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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Thirty Years of U2 (Photos)

The Irish rockers return with No Line on the Horizon, their first release in almost five years

Click to see the pics.. | digg story

Why the Dollar Has Once Again Emerged As Currency of Choice

Weak economy ... strong dollar

The bad news for the U.S. never seems to end. But despite all the doom and gloom, the dollar has emerged as the currency of choice once again. Here's why.

By Paul R. La Monica, editor at large


...and also against the yen. (Click either chart to see the dollar versus other currencies.)

NEW YORK ( -- Stocks are at their lowest levels in about 12 years. The economy shrunk by more than 6% in the fourth quarter. Companies are laying off people left and right.

And oh yeah, the government has essentially nationalized Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) and AIG (AIG, Fortune 500).

There's no denying that the U.S. economy is in tatters. But how about that dollar? Yup, despite the unrelenting stream of bad news about the economy and markets, the greenback has stood out as one of the top performing currencies this year.

The dollar is up about 9% against the euro and 7% versus the Japanese yen so far in 2009. It's also edged slightly higher against the British pound. What gives?

Well, as strange as it may sound, investors may be betting that the U.S., which arguably led the rest of the world into the global recession, will also be the first to emerge from the downturn.

"The U.S. was one of the first nations to respond to the weakness with aggressive monetary policy measures. So it could be one of the first countries out while Japan and Europe might be the last ones out," said Kathy Lien, director of currency research at GFT, a foreign exchange and futures brokerage firm.

Along those lines, even though most of the financial bailout packages have so far been greeted with almost universal disdain by investors in stocks, currency strategists are encouraged that the U.S. is taking more an active role in trying to fix the banking system.

"There a belief that the U.S. is doing more than any other nation to correct their problems. That stems from the different investments by the Fed and the Treasury in the financial sector," said Andrew Busch, global FX market strategist with BMO Capital Markets in Chicago.

Mind you, this does not mean a recovery is around the corner. Lien thinks the U.S. economy is likely to deteriorate further before things finally improve.

Still, as bad as the U.S. economy is faring, it's much worse in other parts of the world. So the dollar is being viewed as a relative pocket of stability.

"The only reason the dollar is rallying is because it is a safe haven play. The problems in Europe are much deeper," Lien said. "Investors are focusing on a prolonged downturn in the U.S. economy and the ramifications for the rest of the world. If the U.S. doesn't recover soon, nobody else will recover."

Busch agreed that the dollar now seems to be the only safe haven among currencies. He pointed out that with interest rates at practically zero, investors are flocking to U.S. Treasurys, despite concerns about what he referred to as a "zeppelin-ing" -- as opposed to merely "ballooning" -- increase in the federal budget deficit this year.

Of course, the dollar rally could quickly come to an end if nations like China, a big buyer of Treasurys, suddenly lose faith in the U.S. But there are no signs of that happening just yet.

To that end, Jacob Oubina, currency strategist at online currency trading site, pointed out that last week's U.S. Treasury auctions were oversubscribed.

Meanwhile, he noted that demand was weak for a federal bond auction in Germany earlier this year, a sign that not all countries are going to find it easy to raise new funds to pay for bailouts or other fiscal stimulus.

What that means is that the rest of the world still appears to be confident in the financial solvency of the U.S., even as many Americans seem to doubt that this recession will end anytime soon.

"The global investor still thinks the U.S. can pay off their debts -- no matter how big they are at the moment," Oubina said. To top of page

Oldest fossilized brain found in fish from Midwest

Scientists snare 3-D image of oldest fossil brain AFP/DDP/File – A woman watches a shark swimming in an aquarium. Scientists on Monday revealed the 300-million-year-old …

WASHINGTON – A 300-million-year-old fossilized brain has been discovered by researchers studying a type of fish that once lived in what is now Kansas and Oklahoma.

"Fossilized brains are unusual, and this is by far the oldest known example," said John Maisey, curator in the division of paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

"Soft tissue has fossilized in the past, but it is usually muscle and organs like kidneys," Maisey said in a statement.

Maisey and co-authors report in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that the brain was discovered in a fossilized iniopterygian from Kansas, which they had sent for scanning at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France.

Iniopterygians are extinct relatives of modern ratfishes, also known as ghost sharks.

The scan found a fossilized blob inside the braincase and closer study revealed it was the fossilized brain of the ancient creature.

"Now that we know that brains might be preserved in such ancient fossils, we can start looking for others. We are limited in information about early vertebrate brains, and the evolution of the brain lies at the core of vertebrate history," Maisey said.

His co-authors included Alan Pradel of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and Paul Tafforeau at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility.


On the Net:


New Terminator Salvation Trailer Is Up!

See Christian Bale and Sam Worthington in the 'TERMINATOR SALVATION' trailer.


Click here for the HD trailers

Official Site

3/3/09: Math fans to celebrate Square Root Day

Dust off the slide rules and recharge the calculators. Square Root Day is upon us.

The math-buffs' holiday, which only occurs nine times each century, falls on Tuesday — 3/3/09 (for the mathematically challenged, three is the square root of nine).

"These days are like calendar comets, you wait and wait and wait for them, then they brighten up your day — and poof — they're gone," said Ron Gordon, a Redwood City teacher who started a contest meant to get people excited about the event.

The winner gets, of course, $339 for having the biggest Square Root Day event.

Gordon's daughter even set up a Facebook page — one of a half-dozen or so dedicated to the holiday — and hundreds of people had signed up with plans to celebrate in some way. Celebrations are as varied: Some cut root vegetables into squares, others make food in the shape of a square root symbol.

The last such day was five years ago, Feb. 2, 2004, which coincided with Groundhog Day. The next is seven years away, on April 4, 2016.

Pink dolphin appears in US lake

The world's only pink Bottlenose dolphin which was discovered in an inland lake in Louisiana, USA, has become such an attraction that conservationists have warned tourists to leave it alone.

Pink the albino dolphin: Pink dolphin appears in US lake
Pinky the rare albino dolphin has been spotted in Lake Calcasieu in Louisiana, USA Photo: CATERS NEWS

Charter boat captain Erik Rue, 42, photographed the animal, which is actually an albino, when he began studying it after the mammal first surfaced in Lake Calcasieu, an inland saltwater estuary, north of the Gulf of Mexico in southwestern USA.

Capt Rue originally saw the dolphin, which also has reddish eyes, swimming with a pod of four other dolphins, with one appearing to be its mother which never left its side.

