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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Star Wars/Bohemian Rhapsody music video mashup

For Star Wars and/or Queen fans:

via Neatorama.

Jailed Pakistani Doctor, Shakil Afridi, Who Helped Us Get Bin Laden, Speaks Out On Denial Of His Rights


The Pakistani doctor who is accused of helping the American Central Intelligence Agency track down former al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, says he is being denied his right to a fair trial.

"I am the first individual in Pakistan to have been denied permission to meet my lawyers, which is my basic legal right," he says in a hand-written letter he was able to smuggle out to his lawyers from his prison cell this week.

"What kind of a court, what kind of justice is this?"

This is his first contact with his lawyers in 15 months. It is also his first communication with the outside world since September 2012, when he spoke to Fox News from his prison cell by a smuggled phone.

His lawyers say they are living in a communication vacuum.

"We are strategising our defence by just anticipating what our client may want, we have no permission to consult him on specific issues," says Qamar Nadeem, one of Dr Afridi's two regular legal counsels.

Besides, a very small portion of the legal proceedings against him is available in writing, says Wasim Ahmad Shah, a Peshawar-based journalist who covers legal affairs for Dawn newspaper.

"Most legal proceedings in the current phase of the case are based on verbal exchanges between lawyers and court officials, and may or may not signify actual developments in the case," he says.

"This ambiguity appears deliberate."

From the start, Dr Afridi's case has carried the undertones of realpolitik instead of a legal battle.

He was arrested in May 2011 for what many ex-military defence analysts considered to be his role in organising a hepatitis vaccination campaign that aimed at procuring DNA samples from residents of a compound where Bin Laden was subsequently found.

But a year later, Dr Afridi was given 33 years in jail for a totally different offence - that of collaborating with a banned militant group operating in his native Khyber tribal region.

Few believed the credibility of that verdict, because he had actually been kidnapped by the Lashkar-e-Islam group for performing "questionable" surgeries in his private clinic in Bara, a town in Khyber region.

Locals say he paid a hefty ransom to the group to secure his release,.

Also, instead of the country's mainstream judicial system, his case was taken to an administrative court functioning under a special law governing the tribal areas, called the Frontier Crime Regulations (FCR).

These courts are presided over by officials of the tribal administration, operate behind closed doors and do not necessarily follow standard legal procedures.

It is also not clear exactly when he was handed over to the Khyber administration by the ISI intelligence service that initially arrested him on 23 May 2011.

In his Fox News interview, Dr Afridi claimed he had been kept at an ISI lockup in Islamabad for almost a year.

This would mean he never attended the hearings of the court, and was simply handed the sentence, which came exactly one year after his arrest, on 23 May 2012.

A temporary reprieve of sorts came in August this year when his sentence was overturned on procedural grounds and his case sent to a more senior administration official for retrial.

But last month a woman brought a murder charge against him, saying her son died after a 2005 surgery performed on him by Dr Afridi at his Bara clinic.

This has again raised eyebrows in Pakistan because hospital casualties normally fall under clauses pertaining to negligence, not murder, and relatives of a patient routinely give their consent in writing before surgeries are performed.

Independent analysts are unanimous that he has served as a convenient scapegoat for the Pakistani military, which had come under severe domestic criticism for failing to prevent the American raid that killed Bin Laden.

But charging him for what he did - help lead the US to the most wanted man in the world - could cast aspersions on Pakistan's role as an ally in the war against militants.

And such a move could also preclude the possibility of Pakistan using Dr Afridi in a face-saving deal with the US at some point in the future.

But while the authorities continue to beat around the bush, Dr Afridi has refused to lie low.

He created ripples in September last year when he gave an interview to Fox News. The episode caused a blanket ban on his meetings with relatives and lawyers and cost some prison guards their jobs.

He has now smuggled out a letter to his lawyers.

"I don't know what's happening in my case," he writes. "I don't know on what grounds the commissioner suspended my sentence. But I'm happy with you [lawyers]. If you stay resolute, success is near, God willing."

Compilation: Dogs Terrified Of Walking Past Cats

A common sight if you have both dogs and cats at home:

At Huffpo, via @RealRosenRosen.

