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Friday, September 11, 2009

Girls rescued from fake 'Big Brother'

DHA Photo

DHA Photo

Nine young women tricked into joining a fake reality show and kept isolated for two months were rescued by the gendarmerie Tuesday.

The women, some as young as 16, were kept confined in a villa in the Beykoz district of Istanbul and videos of them in the house were sold over the Internet.

According to reports, the organizers of the fake show placed advertisements in newspapers that called for “contestants to compete in a reality show akin to ‘Big Brother’ that will be broadcast on FX TV” and interviewed dozens of would-be contenders.

Nine were told they were chosen and made to sign a contract that stipulated that if any of the participants left before two months were up, they would have to pay a fine of 50,000 Turkish Liras. The young women were also told they would have no contact with the outside world, including their families, for the two-month period. Dreaming of becoming television stars, they accepted all the preconditions.

Cameras set up around the villa recorded every moment and naked videos of the participants were sold on the Internet.

Some of the women, realizing the scam, wanted to get out, but were prevented from doing so by the organizers. A person who stayed at the house with them warned that they would have to pay the fine if they left.

Those who tried to leave anyway found they could not because they were locked inside the villa.

A 16-year-old’s parents eventually contacted the gendarmerie, notifying them that they had not seen their daughter for two months and could not reach the organizers.

Once the gendarmerie went to the address the parents provided, they were greeted by cries for help coming from inside.

The gendarmerie staged a raid on the villa, rescuing the young women and detaining the individual who had been staying with them.

In their testimonies to gendarmerie officials, the women said they were also beaten from time to time.

The gendarmerie said the investigation into the matter continued.

Amsterdam Board Game to Take Corners, Hotels, Ganja

With The Chaps From Amsterdam, Hard Impact Board Games has finally confirmed a nagging suspicion of ours: Board games are more fun when you're stoned. (The exception to this rule is Risk, which is so complicated that you'd end up cowering in South America, paranoid you'll be attacked by Kamchatka.) In Chaps, the premise is a bit more stoner-friendly, as you play a dealer navigating the complicated drug markets of Amsterdam.

You play as one of six "chaps" and start off with $250,000 and a designer drug called SPACE. The first dealer to unload all of his gear wins. Even though the rules appear to make it easy, be careful: There are cops, courts and informants, and if you land on the Rehab square three times you're out of the game. Fittingly, the rules encourage cheating and tangling yourselves into hazy alliances with other dealers.

Available now in the U.S. for $50.

iTunes 9 Tips and Tricks - Solve the Mysteries! The latest update to iTunes is such a drastic change that many users are scratching their heads trying to figure out where everything is and how to work it.

Click here for: iTunes 9 Tips and Tricks - Solve the Mysteries!

6 easy laptop repairs: Your step-by-step guide

6 easy laptop repairs: Your step-by-step guide

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Saved By The Bell Screech Sued For Taxes, Has Car Repossessed

Random Things
Zuma Press

Train wreck actor Dustin Diamond is being sued for more than $21,000 in unpaid property taxes and had his car repossessed, learned exclusively.

The 32-year-old actor, who found fame playing dorky Samuel “Screech” Powers on the TV hit Saved By The Bell , seems to have hit hard times judging by financial court actions against him. discovered that Screech was sued by Ford Motor Credit Company on November 26, 2008, for $544 which resulted in the repossession of his 2005 Ford Expedition. And he hasn’t been saved by the bell from the Department of Revenue in Wisconsin, either. On June 30 of this year Screech was sued by the department for $21,015.62 in unpaid taxes against his property in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

See the court papers

He previously had been tagged with a small claim by the Wisconsin Electric Power Company

, on March 3, 2009. That was settled.

After Saved By The Bell ended in 2000 Diamond appeared in a few reality shows, including The Weakest Link, Celebrity Boxing 2 and Celebrity Fit Club.

In 2006 he infamously starred in a porn tape Screeched, aka Saved By The Smell, which showed him engaging in various acts with two women.

Diamond - who has also done stints as a stand-up comic – claimed that the tape was leaked as a mistake but his manager conceded that he hoped it might raise his profile.

Facebook Now Lets You Fax Your Photos. I Have No Idea Why Anyone Would Want To Do This

by Jason Kincaid on September 10, 2009

Okay, so Facebook Punk’d us. This isn’t really going live for everyone — just for the lucky few members of the TechCrunch network.

Wow, talk about a big day for Facebook. Hours after launching Facebook Lite, open-sourcing part of FriendFeed’s code, and launching @ tagging, the site has one more release in store for today: Fax This Photo, powered by Now when you’re looking through photo albums, you’ll have the opportunity to send a photo you like to a friend’s fax machine. For price of $1.50 per photo. That’s one pricey fax.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but I’m not sure why Facebook would do this. For one, faxes aren’t known for offering great quality — if you want to print a photo, you probably aren’t going to rely on your Fax machine. Second, if you have someone’s fax number, there’s a good chance you have their Email address too — why not just send it over Email?

Update: As one of our commenters points out, this could make for a good way to send photos to relatives who may not be comfortable using computers. But $1.50 per photo seems expensive if you’re going to do this with any regularity. Update 2: This is a stupid idea.

Here’s a picture of the fax we received:

Japan's space truck ready to fly

By Jonathan Amos
Science reporter, BBC News

Animation of the HTV's launch and payload delivery

Japan is ready to launch its new space freighter from the Tanegashima base in the south of the country.

The 16.5-tonne unmanned H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) will haul cargo to the International Space station (ISS).

Its success is vitally important to the station project, which is set to lose the servicing capability of the US shuttle fleet next year.

When the orbiters retire, re-supply will be in the hands of a number of robotic vessels - the HTV included.

The logistics demands of a fully crewed, fully functional ISS will require all of the freighters to play their part.

Lift-off for the HTV is timed for 0201 local time on Friday (1701 GMT, Thursday).

"This HTV-1 vehicle is a demonstration flight to verify its functionality and performance," said Masazumi Miyake, one of the Japanese space agency's (Jaxa) senior officials in the US.

Rocket diagram (Jaxa)

"After completion of this mission we are planning to launch one operational HTV per year on average."

The rocket carrying the cargo ship into orbit - the H-IIB is also new. Japan, though, has high confidence the launcher will work first time.

It is essentially a beefed up version of the existing H-11A vehicle.

The attachment of two additional solid rocket boosters and a second main engine on the core stage will give the IIB the significant extra thrust it needs to hurl the HTV into low Earth orbit.

The mission will be directed by engineers in Tsukuba, Japan, and at the US space agency's (Nasa) mission control in Houston.

The HTV will be directed to conduct a number of tests of its navigation and rendezvous systems before making a close approach to the ISS.

Docking is not expected to take place until at least day eight of the mission.

Unlike the European freighter (the Automated Transfer Vehicle - ATV), which made its maiden flight to the ISS last year, the HTV cannot drive itself all the way into the station.

Instead, the Japanese ship will simply park itself under the bow of the ISS to allow platform's robotic arm to grab it.

The vessel will then be locked into an Earth-facing docking port on the Harmony (Node 2) connecting module.

Safety will be the primary concern for the ISS astronauts. The robotic vessel will be monitored constantly to see that it is behaving as expected.

"[The astronauts] can command the vehicle to abort, to retreat or to hold. They can also command the grapple fixture to separate in case there is a failed capture," said Dana Weigel, a US space agency (Nasa) flight director for the mission.

The HTV will remain attached to the ISS for about six weeks while its 4.5 tonnes of supplies are unloaded.

How the HTV docks at the station (JAXA)

In addition to the cargo (3.6t) carried in its pressurised compartment - accessed from inside the ISS - the ship has important cargo (900kg) mounted on a pallet in an unpressurised compartment.

These exterior supplies include two new Earth-observation experiments for the exposed "terrace" of instruments that sits outside Japan's Kibo science module.

Again, astronauts will use the station arm to remove the pallet before handing it across to the Kibo arm, which will then position the new experiments.

As the freighter's supplies are used up, the ship will be filled with station rubbish. Ultimately, it will undock from the ISS and take itself into a destructive dive into the atmosphere somewhere over the south Pacific.

When the US shuttles retire at the end of next year or the beginning of 2011, the ISS project will become dependent on five robotic freighters for its logistics.

• The Russian Progress and European ATV have already demonstrated their flight capability. Four more ATVs have been booked to fly to the station, one a year starting in 2010.

• After the first HTV mission, Japan plans a further six flights through to 2015.

• Two commercial US suppliers, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, are in the process of developing their Dragon and Cygnus supply ships. The first of these is scheduled to deliver supplies to the ISS no earlier than late 2010.

HTV impression (Jaxa)
Length: 9.8m; Diameter: 4.4m; Vehicle Mass: 10.5t; Max cargo: 6t
Pressurised cargo: Food, clothing, water, laptops, science equipment, etc
External cargo: Equipment to study Earth's oceans and the atmosphere
First unmanned vehicle to deliver both pressurised and unpressurised cargo

Nasa proposes Mars trip as Moon mission deemed too expensive to fly

By Daily Mail Reporter

A White House panel of independent space experts says Nasa's return-to-the-moon plan just won't fly due to a lack of funds.

The expert panel estimates it would cost about $3 billion a year beyond Nasa's current $18 billion annual budget.

'Under the budget that was proposed, exploration beyond Earth is not viable,' panel member Edward Crawley, from MIT said.

Enlarge space station

The expert panel said private companies should be encouraged to invest in the International Space Station. Astronauts like Danny Olivas, pictured, are due to leave the station for good in 2015

The report gives options to President Barack Obama, but said Nasa's current plans have to change. Five years ago, then-President George W. Bush proposed returning astronauts to the moon by 2020.

To pay for it, he planned on retiring the shuttle next year and shutting down the international space station in 2015.

All those deadlines have to change, the panel said. Space exploration would work better by including other countries and private for-profit firms.

'The U.S. human spaceflight program appears to be on an unsustainable trajectory. It is perpetuating the perilous practice of pursuing goals that do not match allocated resources,' the report concluded.

The panel had previously estimated that the current plan would cost $100 billion in spending to 2020.

Former Nasa associate administrator Alan Stern said the report showed the harsh facts that Nasa's space plans had 'a mismatch between resources and rhetoric.'

Now, he said, Obama faces a choice of 'essentially abandoning human spaceflight' or paying the extra money.

Enlarge gibbous moon

A gibbous moon hangs above Earth's atmosphere, photographed from the Space Shuttle Discovery. Nasa will not be able to return there unless $3billion is added to their annual budget

Nasa has already spent $7.7billion of a planned $40billion budget to develop a new rocket and capsule to transport astronauts to the space station and the Moon, said Jeff Hanley, manager of the post-shuttle program known as Constellation.

In response to the panel, Nasa has proposed heading to Mars instead of returning to the Moon. It would mean a major shift for the U.S human space programme.

It also follows critical comments by second man on the moon Buzz Aldrin about a return mission to our natural satellite.

'There's no reason for us to go back,' he said.

'We can look at the effects of long-term missions in space by flying around comets, rather than setting up a base on the Moon. We're not going to launch any missions from there.'


Mars next? Nasa has proposed ignoring the Moon and heading for the Red Planet

Nasa drafted its concept proposal called 'Generation Mars', which envisions a 30-year blueprint for developing technologies, staging initial missions to asteroids, and building grassroots support for eventual human expeditions to Mars.

Professor Crawley said: 'It'll be for the next budget cycles after that to figure out when we might actually get to Mars.'

The 'Generation Mars' proposal dovetails with one of the review panel's options setting out a flexible approach to exploration that begins with a five-year extension to the life of the International Space Station to 2020, and development of a new heavy-lift launch rocket.

Shuttle Discovery and seven astronauts are scheduled to return the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday after a nine-day stay at the space station to deliver supplies and prepare the outpost for its final U.S. connecting node.

The space shuttles are due to be retired late next year or early 2011 after six more missions to complete construction of the station, a £60billion project involving 16 nations.

The 'Generation Mars' Nasa proposal makes no mention of cost. The space programme review panel estimates that its similar option would need another $3 billion a year.

Sticking with the present program would give the United States its heavy-lift Ares 5 by about 2028, but there would be no money to develop a lunar lander or even a rocket motor to leave Earth's orbit.

Archaeologists discover oldest-known fiber materials used by early humans

September 10th, 2009 Oldest-known fibers to be used by humans discovered


A team of archaeologists and paleobiologists has discovered flax fibers in these microscopic soil samples. The flax, which would have been collected from the wild and not farmed, is believed to be more than 34,000 years old, making these fibers the oldest known to have been used by humans. Image: Science/AAAS

( -- A team of archaeologists and paleobiologists has discovered flax fibers that are more than 34,000 years old, making them the oldest fibers known to have been used by humans. The fibers, discovered during systematic excavations in a cave in the Republic of Georgia, are described in this week's issue of Science.

The flax, which would have been collected from the wild and not farmed, could have been used to make linen and thread, the researchers say. The cloth and thread would then have been used to fashion garments for warmth, sew leather pieces, make cloths, or tie together packs that might have aided the mobility of our ancient from one camp to another.

The excavation was jointly led by Ofer Bar-Yosef, George Grant MacCurdy and Janet G. B. MacCurdy Professor of Prehistoric in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, with Tengiz Meshveliani from the Georgian State Museum and Anna Belfer-Cohen from the Hebrew University. The microscopic research of the soil samples in which numerous flax fibers were discovered was done by Eliso Kvavadze of the Institute of Paleobiology, part of the National Museum of Georgia.

"This was a critical invention for early humans. They might have used this fiber to create parts of clothing, ropes, or baskets—for items that were mainly used for domestic activities," says Bar-Yosef. "We know that this is wild flax that grew in the vicinity of the cave and was exploited intensively or extensively by modern humans."

The items created with these fibers increased early humans chances of survival and mobility in the harsh conditions of this hilly region. The flax fibers could have been used to sew hides together for clothing and shoes, to create the warmth necessary to endure cold weather. They might have also been used to make packs for carrying essentials, which would have increased and eased mobility, offering a great advantage to a hunter-gatherer society.

Some of the fibers were twisted, indicating they were used to make ropes or strings. Others had been dyed. Early humans used the plants in the area to color the fabric or threads made from the flax.

Today, these fibers are not visible to the eye, because the garments and items sewed together with the flax have long ago disintegrated. Bar-Yosef, Kvavadze and colleagues discovered the fibers by examining samples of clay retrieved from different layers of the cave under a microscope.

The discovery of such ancient fibers was a surprise to the scientists. Previously, the oldest known were imprints of fibers in small clay objects found in Dolni Vestonice, a famous site in the Czech Republic some 28,000 years old.

The scientists' original goal was to analyze tree pollen samples found inside the cave, part of a study of environmental and temperature fluctuations over the course of thousands of years that would have affected the lives of these . However, while looking for this pollen, Kvavadze, who led the analysis of the pollen, also discovered non-pollen polymorphs - these flax fibers.

Bar-Yosef and his team used radiocarbon dating to date the layers of the cave as they dug the site, revealing the age of the clay samples in which the fibers were found. Flax fibers were also found in the layers that dated to about 21,000 and 13,000 years ago.

Bar-Yosef's team began the excavations of this cave in 1996, and has returned to the site each year to complete this work.

"We were looking to find when the cave was occupied, what was the nature of the occupation by those early hunter-gatherers, where did they go hunting and gathering food, what kind of stone tools they used, what types of bone and antler tools they made and how they used them, whether they made beads and pendants for body decoration, and so on," says Bar-Yosef. "This was a wonderful surprise, to discover these ancient flax fibers at the end of this excavation project."

Source: Harvard University (news : web)

James Cameron To Do Underwater 3D Drama

Thursday, September 10, 2009 10:30 AM
quick takeRelativity and Universal has bought the rights to James Cameron's "Sanctum".
(”You see, it’s like a flashlight… that you can f’ck,” Cameron explained.)

Relativity and Universal bought the distribution rights and are planning a wide theatrical release for Sanctum, an “underwater 3-D drama” produced by James Cameron. I wonder if this one will have cat people. REEER!Relativity was the first bidder after a screening last Thursday (of the new 3-D technology to be used in the pic) at Cameron’s offices in Santa Monica.

The picture, which has a budget of about $30 million, will lense later this year in Australia and has a late 2010 delivery date.

Pic will be helmed by Alister Grierson (”Kokoda“) from a script by Andrew Wight and John Garvin. Wight is a longtime associate of Cameron’s who helped develop the [Cameron/Pace Fusion Camera system for 3-D technology] seen in documentaries like “Aliens of the Deep” and “Ghosts of the Abyss.”

“Sanctum” was inspired by Wight’s near-death experience of leading a diving expedition miles into a system of underwater caves, then having to find a way out after a freak storm collapsed the entrance. [Variety]So basically, it’s The Descent, but watery and with less sluts. And don’t give me this “near-death” experience crap, they got lost, then found their way out. That’s not a near-death experience, that’s a dude-that-was-scary experience. I have those every time I get high.

More Americans over age 50 are smoking marijuana than ever before. Are my parents among them?

At the time, Mom's question caught me by surprise: "Have you ever tried marijuana?" she asked, sloshing her coffee around in a mug as we stood together in the kitchen. My mind went blank. Could this be the fabled "drug talk" that parents are supposed to give to their teenage children? If so, why was I getting it at 30?

It turned out my mother was less interested in my drug use than her own. When I told her I'd smoked pot in college, and a bunch of times since, she took the news in stride. The thing was, she and my father were hoping to score some weed. Did I know anybody?

A little context: My parents paid for my college education. They put me up for a semester of graduate school. They sat through three school plays and one flute recital; they came to my art opening; they bought me a skateboard. But given the chance to pay them back—in part, at least—for so many years of support and encouragement, I failed to deliver so much as a dime bag.

"You didn't say no," my mother recalled the other day, "but you didn't say yes. It was clear that you were very hesitant about this." After a moment, she added: "You didn't give off positive vibrations."

OK, so I never hooked up my parents. But in the weeks and months that followed, I discovered that many of my contemporaries—people in their late 20s or early 30s—had experienced something similar. Soon I'd heard dozens of stories about retired moms and pops returning to the marijuana habits of their youth. There were solicitations made over family dinners, intergenerational drug deals worked out over holiday weekends—the anecdotes were easy enough to find. Would I come across any data to support this trend?

In fact, a statistical trace of what I've taken to calling the "puff daddy" movement emerged a few years ago, when researchers at the National Institutes of Health compared national drug surveys conducted over two-year periods beginning in 1991 and 2001. Their analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that the percentage of people who say they smoked marijuana in the past year had remained fairly stable over the 10-year stretch. (That is to say, it ended where it started.) But they found a very different pattern among those between the ages of 45 and 64: As my parents' generation matured, the number of smokers in that group had nearly tripled.

The baby boomer drug uptick turns up again in the recent data. According to the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost 6 percent of all adults between the ages of 50 and 59 reported smoking marijuana in the past year. That's up from about 3 percent five years earlier. Meanwhile, the number of recent users over the age of 50 has climbed to 2.65 million people nationwide (and we can assume the real prevalence is somewhat higher, since these figures are based on self-reported drug use). Here's something to think about: There are about as many boomers using cannabis today as there are high-school students doing the same.

Still, it's not easy to get an accurate picture of who these puffing oldsters are and how their drug habits have evolved over the last few decades. (It's also not clear to what extent the legalization of medical marijuana has been a factor.) In August, researchers at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published a detailed look (PDF) at patterns of drug use among the boomers. Most appear to have used marijuana continually throughout their lives, but a sizable portion were classified as "resumers"—those who recently emerged from a long hiatus in smoking dope. Sure enough, almost all the puff daddies and pot mommas I've encountered fall into this latter category: After years of abstinence, they've just recently started to rifle through junk drawers for vintage roach clips and rolling papers.

Barbara, a 61-year-old mother of two from Belmont, Mass., began using drugs in her post-college years. She was living in Europe and following the Hippie Trail through Turkey, Pakistan, and Afghanistan in 1971 and '72—a period during which she smoked hash every single day. Then she came back to the United States, got married, and started a family.

Over the next 20 years, Barbara says she tried marijuana only a handful of times, with friends. "I was a soccer mom," she explains. "I wasn't into smoking at all. I didn't think about it, and I didn't miss it."

The habit came back after she separated from her husband in the 1990s. These days it's more about the living room than the magic bus: "I like to smoke at home and just relax," she says. "Sometimes I'll get on my treadmill; sometimes I'll get out my guitar; sometimes I'll just watch Desperate Housewives and giggle."

Barbara's story jibes with the conventional wisdom on how drug and alcohol use develops across the lifespan. Getting married and having kids tend to be associated with reductions in drug use, while divorce and retirement often come with increased dosages.

Whatever the cause, empty-nesters seem to be enjoying marijuana now more than ever. That doesn't mean they're comfortable with the public face of marijuana use: As a rule, the people interviewed for this article did not want to share even their first names—some cited the potential for legal trouble; others worried about what their friends might think. As for the experience of smoking itself, none reported any paranoia or anxiety whatsoever. In fact, most said they find a calm and serenity in marijuana that was lacking in their youth.

For a 57-year-old retired schoolteacher in southeastern Ohio, smoking has become an evening ritual with her husband. She'd given up a weekly habit in 1975, only to be reintroduced by her son 25 years later. (First they shared a joint to celebrate his engagement; then he helped her fashion a beer can into a rudimentary bong.) Now she and her husband enjoy a few puffs as they watch the sunset through the kitchen window. "It's really a treasured part of our day, just calming down from whatever, chewing over what was going on," she says.

The high never makes her feel self-conscious or uncomfortable, as it did when she smoked at parties in the old days. "My mind is a lot more peaceful than it was when I was younger," she says. "We're not trying to buy a place, we're not trying to get enough money to live on, we're not raising a family. … It's just very mellow."

Where does she get her marijuana currently? She has a friend "who knows somebody" with a top-notch source. "It's a designer variety. Acapulco gold."

The mind-boggling array of highly potent cannabis strains can be intimidating for some boomers. "Pot's different now," says a divorced, 54-year-old counselor in Philadelphia, who remembers an awkward evening spent with her son and a pan of brownies. "One hit and you're gonzo. I figured that out after a few behavior mishaps."

Back in the early 1970s, an everyday habit had made her deeply depressed, and she ended up quitting at the suggestion of her therapist. ("It was like I could see the sky again," she says.) Later she spent some time as a drug and alcohol counselor, helping college students who were smoking too much. But her recent experiences with marijuana have been very positive, once she got used to the modern varieties.

The puff daddies and pot mommas do have some reservations about smoking, but these tend to be health-related. Barbara, the ex-soccer-mom from Belmont, is afraid of a product tainted by biotechnology. "I am like a Whole Foods profile," she says. "I want organic meat; I want fish that comes in from dayboats; I only drink distilled water. … What I smoke today, I know who grows it, and I know it's not a genetically engineered superstrain." Others fear gaining weight from too many bouts of the munchies or bad interactions between marijuana and prescription meds.

The clinical evidence suggests that the greatest danger faced by boomers who use cannabis is heart disease. Getting high can increase your heart rate by about 40 beats per minute and cause unusual blood pressure fluctuations, which may in turn temporarily boost the odds of a heart attack. In 2001, a team of researchers from the Harvard Medical School found that smoking marijuana causes a transient, fivefold increase in risk. (Exercise, sexual activity, and bouts of anger can cause similar short-term risks.)

A 2008 paper published in the American Heart Journal takes these findings a step further: Although its sample sizes were small, the study found that marijuana users were significantly more likely to die, from cardiovascular distress or other problems, than those who didn't use illegal drugs. According to the paper's first author, Kenneth J. Mukamal, marijuana appears relatively safe when looked at across the general population. But it may be risky for certain subgroups, like those with incipient heart problems.

Then again, there may be some good reasons to keep smoking. In August, researchers at the University of Edinburgh published evidence that the drug might help prevent osteoporosis among the elderly. Cannabis can also be used to treat nausea and unintentional weight loss, and it may (or may not) have some salutary effect on older patients with glaucoma or Parkinson's disease. Advocates for the medical use of marijuana cite many other potential applications.

I called Dr. Mukamal to find out whether he thought cannabis was good or bad for old people. He didn't seem too impressed by its age-defying effects. "People of heart-attack age are smoking marijuana. Frankly, I think those folks should be concerned about it."

My parents didn't seem perturbed by this doctor's warning. Nor were they put off by my cautionary tale about the 65-year-old grandma who'd recently been caught with 33 pounds of premium marijuana in the trunk of her car. I tried to nag them, but they were pretty mellow about the whole thing.

Daniel Engber is a senior editor at Slate. He can be reached at

Article URL:

Report claims 800m world champion Caster Semenya is a hermaphrodite

• Report says 18-year-old has male and female sexual organs
• IAAF has sent test results to experts for further analysis

Caster Semenya

An Australian newspaper is reporting that the IAAF tests have revealed Caster Semenya has male and female sexual organs. Photograph: Rainer Jensen/EPA

The results of a controversial gender test on the South African athlete Caster Semenya have been received by international athletics officials but will only be made public after they have been analysed by experts and Semenya has been informed, according to reports.

However, an Australian newspaper has reported that the 18-year-old has male and female sexual organs. The Sydney Morning Herald said extensive examinations of Semenya have shown she is technically a hermaphrodite. Medical reports indicate she has no ovaries, but rather has internal male testes, which are producing large amounts of testosterone.

A spokesman for the International Association of Athletics Federations is reported to have said that its urgent efforts to contact Semenya, the women's 800 metres world champion, were being thwarted by South African athletics authorities. Adding to the confusion, Athletics South Africa (ASA) has denied the claim, insisting that it has not yet heard from the IAAF.

"This is a medical issue and not a doping issue where she was deliberately cheating," IAAF spokesman Nick Davies was quoted as saying by the newspaper. "These tests do not suggest any suspicion of deliberate misconduct but seek to assess the possibility of a potential medical condition which would give Semenya an unfair advantage over her competitors. There is no automatic disqualification of results in a case like this."

The IAAF has said Semenya probably would keep her medal because the case was not related to a doping matter.

Davies says the group has received the results of Semenya's gender tests, but he would not discuss the findings. "We have received the results from Germany, but they now need to be examined by a group of experts and we will not be in a position to speak to the athlete about them for at least a few weeks," he was reported as saying. "After that, depending on the results, we will meet privately with the athlete to discuss further action."

Semenya's victory at last month's world championships in Berlin was overshadowed by speculation over her masculine appearance. The gender test caused fierce protests in South Africa and complaints that it infringed her human rights.

A South African website,, reported Davies as saying that the manner in which the ASA was handling the matter could become a huge problem. He was reported to have said the ASA president, Leonard Chuene, had spread so many untruths about the IAAF's conduct that it would be a major embarrassment for him when the facts are revealed. "Chuene may have no other option than resigning as president." The IAAF could not be reached to confirm the reported remarks.

Toys R Us rolls out national game trade-in program, classic games accepted

Toys R Us is rolling out its video game trade-in program nationwide today, allowing customers to sell games from as far back as the (OMG!) Intellivision. Those who use the program will receive gift cards for the value of their trade-in, which can be used for any product at Toys R Us, Babies R Us or online at

Exchanging games works by going to the "guest services desk" with the merchandise, it'll be scanned and, if the value is acceptable, the customer will receive a gift card. We're honestly shocked at Toys R Us accepting trade-ins that go all the way back to systems like the Atari 2600. We're following up for some more details and will update as soon as we hear back.

Update: Toys R Us is not getting into the used games resale business, it is merely accepting the used merchandise. A representative for the company tells us the games "are taken by a third party company that refurbishes them for resale." We're still following up to find out what company that would be. We'll update again when we find out.

Extend Your Razor's Life with a Pair of Jeans

If you use disposable razor blades, odds are they get dull more quickly than you'd like. Instructables points us to a video demonstration showing how to extend their utility with a pair of blue jeans.

The DIYer in the video says he's kept the same disposable razor sharp for six months. How? By taking a pair of jeans and running the razor up and down 10 to 20 times in one direction along the entire length of the jeans and then again in the opposite direction. Apparently "the threads of the jeans run in a diagonal so switching directions allows for [a] balanced approach to fine tuning the blade's edge."

Check out the above video to see the tip in action, and while you're getting more from your blades, remember that drying them can drastically increase their shelf life, too. If you've ever tried this method (or a similar one), let's hear how it worked out for you in the comments.

Ganjapreneurs are cashing in on Colorado's booming medical pot business

By Joel Warner

I knock on the locked door of the nondescript one-story building not far from downtown, willing away my anxiety.

"Can I help you?" A security guard peers from behind the door, eyeing me suspiciously. He's an older guy, probably somebody's grandpa, but he gives me a look that says he doesn't have a problem tangling with a whippersnapper like me.

"I have an appointment," I stammer. I have Xeroxed medical records and $200 in cash to prove it. At that, the security guard is all smiles.

"Come on in," he offers, opening the door wide and beckoning me into one of Denver's most successful medical marijuana dispensaries.

I'm here to become a state-certified medical marijuana patient. If I succeed, I'll have access to one of the fastest-growing — and unusual — businesses around.

Colorado voters legalized marijuana for medicinal use in 2000 with the passage of Amendment 20, but until recently, the state's medical marijuana community was small and fairly inconspicuous. As of January, 5,000 people had applied to the state registry, and there were less than two dozen dispensaries selling pot.

But that's changed, thanks to the Obama administration's move in March to end most dispensary raids, as well as a Colorado Board of Health decision in July that did nothing to limit the number of patients that medical marijuana dispensaries can have. As of June 30, the Colorado medical marijuana registry had swelled to more than 10,000 applicants, with the state receiving more than 400 new applications each day. To meet that demand, at least seventy Colorado dispensaries have opened, forty in the metro area alone.

Many of these are operated by what insiders are calling a "second wave" of ganjapreneurs — savvy, experienced businesspeople and professionals. Some honed their chops running ventures that have nothing to do with marijuana; others are opportunists from the heady California dispensary scene who see a new market ripe for investment.

In the meantime, legal consultants, insurance companies and real-estate brokers are carving out their own niche, building industry-wide infrastructure for a form of commerce that never before existed.

Whether any of it is truly legal — and whether any of it will last — is anybody's guess, because marijuana, after all, is still illegal under federal law. And although Amendment 20 allows people in Colorado to use pot for medical reasons, the law says nothing about dispensaries or whether buying and selling marijuana at them is legal. ("Growth Industry," February 5.)

"I saw it coming," says Colorado Attorney General John Suthers about the growth of the dispensary industry, of which he disapproves. "Even when we looked at the amendment in 2000, it was very purposely designed, in my opinion, by the advocates so it was so broad you could drive a truck through it."

Cities and towns aren't waiting for Suthers and his colleagues to sort the laws out. To deal with the reality of a business model that isn't going away, one municipality after another is looking into their zoning or planning codes, and some have passed dispensary-specific rules, like where they can be located and what type of signage is allowed.

I'm not waiting, either. Past the security guard, I can see a brightly lit, professional-looking operation. People shuttle paperwork to and fro, chatting and laughing. It's a far cry from a drug-dealing operation — though a familiar smell lingers in the air. No time for second thoughts: I'm already late for my appointment.

I step inside, ready to get medicated.

For Craig Mardick, it's a great day for a grand opening.

The windows of his new business, Golden Alternative Care, are freshly polished, and a spread of complimentary fruit, veggies and dip greets customers just inside the door. Mardick's landlord and insurance agent stop by to congratulate him and his employees. His mom pops in, too, with a freshly framed art poster to hang on the wall.

Mardick has just launched Golden's first marijuana dispensary, and behind a discreet curtain, a glass display case offers marijuana strains with names like Bubble Berry, AK-47 and Pot of Gold, plus an assortment of cannabis-infused edibles.

"I have never seen an economic model like this," he says of his new undertaking. "It's unheard of. Economists don't know how to forecast the industry."

A former medical technician and environmental scientist by trade, Mardick had been laid off from a couple of jobs in the past few years when he got the idea to open a dispensary. A medical marijuana patient himself — he's been diagnosed with a large hiatal hernia, a serious gastrointestinal ailment — he'd been using his botany background to grow medicine for a half-dozen patients.

In February of this year, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which oversees the state medical marijuana registry, revealed that it was considering limiting marijuana caregivers to providing for a maximum of five patients — a move that would have put dispensaries out of business, since they need more than five customers to survive.

But at a heavily attended hearing on July 20, the Colorado Board of Health, the advisory board for CDPHE, voted against the proposed limitation. The decision was seen as a tacit endorsement of the dispensary model, and state registrar Ron Hyman says the state has received 6,000 medical marijuana patient applications since then.

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First look: Madden NFL 10 for the iPhone

Electornic Arts' flagship sports franchise has landed on the iPhone and iPod touch

Madden NFL 10 iPhone features real teams, real players, and every NFL stadium. If you want to see Drew Brees battle the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park, this is your game. If you want to draw your own plays, master the nickel defense, and make a strategic quarterback change, you only need to make a few taps and you’re ready to go.

After a year of development, Madden NFL 10 looks to be one of the best sports games to the come to the iPhone. Electronic Arts has clearly put in time with this product to not only give players a fun and intuitive sports simulator, but also ensured the game stayed true to the Madden franchise’s lofty standards.

I sat down with Jeremy Gross, producer of Madden NFL 10, and Chris Dreyer, the product manager for the title and they walked me through the game.

Seasoned veterans of the series will appreciate that Madden NFL 10 features commentary from John Madden himself, deep rosters of every team, and over 200 plays on offense and over a 100 on defense. Dedicated players can enjoy the season feature and play an entire season as their favorite team. There’s also a multiplayer feature in development and a soundtrack that features five songs from the console version of the game. You can also load songs from your iPhone to create your own soundtrack. So if you want to listen to Kiss’s “Detroit Rock City” while you play as the Lions, you can.

Casual players will be drawn to the game because of its intuitive interface and controls. iPhone games are ideally suited for short play sessions, and EA astutely determined that the game should save after every play. So if you ever have to stop and exit the game for whatever reason-receiving a phone call, for example-you can resume your game where you left off. You also won’t be penalized for delay of game if you have to leave the game for a while or take longer to decide what play to call, explains Gross.

Controlling your team is surprisingly easy. The Madden franchise has become such a deep, rich, and complex sports simulation series that it can often be unapproachable to new players. But EA has done a masterful job of translating the various nuances to the iPhone’s unique control scheme.

With just a flick of the finger, you can sort through what teams you’d like to play and what plays you’d like to call. I selected my hometown San Francisco 49ers to play against the Oakland Raiders in a little Bay Area exhibition. After I received the ball and was quickly tackled, I started on offense. I quickly selected a play with a flick and a tap and then I decided to reverse it and create my own “hot route.” Dreyer and Gross are particularly proud of the “hot route” feature that allows the player to draw a new route for the players by dragging their finger across the touch screen.

I ordered my wide receiver into a deep route and then hiked the ball. A color-coded reticule indicates which receivers are open, and I quickly tapped on my wide receiver who I had previously sent deep. He caught the ball for a thirty-yard gain and a nice first down. I would have felt a greater sense of accomplishment, but a 3rd grader in a cast could beat the Raiders secondary.

Utilizing running plays is just as easy. You can tap a button in the corner of the screen to slow down time for your ball carrier. You can then decide if you want to juke, spin, turn, etc. It’s a nifty feature to break tackles and really puts you in the shoes of the player.

Despite my potent passing abilities, my quarterback held the ball too long on a third and short and I was forced to settle for a field goal. The kicking system should be easily recognizable to fans of EA’s sports games. According to Jeremy Gross, it’s the same finesse power system used by the Tiger Woods series of golf games. Now instead of swinging the club, you can time the most powerful and accurate kick. On my first try I kicked it through the uprights and nabbed three points. For such a small part of the overall game, I walked away impressed with the level of detail EA had put into the kicking feature.

Madden NFL 10 has all the makings of a great iPhone game and an application that is true to the source material. The game is available today for $8 in the iTunes Store, but will revert to its standard price of $10 at 8:30 pm EST on September 10.

In addition to multiplayer on the horizon, EA is working to bring roster updates and “authentic jerseys” to the game via in-app purchasing in a later update.

[Chris Holt is a Macworld assistant editor.]

Giant Vagina Outlasts Spiteful Billboard in Koreatown

By Olsen Ebright

Ten-story vaginas are OK. Ads criticizing insurance companies are not.

Apparently, that's the way of the billboard world in Southern California, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In Koreatown, a billboard that read "Consumer Watchdog Says: 'You Can't Trust Mercury Insurance'" was dismantled last week after the company complained to CBS Outdoor. The billboard was preapproved by CBS Outdoor and was up for almost two weeks before Mercury's lawyers applied pressure, The Times reported.

Yet a few blocks away, there's an Absolut Mango ad that wins our coveted "Outstanding Achievement in Vaginal Art" award. Actually the billboard is kind of tasteful -- well, as tasteful as a giant vagina can be. It does have a certain Edvard Munch vibe to it. Think "The Scream" meets the female anatomy.

As tasteful as it may be, it seems strange which billboard is still standing today.

"Truth is more controversial than pornography," Consumer Watchdog founder Harvey Rosenfield told the Times.

Rosenfield, who stands by the billboard's claims, has posted the "Top Ten Reasons You Can't Trust Mercury Insurance" on

Mercury had this to say about the billboard:

"CBS apparently has considered our comments and, as a responsible organization, has removed the defamatory statements from their billboard. Consumer Watchdog's claims about Mercury Insurance and its motivation are without merit."

In the response to the incident, Rosenfield says, he's thinking about running for state insurance commissioner and Consumer Watchdog is considering a lawsuit.

[Photos courtesy Consumer Watchdog and]

New Yorkers commemorate 9/11 at Ground Zero

NEW YORK — Bagpipes and drums sounded across Ground Zero Friday in New York as the city commemorated the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

The melancholy music mingled with rain as the crowd of mourners, police, firefighters, servicemen and officials, including Vice President Joseph Biden, gathered for the annual ceremony.

The impact of two hijacked airliners and collapse of the Twin Towers killed 2,752 people on September 11, 2001.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the day should also be remembered for the many who volunteered to help in the aftermath of the attack, including the 343 firefighters who died in the collapsing Twin Towers.

"Their compassion and selfless acts are etched in our city's history," Bloomberg said.

As every year, relatives of the dead and other volunteers took turns to read out the names of all the dead in a ritual carried live on local television.

Moments of silence were observed at the exact times the two planes struck and the towers fell down. Powerful lights were to send two beams skyward from the site at nightfall.

President Barack Obama, spending the day in Washington, wrote in a letter published on the front page of the New York Daily News that "we are all New Yorkers."

The attacks "will be forever seared in the consciousness of our nation," he wrote.

"We will never forget the images of planes vanishing into buildings; of billowing smoke rolling down the streets of Manhattan; of photos hung by the families of the missing," Obama wrote.

"We will never forget the rage and aching sadness we felt. And we will never forget the feeling that we had lost something else: a sense of safety as we went about our daily lives."

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

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