Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Humane Society alleges mistreatment at primate center

(CNN) -- The Humane Society has accused a federally funded primate center of mistreating chimpanzees and other primates, saying that some animals showed signs of psychosis and self-mutilation.

New Iberia Research Center cages about 325 chimps on its 100 acres. It also has about 6,000 monkeys.

New Iberia Research Center cages about 325 chimps on its 100 acres. It also has about 6,000 monkeys.

The allegations against the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana, which houses more than 6,500 primates, came after a nine-month undercover investigation.

The center denies the allegations.

"We found animals living in isolation, exhibiting self-mutilating behavior, psychosis, all sorts of emotional and physical problems at this laboratory," Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle told CNN on Wednesday.

The Humane Society's undercover investigator, who worked as a laboratory technician with a hidden camera, revealed 338 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, which sets standards for the treatment of animals in labs, Pacelle said.

The Humane Society posted some of its secret footage on its Web site. The footage includes an animal with what the group said was a self-inflicted wound, another animal jumping in circles in its cage, and chimpanzees screaming as lab technicians approached with a dart gun.

The violations were filed in a 108-page complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is required by law to enforce the Animal Welfare Act, the organization said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he will order a thorough investigation of animal welfare practices at the facility.

"If the allegations prove to be true, the American public can expect the perpetrators to be held fully accountable. I take the protection of animals very seriously, and will do my utmost to fully enforce the Animal Welfare Act," he said in a written statement.

The New Iberia Research Center, part of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, issued a statement saying that the videos "distort acceptable standard procedures and incorrectly imply mistreatment of nonhuman primates at the New Iberia Research Center."

It added: "We take very seriously our responsibility to care for the animals housed at the center and to carry out biomedical research according to federal rules and regulations."

The center further said it properly housed and cared for the animals. It also said it complies with regulations of the USDA, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Humane Society accused workers at New Iberia of hitting primates on the mouth, using "painful" dart guns and removing infant monkeys from their mothers.

The Humane Society also said it had documented evidence of "rampant" breeding of government-owned chimpanzees. In 2007, the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Research Resources, following a 12-year moratorium, said it would no longer breed chimpanzees for research, citing financial reasons.

The New Iberia Research Center has received more than $37 million in grants from the NIH, according to the center's Web site.

The NIH said it has opened an investigation regarding the allegations and said it is working closely with the USDA.

However, it said it could not comment on the allegations while its investigation is under way. "The results will be available when the investigation is complete," the NIH said in a written statement.

"We are committed to the safety and welfare of all animals in research. All animals used in federally funded research are protected by laws, regulations, and policies to ensure they are used in the smallest numbers possible and with the greatest commitment to their comfort."

Pacelle said the most serious issue was the self-mutilation and "nonstop pacing and circling, psychosis and other abnormal behaviors."

"These are highly intelligent animals. They have a sense of self, they have a sense of past and future, they have the wide range of emotions that we have," he said.

"They should not be subjected to this long-term, decade-long isolation, and all these painful and physical procedures and the psychological torment in these laboratories."

The New Iberia Research Center says it offers a "broad range of diagnostic, laboratory, and human resources for the development and characterization of nonhuman primate models for applied and basic research aimed at promoting human quality of life."

In its statement e-mailed to CNN, the center said it has made numerous contributions to public health improvements for the prevention and treatment of three forms of hepatitis, mumps, measles, chicken pox and mad cow disease.

Original here

Gigolo admits blackmailing BMW heiress

(CNN) -- The gigolo former lover of Germany's richest woman has been jailed for six years after confessing to blackmailing her and other women out of millions of dollars, a court official said Monday.

Helg Sgarbi has admitted blackmailing Germany's richest woman, Susanne Klatten.

Helg Sgarbi has admitted blackmailing Germany's richest woman, Susanne Klatten.

Susanne Klatten, the BMW heiress, complained to police last year that Helg Sgarbi had threatened to release pictures of them if she did not pay him nearly $60 million.

Munich's state prosecutor Anton Winkler said Sgarbi, who was accused of blackmailing several wealthy women, had made a written confession which was read by his lawyer to the court.

"He confessed that he blackmailed the victims, told them untrue stories," Winkler told CNN.

