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Saturday Morning Open Thread: Strange But True, Eclectic News Edition

Good morning, all, and welcome to the post-hurricane Saturday Morning Open Thread: Strange But True, Eclectic News Edition. Many of the items below were initially spotted on Boston.com, so here's a hat-tip to 'em in appreciation.

Let's get started, shall we?


A weakened Earl blows by
Coastal residents braced for worst, but storm faded as it neared

Story reported by Erin Ailworth in Hyannis, Maria Cramer in Oak Bluffs, Brian MacQuarrie in Nantucket, Eric Moskowitz in Chatham, and Travis Andersen and Andrew Ryan in Boston, and was written by Peter Schworm on Boston.com.

A diminished Tropical Storm Earl whirled off the Massachusetts coast early this morning, raking Cape Cod and the Islands with pelting rain, strong gusts, and pounding surf, but packing less force than feared.

The storm, which had been an unusually strong hurricane, weakened as it moved north, and late last night was downgraded to a tropical storm after its sustained gusts slowed to 70 miles per hour.

...more on Boston.com...


...while this is simply disturbing:


Man in Miami airport scare once accused of transporting bubonic plague
By Jennifer Kay and Curt Anderson for the Associated Press

MIAMI—The suspicions airport security officials had when they saw the metal canister grew when they learned about the man who brought it in from the Middle East: a scientist who sparked a bioterrorism scare after he reported missing vials of plague samples seven years ago.

Officials shut down most of Miami International Airport overnight, roused nearby hotel guests from their beds and detained Dr. Thomas Butler until Friday morning, when he was released without charges, a senior law enforcement official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.

Tests on the canister found nothing dangerous, according to a release from the FBI's Miami field office. Homeland Security spokesman Nicholas Kimball said the item resembled a pipe bomb.

Butler's former lawyer said the incident appeared to be a "fantastic overreaction."


Butler was released after tests showed that he, the container and his other belongings did not contain any hazardous biological material or explosives, the official said.


...more on Boston.com...


and this is just plain nuts:


Hampden firefighters charged with arson
by John M. Guilfoil and Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff

Five call firefighters were arrested Thursday night on charges that they set fire to two vacant buildings in Brimfield and another in Holland under cover of darkness and then responded to the blazes, getting paid for their work, according to authorities.

No one was hurt in the three fires in June and July, but the alleged actions of the five young men drew denunciations from their chiefs, State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan and Hampden District Attorney William M. Bennett said today.

...more on Boston.com...


And then there's this goofy one:


Homeless man calls 911 from hot tub, seeks cocoa
From the Oregonian Online, appearing on Boston.com

BEAVERTON, Ore.—A homeless man who called 911 from the hot tub of a suburban Portland home and asked for towels, hot chocolate and a hug got arrested for trespassing instead.


The man said in his Sunday morning call that he'd been in the water about 10 hours and his towels had gotten wet. As he put it, "I just need a hug and a warm cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows in it."

...more on Boston.com...


There's your morning lineup of random, assorted, strange and eclectic stories for a Saturday post-hurricane morning. Enjoy!

And remember, this is an Open Thread.



Friday Early Morning Open Thread: Stormy Weather, Hurricane Earl Edition

Via the Boston.com article Earl Bears Down by Andrew Ryan and Eric Moskowitz:


Hurricane Earl swelled yesterday into a massive storm almost the size of New England, swirling north up the Eastern Seaboard on a track expected to take it perilously close to Nantucket around midnight tonight.


Forecasters expect the full fury of the storm to pass just southeast of Nantucket as a Category 1 or 2 storm, enveloping the island, Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod, and portions of Southeastern Massachusetts in hurricane-force winds gusting up to 100 miles per hour and bringing possible flash floods.


Here's hoping that folks in New England are taking care to be safe and batten down the hatches.

What's the weather like where you are?

This is an Open Thread.


Monday Morning Open Thread: Eclectic News Edition

Here's an eclectic collection of stories to start the week off:

  1. From the BBC: Chile miners speak to loved ones for first time. Miners who have been trapped underground in Chile for more than three weeks have had their first telephone contact with loved ones.

    Families queued to use a special telephone cabin and were given one minute each to talk to the trapped men.

  2. From the LA Times: Foreclosures of million-dollar-plus homes on the rise. The number of homes in the $1-million-and-up slice of the market that have become bank owned has tripled during the last three years in Los Angeles County, and the trend has shown little sign of slowing.

  3. From CNN: Author: More teens becoming 'fake' Christians. [Kenda Creasy] Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls "moralistic therapeutic deism." Translation: It's a watered-down faith that portrays God as a "divine therapist" whose chief goal is to boost people's self-esteem.

  4. From the Wall Street Journal: Cash-Poor Governments Ditching Public Hospitals. Faced with mounting debt and looming costs from the new federal health-care law, many local governments are leaving the hospital business, shedding public facilities that can be the caregiver of last resort.

    Keep in mind that the WSJ is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and have a platter of salt grains available. -- GH

So, what's new in your neck of the woods?

This is an Open Thread.



Saturday Early Morning Open Thread

This kid's got talent, and can certainly handle herself:

Kids are amazing. It's the ones who show such promise that give me a sense that there's still hope for our species even amid the global catastrophes caused by small groups of so-called 'adults' making stupid and destructive decisions.

This is an Open Thread -- Happy Saturday, folks.

Open Thread; Schoolhouse Rock, Hard Lessons Edition

Today's generations apparently didn't get enough "Schoolhouse Rock" when they were kids. Many of the older generations remember such items as Conjunction Junction, Interjections, Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here or even Verb. Here's a few of the lesser-known, less-popular ones (according to my own internal rule of thumb) to help jump-start people's senses and sensibilities again.

Enjoy. :)


And remember -- this is an Open Thread.


Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Another Day, Another Spill, Oil Apocalypse Edition

From DingellDem on DailyKos, the bad news:


More than 800,000 gallons of oil spilled into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River on Sunday and Monday.  The oil is a part of the eight million gallons that traverse the area each day en route from Indiana to the major refinery town of Sarnia, Ontario.  A Canadian company, Enbridge Inc., owns the pipeline.

Battle Creek Enquirer

For those who don't know, the Kalamazoo River flows 166 miles across southern Michigan.  The river has its origins in the south-central counties of Hillsdale and Jackson.  Eventually, the river reaches Lake Michigan at Saugatuck.

Kalamazoo River: Wikipedia


More information available over there in Dingeldem's piece or in this one by Brainwrap.

As for our existing, already-unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico,


At the well site, crews working on the ruptured, but capped, oil well have once again connected through the relief well to existing underwater equipment, BP said Tuesday.

The workers had been forced to disconnect their equipment and retreat from the well site late last week, when Tropical Storm Bonnie loomed as a potential threat. But when Bonnie lost power, workers returned to the site over the weekend.

BP said it planned to test the blowout preventer on the well later Tuesday, and then run casing pipe later this week as a prelude to the final shutdown.


Let's hope things go right and the thing gets properly capped. The Gulf Spill is enough of an oil apocalypse on its own.

This is an Oil-Free Open Thread.

Saturday Afternoon Gulf Update


Via the New York Times,


HOUSTON — As Tropical Storm Bonnie weakened to a mere tropical depression over the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, a drilling rig and about a dozen other ships working to repair the crippled Macondo oil well reversed course and began heading back to the well site.


Well, that's good news. We hope.

So, how's things going, folks? It's awfully quiet out there...


Saturday Morning Open Thread: Gulf Gushers and Tropic Systems Edition


In the Gulf of Mexico, spill response vessels leave the Macondo drilling area in advance of an approaching and potentially problematic Tropical Storm Bonnie:

Meanwhile, the former Deepwater Horizon chief electronics technician Michael Williams testified that an alarm system designed to automatically alert the crew and prevent combustible gases from reaching potential sources of ignition had been deliberately disabled:


Williams told the panel that he understood that the rig had been operating with the gas alarm system in "inhibited" mode for a year to prevent false alarms from disturbing the crew.

Williams said that when he discovered that the alarm system was inhibited, he reported it to supervisors. He said they informed him that orders were to keep it that way.

If the safety system was disabled, it would not have been unusual. Records of federal enforcement actions reviewed by The Washington Post show that, in case after case, rig operators paid fines for allegedly bypassing safety systems that could impede routine operations.


Apparently, other critical were also impaired on the rig.

All in all, it was a far cry from what we might envision as being "operationally safe & secure" and certainly not anywhere close "regulationally compliant."

What's news in your neck of the woods? This is an Open Thread.


Wednesday Morning Open Thread, Smart Grid Energy Challenge Edition


From CNET News, there's this tidbit:

GE rolls out home energy monitor, EV charger

As part of a smart-grid initiative, General Electric rolls out a home energy management system that works with smart meters and an electric vehicle charging pedestal for cities and campuses.
• GE, VCs offer $200 million in smart-grid challenge

(Posted in Green Tech by Martin LaMonica)

Anyone with a good idea that could fall under the $200 million smart-grid challenge -- this might be the inspiration you've been waiting for.

For everyone else, this is an Open Thread.

Saturday Evening Open Thread: Personal Jet Packs, