Saturday, January 30, 2010
He's back - the Geezer Bandit - the FBI on his tail...
Six bank robberies and five months later, the FBI in San Diego is still hunting for a mystery man in his 60s or 70s who's been famously dubbed the "Geezer Bandit."
His latest stickup came on Wednesday at the San Diego National Bank around 5:50 p.m. According to the FBI, the notorious robber was armed with a silver and black semiautomatic pistol when he handed the teller a demand note.
He walked off with an undisclosed amount of money.
Rail-thin, clad in a baseball cap and brandishing a gun, the man held up his first bank in San Diego County on Aug. 28. Up until mid-November, he had been robbing a new bank in San Diego County every two to four weeks, authorities said.
But this time, he waited about two and a half months before pulling off another robbery. His last heist had been Nov. 16 at a Bank of America branch.
The so-called "Geezer Bandit" appears in a surveillance photo.
The FBI in San Diego did not immediately respond to questions as to why the description of the "Geezer Bandit" had changed since last year. Back then, authorities described him as being in his 70s, 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet 3 inches, about 150 pounds.
After Wednesday's stickup, the FBI described him in a press release as being 60 to 70 years old, about 6 feet tall and 190 pounds.
On Wednesday, he wore a white baseball cap and a white sweatshirt with a hoodie, according to the FBI. In November, he was wearing a blue baseball cap and a blue blazer.
Authorities are taking it all very seriously.
Three different rewards totaling $16,000 are being offered in the case. And for a while, in December, the FBI's San Diego office prominently displayed his photo on the homepage of its Web site along with the headline: "Have You Seen This Man?" A press release was attached.
The FBI in December described the "Geezer Bandit" as someone who tries to be low-key and draws little attention during the robberies.
He discreetly passes a note and demands cash. The only other person who knows what's going on is the teller, they say.
"He's not doing anything to draw attention," FBI agent Darrell Foxworth said back then. "He walks out with the same speed he walks in."
Acknowledgements: 'Nation, Crime, Only On AOL News'
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
"Project Gutenberg's The Game of Rat and Dragon, by Cordwainer Smith"
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org
Title: The Game of Rat and Dragon
Author: Cordwainer Smith
Release Date: August 5, 2009 [EBook #29614]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE GAME OF RAT AND DRAGON ***
Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, Adam Buchbinder, and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
For the enjoyment of everybody:
This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction, October 1955. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.
The Game of
Rat and Dragon
By CORDWAINER SMITH
Only partners could fight this deadliest of
wars—and the one way to dissolve the
partnership was to be personally dissolved!
Illustrated by HUNTER
inlighting is a hell of a way to earn a living. Underhill was furious as he closed the door behind himself. It didn't make much sense to wear a uniform and look like a soldier if people didn't appreciate what you did.
He sat down in his chair, laid his head back in the headrest and pulled the helmet down over his forehead.
As he waited for the pin-set to warm up, he remembered the girl in the outer corridor. She had looked at it, then looked at him scornfully.
"Meow." That was all she had said. Yet it had cut him like a knife.
What did she think he was—a fool, a loafer, a uniformed nonentity? Didn't she know that for every half hour of pinlighting, he got a minimum of two months' recuperation in the hospital?
By now the set was warm. He felt the squares of space around him, sensed himself at the middle of an immense grid, a cubic grid, full of nothing. Out in that nothingness, he could sense the hollow aching horror of space itself and could feel the terrible anxiety which his mind encountered whenever it met the faintest trace of inert dust.
As he relaxed, the comforting solidity of the Sun, the clock-work of the familiar planets and the Moon rang in on him. Our own solar system was as charming and as simple as an ancient cuckoo clock filled with familiar ticking and with reassuring noises. The odd little moons of Mars swung around their planet like frantic mice, yet their regularity was itself an assurance that all was well. Far above the plane of the ecliptic, he could feel half a ton of dust more or less drifting outside the lanes of human travel.
Here there was nothing to fight, nothing to challenge the mind, to tear the living soul out of a body with its roots dripping in effluvium as tangible as blood.
Nothing ever moved in on the Solar System. He could wear the pin-set forever and be nothing more than a sort of telepathic astronomer, a man who could feel the hot, warm protection of the Sun throbbing and burning against his living mind.
oodley came in.
"Same old ticking world," said Underhill. "Nothing to report. No wonder they didn't develop the pin-set until they began to planoform. Down here with the hot Sun around us, it feels so good and so quiet. You can feel everything spinning and turning. It's nice and sharp and compact. It's sort of like sitting around home."
Woodley grunted. He was not much given to flights of fantasy.
Undeterred, Underhill went on, "It must have been pretty good to have been an Ancient Man. I wonder why they burned up their world with war. They didn't have to planoform. They didn't have to go out to earn their livings among the stars. They didn't have to dodge the Rats or play the Game. They couldn't have invented pinlighting because they didn't have any need of it, did they, Woodley?"
Woodley grunted, "Uh-huh." Woodley was twenty-six years old and due to retire in one more year. He already had a farm picked out. He had gotten through ten years of hard work pinlighting with the best of them. He had kept his sanity by not thinking very much about his job, meeting the strains of the task whenever he had to meet them and thinking nothing more about his duties until the next emergency arose.
Woodley never made a point of getting popular among the Partners. None of the Partners liked him very much. Some of them even resented him. He was suspected of thinking ugly thoughts of the Partners on occasion, but since none of the Partners ever thought a complaint in articulate form, the other pinlighters and the Chiefs of the Instrumentality left him alone.
Underhill was still full of the wonder of their job. Happily he babbled on, "What does happen to us when we planoform? Do you think it's sort of like dying? Did you ever see anybody who had his soul pulled out?"
"Pulling souls is just a way of talking about it," said Woodley. "After all these years, nobody knows whether we have souls or not."
"But I saw one once. I saw what Dogwood looked like when he came apart. There was something funny. It looked wet and sort of sticky as if it were bleeding and it went out of him—and you know what they did to Dogwood? They took him away, up in that part of the hospital where you and I never go—way up at the top part where the others are, where the others always have to go if they are alive after the Rats of the Up-and-Out have gotten them."
Woodley sat down and lit an ancient pipe. He was burning something called tobacco in it. It was a dirty sort of habit, but it made him look very dashing and adventurous.
"Look here, youngster. You don't have to worry about that stuff. Pinlighting is getting better all the time. The Partners are getting better. I've seen them pinlight two Rats forty-six million miles apart in one and a half milliseconds. As long as people had to try to work the pin-sets themselves, there was always the chance that with a minimum of four hundred milliseconds for the human mind to set a pinlight, we wouldn't light the Rats up fast enough to protect our planoforming ships. The Partners have changed all that. Once they get going, they're faster than Rats. And they always will be. I know it's not easy, letting a Partner share your mind—"
"It's not easy for them, either," said Underhill.
"Don't worry about them. They're not human. Let them take care of themselves. I've seen more pinlighters go crazy from monkeying around with Partners than I have ever seen caught by the Rats. How many do you actually know of them that got grabbed by Rats?"
nderhill looked down at his fingers, which shone green and purple in the vivid light thrown by the tuned-in pin-set, and counted ships. The thumb for the Andromeda, lost with crew and passengers, the index finger and the middle finger for Release Ships 43 and 56, found with their pin-sets burned out and every man, woman, and child on board dead or insane. The ring finger, the little finger, and the thumb of the other hand were the first three battleships to be lost to the Rats—lost as people realized that there was something out there underneath space itself which was alive, capricious and malevolent.
Planoforming was sort of funny. It felt like like—
Like nothing much.
Like the twinge of a mild electric shock.
Like the ache of a sore tooth bitten on for the first time.
Like a slightly painful flash of light against the eyes.
Yet in that time, a forty-thousand-ton ship lifting free above Earth disappeared somehow or other into two dimensions and appeared half a light-year or fifty light-years off.
At one moment, he would be sitting in the Fighting Room, the pin-set ready and the familiar Solar System ticking around inside his head. For a second or a year (he could never tell how long it really was, subjectively), the funny little flash went through him and then he was loose in the Up-and-Out, the terrible open spaces between the stars, where the stars themselves felt like pimples on his telepathic mind and the planets were too far away to be sensed or read.
Somewhere in this outer space, a gruesome death awaited, death and horror of a kind which Man had never encountered until he reached out for inter-stellar space itself. Apparently the light of the suns kept the Dragons away.
ragons. That was what people called them. To ordinary people, there was nothing, nothing except the shiver of planoforming and the hammer blow of sudden death or the dark spastic note of lunacy descending into their minds.
But to the telepaths, they were Dragons.
In the fraction of a second between the telepaths' awareness of a hostile something out in the black, hollow nothingness of space and the impact of a ferocious, ruinous psychic blow against all living things within the ship, the telepaths had sensed entities something like the Dragons of ancient human lore, beasts more clever than beasts, demons more tangible than demons, hungry vortices of aliveness and hate compounded by unknown means out of the thin tenuous matter between the stars.
It took a surviving ship to bring back the news—a ship in which, by sheer chance, a telepath had a light beam ready, turning it out at the innocent dust so that, within the panorama of his mind, the Dragon dissolved into nothing at all and the other passengers, themselves non-telepathic, went about their way not realizing that their own immediate deaths had been averted.
From then on, it was easy—almost.
lanoforming ships always carried telepaths. Telepaths had their sensitiveness enlarged to an immense range by the pin-sets, which were telepathic amplifiers adapted to the mammal mind. The pin-sets in turn were electronically geared into small dirigible light bombs. Light did it.
Light broke up the Dragons, allowed the ships to reform three-dimensionally, skip, skip, skip, as they moved from star to star.
The odds suddenly moved down from a hundred to one against mankind to sixty to forty in mankind's favor.
This was not enough. The telepaths were trained to become ultrasensitive, trained to become aware of the Dragons in less than a millisecond.
But it was found that the Dragons could move a million miles in just under two milliseconds and that this was not enough for the human mind to activate the light beams.
Attempts had been made to sheath the ships in light at all times.
This defense wore out.
As mankind learned about the Dragons, so too, apparently, the Dragons learned about mankind. Somehow they flattened their own bulk and came in on extremely flat trajectories very quickly.
Intense light was needed, light of sunlike intensity. This could be provided only by light bombs. Pinlighting came into existence.
Pinlighting consisted of the detonation of ultra-vivid miniature photonuclear bombs, which converted a few ounces of a magnesium isotope into pure visible radiance.
The odds kept coming down in mankind's favor, yet ships were being lost.
It became so bad that people didn't even want to find the ships because the rescuers knew what they would see. It was sad to bring back to Earth three hundred bodies ready for burial and two hundred or three hundred lunatics, damaged beyond repair, to be wakened, and fed, and cleaned, and put to sleep, wakened and fed again until their lives were ended.
elepaths tried to reach into the minds of the psychotics who had been damaged by the Dragons, but they found nothing there beyond vivid spouting columns of fiery terror bursting from the primordial id itself, the volcanic source of life.
Then came the Partners.
Man and Partner could do together what Man could not do alone. Men had the intellect. Partners had the speed.
The Partners rode their tiny craft, no larger than footballs, outside the spaceships. They planoformed with the ships. They rode beside them in their six-pound craft ready to attack.
The tiny ships of the Partners were swift. Each carried a dozen pinlights, bombs no bigger than thimbles.
The pinlighters threw the Partners—quite literally threw—by means of mind-to-firing relays direct at the Dragons.
What seemed to be Dragons to the human mind appeared in the form of gigantic Rats in the minds of the Partners.
Out in the pitiless nothingness of space, the Partners' minds responded to an instinct as old as life. The Partners attacked, striking with a speed faster than Man's, going from attack to attack until the Rats or themselves were destroyed. Almost all the time, it was the Partners who won.
With the safety of the inter-stellar skip, skip, skip of the ships, commerce increased immensely, the population of all the colonies went up, and the demand for trained Partners increased.
Underhill and Woodley were a part of the third generation of pinlighters and yet, to them, it seemed as though their craft had endured forever.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
The Australian Health Department has given a thumbs-up to eating beef from countries with mad cow disease, claiming Australians are 40 million times more likely to die in a car crash than from the brain-wasting disease.
A Senate inquiry is investigating the federal government's plan to lift a nine-year ban on importing beef from countries afflicted by the deadly bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
The Department of Health and Ageing has told the inquiry the risk of Australians contracting the human version of BSE, the variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease, would be "very small, if not negligible" if Australia imported beef products from Britain, where 169 people have died after eating contaminated beef since the 1980s.
"The amount of BSE-infected material entering the human food chain in . . . the UK is now very small because of the decline in BSE, the removal of brain and other specified risk materials from carcasses, and the detection and destruction of infected animals," the department's submission states. "An estimate of the absolute risk to Australians from UK beef imports, if this was to be allowed, is found to be 40 million times less than the risk from road accidents."
John Mathews, an epidemiological scientist with 40 years' experience in the field who was commissioned by the Health Department to review the latest scientific findings on mad cow disease, has concluded that imports of beef products from BSE-affected countries would bring "a theoretical but negligible increase" in the risk of human cases.
"The absolute risk to the Australian population is likely to be negligible," Professor Mathews said.
But one of the senators carrying out the inquiry, Liberal Party farmer Bill Heffernan, yesterday accused the government of "going off half-cocked" with its plans to lift the beef import ban in March. He said Australia was one of the few countries in the world still free of mad-cow disease, and even a single case would damage its trading advantage.
"One of Australia's trade advantages in the global market is our clean, green and disease-free status," he said.
In my opinion this is a gamble, and a serious one at that. I don't think New Zealand would be prepared to take a gamble like that with such a dangerous disease. Very risky, Aussies. A mad risk, perhaps?
Acknowledgements: The Australian
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
NEW DELHI - Condoms designed to meet international size specifications are too big for many Indian men as their penises fall short of what manufacturers had anticipated, an Indian study has found.
The Indian Council of Medical Research, a leading state-run center, said its initial findings from a two-year study showed 60 percent of men in the financial capital Mumbai had penises about 1 inch shorter than those condoms catered for.
For a further 30 percent, the difference was at least 2 inches. A poor fit meant the prophylactics often didn't do the job they were bought for, and led to some tearing or slipping off during use.
"One of the reasons for a failure of up to 20 percent (of condoms) is the association of the size of the condom to the erect penis," the council's Dr. Chander Puri told Reuters, adding another reason was couples often put them on in a hurry.
Puri said many men in India, which has the world's highest HIV positive caseload, were too shy to ask for condoms.
"We need more vending machines for condoms of different sizes so people can pick a condom with confidence that is suited to their needs," he said.
The Times of India reported the ICMR survey had studied 1,400 men between 18-50 years of age in cities like Mumbai and New Delhi as well as in rural areas in a report. It entitled its story "Indian men don't measure up.
Acknowledgements: MSNBC News
Monday, January 11, 2010
In Washington D.C., police can declare "Prostitution Free Zones" where officers can pick up (I mean, arrest) anyone suspected of sex work. And they've been accused of using carrying three or more condoms as proof of intent to sell sex -- rather than intent to spend the weekend getting jiggy with a guy.
But as RH Reality Check points out, the real danger of this practice falls to people who actually are sex workers. [Update: due to some confusion in articles that have picked this story up, we've changed the term "law" to "practice," since by "law" we intended to refer to the declaration of Prostitution Free Zones, as distinguished from the enforcement practice of using condoms as evidence.] It pushes them to abandon safe sex techniques, putting their own health at risk as well as that of the general population. Add to this the fear of arrest or harassment that keeps sex workers from seeking health care, and you have a recipe for disaster. Everybody should know by now that the nation's capital has a rampant problem with HIV/AIDS; this backwards practice contributes to its spread (at three times the rate that characterizes a severe epidemic). It's not like you can expect the johns to bring their own rubbers.
This practice prioritizes making commercial areas look clean and pretty lady-free, not protecting the public's health. But the root of the problem isn't this one practice: it's the criminalization of sex work. If you want to criminalize something, stick to pimping -- after all, many of these women have been trafficked unwillingly and subjected to violence. If they weren't so afraid of being arrested for stepping forward to condemn their pimps, we'd have a better chance of finding the true criminals in this situation.
Washington DC will be the laughing stock of the free world - carrying three or more condoms makes you a prostitute? Come on you woolly woofters!
Come to New Zealand where prostitution is legal, girls and boys! LOL
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Move over, Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese. Step aside, Fish Stick Jesus. Online bidders, meet the Holy Cross Potato. Both of them. Yes, the 2009 holiday season bestowed (at least) two miraculous spuds with crosses at their centers. Aside from the sizes of the spuds, the main difference is price.
The potato discovered first, by Dennis Bort of Brunswick, Ohio, on Christmas Day, was listed Tuesday on eBay with an asking bid of $1,000. The second, found by a couple in Marion, Iowa, on New Year's Eve, was on sale with bids starting at $2.
The listings don't say much about the conditions of the potatoes, though both definitely have been halved.
Bort said he and his wife had just returned from vacation and were "trying to scrounge together a Christmas dinner with what wasn't spoiled in our fridge."
He settled on, among other things, mashed potatoes.
"So I peel the potatoes and I'm getting ready to do it," Bort said, "and I see what you saw in the picture" — that is, two skinned potato halves with what appear to be crosses at their centers.
"I said, aw, holy crap, it's a cross," said Bort, a police detective.
Six days later and 500 miles to the west, Connie Gross of Marion, Iowa, skinned a potato with a similar image inside. She and her husband, Jim, covered it in foil and stuffed it in the fridge.
"Our first reaction was, we don't want to eat it," Jim Gross said.
Jim Gross, who works as a banker, brought it to his band meeting on Sunday. The Jimmy Buffett-style band hopes to play a show in Key West, Fla., in the fall and needs an equipment trailer.
His band mates were quick to suggest eBay. Maybe, they said, a collector would want it. It wouldn't be the first time.
In 2004, online casino Goldenpalace.com spent $28,000 for a partially eaten grilled cheese sandwich with the likeness of the Virgin Mary. The next year, it shelled out $10,600 for a honey-mustard pretzel that some believe is shaped like the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus.
A Canadian man contended in 2004 that he saw the face of Jesus on a burned fish stick, drawing "son of Cod" lines from cheeky British newspaper writers, though it was unclear if Fish Stick Jesus ever sold on eBay.
"Are you kidding me?" Gross said when told what some sellers made from their discoveries. "Well geez, that'd put some money down for a tour bus."
Bort said he picked his sale price randomly.
"I'm not a religious person at all, I'm not taking it as a sign of the apocalypse or anything like that," he said.
The two potatoes also were competing for bidders on eBay for the "Potato Chip with Holy Cross or 4 Leaf Clover," a chip with a hole in the center that appears to have four points, which had a listing price of $13.99.
"I've seen stories of Jesus in the cheese sandwich and all the other crap, but I don't really know numbers per se," Bort said. "I just slapped (the price) out there.
"There's always a Christmas credit card bill to pay with the holidays, so why not.
Acknowledgements: Associated Press