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April 11, 2008

Melting Causes Lake in Chile to Empty

Filed under: Kuriozitete, Facts,Lajme --- News — halfevil @ 2:43 pm

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Melting ice in southern Chile caused a glacial lake to swell and then empty suddenly, sending a “tsunami” rolling through a river, a scientist said Thursday. No one was injured in the remote region.

Glacier scientist Gino Casassa said the melting of the Colonia glacier, which he blamed on rising world temperatures, filled the Cachet Lake and increased pressure on the ice sheet.

The water bored a 5-mile tunnel through the glacier and finally emptied into the Baker River on April 6.

“The remarkable thing is that the mass of water moved against the current of the river,” Casassa told The Associated Press by telephone from the Center for Scientific Studies in the southern city of Valdivia. “It was a real river tsunami.”

The lake was nearly full again by late Wednesday, he said.

Casassa said temperatures were unusually high during the recent Southern Hemisphere summer.

“This is a phenomenon that occurs periodically during the summer season, caused by the melting of large masses of ice that swell some lakes,” he said. “The basic cause is global warming.”

The Tempano lake in Chile’s Bernardo O’Higgins National Park abruptly disappeared last year, and has since recovered just some of its former volume.

The 5 Biggest Badass Popes

Filed under: Kuriozitete, Facts,Lifestyle — halfevil @ 12:54 pm

It used to be that to become pope, you had to sit pantsless in a horseshoe-shaped chair and let a couple of cardinals see if you had the goods. If you passed, they’d yell “Testiculos habet et bene pendentes!” (He has testicles, and they hang well!) It’s true, in those days it took balls to become pope.

Back then, the Papacy was reserved for the hardasses, guys you wouldn’t mess with–the gangsters, the demon-summoners, the corpse-digger-uppers. Here are the ones we consider the biggest badasses. And, no, we didn’t make any of this up.

Alexander VI (1492-1503)

Alexander VI blazed the trail for Biggie Smalls, Kingpin and Jabba the Hutt as obese badasses who didn’t let their man-boobs and tendency to sweat while they ate stop them from amassing a huge fortune, slaughtering their enemies, and getting sweatily busy with the ladies.

Any story you’ve ever heard about crooked popes started with this guy. He bought the papacy with four mule loads of silver. He nailed Rome’s most eligible bachelorettes. He made his 17-year-old bastard son an archbishop. He started wars, poisoned cardinals and took their money, and probably ate live frogs while feeding people to the Rancor.

His greatest accomplishment–as a host if not as a pope–was the Banquet of Chestnuts held in 1501. This sounds nice enough until you learn that the chestnuts were merely a pretext to have a pack of naked hookers crawling around the ground collecting them. But that wasn’t the evening’s only nut-related activity. Trained observers were present to keep track of the total number and quality of the party-goers’ ejaculations. That’s exactly the kind of information you need when a bishopric comes open.

Alexander’s death was followed by further hijinks. His ham-stuffed corpse couldn’t fit in the coffin and began belching sulfur. His successor forbade anyone from saying prayers for his lardy soul. Finally, almost 400 years later, he was reborn as Aleister Crowley (at least that’s what he said), who shocked the world by … taking a lot of drugs and drawing naked pictures of himself.

Pius II (1458-1464)

Pius II proves that appearances can be deceiving. At first glance, he’d seem to be in the running for biggest fancy lad in the history of the Papacy. He was a “humanist,” which means that he read every bit of fruity Latin poetry he could get his hands on and then made ever-so-clever jokes about it with his similarly overeducated friends. Oh, how they giggled!

He seems like the kind of guy whose head you’d like to flush in a toilet, doesn’t he? Well, it’s a damn good thing you didn’t try it, because Pius had a very powerful, very spooky man who was willing to do whatever the pope told him: fucking Dracula. Seriously.

You see, Pius had Turk problems. The Ottoman Empire was invading various European countries, taking Christian children from their families and subjecting them to strict training in order to create an army of super-soldiers (yes, really). Drastic action was called for.

Pius wrote a letter to Vlad III Tepes, aka Vlad the Impaler, aka Vlad fucking Dracula, a guy so bloodthirsty his name became synonymous with “vampire.”

Hey, did we mention Vlad impaled about 30,000 people on huge-ass spikes? When Pope Pius took “drastic” action, he didn’t fuck around.

In spite of the overwhelming odds–thousands of fanatical super-soldiers versus whatever mustached Wallachian turnip-farmers Vlad hadn’t gotten around to impaling yet– Vlad took on the Turks and even sort of won.

Whatever quality Pius had that caused Vlad the Impaler to put his own Transylvanian ass on the line to do his bidding, it makes him one of history’s best-disguised badasses. The lesson: Resist the urge to assault the next tweedy little sissy you see reciting something in elegiac couplet, because it’s quite possible that he has an undead bloodsucking fiend watching his back.

