I feel like I’ve gotten to know him as I’ve worn him across my chest. He is the ruler of Swaziland, a small country in southern Africa. It’s hard not to admire his traditional garb and willingness to go bare-chested—no wonder he has so many wives. According to news reports, the current wife count is thirteen and he is responsible for a total of twenty-three children.

Photo source: BBC.co.uk

Junichiro Koizumi
The former Prime Minister of Japan made a splash when he visited the United States in 2006, touring Graceland with President Bush. Who doesn’t think his long locks and passionate voice rival the sexiness of the King? Koizumi, an Elvis devotee, helped finance a statue of the rock legend in Toyko and has compiled a disc of his favorite Elvis songs to sell for charity. Now we just need to see him shake his hips.

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The Science Fiction Stories that Inspire and Hinder Real Science

Everything from satellites and space travel to synthetic biology and robots existed in fiction before they were realized in a lab — and most science fiction fans assume that situation is somehow beneficial for scientists. We told you earlier that Buzz Aldrin disagrees (he thinks scifi killed space travel). And over the weekend, MIT synthetic biologist Drew Endy told me his area of research has also suffered because so much science fiction portrays bio-hacking as horrific (think Frankenstein) or silly (think South Park's "four-assed monkey"). But for every scifi story that hinders science, there's one that inspires it. Below, I've got a big list of stories that hinder, as well as inspire, scientific innovation.

It's important to remember that when I say that a story "hinders" scientific innovation, that doesn't mean the story isn't good or powerful. In fact, some of the most important, world-changing science fiction is of the "hindering" variety because it serves as a warning against rampant scientific experimentation without any thought for possible consequences. Even if beneficial in some ways, a "hindering" tale is still, well, hindering scientific progress.

Hindering: Gattaca
The tale of a repressive nation which genetically-engineers its ruling classes, Gattaca makes it seem that the logical outcome of genetic tampering is fascism. In reality, history has shown that fascism can exist in the absence of modern science, and that genetic engineering is merely a tool that can be put to good or bad uses. And yet the myth of genetic engineering existing on a slippery slope toward social breakdown is a difficult one for experimental biologists to overcome.

Inspiring: Look to Windward
One of Iain M. Banks novels about a posthuman Culture where enhanced humans live alongside A.I.s in an anarchic, trans-galactic society, Look to Windward explores the way humans can maintain their basic identities and ethical values no matter how much they tamper with their genes or modify their morphology. For Banks, synthetic biology is simply a logical way that humans extend their capabilities, but it does not turn them into monsters or make them authoritarian overlords.

Hindering: Blood Music
One of the earliest novels about nanotechnology and the dreaded "gray goo" scenario, Greg Bear's book is about nanotech that goes awry, becomes sentient, and eats the entire world. Consumed by the nano, humans enter a kind of transcendent "noosphere" while their bodies become the raw materials of a new world. While this is a cool idea, it's led to the myth that the outcome of nanotech is inevitably the (literal) breakdown of society.

Inspiring: The Diamond Age
Neal Stephenson's gorgeous and complex novel The Diamond Age is set in a nano-enabled world where human minds are used for distributed computing and electronic children's books are so close to being sentient that they can raise children without the help of human adults. A young woman raised by one such book grows up to become a wise and brilliant leader. You can find a similar scenario in Linda Nagata's nanotech novel The Bohr Maker, where an impoverished woman discovers a nanofabricator and uses it to transform the developing world.

Hindering: Frankenstein
Mary Shelley's classic novel of biomedical horror and scientists "playing God," this novel has probably done more to scare people away from biotech than almost any other science fiction story. This novel suggests that monstrosity and murder are the only possible outcome of science aimed at enhancing humans, or reusing human parts to create new kinds of life.

Inspiring: The Scar
This is China Mieville's haunting steampunk tale of a society where "thaumaturgists" remold humans' bodies at will, adding animal and machine parts to make them more efficient. It's a fully-realized (though occasionally surreal) portrait of a society where humans can be anything from a torso attached to a steam engine, to an amphibious creature covered in octopus tentacles. In Mieville's work, human-animal hybrids are often less disturbing than so-called normal humans.

