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Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's official: we really have saved the ozone layer

by Chris Rowan

During our little climatic digression in this week's podclast, Chris brought up a study that I hadn't heard about, in which Paul Newman (no, not that one) of NASA's Goddard Centre (who have a nice write-up) and his colleagues play a game of climatic what if: what if the discovery that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) destroyed stratospheric ozone had been ignored, and were not phased out in the decade following the signing of the Montreal Protocol in 1987? Do our more sophisticated climate models, which can more accurately simulate atmospheric chemistry and wind patterns, confirm the hypothesis that if we had continued to emit CFCs and other ozone destroying chemicals, the ozone layer would have been severely damaged?

To answer this question, Newman et al. ran two scenarios in the same climate model, and charted the evolution of stratospheric ozone in each. The first model was based on the current (low) emissions of ozone-destroying chemicals resulting from the implementation of the Montreal Protocol; in the second, rather poetically named "world avoided" model, CFC emissions increase by 3% a year ("business as usual") after 1974, when the ozone alarm was first sounded (and was presumably ignored in this parallel universe).

Animations fully depicting the results of both scenarios between 1974 and 2065, are available, and are well worth a watch. Below I show some edited highlights: side-by-side comparisons of the two models during September/October (southern hemisphere spring, when the Antarctic ozone hole reaches it's maximum extent) in 2008, 2020, 2040 and 2060.

2008.png ozone_scale.png

The snapshot from last year already shows a clear divergence between the two models; the ozone hole in our reality is still prominent (once you account for the difference in scale, it matches quite well with the actual one), but far more ozone seems to be being destroyed in the world we avoided. The models therefore suggest that even though the ozone hole hasn't fully healed, cutting back on CFC emissions has clearly limited the extent of the damage.

2020.png

2040.png

This difference in the south polar region becomes more pronounced through 2020 and 2040; the animations also show that by 2040, the Antarctic of the "world avoided" has an ozone hole for all or most of the year, rather than just for a couple of months. Even more ominously for the residents of this alternative world, the much bluer colours at lower latitudes indicate that ozone depletion is also occurring outside the polar regions. In fact, by 2040 the average atmospheric concentration of ozone is below the 220 Dobson Units (DU - see the scale below the 2008 figure) which is used to characterise the modern ozone hole. So in a certain sense, there is no 'hole' anymore - it's gone global.

2060.png

And if that looks scary, by 2060 there's virtually no stratospheric ozone anywhere. It's gone, and with it our protection against ultraviolet radiation. The authors put it in pretty stark terms:

DNA damaging UV for the [Northern Hemisphere] midlatitudes increases by approximately 550% between 1980 and 2065.

UV_in_world_avoided.png

It should be noted that these models only looked in detail at the upper atmosphere, and did not model the interaction between the atmosphere and oceans; sea surface temperature data from runs of properly coupled climate models was used as a boundary condition instead. The effects of the excess CFCs, which are themselves potent greenhouse gases, on sea surface temperatures is therefore not included in the "world avoided" model; and the chemical effects of greater ultraviolet penetration into the lower atmosphere are also unconstrained. Despite these uncertainities, however, it seem pretty clear that we got our environmental act together just about in time to dodge a rather carcinogenic bullet.

P. A. Newman, L. D. Oman, A. R. Douglass, E. L. Fleming, S. M. Frith, M. M. Hurwitz, S. R. Kawa, H. Jackman, N. A. Krotkov, E. R. Nash, J. E. Nielsen, S. Pawson, R. S. Stolarski, & G. J. M. Velders (2009). What would have happened to the ozone layer if chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) had not been regulated? Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 9, 2113-2128. (open access)

NASA to provide 100 TB of space images to Microsoft



By Wolfgang Gruener


Washington, D.C. – Microsoft is catching up with Google and said it has signed an agreement to make planetary images and other data available to the public via the WorldWide Telescope website. The data is expected to become available later this year and eventually top a volume of 100 terabytes (TB).