He said: "I just happened to see a little pod of dolphins, and I noticed one that was a little lighter.

"It was absolutely stunningly pink.

"I had never seen anything like it. It's the same color throughout the whole body and it looks like it just came out of a paint booth.

"The dolphin appears to be healthy and normal other than its coloration, which is quite beautiful and stunningly pink.

"The mammal is entirely pink from tip to tail and has reddish eyes indicating it's albinism. The skin appears smooth, glossy pink and without flaws.

"I have personally spotted the pink dolphin 40 to 50 times in the time since the original sighting as it has apparently taken up residence with its family in the Calcasieu ship channel.

"As time has passed the young mammal has grown and sometimes ventures away from its mother to feed and play but always remains in the vicinity of the pod.

"Surprisingly, it does not appear to be drastically affected by the environment or sunlight as might be expected considering its condition, although it tends to remain below the surface a little more than the others in the pod."

Regina Asmutis-Silvia, senior biologist with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said: "I have never seen a dolphin coloured in this way in all my career.

"It is a truly beautiful dolphin but people should be careful, as with any dolphins, to respect it - observe from a distance, limit their time watching, don't chase or harass it

"While this animal looks pink, it is an albino which you can notice in the pink eyes.

"Albinism is a genetic trait and it unclear as to the type of albinism this animal inherited."

A close relation of dolphins, the Amazon River Botos, called pink dolphins, live in South America in the Amazon.

Size really does matter - at least in football, claim scientists

Football sides are more successful if their best players are taller and leaner, academics have claimed.

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspodent
Tall order: Football teams are more likely to be successful if the players are tall, scientists have claimed, like Peter Crouch
Tall players like Peter Crouch are more of a recipe for success. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Professors at Wolverhampton University reckon the best top-flight sides have bigger and leaner stars and are statistically less likely to win trophies with smaller players.

Their research claims size matters because "professional footballers are getting taller and slightly leaner...with a small but significant rise in BMI (Body Mass Index) over four decades".

Professor Alan Nevill, from the School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure - who studied nearly 900 players from four decades of English top flight football - said: "We looked at heights and weights and ages of professional footballers spanning over 40 years and looked at how heights and weights have developed, and sure enough, players are getting taller and leaner.

"The height to weight ratio is also changing, which was the key indicator for successful teams.

"The top six teams in the league appear to have more of these taller, leaner players, in comparison to the teams below them.

"These results suggest that football coaches and talent scouts should pay attention to the body shape when selecting potential players for their squads."

Prof. Nevill put the trend of increasing numbers of gangly stars down to their ability to lose heat from their bodies and close opponents down more quickly.

Prof Nevill added: "Apart from the fact that taller players will be more successful at heading the ball both defensively and in attack, they will be able to close down or limit opposition players' ability to pass and distribute the ball.

"Furthermore, taller, thinner people are able to dissipate heat more rapidly than shorter, heavier people, who overheat more quickly because of their smaller surface area.

"The concept of a player having to be big and muscular might've been true in the 80s, but nowadays that kind of player isn't the key kind of shape for Premier League players.

"Many of the differences in playing position were also anticipated, with goalkeepers, central defenders, and strikers being taller and heavier than players playing in wider positions.

"This was particularly true of strikers and players playing in the forward line - the likes of Thierry Henry, Peter Crouch and Ruud Van Nistelrooy are good examples of players who are key to the success of the teams we have studied."

The claims that successful teams have taller and leaner strikers will be good news for fans of Arsenal and Aston Villa - who boast two of the biggest forwards in the league in Emmanuel Adebayor and John Carew.

However, the study might come as more of a surprise to Man Utd fans - whose team sit top of the league despite their striker Carlos Tevez being the ninth shortest player in the Premier League.

Prof Nevill added: "We wanted to find out if there is any evidence that players are getting close to the limit of their physiological performance, and one of the ways to do that is to look at whether their shapes are changing.

"We all know footballers are struggling to avoid injury, and the sheer pressures of the game are appearing to increase with every decade.

"Decades ago it was not surprising to see a lot of players play every single match in a league season, but more recently that has become almost unheard of.

"The more successful players for teams who are winning more and getting into Europe are getting taller and leaner, and are not carrying as much weight as they used to."

Professor Nevill carried out the research with Adam Watts, from the University's School of Applied Sciences and Roger Holder, of the University of Birmingham's School of Mathematics and Statistics.

The findings have been published in the Journal of Sports Sciences.

20 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits [PICS]

Today and tomorrow I want to talk about taking Portraits that are a little out of the box. You see it’s all very well and good to have a portrait that follows all the rules - but it hit me as I was surfing on Flickr today that often the most striking portraits are those that break all the rules.

read more | digg story

Snoop Dogg joins the Nation of Islam

'I'm an advocate for peace,' claims rapper as he appears at US religious group convention

Rapper Snoop Dogg

Rapper Snoop Dogg ... has joined the US religious group made famous by Malcolm X. Photograph: Jason DeCrow/AP

Rapper Snoop Dogg surprised fans and reporters alike this weekend by revealing he has joined the Nation of Islam. Speaking at the religious group's Saviours' Day convention in Chicago, the 37-year-old praised the group's supreme minister and national representative Louis Farrakhan. It is reported by the Associated Press that he also made a donation to the group of $1,000.

Snoop Dogg, real name Calvin Broadus, talked about his reasons for joining the religious group in relatively loose terms. "I'm an advocate for peace. I've been in the peace movement ever since I've been making music," he told followers. "My whole thing is not about really trying to push my thing on you. It's just about the way I live, and I live how I'm supposed to live as far as doing what's right and representing what's right. That's why I was here today."

The Nation of Islam was founded in 1930 with the aim of promoting the conditions of black Americans. The group's most famous convert is activist Malcolm X.

Snoop Dogg's career has spanned nearly two decades and has been as controversial as it has been successful. He has been arrested numerous times, mainly for possession of marijuana, and was charged as an accomplice to the murder of Phillip Woldermarian in 1993. The rapper was found not guilty.

He sought to reinvent himself as a family man with the recent reality show Snoop Dogg's Father Hood, which portrays his domestic side along with his wife and three children. However, he was prevented from entering the UK in 2007 following a previous violent incident at Heathrow airport.

Discussing his religious beliefs at this weekend's Nation of Islam event, the Doggystyle rapper referred to himself as the "leader of the hip-hop community" and hinted that his affiliation with the group is not new. "It's about seeing yourself and what you can do to better the situation," Broadus said. "We're doing a lot of wrongs among ourselves that need correcting."

