Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Short History of the Modern Calendar


Duo faces charges after nude McDonald's run


A pair of drive-thru patrons to a Galesburg McDonald's must have thought the "No shirt, no shoes, no service" policy applied to dine-in orders only when they visited the restaurant Wednesday morning completely naked.
According to CBS News via the Associated Press and WGIL radio, 19-year-old Paul Kosur of El Paso and a 21-year-old Megan Gutierrez of Galesburg pulled up to a McDonald's drive-thru in the western Illinois town just before 2 a.m. Wednesday.
WGIL radio reported that the pair was still in the McDonald's parking lot when police offers officers arrived, with police saying Kosur was "crouched over in the driver's seat trying to pull on a pair of pants while [Gutierrez] was covering up in a blanket." Police say Kosur had only the pants in the car, and Gutierrez only had a coat.
The two were slapped with charges of Public Indecency and were taken to the Knox County Jail. The pair was later released after being issued notices to appear in court.
According to WGIL, Kosure and Gutierrez told officers their shenanigans maybe weren't such a great idea, but they "both still thought it was funny."


Religious Sex-Toy Sites Vow 

to Save Marriages

Christian, Jewish, and Muslim entrepreneurs have launched ‘religious’ sex-toy shops online in an effort to improve pious couples’ sex lives—and strengthen the marital bond. Allison Yarrow investigates: what makes a vibrator holy? 


Joyce’s sex life can be divided into two acts: before and after the Turbo 8 Accelerator.  

The evangelical Christian from California’s central valley had never had an orgasm alone nor with her husband of 25 years. “I didn’t know I wasn’t having one,” the 59-year-old mother of two told The Daily Beast. Yet after chatting with some church girlfriends, she learned what she was missing. “’All that happens to you?’” she asked. “They looked at me like I was crazy.”

Joyce, who requested that we use only her first name, and her equally devout spouse never would have found the bullet-shaped vibrator or the array of “marital aids” they’ve ordered since, if it wasn’t for the Christian sex toy website Book 22—introduced to her by a friend after their chat. “I’m a Christian, but this is awesome,” she said. “It was like being newlyweds again.”

Sex and religion have long been perceived to be at odds, with carnal pleasures representing sin more than saintliness. Yet in recent years, a handful of savvy Christian, Jewish and Muslim entrepreneurs have embraced the notion that the two can coexist in a way that jibes with doctrine—and even glorifies traditional values by strengthening marriages.

Enter the religious sex-toy industry, which carefully markets and sells a range of sexual-pleasure products to the faithful. With the voice and disposition of a summer-camp director, Joy Wilson founded Book 22 a decade ago, when she had trouble “getting her body to respond” to her husband after their second child, and her online search for remedies yielded scandalous imagery that offended more than it helped. The pioneering site, named after the Biblical book also known as the Song of Solomon, now faces growing competition from rival vendors including Hooking Up Holy, Intimacy of Eden, and Covenant Spice.

And the industry grew exponentially this fall with the launch of the Orthodox Jewish shop Kosher Sex Toys, and last year with the Muslim vendor El Asira. The sites even enjoy the support of many community leaders. “Religious people do it like everybody else,” said David Ribner, a rabbi and sex therapist based in Israel, who works as a consultant for Kosher Sex Toys. “Why shouldn’t they have access to toys that make their lives more satisfying?”

To be clear, the “religious people” targeted are married, heterosexual religious people; pious sex-toy vendors market their products exclusively to these couples. Unlucky in love and looking for some solitary fun after morning prayers? Look elsewhere.

What happens in the heterosexual marital bed, however, should be nothing short of transcendent, say the site owners, who happily report that their holy books not only permit sexual fulfillment between partners, but require it. “If a man is unable to please a woman in bed, she can divorce him,” said Abdelaziz Aouragh, a 30-year-old Dutch Muslim businessman who founded El Asira—stressing the Islamic belief that “man and woman must reach their peak” during intercourse, and that only then is the “deed complete.”

The burgeoning niche, part of the roughly $15 billion sex-toy industry, reports that business has been steadily growing, with most sites shipping a few hundred orders per month. Clients usually find them through Google, say the owners, or a thoughtful religious leader or astute sex therapist. The vendors use many of the same distributors as secular shops, with most products made in China. Gavriel, a 25-year-old furniture salesman who owns Kosher Sex Toys (and asked that we use only his middle name) stressed in an interview, “There’s nothing wrong with having all the sex you want.” 

To an outsider, visiting the religious sites feels a bit like listening to the bleeped-out version of an explicit hip-hop song: the substance is the same, it’s just missing the X-rated details. None of the sites feature any nudity, instead relying on mannequins to display lingerie. Nor do they feature any sexy language. Kosher Sex Toys, for example, rewrites product descriptions that risk shocking its audience. (The “Butterfly Clitoris Stimulator” becomes, simply, the “Vibrating Stimulator.”) And while they don’t flaunt their holiness, they’ll occasionally rely on religious messaging to sell themselves, or perhaps put potential customers at ease. Book 22, for example, promises to “enhance the intimate life of all God’s children.”


Friday, December 30, 2011

'An Amazing Race for the Clinically Insane'

Hanging from the side of a less-than-100%-reliable three-wheeler may not be the most comfortable way to see India, but it’s surely one of the most exhilarating.

Which is precisely why every year, hundreds of hardy souls pay for the privilege of risking life and limb in the quest for thrills on the Rickshaw Challenge.

Described by a former participant as 'an amazing race for the clinically insane,' fearless tourists from all over the world make their way at breakneck speed (or at least as near as is possible on an auto rickshaw) across the country in tuk tuk-like vehicles in a thrill seeking activity that is gaining a huge cult following.

And, as if it isn’t enough to see India from a totally new (and often terrifying) perspective, you can even raise money for charity and help save the planet as you go. All it takes is a combination of bravery, foolhardiness and daring, with the promise in return of the experience of a lifetime.

The event was started in 2006 as a new way to promote parts of southern India less visited than traditional destinations like the Taj Mahal and the Himalayas. The original race, an 11-day trek from Chennai to Kanniyakumari, is called the Classic Run and takes place at the end of December.

Other races you could try out include the nine-day Malabar Rampage, the nine-day Deccan Odyssey or the 14-day Mumbai Xpress. Each member of the two or three-person team takes turns at the wheel, while the others either hang off the sides like intrepid yachtsmen looking to gain an extra few seconds on the bends, or take the opportunity to savour often breathtaking scenery as it flies by.

"Among the many questions posed to us, the one I could not answer was, 'What do you hope to achieve by doing this,'" says former competitor Adrianna Tann, in her excellent blog Popagandhi.

"It simply happens. When I first read about the Rickshaw Challenge I knew I had to go. The insanity took over and consumed me, until I finally bit the bullet and went for it."

Although 'madness' is a word that often springs to mind, there are serious aspects to the Rickshaw Challenge too. Keen to promote responsible tourism, the organizers work closely with local authorities and use local people for all elements of the trip logistics. In doing so, they help develop the local economy for everyone.

Round Table India - an organization working to educate underprivileged children - is also involved in the Rickshaw Challenge. Participants can make donations to its ‘Freedom through Education’ initiative and all racers are encouraged to visit the many schools and other institutions along the routes, which have been set up as a direct result of the charity work.

"The Rickshaw Challenge believes firmly in participating in, not simply passing through, the lives of the people they meet in villages and cities along the route," says Nikhil Bagri of Round Table India.

Getting lost is a concern for many, but every vehicle has a mobile phone with a tracker so that racers can be located at any time on the journey. That said, one of the most appealing parts of the race is a chance to see the 'real India' and meet locals along the way. Participants are actively encouraged to ask locals for directions along the way. For canny, reliable advice on short cuts through a town, tips on great hotels, or cheap restaurants, you can never beat first-hand knowledge from those who know the area best.

There are more luxurious ways to make your way across this beautiful subcontinent, and there are certainly quicker ways too, but if you are looking for one more fulfilling and memorable, the Rickshaw Challenge would be very very hard to beat.
External link: Rickshaw Challenge »




Breast implant tycoon hits back over scandal

Holding up at his home in the south of France, the founder of troubled breast implant manufacturer PIP is fighting back against a growing international scandal over his allegedly faulty products.