Surface data of the Earth has become, it seems, a commodity and has lost some of its excitement. More and more interest of imagery and maps is shifting toward space and Microsoft’s latest announcement may be proof for that trend. The company said it will develop with NASA “the technology and infrastructure necessary to make the most interesting NASA content” available for the WorldWide Telescope, Microsoft's online virtual telescope for exploring the universe.

Under the joint agreement, NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., will process and host more than 100 TB of data, enough to fill 20,000 DVDs. Microsoft’s site will incorporate the data later in 2009 and provide images taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which was launched in August 2005. Also available will be images from a camera aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, when publicly released starting this fall. Scheduled to launch this May, LRO is expected to spend at least a year in a low, polar orbit approximately 30 miles above the lunar surface collecting information about the lunar environment.

NASA said that it will make the data available under a Space Act Agreement and builds on a prior collaboration with Microsoft that enabled NASA to develop 3-D interactive Microsoft Photosynth collections of the space shuttle launch pad and other facilities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. However, NASA signed a similar agreement with Google back in December 2006, which enabled Google to publish images and data about the moon and Mars and indicated the two companies were working on providing tools for real-time weather visualization and forecasting, high-resolution 3-D maps of the moon and Mars, real-time tracking of the International Space Station and the space shuttle.

In September of 2005, NASA and Google announced plans to collaborate on a number of technology-focused research-and-development activities at Moffett Field as well as a cooperation on large-scale data management, massively distributed computing and bio-info-nano convergence.

25 Useful Free Mac Apps for Freelancers

As a full-time freelancer and part-time geek, I like to play around and install applications on my Mac. In the following list I share some of the free Mac apps that make my life easier. I also own a PC, so I give my readers who use a PC an alternative for each app.

read more | digg story

Mich. baseball park offers 4,800 calorie burger

4-pounder features 5 beef patties, 5 slices of cheese, 1 cup of chili and more

Image: Josh Kowalczyk
Rex Larsen / AP
Josh Kowalczyk, an intern with the West Michigan Whitecaps minor league baseball team in Comstock Park, Mich. shows off the park’s giant burger.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Well, at least the salsa is low-cal.

The West Michigan Whitecaps, a minor league baseball team, will be offering up major league cholesterol, carbohydrates and calories in an enormous hamburger being added to the menu this year at the Fifth Third Ballpark.

The 4-pound, $20 burger features five beef patties, five slices of cheese, nearly a cup of chili and liberal doses of salsa and corn chips, all on an 8-inch sesame-seed bun. That’s a lot of dough!The Grand Rapids Press reports that anyone who eats the entire 4,800-calorie behemoth in one sitting will receive a special T-shirt. Saner fans can divide it up with a pizza cutter and share.

The Midwest League team is a Class A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.

© 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Elvis Crespo Accused Of Masturbating On Plane

In this Aug. 29, 2007 file photo, singer Elvis Crespo looks on during the Latin Grammy Award nominations announcement in Miami Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, file)

MIAMI — Merengue star Elvis Crespo is being investigated after a woman said she saw him performing a sex act on an airplane en route from Houston to Miami, according to Miami-Dade County police.

The Grammy winner was masturbating in view of other passengers Thursday, prompting the plane's captain to radio the Miami International Airport's air traffic control tower, the police report said.

Officers interviewed Crespo upon his arrival but did not arrest him. No charges have been filed.

When asked by police at the airport about the accusation, the 37-year-old Puerto Rican singer said: "I don't recall doing that."

A message left by The Associated Press Wednesday for his publicist, Mayna Nevarez, was not immediately returned.

Because the incident took place over U.S. air space, the FBI is also investigating. Messages left for the FBI office in Miami also were not immediately returned.

According to the police report, 52-year-old Patricia Perea of Canyon Gate, Texas, told police she was sitting next to the singer of the hit song "Suavemente." She said that about 15 minutes after the plane left Houston, Crespo covered himself with a blanket and began to masturbate, then exposed himself.