Honorius III (1216-1227)

Honorius III would seem to be one of hundreds of relatively uninteresting popes who fill in the years between the badass ones. But, like a furry with an erotic squirrel costume so convincing that against all odds it gives you an erection, Honorius was one of those guys who was so good at something lame that it actually made him a badass.

In this case, Honorius was so pious that the temptations of this world were too easy for him, so he routinely summoned demons just to challenge himself. He even wrote a book about it so that your local parish priest could test himself against the denizens of the netherworld by opening some kind of flaming portal to hell.

After a hard day of “reforming the clergy” (i.e., forcing them to be as unlike Alexander VI as possible), the meek and saintly old man retired to his chambers. His lackeys no doubt thought he was busily devising new ways to bore the hell out of them. Actually, he was drawing pentagrams on the floor and interrupting the slumber of various imps, cacodemons and even the final boss of his spiritual exercises, the terrifying spider mastermind.

What could be more frustrating for the demons? When one of these monstrosities is forcibly brought to the earthly realm, at least it usually gets to disembowel someone; depending on the skill of summoner, either the wizard’s enemies or the wizard himself.

How do you think they felt when they came face to face with a bossy and spiritually invincible pope? “God be with you, my cacodemon. Now, do my dishes. After you’re done, you can help yourself to a hard candy from the dish and then go back to hell.”

Stephen VI (896-897)

Once he was ensconced on the throne (the nut-check apparently went smoothly), Pope Stephen VI decided to right some old wrongs. A previous Pope, Formosus, had committed some technical infractions, the kinds of minor crimes a less scrupulous Pope would have let slide, especially considering the man was dead. But not Stephen.

Consumed with an unquenchable thirst for justice, he had Formosus dug up, dressed in his papal vestments, and seated on a throne, ready to face the music in a formal trial.

It was like one of those Law & Order scenes where Jack McCoy starts yelling at a defendant, his eyebrows flying around like pissed off weightless caterpillars while the guilty bastard sits on the witness stand stunned into silence. Being as he was without an attorney and dead, all Formosus could do was sit there in his finery, perhaps letting a chunk of himself fall to the floor in silent protest.

Formosus was found guilty on all charges, of course, though the trial practically screamed for an appeal. The late pontiff’s only defense was mounted by a cleric kneeling behind his throne, who answered Stephen’s seemingly rhetorical questions (“Why did you usurp the papacy?!”) for Formosus by explaining, “Because I was evil!” Historians do not relate whether the cleric set up a pulley device to make Formosus’ jaw move up and down while he spoke for him, so we must assume that he did.

The death penalty was ruled out, since applying it to a corpse might have made Formosus a brain-eating zombie. Stephen played it safe: he chopped off the three fingers Formosus used for blessing and tossed his cadaver in the river. The lesson was inescapable. If the Pope was going to come down this hard on a guy who had violated an obscure Vatican by-law and died a year before, you didn’t even want to know what kind of crazy shit he’d do to someone who really fucked up.

It’s a testament to our lax and dissolute times that Stephen is now considered the bad guy in this story.

Sergius III (897, 904-911)

Take Stephen VI and put about ten extra inches of penis on him, and you get Sergius III. The only man badass enough to be forcibly removed from the office and to take it back, his seven-year reign left the landscape littered with corpses and papal bastards.

Stephen was first elected in 897, but Rome clearly wasn’t ready. Perhaps the nut-check chair’s hole was too small. Whatever the reason, he was expelled by force and excommunicated by various factions of player-hater. While Sergius sat at home and stewed, the papacy was fought over by some guys who were actually pretty badass in their own right.

Realizing that what was needed was stability through the accumulation of dead bodies, the gangstas running things in Rome invited Sergius back to his rightful throne. The new and former pope embarked on a program of governance that combined the best aspects of the first 100 days Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency and the end of The Godfather. Sergius:

 

  1. Had his predecessor, the Antipope Christopher, strangled in prison.
  2. Had his predecessor’s predecessor, Leo V, strangled in prison.
  3. Set about impregnating a prominent Roman noblewoman with the future Pope John XI.
  4. Completed the legacy of his mentor Stephen VI by re-digging up poor old Formosus, trying his dead ass again, and beheading him.

 

A warning to aspiring young mediums: do not invite Sergius III to a séance. There is no doubt that his spirit will snap your neck like a stalk of celery and then proceed to make time with your lady. Just don’t do it.

7 Insane Conspiracies That Actually Happened

Filed under: Kuriozitete, Facts,Lifestyle — halfevil @ 10:25 am

People love a good conspiracy theory. The JFK assassination plot, aliens crash landing at Roswell, the 9/11 truth movement and charges of government surveillance are all an indelible part of our pop culture landscape and are by and large, total bullshit.

So where does your average conspiracy buff go to learn about shadowy plots that aren’t pure tinfoil hattery?

Look no further.

#7.
The Business Plot

The Plan:
In 1933, group of wealthy businessmen that allegedly included the heads of Chase Bank, GM, Goodyear, Standard Oil, the DuPont family and Senator Prescott Bush tried to recruit Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler to lead a military coup against President FDR and install a fascist dictatorship in the United States. And yes, we’re talking about the same Prescott Bush who fathered one US President and grandfathered another one.


Prescott Bush

How did that work out?
A good rule of thumb: never trust a man named Smedley to run your hostile military coup for you. Besides being no fan of fascism, Smedley Butler was both a patriot and a vocal FDR supporter. Apparently none of these criminal masterminds noticed that their prospective point man had actively stumped for FDR in 1932.

Smedley spilled the beans to a congressional committee in 1934. Everyone he accused of being a conspirator vehemently denied it, and none of them were brought up on criminal charges. Still, the House McCormack-Dickstein Committee did at least acknowledge the existence of the conspiracy, which ended up never getting past the initial planning stages.

Though many of the people who had allegedly backed the Business Plot also maintained financial ties with Nazi Germany up through America’s entry into World War II. But at least the United States never ended up becoming a fascist dictatorship (unless you ask Ron Paul supporters).

The lesson here? Fascist or not, you don’t fuck around with guys named Smedley or Dickstein.

#6.
The July 20 Plot

The Plan:
Near the end of WWII, things were rapidly going south for Germany and the time seemed ripe for guilt-ridden Nazi officers to assassinate Hitler and overthrow his government. Colonel Henning von Tresckow recruited Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg to join the conspiracy in 1944.

The plot to take out Hitler and then all of his loyal officers was called Operation Valkyrie, based on the belief that no plan can fail if it has a cool enough name.

How did that work out?
In July 1944, Stauffenberg was promoted so that he could now start attending military strategy meetings with Hitler himself. On more than one occasion Stauffenberg planned to kill Hitler at such a meeting with a briefcase bomb, but he always held off because he also wanted to take out Hitler’s two right-hand men, Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler. On July 20, he went for it anyway and exploded a bomb inside Hitler’s conference room with a remote detonator.

Hitler, who as a level-20 dark wizard had extraordinary damage absorption abilities, survived with only minor injuries.


Photos taken after the attempt depict Hitler’s health at 100 percent.

Stauffenberg fled when he found out his assassination attempt had failed and that the Fuhrer was explosion-proof. When the other conspirators found out that Hitler was still alive, they lost their nerve and Operation Valkyrie never went into effect. After the coup never got off the ground, several conspirators committed suicide, and Fromm turned in the rest to save his own skin. Unfortunately for him, Hitler wasn’t nearly as forgiving as his fiery public speeches and penchant for genocide would lead you to believe, and Fromm was executed along with the remaining conspirators.

The good news for the legacy of Claus von Stauffenberg is that he’s become something of a folk hero in Germany, a symbol of conscientious resistance to the Nazi regime. They’re even making a movie about him, called Valkyrie. The bad news for his legacy …

… is that he’s going to be played by Tom Cruise. Hey, do you think Scientology will get a mention in this article? Stay tuned!

#5.
Operation Ajax

The Plan:
For years, Britain had a spiffy trade deal with Iran regarding their prodigious oil fields. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was basically a giant money machine for the Anglo half, while the Iranian half got shafted. That all changed in 1951 when Iran nationalized the AIOC and the Iranian parliament elected Mohammed Mossadegh as Prime Minister. Mossadegh was relatively secular, something that pissed of Iranian clerics, but he was also very nationalistic. When Britain tried to regain control of the AIOC, he gave them the finger. Tea was spilled, crumpets were dropped and monocles everywhere popped out in shock.


Britain

You can guess what happened next. Jolly old England went to its ally, the United States, and convinced President Dwight D. Eisenhower to help overthrow the democratically elected leader of Iran and install a pro-West monarchy. Together the CIA and British intelligence services funneled guerrilla troops, anti-Mossadegh propaganda and tons of bribes into Iran.

How did that work out?
In the short term? Great! The mostly ceremonial position of Shah (king) of Iran was restored to its former imperial glory, but this time as a puppet of the West. The White House and Tehran became BFFs, and as long as the US government overlooked the numerous human rights abuses happening in Iran, all was well.

Until 1979, that is, when a pissed off Iranian populace finally revolted and replaced the monarchy with an anti-West Islamic Republic. One messy hostage crisis later, and Iran and the US were no longer BFFs. But hey, at least the US learned a very important lesson about overthrowing the governments of unfriendly Middle Eastern countries.