72 years ago: Remembering Pearl Harbor

Wikipedia: Attack on Pearl Harbor

Here's an old newsreel:

And this is from the Military Channel: World War II In Color- Pearl Harbor Attacked!:

These AP photos are from WaPo:

Life has published a set of photos, largely from the aftermath:

Friday, December 6, 2013

Heh: Stolen prosthetic arm discovered in a second hand shop

Detective Constable Adam Woolman, of Bournemouth CID, said: “During the course of an investigation police recovered a number of items from a second hand shop, including this arm.

Friday links

The Exploding Anti-Tank Dogs of World War II.

New bra tells women when they’re overeating.

A History of the Glass Wine Bottle.

The 20 most ridiculous and hilarious Amazon reviews for a $40,000 TV.

Basketball Trick Shot Maker Titus went viral when he was 2 - now he's 3. With Channing Tatum and Bradley Cooper.

SuperSized Heroes: Interactive Website Showing How Superheroes Would Look if They Became Obese.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here.

Bears Acting Like Humans Compilation

Real bears, not the Chicago variety:

Basketball Trick Shot Maker Titus went viral when he was 2 - now he's 3. With Channing Tatum and Bradley Cooper

Movie stars? Check.

Buckets from seven-stories? Check.

Making shots with both hands (at the same time!)? Check.

Here he is at 2:

Nelson Mandela’s Epitaph, in His Own Words

Mother Jones: In 1964 Mandela and eight other defendants had been charged with violating the Sabotage Act and the Suppression of Communism Act, accused of plotting violence against the apartheid government with the aim of overthrowing it. In court, he gave an epic 60 page, 176 minute speech which he believed might be his last.  Here are the final lines:
During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Does smoking pot cause man boobs?

(CNN) -- A young man in his 20s -- let's call him George -- sits across from me in the exam room.

"Dr. Youn," he says, "I have man boobs."

I notice a not-so-unfamiliar smell wafting from his body. It's the same odor that floated my way during a rock concert I recently attended.

"How long have you had a problem with this, George?"

"Hard to say. But it seems to have gotten worse over the past year or so."

"George, the first thing you need to do is stop smoking pot. Marijuana could be causing your man boobs."

Gynecomastia, otherwise known as man boobs (or moobs for short), is a condition that affects approximately 33% to 41% of men between the ages of 25 and 45. It's even more common during puberty, affecting 60% of 14-year-old boys. Interestingly, it also affects 55% to 60% of men aged 50 and older.

Although most cases of gynecomastia resolve spontaneously within a few months to a few years, in 2012 nearly 23,000 people underwent surgery to correct the condition. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), it was the fifth-most common cosmetic surgery in men.

Gynecomastia is caused by a hormone imbalance between testosterone and estrogen. When the ratio between testosterone and estrogen tips in favor of estrogen, the body responds by creating excessive breast tissue. Hence, man boobs.

Animal studies have shown that exposure to the active ingredient in marijuana can result in a decrease in testosterone levels, a reduction of testicular size, and abnormalities in the form and function of sperm.

In humans, the effects of marijuana on testosterone and estrogen levels aren't as clear. Lower testosterone levels have been reported in chronic marijuana users compared to nonusers, but not all studies support this.

Few studies have examined a direct causative effect between smoking marijuana and gynecomastia. A report in 1972 made the initial connection between cannabis and gynecomastia. This study is contrasted with a 1977 survey of U.S. Army soldiers which showed no association between smoking marijuana and gynecomastia. This study was limited, however, due to its very small sample size.

The legalization of marijuana in some state could make it easier for researchers to determine the exact effects of cannabis use on hormone levels, gynecomastia and other bodily functions. If a true link between smoking pot and gynecomastia does exist, then we should expect to see a spike in gynecomastia treatments in those states which have legalized marijuana.

Interestingly, according to ASAPS, the number of men undergoing surgery for gynecomastia nationwide rose nearly 30% from 2011 to 2012.

So can smoking pot really give you man boobs?

Probably. Although the association between marijuana and gynecomastia hasn't been conclusively proven, it appears very plausible. For this reason, the majority of plastic surgeons I've consulted with routinely inquire with their gynecomastia patients about cannabis use and recommend they stop smoking pot immediately.

