Friday, December 12, 2008

Notes From All Over

Clean Your Plate Or Pay Up At NYC Buffet

Didn't your mother tell you to clean your plate?

If so, you'd be a good candidate for the all-you-can eat special at Hayashi Ya.

The Japanese restaurant on Manhattan's West Side imposes a surcharge for wasted and unfinished food. A chalkboard sign in front of the restaurant advertises all you can eat for $26.95 per person. But the sign says there's a 30 percent surcharge for wasted or unfinished food.

The manager said the policy has been in effect for about two years.

Huge Stash of Marijuana Found in Ancient Tomb

Duuuuuude! The world's oldest stash of marijuana has been found in far western China, according to an article in the Journal of Experimental Botany.

An ancient Caucasian people, probably the Indo-European-speaking Yuezhi whose fair-haired mummies keep turning up in Xinjiang province, seem to have buried one of their shamans with a whopping 789 grams of high-potency pot 2,700 years ago.

That's about 28 ounces of killer green bud, worth perhaps $8,000 at today's street prices, and enough to keep Harold and Kumar happy for a couple of days.

"It was common practice in burials to provide materials needed for the afterlife," lead author Ethan B. Russo, a practicing neurologist and prominent medicinal-marijuana advocate based in Missoula, Mont., tells the Canadian Press. "No hemp or seeds were provided for fabric or food. Rather, cannabis as medicine or for visionary purposes was supplied."

But the researchers couldn't tell if the weed was meant to be smoked or eaten. No pipes, bongs or rolling papers were found in the tomb.

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus relates how the Scythians, Iranian-speaking nomads who roamed the steppes to the west of the Yuezhi in the first millennium B.C., liked to throw marijuana onto bonfires to induce trancelike states. It's possible the buried shaman followed similar practices.

'Facebook Republican Army' Now Says It Doesn't Exist

They claimed to have their own bus, gatecrashed parties across Britain, and engaged in extravagant orgies on washing machines. But now the Facebook Republican Army, a gang of twenty-somethings who targeted teenage celebrations advertised on Facebook, say they never actually existed.

Referring to themselves as "every parent's worst nightmare", their activities have been reported in the British press for almost a year, most recently this past week. For a while it seemed that no one's teenage children - or home appliances - were safe. But speaking to The Times, Steve O'Brien, their supposed ringleader, said that the lies had gone on too long.

"It was a bit of a laugh," the 25 year-old plumber from Brighton, on the Channel coast south of London, said. "But it is now getting to the stage where it could be damaging for my job. I am looking yobbish [loutish], and I want to set the record straight."

Earlier this week, three national papers reported that a $1.5 million home in Brighton had been "trashed" after gate-crashers swelled the numbers for the 16th birthday party of Georgina Hobday from 100 to 400. The "horror show" devastation included a broken shed window, a dirty carpet, and second hand accounts that someone may have headbutted a mirror.

'Champagne Effect' Could Predict Volcanic Eruptions

Earthquakes can set off volcanoes by shaking up molten rock like champagne in a bottle until they explode, a study suggests. The research shows that volcanoes erupt up to four times more often after a large earthquake than they would without the seismic agitation.

The effects of an earthquake can be felt hundreds of miles from the epicenter and are powerful enough to wake dormant volcanoes. However, it can take so long for a surge of molten rock to build up enough pressure to cause an eruption that several months can elapse between the trigger and the volcanic explosion.

The link between volcanoes and earthquakes has long been suspected, but the new research has provided the first statistical evidence. Researchers at the University of Oxford identified the "champagne effect" after analyzing records of volcanoes and earthquakes in southern Chile, the region where Charles Darwin first speculated on the likely link in 1835.

The research team found that the pattern of eruptions over the past 150 years showed a noticeable increase for a year after large earthquakes.

"The most unexpected part of this discovery was the considerable distance from the earthquake rupture where these eruptions took place, and the length of time for which we saw increased volcanic activity," said Sebastian Watt, one of the researchers.

Palin Beats Obama in Google's 'Zeitgeist' Rankings

Google has published its annual round-up of most-searched terms, revealing that the public spent much of the year procrastinating on Facebook, energized by the Large Hadron Collider and obsessing about the downfall of a bank in Iceland. Each year the search engine giant compiles its "zeitgeist" list, uncovering the most popular keywords among billions of Google queries.

One of the fastest rising search terms of 2008 was "Large Hadron Collider'" reflecting the way in which the giant atom-smasher that promises to reveal the secrets of the universe captured the public imagination as it was switched on in September.

In the U.K., "Large Hadron Collider" outranked even "Obama," despite the American presidential election's domination of the airwaves and front pages for weeks before his election win on Nov. 4.

Globally, the president-elect was beaten by his vanquished rival for the vice-presidency, Sarah Palin. The governor of Alaska topped the worldwide list of fastest rising queries.

Obama was only sixth in the list of top climbers, just behind the late Heath Ledger, who played the Joker in the latest "Batman" movie. He died in January after taking an overdose of prescription drugs.

Russia, China Accused of Harboring Cybercriminals

Russia and China are protecting gangs of criminals engaged in cybercrimes such as Internet fraud, blackmail and money laundering, a study said Tuesday.

Security firm McAfee's 2008 Virtual Criminology Report, subtitled "Cybercrime: The Next Wave," draws on interviews with senior staff at organizations such as Britain's Serious Organized Crime Agency, the United Nations and the FBI.

It found that a number of countries were providing "political cover" for criminals against attempts at prosecution by other nations.

"The cyber-kingpins remain at large while minor mules are caught and brought to rights," the report reads. "Some governments are guilty of protecting their in-country offenders."

The study found that Russia and China were among those harboring Internet criminal networks, and that they are "especially reluctant to co-operate with foreign law-enforcement bodies for reputation and intelligence reasons."

"A lot of it is corruption," said Dr. Ian Brown of the University of Oxford, one of the report's authors. "In Russia, it is in regional governments and police agencies -- there are connections between the cyber-criminals in those areas."

The report also sounded a warning about the growing threat of cyberterrorism, saying Internet hackers will soon become "powerful enough to launch attacks that will damage and destroy critical national infrastructure," including electrical grids, gas and water supplies and bank-payment systems.

1 in 5 Spaniards, Portuguese Has Jewish Ancestry

They were driven from the Iberian Peninsula in one of Europe's notorious purges. But more than 500 years after the last Jews and Muslims were "ethnically cleansed" from Spain and Portugal, their ancestors are thriving.

Spanish film starlet Penelope Cruz or the Oscar-winning director Pedro Almodovar might originally be descended from Jewish stock. Equally, the tempestuous Portuguese football manager Jose Mourinho or the Nobel prize-winning novelist Jose Saramago may well have had Muslim ancestors.

These intriguing genealogical possibilities arose after a study found evidence that 19.8 percent of today's Spaniards and Portuguese have Sephardic Jewish ancestry. Another 10.6 percent have a genetic make-up that suggests they were descended from North African Moors.

The study found that the genetic signatures of Spaniards and the Portuguese indicate evidence of mass conversions of Sephardic Jews and Muslims to Catholicism from the 15th century.

In 1492 King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile completed the Reconquista (Recapturing) of the Iberian Peninsula by Catholic forces from the Muslim rulers who had held what is today Spain and Portugal since 711.

The Catholic monarchs then forced Jews and Muslims to convert to Catholicism or go into exile. Despite their best efforts to "ethnically cleanse" the Iberian peninsula, the genetic fingerprint of Jews and Muslims remains until today.

NC Man Tells Police Cat Shot Him

It turns out the cat wasn't the culprit after all. That information came to light after a man in Rockingham County claimed he was accidentally shot by his cat early Friday morning, reported WXII-TV.

Rockingham County Sheriff's Department spokesman Dean Venable said Charlie Banks Busick, 24, told police that as he was sitting on a loveseat in his home shortly before 1:30 a.m., his cat jumped onto his Glock .45-caliber pistol, causing it to fire a round into his hip.

Busick later changed his story and admitted that as he was getting up from the loveseat, his thumb accidentally hit the trigger, causing the gun to fire, Venable said.

Venable said a friend took Busick to the hospital to be treated for his wound. It wasn't immediately known if Busick was being charged with a crime.


NY Times, Journal of Experimental Botany, Reuter's, University of Oxford, Google, McAfee, WXII-TV

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