On March 16, Crespo married his manager, Maribel Vega, in Puerto Rico.

He was scheduled to fly to New York on Thursday to participate in commitments related to the city's Puerto Rican Day parade, which is usually in June.

Taco Bell Launches New 'Morning After' Burrito


PURCHASE, NY—Hot on the heels of last week's FDA approval, on Monday PepsiCo subsidiary Taco Bell launched its controversial "morning after" burrito, a zesty, Mexican-style entree that prevents unwanted pregnancies if ingested within 36 hours following intercourse.

Taco Bell Launches New 'Morning After' Burrito

Developed by a team of top Taco Bell gynecologists, the $1.99 "ContraceptiMelt" burrito creates an inhospitable environment within the womb, causing fertilized ovum tissue to be flushed from the body.

Also available are ContraceptiMelt Supremes, featuring sour cream and extra cheese.

Taco Bell officials are excited about the offering. "In the past, before Roe v. Wade, young women literally had to 'make a run for the border' to terminate an unwanted pregnancy," Taco Bell public relations director Grant Lesko said. "But now, women can make that same run for the border at over 7,300 convenient locations right in their own hometowns."

Possible side effects of the new birth-control snack item include weight gain, stomach upset and gas, the same as with all other Taco Bell products.

Enlarge Image Taco Bell Launches New 'Morning After' Burrito jump

Nineteen-year-old Alicia Vargas of Yuma, AZ, avoids getting pregnant with a delicious Taco Bell ContraceptiMelt.

"The new ContraceptiMelt is a safe, effective alternative to traditional forms of birth control that must be administered before intercourse," Lesko said. "Plus, it's delicious."

Customers who wish to purchase a ContraceptiMelt will be required to meet briefly for consultation with a registered Taco Bell counselor/cashier. The counselor will ring up the customer's order and collect money for it, then provide change, before being allowed to administer the ContraceptiMelt.

Additionally, a five- to ten-minute waiting period may be necessary during high-volume "busy periods" in the restaurant, depending on the length of the line.

"Late afternoon, like 3 p.m., is usually a good time to come in," said Gerry Frankel, an Arlington, VA, Taco Bell counselor/cashier.

While the new burrito is legal and available in all 50 states, parental-consent laws in 37 states require minors who wish to purchase the ContraceptiMelt to obtain permission from a parent or legal guardian—unless they order a side of Cinnamon Crisps and a large beverage.

Taco Bell vice-president of product research and development Marvin Sekuler expects the new product to be tremendously successful.

Enlarge Image Taco Bell Launches New 'Morning After' Burrito jump2

"All of our test marketing and demographic research indicates that among 14- to 22-year-old females, there is great demand for a quick, relatively painless termination of unwanted pregnancy via spontaneously induced rejection of fertilized, pre-fetal tissue from the uterine canal," Sekuler said. "Plus, 14- to 22-year-olds love delicious, Mexican-style fast-food products. We're thrilled that our newest menu item can meet both these important needs in a lip-smacking, tasty way."

While he hopes that many young women will purchase the new burrito, Sekuler stressed that the decision to terminate a pregnancy is an individual one.

"We are in no way advocating any particular view on this most sensitive of issues," he said. "We simply want to offer this option. And, of course, we fully respect our customers who decide to carry their babies to term. In fact, I'd like to point out that Taco Bell offers a wide variety of non-contraceptive menu items that can provide the crucial nutrients—such as mild sauce, shredded cheddar and beef—that a growing fetus needs to develop properly."

Sekuler noted that every pregnacy terminated by the Taco Bell ContraceptiMelt comes with a special guarantee.

"If any one of our customers becomes pregnant after consuming our new burrito, the Taco Bell Corporation will, guaranteed, hire that person to work for us at $6.25 per hour," he said. "Taco Bell's competitive, above-minimum-wage salaries; flexible schedules; and fun, team-oriented atmosphere make it the ideal place for a young, single mother, enabling her to provide for herself and her children with uninsured subsistence living."

Pending FDA approval, Taco Bell plans to follow up the ContraceptiMelt with the RU-486 MexiCarriage Deluxe. Already legal in France, the MexiCarriage Deluxe costs $1.59 if purchased during the first MexiMester, $1.79 during the second and $1.99 during the third.

Perfect Stamp...I want!!

New HD Sega Outrun Arcade Sumo-Stomps The Original

By The Auto Insider

Outrun, Sega's original arcade racer, is back, but not in its old pixelated, quarter-poppin' form. Instead, it's back with a vengeance featuring stylish, new game play and killer HD visuals.

Sega has polished up an old arcade favorite and is re-releasing it for the XBOX Live Arcade and the Euro-only Playstation Network in June.

The updated Outrun will feature 15 new U.S.-based tracks to race on; 10 new Ferraris, including the Enzo, F50 and Dino; 5 different play modes, including 'Outrun Mode', 'Heart Attack Mode', 'Time Attack Mode' and 'Outrun Mode 15 Continuous Course' and 'Multiplayer Mode', all while playing in gorgeous HD. According to the game, if you impress your girlfriend enough in 'Heart Attack Mode' you will receive special requests. We're not quite sure that means, but knowing our girlfriend, it don't mean squat. [via Sega]

First-Ever Asteroid Tracked From Space to Earth

By Betsy Mason Email

322041main_apod20081103

For the first time, scientists were able to track an asteroid from space to the ground and recover pieces of it. The bits are unlike anything ever found on Earth.

The asteroid was spotted entering Earth's atmosphere over Sudan in October and was believed to have fully disintegrated, but an international team found almost 280 pieces of meteorite in a 11-square-mile section of Sudan's Nubian Desert. The largest was the size of an egg. Lab analysis showed that the rocks belong to a rare class of asteroid that has never been sampled in such a pristine state, so it could fill some gaps in our understanding of the solar system's early history.

"It's the first time we've been able to track something through the air and watch it fly apart and then find pieces of it," microbial ecologist Rocco Mancinelli of SETI, a co-author of a study on the meteorite pieces Wednesday in Nature, told Wired.com.

Finding the meteorites was a long shot, but because the rocks would be so important, meteor astronomer Peter Jenniskens of SETI, lead author of the study, took a bus loaded with 45 students and staff from the University of Khartoum deep into the desert to hunt for them. A 10-hour bus ride and an 18-mile trek through the sand took them to the remote area where scientists thought the rocks, if they existed, would be. The group began sweeping the desert in a line and two hours later the first meteorite was found by a student.

"It was very, very exciting. Everybody was celebrating," Jenniskens said. "You have to remember how important it is to find a piece linked to an asteroid we have seen in space."

Scientists use asteroids to learn about the early solar system because they are among the oldest objects in the universe and can remained relatively unchanged from when they formed, providing a historical snapshot. It is estimated that hundreds of meteorites fall to Earth each year, but only a few end up in the hands of scientists.

322024main_meteorite3rd22516_2 Because asteroids are typically surrounded by a shroud of dust as they travel through space, they reflect light differently in flight than they do in the lab, making it difficult to connect meteorites found on Earth with particular types of asteroids. But because the car-sized Sudan asteroid was spotted 20 hours before it hit Earth's atmosphere, scientists were able to determine that it was an unusual type of asteroid that falls between the two most common types.

For the first time, scientists can begin to connect the light signatures of asteroids in space to signatures of meteorites in the lab.

"This is like the first step toward a Rosetta Stone for classifying asteroids," said study co-author, cosmic mineralogist Michael Zolensky, at a press conference at NASA's Johnson Space Center Wednesday.

The team, led by Jenniskens, hopes the intermediate meteorites will reveal details about how planets formed in the early solar system.

"It gives a window on the past," Jenniskens told Wired.com. "You see a little piece of early history coming into focus."

The Sudan meteorites are from a rare class of asteroids known as ureilites, which contain a lot of carbon, much of it in the form of graphite, as well as diamonds produced by shock. The Sudan specimens show evidence of volcanic activity, which means they came from a parent body that was almost big enough to call a planet.

"It's showing us that this asteroid had planet-like activity on it," said astronomer Lucy McFadden of the University of Maryland, who was not involved in the study. "We're lucky that the Earth was in the right place and placed itself in front of this new meteorite."

But that planet shut down, lost its heat source and quit growing, Zolensky said. This gives scientists a glimpse of a specific stage in the evolution of planets.

"What this does is give us first-hand knowledge of what happens when planetesimals form from one that fell apart and failed to become a planet," Mancinelli said. "It really tells you what happens when these rocks bang into each other and some actually stick to each other and form a planetesimal."

There's nowhere else to find this sort of information, he said, because you need the planet forming process to stop before it becomes a full-fledged planet.

"This is highly unusual," Mancinelli said. "It is key to understanding the early solar system."

Space scientist Ted Bunch at Northern Arizona University studies these rare meteorites. "Of the tens of thousands of meteorites that have been found, there's probably only 100 that are ureilites," he said.

Ureilites are interesting in that they have a very primitive composition, Bunch said. And the Sudan ureilite pieces are even more rare because they were picked up so soon after they fell. Meteorites that have been lying around on Earth for a long time can become contaminated.

"To see something which is pristine, the chance of contamination is pretty low," Bunch said. "Whatever you see in the stone is what came from outer space, with no contribution from Earth."

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Image 1: The contrail left by the asteroid's passage through the atmosphere.Credit: Muawia Shaddad.
Image 2: Typical meteorite fragment. Credit: Muawia Shaddad.
Image 3: This space-based view of the Nubian Desert shows altitude in kilometers (in white circles) and meteor locations in red. Credit: NASA Ames/SETI/JPL.
Image 4: Students from the University of Khartoum line up to go meteorite hunting in the Nubian desert. Credit: Muawia Shaddad.

Sorry tourists! Fritzl's incest dungeon to be destroyed

By Daily Mail Reporter

The cellar where Josef Fritzl carried out his crimes is to be filled in with concrete to stop it becoming a tourist attraction.

The home in Amstetten, Austria, has become a magnet for ghouls who drive by taking photos.

Officials want to compulsorily purchase the house and fill in the cellar where he imprisoned and repeatedly raped his daughter.

Josef Fritzl arrives at court

Ghoulish: Officials want to buy Josef Fritzl's house to stop it becoming a gruesome tourist attraction

A council spokesman said: ‘We are determined not to let this building be turned into a commercial venture.’

The property may even be demolished.

Meanwhile, according to his lawyer, Fritzl, 73, who was jailed for life on Thursday, is about to start writing his memoirs.

Josef Fritzl's basement

Fritzl had constructed an elaborate basement including this bathroom where his daughter Elisabeth and three of their children were imprisoned

The authorities are powerless to stop him publishing a book about his life, but under Austrian law he is not allowed to profit from it.

His lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, said that Fritzl would write his memoirs ‘as a way of supporting his family’, including the daughter he kept prisoner for 24 years.

The autobiography would present an account of the demons which drove him to kidnap Elisabeth at the age of 18 and rape her 3,000 times.

Enlarge The layout of Fritzl's basement

Evil: Fritzl's basement included two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living area and a padded cell linked by tiny passageways

It is doubtful, however, whether Elisabeth, 42, would want to take any money from the man who stole her life.

One source said she was appalled: ‘It is like being violated all over again.’

Fritzl has been put on suicide watch since he was sentenced.

Psychologists are concerned he does not appear to care about receiving a life sentence.

Lebron Hits Another Underhanded Half-court Shot


Lebron James is definitely ‘The King’ of the NBA these days. To prove that last month’s half-court underhanded shot he made in warm-ups was no fluke, he hit another one with the camera’s rolling from the other side of the court at the same distance. What a guy, how can you not love ‘Bron? He’s a machine even before the tip. Check out the video:

Man wrongly jailed for 27 years walks free ... and is hit by a taxi

By John Garth

The man released after spending 27 years in jail for a murder he did not commit has spent his first weekend of freedom in hospital after being hit by a taxi.

Sean Hodgson needed stitches in his face after being struck by the cab as he was about to cross a busy road in London.

His solicitor said the accident was just one example of how difficult it was for Mr Hodgson to adjust to life on the outside after nearly three decades behind bars.

Sean Hodgson and brother Pete

Bitter taste of freedom: Sean Hodgson, left, with his brother Pete leaves the High Court before they headed for the pub - where Sean had to be stopped from lighting up

Mr Hodgson was convicted in 1982 of killing barmaid Teresa De Simone after he confessed to the murder while in prison for another offence.

But the 58-year-old was finally released last week after new DNA evidence came to light proving he could not have committed the 1979 murder.

Declaring himself 'ecstatic' as he left the Royal Courts of Justice last Thursday, Mr Hodgson headed straight for the pub for a pint with his brother Peter and the £46 prison discharge grant he had in his pocket.

But in a moment reminiscent of Rip Van Winkle - the classic story of a man who falls asleep for 20 years and wakes to find the world changed - Mr Hodgson immediately had to be stopped from lighting a cigarette, unaware of the smoking ban introduced in pubs nationwide two years ago.

Solicitor Julian Young said his client was upbeat but was finding especially difficult to adjust to life in the capital.

Teresa De Simone

Mystery: Police have reopened the investigation into the murder of Teresa De Simone, above, after Sean Hodgson was proven innocent

Describing the accident, Mr Young said: 'He was struck by the wing mirror of a taxi that mounted the kerb and taken to hospital where he had two stitches in his face.

'He's OK but I think he's struggling with life on the outside, and particularly in London. He's been in to see us and his spirits are up,' he said.

Mr Hodgson, who left prison with just £46 discharge grant, is now staying in a small hotel paid for by housing benefit arranged with the help of the Royal Courts of Justice's miscarriage of justice team.

Mr Young said work had now begun on Mr Hodgson's claim for compensation for the years he spent inside.

He added: 'We're hopeful things might be moved through a bit quicker for someone who has wrongly spent 27 years in prison.

'You might think a moral stand could be taken given the nature of the case.'

A Home Office scheme means compensation is capped at £500,000. But Mr Hodgson may make a further claim against the Forensic Science Service (FSS) after a blunder prevented him being released ten years ago.

In 1998, the FSS wrongly told his solicitors no scientific evidence had been kept from the murder scene behind the Tom Tackle pub, in Southampton, Hants.

Mr Hodgson was jailed for life for strangling Miss De Simone after her body was found in her Ford Escort in December 1979.

He confessed to the murder a year later while in jail for stealing a car - but later retracted his confession, saying he was a 'pathological' liar.

Despite this a jury convicted him of the grisly murder of Teresa, who also worked as an accounts clerk for a gas company.

Mr Hodgson appealed unsuccessfully against his conviction in 1983.

Although he continued to protest his innocence while being held in Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight, his case remained closed until he contacted solicitors last year.

Earlier this year, a review of the DNA evidence showed the genetic material found at the scene did not match a sample taken from him.

Police have now reopened their investigation into the killing of the 22-year-old.

The Evolution Of The Spacesuit [PICS]

In February 2009, NASA signed a contract with an engineering firm to develop spacesuits that could be used on the shuttle's replacement, the Orion capsule. New Scientist takes a look at the evolution of spacesuits over the last five decades, and at some potential designs for the future.

Click here to view the gallery


This spacesuit design was used on the Gemini 9 mission, which launched on 3 June 1966. The suit's legs were covered with a cloth woven from stainless steel fibres, used to protect the astronaut and suit from the hot exhaust thrust of the Astronaut Maneuvering Unit (AMU), a propulsion system that included the large backpack. Gemini 9 astronaut Gene Cernan set a spacewalking endurance record of 2 hours and 9 minutes during the mission but was unable to test the AMU because his visor became fogged (Image: NASA-JSC)

This spacesuit design was used on the Gemini 9 mission, which launched on 3 June 1966. The suit's legs were covered with a cloth woven from stainless steel fibres, used to protect the astronaut and suit from the hot exhaust thrust of the Astronaut Maneuvering Unit (AMU), a propulsion system that included the large backpack. Gemini 9 astronaut Gene Cernan set a spacewalking endurance record of 2 hours and 9 minutes during the mission but was unable to test the AMU because his visor became fogged (Image: NASA-JSC)

iPhone 3.0 Wish List: Accessory-Powered Apps We Want

Forget copy-and-paste. The real seed of innovation planted in the upcoming iPhone 3.0 upgrade is the OS's ability to interact with special accessories via Bluetooth and the dock connector.

read more | digg story

11-year-old faces life sentence for murder: report





An 11-year-old boy could be tried as an adult in a US court and face a mand...






PA 11-Year-Old Shoots His Dad’s Pregnant Girlfriend


An 11-year-old boy could be tried as an adult in a US court and face a mandatory life sentence if found guilty of killing his father's pregnant fiancee, local media reported.

A judge in Lawrence County, western Pennsylvania ruled that the child, Jordan Brown, would not be tried as a minor, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Lawyers for the boy said they would file a motion to have the case moved to juvenile court, after obtaining more forensic evidence.

The paper reported that Brown sat silently with his hands and feet shackled during his preliminary hearing, before being returned to a juvenile detention center where his attorney said he was "thriving."

He is accused of last month shooting Kenzie Houk, 26, in the back of the head while she slept, killing her and her unborn child who died of oxygen deprivation. He faces two charges of criminal homicide.

Houk was nine months pregnant and had two daughters, age seven and four, who lived in the house with her, her fiance Chris Brown and his son, Jordan.

The boy allegedly covered a shotgun with a blanket and shot Houk in head while she was asleep, before running out of the house to catch the school bus. Relatives said the boy was jealous of Houk and her children.

He is scheduled for an arraignment on May 1.

11 Cool Things You Can Do With Your Macbook

In the first part of “Utilize Your Mac SMS” series, we discussed a SMS-based application to prevent Macbook theft. Now we will discuss other cool applications utilizing the Sudden Motion Sensor feature of Mac laptops.

read more | digg story

Schwarzenegger Opens Fairgrounds to Residents of Tent City

By Michael B. Marois

March 25 (Bloomberg) -- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said a make-shift tent city for the homeless that sprang up in the capital city of Sacramento will be shut down and its residents allowed to stay at the state fairgrounds.

Schwarzenegger said he ordered the state facility known as Cal-Expo to be used for three months to serve the 125 tent city residents, some of them displaced by the economic recession. The encampment may be shut down within a month, said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. The move comes after the Sacramento City Council last night agreed to spend $880,000 to expand homeless programs.

“Together with the local government and volunteers, we are taking a first step to ensure the people living in tent city have a safe place to stay, with fresh water, healthy conditions and access to the services they need,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “And I am committed to working with Mayor Johnson to find a permanent solution for those living in tent city.”

California, home to one of every eight Americans, has been particularly hard hit by the housing market collapse after many residents turned to exotic mortgages to afford homes. The tent city, which has long existed along the banks of the America River, gained national attention last month when some of its recently homeless residents were featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

The state has one of the highest rates of foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac Inc., an Irvine, California-based seller of real estate data. California home prices dropped 41 percent last month from a year earlier, more than double the U.S. decline, as surging foreclosures drove down values, the state Association of Realtors said today.