However, Sgarbi had not revealed what had happened to the estimated $12.5 million he had taken from his victims nor where the pictures had gone.

"It is really only half a confession. We asked him about where the money is, about accomplices and videos... and he refused to say anything about that," Winkler said.

Authorities said Klatten, who is married with three children, had an affair with Sgarbi.

He started to ask her for money, and she paid several million at first, but when she refused to provide more he threatened to send compromising videos to her husband and the media.

Klatten went to the police in January 2008, telling them she was the victim of a fraud and blackmail.

At the time, her spokesman, Joerg Appelhans, told CNN that Sgarbi's goal had always been to con her.

"She rigorously notified authorities even in light of the uncomfortable public repercussions this would have for her," Appelhans said.

Sgarbi's lawyer, Egon Geis, said he was surprised by all the media attention.

"This is all because of Mrs. Klatten, take the same amount of money and any other person and no one would care."

Sgarbi allegedly maintained relationships with a number of women, telling them he was a special Swiss representative in crisis zones.

Klatten, the daughter of the late BMW chief Herbert Quandt, holds a 12.5-percent stake in the German carmaker and a 51.1-percent share of chemical company Altana.

Forbes magazine lists her as the world's 55th richest person, with a personal fortune of $13.2 billion.

Original here

Taiwanese boy wins tropical island in prize draw

By Travelmail Writers

For many kids it is the stuff of dreams, the chance to occupy your own small Treasure Island, but, in Taiwan it seems, dreams really can come true.

A 4-year-old boy has won the use of an uninhabited tropical island, with white sand beaches and clear turquoise waters, in a Taiwan lottery aimed at boosting spending during an economic downturn.

A tropical island: Taiwanese boy wines tropical island in prize draw

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum anyone?

Officials said Yeh Chien-wei, who won the prize at Thursday's draw, will get exclusive rights to the tiny plot in the Taiwan Strait from May through September.

Penghu County, an offshore archipelago, will provide food, drinks, water and electricity to the boy.

He has been quoted in local media saying he wants to play in the sea.

Penghu has a lot of islands, and that one has water and electricity, so someone can really enjoy it,’ said county economic promotion official Lu Yan-chang, explaining why use of the island, which also has a cabin, was offered as a prize.

Many local authorities in Taiwan have offered cars, houses and other prizes to encourage locals to spend consumer vouchers worth ($103) that the government gave to every citizen in January to encourage spending to help boost the sagging economy.

Penghu, which comprises 64 islands, is known for its beautiful beaches and water sports and is a keen spot for divers.

According to the terms of the prize, the boy and up to seven family members can visit the island five times, for trips that last a maximum of three days.

Original here

The True Life-Story of a Ken Doll

By: Chris Bucholz

Barbie recently celebrated her 50th birthday this past week, and the “on a lighter note” news desks across the country have filled out their column inches with recaps of the history of the world’s most famous doll. Largely forgotten in all of this is the story of Ken, Barbie’s neutered friend and sometimes-companion. To help shed some light on this forgotten plastic figure, I acquired a Ken doll at a garage sale, and with the help of a mysterious carnival-gypsy, animated him and stole his possessions. Included amongst them was his journal, from which I present some selected highlights…


kenfacerWho am I?
My name’s Ken. I came home from the store a year ago in the company of two new Barbie dolls and Lindsey Blackman, our owner. My hobbies include wearing clothes and sitting. My life consists of an endless parade of weddings and dates and vacations that I find myself going on with one or more of the six Barbies who accompany me through this “life.” And this journal? I’m writing it to help provide a constant touchstone, something to grasp on to for support as I whisk through this pink and purple hell.

Last week I went to work for 15 minutes in the shoebox, while Work-Out Barbie went jet-skiing, cooked a cake, drove her Corvette to the pony farm and changed outfits four times. Then I went home, where Work-Out Barbie and I mashed our faces together against one another for a minute and a half while Lindsey made noises that she believed to be representative of kissing. I then laid motionless on the ground while Work-Out Barbie went jet-skiing some more before Lindsey was called for dinner. I remained on the floor for eight days, where I thought about death.

Another wedding
I got married again today, this time to Cool Times Barbie, which is I think the sixth time we’ve been wed. The ceremony was attended by 18 garishly painted ponies, four stuffed animals and the rest of the Barbies. None of my friends made it, again. Not that I actually have any friends of course. Lindsey sat the stuffed bears on my side of the aisle, but those guys have never said a word to me in my life. I think they’re dicks.

