Tobacco companies increased nicotine in kids' and minorities' cigs

A new study shows that tobacco companies have been quietly increasingly the nicotine in the brands most smoked by kids and minorities for the past decade, increasing the toxicity and addictiveness of their products.
The study, reported by the Boston Globe, found that 92 of 116 brands tested had higher nicotine yields in 2004 than in 1998, and 52 had increases of more than 10 percent.

Boxes of Doral lights, a low-tar brand made by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., had the biggest increase in yield, 36 percent. Some of this may have been the result of an increase in the total amount of tobacco put in that brand's cigarettes, one expert said.

The nicotine in Marlboro products, preferred by two-thirds of high school smokers, increased 12 percent. Kool lights increased 30 percent. Two-thirds of African American smokers use menthol brands.

Link (via A Blog Around the Clock)

State Department: misinformed report on skateboarding

The United States Department of State has posted an overview of skateboarding titled "Skateboarding Grows from Casual Hobby to International Sport." points out some of the best moments:
It seems that skateboarding is now a topic of national importance.

If it is they certainly need to work on getting their facts straight. Here are a few highlights:

- “If (tricks are) executed well, fellow skaters will offer their most superlative compliment: “Dude, that stinks!”

- “…the impact cushioned by the kneepads and helmets virtually all skateboarders wear.”

- “Tight jeans are in “because they let you see your feet,”

The article also mentions, “Tee Cherry, an American Muslim, taking a few minutes to skateboard with his young son before heading off to afternoon prayers.” Is it a tad strange to call out a skate Dad as an American Muslim in an article created by the Bureau of International Information Programs or is it just us?
Link to the State Department report, Link to post (Thanks, Dave Gill!)

UPDATE: The article has been taken down and replaced with this note:
The editorial staff of USINFO were surprised by the feedback we received regarding the article "Skateboarding Grows from Casual Hobby to International Sport." We have removed the article from the web site and are determining how we can best present this increasingly popular American sport to interested readers worldwide.

Vintage Italian pulp comix covers

 Blog Uploaded Images 3D 1 B.Jpg-775460 Over at FLOG!, Fantagraphics art director Jacob Covey has posted a wonderful gallery of Italian pulp horror/SF/fantasy comic covers from the '60s and '70s. Sites like The Groovy Age of Horror showcase a lot of this work and link to other galleries of pulp art masterpieces. Covey's FLOG! post is just a taste.

UK government censors YouTube vid it posted itself

The UK cabinet office has censored a video that another branch of government had previously posted off of YouTube -- ironically, the video was about how the government could be more coordinated:
A video called Transformational Government can no longer be viewed on the site, instead users get a box of red text stating: "This video has been removed at the request of copyright owner COI Television because its content was used without permission."

COI Television is actually part of the Cabinet Office and the further irony of the video being about transformational government was not lost on one critic.

A spokesman for independent body Public Sector Forums, told "The COI is part of the Cabinet Office. So it looks like the Cabinet Office's initiative has fallen at the first hurdle and ironically, it's thanks to a lack of joined-upness between parts of its own ministry."

Link (Thanks, Glyn!)

Apple's lawyer sends bogus nastygram to blogger

A lawyer working for Apple has sent a DMCA takedown notice to the blogger at CrunchGear for linking to a YouTube video that demonstrates features of the next version of Mac OS. The letter is a remarkable example of bad lawyering -- sending a takedown to the blogger instead of YouTube is just the start. The letter also contains a "confidentiality notice" and the legend "NOT FOR POSTING." This lawyer, Ian Ramage of O'Melveny & Myers LLP, apparently believes that you can create a confidentiality agreement merely by stating that one exists, even if the other party doesn't actually agree to anything.
Ian, it a YouTube video. That’s at Get them to take it down if it’s a violation of your IP and it will stop showing at crunchgear and the other sites.

And Ian, when you are done, please take the time to send your client, Apple, a similar email for posting basically the same material on their own site.

Link (via Digg)

Missing Munch paintings recovered

Authorities in Norway have found the Edvard Munch paintings--The Scream and Madonna--that were ripped off at gunpoint two years ago from the Munch Museum. The thieves were convicted in May but the paintings hadn't been recovered. From BBC News:
463Px-The Scream The Scream and Madonna were found in a "police action". "We are 100% certain they are the originals. The damage was much less than feared," police said.

UPDATE: Thanks to all the readers who point out that the paintings were found just days after Mars, Inc. offered 2 million dark chocolate M&M's for the return of The Scream. Link

HOWTO make a twin-engine solar rolling robot

Solarbot Over at Street Tech, BB buddy (and old-school bOING bOING contributing editor) Gareth Branwyn explains how to build this beautiful twin-enginer solar-powered robot that rolls around on a pair of hard disk platters. The robot was designed by Zach DeBord who exhibits his elegant mechanical creations here on Flickr. DeBord's bots were all built using a design approach called BEAM (Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, and Mechanics). In most BEAM robotics, simple analog circuits are used in lieu of microcontrollers, eliminating the need for programming. Gareth says, "If you built my beginner solarroller from the cover story in MAKE: Vol. 6, this could be a perfect follow-up project."

McDonalds McFlurry cups redesigned for hedgehog safety

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has won a years-long fight with McDonalds to shrink the size of the opening in a McFlurry (a frozen edible-oil dairy slurry) reduced. The present wide-mouth McFlurry cups serve as fatal hedgehog traps by sucking in 'hogs who lick up the left-over slurry, get stuck, and die.
Up to now the opening in the container has been large enough for hedgehogs to get their heads into for a lick of the left-over dessert -- a trap they have then been unable to withdraw from, so dying of starvation in untold numbers.

But from September 1, the wide-mouthed opening in the lid of the McFlurry containers will be reduced in size, making them too small for the sugar-loving animals to get their heads into.

Link (via Fark)

Update: The McFlurry is dairy, not oil. Here's the ingredients (thanks, Matt!):

Vanilla Reduced Fat Ice Cream: Whole milk, sucrose, cream, nonfat milk solids, corn syrup solids, mono and diglycerides, guar gum, imitation vanilla flavor, carrageenan, cellulose gum, vitamin A palmitate. Contains milk ingredients. Mini M&M'S® Candies: Milk chocolate (sugar, chocolate, milk, cocoa butter, lactose, soy lecithin, salt, artificial flavors), sugar, less than 0.5%: coloring (includes yellow 5 lake, red 40 lake, blue 1 lake), cornstarch, corn syrup, dextrin. Contains milk and soybean ingredients. May contain peanuts.

Inbred fundamentalist Mormon breakaway town plagued by birth-defects

A fundamentalist breakaway Mormon sect in Colorado City, AZ, is being overtaken by a rare birth-defect brought on by inbreeding. The cult's leader arranges all marriages between community members, who are descended from two founding families. The cult's members view the severe disabilities brought on by the inbreeding as a test from God, and those who question this are excommunicated and thrown out of the community.
By the late 1990s, Tarby and his team had discovered fumarase deficiency was occurring in the greatest concentration in the world among the fundamentalist Mormon polygamists of northern Arizona and southern Utah.

Of even greater concern was the fact that the recessive gene that triggers the disease was rapidly spreading to thousands of individuals living in the community because of decades of inbreeding...

Doctors and family members interviewed by New Times say up to 20 children from families in the polygamist community are currently afflicted with the condition that requires full-time attention from caregivers. Victims suffer a range of symptoms, including severe epileptic seizures, inability to walk or even sit upright, severe speech impediments, failure to grow at a normal rate, and tragic physical deformities.

"They are in terrible shape," says Dr. Kirk A. Aleck, director of the Pediatric Neurogenetics Center at St. Joseph's Hospital. Aleck is a geneticist who participated along with Tarby and others in the groundbreaking study of several polygamous families with fumarase deficiency in the late 1990s.

Link (via Gene Expression)

Update: Mike sez, "That inbred cult is (was?) led by Warren Jeffs, who just got picked up Tuesday by authorities during a routine traffic stop in Vegas-- with 'cell phones, laptop computers, wigs and more than $50,000 in cash when he was arrested.' Richard Abowitz, who's been covering the FLDS for some time, has been doing a great job tracking the story on his Las Vegas blog, the Moveable Buffet."

Have you seen Dinosaur Jr's stolen gear?

Dinosaur, Jr's entire collection of gear has been stolen out of their trailer, and they're trying to recover it before they have to start cancelling gigs:
After a blistering set last night in Brooklyn, NY the band awoke this morning to find that the their trailer had been broken into and all of the gear has been taken.

J's Amma guitar, the mountain man guitar, Lou's Rickenbacker... EVERYTHING IS GONE. They are still taking inventory to see what else is gone but they were pretty much wiped out.

WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! Spread the word to everyone you know, every music store, pawn shop, club... anywhere you can think they may show up.

If you have ANY information let us know -

Link (via Digg)

Update: Andrew points out the entry for Dino Jr's kit on, which helps bands recover their stolen stuff.

HOWTO make a glowing pickle-lamp

You can make a glowing pickle-lamp by jamming power-boards into either end of a pickle that's resting atop a non-conducting surface and then plugging it in. No idea whether this will burn your house down, but it may be worth it. Link (via Digg)

Update: Sputnik sez, "Where can I see this without getting my fool self electrocuted? As always, YouTube to the rescue!"

Update 2: Mike sez, "Years ago when I worked at Digital Equipment Corportation, this hilarious 'research paper' from DEC's Western Reseach Lab was widely circulated. Entitled Characterization of Organic Illumination Systems, it details arcing pickles and other assorted vegetables."

Update 3: Wayne sez, "I conducted this experiment years ago as my final high school chemistry project, trying to figure out why only one end of the pickle glows. I came to the same conclusions mentioned about the sodium, but was unable to figure out the polarization. makes reference to this scientific mystery of pickle polarization:"

Why does only one end of the pickle light up and glow? Look at the amazing electrical storm jumping through the pickle. (Results are best viewed in a dark room. This is better than Star Wars! Don’t worry the pickle will make all the light you need.) Unplug the pickle; reconnect the wires on the opposite side and it still only glows on one end. There is yet no definitive scientific answer to explain the polarization of a pickle connected to AC current.

Update 4: Dan sez, "Years ago, I figured out that if you buy one of those hot dog cookers that runs current through the meat to cook it, you could use it as a (somewhat) safe version of the glowing pickle lamp."

Update 5: Pat sez, "Penn and Teller cover the glowing pickle trick in the 1992 book How to Play with Your Food. It's a great resource for all kinds of food related mischief."

Hairy people who made PT Barnum proud

 Articles 209 Hairy-Fam4 At the Fortean Times site, Dr. Jan Bondeson, author of the classic book A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities, profiles history's hairiest wonders. These individuals suffered from hypertrichosis aka "Werewolf syndrome." In Bondeson's article, you'll meet Barbara Urslerin, the "Hairy Maid" who played the harpsichord, the "Sacred Hairy Family of Burma" who worked for PT Barnum at the end of the 19th century, and, of course, Jo-Jo The Dog-Faced Boy, billed as "the most prodigious paragon of all prodigies secured by PT Barnum in over 50 years."

Sony BMG settles Canadian DRM class action

Sony BMG has settled the Canadian class-action lawsuit brought against it for deliberately deploying music CDs infected with rootkits and spyware as part of a misbegotten anti-copying scheme.
The settlement, which must still be approved by a Canadian court, features similar terms to those found in the U.S., including the right to cash compensation or music downloads. The settlement site features a full list of the affected CDs including Canadian artists such as Sloan, Our Lady Peace, and a Canadian Idol compilation.

See also: Sony anti-customer technology roundup and time-line

Facts about Death

The new issue of Discover magazine includes a list of "20 Things You Didn't Know About Death." For more on the subject, I heartily recommend Mary Roach's excellent book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. From Discover:
3 No American has died of old age since 1951.

4 That was the year the government eliminated that classification on death certificates.

5 The trigger of death, in all cases, is lack of oxygen. Its decline may prompt muscle spasms, or the "agonal phase," from the Greek word agon, or contest.

6 Within three days of death, the enzymes that once digested your dinner begin to eat you. Ruptured cells become food for living bacteria in the gut, which release enough noxious gas to bloat the body and force the eyes to bulge outward.

10 The vultures are now dying off after eating cattle carcasses dosed with diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory used to relieve fever in livestock.

Cory's When Sysadmins Ruled published in Baen's Universe magazine

My story When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth, about the last days of the Internet as seen from a data-center after a series of terrorist attacks, has been published in Baen's Universe magazine. Baen's Universe is a tremendous experiment in short sf publishing: $30 gets you six issues over the course of a year, each issue bearing several novels' worth of verbiage from top writers. The stories are all vigorous adventure tales, and I share issue number two with the likes of Garth Nix, Brian Herbert and Catherine Asaro (issue one included an original story by Charlie Stross, along with Greg Benford, Elizabeth Bear, John Barnes and Alan Dean Foster).
He piloted the car into the data-center lot, badging in and peeling up a bleary eyelid to let the retinal scanner get a good look at his sleep-depped eyeball.

He stopped at the machine to get himself a guarana/modafinil power-bar and a cup of lethal robot-coffee in a spill-proof clean-room sippy-cup. He wolfed down the bar and sipped the coffee, then let the inner door read his hand-geometry and size him up for a moment. It sighed open and gusted the airlock’s load of positively pressurized air over him as he passed finally to the inner sanctum.

It was bedlam. The cages were designed to let two or three sysadmins maneuver around them at a time. Every other inch of cubic space was given over to humming racks of servers and routers and drives. Jammed among them were no fewer than twenty other sysadmins. It was a regular convention of black tee-shirts with inexplicable slogans, bellies overlapping belts with phones and multitools.

Normally it was practically freezing in the cage, but all those bodies were overheating the small, enclosed space. Five or six looked up and grimaced when he came through. Two greeted him by name. He threaded his belly through the press and the cages, toward the Ardent racks in the back of the room.


Podcast: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6