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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thailand's iPhone underground

Venders sell Apple iPhones at the Maboonkrong shopping center in Bangkok. The illegally-smuggled phones, a hot commodity in mobile-crazy Thailand, go for about $800 a piece. (Patrick Winn/GlobalPost)

Where to find Bangkok's must-have illegal fashion accessory

By Patrick Winn - GlobalPost

BANGKOK, Thailand — Come weekends, Bangkok's premiere cell phone bazaar is a nerve-zapping labyrinth.

Its 500-plus stalls are crammed into Maboonkrong shopping center's fourth floor. Customers choke the narrow aisles. At least three cell phones are always bleeping within earshot, piercing the language stew in the air: Thai, English, Russian, Arabic and the sound of salesgirls cooing for customers.

Some shops are cubicle-sized. Others boast cramped showrooms. But inside nearly every display case is the holy grail of Bangkok cell phone chic: an illegally smuggled Apple iPhone.

The slick and illicit Web-browsing phones have been priced at roughly $800 here — as much as eight times the U.S. retail price and more than double the average Thai's monthly salary.

"It's like a Louis Vuitton handbag," said Jesada Chandraprasert, who tracks Thai technology trends for CNET Asia. "Anyone seen holding it is a step up from a regular person."

Now ubiquitous in Europe and America, Apple's iPhone was released this year in more than 50 countries, including Singapore, Estonia and Ecuador. Countries far less developed than Thailand – Botswana among them – are on Apple's "Coming Soon" list.

But in tech-obsessed Thailand, where cell phone ownership is at an estimated 70 percent, the iPhone is just now being released.

Legit iPhones will contend with an existing iPhone black market, which for years has thrived in the vacuum and given rise to a network of smugglers and code breakers.

"The iPhones move fast," said Pi, a Maboonkrong vendor who runs a stall painted solar yellow. "It's hip. It's sharp."

Though the underground phones are exorbitantly priced — the cost is roughly one month's rent in a downtown condo — the profit margin isn't what attracts underground vendors. Much of that goes to the smuggler, who vendors say bring the phones in from the U.S., Europe, and factories in China.

Rather, it's all about turnover, Pi said. His small operation, a blip among hundreds at Maboonkrong mall, moves two or three iPhones each day.

How do smugglers steer so many iPhones around customs agents, and avoid paying them stiff duties?

Pi's grin curls into a wide smile. "Many ways," he said, before clamming up.

Though Apple has been eager to swoop in and seize back the Thai market, bureaucratic tangles and pay-as-you-go plans have stood in the way. The latest Apple iPhones are designed to tap into a "3G" or third-generation cell signal network powerful enough to stream both speech and data. But, for now, Thailand is stuck with a souped-up version of a second-generation or "2G" network, designed for text messages and speech.

There are several ways to illegally tap iPhones into Thailand's cell network.

Phone hackers commonly employ "stealth SIMs" — a black market metallic chip sandwiched over the SIM or "Subscriber Module Identity" card. The legal SIM card, which is removable, stores each phone's unique number.

When paired with its black market stealthy counterpart, the phone can crack the network illegally. Many vendors brazenly keep a bin of stealth SIMs on display.

Still, Thailand's hotwired iPhones can only stream the internet at a speed far slower than most European and American networks. One underground vendor compared it to driving a Ferrari in first gear.

The state agencies Telephone Organization of Thailand and Communications of Authority of Thailand have promised a cell network upgrade for nearly two years.

The latest in a series of shifting government projections promises a 2009 roll-out with 350,000 subscribers. But outside of a few beta trials — most notably in a Bangkok mall and the northern capitol Chiang Mai — the plans continue to lag.

Launching a legit iPhone market in Thailand has been doubly complicated by Thais' reluctance to pay monthly subscription fees. In the U.S., iPhones go for as little as $99 USD, as long as customers agree to a two-year contract with Apple ally AT&T, which subsidizes the phone's production cost.

But most Thais avoid contracts and monthly bills altogether, preferring to add phone minutes using scratch-off top-up cards. The cards are ubiquitous — available in 7-11s, grocery marts and automated machines — and offer a code that's dialed in to unlock more minutes.

For now, Apple is replicating its U.S. approach, offering low-priced iPhones through Thai mobile carrier TrueMove with the promise of two-year contracts. Apple would not comment for this story.

Even without long contracts, the cheapest legit Thai iPhones are priced at roughly $200, far less than underground prices. Apple's attempt to reclaim the iPhone from underground vendors will likely succeed in time.

But for now, the illegal fashion accessory remains on the black market, and a must-have in the stalls of Maboonkrong.

Diamond is no longer nature’s hardest material

London: Diamond will always be a woman’s best friend but the gemstone is no longer the world’s hardest material, according to scientists.

Instead, a rare natural substance, called lonsdaleite, which is made from carbon atoms just like diamond, has emerged as 58 per cent harder than the gemstone, according to a report in the New Scientist.

An international team, led by Zicheng Pan at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, simulated how atoms in two substances believed to have promise as very hard materials would respond to the stress of a finely tipped probe pushing down on them.

The simulation revealed that the first one, wurtzite boron nitride, withstood 18 per cent more stress than diamond, while the second, the mineral lonsdaleite, 58 per cent more.

Rare mineral lonsdaleite is sometimes formed when meteorites containing graphite hit Earth, while wurtzite boron nitride is formed during volcanic eruptions that produce very high temperatures and pressures.

If confirmed, however, wurtzite boron nitride may turn out most useful of the two, because it is stable in oxygen at higher temperatures than diamond.

And, according to the scientists, this makes it ideal to place on the tips of cutting and drilling tools operating at high temperatures, or as corrosion resistant films on the surface of a space vehicle, for example. Paradoxically, wurtzite boron nitrides hardness appears to come from the flexibility of the bonds between the atoms that make it up.

When its stressed some bonds tend to re-orientate themselves by about 90 to relieve the tension.