Hindering: Terminator
The field of robotics has never been more dissed than it was when people started obsessing over the well-known and ever-expanding set of Terminator tales about an evil A.I. named Skynet who destroys humanity with nukes and an army of nasty cyborg soldiers. In Terminator, it seems inevitable that A.I. will lead to human destruction — except in the few, rare cases when the cyborgs are forcibly reprogrammed (and even then, we have some doubts).

Inspiring: Wall-E
Pixar's recent movie Wall-E portrays robots as a more humane version of humanity. Hero Wall-E is treated as sympathetically as a human character, and his love for another robot, Eve, is represented as a hopeful sign in the wake of humanity offing itself through pollution. Here we see humans and robots living together as equals to make the world better.

Hindering: Oryx and Crake
Margaret Atwood's harrowing near-future tale of bioengineering gone mad is about what happens when a mad scientist decides humanity sucks and should be replaced by a new hominid species he's created to be disease-resistant and non-hierarchical. While viral apocalypses could indeed occur (and in fact the Plague of the late middle ages was one such), there are a lot of problems with the idea that a thriving consumer biotech industry will inevitably unleash one.

Inspiring: Engine City
The third novel in Ken MacLeod's superlative Engines of Light trilogy, this book deals with what happens when humans infected with an extraterrestrial nano-plague are actually enhanced rather than destroyed by it.

Hindering: Saturn's Children
I love this new novel by Charles Stross, but it paints a pretty dismal picture of what will happen to humans when they attempt to travel in space and found a colony on Mars. And by "dismal," I mean that Stross shows that it's essentially impossible for humans to exist off-world because our bodies are too fragile and therefore all our space colonies fail.

Inspiring: Parable of the Talents
The second novel in Octavia Butler's two-book exploration of the social and political collapse of the United States, Parable of the Talents is about how the nation recovers from a coup by the religious right. The Christian "reeducation" torture camps have been shut down, and society is slowly returning from the brink of anarchy. And a new leader emerges to bring hope — a woman who believes humans must leave Earth if our species is to survive. Beautifully-written and astute, the novel makes a compelling case for exploring space even if the trip will be dangerous.

Hindering: The Handmaid's Tale
Our second Atwood novel in the "hindering" category, The Handmaid's Tale is similar to Butler's Parable of the Sower (prequel to Parable of the Talents) in that it depicts a post-apocalyptic United States taken over by right-wing Christians. In Atwood's feminist nightmare, science does not lead the nation on a pathway to progress; instead, it enables a retrograde, patriarchal system to thrive. Science leads the US back to the Dark Ages.

Inspiring: Woman on the Edge of Time
What's encouraging about Marge Piercy's classic Utopian feminist novel Woman on the Edge of Time is that it is pro-science. The potential world of eco-friendly, multicultural feminists is founded on many complex technologies including artificial wombs, green mass transit, a rapid internet-like communications system, and complicated bio-engineering and waste-recycling tech. Piercy further complicates this future vision by showing that not everybody is on board with the techie feminists. They are fighting a war against a more conventional society.

Original here

Doing the Laptop Drive of Shame

If you bring your work computer home with any regularity -- or especially any irregularity -- chances are good that you've done the Laptop Drive of Shame.

Here's me shouting to no one in particular the other morning: "Hey, look, Brad's gotta do the Laptop Drive of Shame." Gales of laughter ensue.

Brad Reed, one of Network World's crackerjack staff reporters, was standing in the doorway of my office confessing that he had arrived at work without his laptop. Had he arrived without, oh, say his pants, we might have enjoyed a similar laugh at his expense, but we would also have been able to fashion a workaround, perhaps a drape over his cubicle or a couple of sweaters lashed around his midsection. But arriving without his laptop meant only one option for Brad: The Laptop Drive of Shame.

(There's also the Laptop Walk of Shame, which is of far less consequence in that all it entails is another trip out to the parking lot to grab the machine you left in your car. And, of course, there is all manner of Lost Laptop Shamefulness.)