Between 300,000 and 400,000 women in 65 countries from Europe to Latin America have implants made with sub-standard silicone gel by 72-year-old Jean-Claude Mas's now-bankrupt company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP).
France last week advised 30,000 women to have their PIP implants removed because of an increased risk of rupture and Venezuela's government announced on Tuesday that women with the implants could have them removed for free.
Authorities in other countries have advised women to consult their doctors over the implants, while it emerged on Monday that US authorities had already raised the alarm over the company in 2000.
Lawsuits filed in the US cite defective merchandise not suited for its intended purpose and violations of consumer legislation by PIP, which was once the world's third-largest producer of silicone implants.
With Mas due in a French court next year, questions are increasingly being asked over why it took until 2010 for French authorities to intervene, while Mas's lawyer has been actively defending his client in the press.
"He's at home... he's not on the run at all. Moreover he can't walk because he's just been operated on," lawyer Yves Haddad told AFP on Tuesday, saying he simply "doesn't want to talk" publicly.
Haddad said that Mas freely admits using unapproved silicon gel, but remains adamant it is safe.
"PIP knew it wasn't in compliance, but it wasn't a toxic product," the lawyer said, adding it "had not been proven" the implants were any more likely to leak.
"The fact that it's an irritant (when ruptured) is the same for all silicone gels," Haddad said, also denying that his client had ever been a sausage butcher or wine merchant, as reported by the French press.
PIP used two types of silicone in its implants, Haddad said. One of them was an approved gel made by American firm Nusil, but it also used an "identical" homemade gel that was five times cheaper.
According to PIP's 2010 bankruptcy filing, it had exported 84 percent of its annual production of 100,000 implants.
Prosecutors in Marseille, near PIP's laboratory at Seyne-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean, have received more than 2,000 complaints from French women who received the implants, and are pursuing a criminal investigation.
A lawyer representing four French women who received the PIP implants, Laurent Gaudon, said Wednesday they would be suing the manufacturer and their surgeons.
Gaudon said he would file the suit next week at a court in the city of Toulon and that the four women would be suing PIP, German company TUV which provided quality certification for PIP, and their four cosmetic surgeons.
"The doctors must be questioned by experts... They could not have been ignorant of the fact that these implants were fragile," he said, adding that his clients had discovered cracks in their implants but not yet had them removed.
On Tuesday it emerged that the US Food and Drug Administration had already in 2000 sent a letter to PIP warning of "serious" quality control violations involving its saline implants.
Although the complaint targeted saline rather than the silicone implants at the centre of the current scandal, the letter outlined a list of quality assurance problems.
The FDA warned they "may be symptomatic of serious underlying problems in your firm's manufacturing and quality assurance systems."
Mas worked at pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers (now Bristol-Myers Squibb) before meeting up with plastic surgeon Henri Arion who introduced breast implants to France in 1965, Haddad said.
Mas's trial for "aggravated fraud" is due to open late 2012, while a manslaughter inquiry has also been opened after at least one suspicious death in France.




Legendary Harry's Bar marks 100 years of cocktails in Paris


Favorite of Ernest Hemingway, birthplace of the Bloody Mary, haunt of generations of expat Americans in Paris -- there are few watering holes that can boast the legacy of Harry's New York Bar.

And as the venerable establishment prepares to mark its 100th birthday on Thursday, Harry's Bar remains what it has always been, a small corner of Manhattan in the heart of Paris.
"Every time I'm in Paris I have to come here to get a cocktail," former New Yorker Michael Formosa said sipping a Gibson -- a Martini with a pickled onion instead of an olive.
"You can feel the whole history -- it takes a very long time to create this kind of feel of a place," said the 40-year-old, now a London-based consultant.
"I lived in New York for 12 years and this is like something you would find around the corner from Penn Station."
Tucked away on a side street in central Paris under a red-and-gold neon sign, Harry's Bar could not be more different from the traditional French brasseries and bistros that surround it.
Behind an aged wooden bar, white-aproned barmen expertly mix the driest of Martinis or pour out tumblers of single-malt Scotch. No coffee or wine is served in the evening and there is no music or television to distract from conversation.
"It's not a trendy place," owner Isabelle MacElhone stated in a quiet corner of the bar, "but this is why it will never be out of fashion."
The MacElhones have been at the heart of Harry's Bar since its opening on Thanksgiving Day 1911 -- an event that will be marked this week with a party for 300 guests and the publication of a book on the bar's history.
Harry MacElhone, a Scot from Dundee, was hired as bartender by original owner Tod Sloane, an American jockey living in Paris who opened "The New York Bar" after complaining he could not find a proper cocktail in the French capital.
Keen to recreate the atmosphere of a pre-Prohibition stand-up saloon in Paris, Sloane had the interior of a Manhattan bar completely dismantled and shipped across the Atlantic to Paris.
The original mahogany bar and walls, decorated with shields of dark wood bearing the insignia of US universities, remain fixtures of the place to this day.
Sloane sold the bar to Harry MacElhone in 1923, he put up his name above the door, and it has been known simply as "Harry's" ever since.
The bar became a favorite of American expats in Paris, especially the "Lost Generation" of writers of the 1920s that included F. Scott Fitzgerald and the hard-drinking Hemingway, a regular for many years and a close friend of the MacElhone family.
Based on the bar's address at 5 Rue Daunou, Harry's trademark advertising slogan -- "Just tell the taxi driver: Sank Roo Doe Noo" -- became a calling card for English-speaking visitors to Paris.
It has hosted film stars from Humphrey Bogart to Clint Eastwood.
Since 1924 Harry's has been known for its presidential election straw polls of Americans living in Paris, which have accurately predicted the winners in all but two cases: Jimmy Carter in 1976 and George W. Bush in 2004.
The bar has also featured in works of fiction -- Ian Fleming's fictional spy James Bond called Harry's the best place to get a "solid drink" in Paris -- and it was said to be where George Gershwin composed the music for "An American in Paris".
Its famous list of clients is matched by its famous cocktail creations.
The Bloody Mary, a mixture of tomato juice, vodka and spices, was first served at Harry's in 1921, and the French 75, White Lady and Sidecar were dreamt up at the bar as well.
Harry died in 1958 and the bar was taken over by his son Andy and then his grandson Duncan, Isabelle's husband, who died in 1998. Their son, 23-year-old Franz-Arthur, plans to eventually take over the business.
Despite the bar's long association with Americans in Paris, many of the guests at Thursday's anniversary celebrations will not be expats but Parisians, who have increasingly adopted Harry's Bar as their own.
"We have many American clients but in recent years Parisians have also appropriated Harry's Bar," manager Alain Da Silva said.
"These are people who have traveled a bit and are very happy to be able to find this small piece of America in Paris."
Sharing drinks at the bar, Parisian television director Patrick De Souza and expat US businesswoman Anna Whitworth said it was the sense of being part of the bar's long history that kept them coming back.
"The barmen are dressed in white, the service is impeccable. This is a bar with tradition," said De Souza, 56.
"You can sense the history here," said Whitworth, 45. "The main thing is that people feel very welcome and they like the fact that it doesn't change, when everything else around us is changing so fast."