Although diamond undergoes a similar process, something about the structure of wurtzite boron nitride makes it nearly 80 per cent stronger after the process takes place, the studys co-author Changfeng Chen of University of Nevada wrote in the Physical Review Letters journal.


Man Wakes Up After Family OK's Disconnecting Life Support

Mike Connelly is greeted by his wife, Loris, at Tri-City Medical Center on Monday. (Photo by Bill Wechter - staff photographer)

OCEANSIDE ---- Mike Connelly's family and many of his nurses are calling him a miracle man ---- and doctors are hard-pressed to disagree.

The 56-year-old Vista man's heart stopped in late January and he lay in a coma for 96 hours before his family tearfully gave the OK for physicians at Tri-City Medical Center to disconnect life support.

That's when Connelly woke up.

His stepson, Mike Cooper, was reading Scripture beside Connelly's hospital bed last week when he saw a tear slide down the man's cheek.

Cooper said he didn't think that was significant until he left the room and started walking down the hallway, only to hear shouts from a family member still at Connelly's side.

"He said Mike was responding," Cooper said. "I didn't believe him, but I went back in there, and it was true. You would say his name, and he would turn his head toward you. It was a miracle."

Though doctors had pronounced Connelly's case hopeless and said his brain would never recover, today he is showing steady progress. Those same doctors say Connelly seems headed for a full recovery.

Martin Nielsen, Connelly's pulmonary doctor, said it is not a stretch to call the sudden recovery miraculous.

"When we get a guy like Mike Connelly, it's almost like a miracle," Nielsen said. "I've never seen anybody come back like he has."

Connelly's ordeal started at his home around 6 a.m. Jan. 31, when he developed an arrhythmia ---- an electrical short circuit in the heart muscle that causes the vital organ to stop beating, usually with no warning.

Connelly's wife, Loris, said she awoke to the sound of choking.

She found her husband slumped forward in his easy chair, a half-eaten bowl of Raisin Bran in his lap, in the living room of the couple's Vista apartment.

At 6 feet 8 inches and more than 250 pounds, Connelly is not easy to move.

His wife was unable to get him out of his chair and onto the floor by herself.

"I found him totally unconscious," she recalled Monday. "I couldn't find a pulse. I couldn't find any air. He wasn't breathing."

Fearing her husband was dead, Loris Connelly called 911. According to NorthComm fire dispatch records, the call came in at 6:10 a.m. and paramedics arrived at the apartment on Shadowridge Drive at 6:16 a.m.

Nielsen said that when paramedics arrived, Connelly's heart had stopped beating.

He said an electrocardiogram tape recorded during resuscitation efforts showed that paramedics performed CPR and delivered multiple shocks with a portable defibrillator for about 35 minutes before they were able to get the man's heart beating again.

Although no one knows exactly how long Connelly's brain went without oxygen, Nielsen said it had to be at least 10 minutes. That length of time, he said, usually results in severe brain damage if a patient ever regains consciousness.

"Generally, the rule of thumb is if you go for more than four minutes without oxygen, you will see severe damage to the brain," Nielsen said.

Paramedics drove the unconscious man to Tri-City Medical Center, where doctors decided that inducing hypothermia was Connolly's best chance for survival.

They used special cooling blankets to drop his temperature from the normal 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit to about 93 degrees.

The cold, Nielsen explained, helps keep the brain from swelling and has been shown in clinical studies to reduce brain damage.

After 24 hours of cooling, doctors tried to bring Connelly out of an induced coma, but every time they did, he suffered seizures.

Seizures, Nielsen said, are usually a sign that a patient is not going to recover. The family prepared for the worst, but prayed nonetheless.

Connelly woke up a few days later.

Sitting in his hospital room Monday, Connelly conversed with family members and joked with nurses, some who have taken to calling him the "miracle man."

He said his chest aches from the CPR.

"Judging by the way my sternum feels, I'm pretty lucky," he said. "This is all still sinking in, and I think it will be for a long time."

In the 12 days since he awoke, Connelly has suffered muscle spasms ---- some violent ---- that have only recently begun so subside, his wife said.

Loris Connelly said she will always cherish the moment she saw her husband come around.

"When I finally heard the word 'hope,' that's the best word I ever heard," she said.

Family friends set up a "miracle man" trust fund at Wells Fargo Bank to help the Connellys defray the cost of his long hospital stay.

Donations can be made care of Marilyn Cipriani, 1075 Shadowridge Drive. Unit 70, Vista, CA 92081.

Contact staff writer Paul Sisson at (760) 901-4087 or

Use Your iPhone as a Wireless Laptop Modem

Mike Keller

Feb 17, 2009 8:52 am

I travel a lot. And if you’re a geek like me, you can’t go a full day sans internet access without experiencing some severe withdrawal symptoms. Luckily, my iPhone, with all its WiFi and 3G goodness, has been instrumental in feeding my addiction while on the road. But though Apple’s smartphone provides the best mobile browsing experience out there, the small screen and touch controls still don’t compare to the pixel real estate and tactile qwerty speed of a laptop. Not to mention such luxuries as Flash compatibility, page caching, and tabbed browsing.

So the next time you’re stranded without an open WiFi network (but your 3G signal is going strong), you’ll be glad you installed Addition’s iPhoneModem 2 (free to try, full license is $9.99). Unfortunately, Apple has apparently deemed the app to be in conflict with its App Store Terms and Conditions, so it is only available for jailbroken phones via Cydia. Here’s a quick guide:

1) Jailbreak your iPhone.
Download and install QuickPwn, an easy-to-use jailbreaking application for Windows and Mac (the latest version works with iPhone OS 2.2.1). Run the software and follow the onscreen instruction very carefully!

2) Install iPhoneModem by Addition.
QuickPwn installs an app on your phone called Cydia, which is essentially the App Store for apps that were rejected from the official App Store (or, for whatever reason, the developer chose not to release through Apple). Run Cydia, search for iPhoneModem by Addition and install it. Keep in mind you can only delete Cydia installed apps via Cydia’s Manage-Sources function. Now download and install the helper app on your laptop and you’re almost ready to go.