A dozen bizarre devices from medicine's dark past

Guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes of at least half our readers, this device was intended as a treatment for "nocturnal incontinence" and to prevent masturbation. It was designed to deter nighttime emissions by causing enough pain to waken the sleeper if an erection threatened.

read more | digg story

The 10 Most Important 'Dude' Ponytails

When a male character in a movie has a ponytail, the ponytail often says more about him than any of his words or actions. Whether he’s dangerous, heroic, sleazy, or even just bangin’ someone’s ex-girlfriend, a ponytail is a warning sign to all – there’s something a little suspicious going on with this dude...

read more | digg story

In a Lonely Cosmos, a Hunt for Worlds Like Ours

Ball Aerospace

PEERING DEEPLY The primary mirror of the Kepler telescope. The craft’s mission, set to begin Friday, is to discover Earth-like planets in Earth-like places.

Published: March 2, 2009

Someday it might be said that this was the beginning of the end of cosmic loneliness.

Troy Cryder/NASA

COSMOS CENSUS TAKER The Kepler spacecraft is coated with solar panels.

Presently perched on a Delta 2 rocket at Cape Canaveral is a one-ton spacecraft called Kepler. If all goes well, the rocket will lift off about 10:50 Friday evening on a journey that will eventually propel Kepler into orbit around the Sun. There the spacecraft’s mission will be to discover Earth-like planets in Earth-like places — that is to say, in the not-too-cold, not-too-hot, Goldilocks zones around stars where liquid water can exist.

The job, in short, is to find places where life as we know it is possible.

“It’s not E.T., but it’s E.T.’s home,” said William Borucki, an astronomer at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in California, who is the lead scientist on the project. Kepler, named after the German astronomer who in 1609 published laws of planetary motion that now bear his name, will look for tiny variations in starlight caused by planets passing in front of their stars. Dr. Borucki and his colleagues say that Kepler could find dozens of such planets — if they exist. The point is not to find any particular planet — hold off on the covered-wagon spaceships — but to find out just how rare planets like Earth are in the cosmos.

Jon Morse, director for astrophysics at NASA headquarters, calls Kepler the first planetary census taker.

Kepler’s strategy is, in effect, to search for the shadows of planets. The core of the spacecraft, which carries a 55-inch-diameter telescope, is a 95-million-pixel digital camera. For three and a half years, the telescope will stare at the same patch of sky about 10 degrees, or 20 full moons, wide, in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra. It will read out the brightnesses of 100,000 stars every half-hour, looking for the telltale blips when a planet crosses in front of its star, a phenomenon known as a transit.

To detect something as small as the Earth, the measurements need to be done with a precision available only in space, away from the atmospheric turbulence that makes stars twinkle, and far from Earth so that our home world does not intrude on the view of shadow worlds in that patch of sky. It will take three or more years — until the end of Barack Obama’s current term in office — before astronomers know whether Kepler has found any distant Earths.

If Kepler finds the planets, Dr. Borucki explained, life could be common in the universe. The results will point the way for future missions aimed at getting pictures of what Carl Sagan, the late Cornell astronomer and science popularizer, called “pale blue dots” out in the universe, and the search for life and perhaps intelligence.

But the results will be profound either way. If Kepler doesn’t come through, that means Earth is really rare and we might be the only extant life in the universe and our loneliness is just beginning. “It would mean there might not be ‘Star Trek,’ ” Dr. Borucki said during a recent news conference.

The need, indeed even the possibility, of a planetary census is a recent development in cosmic history. It was only in 1995 that the first planet was detected orbiting another Sun-like star, by Michel Mayor and his colleagues at Geneva Observatory. In the years since then there has been a torrent of discoveries, 340 and counting, that has bewildered astronomers and captured the popular imagination.

“What exists is an incredibly random, chaotic, wild range of planets,” said Debra Fischer of San Francisco State University, also a veteran planet hunter who is not a member of the Kepler team. So far none of them qualify as prime real estate for life, and few of them reside in systems that resemble our own solar system. Many of the first planets discovered were so-called hot Jupiters, gas giants zipping around their stars in a few days in tight, blisteringly hot orbits.

Most of the planets have been found by what is called the wobble method, in which the presence of a planet is deduced by observing the to-and-fro gravitational tug it gives its star as it orbits. The closer a planet is to its star, the bigger the tug and the easier it is to detect.

The smallest exoplanet discovered is about three times as massive as the Earth. It is known as MOA-2007-BLG-192-L b, but astronomers don’t know yet whether its home star is real star or a failed star called a brown dwarf.

Last summer Dr. Mayor announced that his team had found three so-called warm super-Earths — roughly four, seven and nine times the mass of the Earth — orbiting within frying distance of a star known as HD 40307 in the constellation Pictor. Indeed, Dr. Mayor proclaimed that according to their data, about a third of all Sun-like stars host such super-Earths or super-Neptunes in tight orbits.

But all this is prelude. Astronomers agree that these planets are oddballs according to any reasonable theory of planet formation. But as Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Washington pointed out, they are easy to detect by the wobble method. The fact that they are there suggests that there are many more modest-size planets to be found in larger, more habitable orbits.

The Kepler mission is a tribute to the perseverance of Dr. Borucki, who began proposing it to NASA in the 1980s, before any exoplanets had been discovered, and kept campaigning for it. “He had the true faith,” Dr. Boss said.

Many technical hurdles had be overcome before Kepler became practical. In particular it required very accurate and sensitive digital detectors, said James Fanson, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Kepler’s project manager. As seen from outside the solar system, the Earth blocks only about 0.008 percent of the Sun’s light when it passes in front, or “transits.” Kepler has been built to detect changes in brightness as small as 0.002 percent, equivalent to a flea crawling across a car headlight.

By measuring the diminution of a star’s light during an exoplanet transit, astronomers in principle will be able to determine the size of the exoplanet. From the intervals between eclipses, astronomers will be able to determine its orbit.. By combining this with other data, from, say, wobble measurements, they will be able to zero in on important properties like mass and density.

However, natural variations in the star’s output, caused by something like starspots, could interfere with the data and obscure the signals from small planets. That is a problem, Dr. Fanson said, with the Corot satellite, which was launched by the European Space Agency at the end of 2006 and also carries a telescope and camera to look for small changes in starlight. To weed out the noisy stars, Kepler will keep track of 170,000 stars for the first year and then narrow its attention to a mere 100,000.

Corot, which stands for convection, rotation and planetary transits, is smaller than Kepler and is designed to investigate the structure of stars by detecting vibrations and tremors within them that cause them to periodically brighten and fade. Corot, which Dr. Borucki called “a complementary mission,” also looks at a given patch of stars for only a few months and so would miss the successive transits of an Earth-like planet, which, to be habitable, would have to take about a year to orbit a Sun-like star.

Not all 100,000 stars in the field of Kepler’s view would have their planetary systems oriented to provide eclipses from our particular point of view, of course. Dr. Borucki and his colleagues estimate that for an Earth-like star in its habitable zone, the stars would align to produce a blot out in half of 1 percent of cases, yielding a few dozen to a few hundred new Earths out there. For planets that are closer in, however, the odds rise to about 10 percent, so there are ample reasons to expect a bumper crop of new planets.

Dr. Borucki said the astronomers had set the goal of observing at least three such transits, to confirm the period and rule out interference from starspots, and then obtaining backup observations from other telescopes — of wobble measurements, say — before announcing they have found a planet.

“When we make a discovery we want it to be bulletproof,” Dr. Borucki said.

That means that the first planets to be discovered and announced will be the biggest planets with the shortest orbits, the so-called hot Jupiters. Four stars with such planets are in the search area and thus will be an early test of Kepler’s acuity.

“In the first six months, hot Jupiters are going to roll off the Kepler assembly line,” Dr. Fischer said, adding, “These are bizarre planets, we don’t understand how they form.”

The hardest and most exciting part of the mission, detecting bona fide Earths, will also take the longest. Such a planet should take about a year to circle a Sun-like star, producing only one blip a year in its starlight. So it would take more than three years to produce the requisite three blips and subsequent confirmation by ground-based telescopes before the epochal discovery is announced.

Dr. Borucki said, “We’re not going to be able to tell you very quickly.”

But they will eventually tell us.

Dr. Boss, a high-ranking member of the Kepler science team, said: “It really is going to count many Earths. About four years from now we will have a really good estimate of how many Earths there are.”

If the history of exoplanet astronomy is any guide, there are likely to be surprises that geologists had not imagined — water worlds, for example. And then, if all keeps going well, it will be time to confront the next series of questions: whether anywhere else in this galaxy the dust that once spewed from stars has come alive and conscious.

“In my 25 years of working with NASA this is the most exciting mission I’ve worked on, said Dr. Fanson, who will step down as project manager after the launching. “We are going to be able to answer for the first time a question that has been pondered since the time of the ancient Greeks. Are there other worlds like ours? The question has come down to us from 100 generations. We get to answer it. I find that tremendously exciting.”

When a reporter departed from journalistic objectivity to venture a hope that other Earths are out there, Dr. Fanson happily joined in. “I hope the answer is yes,” he said. “I hope the universe is teeming with planets like Earth.”

Ancient Language of Universal Symbols Discovered

Babel Over the last several years, similar petroglyphs have been identified on as many as five continents. They all date from roughly the same time-period. In the late 20th century, archaeologists discovered a collection of symbols carved in stone as petroglyphs in the Negev desert of Israel that appeared to be writing. Dating of these symbols showed that they were made over an extended period time, beginning around 1700 BC.

Ancient_petroglyphsThis strange collection of symbols was first examined by Dr. James Harris, a petroglyph expert and archaeologist from Brigham Young University. He identified the alphabet as being a proto-Canaanite system, which successfully translated by using old-Hebrew or Thalmudic phonetic sounds.

Earlier, William McGlone, an amateur archaeologist and retired space engineer, discovered the same collection of symbols carved in heavily patinated stones surrounding the Southeast town of La Junta, Colorado. Dating of the patina corresponded to the same era as the writing found in Harkarkom in Israel.

The petroglyphs in Colorado were photographed and posted on the Internet. Within a few years, images of similar petroglyphs were sent to the site where the images were hosted, Viewzone, by archaeologists and historians from many different global locations. This included a huge collection of writing from the Republic of Yemen at the site of the palace of the Queen of Sheba.

Strangely, both the writing in Colorado and Yemen spoke of a similar event, possibly related to the Sun, which was prophesied to change human civilization. Subsequent translations of sites in Oklahoma, Australia and South America have added more details about this future event.

The majority of the petroglyphs have already been verified to be of ancient origin, which makes it quite puzzling to experts. How did they all have the same language and tell the same story on opposite ends of a globe? Perhaps our ancient ancestors traveled more than previously thought possible.

Research is currently being conducted to further validate the authenticity and common features of the writing.

Posted by Rebecca Sato.


1 in 31 Americans in jail; cost of locking them up too high

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - One in every 31 U.S. adults is in the corrections system, which includes jail, prison, probation and supervision, more than double the rate of a quarter century ago, according to a report released on Monday by the Pew Center on the States.

The study, which said the current rate compares to one in 77 in 1982, concluded that with declining resources, more emphasis should be put on community supervision, not jail or prison.

"Violent and career criminals need to be locked up, and for a long time. But our research shows that prisons are housing too many people who can be managed safely and held accountable in the community at far lower cost," said Adam Gelb, director of the Center's Public Safety Performance Project, which produced the report.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate and the biggest prison population of any country in the world, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Most of those in the U.S. corrections system -- one in 45 -- are already on probation or parole, with one in 100 in prison or jail, the Pew study found.

Those numbers are higher in certain areas of the country, and Georgia tops all states with one in 13 adults in the justice system. The other leading states are Idaho, where one in 18 are in corrections and Texas, where the rate is one in 22. In the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., nearly 5 percent of adults are in the city's penal system.

This was the first criminal justice study that took into account those on probation and parole as well as federal convicts, Pew said.


The numbers are also concentrated among groups, with a little more than 9 percent of black adults in prisons or jails or on probation or parole, as opposed to some 4 percent of Hispanics and 2 percent of whites.

Pew compiled the report as states consider cutting corrections spending during the recession. The research group said that by changing sentencing laws and probation programs states can lower incarceration rates and save money.

"Among the many programs that are competing for scarce taxpayer dollars, there is one area of the state budget that could use some trimming, and that area is corrections," said Susan Urahn, the center's managing director, in a call with reporters. "The bottom line is that states are spending too much."

Penitentiary systems have been the fastest-growing spending area for states after Medicaid, the healthcare program for those with low income. Over the last 20 years their spending on criminal justice has increased more than 300 percent, the study found.

During the last 25 years prison and jail populations have grown 274 percent to 2.3 million in 2008, according to the Pew research, while those under supervision grew 226 percent over the same span to 5.1 million.

It estimated states spent a record $51.7 billion on corrections in fiscal year 2008 and incarcerating one inmate cost them, on average, $29,000 a year. But the average annual cost of managing an offender through probation was $1,250 and through parole $2,750.

"The huge differences between states are mostly due not to crime trends, or social and economic forces," Gelb said. "The rates are different mostly because of choices that the states have made about how they respond to crime."

"New community supervision strategies and technologies need to be strengthened and expanded, not scaled back. Cutting them may appear to save a few dollars, but it doesn't," Gelb said.

Some states have begun experimenting with ankle bracelets, Global Positioning Systems, and even kiosks akin to cash machines in order to track those on probation for less, he said.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Eric Walsh)

Everybody must get stoned

A new plan to legalize marijuana in California would create a $1 billion tokin' tax and thousands of green jobs. Now that's a stimulus plan!

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Pot smoker

A man smokes marijuana before the "Marijuana March" in Toronto May 3, 2008. Reuters/Mark Blinch

Listen to the interview with Tom Ammiano

March 3, 2009 | Can Californians help dig themselves out of their historic fiscal crisis by getting high? Tom Ammiano thinks so, and he isn't smoking a thing.

On Feb. 23, the California State Assembly member introduced legislation that would regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana, and then tax it. By legalizing pot, the San Francisco lawmaker argues, the state could reap huge new revenues. Currently pot is California's biggest cash crop, with annual sales reaching $14 billion. Vegetables, the state's second hottest agricultural product, take in a mere $5.7 billion. And California's famous grapes? A piddling $2.6 billion.

If passed, the Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act would give California control of pot in a manner similar to alcohol, while prohibiting its purchase to citizens under age 21. The state's tax collectors estimate the measure would bring in about $1.3 billion in new revenues a year.

Ammiano, a former schoolteacher and stand-up comedian, has been one of the most famous activists and politicians in San Francisco for decades. In the late '70s, he jump-started the movement against the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gay teachers in California (he appeared as himself in the film "Milk"), served on the San Francisco Board of Education, and later was president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Salon recently spoke to him about why he thinks making pot legit would have California smiling.

Why legalize marijuana in California now?

There's gold in them thar hills! We have one of the worst budget situations we've ever had, and it's a $14 billion industry that's not going away. Everybody knows this and nobody has wanted to go after it. I, frankly, think the time has come.

Even if California did regulate and tax selling marijuana, wouldn't it still be illegal at the federal level?

Federal law preempts a lot of things we've done in California, anyway -- domestic partners, gay marriage, the medical use of marijuana. Certainly the Obama administration has been telegraphing they'd like to revisit the failed war on drugs. New Attorney General Eric Holder just issued an edict: No more raids on medical marijuana dispensers. And, man, if that doesn't reinforce what I have been saying, I don't know what does. Of course, everyone likes to be in the position of saying, "See, I told you I was right."

In many ways, it's common sense. You have drug cartels growing marijuana in our national parks. It's no more the hippie-dippy guy or woman in Humboldt. This is organized crime with no morality and no value of human life. Look at the money you would save in law enforcement by regulating marijuana, decriminalizing it and putting those resources into serious crimes. The black market and the street sales would decline. Pumping $1 billion into our economy is going to provide a lot of green jobs. No pun intended. Obama seems to be a bright-enough guy to realize that.

How would your legislation affect the people in prison for nonviolent drug offenses related to marijuana?

That would be another cost savings. If it's decriminalized, the source dries up, and you stop the flow of people into prison.

How do you imagine marijuana being sold? Would it be in bars and restaurants and corner stores?

All of that is to be determined. We don't want it to be for anyone under 21. You still can't drive under the influence of it. But the broader thing for me is getting it decriminalized, through the law, and then coming up with the regulations.

Do you think legalizing it endorses its use?

It's use is there anyway. People do it everywhere. It's better if you have a situation, like with booze, when you regulate it. If you're smoking the legal product, you're an adult, and it's not full of pesticides, additives or other crap. The environment would benefit because a lot of these rogue plantations pollute the water source and deplete the soil. The growers pull up and walk away without any kind of remediation. You have to admit to reality here. I think everyone has been on this big denial trip.

Don't you think you're going to see resistance because of the idea that pot is a gateway drug that leads to other illicit drugs?

A lot of those issues came up around medical marijuana, and most of them were put to rest. But there are always going to be people who believe that no matter how many statistics you give them.

Would legalizing pot create new smokers?

I have no idea. But I know there are a lot of statistics around marijuana usage, and a lot of the reefer madness fears are not substantiated.

Do you really expect this bill to pass? Or do you want to spark a debate and get a conversation going?

Getting the conversation going is definitely part of it. But getting it passed is my goal. I do have support from a lot of colleagues, who say: "Oh my God, I think this is great, but I don't think I can vote for it." So it's going to be my job, even in conservative areas, to say: "Vote for it. This is something that will help your community. You may be a Republican, you may be conservative, but your health clinic just closed, your husband just go laid off." These are the kind of bread-and-butter issues that are going to be very seductive to people.

Have you smoked pot?

I certainly experimented. But I'm more of a martini guy.

What do you say to the Bill O'Reilly types who will protest that "San Francisco values" will infect the whole state and even the country?

We're a city that has done a lot of progressive things that have been beneficial on a social justice level, and the world did not end. So we have nothing to be defensive about. In fact, other countries laugh at us for our drug laws. Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and most of Europe have very liberalized drug laws in and around harm reduction.

God knows what Bill O'Reilly does. I'd hate to see his pharmacy bill.

The Original Be Like Mike Gatorade Commercial Share Video

Description: This is the original "Be Like Mike" Gatorade commercial from 1992.

Woody Allen's 'Whatever' opening Tribeca

Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood star in director's latest

By Gregg Kilday

Woody Allen's "Whatever Works" will open the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.

Allen's latest film, and the first that he has filmed in New York in four years, will raise the curtain on the fest on April 22.

"Works," starring Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley Jr., will be released by Sony Pictures Classics in the summer.

"I fell in love with New York through Woody Allen's movies, and I am excited we are opening this year's festival with Sony Pictures Classics for the world premiere of Woody's 'Whatever Works,' " Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal said. " 'Whatever Works' is a uniquely funny addition to his body of work."

Allen called his film's selection "a lovely idea ... showing my film in a film festival in my own city. It's very exciting."

The fest is set to run April 22-May 3.

NBA Forced to Scrap Alter-Ego Shirt Idea (Krypto-Nate)


NOT AVAILABLE: This T-shirt, which would have commemorated the Slam Dunk title won by the Knicks' Nate Robinson, was shelved by the NBA because of intellectual property issues with DC Comics.
NOT AVAILABLE: This T-shirt, which would have commemorated the Slam Dunk title won by the Knicks' Nate Robinson, was shelved by the NBA because of intellectual property issues with DC Comics.

Nate Robinson and his Krypto-Nate alter-ego have become such a phenomenon, DC Comics, the originator of Superman, wants a piece of the action, The Post has learned.

Two days after the 5-7½ Robinson spectacularly won the Slam-Dunk competition during All-Star weekend, the NBA announced plans to release a green Krypto-Nate T-shirt for sale at the NBA Store and


One day later, the NBA scrapped its plan because of intellectual property issues with DC Comics, the originator of the Superman comic books. DC Comics' offices are located on Broadway, near the NBA Store.

Robinson's Krypto-Nate scheme - designed to topple a red-caped Dwight Howard and his Superman shtick - was too close to home for DC Comics. Kryptonite is the green emerald crystal found on the fictional planet Krypton that weakens Superman.

The NBA is now looking to involve DC Comics in future Krypto-Nate endeavors, according to a league source.

"The NBA decided not to release the Krypto-Nate T-shirt because of future initiatives we are working on with Warner/DC Comics," an NBA source told The Post.

The NBA instead released a generic Robinson T-shirt containing only Robinson's name and status as the 2006 and 2009 Slam-Dunk champion.

The NBA also has made Robinson's green Spalding ball he used on his leap over Howard available for auction on its Web site.

Austin Trunick, publicity coordinator of DC Comics, wrote in an e-mail, "We're going to decline participation in this story."

Robinson said he and Howard are planning to do commercials together with the Krypto-Nate/Superman theme. It's unknown if DC Comics will be involved.

It has been a whirlwind three weeks for Robinson, a firestorm February upping his market value as a free agent July 1.

With Robinson now a legitimate candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, Donnie Walsh, whose club is off till Wednesday vs. Atlanta, has more to contemplate, with the balancing act of keeping open 2010 cap space for LeBron James and another star.

Before this surge, Robinson was viewed as a mid-level exception guy ($5.9M per). If David Lee asks for $10M per, Robinson's agents, Aaron and Eric Goodwin, may be looking for a payday not too far off.

"All I know is Seattle and here," Robinson said. "This is where I want to be."

Robinson's fabulous February began in Los Angeles right before the All-Star break, when started at point guard for injured Chris Duhon. Robinson scored 33 points, 15 assists, 5 steals and 9 rebounds. It was the first time in 40 years a Knick had scored 30-plus points and had 15 assists - last done by Walt Frazier Feb. 18, 1969.

Robinson then leapt over Howard in Phoenix as Krypto-Nate and came surging out of the break with a series of dazzling performances, a spot on the Letterman Show, and funny interaction with actor Will Ferrell, his idol, sitting on celebrity row. Robinson has averaged 28 points in the last eight games.

According to a source, the Kings, Lakers and Oklahoma City made plays for Robinson at the trade deadline.

"I don't care honestly," Robinson said of postseason honors. "Making the playoffs is way more important than Sixth Man."

Rewiring the Brain: Inside the New Science of Neuroengineering

By Quinn Norton Email
Dr. Boyden replaces acover on sensitive laser equipment at the Neuroengineering and Neuromedia Lab at MIT.
Photo: Quinn Norton

First of two parts.

Dr. Ed Boyden is showing off his lab's equipment with naked delight. We've whizzed past a laser table, a 3-D printer and some rattling biological shakers, and come to rest beside a water cutter.

Boyden picks up a piece of scrap metal and demonstrates how the cutter uses a powerful stream of water and fine bits of garnet (nearly as hard as diamond) to slice precisely through almost any material. It can be used to build nearly anything. He pauses, and considers. "We're probably the only lab in the world that uses a water cutter to build neural interfaces."

Boyden directs MIT's Neuroengineering and Neuromedia Lab, part of the MIT Media Lab. He explains the mission of neuroengineering this way: "If we take seriously the idea that our minds are implemented in the circuits of our brains, then it becomes a top priority to understand how to engineer brains for the better."

Here, neuroscience is not merely studied, it is applied. Which is why we're off again, to see the molecular engineer's microscope, the viral growing area, and the machine where they cut micron-thin slices of mouse brains in order to evaluate what changes they've made using the rest of the equipment.

Human beings worked out a few thousand years ago that the brain is where the action is. Since then we've been trying to get it to do what we want it to.

Like a computer, the power of the brain arises out of how the many parts constantly and quickly talk to each other. But unlike the electrical circuits in a computer, brain cells aren't physically connected to one another. Neurons communicate across tiny empty spaces, called synapses, that lie between the tendrils of neuronal cell bodies. This almost-but-not-quite touching is what gives them such flexibility as those connections form and fade throughout our lives.

Most of what we think of as our ability to learn and change comes from the pattern of those synapses. In a way, history is the story of trying to manipulate those patterns through learning, faith, love, drugs, food, exercise — in short, anything and everything. We have spent thousands of years working out indirect ways of changing the contours of our brains to change the shape of our minds.

Neuroengineers, on the other hand, take a pragmatic and direct approach. They are trying to change brains by going in and just changing them.

Boyden, a bespectacled professor with a soft smile, speaks rapidly and expansively. He has been a polymath all his life, plunging into one discipline after another. It's hard to imagine there was ever a time when he wasn't moving.

"Early in life, I wanted to be a mathematician," he says. He walked the path of the quantitative universe, studying math, then physics, then electrical engineering, trying to understand the universe — trying to change it in precise ways. But it was birds and serendipity that brought him to the messy human brain.

"I decided to go to Bell Labs and learn lasers," Boyden says, "but the person I wanted to work with was going home to Germany, so I ended up working with his neighbor, Michael Fee, who was analyzing how the bird brain generated birdsong. That experience was my first work in biology or neuroscience." Boyden had a new all-consuming passion.

Not long after he found himself in the Stanford University lab of Dr. Karl Deisseroth, combining his abilities as an engineer with his new calling as a neuroscientist. There, Boyden was part of a team that invented a new way of controlling brain cells. Employing molecular biology, genetic engineering, surgery, fiber optics and lasers, they created a kind of "light switch" which was then used to control a group of neurons.

Dr. Karl Deisseroth of Stanford's Deisseroth Lab with a powerful microscope used for molecular engineering. Photo: Quinn Norton

How it works: The researcher modifies a harmless, non-reproducing virus to add genes to a particular type of cell, in this case a target type of neuron in a mouse.

The genes come from two sources: one from an algae, and the other from an archeon found only in the Sahara Desert. These genes respond to light either by switching the cell off or causing it to fire up.

The archeon is as far from us as life on Earth gets. Archaea are unfathomably old: Our last common ancestor probably lived around 2.7 billion years ago. They are so simple they are nothing but single cells without a nucleus, but we are still relatives. We use the same system of genetic proteins and the same cellular mechanisms to read and act upon them. So if we take a bit of an archeon's DNA that responds to yellow light and transplant it into a nerve cell in the brain of the most sophisticated biological system on Earth, it just works: When stimulated with yellow light, the archeon's gene makes the nerve go quiet.

The gene lifted from an algae, a distant but not-quite-so-distant relative, works in a similar way, except that it causes the cell to fire, which occurs when the gene receives a pulse of blue light.

Et voila, the mechanics of a light switch: blue light to turn the neuron on, yellow light to turn it off.

The next step is getting the switch into the brain. The body is good at killing viruses, so it's not simply a question of infecting someone with a brain control flu. The only way to get a virus like this into the brain is to put it there directly.

Then there's the matter of getting the right colors of light past the skull and into the precise spot to be controlled. All of this means Deisseroth's team has to open up the mouse's head surgically, apply the virus to the desired area, then feed in a fiber optic cable that will continue to protrude out of the mouse's head after the surgery has healed up. Then they attach the fiber optic cable to lasers that can pump in the precise frequencies of light needed to control the cells.

Once it's done, though, they have absolute control over the section of the brain involved. Fed into the left motor cortex, the area that controls movement, it could make someone dance to the right. Fed into the pleasure center of the brain, it could make someone happy with the press of a button.

It's hard to tell if a mouse is happy, but attaching this system to its motor cortex makes a dramatic demo. Deisseroth, who is still developing this technology at Stanford, plays the video of a mouse wandering around its container. The fiber optic cable leading into its brain is barely visible until someone turns on the blue light. Then the animal runs to the left in large, almost perfectly circular loops. "You've got to wonder what he's is thinking," Deisseroth muses. "It's 'I gotta go left, I gotta go left.'"

The list of experts needed to get this done is daunting: various biologists, an ecologist, a geneticist, a neurologist, a surgeon, a laser physicist and — whether they're invited or not — a bioethicist or two. Making mice run in circles is one thing, but installing mood switches into human brains raises more consequential moral issues.

"If we surgically or electrically modify someone's personality ... that raises many questions about personal identity, [of] who we are at our core," says Dr. Debra Matthews of The Berman Institute of Bioethics. "We place ourselves in the mind and therefore the brain. [Mood-altering surgery] feels like fundamentally modifying who a person is."

Matthews, herself a medical doctor and geneticist, says that application of this technology will be difficult, practically as well as ethically. "It's hard enough to translate what a drug is doing in a mouse to what it's doing in a human. This could be orders of magnitude harder."

Yet this is the very task of the Deisseroth lab, located deep in a basement at Stanford, down a perfectly white hall inexplicably streaked with jagged red neon. The lab itself is a jumble of metal bookshelves, crammed with weighty psychology and physics texts, as well as a place to display some whimsically personal touches: Pinned up against the end cap of one desk is a Sigmund Freud action figure, still in its box. Down the hall is the animal experimentation area, a quiet room filled with glass tanks and partitioned with black cloths hanging from the ceiling.

While Deisseroth studies the organ of the mind, he also seeks to strengthen it to resist its pathologies and moments of inadequacy.

"How surprising [it is], clearly we did not evolve to do calculus. Nothing in our evolution involved calculus and yet we can do it. Why is that? It just shows the fundamental versatility of our brain. That it's set up to do unanticipated things gives me hope," he says.

Deisseroth started as a regular engineering undergrad at Harvard. But his path took a twist when he took a class on neural networks. He was enchanted, decided he wanted to spend his life focused on the real neural network, and became a psychiatrist. Eventually, frustrated with the paucity of tools for working directly with the brain, he started building his own.

Deisseroth still spends one day a week seeing patients. In his practice he treats depression. Talking about their hopelessness darkens his otherwise ebullient demeanor. "I see the lack of [hope] in my patients.... I want to understand the biological underpinnings of [it]," he says. His clinical time gives his research a sense of human immediacy rare in academia.

However odd or uncomfortable the idea of engineering the human brain might seem, if yours is broken enough, the philosophical arguments cease to hold any water: You just want it fixed. Nowhere is this more true than for someone suffering from depression. For the most serious sufferers the condition transforms the natural dread of death into something like their only hope for peace, undermining the basic urge to survive. It's as confusing to understand clinically as it is to experience.

"Depression ... is where the brain substrate is all there but the mind is not coming through," says Deisseroth. "The neurons are ready to go, but the mind is not driving them right."

Antidepressants are commonly used for treating depression, but they're incredibly crude tools. Instead of precision engineering, these drugs are the equivalent of trying to build a bridge by piling up a lot of rocks. They go everywhere in the body and interact with everything. In order to get past the blood-brain barrier, psychoactive drugs often must be delivered in much higher concentrations into the blood, often causing unpleasant and dangerous side effects. When a drug does get to the brain, its effects are felt in all parts of the brain, including our mental faculties, our senses, even how we move — not just the broken bits.

These problems severely limit what drugs are ever likely to accomplish, despite the hopes of the pharmaceutical industry. Worse, recent studies have shown strong evidence that anti-depressants probably aren't even working much of the time. That our drugs seem very advanced and specialized is only in comparison to the horror stories of the thorazine shuffle and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

Not only that, the drugs' side effects are so strange and inconsistent that they point to our bodies being far more individual than medicine is equipped to handle, and to our minds being far more complicated.

Deisseroth is blunt. "Not only do we not have a model for how our brains do complex tasks, we can't even imagine one."

Metaphorically, the neuroengineering approach brings the study of the brain into the Age of Enlightenment. By isolating, then testing and altering individual parts of the neural system, we can, for the first time, truly understand what those components do. Ultimately, we can enhance an individual function while leaving the rest of the system untouched. It's the same transition that let us move from alchemy to atomic physics. Boyden is trying to get his optical switch precise enough to fire a single neuron, the atomic unit of the mind.

This is what makes the possibilities of neuroengineering so staggering. Its pioneers are bringing science and technology into a system basically unchanged since we climbed down from the trees.

Zack de la Rocha Leads an Army Against Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Led by Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha, as well Phoenix civil rights activist Salvador Reza, and Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, protesters demanded an end to the federal 287(g) program, and specifically an end to the terror Arpaio's 160-man 287(g) force has instilled in immigrant communities in Maricopa County.

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Fmr. Mexican Ambassador Says Legalize Drugs to Stop Cartels

Despite a surge of military and police forces across the country, the killings continue – more than 5,000 last year. Some regions are terrorized by a wave of kidnappings, assassinations and beheadings.

Iraq? Afghanistan? Pakistan? Somalia? In fact, the country – which a recent U.S military study warned could be at risk of "a rapid and sudden collapse" – is none other than Mexico. Two years into President Felipe Calderon's war against the drug cartels, and the cartels' ensuing war with each other, this is a nation at war with itself.

To be sure, the government has had its successes. Huge weapons caches have been seized, large tracts of illegal drug crops have been eradicated and an increasing number of cartel kingpins, couriers and foot soldiers have been put behind bars.

But despite these tactical victories, Mexico's fight – attacking the supply-side of the western hemisphere's drug war – will remain an unwinnable war so long as its northern neighbor fails to attack the demand side: Americans' insatiable appetite for illicit drugs.

When then-President-elect Barack Obama met President Calderon in January, he reaffirmed Washington's support for Mexico's heroic efforts. But he should remember Plan Colombia, which has cost American taxpayers $8 billion. While Colombian cartels have been weakened, there has been no significant reduction in the amount of cocaine and other drugs shipped out of Colombia, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

So long as the vast American market for cocaine, heroin and other drugs yields irresistible profits, the cartels will continue taking the risks of producing, transporting and distributing the products their customers want. Even with U.S. support for Mexico's fight – $450 million this year – the cartels will always have more money and guns at their disposal. Even if the U.S.-Mexico border were improbably sealed, the traffickers would find alternate routes to their American customers.

Mexico's war on supply must be matched, once and for all, by a real American war on demand.

Despite decades of a supposed U.S. "war on drugs" – including some of the harshest penalties for drug use in the world – the percentage of Americans using cocaine, heroin, crack, marijuana and methamphetamines has remained largely steady in recent years, according to the latest National Drug Threat Assessment. Given population growth, the number of users has actually increased to 35 million Americans, including the world's highest use rates of cocaine and marijuana.

So how to achieve major reductions in American demand for illegal drugs, as well as the profitability and criminality it fuels?

Seventy-five years after its repeal, Prohibition remains instructive. Like the 13-year ban on alcohol, the illegality of drugs failed to curb demand. Like the bootleggers and gangsterism of that era, today's drug cartels are simply serving popular demand.

As with the repeal of Prohibition, the U.S. must again follow a common-sense approach by thinking the unthinkable: the gradual legalization of some drugs.

For such a change in strategy, the U.S. must recognize that all drugs are not created equal. It is now clear that marijuana and methamphetamines do not have the same harmful effects as cocaine, heroin, opium and other hard drugs. Discriminating among different drugs – as does the new Massachusetts law decriminalizing possession of less than an ounce of marijuana – points the way toward a more rational approach.

At great cost, in blood and treasure, Mexico is fulfilling its responsibility with a war on supply. It's time the U.S. fulfills its responsibility with a real war on demand.

Ambassador Andrés Rozental, former deputy foreign minister of Mexico, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and may be reached at Stanley A. Weiss is founding chairman of Business Executives for National Security, a nonpartisan Washington-based organization, and may be reached at

Venice from Above

The Venice Film Festival opened on Wednesday, August 27, 2008 with stars, movie-goers and photographers descending on the famed city. Dan Kitwood, an entertainment photographer from Getty, took the opportunity to make some aerial images of Venice.

The “City of Water” is located in northeast Italy, spanning 118 islands in the Venetian Lagoon. Buildings in Venice were constructed on wood piles driven into the mud, sand and clay layers under the lagoon. Many of the buildings in Venice still sit on these piles driven more than a thousand years ago.

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More Links:
Map of Venice - Google Maps
Venice Wikipedia Page
Official City of Venice Site
Virtual Travel Site for Venice
Photographer Dan Kitwood’s Photostream -
Historic Images of Venice

Extremely Rare Bird Photographed for First Time - Then Eaten

Written by Jake Richardson


A species of bird so rare it was thought perhaps to be extinct was captured on video and still images in the Phillipines province of Nueva Vizcaya… right before it was cooked and eaten.

The Worcester’s buttonquail (Turnix worcesteri) lives only in the Phillipines, but had not been seen in many years, and was previously only known through illustration based on dead specimens collected centuries ago. One wild live buttonquail was inadvertently filmed in a mountainous area during the making of a documentary on the traditional methods of bird-trapping in northern Luzon. But neither the local crew nor the bird-trappers at the time of the filming understood how rare the bird was, so it was sold at a poultry market, then cooked and eaten.

The bird had already been consumed by the time its image was noticed in a viewing of the bird-trapping documentary by a member of the World Bird Club of the Phillipines. The WBCP reported the posthumous discovery of the extremely scarce bird. Mike Lu, the club’s president said: “We are ecstatic that this rarely seen species was photographed by accident. It may be the only photo of this poorly known bird. But I also feel sad that the locals do not value the biodiversity around them and that this bird was sold for only P10 and headed for the cooking pot”. P10 is about twenty American cents.

Desmond Allen was the WBCP member who was watching the appropriately named documentary “Bye-Bye Birdie” when he spotted the buttonquail in a still image among the credits. Mr. Allen is a life-long birder, with 50 years of experience. He maintains an extensive collection of bird calls on his ipod. The trapping documentary is viewable on YouTube via the producer’s blog.

The extremely rare quail is listed on the IUCN Red List of threatened species as ‘data deficient’, which means there is not enough data available to determine an animal’s conservation status.

Image Credit: Arnel Telesforo