Archive for July, 2013

‘Mysterious’ lights envelop helicopters in Afghanistan

Coming soon to a video game near you. (Photo by Sgt. Mike MacLeod/U.S. Army)

Coming soon to a video game near you. (Photo by Sgt. Mike MacLeod/U.S. Army)

War is never pretty. And most pictures from Afghanistan, home to perhaps the longest war in U.S. history, can’t be described as “cool.”

But one war photographer’s pictures depicting “mysterious dancing lights” that sometimes envelop helicopter blades in that hostile land are certainly interesting.

An NPR article has more of the photos by journalist Michael Yon.

Yon, in his blog, asked multiple pilots what they called the lights and, surprisingly, got no answer.

He’s taken to calling it the Kopp-Etchells Effect in honor of American and British soldiers killed in 2009 that he never met.

American Benjamin Kopp died after a gun battle and buried in Arlington Cemetery. His heart still beats inside of Judy Meikle, a 57-year-old woman from Illinois.

Yon attended the battlefield funeral of British soldier Joseph Etchells, who wanted to be cremated and his ashes used in fireworks exploded over a park he …

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Report: Feds demand Web passwords

How do you say "told you so" in Russian? (AP)

How do you say "told you so" in Russian? (AP)

Somewhere, Edward Snowden is laughing, but probably in Russian and along with the ghost of George Orwell.

CNET reports the United States government is demanding Internet companies hand over user passwords, which are usually encrypted and private.

The passwords would enable federal agencies “to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate the user,” writes CNET’s Declan McCullagh.

Scant detail is provided.

McCullagh cites two unnamed “industry sources” and does not reveal which Internet firms have received the requests. Microsoft, Google and Yahoo declined to say whether or not they have received requests.

The companies are allegedly fighting the demands. An unnamed Microsoft spokesperson said the company would not share customer passwords. “No, we don’t, and we can’t see a circumstance in which we would provide it,” the anonymous source said.

A Google spokesperson said the company has “never” turned over a user’s …

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U.S. slips to 9th in Internet speed

FCC execs ponder the state of the U.S. internet.

FCC execs ponder the state of the U.S. Internet.

If you remember the sad screech of a modem, you know Internet speed has come a long way.

Nowadays, instead of posting text messages to bulletin board systems by using expensive computers ($3,000), Americans are streaming gigabytes of movies and other video to relatively cheap smartphones ($200).

Despite the advances, a new study suggests the U.S. is losing the race for Internet speed.

Akamai, a U.S. company that serves about 20 percent of the world’s Internet traffic, in its 2013 “State of the Internet” report, says America’s Internet speed has slipped to 9th from 8th. Latvia, the home country of Doctor Doom, is ranked 6th and probably plotting a way to destroy the Fantastic Four even now.

The Top 10 countries? South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Netherlands, Latvia, Czech Republic, Sweden, U.S., Denmark.

South Korea’s average connection speed in early 2013 was 14.1 megabits per second. The U.S. average is 8.6 Mbps. The …

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You’re too sexy? You’re fired

Melissa Nelson: Too sexy for Iowa. (AP)

Melissa Nelson: Too sexy for Iowa, and horrible at matching shoes with outfits. (AP)

Take it from me, being amazingly good looking has its downside.

Especially in Iowa, where a court has ruled an employer can legally fire anyone he (or she) is sexually attracted to.

Room for abuse? Sure.

Instead of firing an employee for a valid (incompetence, not rooting for the Braves, etc.) or invalid (race, political thought processes, etc.) reason an employer could simply say his marriage was threatened by an overload of work sexy.

It is hard to imagine a corn-fed dental assistant being so hot a mature dentist couldn’t crown his carnal proclivities, but that seems to be the case with Melissa Nelson, who was 33 when Fort Dodge, Iowa, dentist James Knight, 53, gave her the boot.

Nelson, a married mother of two who had worked 10 years for Knight, was considered his best assistant.

Sometime in 2009 she began exchanging text messages with him. During one exchange, he asked her how often she …

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America no longer world’s fattest nation

Lifestyles of the rich foods and unfamous. (AP photo)

Lifestyles of the rich foods and unfamous. (AP photo)

America, land of the (exercise) free, is no longer that world’s fattest major country on Earth.

Mexico, whose residents have clearly been spending too much time emulating their northern neighbors, are the new calorie kings, according to a United Nations report.

Easier to digest than a UN document is the article “How Mexico got so fat,” on GlobalPost.com, which blames the increased girth on the unhealthy combo of rising incomes and rampant consumption.

Though almost 50 percent of Mexico’s population is considered poor, “it is the malnourished that are becoming obese,” says one expert.

About 70 percent of Mexican adults are considered overweight; 32.8 percent are obese. The U.S. huffs and puffs its way to second place with a 31.8 percent obesity rate.

Curiously, the world’s smallest nations have the largest residents. The Cook (with Lard) Islands in the South Pacific house but 10,000 humans, but more than 60 percent of them …

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The spy who loved Ed Snowden

A high bar has been set for the ladies of Iceland. (Twitter photo)

A high bar has been set for the ladies of Iceland. (Twitter photo)

Marriage rarely solves problems.

But, in the case of the perhaps permanently self-ostracized Edward Snowden, it may be his ticket out of Moscow airport limbo.

Anna Chapman, the sexy Russian spy booted from the U.S. in 2010, has proposed to the teller of NSA secrets on Twitter.

CNet has the complete story.

Snowden, who has been a man without a country since going public with NSA secrets June 14, has not replied. I’m not sure why. His dating options seem fairly limited at this point, unless flight attendants venture into the Sheremetyevo International Airport’s “transit zone.”

Snowden left a girlfriend back home in Hawaii, but he probably won’t venture back to U.S. soil now that he’s been charged with espionage. Rumors abound that it was her poetry that made the former CIA employee flee the country.

Chapman, 31, tweeted “Snowden, will you marry me?”

Men love it when women call them by their last name like …

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Texas database stores inmates’ final words

Georgia prisoners are executed at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison in Jackson. Georgia has executed 53 convicted criminals since 1976.

Georgia prisoners are executed at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison in Jackson. Georgia has executed 53 convicted criminals since 1976.

A person’s final words are usually interesting, even if it’s just “hey, watch this!”

One famous final quote was made on July 4th by John Adams, the man who had the unenviable duty of trying to fill George Washington’s shoes as president. Just before dying in 1826, the founding father allegedly said “Thomas Jefferson still survives.”

Actually, he just mumbled “Thomas Jefferson.” Historians likely helped him fill in the blanks.

Adams, like a lot of politicians, was wrong. Thomas Jefferson died hours earlier, also on July 4, 1826. It was the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. That famous document, which pretty much kicked off the whole America thing, was pushed by Adams and largely written by Jefferson.

Jefferson’s last words were “Is it the Fourth? I resign my spirit to God, my daughter, and …

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