3)Set up the network.
Run the helper app and hit Connect. The helper app sets up an ad hoc wireless network that can be accessed via iPhone. The default network it creates is called “iPhoneModem” and does not have a password (you can change this in the Preferences of the helper app). Now open up your iPhone’s Settings and tap WiFi. Make sure WiFi is turned on and select the network “iPhoneModem” (or whatever you called it). Type the password if you assigned one. Open up the Modem iPhone app and everything else will configure automatically. After a few moments the helper app and the iPhone app will confirm that a connection has been established and you can browse away with all the comforts of your laptop!

While 3G seems plenty fast on a phone, it feels a little slow on a laptop. Also, most major web browsers work but not all are supported. In addition, a lot of other internet applications aren’t supported, but for all intents and purposes, you should be able to browse just fine.

*Note: If you haven’t already discovered, jailbreaking your iPhone opens up a world of possibilities, including themes and apps that aren’t allowed in the App Store. While it technically voids the warranty, you can easily return your device to its original state with the “Restore” feature in iTunes, wiping all traces of the jailbreak hack.

Lincoln's penny gets a new look -- actually four new looks

The front of the Lincoln penny

Abraham Lincoln's penny has been around since 1909, when it was inaugurated with several firsts. It was the first U.S. coin to include the words "In God We Trust," and the first to include a portrait. "A strong feeling had prevailed against using portraits on our coins," said a Treasury Department fact sheet, "but public sentiment stemming from the 100th anniversary celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birth proved stronger than the long-standing prejudice."

Now, in honor of the 200th anniversary of Abe's birth, the U.S. Mint is planning to release four new Lincoln pennies this year. Of course these days, given the rising price of zinc and copper, it costs about 1.4 cents to make a penny. As the Washington Post suggested, maybe Congress should change the metal content of the coin to steel.

The first Lincoln penny had Abe's face on the front and two stalks of wheat on the back. That was replaced 50 years ago with the ubiquitous image of the Lincoln Memorial. But this time, the Mint has really thought outside the box and come up with four separate images for the back of the coin -- four images in the life of the 16th president.

The Lincoln Kentucky penny The first depicts the one-room log cabin in Kentucky where Lincoln was born. It's already in circulation.

The second shows him as a rail splitter in Indiana. (The mint says it should start moving into circulation in mid-May). The third, due out in August, shows him reporting to work at the Illinois Legislature, and the fourth penny, due in November, depicts the U.S. Capitol without its dome -- a symbol of the civil war that divided the nation when he was president.

The Lincoln Indiana Penny

The Lincoln Illinois Penny

The Lincoln D.C. Penny

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo credits: U.S. Mint

Joe Rogan's open letter to Kellogs regarding Michael Phelps

Nicely Done Mr. Rogan...

Dear, Kellogg’s.
I’m writing this letter to express my disappointment in your company in firing Michael Phelps as a spokesperson for your products because he was photographed while enjoying some marijuana. I respectfully would like to communicate my opinion on this matter because I think it’s of great public interest.

First of all, although it is true that Mr. Phelps broke the law, I think any reasonably intelligent person would admit that it’s one of the most fucked up and corrupt laws that we have today in this country. Marijuana is relatively harmless and certainly far less dangerous than a host of other things that are not only legal but also readily available, like alcohol and prescription drugs. The only reason it remains illegal to this day is because it’s a plant and you can’t patent it and control it’s sale, and because if it were legal it would greatly affect the demand for a host of prescription drugs that rake in billions of dollars each year for pharmaceutical companies.

That’s it.

Marijuana has never killed anyone EVER in over 10,000 years of use. We’re not protecting people from themselves, we’re not saving the children - it’s just a horribly illogical law that is in place because of corruption and propaganda.
The fact that it’s against the law is just a disgusting reminder of how retarded our system is, not a reasonable reaction to a proven threat to society.

I have to say, this whole thing saddens me, because I personally would like to think that as Americans we’re better than this. These television news anchors will shake their heads at the thoughtless mistake Mr. Phelps had made by “smoking dope,” and then without even the tiniest sense of irony they will cut to a beer commercial.
This is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, right? We’re not supposed to be a nation of little bitches giving in to the whims of corrupt politicians and the pharmaceutical companies who’s interests they’re representing.

It’s 2009, and in this day and age with the incredible access to information that we have available there’s no fucking way that we should be allowing human beings to tell other human beings that they can’t do something that they enjoy that hurts no one including themselves.
THAT is madness. THAT is ignorant, and THAT is completely fucking un-American.
I don’t want to hear any of that, “he’s setting a bad example with the children” nonsense either, because we all know if he had a gin and tonic in his hand instead of a bong this would never have been an issue, even though every single study ever done has shown that marijuana is FAR less dangerous than alcohol.

Marijuana laws are a horrible waste of resources and law enforcement, and especially in this day and age with our economy in such horrible shape I believe the last thing we need to be doing is wasting tax payers’ money on any of this victimless bullshit.

I find your reactions to Mr. Phelps situation both ignorant and short sighted.
I think what would have been a far better response from Kellogg’s would be to support Mr. Phelps, and perhaps point out that maybe we as a society should take a closer look at the evidence and possibly reconsider our position on this misunderstood plant that so many of our productive citizens find useful.

Now, I’m sure if you really were running Kellogg’s and you were still reading my bullshit all the way down to this, you must be thinking, “Why the hell would we stick our necks out like that for pot smokers?”

And of course the answer to that question would be, because we buy your shit, motherfucker.
Do you guys even know your consumer statistics? Well, let me fill you in on some of my own personal scientific research on the subject, because I have been closely studying my own purchases for over 20 years, and I can tell you that I’ve been high 100% of the time I’ve bought your shit.

I mean, do you guys ever think about what you sell?
Pop tarts? Are you kidding me? I would be willing to bet that 50% of the people buying pop tarts are stoned out of their fucking minds.

Just to be perfectly clear on my position, I would like you to know that I enjoy your products. I think many of them are quite tasty, but lets be honest; you guys sell sugar-drenched shit that’s horrible for your body - in fact, it’s actually way worse for your body than pot - and you market this shit specifically to children.