Google fined for faulty word suggestion


Google France has been ordered to pay €50,000 ($64,670) to a French company after its search engine automatically added the word "escroc" ("crook" or "swindler") after the company's name.

The American internet giant's search engine includes Google Suggest, an auto-complete system which suggests the rest of the phrase based on the first few characters or words typed in.
Google was forced to pay up after the action was brought by insurance company Lyonnaise de Garantie.
A Paris court held that the addition of the offending word "was offensive towards the company." The court said that Google should be able to exercise "human control" over the functioning of words suggested by its search engine.
Google said the auto-complete functionality was not the "expression of a human thought", an "opinion" or a "value judgement or criticism" but was the result of its automatic algorithm. 
BFM Business news reported that the company ran into similar problems when an individual found his name was automatically followed by "violeur" ("rapist").


Verizon Adds $2 Fee For Month-To-Month Credit Card Bills

Verizon! In the latest example of a corporation trying to nickel and dime its customers, the telecom giant has announced a new "$2 payment convenience fee" for people who, well, want to pay their bill. Basically if you are the kind of person who can't commit to auto-paying your phone bill and like to pay online or on your phone, well, your bill is going to be going up two bucks a month starting on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, January 15.
Yeah, there are ways to go month-to-month without incurring the fee—electronic check, a Verizon gift card, paper check in the mail, or paying in person at a Verizon store—but if you want to pay your bill online or on your phone, well, be ready to part with two hundred pennies.
So, why is Verizon doing this? According to Big Red, "The fee will help allow us to continue to support these single bill payment options in these channels [the still free options] and is designed to address costs incurred by us for only those customers who choose to make single bill payments in alternate payment channels (online, mobile, telephone)." So...basically Verizon (which is not exactly in the poor house) found a place where they could wring out a few extra pennies and is doing just that. What comes after this? Fees for accessing more than 100 cell towers in a month? 


Japan Gets Wi-Fi Dispensing Vending 



It’s no secret that Japan is the country of vending machines (they even have models like this one now), but this is new: Tokyo-based beverage company Asahi Soft Drinks took the wraps off a vending machine [JP] that not only offers drinks but also sends out Wi-Fi signals within a 50m radius.
The Wi-Fi will be available for free, is accessible with multiple devices, without registration, and for anyone to use (meaning users won’t have to buy any drinks to go online through the machine). It’s possible to use the web for about 30 minutes before the machine cuts you off (re-connecting is possible, however).
After logging in, users will see various location-specific information on the home screen, for example on local stores, or sightseeing spots.
Starting in 2012, Asahi will set up 1,000 of the vending machines in five different regions in Japan (Tokyo, Sendai, Chubu, Kinki, and Fukuoka) in the first year. The plan is to roll out a total of 10,000 units in the next five years.
Asahi is currently operating 250,000 vending machines all over Japan.


Death of man struck by train leads to 'bizarre' civil case

An appeals court in Illinois ruled that a woman injured by the body parts of a man killed after being struck by a train can sue the man for negligence.
18-year-old Hiroyuki Joho was run over by an Amtrak train while crossing the tracks near a Chicago Metra station in 2008.
Parts of his body were flung in the direction of the southbound platform, knocking down Gayane Zokhrabov. She sustained a broken leg and wrist, along with a shoulder injury.
Her lawsuit against Joho’s estate was initially dismissed by a Cook County judge, but the appellate court overturned that decision, saying it was “reasonable” to expect Joho to foresee the consequences of his actions.
Zokhrabov attorney, Leslie Rosen, admitted the case was “very peculiar and gory and creepy,” but insisted Joho was guilty of “straightforward negligence.”
“If you do something as stupid as this guy did,” Rosen said, “you have to be responsible for what comes from it.”


Severed Leg Washes Ashore: Florida Police Investigate Mysterious Limb 

Authorities in Florida are searching for answers after a clean-shaven, severed leg mysteriously washed ashore early Tuesday morning.
A Canadian family vacationing in the St. Petersburg area discovered the floating limb around 7:40 a.m. when it floated up on their rented beachfront property, the St. Petersbug Times reports.
According to the newspaper:
The leg had no tattoos, no distinct marks or scars. There were no other signs of trauma, except for some mysterious marks around the upper thigh. It was dotted with seaweed and other debris when it was found.
Police are awaiting further testing from the Medical Examiner's office and checking missing persons reports from several nearby counties in hopes of identifying the victim.
"We don't think the leg's been in the water that long. Our best judgment at this point would be a day or two," St. Petersburg Police Dept. spokesman Mike Puetz told told ABC Action News.
"Right now it's obviously a very suspicious set of circumstances. We're stopping a little bit short of calling it a homicide, at this point, until we get some more details" Puetz said.



Butterball Turkey Abuse Farm Raided

Last week a disturbing video of workers viciously abusing turkeys at a Butterball facility was put online by the group Mercy for Animals, and today officials in North Carolina did something about it, raiding the Hoke County turkey semen collection facility to further investigate charges of "acts of violence and severe neglect."

And things do look grim down there. It's hard to watch the below undercover video of lovely large birds being thrown, bashed, kicked, and living in their own waste with open sores and not get upset—even if you enjoy eating them. Yes, at this point most of us have seen footage of badly kept, industrially farmed animals, but that doesn't make the image of a turkey, unable to stand and covered in flies, slowly dying on the floor of a factory farm any less harrowing. This video may be NSFW, depending on your boss's opinion of turkey snuff porn:
The video footage was shot between November and December of this year by an undercover investigator at a Butterball turkey semen collection facility in Shannon, North Carolina. Butterball, the largest turkey producer in the country which "accounts for 20 percent of total turkey production," has not yet responded to our request for comment. For more of Mercy For Animal's photos and coverage of Butterball's alleged abuse of turkeys, click here.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

French breast implant maker faced US lawsuits


Breast implants made by troubled French firm PIP have been at the heart of multiple lawsuits in the United States, where they were sold up until 2000, documents filed with the US government show.

Tens of thousands of women worldwide have been fitted with the implants, which were made from industrial rather than medical grade silicone.

France's health ministry recommended last week that the 30,000 women in the country with the implants have them taken out, saying that while there is no proven cancer risk, they could rupture dangerously.
In the United States, PIP implants were sold through Heritage Worldwide until May 2000, when the US Food and Drug Administration launched a moratorium on silicone implants.
At the time, the US market accounted for 40 percent of Heritage Worldwide's revenues, or $4 million (€3 million), according to corporate documents filed in 2009 with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
The firm posted significant losses in subsequent years, especially starting in 2007, as both users and distributors filed complaints against the company.
Between 1996 and 2009, PIP was the target of several dozen lawsuits in the United States, filed not only by women using the implants but also by its business partners, claiming breach of contract or unmet payments.
A February 2009 document cites three complaints in Florida -- filed in October 1999, June 2000 and July 2003 by five members of the Kwartin family against PIP, its affiliates and founder Jean-Claude Mas.
The plaintiffs said they were shareholders of PIP distributor PIP/USA, Inc. and were seeking unspecified damages from PIP and other stakeholders "arising out of alleged tortious and other purported wrongful acts," the document added.
The complaints were later consolidated into a class action lawsuit in 2005.
Dozens of women began filing lawsuits against PIP, mainly for product liability, starting in 2003, including in Illinois and Texas. But as of 2009, no trial date had yet been set. Many of the lawsuits were later dismissed.
The complaints cited defective merchandise not suited for its intended purpose and violations of local consumer legislation.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Floridians want more naked Germans to visit


Pandabare, a nudist community in western Florida, United States, has won an advertising grant to tempt German nudists to try stripping off stateside.