My first, fifth, eighth, sixteenth, twentieth and thirty second wife. The pants are atrocious, but otherwise she’s ok.

First sexual encounter
Lindsey’s friend Katy came over today. They talked about horses for about half an hour and then talked about how boys were gross. Katy, whose parents don’t keep tabs on her television watching I’m guessing, tried to explain the concept of sex to Lindsey, who simply was not getting it. Finally Katy grabbed Ice Capades Barbie and me, stripped off all of our clothes and started banging us together in some crude semblance of the reproductive act. I found it unsatisfying, as all my encounters with the Barbies are, when Katy said something that shed some light on my circumstances. Apparently I don’t have any genitals. What the fuck?

fantasyEnduring mystery
This is really bothering me, and it’s hard to verbalize specifically why. Until yesterday I didn’t know anything was missing from my life. Yet now that I know about the existence of junk, and the fact that mine isn’t there, I can’t think about anything else. It’d be like if there was a deaf guy, who lived by himself his whole life, and never met anyone so never even comprehended that people could speak and hear sounds. And then one day people come to his house, and they’re the first people he’s ever met, and they’re jabbering back and forth at each other, and he can’t figure out why and then one of them writes down on a piece of paper (he can still read) “Your penis is missing.”

I am that guy.

Oh fuck, yes. I’m going camping! This is the first time I think I’ve been out of the house. Because Lindsey is stupid and careless, normally only Hawaiian Fun Barbie is allowed outdoors, a fact obvious to anyone who’s observed her weathered hyde or pungent bouquet. I am totally serious - she smells like dog shit. Anyways, the whole family is going on a camping trip, and I get to ride in the fucking car with everyone.

grimlockg1A new friend?
So the car ride itself was pretty uneventful, given that I spent it at the bottom of a bag. Still, exciting just to know I was in a car. When we got to the campground, Lindsey was told to play with her brother Scott for awhile, and for the two of them to “just shut up” for a second while the grown-ups figured out how to raise the tent-trailer they borrowed from the Fletchers. So that’s how Sun Sensation Barbie and I met one of Scott’s friends, Grimlock.

Grimlock is so fucking cool. He is a dinosaur, which is awesome, but he is also a robot too! I know, right? He has got a gun and a sword and he’s been on TV. That stupid idiot Lindsey wanted Grimlock to marry Sun Sensation Barbie, but Grimlock wasn’t having any of that, and he bit Barbie right in the goddamned leg! Fucking right! Anyways, Grimlock lent me his sword and we fought for a little while. Lindsey got bored pretty quick and that was the end of that, but I was exhilarated. That was maybe the happiest minute of my life.

A visitor
Grimlock came over today while the kids were at school. I had no idea he could move under his own power. He is so cool. I thought he’d want to play or fight or something like the time when we met, but he wasn’t like that this time. He just wanted to shoot the shit. “Grimlock be super chill for awhile,” he said. So we sat around talking. It was fun - he’s got like a million stories about getting oral sex in various situations.


Grimlock took me to a bar last night (so cool) and we stayed there for hours drinking (7&7’s are awesome) and dancing with the girls. Later, when we were heading home, I let it blurt out that my penis and testicles were missing. Grimlock nodded silently, the gravity of what I’d just told him or his partial retardation causing him to struggle to find words. Eventually he asked if I remembered another doll, who had cascading blond hair and a plasticy complexion. I told him that sounded exactly like Rock Star Barbie, who had gone missing over a year ago. Grimlock told me that her head and two arms had been found in Scott’s room, and that some of the other robots were whispering that Scott was insane, a psychopath bent on dismembering his victims. Grimlock left it unsaid, but I filled in the blanks: Scott had stolen my balls.

Quivering with rage
Ever since Grimlock told me about Lindsey’s brother, I’ve been seething. Today I snapped at Lindsey. There was another wedding scheduled apparently, but I wanted no part of it, and during the ceremony I told her to “go fuck herself” right in front of the Barbies and ponies and everyone. She looked pretty shaken.