A lack of supporting data will not deter me from making this next assertion: The Laptop Drive of Shame is becoming a much more common occurrence, and by extension, a much more costly one. Mobility and broadband advances have made working from home a snap. As a result, more people are splitting their work week -- or at least their workload -- between office and home.

More splitting means more opportunities for laptop forgetfulness, more actual forgetfulness, more "Doh!" moments of stomach-churning realization, more needless driving ... and, yes, more shame.

At $4-plus a gallon.

Three years ago, I almost never worked from home and almost never brought my laptop anywhere but to the airport. That was before the birth of Buzzblog. Now, my laptop makes the round-trip commute with all the regularity of my pants.

Being a creature of habit, it is this regularity, I believe, that has so far spared me a Laptop Drive of Shame. (I have, however, done the Grocery Store Drive of Shame. Took my 6-year-old triplets to Stop & Shop. No, did not leave one there. Left the groceries. Didn't realize until I was back home and peering into an empty mini-van that I had failed to unload the cart after loading in the kids. Talk about "Doh!" moments.)

Which brings us back to Brad Reed, who splits his work days between office and home: Brad lives in Jamaica Plain, a Boston neighborhood. Network World is located in Southborough, Mass., some 30 miles to the west. So, on that fateful morning, Brad was looking at a good 60-mile jaunt to go fetch his forgotten laptop. He drives a Ford Taurus, which if we credit with a generous 20 MPG would make the trip a $12 life lesson.

As he stood in my doorway, I made an executive decision: "Why don't you work from home today, Brad." Hey, 12 bucks is 12 bucks ... and, truth be told, he had already decided he didn't need my permission to save the money and time.

The price of gasoline gets factored into many a commuting decision these days, needless to say.

It's estimated that some 30 million Americans telecommute at least one day a month. If they average even so few as two Laptop Drives of Shame per year, live anywhere near as far from their offices as Brad Reed, and also drive gas-guzzling American-made cars, well, let's do the math: That's $720 million a year going straight into the pockets of the oil barons.

How shameful.

If you've read this far I know what you're thinking: "How can I avoid doing the Laptop Drive of Shame?" (Or in some cases, do it less often.)

Here's how: When you and your machine arrive home, park your car keys squarely on top of your laptop case. Now you're not going anywhere without both of them.

Original here

Can a toddler be racist?

I saw the headline, Toddlers who dislike spicy food racist, say report, and said, “What the?” Is it political correctness run amok?

At first blush, it certainly seemed to be.

The Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. was quoting a story about a study published in book form by The National Children’s Bureau that said if a child called spicy food “yucky” that he or she might be racist.chilis-2.png

The 366-page guide for staff in charge of pre-school children, called Young Children and Racial Justice, warns: “Racist incidents among children in early years settings tend to be around name-calling, casual thoughtless comments and peer group relationships.”

***

The guide goes on to warn that children might also “react negatively to a culinary tradition other than their own by saying ‘yuk’”.


“Young Children and Racial Justice: Taking action for racial equality in the early years,” by Jane Lane, was published by the bureau last month.

While it’s hard to argue that it’s a bad thing to try to nip racism in the bud, it could be said that it’s hard to properly interpret a toddler’s actions or speech in terms of intent.

If a child’s family doesn’t eat much spicy food, that child isn’t going to like spicy food. Simple. And children call things they don’t like “yucky.” Heck, sometimes they call things they do like “yucky.”

We didn’t eat much spicy food in our house when I was growing up because my father is king of the picky eaters. OK, maybe just the prince, as his mom was as least as picky as he is. He only really liked a handful of foods, none of which had much — how should I put it? Oh, yeah — flavor.

I mean, to this day, he doesn’t even eat pasta or rice. In any form. Going out for Italian food was a special thing that my mom and I used to do sometimes with my grandmother (her mom).

My mother, on the other hand, liked super spicy stuff. She used to down all sorts of hot chili peppers and similar things all the time. She liked most foods, and my grandmother boasted that she liked everything. Except kelp.