#4.
The Gunpowder Plot

The Plan:
A group of conspirators (including Guy Fawkes, Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving) decided to blow the fuck out of the British House of Parliament, thus killing pretty much all of the aristocracy, as well as King James I.

In May of 1604, a group of Britons who were fed up with King James’s rule met with Robert Catesby. As Catholics, they were tired of the Protestant government. In accordance with the teachings of their faith, they apparently decided that the best way to solve their problems was to kill everyone.

The conspirators were taking up residence across the street from The House of Lords, the building the upper house of parliament met in. Their original plan was to burrow their way to the underground foundation of The House of Lords, and lay their explosives there. When that proved to be more difficult than they had originally planned, they decided to just rent a room in the cellar of building. The explosives were quickly moved into place, and all that was left was to wait for the annual Opening of Parliament.

How did that work out?
While they were waiting, one of the conspirators sent a letter to Lord Monteagle, a high ranking Catholic, which basically said, “Hypothetically, we could blow up Parliament on the day it opens this year. So don’t go, hypothetically speaking.” This proved to be their undoing, as Lord Monteagle immediately passed the news on to the Secretary of State. The House of Lords was searched, and Guy Fawkes, the man left in charge of watching the explosives, was found and arrested.


Lord Monteagle

None of the protestant politicians were killed, but the plan wasn’t a complete failure. King James admitted in a speech that not all Catholics were as crazy as the ones arrested in connection with the plot, which is good, because a lot of historians have suggested that if the plot succeeded, there would have been a very violent backlash against Catholic communities. Plus, England now celebrates Guy Fawkes night every November 5th.

Apparently the conspirators had also planned to kidnap the royal children, as well as incite a revolt. However, they never made it to this part of their plan due to the fact that they had been hung and eviscerated.

#3.
The Tuskegee Experiment

The Plan:
Sometimes referred to as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, the idea was that the United States government was going to monitor the effects of syphilis and perform experiments on those who had a developed form of the disease. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well you’re a terrible person for thinking that, because the experiments were exclusively performed without consent, and on the very poor, mostly illiterate black males.

These men weren’t told that they had syphilis and were denied proper treatment for their disease. Because that would have skewed the results, you see. But hey, at least the government promised free burials to those who died.

How did that work out?
The study (started in 1932 in Tuskegee, Alabama) eventually rounded up 400 black men in a move that would inspire Rage Against the Machine-esque lyrics for years to come. But, contrary to conspiracy enthusiasts, they did not actually give people syphilis, they just examined the symptoms of people who already had the disease. Then, things got out of hand:

Doctor 1: “Darn. I’m afraid that we might not get the numbers we want for the next part of this study.”

Doctor 2: “Why is that?”

Doctor 1: “Because it involves administering a painful and dangerous spinal tap for no medical reason.”

Doctor 2: “Hmm … Well, why don’t we just underline the word “Free” and tell them that it’s a special treatment for their symptoms.”

Doctor 1: “But, wouldn’t that be a horrible lie?”

Doctor 2: “A horrible what?”

When there was a national campaign to use penicillin to stamp out the disease, those in the study were denied access. If they complained loudly enough, they were given a placebo and then sent back home to die. But not before scientists poked and prodded them for the remaining years of their life.

It took until 1972 for someone to blow the whistle on all of this. That’s 40 years. And that’s after Peter Buxtun, the whistle blower, went to the Center for Disease Control, which told him that they would absolutely end this barbaric experiment, just as soon as they completed the last stage of the study. That stage involved studying the corpses of the subjects, and of course they couldn’t do that quite yet because some were stubbornly still alive.

Buxtun then found a more receptive audience:

As a result, in 1974 they passed the National Research Act, which finally closed the apparent loophole in American law that said it was OK for mad scientists to kill people in their experiments.

#2.
Operation Snow White

The Plan:
Some time during the 1970s, the Church of Scientology decided that they’d had enough. Their religion about magic space aliens in a volcano wasn’t getting the same respect as the religion about the magic bearded man whose dad made us all out of mud 6,000 years ago. Instead of converting to a slightly less silly religion, they did what any of us would have done and decided to destroy every single document that made their religion look bad, presumably including a trip into the future to destroy every copy of Battlefield Earth.

How did that work out?
Disturbingly well, at least for a little while. Apparently, the Church of Scientology managed to perform the largest infiltration of the United States government in history. Ever. With all the people who have wanted to get their dirty little hands on incriminating records, the United States of America was finally duped by the people who came up with Dianetics. So those billions of dollars we put into national security annually are clearly well spent.

