Open thread

This is the last incarnation of the open thread using this format.  They will continue to be posted regularly (perhaps even daily) and will continue to offer a place for discussion on any topic.  They will even continue offering some interesting tidbits I’ve discovered in my daily news consumption.  But they are changing dramatically as part of a larger plan.  More on that later.

What a stunning photo!

McDonald’s is trying to claim intellectual property rights on how to make a sandwich.  You better let the kids know they can’t have peanut butter and jelly anymore unless they pay royalties to some corporate asshole.  No, not really.  It won’t fly.  I mean, come on!

This is SO disturbing.  “A three-year-old boy has been eaten alive by a neighbour’s herd of pigs on the outskirts of the Indian capital, Delhi, police say. The boy, Ajay, strayed from the family home as his parents and other family members were having lunch. When his mother went to look for him, she found the pigs chewing something and spotted bits of her son’s clothing. She threw stones at the animals but they turned on her. Her screams alerted neighbours who came to her rescue.”  Beyond the shock factor, they arrested the pig owner for “causing death due to negligence.”  What the fuck about his parents who left him outside to play while they dined lavishly inside without a thought for their son?  No, let the man go and throw the kid’s parents into jail for neglect, abuse, and wrongful death.  Let’s stop blaming everyone else for what happens to children and start pointing the finger back at the parents who think it’s the responsibility of everyone except themselves to ensure the safety and well-being of their children.

Now for something completely different.  “Scientists believe they have worked out a formula to calculate how ‘beer goggles’ affect a drinker’s vision. The drink-fuelled phenomenon is said to transform supposedly ‘ugly’ people into beauties – until the morning after. Researchers at Manchester University say while beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder, the amount of alcohol consumed is not the only factor. Additional factors include the level of light in the pub or club, the drinker’s own eyesight and the room’s smokiness. The distance between two people is also a factor. They all add up to make the aesthetically-challenged more attractive, according to the formula.”  Yes, there’s a real formula and more explanation in the article.

Uh… I’m not sure what to say about this one.  “A mother was arrested on suspicion of murdering her newborn daughter by microwaving the baby in an oven. China Arnold, 26, was jailed Monday on a charge of aggravated murder, more than a year after she brought her dead month-old baby to a hospital. Bail was set Tuesday at $1 million. ‘We have reason to believe, and we have some forensic evidence that is consistent with our belief, that a microwave oven was used in this death,’ said Ken Betz, director of the Montgomery County coroner’s office. He said the evidence included high-heat internal injuries and the absence of external burn marks on the baby, Paris Talley.”  Why did it take a year?  There’s a real “DUH!” factor in this quote: “Arnold was arrested soon after the baby’s death in August 2005, then was released while authorities investigated further. Betz said the case was difficult because ‘there is not a lot of scientific research and data on the effect of microwaves on human beings.'”

Some very cool science here: “Astronomers have found a gigantic cosmic ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ that is spinning light into matter and giving off lighthouse-like pulses of gamma rays. The bizarre duo responsible for this miraculous feat of physics is a giant blue star and either a black hole or a rapidly spinning neutron star.”  That’s right, poppets, matter and energy are interchangeable.  This natural phenomenon proves it and is doing it with ease (cosmologically speaking, that is).

It’s nice to see a little “checks and balances” going on, eh?  “A federal judge struck down President Bush’s authority to designate groups as terrorists, saying his post-Sept. 11 executive order was unconstitutional and vague. Some parts of the Sept. 24, 2001 order tagging 27 groups and individuals as ‘specially designated global terrorists’ were too vague and could impinge on First Amendment rights of free association, U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins said. The order gave the president ‘unfettered discretion’ to label groups without giving them a way to challenge the designations, she said in a Nov. 21 ruling that was made public Tuesday. The judge, who two years ago invalidated portions of the U.S. Patriot Act, rejected several sections of Bush’s Executive Order 13224 and enjoined the government from blocking the assets of two foreign groups.”

The rats have started leaping from the sinking ship.  Until now, Congress would not challenge anything the president did, and therefore no federal agency would disagree and instead participated in very bad things.  After the American people made clear that was not an acceptable arrangement, some rodent-like scurrying is now taking place.  “The Justice Department is launching an internal review of its participation in the Bush administration’s controversial domestic eavesdropping program, the department’s inspector general told congressional leaders on Monday. The review, which congressional Democrats have sought for nearly a year, will examine the Justice Department’s role in the warrantless domestic spying program run by the super-secret National Security Agency (NSA), Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine said.”  Considering they can no longer ignore what the Democrats want (and, therefore, the people of the United States), notice how quickly they begin questioning activities they’ve thus far justified with all manner of lies and deceit and mangling of American principles and ideals.  Let’s hope this trend continues, and let’s hope the Democrat-controlled Congress shakes up the executive branch and all of the government with sweeping oversight—just as the Constitution orders them to do and just as the Republicans have failed to do for six years.

Thanks to xocobra for sending this to me.  “The longstanding advice to “sit up straight” has been turned on its head by a new study that suggests leaning back is a much better posture. Researchers analyzed different postures and concluded that the strain of sitting upright for long hours is a perpetrator of chronic back problems.”  Apparently, sitting back at 135 degrees is the best biomechanical position for relieving all unnecessary strain on the back.  And xocobra’s right: We don’t call it sitting up ‘straight’ as that seems terribly biased against gays; instead, it should be called sitting up ‘gayly erect’—although that communicates a very different connotation.  Sounds like a fun position, yes?

Who says there’s no honor among thieves?  “A thief broke into a home, stole a video camera and found images of child porn on it. The thief called police after finding the camera, with images of child pornography and said the camera would be left on the steps of a church. Police retrieved the camera and soon realized the burglar had videotaped a computer monitor displaying images of child pornography. The thief printed the address of where he stole the camera on a note with the camera and the police went there and seized computer equipment containing 13,315 pornographic images.”  The burglar is still at large, but I think that crime is better left unsolved.  [via Michael at Gay Orbit]

Boycott Iceland and all of its products and services.  That’s the country responsible for stopping a U.N. ban on deep-sea trawling, a most destructive kind of fishing that is devastating the oceanic ecosystems (and remember, seafood will be gone by 2048 if things like this don’t stop).  See the article for details and products you should avoid.

Via Wayne comes this very cool site where you can view Earth from any of the public satellites in orbit (by ‘public’ I mean those providing imagery and information open to general consumption; no, you can’t tap into spy satellites… at least not easily).  There are some fantastic views to be enjoyed with this little tool.

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