I was somewhere between. I liked most foods (except coconut and prunes, both of which I dislike to this day, though I will eat curry that has a coconut milk base), but I wasn’t much for spicy. I wasn’t used to it. It took me many years to get used to eating spicy foods and while I enjoy them now, most people I know who really like the spicy stuff consider me a rank amateur.

The point being, if I’d said “yuck” about some spicy food when I was a young’un, what would that have meant?

It would have meant, simply, that I wasn’t used to it, it didn’t taste like anything I liked, and I didn’t enjoy it.

It’s one thing if a child says he or she doesn’t like a food because “that’s what black people eat” or something similarly offensive. Sure, that does indicate a racist mindset that’s being taught in the home. But how can you interpret something as ubiquitous as a “yuck”?

In fairness, I didn’t read the entire publication; it’s not on the Internet; you have to purchase the book in order to read the entire thing. I’m going to choose to believe that what the guide says isn’t as clear-cut as The Telegraph is making it out to be, but it still seems a dangerous statement to make to people looking for ways to help interpret behavior as potentially racist.

Original here

Man cuts off own head with chainsaw after flat is earmarked to be bulldozed by developers

By Daily Mail Reporter

A ‘vulnerable’ man cut off his own head with a chainsaw after being ordered to move out of his home to make way for developers, police believe.

David Phyall’s severed head was found beside the power tool inside his housing association flat shortly after receiving his eviction notice.

Detectives were today investigating the possibility that the 58-year-old killed himself rather than leave his home of eight years.


Grisly: David Phyall's body and severed head were found in his flat, above

He was the last resident living on an estate earmarked for demolition. All 71 surrounding flats were empty.

Paramedics and police made the gruesome find after receiving a 999 call.

An inquest is now being carried out into the exact cause of death and what had happened to Mr Phyall, described as ‘vulnerable’, beforehand.

It is understood police are not treating his death as suspicious.

Mr Phyall had lived in his flat at Bishopstoke in Eastleigh, Eastley, Hants, since 2000 and was fighting to stay there despite plans to bulldoze the entire area and rebuild it.

Many flats had already been boarded up.

Mr Phyall rented the property from Atlantic Housing Ltd.

He had been unhappy since the plans to level the flats and rebuild them were passed in 2006.

It is thought that he may have even been served with an eviction notice issued through the courts shortly before his death.

An inquest opened and adjourned by deputy central Hampshire coroner Simon Burge.

It listed the possible cause of death of Mr Phyall as ‘complete transaction of the neck’ and ‘chainsaw wound to the neck.’

An ambulance service spokesman said: ‘We were called to an address in Bishopstoke to reports to a “concerns for welfare.”

‘A rapid response vehicle attended and a search found a patient had sustained serious injuries.’

Ron Turtle, chairman of the Stoke Residents’ Association, said there was one tenant left whom he believed to be a disabled man who rented a ground-floor flat from Atlantic Housing.

He said: ‘They had offered him several places that were similar but he just didn’t want to move. In the end they had to go to court.’

Lib Dem Bishopstoke Parish Council chairman Anne Winstanley said: ‘The last I heard they were still negotiating with him to try to provide what he required to move into as an alternative.

‘It sounds very tragic for whatever the reason he met his death.’

Councillor Winstanley added that Bodmin Road had become a target for vandalism and nuisance behaviour in recent months.

The flats are thought to have been built in the 1960s but Atlantic Housing had revealed it would cost them more to repair than rebuild.

Southampton building firm Drew Smith were awarded a 7.8m pounds contract to design and build 54 replacement flats and 24 houses.

Three of the flats at Bodmin Road had been purchased by tenants under the right to buy but were repurchased by Atlantic Housing to enable the redevelopment to take place.

Atlantic Housing was unavailable for comment.

Original here

Women arrested in sex competition

ATHENS (Reuters) - Nine British women were facing prostitution charges after being arrested at the weekend for taking part in an oral sex competition in the Greek holiday island of Zakynthos, police said on Monday.

Six British and six Greek men, including two bar owners, were also charged in the incident, which took place at Laganas beach in the south of the Ionian island, which lies off the west coast of mainland Greece, police said.

