Friday, August 27, 2010

Fortean / Oddball News - 8/27/2010

Quiet Sun Leads to Upper Atmosphere Collapse

The most detailed sunspot ever obtained in visible light was seen by new telescope at NJIT's Big Bear Solar Observatory. Photo credit: Big Bear Solar Observatory

cosmomagazine - The upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere are unexpectedly shrinking and cooling due to lower ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, U.S. scientists said.

The Sun's energy output dropped to unusually low levels from 2007 to 2009, a significantly long spell with virtually no sunspots or solar storms, according to scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

During that period, the thermosphere, whose altitude ranges from about 90 to 500 kilometers, shrank and contracted from the sharp drop in ultraviolet radiation, said the study published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Good news for satellites

The thermosphere cooled by 41 degrees Celsius in 2008 compared to 1996, and shrank by 30%, "more than at any time in the 43-year era of space exploration" the researchers said.

"Our work demonstrates that the solar cycle not only varies on the typical 11-year time scale, but also can vary from one solar minimum to another," said study lead author Stanley Solomon.

A narrower, less dense thermosphere is good news for satellites orbiting Earth, including the International Space Station, since reduced friction means they can remain aloft longer, said University of Colorado professor and study co-author Thomas Woods.

Sun mimicking 19th century activity

"This is good news for those satellites that are actually operating, but it is also bad because of the thousands of non-operating objects (debris) remaining in space that could potentially have collisions with our working satellites," he added.

Woods said the research shows the Sun could be going through a period of relatively low activity, as it did in the early 19th and 20th centuries.

"If it is indeed similar to certain patterns in the past, then we expect to have low solar cycles for the next 10 to 30 years," he added.

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Man Raises Concerns Over 'Serial Killer' Doll

10tv - A man on Wednesday was raising concerns over one of the latest toy to be stocked on the shelves of Toys R Us.

Jim Schultz is passionate about collecting things, from model trucks to more than 8,000 patches and badges, 10TV's Andy Hirsch reported.

"I'm a geek," Schultz said.

Last week, Schultz's hobby took him to Toys R Us where he said he was surprised to see a serial killer action figure.

"As I'm weaving through the aisles I pass this toy and think, 'That that can't be,'" Schultz said.

The "Dexter" action figure is modeled after the character from the TV show about a serial killer who kills other murderers, Hirsch reported.

The action figure comes complete with a handsaw and bloody gloves.

"I thought 'Oh my god! You've got this in Toys R Us? Are you kidding me?'" Schultz said.

Schultz complained to Toys R Us.

The company issued a statement that said in part, "A small number of the item was ordered to accommodate (the stores) avid action figure collector customers," Hirsch reported.

Schultz said collectors can find the Dexter doll in a more appropriate store.

"I've seen the Toys R Us commercials, I didn't see a 30-something-year-old guy dancing around with the kids and the giraffe," Schultz said. "There isn't a serial killer Ken. He doesn't come with a hack saw and a trash bag to put Barbie's head in."

A Toys R Us spokesman said the Dexter figure has been on the shelf for a couple of weeks and that Schultz' complaint is the only one the company has received.

He also said the packaging is labeled "Ages 18 and up" and "Not intended for children."

"I understand it's marketed towards adults, but I do condemn Toys R Us for putting it on their shelves in the same store where you can go buy Barbie or Kermit or Elmo," Schultz said.

The stores in the central Ohio area were each stocked with about eight dolls and once they are gone, they will not be restocked, Hirsch reported.

The company's spokesman said Toys R Us is not the only retailer that carries the doll.

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Saudi Couple Hammered 24 Nails Into Sri Lankan Maid

guardian - A Saudi couple tortured their Sri Lankan maid by hammering 24 nails into her hands, legs and forehead, after she complained of a too heavy workload, officials said today.

Nearly 2 million Sri Lankans sought employment overseas last year and around 1.4 million, mostly maids, were employed in the Middle East. Many have complained of physical abuse or harassment. LT Ariyawathi, a 49-year old mother of three, returned home on Friday after five months in Saudi Arabia.

Her family only realised what had happened to her when she complained of pain and they took her to see the doctor, Foreign Employment Bureau officials said.

"The landlord and the wife of the landlord hammered 24 nails into her when she complained of the heavy workload," Kalyana Priya Ramanayake, media secretary of the Foreign Employment Bureau, said.

Ariyawathi has been taken to hospital for surgery to remove the nails, which according to the maid were hammered in when they were hot.

X-rays showed one- to two-inch nails in her hands and legs, with one over her eyes, officials said.

The Foreign Employment Bureau is consulting the attorney-general while the Sri Lankan External Affairs Ministry is to take the matter up with the Saudi government, officials said.


Click for video

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Cuba Ends Cigarette Subsidies


Cuba's elderly will no longer be entitled to state-subsidised cigarettes, the government has said. All Cubans 55 or older are allocated four packs of cigarettes a month for about 25% the normal price, but this privilege is being ended in September.

The measure is President Raul Castro's latest attempt to cut the communist state's spending. The island has been hit hard by the global economic downturn and the long-term US trade embargo.

A statement in the government-run Granma newspaper said the move was "part of the steps gradually being applied to eliminate subsidies". The health benefits were not mentioned. Cigarettes "are not a primary necessity," it said.

"I'm insulted because it's another thing they are taking away from us," said Angela Jimenez, a 64-year-old who receives a monthly pension of about $10 (£6.50). She said she will now have to quit smoking because she won't be able to afford the normal price of about $0.33 a pack. Cigarettes are the latest item to be removed from ration books. Subsidised peas and potatoes were eliminated in November.

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Weird Torture Case in Canada

thestar - Calgary police say they are investigating whether the suspect arrested in a gruesome torture case that spans two Prairie provinces may have other alleged victims.

Det. Doug Crippen said Thursday that other individuals have come forward, and he confirmed that there are currently “parallel investigations” looking into the actions of Dustin Paxton.

“I can't get into the specifics of other parallel investigations. As we receive the information, we are following up the information aggressively to ensure that anybody who has encountered a crime is afforded the opportunity to have a bias-free investigation,” Crippen said at an afternoon news conference.

“At this point we are speaking with other individuals and we are encouraging if there are any other individuals who need to report a criminal act with regard to this matter that they come forward.”

Police say the 30-year-old Paxton had been living under an assumed name in Edmonton for the past four months before being taken into custody in that city late Tuesday.

He faces charges that include aggravated assault and forcible confinement relating to his former roommate, Dustin LaFortune. The charges deal with crimes that are alleged to have occurred in both Calgary and Regina.

LaFortune was starved, burned and had parts of his tongue and lips cut off before being dumped at a hospital in Regina earlier this year.

“This case was in particular the worst investigation that I have entered into in my time as a police officer with the Calgary Police Service,” said Crippen, who travelled to Edmonton to interview Paxton.

“I can't speculate on why this particular individual did what he is alleged to have done.”

Police in Regina and Calgary issued warrants for Paxton on Monday — more than four months after LaFortune was dumped at the hospital.

The 26-year-old weighed just 87 pounds, down from his usual weight of 245, when he was left there on April 16. His family has said that in addition to extensive physical injuries, he suffered brain trauma and amnesia.

LaFortune was reported missing in Calgary on April 12.

His family said he moved to Calgary from Winnipeg two years ago to work for a moving company and they lost contact with him in February.

Details about what might have happened during that time began to emerge after LaFortune was dumped at the hospital. A landlord at a Regina apartment building said he rented a suite to LaFortune in mid-March and a man living below that suite said he regularly heard disturbing sounds coming from there. Officers raided the apartment as part of their probe.

Word of the arrest was also welcomed by LaFortune's family and more than 48,000 supporters on a Facebook page dedicated to the case.

While police only recently publicly fingered Paxton as their suspect, LaFortune's family has been pointing to him for months, using the Internet to make its case.

His mother, Renee LaFortune, thanked police and said: “Dustin is safe at last” and referred to Crippen as “a hero.”

“So good to see the prompt arrest after the long-awaited arrest warrant,” wrote another woman.

Paxton is to make his first court appearance in Calgary Aug. 27.

Regina police spokeswoman Elizabeth Popowich said the case has drawn a lot of attention.

“We now have the start of the judicial process ahead of us and that's a good thing. It helps bring some resolution to the victim and the victim's family,” said Popowich.

“I spoke with one of our investigators this morning and he said that the family is obviously quite relieved and ... had learned also from the family of the victim, that the victim himself is quite relieved to hear the news.”

Investigators have said that there were challenges in the investigation, including that LaFortune initially couldn't give officers a statement because of his condition. They also said they needed the four months to gather evidence and build a case.

NOTE: go to Gangsters Out for more information on this case...very strange and creepy! Lon

Fortean / Oddball News - 8/27/2010

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