Thursday, August 28, 2014

Today in History: August 27th

Associated Press – Today in History

Mine-sniffing rodents: I wish they had ‘HeroRats’ when I was in Vietnam

Good Day World!

While serving as a combat engineer in Vietnam (1970), my primary mission was to detect landmines.

Minesweeping then meant a few guys slowly walking along a hostile dirt road and waving a heavy modular mine detection unit back and forth.

 (Photo -A HeroRat receives her food reward.)

We didn’t have the advantages today’s Army Engineers have with mine-sweeping vehicles preceding us. I’m talking “old school” here.

And we sure didn’t have any trained rats to stand in for us! The only rats I remember back then were mean little things that occupied bunkers and hooches.

If I would have known back then what I recently discovered about rats, I’m sure I would have been on the cutting edge for training the furry little beasts to take my job!

But no one thought about such a novel way to detect landmines in the 1970s. It wasn’t until Bart Weetjens came along that the idea of using rodents for mine detection became a reality.

Weetjens is the founder of Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling (APOPO) (Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development – English Translation) which is a registered Belgian non-governmental organization that trains African giant pouched rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis!  

APOPO's mission is to develop detection rats technology to provide solutions for global problems and inspire positive social change. For today, we’ll just look at the rats searching for landmines and leave the tuberculosis sniffing abilities aside for another post.

Due to Weetjens childhood experience, he knew that rats, with their strong sense of smell and trainability, could provide a cheaper, more efficient, and locally available means to detect landmines.

Using African giant pouched rats (they call them HeroRats) to detect landmines has several advantages. The rats are indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa, where they are used and, thus, are well-suited to the climate and are resistant to many endemic diseases.

They are also widely available and inexpensive to procure. Few resources are needed to raise a rat to adulthood, and African Giant Pouched Rats have a relatively long lifespan of six to eight years.

Furthermore, HeroRats do not form a bond with a specific trainer but rather are motivated to work for food. This adaptability allows for the trained rats to be transferred between handlers.

In the minefields, the HeroRats are too light to detonate a pressure-activated mine by walking over it. Their small size also means that the rats can be easily transported to and from operational sites.

Mine Detection Rats (MDR), the name given to the African giant pouched rats (genus Cricetomys) also used by APOPO, work to detect landmines by using their exceptional sense of smell.

In a minefield, MDRs wear harnesses connected to a rope suspended between two handlers. The HeroRats methodically sweep up and down a demarcated hazardous area and indicate the scent of explosives by scratching at the ground.

The insignificant weight of the rats means they do not detonate a landmine; their scratching solely indicates the presence of a mine. Each suspected area is screened by two animals.

The locations that are indicated by the rats are marked off, and then followed up later by a manual demining team, who detect and destroy the mines.

Full training of a Detection Rat takes approximately nine months on average, and is followed by a series of accreditation tests.

The rats are socialized and then trained through principles of operant conditioning. When the rats first begin their training, they learn to associate a “click” sound with a food reward of banana or peanuts.

Once they learn that "click" means food, the rats are trained on a target scent.

Rats trained to become Mine Detection Rats are taught that when they indicate TNT (the explosive in most mines), they will hear a click and then get food.

After various stages of training which build on the skills learned in the previous stage, the HeroRat is ready to go to work in either a minefield or into the research lab for tuberculosis or remote scent tracing (RST) detection.

(Information and photos Via Wikipedia)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Uncle Sam looking to buy 12 acres of marijuana for research

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Calling all pot farmers: Uncle Sam is looking to buy.

An arm of the National Institutes of Health dedicated to researching drug abuse and addiction “intends” to solicit proposals from those who can “harvest, process, analyze, store and distribute” cannabis, according to a listing posted Tuesday night on a federal government website.

A successful bidder must possess a “secure and video monitored outdoor facility” capable of growing and processing 12 acres of marijuana, a 1,000 square foot (minimum) greenhouse to test the plants under controlled conditions, and “demonstrate the availability” of a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Food and Drug Administration-approved vault to maintain between 400 and 700 kilograms of pot stock, extract and cigarettes.

NIDA spokeswoman Shirley Simson said the the agency was simply starting a new bidding competition since its existing marijuana farm contract is set to expire next year. The original solicitation for that contract was issued in 2009. (Source)

Study shows more Americans are using pot for pain instead of opioids

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Good Day World!

I’ve been using medical marijuana for years to deal with my chronic back pain – a result of spine stabilization surgery.

My doctor prescribed Percocet for up to a year after my surgery. I had nothing but trouble taking that pain-killer. My stomach and bowels were constantly in an uproar.

Then I quit taking it. I switched to marijuana, which still does the job today, years after my surgery.

Needless to say, I became an advocate for pot for pain. There are no after affects. I’ve heard so many lies about the use of medical marijuana that I could write a book chronicling them. The good news is more research on the subject has been released. See study below.

It’ll take time, Big Pharma will fight every inch of the way, but the day is rapidly coming when people throughout America will be able to use pot for pain – and other uses.

Check out the following article: 

“States with medical marijuana laws have fewer deaths from opioid overdoses compared to states that do not allow medical marijuana, according to new research.

Opioids for chronic pain, like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin, are meant to suppress pain.

Recent data shows that not only are prescriptions for these drugs up, but rates of overdose and death are increasing as well.

New research published Monday in the journalJAMA Internal Medicine shows that states with medical marijuana laws have rates of anticipated opioid-related deaths 25% lower than states that don’t allow it.

The researchers say more research is needed to understand why people choose medical marijuana and whether people at risk for opioid abuse would consider it as an alternative. There’s also the issue of presenting a split medical community with the risks and benefits of prescribing someone marijuana.” (Read more here)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New Taste Sensation: Grapes That Really Taste Like Cotton Candy

Jim Beagle

(Jim Beagle, chief executive of the Grapery, holds a Cotton Candy Grape in his vineyard in Bakersfield. Photo by Anne Cusack)

                                              Good Day World!

Imagine you’re biting into a juicy grape, expecting it to taste “grape-like” and suddenly your crunching down on some sugary cotton candy!

Surprise! You’ll never look at grapes the same way again after tasting geneticist David Cain’s new addition to the grape family. He doesn’t plan on resting upon his laurels and is already experimenting with the next hybrid grape flavor - described as a mix of raspberry and lemonade.

The Cotton Candy tasting fruit gained nationwide attention last year after being featured in the Los Angeles Times article.

Only one man is growing David Cain’s Cotton Candy Grapes; Jim Beagle. Because buyers couldn’t get to the handful of grocery chains such as Gelson’s and Sprouts Farmers Market that carried the grapes, Beagle came up with a solution.

Beagle started the Grapery in Bakersfield, which offers a home-delivery service called GraperyDirect.com that mails a bunch overnight using FedEx.

The Grapery will ship anywhere in the U.S., though there’s a flat $12 shipping rate for California, parts of Nevada and the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas. (read more about these novel grapes here)

I wonder if Beagle has thought about turning those sweet fairground flavored grapes into wine? Meanwhile, I guess I’ll just have to buy some and see what crunchy, yet squishy, cotton candy tastes like.

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Monday, August 25, 2014

Stop 1033 Program: Guess who is profiting from military gear sent to civilian police?

Good Day World!

It’s getting harder to tell civilian police apart from members of our military. The fact that both are dressing alike more often contributes to that general impression.

(Photo - A riot police officer aims his weapon while demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri in this file photo taken August 13, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Images of police wielding military-style guns and armor have shocked many Americans following clashes that were triggered by the fatal shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer in Ferguson two weeks ago.

Visions of jack-booted Nazis-types goose-stepping down the road are dancing in people’s imaginations as more events like Ferguson happen.

Even our normally clashing lawmakers have voiced concern about the militarization of U.S. police forces through programs administered by the Pentagon, Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security.

Programs like the 1033 program.

The 1033 program was begun in 1991 to help police forces in the "War on Drugs," and was revamped in 1997 to include counterterrorism activities. After 911, the program got a massive lift.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said last week he planned a review to ensure that the Pentagon's 1033 program, which transfers surplus equipment to local and state authorities, was working as intended before the full Senate considers the annual bill that authorizes military spending.

Not a bad idea. I just wonder how it’s going to be received.

Key concerns include a clause in the program that requires police to use the equipment within a year, something the American Civil Liberties Union argues may give police forces an incentive to use the equipment in inappropriate situations.

The program also does not mandate training for crowd control or other uses.

What else is contributing to the militarization of our civilian police forces?

Try the U.S. weapons makers. They’ve been eyeing what they call "adjacent" markets for years, keen to drum up fresh demand for products initially developed for the military, and recently, to offset declines in U.S. and European over the past year alone, according to the Pentagon.

The Pentagon transferred some 600 armored military trucks known as MRAFollowing Ferguson protests, Obama orders review of programs that arm police with military gearPS that were built for the war in Iraq.military spending.

By now, you’ve probably seen them where you live, or on TV. They’re scary-looking vehicles intended for full-out war (Photo right).

How much has the Pentagon transferred to local and state agencies since 2006? Hold on to your hat; more than $4 billion of equipment including armored vehicles, tents, rifles and night-vision goggles has been spent.

The 1033 program needs to be stopped. Flat out. It’s about profit, not saving lives.

Americans are looking at the specter of militarized civilian cops with increasing alarm. And for good reason. Civilian protestors no longer “see” cops – they see men hidden under combat gear, their faces barely visible under Nazi-looking helmets and face-shields.

If you agree with me, please write your congressman and tell him to do away with this divisive and un-needed 1033 program.

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Sunday, August 24, 2014

San Francisco Bay area rocked with 6.0 earthquake

                                          Breaking News!

A 6.0-magnitude quake jolted the Bay Area early Sunday morning, injuring at least 70 people, and causing some road closures, water main breaks and fires and damaging at least one building in the Napa Valley.

The quake struck near southwest of Napa at 3:20 a.m. causing houses to shake in the center of San Francisco and knocking out power to more than 50,000 houses.

CAUGHT- Moment Magnitude 6.1 earthquake hits Napa Valley - American Canyon San Francisco 2014!

Visit Any National Park for Free on Monday

                                             Good Day World!

The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) turns 98 years old on Monday (Aug. 25), and to celebrate, the agency is throwing open the doors to all national parks, and inviting people to visit for free.

Many parks will host special events this weekend to celebrate the anniversary, including lecture series and concerts, and some will even serve a birthday cake to visitors. It may be the perfect chance to check out some of the least-visited national parks and to take advantage of tours at parks like Grand Teton and Yellowstone, which usually cost around $25. (Via LiveScience)

For a full list of events on Monday, visit the National Park Service website.

Related:

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Join the Army for a sex change, and the town that requires all citizens to have guns

Chelsea Manning Says Military Still Denying Gender TreatmentGood Day World!

When I went in the Army in 1969, it wasn’t unusual to see men dressed up as women in the induction line.

The draft was on and many men wanted no part of being in the military – especially with the specter of going to Vietnam.

(Photo – Chelsea Manning)

By dressing up in panties and bras, some guys managed to get “Section Eights” (a free pass from playing soldier because they didn’t think you’d fit in, or whatever).

It didn’t always work. At some point, the military realized what was going on when too many men tried this ploy. Even the normally clueless (about societal fashions) Army was aware that there weren’t that many men in society (1 in 4?) walking around in women’s clothing. Remember, this was 1969.

Flash forward to August 2014.

Oh, how things have changed in 41 years.

Take the case of the former Army private once known as Bradley Manning now known as Chelsea Manning. He/She is serving a 35-year sentence after being convicted of sending classified documents to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

The 21st century version of the Army had no problem letting Bradley become Chelsea. One year ago Chelsea became the first military inmate to ask for treatment for gender dysphoria and went public with her decision to live life as a woman.

Now Chelsea is upset that being in military lockup at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, has restricted her ability to express her gender identity. No dresses have been forthcoming. Thought: where would she go shopping? A Victoria’s Secret catalogue perhaps?

Last month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved an Army recommendation to begin the early stages of gender reassignment, including counseling and approval to dress as a woman, officials said. But Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, said in a statement that the military has failed to carry out the recommendation and that he is prepared to sue.

No…really.

IMAGE: Richard Craig dances with his wife, Sherry, at the 75th anniversary picnic for the local power plant in Nucla, Colo.

Colorado Town That Requires a Gun in Every Home Fights for its Life

Buy a gun, or else!

In May 2013, the Nucla Town Board passed the Family Protection Order, requiring every head of household in the town of 700 to own a firearm.

Photo - Richard Craig dances with his wife, Sherry, at a 75th anniversary picnic for the local coal-fired power plant in Nucla, Colorado on June 17.

Nucla’s population is dwindling and aging. Its remaining residents will do anything to get their town on the map. By adopting a gun ordinance they hoped to catch the attention of those far-off lawmakers in Washington DC. They wanted to make a statement that says, “Hey! Remember us? We matter too.”

Board trustee Richard Craig says it all started as an offhand remark.

He was upset when state lawmakers began discussing a series of stricter gun-control measures in early 2013. So he came into the next board meeting and suggested adopting a mandatory gun ordinance. “People said that’s a good idea, and I said, ‘whoa,’” Craig explained with a laugh during a recent media interview.

Somewhere, in the dank corridors of the NRA’s headquarters corporations and people are celebrating. The idea of “making” every American have a gun is a wet dream the organization’s members have had for a long time!

Time for me to walk on down the road…

 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Vintage Friday: Ads From the Past – What Were They Thinking?

Good Day World!

Imagine dentists and doctors recommending cigarettes. Once upon a time, they did.

The following vintage ads will leave you shaking your head in wonderment.

 

 

   

A parent today would be horrified to see their baby drinking bubbling beverages!

  

Look at my weiner – Blowing smoke in  her eye – and babies wrapped in cellophane!

   

Try it, you’ll like it! Health professionals singing the praise of cigarettes pucker-up for Winfield!  (All photos from Google Images)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Reflections on the Possibility of a Republican Congress in November

Good Day World!

Have you ever heard the sound of a steel-trap smashing shut?

It’ll be the sound you’ll hear if the Republicans take over the Senate on Nov.4th. There’ll be a big rush of hot air and any chance President Obama had of passing meaningful legislation in the next two years will be gone.

Many forecasters now give Republicans a slightly better-than-even chance of winning control of the Senate. They are heavily favored to pick up open Democratic seats in South Dakota, Montana and West Virginia, and six other competitive races will be fought in conservative-leaning states that President Barack Obama lost when he ran for re-election in 2012.

How close are the Republicans to picking up the necessary six seats from the Democrats to win control of the 100-seat chamber? Close enough. They’ve shrugged off the stigma of the emerging Tea Party and people are going to take them more seriously now.

With no Todd Akin asserting victims of "legitimate rape" have the ability to block a pregnancy, the candidates look more legitimate . Without Richard Mourdock  asserting pregnancy resulting from rape was something "God intended to happen," people may listen to their message now.

The Tea Party challengers failed to unseat any of the 12 sitting Republican senators who are up for re-election. It looks like the ill winds that bore the Tea Party along the last four years have shifted. They’ve been reduced to wearing 17th costumes and making outrageous claims.

Think about what will happen if the Republicans control Congress. Does anyone believe it will be a victory resulting in the common man winning? You might re-think the dynamics – or lack of – progress that will result.

How is that a win for the American people? It’s been tough enough to get meaningful legislation passed in the last four years with a Democratic Senate counter-balancing the House.

The only sound a Republican Congress will make is hallow echoes in the not-so-hallowed halls of our government. Of course, it’s the people who will suffer most when that trap is sprung.

Time for me to walk on down the road…   

Some Scary Halloween Costumes: What Would Happen If There Wasn't a Dress Code in Congress?

Inspired by Rep. "Gym" Jordan's refusal to wear a suit jacket in the Capitol (or anywhere else), I have a stunning prediction...