So for now, if you have moobs, it's probably best to put out that joint.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

'Walking Dead' February return trailer (spoilers for episodes so far, but not for future episodes)

Creator Robert Kirkman and star Andrew Lincoln promised the final eight epiosdes of season 4 will kick The Walking Dead into high gear: The survivors are scattered and on the run in the wake of The Governor’s Pyrrhic attack on the prison (that’s right: no more prison!).

via EW.

Holy crap - I just saw what happened to Jim Treacher

Apparently Treacher got beat up last night.
"As I sat there handcuffed, one Metro DC cop mocked me for crying and another one made fun of my weight. Can't say I blame them for either."
In a separate incident nearly four years ago, Medlock was seriously injured when he was struck by a State Department SUV in DC in February 2010. He has documented his travails here.

Some guy named Josh did this to me tonight, because he thought I was rude when he tried to run me over.
More at Twitchy.

Wednesday links

The First Convicted Murderer in America.

Blues Brothers' mall car-chase scene perfectly recreated in Lego, with side by side comparison.

Neanderthal interior decorating

How to Invite a Man Home - advice from 1642.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here.

Blues Brothers' mall car-chase scene perfectly recreated in Lego, with side by side comparison to original

BTW, Friday links are here.

For Blues Brothers fans, or those about to become such - holy crap, this is excellent.  You should embiggen:

Here's a side by side comparison with the original:

And a "making of" video:

By Lego expert Brick Tease, via io9.

Britain to send large quantities of pig semen to China

Guardian: Artificial insemination news of the day:

Under the deal with China, the "porcine semen" can be flown to the country in frozen and fresh form. Pigs will not be flying but their seed will take to the air.

A No 10 spokesperson said:
"We're doing all we can to ensure that businesses up and down the country reap the rewards from our relationship with China. And that includes our pig farmers. This new deal to export pig semen will be worth £45m to UK firms and means Britain's best pigs will help sustain the largest pig population in the world."
Presumably there will be a large contingent of Chinese with turkey basters standing by at the airport for the fresh stuff. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Amazon may be using delivery drones, and at least one town may be hunting them

Deer Trail is one place Amazon probably won't pilot its "Air Prime" drone delivery system. The town is poised to vote in the next week and a half on an ordinance that will allow drone hunting.

That is, the measure will allow citizens of Deer Trail to purchase $25 drone-hunting licenses and then bring pieces of shot-down drones back for a bounty of up to $100. The text of the ordinance oozes with a not-on-my-lawn disdain for the copters. "As such, every unwanted unmanned aerial vehicle is hereby declared a threat to ... precious freedom," it reads. And, yeah, the kids can get in on the drone shooting too. "There shall be no age requirement or restriction for issuance of the hunting license." No background investigations will be needed to obtain a drone hunting license. 

A lot of people seem to think that the obstacles are too substantial for Amazon to be able to use drones anyway:

"It looks like science fiction, but it's real." That's how Amazon, the online retailing giant, describes its new plan to deliver blenders, spice racks, and sex toys in 30 minutes or less via drone. On Sunday, CEO Jeff Bezos announced that his company is in the process of testing these new delivery drones and aims to have them ready by the time the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to open up US airspace to unmanned aerial vehicles in 2015. But after that date, Amazon's blender-delivering drones will still face big obstacles, such as the states and cities that are hostile towards drone-use; potential accidents with passenger planes; GPS and privacy concerns; and roving bands of laser-wielding package bandits. 

While many states are vying for the right to be official FAA drone test sites, others are doing their best to make their skies unwelcome to drones. Both Idaho and Texas have passed laws that restrict private citizens from using drones to take photos—and it's likely that Amazon drones will need to be equipped with cameras, according to the Washington Post. Another seven states have jumped on the drone-banning bandwagon, by stopping law enforcement (but not private companies) from using them for surveillance. There are also a number of cities and counties that are considering making their air spaces "drone-free zones." Charlottesville, Virginia, Iowa City, Iowa, and St. Bonifacius, Minnesota, have banned drones for at least two years. 

Here's a map showing which states have passed legislation restricting drone use, put together with help from the National Conference of State Legislatures and the ACLU. Many other states have introduced bills that are still under consideration, so check your own state legislature for more information.

Until 11AM EST, this highly rated pasta machine is $54

Monday, December 2, 2013

Icelandic police shot a man who was firing a shotgun in his apartment. First time ever Icelandic police killed someone.

Read the whole thing at BBC:

"Police regret this incident and would like to extend their condolences to the family of the man," Icelandic police chief Haraldur Johannessen told reporters.

The incident was "without precedent" in Iceland, he said.

The apartment block was evacuated as neighbours were considered to be in danger.

Iceland, with a population of 322,000, has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and shooting incidents are unusual.

Counselling is being provided to the special forces team.

How to Invite a Man Home - advice from 1642

According to Cupids Schoole: Wherein Yong Men and Mayds May Learne Diverse Sorts of New, Witty, Amorous Complements (1642), here's what to say if you want to invite a gentleman home with you: 

“To invite one home. Sir, I have often desired your company at home, but yet could never be so happy to obtaine it. But now you shall not deny to grace my poor house with your presence, since we are hard by it, and to honour me so much as to let the star of your vertue shine within the sphear of my house: for I dare promise though entertainement be not worthy your invitation, yet you shall be as welcome as a friend can be to a friend.”

Geek gifts: Harry Potter 8-movie set on Blu-ray $55, Matrix Set on Blu-ray for $20, Firefly complete series $6, more

$20 for the Ultimate Matrix Collection on Blu-ray.

Firefly complete series $6.

Harry Potter: Complete 8-Film Collection on Blu-ray.

Amazon's "Spotlight Deals" best sellers in Movies/TV.

New bra tells women when they’re overeating

RYOT: In attempt to make bras even more obnoxious and constricting, researchers have developed an undergarment that tells women when they’re overeating.

To be fair, though, the bra specifically targets stress-eating. You know, that rom-com stereotype, post-breakup pint of ice cream that’ll only make you feel worse in the end.

“It’s mostly women who are emotional overeaters, and it turns out that a bra is perfect for measuring EKG (electrocardiogram),” said Mary Czerwinski, a cognitive psychologist and brassiere engineer at Microsoft Research. EKGs translate the heart’s electrical activity into readable graphs that can be used to partially determine how stressed someone is.

That info combined with women’s recorded moods on a smartphone app can predict when ladies’ appetites and emotions may lead to overeating.

But the question remains: can telling a woman she’s stress-eating make her put the fork down? Fat chance!

Catch a woman at the wrong time and she’d sooner rip her bossy bra off in rage, dive face-first into an unbirthday cake, then use the candles to light her restrictive undergarment ablaze, along with pictures of her ex, in a trash can in the back yard.

Monday links

Soviet Accident Prevention Posters.

Nazis with cats.

Photo Essay: Goats in Sweaters.

Billionaire Bunkers: Beyond the Panic Room, Home Security Goes Sci-Fi.

Ugly Christmas sweaters.

How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Must Read Mark Steyn: Surrender in Geneva

Read the whole thing at NRO.

In Geneva, the participants came to the talks with different goals: The Americans and Europeans wanted an agreement; the Iranians wanted nukes. Each party got what it came for. Before the deal, the mullahs’ existing facilities were said to be within four to seven weeks of nuclear “breakout”; under the new constraints, they’ll be eight to nine weeks from breakout. In return, they get formal international recognition of their enrichment program, and the gutting of sanctions — and everything they already have is, as they say over at Obamacare, grandfathered in.

Some years ago, I heard that great scholar of Islam, Bernard Lewis, caution that America risked being seen as harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend. The Obama administration seems to have raised the thought to the level of doctrine. What has hitherto been unclear is whether this was through design or incompetence. Certainly, John Kerry has been unerringly wrong on every foreign-policy issue for four decades, so sheer bungling stupidity cannot be ruled out.

Ukraine: Tens of Thousands March Through Kiev, plus live video stream

AP: More than 100,000 demonstrators chased away police to rally in the center of Ukraine's capital on Sunday, defying a government ban on protests on Independence Square, in the biggest show of anger over the president's refusal to sign an agreement with the European Union.

Thousands of demonstrators tried to storm the nearby presidential administration building, but were driven back by riot police using tear gas and flash grenades, which produce a loud bang but are not intended to cause injury. The standoff continued, with more demonstrators arriving.

The crowd was by far the largest since the protests began more than a week ago. Many of the demonstrators had traveled to Kiev from western Ukraine, where pro-EU sentiment is particularly strong.

"We are furious," said Mykola Sapronov, a 62-year-old retired businessman. "The leaders must resign. We want Europe and freedom."

Dramatic live video streaming from Kiev vi@tonyhalpin.

Protests have been held daily in Kiev since Yanukovych backed away from an agreement that would have established free trade and deepened political cooperation between Ukraine and the EU. He justified the decision by saying that Ukraine could not afford to break trade ties with Russia.

The EU agreement was to have been signed Friday and since then the protests have gained strength.

Sunday's demonstration also was energized by anger over the violent dispersal of several hundred protesters at Independence Square early Saturday. Some of the protesters were left bleeding from their heads after riot police beat them with truncheons.

The EU agreement had been eagerly anticipated by Ukrainians who want their country of 45 million people to break out of Moscow's orbit. Opinion surveys in recent months showed about 45 percent of Ukrainians supporting closer integration with the EU and a third or less favoring closer ties with Russia.

Moscow tried to block the deal with the EU by banning some Ukrainian imports and threatening more trade sanctions. A 2009 dispute between Kiev and Moscow on gas prices resulted in a three-week cutoff of gas to Ukraine.

Amazon Cyber Monday Lightning Deals available today

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60 years in an iron lung: US polio survivor worries about new global threat

Via NBC: Martha Ann Lillard, now 65, has spent most of the past six decades inside an 800-pound machine that helps her breathe. 

“Scenarios for polio being reintroduced into the U.S. are easy to image and the disease could get a foothold if we don’t maintain high vaccination rates,” says Dr. Greg Wallace, a team leader for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he heads the measles, mumps, rubella and polio epidemiology branch.

“Syria is a good example,” he adds. “They didn’t have any cases. Then they stopped vaccinating for two or three or four years and what do you have?”

What you have, according to the World Health Organization, is more than a dozen children permanently paralyzed in Syria, where conflict and a humanitarian crisis have interrupted inoculation efforts that provide a lifetime of protection with just a few doses of vaccine.

Infectious disease experts in Germany this month warned that Syria’s outbreak could endanger Europe as tens of hundreds of refugees flee the war-torn country and settle in places that have been polio-free for decades.

That idea alarms Lillard, who is one of an estimated six to eight polio survivors in the U.S. still using iron lungs, according to Joan Headley, executive director of Post-Polio Health International, an advocacy group.

Their numbers have dwindled steadily since 1959, when more than 1,200 people in the U.S. relied on the machines that use negative air pressure to passively move air in and out of lungs weakened or paralyzed by the virus.

She has spent most of her life inside one of several long metal cylinders in which she’s enclosed with an airtight seal, with only her neck and head sticking out of a foam collar. She has switches inside —along with a goose down comforter and nice sheets — to allow her to roll a tray-like cot in and out.

Lillard owns her iron lung, which was built in the 1940s and runs on a fan belt motor that friends help patch together with car parts when it breaks.

“It feels wonderful, actually, if you’re not breathing well,” says Lillard. “When I was first put into it, it was such a relief. It makes all the difference when you’re not breathing.”

Self-defense story of the day: 70 year old shoots knife-wielding wife in their trailer over late father-in-law's 30-year old shoes

James Cothran told investigators the couple had been sitting alone in their living room watching television when his wife asked him to take off the shoes he was wearing. The shoes had belonged to her father, who died 30 years ago, according to the report.

When he refused to take off the shoes, James Cothran said his wife went into the kitchen, grabbed a knife and began walking toward where he was sitting.

The couple continued to argue for about 30 minutes and James Cothran said he got between two chairs and that his wife “had a crazy look in her eyes.” He then grabbed the revolver, which had been on the floor next to his chair and fired it at her, according to the report.

Investigators recovered a knife located on the floor in front of where Mrs. Cothran was found sitting and a revolver located on top of a kitchen cabinet, according to the report.

Tennyson said sheriff’s deputies had been called to the couple’s home at least a dozen times within the past year for domestic disturbance issues, but no arrests or injuries were ever reported.