A dark place
I’m stuck in a drawer. Lindsey hasn’t spoken to me in a month, and I guess Grimlock can’t get to me now either. I’ve mostly been working on my novel. The protagonist is this guy who travels the world, meeting strangers and trying to bait people into offending him in some way, before flipping out and snapping their necks with his bare hands and so forth. It’s actually pretty calming to write - I’ve got 800 pages so far.

judd-nelsonThe dawn breaks
Grimlock pried open the drawer today and fished me out. He took me to a hall closet that hadn’t been cleaned out in three years and said I could hide out there. I stammered, tears streaming down my cheeks, my mouth hanging open wordlessly. Finally I gasped, “Why? Why do so much for me?” Grimlock explained that when he was filming Transformers: The Movie he met Judd Nelson, who also didn’t have a penis. At the time Grimlock had made fun of Nelson for this, something he regretted. “In you, Grimlock see way to make up for past youthful transgressions,” he said.

Then Grimlock showed me the greatest treasure of all. In his claw he offered a small ball of Play-Doh which he demonstrated could be used to fashion a new set of organs for my personal area. After some experimentation with length and girth we settled on a nice half inch length - although he left me the extra dough, giving me a hilariously large stage-wink when he did so.

Finally after a hug and some more tears, Grimlock left, and I began to settle into my new home. The mind boggles at the whole new world of freedom and potential and anatomical wonder that has been opened up for me. I must admit to being a little overwhelmed with the possibilities.

I have been playing with this thing for days! This is awesome! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Original here

5 Deadly Sci-Fi Gadgets You Can Build At Home

By Ian Fortey

It's 2009. Where are our jetpacks? And laser guns? It seems like the cool stuff of sci-fi movies is now the stuff of the billion-dollar military programs, and equally unavailable to us common folk. What the hell?

Well, if you're tired of waiting for this stuff to turn up on store shelves, it turns out a whole lot of these working sci-fi staples can be built on your living room floor. All it takes is some off-the-shelf parts, a little creativity and a complete disregard for your own safety.


Tesla Coil

Few things say sci-fi quite like a device that shoots huge blue bolts of electricity. Well except a city-sized UFO, but those are too hard to make at home, so we'll stick with the Tesla coil. All you need is some easily available parts and no fear of deadly amounts of uncontrolled electricity.

The detailed instructions found on point out you just need some common items from your hardware store (metal plates, bolts, brackets, etc.) and a transformer. Not the overblown Michael Bay kind which can lead to inconvenient city-wide robot battles, but the electrical kind you can find in many devices. You can get them from a car parts store but they say the best ones are found inside neon signs (NOTE: PLEASE DO NOT STEAL THE NEON SIGN FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD LIQUOR STORE TO COMPLETE THIS PROJECT. A GUY WILL PROBABLY CHASE YOU WITH A SHOTGUN).

Oh, and you also need a source of electricity, so if you were hoping to hold this thing in your hand and pretend it's Jedi Force Lightning, you'll need an extension cord. Actually, the above guide mentions that Tesla coils have killed people in the past, so you probably don't really want to hook one up to your hands and pretend to be Emperor Palpatine. Especially if you happen to be taking a bath at the time.

Oh, and if actually paying the few bucks for those items to make your own dreadfully unsafe death machine seems like too much of a burden, the Internet also offers you alternative items found in most dumpsters, so you've got that going for you if you're homeless but still want your alley to resemble a super villain's lair.

A Laser (Yes, One that Can Actually Burn Holes in Stuff)

OK, if you were turned off by even the minor costs associated with the Tesla coil up there, here's something you can build with stuff you have in the house right now.

Thanks to modern technology, we're surrounded all the time by horribly dangerous things. If you're willing to disregard common sense and safety precautions, you can take something as simple as a Maglite and a DVD burner, and make yourself a laser that will set things on fire (well, if they're already kind of flammable).

It just involves digging out the laser diode from the DVD burner and embedding it in the flashlight instead of the bulb. If you're confused, the instructions are available in video form:

Laser Flashlight Hack!

The guy in the video uses his laser to instantly light a match and pop a balloon from several feet away. OK, so it's not exactly a deathray, but hey, it was free (assuming you weren't still using that DVD burner).

So the next time the bad guys have you tied up, armed with nothing but your flashlight and DVD-RW drive, and they're all carrying balloons filled with napalm... you'll know what to do.