You assholes go as far as putting lovable cartoon characters on the boxes just so that kids will beg their parents for it.

Now, I don’t want you to misunderstand my point, because I in no way want anything bad to happen to your company. Like I said, I genuinely enjoy your products. There’s nothing quite like being stoned out of your mind at 2am watching a Chuck Norris movie and eating a bowl of fruit loops. Your company and its products have been a part of some very pleasurable moments in guilty eating, and I’m glad you’re around.

All I’m saying is that it’s high time (no pun intended) that you motherfuckers respect the stoner dollar. There’s WAY more of us than you might think, and we tend to get upset about dumb shit like this. There are millions of us, and if we decide that we don’t like a company, they’re going to feel it.

I think if you looked into it carefully, you would be surprised at how many undercover potheads there are out there. Pot smokers don’t all fit into the obvious, negative stereotypes; we come in all shapes and forms - including by the way, the form of the greatest fucking swimmer who ever lived, EVER.

Think about THAT shit for a second..

So in closing, I would like to ask you nice folks to please smarten the fuck up.
I would request that you check the calendar and note that it’s 2000 and fucking 9, and next time you think about getting all uppity about pot you might want to do a quick google search on the facts.

It’s 4:40am here in LA, and I’m going to wrap up this blog and to celebrate its completion I’m going to enjoy one of my personal favorite Kellogg’s products: Eggo waffles.
I’m gonna pop 4 of them bitches into the toaster, and then I’m gonna stuff the bong with some fine, American grown “Train Wreck” and sacrifice the sacred plant to the fire gods in tribute to the unjustly persecuted 8 time Olympian hero. Then I’m gonna get some butter, and I’m gonna smear it on those Eggos, I’m gonna cover them with maple syrup, and I’m going to eat the ever loving fuck out of them.
Good day, sirs.

Yours truly,

Joe Rogan.

So You Want to Hit on the Bartender?

Hitting on a female bartender presents unique challenges. Maggie suggests you ask yourself a few questions before you do.

By Maggie Savarino Dutton

1) What is the cold, hard probability that this woman finds you attractive? Assess your hotness now. I was a very friendly bartender, but you cannot mistake "professional jawing" for flirting. Female bartenders flirt. It's how we pay rent. Don't mistake it for liking you just because there's no pole and we're fully clothed.

2) Are you fully prepared to step in a giant pile of awkward if she says no? We flirt, but there is an unwritten rule that we can flirt, because you're not supposed to call us on it. If this is your regular bar, you are committing a social offense so egregious I almost want to smack you myself. Of course (deadpan), there's always the chance that you're meant for each other. Please see question #1.

3) What's your plan? You have to have a plan. "We should go out sometime" is not a plan. Do the two of you share an interest? Maybe an author or certain music? Bring an appropriate but small gift. How does she react? Positively or politely? (Take a friend for an honest assessment.) Take another baby step from there if you dare.

4) Only ask her out if it's to do something. Dinner's no good. (She works nights, duh.) A bike ride? Kayaking? She has days off; chances are she's got a daytime hobby, so latch on to that. Something that has a clear end time works best, but nothing that could lead to a nightcap. Remember, she witnesses 1:30 a.m. hookups all the time. Put her in that situation at your peril. Whatever you do, don't be eager. She sees through you like glass. It will be like putting the moves on Bruce Lee. So don't try, just be.

The female bartender is perhaps the most jaded, cold, walled-off, and unapproachable member of the female species. Remember, she spends her evenings listening to men bullshit women. She gets hit on by the douche with the popped collar while his girlfriend's in the bathroom. She mentally counts the number of sentences it takes a guy to work sex into the conversation, because they always do. In her mind, men are predictable, ridiculous animals who can rarely be trusted, or worth her time.

You still wanna date a female bartender? Well, you better be a pretty exceptional guy.

Good luck, and duck, you sucker.

Some websites to check out:

A Spectacular Aerial Shot of The Severn Bore and Its Surfers — Mark Humpage snapped this beautiful photo on 11 February 2009 from a microlight -- under "tough shooting conditions as my hands were frozen solid after 5 mins" .

Via ... (

1. "Severn Bore From a Microlight 11 Feb 2009":
2. "The Severn Bore February 11th 2009":

See also: ... (

'Frozen Smoke:' Ultimate Sponge For Cleaning Up Oil Spills

ScienceDaily (Feb. 17, 2009) — Scientists in Arizona and New Jersey are reporting that aerogels, a super-lightweight solid sometimes called “frozen smoke,” may serve as the ultimate sponge for capturing oil from wastewater and effectively soaking up environmental oil spills.

Aerogels, a super-lightweight solid sometimes called "frozen smoke," may capture oil from wastewater and soak up environmental oil spills. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

In the new study, Robert Pfeffer and colleagues point out that the environmental challenges of oil contamination go beyond widely publicized maritime oil spills like the Exxon Valdez incident.

Experts estimate that each year people dump more than 200 million gallons of used oil into sewers, streams, and backyards, resulting in polluted wastewater that is difficult to treat. Although there are many different sorbent materials for removing used oil, such as activated carbon, they are often costly and inefficient. Hydrophobic silica aerogels are highly porous and absorbent material, and seemed like an excellent oil sponge.

The scientists packed a batch of tiny aerogel beads into a vertical column and exposed them to flowing water containing soybean oil to simulate the filtration process at a wastewater treatment plant. They showed that the aerogel beads absorbed up to 7 times their weight and removed oil from the wastewater at high efficiency, better than many conventional sorbent materials.

Journal reference:

  1. Quevedo et al. Removal of Oil from Water by Inverse Fluidization of Aerogels. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, 2009; 48 (1): 191 DOI: 10.1021/ie800022e
Adapted from materials provided by American Chemical Society.

100 days, 100 songs, 100 locations, 100 dances.

Fun video of Ely Kim doing 100 dances in 100 locations to 100 songs over 100 days.

read more | digg story

Recession threatens to burn out pot clubs

By Tamara Barak Aparton
Examiner Staff Writer 2/17/09

Business at The Green Cross medical marijuana dispensary has slowed due to the poor economy. Cindy Chew/The Examiner
SAN FRANCISCO – One might guess that tough economic times would only fuel the desire for mind-altering substances. For San Francisco’s cannabis clubs, however, nothing could be further from the truth.

The deepening economic crisis has hit the dispensaries hard, forcing the nonprofit collectives to cut staff, business hours and donations to charities.

Charlie Alazraie, manager of Bay Area Safe Alternatives, said business has dropped about 60 percent since summer, as the economy forces patients to buy smaller quantities. Alazraie had to let go of one full-time employee and two part-time workers at the small Western Addition collective.

Also halted were donations to soup kitchens and low-cost health clinics that serve many of BASA’s patients. The previously profitable collective was hit with a penalty last quarter after paying their sales tax late for the first time.

“This year we’re going to be so much in the red, I don’t want to find out. I know it’s going to be ugly,” Alazraie said. “We’re in arrears with our vendors, with architects, with everything.”

The collective has always had a commitment to provide free medical marijuana for those in impossible situations — people who are critically ill and living in poverty were subsidized with money set aside from sales. In the past, the number of people who qualified hovered around 36. Today, there are 60.

The recession hit right after many San Francisco pot clubs had spent tens of thousands of dollars to comply with legislation passed in 2005 requiring them to meet city permit regulations.

Kevin Reed, founder of the Green Cross, which delivers medical marijuana to patients in San Francisco, said his sales are down 25 percent in the past 40 days, and dropped 45 percent in the past two weeks.

To survive, the collective cut its hours and cut its 12 employees’ pay by $2 an hour.

“It’s amazing to me,” Reed said. “It’s an industry I never thought could be affected.”

Reed said he thought marijuana would be a recession-proof product, much like alcohol.

“I always heard that if the economy went bad, people would be depressed,” he said. “The whole theory got blown out the window for me.”

The cost of the pot hasn’t risen, but the $300-an-ounce price tag has become a heavy burden for people who have lost their jobs and cut back on expenses. Insurance does not cover medicinal marijuana.

“The only busy day we’ve had in the past 40 days is when we offered a one-third off discount for veterans,” Reed said. “It seemed like half the veterans in the state signed up.”

Green sector

The recession is weighing on medical pot sales in The City.

30 Known medical marijuana dispensaries (clubs and delivery services) in San Francisco

2 Known medical marijuana dispensaries (clubs and delivery services) in San Mateo

$103 Cost of state medical marijuana card

$300 Approximate cost of an ounce of medical marijuana

Sources: San Francisco Health Department, The Green Cross,

The Surnameless: People So Cool They Have Two First Names

Charter members of the Surnameless Club, living and dead, include Ron Howard, Jim Edgar, Larry David, Lee Marvin, John Amos, Babe Ruth, Raul Julia, Miley Cyrus, Spencer Tracy, Paul Simon and the other Paul Simon....

read more | digg story

What Are Your Chances Of Getting A Tapeworm?

Take the quiz to find out if you are likely to get a tapeworm.

read more | digg story

iPhone forensics expert creates AMBER Alert app for iPhone

Jonathan Zdziarski, iPhone developer and data forensics expert, has teamed up with AMBER Alert to create an iPhone app for receiving detailed AMBER alerts via iPhone. Ars talked to Zdziarski about why he wrote the app and how it can also be used to report sightings in a faster and more reliable manner to law enforcement.

iPhone forensics expert creates AMBER Alert app for iPhone

Well-known iPhone developer and hacker Jonathan Zdziarksy is hoping to revolutionize how people receive alerts about missing children and how information about sightings is reported to law enforcement agencies with his new AMBER Alert iPhone app.

Zdziarski often assists law enforcement agencies—at no cost—in forensic examinations of iPhones or iPod touches for a variety of cases. "Unfortunately, a large percentage of these cases involve crimes against children, which can start eating at your soul after a while," Zdziarsky told Ars. He wanted to do something about it, "which is how the idea for a GPS-based AMBER Alert system came to mind," he said.

"I decided to approach the AMBER Alert folks about it, and they liked it," said Zdziarski. "So over the weekend, I worked with one of their engineers to put it together. It went from idea to finished product in about 24 hours."

The app lists all current, active AMBER alerts with a small photo of the victim. Clicking one of the alerts brings up detailed information about the abduction, including physical description, last known whereabouts, and details and photos of suspects (if any). A "Report Sighting" button allows you to report a sighting of a victim or suspects along with your current GPS coordinates. This information is analyzed for accuracy and forwarded to the investigating state patrol agency that issued the AMBER alert.

"The iPhone is ideal for not only disseminating [the alert] information, but also for its GPS, which can allow us to aggregate multiple sightings together to assess credibility and to also build better reporting logic to the state police conducting these investigations," according to Zdziarksi.

In addition to the AMBER Alert app, which wil be available for free pending approval from the App Store, Zdziarksi is offering free code to any developer who wishes to incorporate an AMBER Alert system into their own apps. "We'd like to get as many AppStore developers to work this into their software," he told Ars. The code periodically checks the AMBER Alert system for updates in the background. "We provide a view controller and a status manager which can be used to easily flash an icon or pop up a dialogue box," in the event an AMBER alert is issued while an app is running. "Hopefully, some news apps will pick it up," he said.

Anyone can also sign up at to receive email or SMS alerts forwarded to an iPhone, and then use the AMBER Alert app to get more details or report a sighting. Zdziarski told Ars he is hoping to be able to port the software to work with similar alert systems in other countries.

The Shape of Alternative Powered Cars [Pics]

There are many new electric and gas-electric hybrids in the works. Some, like the Mini electric, are available in limited numbers, some are just months away and others are much further down the road.

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Researchers crack the code of the common cold

Scientists have begun to solve some of the mysteries of the common cold by putting together the pieces of the genetic codes for all the known strains of the human rhinovirus. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have completed the genomic sequences of the viruses and assembled them into a "family tree," which shows how the viruses are related, with their commonalities and differences. The study will be released on the online version of the journal Science (Science Express) at 2 p.m. EST on February 12.

The researchers say this work provides a powerful tool that may lead to the development of the first effective treatments against the common cold.

"There has been no success in developing effective drugs to cure the common cold, which we believe is due to incomplete information about the genetic composition of all these strains," says the study's senior author, Stephen B. Liggett, M.D., professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of its Cardiopulmonary Genomics Program.

"We generally think of colds as a nuisance, but they can be debilitating in the very young and in older individuals, and can trigger asthma attacks at any age. Also, recent studies indicate that early rhinovirus infection in children can program their immune system to develop asthma by adolescence," says Dr. Liggett, who is a pulmonologist and molecular geneticist.

Major discoveries of the study

The researchers found that human rhinoviruses are organized into about 15 small groups that come from distant ancestors. The discovery of these multiple groups explains why a "one drug fits all" approach for anti-viral agents does not work. But, says Dr. Liggett, "Perhaps several anti-viral drugs could be developed, targeted to specific genetic regions of certain groups. The choice of which drug to prescribe would be based on the genetic characteristics of a patient's rhinovirus infection."

Dr. Liggett adds that while anti-viral drugs seem to be the most likely to succeed, "the data gathered from these full genome sequences gives us an opportunity to reconsider vaccines as a possibility, particularly as we gather multiple-patient samples and sequence the entire genomes, to see how frequently they mutate during a cold season. That work is underway now."

The researchers also found that the human rhinovirus skips a step when it makes its protein product, a shortcut that probably speeds up its ability to make a person feel sick soon after infection. "This is a new insight," says co-investigator Claire M. Fraser-Liggett, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Genome Sciences and professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "We would not have had any sort of intuition about this had it not been revealed through genome analysis. Information that comes from this discovery might present a completely different approach in terms of therapy."

The analysis shows that some human rhinoviruses result from the exchange of genetic material between two separate strains of the virus that infect the same person. Such a swap, known as recombination, was previously not thought possible in human rhinovirus. During cold season, when many different strains of rhinovirus may be causing infections, recombination could rapidly produce new strains.

Multiple mutations (as many as 800) were evident in virus samples taken recently from patients with colds, compared to older rhinovirus reference strains. Some viruses mutate by making slight changes in certain proteins to avoid being destroyed by antibodies from a person's immune system. "Mutations were found in every area of the genome," says Dr. Liggett.

The study's lead author, Ann C. Palmenberg, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and chair of the Institute for Molecular Virology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, notes, "As we begin to accumulate additional samples from a large number of patients, it is likely that hotspots for mutation or recombination will become apparent, and other regions resistant to mutational change may emerge. This will provide clues as to how flexible the virus is as it responds to the human environment, important hints if you are designing new therapeutics."

Study background

Human rhinovirus infection is responsible for half of all asthma attacks and is a factor in bronchitis, sinusitis, middle ear infections and pneumonia. The coughs, sneezes and sniffles of colds impose a major health care burden in the United States—including visits to health care providers, cost of over-the-counter drugs for symptom relief, often-inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions and missed work days—with direct and indirect costs of about $60 billion annually.

Prior to the start of this project, the genomes of only a few dozen rhinoviruses had been sequenced from what was considered the reference library, a frozen collection of 99 different rhinovirus strains taken from patients over a span of more than two decades. During this team's work, several other groups began to report the full genomes of some of these viruses, as well as some odd rhinovirus-like strains from relatively sick patients.

"It was clear to us that the spectrum of rhinoviruses out there was probably much greater than we realized. Further, we needed to develop a framework from which we could begin to figure out ways to combat these viruses and use their genetic signatures to predict how a specific virus would affect a patient," says Dr. Fraser-Liggett.

The current study adds 80 new full genome sequences to the rhinovirus library and 10 more acquired recently from people with colds. Each sequence was modeled and compared to each other. Dr. Liggett says, "Now we can put together many pieces of the human rhinovirus puzzle to help us answer some fundamental questions: how these rhinoviruses might mutate as they spread from one person to another; which rhinoviruses are more associated with asthma exacerbations and why rhinovirus exposure in infancy may cause asthma later in life. With all this information at hand, we see strong potential for the development of the long-sought cure for the common cold, using modern genomic and molecular techniques."

"With recent improvements in technology, including next-generation DNA sequencing tools, it has become easier to generate whole genome sequence information," says Dr. Fraser-Liggett. "There is no reason any longer to focus on a very limited part of the rhinovirus molecule to learn what it's doing, what the predominant strain is in a population, or to try to infer what the evolution of the entire molecule might be. Instead, by studying the complete genome sequence, we can answer multiple questions in parallel."

'Oil Can' Boyd looking for comeback at age 49

It's been 18 years since Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd last pitched in the Major Leagues, but he figures he's still got some gas left in that tank.
"Oil Can" Boyd went 78-77 with a 4.04 ERA in his 10-year career. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

The 49-year-old wants an MLB team to give him a look this spring, according to a report in the Boston Globe.

Says Boyd, "I have nothing to lose, and all a major league team has to lose is 15 minutes. Give me 15 minutes and I'll show I can still pitch. That's all I want."

And he says he's still got some pretty good stuff, claiming his fastball is in the low-90s and his changeup and curveball are as good as ever.

Boyd finished with a 78-77 career record and a 4.04 lifetime ERA over a 10-year stretch with the Red Sox, Expos and Rangers.

The report says he got serious about the comeback two weeks ago when he pitched at a Red Sox fantasy camp.

He says Satchel Paige, who pitched into his 60s, is another big reason he wants to come back.

"Satchel being my idol and knowing he didn't come into the game until he was in his early 40s, that's always been in the back of my mind."

So why now, after all these years?

"After surgery in '87, it took me 10 years to feel good," he told the Globe.

"I wasn't on the field, started gaining weight. All of a sudden, my arm has healed. The arm strength is there and it's there consistently. The more I throw, the better it feels."

After catching for him at camp, ex-Red Sox catcher Mike Stanley vouches for him, saying "He looks no different to me now than when I caught him in Texas. He still has the same passion. I don't know if he was getting to 90 because we didn't have a gun, but he still had the same stuff. The same tight slider, curve, fastball."

Jarron Gilber is a freak....Jumps out of a pool

Suge Knight Hospitalized After Arizona Hotel Fight

AP Photo
AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

PHOENIX (AP) -- Police using Tasers broke up an early morning fight that sent rap impresario Marion "Suge" Knight to an Arizona hospital for treatment of face injuries, authorities said Monday.

Scottsdale police arrested two men after the fracas, which occurred at about 3 a.m. Monday at a private party at the W Scottsdale Hotel.

Robert Carnes Jr., 38, of Bethlehem, Pa., one of the men arrested, identified himself as the business manager of hip-hop star Akon, said police spokesman Sgt. Mark Clark. Akon, who was in Phoenix for the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, was not present during the fight, he said.

Officers arrived to see Carnes twice punch the 43-year-old Knight in the face, Clark said. Knight sustained broken facial bones, he said.

Police booked Carnes and a man identified as Thomas Anderson Jr., 33, of California, on suspicion of assault and disorderly conduct.

Knight was co-founder of Death Row Records, a label that featured such gangsta rap artists as Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dog. New York-based Global Music Group Inc. said on June 24 it purchased Death Row for $24 million.

Knight had filed for bankruptcy in April 2006, claiming debts of more than $100 million.

Knight has a history of legal problems. He was convicted of assault in 1992 and placed on probation, then jailed for five years in 1996 for violating that probation.

He was returned to jail in 2003 for again violating parole, this time by punching a parking attendant at a Hollywood nightclub. He was released the next year.


Information from: The Arizona Republic,

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9 Bizarre Methods Once Used to Wipe (Ass)

We’ve all been a situation where someone forgot to restock the toilet paper. Thankfully, we can usually get around this situation by banging on the stall door “Hey need a little TP here please.” If you’re at home with no TP, you might even skip wiping completely by hopping in the shower, spreading your butt cheeks, and letting the warm water do the rest.


Our ancestors weren’t that lucky. We’re going to take a look at some items that were actually used, when it came time to clean up a crack, after a deuce had been dropped.

Lambs Wool - When the Vikings weren’t destroying stuff they were eating, drinking, and shitting. Not having anything to wipe with was never really an issue. They’d simply do what they do best (slaughter something), take the wool, and throw the rest in a stew. Seconds please.


Frayed Anchor Line - “Ahoy matey! Me have to wipe my butt taaaaarrr.” Thats right, sailors and pirates often resorted to the frayed ropes from sails and anchor lines. We can only imagine what one of those looked like after a handful of uses.


Stones - The Greeks made use of their surroundings by picking up smooth rocks and stones. Seeing that perfect rock to skip across a pond may have sparked an inner monologue.

  • Dude this rock is going to skip a pond like a mofo, I should get at least 5 hops out of it.
  • Wait, I may have to take a dump later.
  • Screw it I’ll toss this one into the lake, and find another one if I have to shit.
  • On second thought, breakfast is starting to knock at the backdoor - skipping stones can wait.


Sponge Sticks - Ancient Romans were pretty open about where they pinched a loaf. They also didn’t mind placing something into their buttocks which had recently cleaned up another mans number two. After wiping with a sponge that was attached to a stick, they would place the sponge back into a bowl of saltwater. Using saltwater is much more sanitary when it comes to using recycled poo sponges.


Corncobs - So you thought that corncobs were only used to plug an orifice when it came to Japanese porn right? Wrong. In the wild wild west you might have been stuck using a corn cob. You never hear a cowboy say “Hey Earl that gun fight scared the shit out of me.” That isn’t because hes tough. They knew that they should only drop the kids off at the pool when they absolutely needed to, for a raw rump was on the horizon.


Hemp - For those of you reading who enjoy the herb, you may want to skip this one. As shocking as it may sound, the French often used hemp. In their defense, this wasn’t the kind that is being enjoyed at this very moment, by the campus stoners under a large oak tree.


Coconut Shells - Hawaiians really did some out of the box thinking when they decided that coconut shells would be their TP of choice. Why settle for soft ocean sea weed when you can really get up in there with a jagged coconut shell?


Tundra Moss - Eskimos, much like the sailors really didn’t have a lot to work with. Luckily, the vast tundra plains are covered in a relatively soft moss. And if we’re being completely logical, you really wouldn’t have to gather the moss if nature gave you a call, while outside. Simply drag your turd cutter across the moss once you have finished (sort of like a dog with worms on your moms white carpet).


Left Hand - Mideastern cultures found it acceptable to wipe with their left hand. This method is often still practiced in India. Why the left hand? Because touching shit with your right hand was supposedly disgusting (while rifling through your dingle berries with your left was fine). If you visited India today you may even find yourself in a situation where there isn’t any TP. The only difference is: Instead of tossing some paper under your stall - the guy next to you might mutter:

dog - (which translated means “I feel you dog”) before cramming his left hand into his crack.


Conclusion: Next time you’re about to burst a blood vessel because your roommate didn’t restock the WC, be creative - you’ve got a lot of options. You may even give the old left hand a try, shortly before handling his toothbrush.

Mother of baby-faced father Alfie facing court for 'letting him play truant'

By Julie Moult, Caroline Grant, Debra Killalea and Rebecca Camber

The mother of underage father Alfie Patten is due to appear in court next week for failing to ensure the 13-year-old attends school, it has emerged.

Nicola Patten, 43, is facing charges relating to a five-month period last year when he failed to attend regularly Willingdon Community School.

A source close to the school said: 'We don't see Alfie at school that often. He plays truant a lot.'

The council started court proceedings against Mrs Patten under the Education Act and as a result she could be fined.

The news came as the baby's mother Chantelle Stedman, her newborn child, her parents and five brothers and sisters fled from their council house in Eastbourne yesterday.

Alfie Patten A man believed to be Dennis Patten,
Alfie is bundled out of the house by an unidentified woman today while a man, believed to be his father Dennis, hides his face with a Star Wars mask

A neighbour said the family had 'done a bunk' under cover of darkness.

Alfie, at home with his mother, kept in contact with Chantelle by phone.

Both Alfie and Chantelle and their week-old baby could face DNA tests to determine who the father really is.

Alfie, who was just 12 when Maisie Roxanne was conceived, said he wants a definitive answer to put his mind at rest after allegations surfaced that at least two other teenagers could be the baby's father.

Both Richard Goodsell, 16, and 14-year-old Tyler Barker who live close to the Stedmans in Eastbourne, East Sussex, have claimed paternity.

Today sources claimed that the paternity test would not be paid for by his local authority or the NHS.

 Alfie Patten, now 13, cradles Maisie

Eye of the storm: Alfie Patten, now 13, cradles Maisie

East Sussex County Council today refused to comments on claims that its social services department would pay for the paternity test, but sources said that such tests would be up to the individuals to pay for, and not the local authority.

A spokesman for East Sussex Downs and Weald Primary Care Trust said the NHS also did not pay for DNA tests..

It has been suggested that there are another six potential fathers - although Chantelle, 15, is said to be distraught at the allegations.

As Alfie, 13, and Chantelle are both under 18, their parents must give consent to their children being DNA tested.

Penny and Steve Stedman and Nicola and Dennis Patten are thought to be keen to discover the truth.

They have asked social services to help to determine the paternity.

Alfie Patten

Alfie Patten makes a rude gesture as he is pictured leaving his family home

The test, which is 99.9 per cent accurate, will be carried out on saliva samples from all three. The results should be known within a week.

Alfie's spokesman, Max Clifford, said last night: 'They are planning to do a DNA test.

'Alfie believed he was the father but due to reports in the News of the World at the weekend, he wants to make sure by having a DNA test as soon as possible.'

Trainee chef Richard has said he had sex at least three times with Chantelle around the time she became pregnant.

'I know I could be the father, he said. 'Everyone thinks I am. My friends all tell me that baby has my eyes - even my mum thinks so.'

Meanwhile, Tyler said: 'I slept with Chantelle about nine months ago and I'm really worried I could be the father. I hope it's not me. All my mates have been teasing me about it but this isn't funny, it's serious.'

East Sussex County Council said it was not involved in plans to test the children, but that supervision of both families will intensify.

It issued a statement responding to criticism that the authority had not been sufficiently involved with the children and Maisie, since her birth last week.

Matt Dunkley, director of children's services, said: 'It is completely wrong to suggest social workers are doing nothing to support the families and young people involved in this case.

'In cases like this it is normal practice to assess the needs of the parents and the unborn child before the birth and to revisit those assessments once the child has been born.

Tyler BarkerRichard Goodsell

Father figure? Tyler Barker, 14 (right), and Richard Goodsell, 16 (left), both say they could be Maisie's father

'In this case a package of support was agreed before the birth including enhanced involvement from health visitors and family outreach workers.'

Social workers and health visitors were due to visit both families again to carry out further assessments of the three children, he added.

'These will further examine issues such as the parenting of Maisie and the support from the wider family, the education of these young parents, and other issues, including the impact of the huge amount of public interest.

'For each of the young people concerned we will provide the necessary support identified.'

Chantelle gave birth to baby Maisie Roxanne last Monday and both families are being accused of trying to cash in.

Alfie's father has instructed PR guru Clifford to broker deals on his son's behalf - he is already being tailed by a TV documentary team - while Chantelle and her newborn daughter spent much of the weekend with a newspaper.

Clifford's appointment comes amid growing speculation over how much money Alfie and his family would make by selling their story.

Both the Pattens and the Stedmans have been accused of courting the media with rumours of newspaper and TV deals worth thousands of pounds.

Yesterday there were farcical scenes at the home Alfie shares with his mother Nicola in Hailsham, East Sussex, when his estranged father Dennis Patten arrived.

Unmasked: Alfie with father Dennis

The father-of-nine vehicle fitter was wearing a devil mask and carrying a fluorescent yellow placard saying 'No comment. Call Max' - a reference to publicist Mr Clifford.

A TV crew from Channel 4's Cutting Edge team followed close behind.

Clifford said reported claims that they would make 'millions' were greatly exaggerated and that the figure was more likely to be in 'the thousands.'

He confirmed a deal had been made with The People and Channel 4 on Sunday but could not say how much either was worth.

One source said the Channel 4 documentary would earn the family about £50,000, but Clifford said the real figure was 'much below that'.

He added that the documentary would provide 'a realistic insight into a major issue of our time'.

Asked how the 13-year-old was handling life as a father he said: 'It hasn't really hit him yet, he's still a boy himself - he's still trying to come to terms with everything.'

Publicist Phil Hall agreed the family were unlikely to gain millions from selling their story - unless it had a happy ending.

He said a lot of the media are becoming wary of paying huge amounts for the story when there was public concern about where the money was going.

'If by some miracle he (Alfie) becomes an incredible father, then he has the potential to earn a lot of money - but the story has to have a happy ending,' he said.

He also said one TV company had made a bid for £80,000 but that most media would choose to refrain from paying for the story 'on moral grounds'.

The comments come as the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) confirmed it had launched an inquiry into payments by The Sun and the People newspapers to Alfie's parents.

Announcing the inquiry, a PCC spokesman quoted clause 6(iv) of the Editors' Code of Practice which says: 'Minors must not be paid for material involving children's welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interests.'

Similar: Baby Alfie at four months old and little Maisie Roxanne

The PCC statement said: 'Newspapers are allowed to breach this rule if there is a demonstrable public interest.

'The PCC will make a public ruling on the matter when it has completed its investigation.

'The commission has powers - under which it is conducting this inquiry - to launch investigations of its own volition."