Anyway, somewhere around 5,000 of Scientology’s crack commandos wiretapped and burglarized various agencies. They stole hundreds of documents, mainly from the IRS. No critic was spared, and in the end, 136 organizations, agencies and foreign embassies were infiltrated.

When all of this hit the fan, the Church naturally denied it. Then they kidnapped one of the operatives arrested for stealing documents and prevented him from testifying. These days, the Church of Scientology generally refuses to talk about Operation Snow White, except to say that they “purged” those who were involved. They won’t say what the guilty parties were involved in, and those who were purged still hold high ranking offices in the Church, but goddamn it, they were purged for their involvement.

#1.
Project MKULTRA

The Plan:
Don’t be fooled. Project MKULTRA isn’t the misspelled secret recipe to McDonald’s newest hamburger. It was actually a series of CIA experiments in which they tried to figure out how to control your mind. Over a hundred sub-projects were authorized under the MKULTRA heading, though the documents on many of those have been destroyed.

How did that work out?
If you listen to late night talk radio, then you’ve probably already heard of Project MKULTRA. Paranoid schizophrenics from coast to coast like to call in to recount their harrowing tales of psychic violation at the hands of the CIA. Turns out the schizophrenics got something right though, because Project MKULTRA was an actual series of experiments started on April 13, 1953.

You can decide for yourself whether or not the late-night radio callers are actually victims of these experiments, though we would like to suggest that if they are all telling the truth, it’s strange that the CIA would only experiment on nocturnal conspiracy-nuts.

The project started out as a response to rumors of Communist mind control being used on American prisoners from the Korean War. Afraid of being left in the enemy’s pseudo-scientific dust, the CIA quickly jumped on the mind control bandwagon. However, they got their procedures wrong in one crucial aspect; instead of experimenting on enemy prisoners that the national media wouldn’t miss, they decided to go ahead and start jamming probes and shooting drugs into unwitting United States citizens.

Did we mention that these experiments resulted in at least one death? Or that experiments done on people seeking treatment for minor psychological issues (such as anxiety) often caused them to suffer permanent comas and/or incontinence? Or that the CIA themselves admitted that the experiments made no scientific sense?

The project was eventually found out, and the CIA was given a stern talking to.

As far as anyone can tell, they were unable to succeed in finding a way to control the way people act or think. Though we’d probably say the same thing if they had succeeded.

April 10, 2008

Astronomers discover our ‘twin’ solar system

Filed under: Kuriozitete, Facts,Shkence, teknologji --- Science — halfevil @ 12:19 pm

Astronomers have discovered a distant “twin” solar system which looks very similar to our own.

 

 

 

So far researchers have identified two planets very similar to Jupiter and Saturn, which orbit a star about half the size of the Sun around 5,000 light-years away.

 

 

But they believe this could be just the start of an exciting time of discovery which will eventually lead to astronomers finding new planets which could support life.

 

 

Scroll down for more …

Breakthrough: Astronomers say the discovery of a new solar system backs up their belief they will soon discover other habitable planets

Martin Dominik, from St Andrews University, said: “”We found a system with two planets that take the roles of Jupiter and Saturn in our solar system.

“These two planets have a similar mass ratio and similar orbital radius and a similar orbital period.

“It looks like this may have formed in a similar way to our solar system. And if this is the case, it looks like our solar system cannot be unique in the Universe.

“There should be other similar systems out there which could host terrestrial planets.”

Dr Dominik presented his new findings to the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting in Belfast.

 

So far astronomers have found nearly 300 planets beyond our own solar system.

 

 

 

The new system orbits the star OGLE-2006-BLG-109L which is about 5,000 light-years away.

 

 

Researchers say it is unusual as it has more than one planet, a characteristic of only ten per cent of systems found to date.

 

 

 

But according to Dr Dominik, astronomers’ investigations are currently hampered by limited techniques.

 

 

However, he claimed the technology was improving rapidly – and said that he expected habitable planets would be found in the next few years.

 

 

He added: “I think it will happen quite soon. In the next few years, we will see something really exciting.”

According to Dr Dominik, it is unlikely his team will be able to detect planets similar to Earth in OGLE-2006-BLG-109L as it is too far away for current technology.

April 9, 2008

Dubai’s prince buys $2.7 million camel

Filed under: Kuriozitete, Facts,Lajme --- News — halfevil @ 8:53 pm

MADINAT ZAYED, United Arab Emirates – Dubai‘s crown prince paid $2.7 million for a camel during a desert festival celebrating Bedouin traditions in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, state-run media said Tuesday.

The festival also included a camel beauty contest, where thousands of owners strutted their animals in a bid for the top prize of finest overall camel and separate categories such as best neck, head, lips, nose, hump, legs or feet.

Sheik Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the son of Dubai’s ruler, Sheik Mohammed, bought 16 camels for $4.5 million, including one female camel for $2.7 million, the state news agency WAM reported.

The agency called the price tag “unprecedented” but it was not clear if it was an official record.

The hefty sum was still a fraction of the record price paid at auction for a horse. The Green Monkey, a thoroughbred colt, was purchased at a Florida auction in 2006 for $16 million.

There was no indication what Hamdan, Dubai’s heir apparent, planned to do with the animal though female camels are often used for racing. Owning fine camels is also a mark of prestige for the ruling elite in the Persian Gulf.

Abu Dhabi‘s ruling family organized the nine-day festival in a bid to preserve the nomadic way of life in the desert that predates the discovery of oil in the region in the 1960s.

More than 17,000 camels from the oil-rich Gulf countries — the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain — were registered for the beauty contest, which gave out millions of dollars in prize money and more than 100 four-wheel-drive vehicles and pickup trucks, the agency said.

Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and, with the lion’s share of the country’s oil resources, the richest of the seven semiautonomous emirates that make up the country. Dubai, the largest emirate in population, has been undergoing an unprecedented boom as its leaders shape it into a major financial center.

Fear in the genes

Filed under: Kuriozitete, Facts — halfevil @ 6:49 pm

Fear is partly down to your genes, but this process changes as you grow older.

Even though fear is partly genetic, the things that terrify us change as we age.Getty

If snakes strike terror in your toddler’s heart, he might still grow to be brave. A tendency toward fearfulness does have genetic underpinnings, but those shift several times as children become adults, a study has found.

The worries of adolescents differ from those of young children — fear of the dark gives way to squeamishness about blood in a well-documented developmental progression. Now, psychiatrist Kenneth Kendler of the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond and his colleagues have found that the genetic factors that leave a person prone to fear also shift during development.

To tease apart the effect of genes and upbringing, the researchers tracked 2,490 Swedish twins as they aged from 8 to 20 years old, asking them to answer questions sent by mail. The twins were quizzed on whether they were afraid of 13 potentially terrifying phenomena, including lightning, dentists, spiders and heights.

At every age a child was more likely to be fearful if their identical twin was too. Fraternal twins also shared a tendency towards fearfulness but the link was less strong, indicating a genetic component to fearfulness.

Fear factors

However, despite this evidence for a genetic effect, children weren’t consistently prone to fear as they grew up. Evidence for multiple fear factors comes from the comparison between ages – some twins were similarly fearful at age 8, but not at older ages.

Similarly, young adult responders who were easily frightened were no more likely to have had a fearful identical twin during early adolescence, the team reports in the Archives of General Psychiatry 1. “You might have fairly substantial changes in levels of fearfulness over time because different genetic effects are coming online at different ages,” Kendler says.

The genes that contribute to fearfulness at different ages remain unknown, as evidence for the shift lies entirely in the strength of the links between fear levels in identical twins across time.

Work to identify specific genes for such complex traits is in its infancy, says psychiatrist Murray Stein, who studies the biological underpinnings of anxiety at the University of California, San Diego. “We are starting to see findings of specific genes being associated with particular kinds of temperaments,” Stein says, but he notes that variation in any of these genes explains only a very small percentage of variability in human behaviour.

Stein thinks that the study highlights the importance of recognizing that the factors that lead to excessive fears, or phobias, may change over time. “It could be that we’re going to need very different interventions at different stages of people’s growth and development,” he says.

April 3, 2008

Rapists in the ranks

Filed under: Kuriozitete, Facts — halfevil @ 5:08 pm
Sexual assaults are frequent, and frequently ignored, in the armed services.
By Jane Harman
March 31, 2008
The stories are shocking in their simplicity and brutality: A female military recruit is pinned down at knifepoint and raped repeatedly in her own barracks. Her attackers hid their faces but she identified them by their uniforms; they were her fellow soldiers. During a routine gynecological exam, a female soldier is attacked and raped by her military physician. Yet another young soldier, still adapting to life in a war zone, is raped by her commanding officer. Afraid for her standing in her unit, she feels she has nowhere to turn.

These are true stories, and, sadly, not isolated incidents. Women serving in the U.S. military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.

The scope of the problem was brought into acute focus for me during a visit to the West Los Angeles VA Healthcare Center, where I met with female veterans and their doctors. My jaw dropped when the doctors told me that 41% of female veterans seen at the clinic say they were victims of sexual assault while in the military, and 29% report being raped during their military service. They spoke of their continued terror, feelings of helplessness and the downward spirals many of their lives have since taken.

Numbers reported by the Department of Defense show a sickening pattern. In 2006, 2,947 sexual assaults were reported — 73% more than in 2004. The DOD’s newest report, released this month, indicates that 2,688 reports were made in 2007, but a recent shift from calendar-year reporting to fiscal-year reporting makes comparisons with data from previous years much more difficult.

The Defense Department has made some efforts to manage this epidemic — most notably in 2005, after the media received anonymous e-mail messages about sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy. The media scrutiny and congressional attention that followed led the DOD to create the Sexual Assault and Response Office. Since its inception, the office has initiated education and training programs, which have improved the reporting of cases of rapes and other sexual assaults. But more must be done to prevent attacks and to increase accountability.

At the heart of this crisis is an apparent inability or unwillingness to prosecute rapists in the ranks. According to DOD statistics, only 181 out of 2,212 subjects investigated for sexual assault in 2007, including 1,259 reports of rape, were referred to courts-martial, the equivalent of a criminal prosecution in the military. Another 218 were handled via nonpunitive administrative action or discharge, and 201 subjects were disciplined through “nonjudicial punishment,” which means they may have been confined to quarters, assigned extra duty or received a similar slap on the wrist. In nearly half of the cases investigated, the chain of command took no action; more than a third of the time, that was because of “insufficient evidence.”

This is in stark contrast to the civilian trend of prosecuting sexual assault. In California, for example, 44% of reported rapes result in arrests, and 64% of those who are arrested are prosecuted, according to the California Department of Justice.

The DOD must close this gap and remove the obstacles to effective investigation and prosecution. Failure to do so produces two harmful consequences: It deters victims from reporting, and it fails to deter offenders. The absence of rigorous prosecution perpetuates a culture tolerant of sexual assault — an attitude that says “boys will be boys.”

I have raised the issue with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Although I believe that he is concerned, thus far, the military’s response has been underwhelming — and the apparent lack of urgency is inexcusable.

Congress is not doing much better. Although these sexual assault statistics are readily available, our oversight has failed to come to grips with the magnitude of the crisis. The abhorrent and graphic nature of the reports may make people uncomfortable, but that is no excuse for inaction. Congressional hearings are urgently needed to highlight the failure of existing policies. Most of our servicewomen and men are patriotic, courageous and hardworking people who embody the best of what it means to be an American. The failure to address military sexual assault runs counter to those ideals and shames us all.

Jane Harman (D-Venice) chairs the House Homeland Security subcommittee on intelligence.

March 4, 2008

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Filed under: Kuriozitete, Facts — halfevil @ 11:38 am

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February 29, 2008

7 Abandoned Wonders of the European Union: From Deserted Castles Retrofuturistic Factories

Filed under: Kuriozitete, Facts,Pics --- Humour — halfevil @ 7:02 am

Seven Abandoned Wonders of the European Union

The European Union may appear on the surface to be a unified body but underneath each member country retains a unique and complex history. The rich stories of individual European nations can be read in part through the amazing abandoned buildings found across the continent. It is truly remarkable how intact some of these structures are even after centuries. From Finland to France, Belgium to Denmark and Poland to England here are seven amazing abandonments from all over Europe.

Berlin Germany Historical Abandoned Military Hospital

Berlin Germany Hospital Abandonment Urban Exploration

Berlin, Germany has been at the center of European history in many regards, most recently as the divided core of Germany before East and West reunification. This abandoned complex located in Beelitz (just outside of Berlin) dates back to the 19th century and was used by the Germans as a military hospital through the second World War. From the 1940s on it was continuously occupied and used as a military hospital by the Russians complete with a surgery, psychiatric ward and rifle range before being abandoned in the 1990s. During its years of operation, famous (or infamous) patients included Adolf Hitler and former East German leader Erich Honecker.

Belgium Historical Abandoned Castle Photographs

Belgium Abandoned Castle Urban Exploration

Mesen, Belgium is the smallest town in Belgium with fewer than 1,000 residents. However, it is the home of one of the most beautiful abandoned castles one could imagine, built, rebuilt, modified and expanded from the 1500s onward. This gorgeous structure evolved from a defensive fortress to a boarding school over time before being abandoned in the middle of the 20th century. It has has decayed by natural means with very little outside interference or vandalism and conjures picturesque images of beautiful deserted buildings. Nonetheless, it is under threat of destruction. It seems that only in Europe, where such buildings are more abundant, could such a lovely structure be considered common enough to not necessarily warrant rehabilitation.

Denmark Abandoned Refrigeration Factory Building

Copenhagen Denmark Factory Building Infiltration Images

Copenhagen, Denmark has developed a rich tradition of industrial production in part due to its geography. Flanked on virtually all sides by water, it is no wonder this country has spawned many facilities like the refrigeration factory featured above. These pictures show the internal story of desertion, fire and other internal tales as well as the future plans for redevelopment on the site. Adjacent condos (shown in the last image) represent the likely direction of this abandoned property as waterfront real estate continues to replace old industrial uses.

England Abandoned Victorian Factory Building

England Abandoned Structure Urban Exploration

Ryhope, England is home to an abandoned water pumping station that almost seems like a retrofuturistic structure straight out of a cyberpunk novel. This deserted structure is a monument to the Victorian era of industrialization, dating back to the middle of the 19th Century. It was an important step in the modernization of clean water distribution in an era where urban densification and disease went hand in hand. Though the station is no longer in active use all of the machinery still works, a true testament to the capabilities of Victorian English engineers.

Finland Abandoned Matchstick Factory Building

Finland Factory Urban Exploration Images

Tempere, Finland is one of many places that saw considerable growth and prosperity during the industrial revolution. With a thriving Finnish timber industry came the matchstick factory featured above. Built between world wars, the factory was in continuous use until the mid-1970s at which point it switched industries with the times, become (among other things) an automobile plant for a period of time. Since being entirely abandoned the main building and surrounding structures have become hangouts for local teens as evidenced in the images above.

Warsaw Poland Abandoned Lightbulb Factory Building

Warsaw Poland Urban Abandonments Photography

Warsaw, Poland has had a long and trying history of war and strife. It is perhaps no wonder that even in the heart of a relatively prosperous Polish city one can still find a vast abandoned factory complex. This series of deserted structures began as an electric lamp production facility in the 1920s before being converted to construct radios for submarines by the Germans during World War II. It reverted to its old function after the war but was poorly managed and eventually abandoned altogether, with remnant containers of chemicals and other assorted scientific equipment left behind as a testament to its earlier uses.

Paris France Abandoned Metro Subway Stations

Paris, France is notorious of late-running Metro trains due to frequent worker strikes – but perhaps less well known for its numerous abandoned Metro stations. Urban explorers manage to find their ways into some of these abandoned subway tunnels while others have been converted to new uses including (appropriately enough) official homeless shelters. Some of the tunnels can even be visited privately late at night in groups led by sanctioned rail-expert tour guides.

Nazi propaganda book reveals Charlie Chaplin was on Hitler’s death list

Filed under: Kuriozitete, Facts — halfevil @ 6:59 am
Charlie Chaplin: Attacked in book

As the Little Tramp, he made millions laugh.But the Nazis never saw the funny side when it came to Charlie Chaplin.

Adolf Hitler’s hatred of the politically outspoken movie star is apparent in a yellowing book of Nazi propaganda which includes Chaplin in a hit list of prominent Jews.

The fact that Chaplin was not Jewish didn’t save him from being a target. The book, Juden Sehen Dich An (The Jews are Watching You), brands him a “pseudo-Jew”.

He was in excellent company. Albert Einstein was among the international Jewish figures listed in 95 pages corroded with hate.

The book, which includes names and photographs of activists, bankers, economists, journalists, academics and entertainers, was written by Dr Johann von Leers, a notorious anti-Jewish propagandist.

Published in Berlin in the 1930s, it is thought to have inspired Chaplin’s classic comedy The Great Dictator, in which he both directed and starred.

In the 1940 movie, Chaplin plays a Nazi-like tyrant, Adenoid Hynkel, dictator of Tomainia, clearly modelled on Hitler.

The book is to be auctioned in Shropshire next month.

Auctioneer Richard Westwood-Brookes said: “The book aims to attack leading Jews worldwide, warning the German people that these people were forming an international network aimed at world domination. Each leading Jew is featured with a photograph and a pen portrait, but by far the most remarkable and bizarre aspect of this book is the inclusion of Charlie Chaplin.

“He is attacked in a section named ‘Artistic Jews’, with the suggestion that he was of Jewish origin and therefore a pseudo-Jew.

“Chaplin must have feared for his life when he saw the book, because the majority of the people in this book were exterminated by the Nazis.

“These pieces of history serve as a reminder of what happened and what could have happened.

Scroll down for more…

Adolf Hitler: Chaplin mercilessly parodied him in The Great Dictator

“It’s easy to look at movies, but when you have original pieces like this in your hand, it’s chilling.”

Film historian Kevin Brownlow said Chaplin made The Great Dictator in response to seeing himself on the book’s hit list.

“The Nazis mistakenly thought he was Jewish because Chaplin never denied it,” he said.

“He was sent a copy of this book and it is widely believed that this led to him to make the film The Great Dictator as an act of defiance.”

Mr Brownlow said the picture of Chaplin used in the book was chosen because it was one in which he looked least like Hitler.

A film maker called Ivan Montague working in Berlin in the 1930s found a copy of the book and sent it to the actor.

“Chaplin even took the time to send a letter back to Montague, thanking him for sending the book,” said Mr Brownlow.

“This shows us that Chaplin was very much aware of the book and was certainly roused by it.”

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