According to the Reuters news agency, Pandabare were awarded $3,800 in tax money by the Pasco County commission to get Germans to holiday in one of the organization's 16 resorts, campgrounds and clubs in the county north of Tampa.

The ads, to be placed in European magazines, will promote Pasco's reputation as the nudist capital of the US.

"The idea is to create a 'Euro-bird' season in July and August which are our worst two months of the year," said Eric
Keaton, public communications manager for the Pasco County tourist agency.

Keaton claims nudism was an important part of the
local economy.

The primary
target market for the ad campaign will be Germany which, according to Pandabare's application document, is "a large and lucrative market whose millions of nudists are among the world's most prolific travellers."

Keaton said the advertisements, set to launch in 2012, are still in the conceptual stage, but he promised, "They are very clean, and somewhat funny."


World Time Changing? Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) May Eliminate "Leap Seconds" In 2012

The way we keep time is imperfect, and it's causing plenty of problems for modern society.

But what scientists at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris, France (BIPM) have been considering eliminating next month could fundamentally change the way we tell time, and most people don't even know it exists. They plan on deciding whether or not to eliminate "leap seconds" from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
Most people are aware of leap years, which add an extra day (tacked on to the end of February) every four years in order to adjust for the extra partial day in Earth's yearly rotation around the sun. But leap seconds serve a much less predictable purpose: adding a second to the clock in an unpredictable pattern to account for slight, unpredictable changes in the Earth's rotation on its axis, caused by things like the gradual slowing of Earth's rotation caused by the friction of ocean tides or the gravitational pull of the moon.
Simply put, every now and then we have to stop the clock for a second, so the Earth's rotation can catch up to our measurement of time.
According to a press release from BIPM, government representatives at the World Radio Conference of the International Telecommunication Union in Geneva, Switzerland will decide whether or not these adjustments are to continue when they convene in January 2012. While many might think this ruins our fundamental perception of time (or, perhaps, that it could diverge real astronomical time from our atomic measurement of time), scientists say the effect would likely be minimal.
In an interview with New Scientist, Felicitas Arias BIPM's "time director" explained that the difference between astronomical time and the unadjusted atomic time scale would be about half an hour in 600 years, so adjustments wouldn't be made in the near future:
It was agreed some years ago that we should not think of any kind of adjustment in the near future, the next 100 or 200 years. In about the year 2600 we will have a half-hour divergence. However, we don't know how time-keeping will be then, or how technology will be. So we cannot rule for the next six or seven generations.
In 100 years we will only see a 1-minute divergence, however, due to time zones, many already see up to half an hour in divergence from astronomical time.
While the change seems simple enough, it has major implications for technology, namely GPS systems that rely on precise timing to coordinate locations, BIPM discussed in a more recent release. By abolishing these pesky little differences (which occur about once every 1.5 years) greater safety can be ensured without sudden, unexpected stops in time.
Currently, BIPM calculates UTC based on an average of measurements from 400 atomic clocks around the world and UTC never differs from the time defined by the rotation of the Earth (UT1) by more than .9 seconds due to "leap seconds."


The Calendar Revolution Begins in Three Days

January 1, 2012 is the target date for the first use of a new calendar devised by a Johns Hopkins astrophysicist, Richard Conn Henry, and Hopkins economist, Steven H. Hanke. Its signal innovation: Year to year, dates would fall on the same day of the week. Beginning in 2012, in other words, Christmas and New Year’s Day would forever fall on  Sunday — and your birthday would henceforth be associated with one specific day.
The goal is for the calendar to be in universal use by 2017.
“Our plan offers a stable calendar that is absolutely identical from year to year and which allows the permanent, rational planning of annual activities, from school to work holidays,” Henry said in a statement. The calendar would accomplish this by means of a 364-day year — augmented every five or six years with an extra week tacked on at the end. Otherwise, the rhythm of months would be more regular than what we’re used to: January and February have 30 days, March 31; and that pattern (30 days/30/31) would repeat itself throughout the year.
Convenience aside — “Think about how much time and effort are expended each year in redesigning the calendar of every single organization in the world,” Henry said — the calendar would also make many financial calculations simpler. All sorts of such calculations involving mortgages, bonds, “swaps,” and the like currently have to take into account the existing irregular month lengths, and there’s often a “rip-off factor,” the scholars say.
That Christmas would always fall on a Sunday “will be pleasing to Christians,” Henry writes on a website devoted to the project, “but will also be pleasing to companies who currently lose up to two weeks of work to the Christmas/New Year’s annual mess.”
One advantage their plan has over previous reform calendars is that it doesn’t deal with the issue of keeping the year in sync with the seasons by adding partial weeks, creating weeks without a Sabbath. In contrast, the so called Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar “Fully Respects the Fourth Commandment of the Bible.”
2017 is the target for the worldwide implementation of the calendar. Skeptical they can meet that target? The final entry in the project’s FAQ (go here and scroll down) is “Well, I still say you are going to fail.” To which Henry responds:
Oh yes? I vividly remember phoning my elderly mother, in my native Canada, some years before she died: and with astonishment hearing her quite casually say, “it was very hot today, 30 degrees.” What this shows is that a nice conservative old lady was able to totally adapt to an alien idea, the Celsius temperature scale. We are all adaptable! … It CAN be done, folks, and the decision is YOURS, not mine. Each of you.
Come to think of it, maybe our collective acceptance of the Celsius scale is not the precise point to stress. That quibble aside, are you onboard?


RIP 2011


China’s Parallel Online Universe

To the casual eye, China’s social media landscape might look diverse and lively. But the social media clones are careful to follow Communist Party censorship.

As the showdown escalated between Chinese security forces and residents of Wukan, where villagers revolted against the Chinese Communist Party, you didn’t find as much discussion of the incident in Chinese social media as you might expect. And it wasn’t only because the internet was shut off in the town.
It was also a result of China’s development of a set of “social media clones” that ably mimic the functions of the most popular, internationally recognized social media applications, such as Facebook and Twitter. The replicas, however, come with a major catch: they systematically comply with the Chinese Communist Party’s strict censorship requirements.
This innovative approach embraces, rather than resists, technological advances. It satisfies the growing demand of hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens for social media tools, reducing incentives for them to circumvent the “Great Firewall,” while still enabling the Communist Party to control what they say to each other on matters of political consequence.
Here’s how this critical piece of China’s modern censorship mosaic works.
First, the big transnational social media players – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – are blocked in China. This clears the playing field for homegrown firms, such as Renren, which provides Facebook-type functions,, a YouTube-like video sharing service, and Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging service.
These services are then required to have automated or manual monitoring and censorship mechanisms in place to quickly identify and delete user-generated postings or disable accounts that run afoul of the Communist Party’s ever-changing censorship red lines. It’s a daily reality for Chinese bloggers, academics, activists, and even ordinary users to discover a posting deleted, their account locked, or their “friends” unable to view what they have just shared.
The case of Sina Weibo, which boasts some 250 million registered users, is instructive. Launched in 2009, it’s similar to Twitter in that it allows users to post 140-character “tweets” and gather followers. Since coming on the scene, the company has enjoyed explosive growth and the service’s millions of users have become an important audience for a diverse range of interests.
But in the same way this microblogging service can enable commerce, entertainment and personal communication, it’s also increasingly used to share information and commentary unwelcome to the ruling Communist Party. To keep pace, Sina Weibo reportedly employs some 700 people to perform around the clock monitoring of millions of tweets.
Despite Sina Weibo’s vast user base, it represents just a small corner of China’s parallel social media universe. Instead of MSN messenger, there’s QQ, which downloads automated keyword filtering upon installation. Instead of Wikipedia, there is Baidu’s Baike. Instead of Blogspot, every major web portal has its own blogging service.


China’s Cyber Command

Chinese analysts and officials like to point out that it was the United States that first set up Cyber Command and thus, in their view, militarized cyberspace. Yet Chinese military thinkers are clearly thinking about what type of organizations and institutions they will need to conduct offensive cyber operations and to defend their own networks against attacks. An interesting piece in China Defense Daily lays out some of the characteristics necessary for “a highly effective command system for cyber war mobilization.”
-- Military and civilian networks are interconnected, and the resources needed for cyber war permeate society; military units, social organizations, and even individuals “will all possibly become combat forces during a cyber war.”
-- Given this diffusion of resources, there is a need for a cyber war mobilization command system with a “vertical command hierarchy” that reaches into all of society.
-- Each of the branches of the military should have its own command division, manage necessary resources, cultivate forces, and organize training and drills. Once a war breaks out, there needs to be a “coordinated strategic level” command structure that mobilizes resources and launches combat operations.
-- There must be specialized troops within industrial sectors, with especially strong ties to the information industries.
-- Need to enlarge specialized cyber troops, recruiting computer network experts. The People’s Liberation Army should also reach out to all segments of society and create cyber reserves and people’s militias.
-- Offense and defense in cyber war have distinct characteristics, and they change frequently. Offensive technologies include computer viruses, EMP bombs, microwave bombs, and computer and microchip backdoors.  For defense, there are network scanners, network wiretapping devices, password breaking devices, electromagnetic detectors and firewalls, and anti-virus software.
-- Because the technological requirements of these weapons are very high, there must be extensive R&D programs into new offensive weapons as well as the defensive and offensive capabilities of the potential adversary.
This is a very “whole of society” approach, one that seems to fundamentally grasp that power in cyberspace is multi-faceted and spread throughout society. And while we assume that Chinese policymakers can simply mobilize these social forces to bolster state power, is that actually the case? And if it’s true now, might that change?
These types of articles (and perhaps blog posts like this one?) can be expected to feed into the growing security dilemma between the United States and China. Chinese analysts see Cyber Command and Cyber Storm exercises as directed against them. Though the tone of the article is exploratory – and the author, Huang Chunping, appears to be an aerospace and nuclear expert, not a cyber specialist – the take-home for many readers will be that all Chinese citizens are potential cyber warriors. Dampening a security dilemma is not easy. Dialogue and confidence-building measures can help, but these are only at the preliminary stages right now. Hopefully they will pick up in 2012, otherwise the lack of trust between Washington and Beijing looks only likely to grow.


Rare Earths: China's Export Quota Drops 27 Percent

China announced a cut Tuesday in its rare earths export quota as it tries to shore up sagging prices for the exotic metals used in mobile phones and other high-tech goods.
China accounts for 97 percent of rare earth output and its 2009 decision to curb exports while it builds up an industry to create products made with them alarmed foreign companies that depend on Chinese supplies.
In its latest quota, the Commerce Ministry said exporters will be allowed to sell 10,546 tons of rare earths in the first half of 2012. That is a 27 percent reduction from the quota for the first half of 2011.
China's export restrictions have strained relations with the United States the European Union, Japan and other governments that have called on Beijing to remove its curbs and make its intentions clear.
Despite production and expor curbs, rare earths prices in China have tumbled as U.S. and European economic woes dent demand for its exports. The government ordered its biggest producer to suspend output for a month in October to shore up prices.
But the restrictions have made rare earths much mor expensive abroad, giving Chinese makers of products that use them a price advantage and foreign manufacturers an incentive to shift operations to China.
In a sign of unusually weak demand, the Commerce Ministry said actual Chinese exports of rare earths in 2011 totaled 14,750 tons for the first 11 months of 2011 – the equivalent of just 49 percent of the total annual quota.
In another possible move to tighten control over exports, the ministry's announcement Tuesday said only 11 companies will be allowed to sell abroad. That is down from 26 companies given licences for the first half of 2011.
Rare earths are 17 elements including cerium, dysprosium and lanthanum that are used in manufacturing flat-screen TVs, batteries for electric cars and wind turbines. They also used in some high-tech weapons.
The United States, Canada and Australia also have rare earths but stopped mining them in the 1990s as lower-cost Chinese ores flooded the market.
Surging demand has prompted ccompanies in Canada, California, India, Malaysia, Russia and other other countries to develop rare earths mines, some of which are expected to start producing by 2015.
Prices in China have fallen sharply since August, declining by 45 percent for neodymium oxide, by 33 percent for terbium oxide and by 31 percent for lanthanum oxide, according to Lynas Corp., an Australian rare earths producer.
Its figures showed an equally striking gap between prices in China and abroad, with lanthanum oxide costing triple the Chinese level on global markets, neodymium more than twice as much and terbium oxide near twice as much.


WhiteCastle Wedding


This is a little video about a wedding held at a White Castle. The marriage ceremony was held on Valentine's day in 2009. It took place at the worlds largest White Castle restaurant in downtown Louisville


White Castle to Start Selling Alcohol

White Castle, the nation's favorite inexpensive post-hangover fast food chain that just keeps hanging in there, is going to start selling booze. The Chicago-based chain announced yesterday that they will start selling wines and beers - alas, not in the Chicago market. According to Convenience Store Decisions (yes, that's a real magazine), White Castle is hoping to get a much-needed boost in 2012 from the new drink options.
While this creates the potential for endless jokes about throwing up, we're more concerned with the precedent, especially considering Starbucks and Burger King have tried similar experiments this year. If this takes off, what's next? A McBrew or McRose?
The first restaurant to get the booze is in Indiana. 
"The wine — a choice of two reds and two whites — comes in “a nice plastic cup, (with) the look of an elegant cocktail glass,” says White Castle spokesman Jamie Richardson."
Keep it classy, White Castle. We say if you're going to have plastic cups, just own it - and be sure to give us straws. They will also be selling beer (a "nice complement" to a double cheeseburger, according to Richardson). The wine is $4.50, and the beer is $3.00. No word yet on their vintage choices.