The women, who came to the popular resort on holiday, had been paid to take part in the competition, which was video recorded and was to be posted on the Internet, police said.

The men were charged with encouraging obscene behavior.

In recent years, Laganas has established itself as one of Greece's most popular destinations for twenty-something holidaymakers and is known for its wild party scene.

Around 15 million people -- a fifth of them British -- visit the eastern Mediterranean country each year, drawn by its soaring summer temperatures, azure waters and sandy beaches.

(Reporting by Daniel Flynn)

Original here

Friend Somehow Bad At Hanging Out

Without any aparrent effort, Geoff Scovell (right) makes the simple act of relaxing with a beer and watching TV an uncomfortable experience for friend Jay Reagor.

HOLDREGE, NE—According to local resident Jay Reagor, his longtime friend Geoff Scovell, 25, is somehow not good at hanging out, the low-pressure recreational pastime in which skill and ability are generally not considered to be factors.

Scovell's logic-defying ineptitude at hanging out is allegedly not linked to any animosity between the two friends, nor is it due to any annoying, uptight, or otherwise inappropriate hang-out behavior on the part of Scovell, making the phenomenon all the more baffling.

"It's weird," said Reagor, who met Scovell five years ago through Holdrege Pool Supply coworker Brian Neikirk and bonded with him over their mutual interest in baseball, the Kinks, and Chuck Palahniuk novels. "Geoff's a good guy. We're friends. We get along. You would think that hanging out with him would be very fun. But whenever we hang out...it's like...it's not easy to hang out. Which makes no sense, because hanging out is like the easiest thing."

"How can someone not be good at sitting on a couch and watching television with someone else?" Reagor added.

According to Reagor, Scovell acts no differently from the majority of his other friends while hanging out, exhibiting the same apparent fondness for making jokes, conversing about random topics, partaking in enjoyable activities, and laughing. He acts in an affable manner, and does not smack his lips when eating. Scovell rarely overstays his welcome. An analysis of these factors has led Reagor to conclude that Scovell must somehow lack the innate human ability to be an enjoyable person to spend time with.

Reagor has spent the past two weeks closely monitoring Scovell's behavior in an attempt to pinpoint the cause of his friend's poor hang-out skills.

"He technically doesn't ever do anything wrong," Reagor said. "But then, how can you do something wrong? There's no rules for hanging out, other than just being yourself, and Geoff does that, and I like Geoff."

Added Reagor, "I guess he does do this thing where he, like, winks at me after he makes a sarcastic remark about how I suck at Madden, but that can't possibly be the reason why hanging out with him almost feels like the opposite of hanging out. But what the hell is the opposite of hanging out?"

Dr. Beverly Pritchett, a behavioral psychologist who specializes in interpersonal hang-out deficiency, said the disorder is not uncommon.

"The inability to naturally evoke a sense of comfort during a period of extended friend-to-friend interaction—or 'hang-out session'—despite sharing similar interests and social sensibilities is a problem that affects thousands of American men and women," Pritchett said. "In fact, I have witnessed it firsthand on numerous occasions. See, my friend Anne, whom I've known since seventh grade, she's just the sweetest woman, but whenever I go out for a drink with her, it's like, I don't know, like I'm not having fun. But I'm also not not having fun. You know?"

Reagor said he first noticed the trend in Scovell three years ago, when he made the transition from exclusively hanging out with him in groups to spending time with him in one-on-one situations ranging from playing video games to consuming alcohol. In larger groups, Reagor explained, Scovell's difficulty hanging out is less pronounced.

"Now that I think about it, he's bad at hanging out when there's a bunch of us, too," Reagor said. "I don't know what it is, but every time he comes over to join a conversation, it gets tense, even though he says funny things and intelligent things and doesn't try to change the subject or anything. And if we're all hanging out at his place, he'll get up and say, 'Anyone need a drink?' which is textbook fun-hanging-out behavior. But with him it's like, it just, it comes off as, I don't know, but I'm always very relieved when he leaves the room."

"Sometimes I wonder how we ever became such good friends in the first place," Reagor added. "Maybe we're actually not good friends. But no, we are. Wait. Are we?"

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