State Unemployment

The state’s unemployment rate rose to 10.5 percent in February, as construction, financial and manufacturing companies eliminated jobs, leaving the most-populous U.S. state with one of the nation’s worst job markets.

The shelter at Cal-Exp currently houses about 150 people. It will be expanded by another 50 beds, and will include facilities for families with children.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael B. Marois in Sacramento at mmarois@bloomberg.net


50+ New Species Discovered in Papua New Guinea

Funded by Barrick Gold, Conservation International leads expedition to find new frogs, geckos and jumping spiders.


1 of 8
Litoria frog
Conservation International has done it again, inspiring us with images and accounts of species new to science. Just the other day, it was four new species -- two beetles, a mouse and a plant -- discovered in the Peruvian Andes. Now, it's more than 50 species, like this Litoria sp. frog, which uses a loud ringing song to call for a mate from rushing torrents in the rain forests of Papua New Guinea.
photo credit: Steve Richards

Cyrtodactylus Bent-Toed Gecko
This bent-toed gecko, Cyrtodactylus sp., was the only one of its kind discovered during the Conservation International expedition to the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea (an island nation adjacent to Indonesia, north of Australia). Scientists revealed more than 600 species, including 50 new spiders, two new plants, three new frogs and one new gecko never before documented. Joining Conservation International on the expedition in Summer of 2008 were scientists from Papua New Guinea and the University of British Columbia and Montclair State University.
photo credit: Steve Richards

Nyctimystes Green Tree Frog

The expedition of discovery, which revealed new species like this Nyctimystes sp. green tree frog with enormous eyes, required the cooperation of the Hewa clans that live in the forested Kaijende Uplands of Papua New Guinea. The clans hunt and gather in the forest, and scientists point out that the forest also provides clean drinking water and sequesters atmospheric carbon at no cost.

“The vast Kaijende Uplands and nearby valleys represent one of Papua New Guinea’s largest undeveloped highlands wilderness areas, and all of it is under the tenure of local clan landowners. These forests are essential to their traditional lifestyles,” said Conservation International scientist Steve Richards, who led the expedition.

photo credit: Steve Richards

Orthrus Jumping Spider

Scientists believe they have discovered more than 50 species of spiders never before described by science, including three "entirely novel genera" -- whole groupings of species new to science.

“They are strikingly distinctive evolutionary lineages that had been unknown before, with a group that is already very distinctive on the evolutionary tree of jumping spiders,” said Wayne Maddison, Director of the new Beaty Biodiversity Museum. “Their key position on the evolutionary tree will help us understand how this unique group of jumping spiders has evolved.”

Among the new species of jumping spiders identified is this rain forest-dwelling Orthrus sp. spider.

photo credit: Wayne Maddison

Tabuina Jumping Spider

Much of the wilderness of Papua New Guinea remains unexplored by scientists. But that is changing, as Conservation International plans three more expeditions to the country in 2009.

Those expeditions promise new discoveries, like this Tabuina varirata spider, a jumping spider whose genera and species are new to science.

photo credit: Wayne Maddison

Oreophryne Chirping Frog
This tiny species of chirping frog, Oreophryne sp., was discovered in the limestone hills of Papua New Guinea.
photo credit: Steve Richards

Uroballus Jumping Spider

The expedition that discovered this Uroballus sp. jumping spider was funded by Porgera Joint Venture (PJV), principally owned by Barrick Gold Corporation, a Toronto-based company that is the largest pure gold mining operation in the world. Gold mining can be highly destructive and toxic, and Barrick has been both vilified and praised for its environmental and sustainability practices.

Conservation International says its expedition will provide information for decision makers trying to balance development -- including mining -- with protecting biodiversity that benefits local communities and the global ecosystem.

photo credit: Wayne Maddison

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