"OK," you say, "so that was cheaper than the Tesla coil, but it could barely kill a moth! Isn't there some middle ground in both price and lethality?"

Well, if you ever played Quake back in the day, or saw that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Eraser, you're familiar with railguns. They're basically electric guns that fire a pulse down two conductive rails, carrying a projectile with it at ball-crushing speeds. They have plans to put railguns on board anti-missile satellites and the U.S. Navy is building huge railguns to put on their battle ships. Theirs can fire a seven-pound projectile at a mind-boggling 2,500 meters per second. The projectile doesn't even have explosives in it; at that speed you could put a bowling ball in there and it'd destroy a building.

Obviously yours won't do that, but how big and powerful yours is totally depends entirely on how ambitious you are. You can start small with the poor-man's railgun, called a coil gun. As the instructions at that site point out, all you need is some wire, batteries and capacitors (usually stolen from a camera). You'll have a nifty little hand-held gun that can punch nails into cardboard.

But you want a real, man-sized railgun, right? Again, instructions are everywhere but now you're getting a little more involved in terms of size (you'll need large copper rails) and getting bigger capacitors to provide more juice. Obviously the danger starts to become ridiculous at this point if you don't know what you're doing.

As you become more and more obsessed and/or determined to see your project end in some kind of criminal charges, you can go all-out and build something like this Japanese man did:

As you see, he's got some big-ass capacitors and a railgun that seems like it could punch a respectable-sized hole in a zombie. So on one hand, it appears it could electrocute him and/or explode and kill his neighbors at any moment. On the other hand, you know, railgun.


Ever since Aliens came out, we've all been deathly afraid of Sigourney Weaver. Likewise, most of us have wanted to use one of those giant mechano-loader things that Weaver uses to beat the shit out of the queen alien at the end of the movie, if for no other reason than it might be fun to strap into a giant metal suit and throw cars at buildings.

Now, obviously, (1) yours won't be on that scale and (2) this project requires a little more know-how than the rest. But by now you've gotten bored with your railgun and need to take things to the next level. And it's not as hard as you'd think.

In fact, they hold open competitions where people build powered suits (either pneumatic, electrical or hydraulic) that would let them lift a 650-pound barbell with the power of their robotically-augmented limbs.

The winner spent just over a $1,000 on materials, mostly stuff they found on eBay. Another contestant made a whole exosuit in his garage for about $2,000. And he was a 17 and had only a high school education. If he can do it, you can do it, too! Right?

Well, it may take some time. But at the end of it you'll have a suit that may not be enough to fight off a queen alien, but at least enough to, say, take on Queen Latifah for a round or two.

Jet Pack/Rocketbelt

We know what you're thinking. Powered suit? Lasers? Projectile weapons? Hell, strap them all together and we've got ourselves a DiY Iron Man here!

If only it could fly.

Well, lucky for you, visionaries like Gerard Martowlis went all out to invent their own jetpacks. And you can, too, but this time you'll have to shell out a little cash.

As you might expect, one of the big snags in the design of any jetpack is just how to get off he ground without burning your legs off at the knees. This is where the combustion engine has failed so many aspiring rocketmen in the past (such as Wile E. Coyote).

Luckily, there are a few fun chemical alternatives to simply putting a tank of gas on your back and setting a match to it. For instance, 90 percent of hydrogen peroxide, while horribly volatile and capable of exploding the shit out of you in its own right, also makes for a kick ass propellant. Enough to get you off the ground, at least, and send you hurtling towards the 6 o'clock news, as captured on cell phone video, when you slam into a wall.

Where are you going to find that stuff? The goddamned Internet, like everything else.

This site has detailed plans and gives some good advice on where to get each part. The one you see there was built for less than $10,000, which probably sounds like a lot of money until you consider it's a freaking jetpack.

Come on, for that money you can get a jetpack or a 2005 Honda Civic with high mileage. If you even have to think about that choice, then get outta here. We don't want to know you.

Original here

How The Religious Right Sees Stem Cell Research

President Obama signed an executive order Monday repealing a Bush-era policy that limited federal tax dollars for embryonic stem cell research. And while this move was lauded by many in the scientific community as a means to helping cure a wide array of diseases, the religious right had a very different vision of the future. Here it is: