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Friday, December 2, 2011

In the News: December 2, 2011

OK, it's been a while so there are quite a few stories I've been saving up.
(To reduce the length of the post, I'll be breaking up the stories into two separate posts).

World's Largest Insect
I'm not usually too squeamish about bugs, but this one is making me reconsider my desire to visit New Zealand...

"A nature-lover has revealed how he spent two days tracking down a giant insect on a remote New Zealand island – and got it to eat a carrot out of his hand.

Mark Moffett’s find is the world's biggest insect in terms of weight, which at 71g is heavier than a sparrow and three times that of a mouse.

The 53-year-old former park ranger discovered the giant weta up a tree and his real life Bug's Bunny has now been declared the largest ever found.

"There are over 70 types of Weta species in New Zealand but the giant weta has been named the biggest insect in the world because of its weight.

A female giant weta filled with eggs can reach up to 70g or more and the largest of the species are found on Little Barrier Island.

They are usually less social and more passive than other weta.

Their diet consists of plants, other small insects and fruit.

Their size is an example of island gigantism, which is a biological phenomenon leading to a larger size than their mainland relatives because of their isolation and lack of large predators.
(Daily Mail)

This story is over two months old, but still worthy of note:
'First Irish case' of death by spontaneous combustion

Coroner: Dr. Ciaran McLoughlin

"A man who burned to death in his home died as a result of spontaneous combustion, an Irish coroner has ruled.

West Galway coroner Dr Ciaran McLoughlin said it was the first time in 25 years of investigating deaths that he had recorded such a verdict.

Michael Faherty, 76, died at his home in Galway on 22 December 2010.

Deaths attributed by some to "spontaneous combustion" occur when a living human body is burned without an apparent external source of ignition.

Typically police or fire investigators find burned corpses but no burned furniture.

An inquest in Galway on Thursday heard how investigators had been baffled as to the cause of Mr Faherty's death at his home at Clareview Park, Ballybane.

Forensic experts found that a fire in the fireplace of the sitting room where the badly burnt body was found, had not been the cause of the blaze that killed Mr Faherty.

The court was told that no trace of an accelerant had been found and there had been nothing to suggest foul play.

The court heard Mr Faherty had been found lying on his back with his head closest to an open fireplace.

The fire had been confined to the sitting room. The only damage was to the body, which was totally burnt, the ceiling above him and the floor underneath him.

And not to single out Ireland... Some local idiocy!
Mass. boy faces harassment inquiry for groin punch

"The mother of a Boston first-grader says her son is being investigated for possible sexual harassment for punching another boy in the groin.

Tasha Lynch says her 7-year-old son acted in self-defense. She said Thursday that the other boy had choked her son on a school bus and stolen his gloves late last month.

She tells The Boston Globe (http://b.globe.com/ur6DZ9) her son was just protecting himself.

A Boston public schools spokesman confirms an investigation but refused to discuss specifics of the encounter or why it has been classified as a possible case of sexual harassment.

Lynch says that because her son punched the other boy in the groin, school officials say they consider it sexual assault. She counters that the other boy should be charged with attempted murder for choking her son.
(Boston.com thanks to DiP)


Speaking of child sex-crimes...
Apparently in Florida: 12 year olds kissing = Sex Crime

"A sheriff was called to a Florida elementary school after a pair of 12-year-olds were caught kissing in a playground.

Deputies were sent to the school after the assistant principal alerted them to a “possible sex crime,” according to local reports.

Margaret Ann Haring told authorities the kiss took place during physical education class at Orange River Elementary School after two girls started debating who liked a 12-year-old male student more.

One of the girls then approached the boy and kissed him.

Must have been one hell of a 12 year old boy...
(NY Daily News)

Side note: After I posted the "groin punch" article, I remember the story above and was trying to find it again.
In my search, I came across this gem from Yahoo! Answers:
Another reason I fear for the next generation of Americans... If they're being raised by people like 'STONECOLD STEVE AUSTIN AKA DRUNK', they have no chance to compete in this world.

Teens don't know how to lose weight properly
Maybe the next generation will just kill themselves off...

"Teens who try to lose weight may be going about it the wrong way.

A study presented by a doctoral student at Temple University found that obese students have great interest in weight loss, but this intent can mean increased smoking and soda drinking. Temple University’s public health doctoral candidate Clare Lenhart presented data from a 2010 survey of 44,000 students at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association this week.

The results showed that about 75.7% of the obese students attending Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, public high schools sought to lose weight.

“What I was expecting to see was increased intake of salad or healthy foods,” Lenhart said. “In fact, what I found was persistent unhealthy behaviors contrary to weight loss.”

Those teenagers who tried to lose weight had increased use of tobacco and soda. It was unclear from the data why the female students drank more non-diet soda when they sought to lose weight.

Another reason I worry about the state of this nation:
TSA Thinks Fake Gun On Your Handbag Is A Security Threat

These are the people "protecting" us!

"While gun replicas have been outlawed on planes since 2002, should that include miniature designs of pistols that are part of your handbag? This is the question that vexed a teenager who was stopped by TSA agents and told that her weaponized handbag was some sort of illegal security risk.

The teen, who had already carried the bag on board a plane without incident, was trying to fly back home from Virginia to Jacksonville, FL, when she was stopped by a TSA agent at the security checkpoint.

"She was like, 'This is a federal offense because it's in the shape of a gun,'" the teen recalls to WJXT-TV. "I'm like, 'But it's a design on a purse. How is it a federal offense?'"

The TSA eventually came to the conclusion that the hollow half-gun was not actually a real revolver but told the teen she would still need to check the bag.

It didn't really matter by that point, as she had missed her flight. Southwest was able to get her on a plane to Orlando, which is at least in the correct state.

A TSA official tells WJXT that it's not that uncommon for passengers to wear something that could be considered a gun replica, but the teen, using a little thing she calls "common sense," thinks that's ridiculous: "It's a purse, not a weapon."
(via Consumerist)

Meanwhile, the rest of the world move forward
Russian and Chinese companies 'most likely to bribe'
(By any means necessary).

"Companies from Russia and China are most likely to pay bribes when doing business abroad, a survey suggests.

The two scored worst out of 28 countries in a poll of 3,000 business executives conducted by anti-corruption group Transparency International (TI).

The Netherlands and Switzerland came top, while the UK ranked eighth, just ahead of the US and France.

Bribery was reportedly most common to win public sector works and construction contracts.
"Bribe Rankings - worst offenders last

1. Netherlands, Switzerland
3. Belgium
4. Germany, Japan
6. Australia, Canada
8. Singapore, UK
10. US
11. France, Spain
13. South Korea
14. Brazil
15. Hong Kong, Italy, Malaysia, South Africa
19. India, Turkey
22. Saudi Arabia
23. Argentina, UAE
25. Indonesia
26. Mexico
27. China
28. Russia
"Survey respondents were asked to say how likely companies from each of the foreign countries were to offer back-handers.

Bribe-paying was seen as much more common by businessmen from countries whose governments were also considered to have the least integrity, according to a separate "corruption perceptions" survey carried out by TI last year.

The sector most affected by bribery was public procurement - where companies compete to win contracts from governments for everything from waste collection to road building.

My solution to the recent downfall of the world economy?

Put 'Engineers at the Forefront of Society'

"Lord Browne of Madingley, the former President of the Royal Academy for Engineering, has long had a passion to ensure that engineers are able to develop as leaders of businesses – driving and creating change from the company boardroom. He believes that it is engineers who have the ability, and the opportunity, to contribute significantly in solving the challenges facing the world.

Lord Browne stated in a lecture at the Royal Academy in July this year, that ‘leadership requires three core skills: the ability to define a vision that fits your context, the ability to align diverse parties to work towards that vision, and an ability to execute that vision efficiently. Engineers are equipped with these skills better than any other profession.’ He went on to say ‘They are not just technicians and experts – they are diplomats and negotiators.’ ‘They grasp how to manage risks and control costs.’

"Professor Hodge explains, ‘Engineers are responsible for generating wealth for business and benefit for society, because engineers tackle and overcome major challenges such as diminishing water and energy resources. However, engineers often feel that they are ill-equipped to run companies – leaving that to the finance and other specialists. The MiLE programme offers engineering managers the skills to become influential and respected leaders, with the personal and technical expertise to address global business challenges’."

"Professor Robert Berry, Executive Dean at Aston University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, says ‘Senior Engineers need to speak the same language as their business colleagues. It is no longer sufficient for them only to be technically skilled. We believe there are great advantages in having more engineers at the top of business but recognise that, in recent years, many have not had the necessary leadership skills. In Birmingham, the heritage of engineers who founded great companies such as James Watt and Matthew Boulton is still very much around us, so it is appropriate that Aston University, in the heart of Birmingham, is leading this renaissance of engineering leadership.’"

Here, here!

In other news:
Study: Older Siblings Have Higher IQs
I knew it!

"Being the oldest child in the family has its perks: later bedtimes, no hand-me-downs, and, according to a new study, a higher IQ.

The study, detailed in the June 22 issue of the journal Science, analyzed the IQs of nearly 250,000 Norwegian 18- and 19-year-old draftees and found that older siblings had higher scores than younger siblings.

Another study, by the same authors of the new Science study but published recently in the journal Intelligence, looked at more than 100,000 Norwegian brothers and found that first-borns on average had an IQ 2.3 points higher than their younger brothers (the IQs were all taken when the brothers were 18 or 19, so they compare the older brother’s score at that age to the younger brother’s score when he reached that same age).

“These are probably the two most important studies on birth order and intelligence in the last 75 years,” said psychologist Frank Sulloway of the University of California, Berkeley, who wrote an analysis of the latest study for 'Science'.

"Psychologists have a few theories to explain the new results. One proposes that older siblings “tutor” their younger brothers and sisters, which reinforces their own learning, though direct evidence for this particular theory is lacking.

Paradoxically, younger siblings start out in life with higher IQs: Because younger children haven’t yet mastered the skills their older siblings have (for example, language or math skills), they actually degrade the learning environment of their elder brother or sister.

“Every time you add a child, you’re diluting the intellectual environment of everyone in the family,” Sulloway said.

But eventually, around the age of 12, this trend reverses and the older siblings overtake their younger siblings.
(LiveScience via Neatorama)

Look for more new stories in Part II!

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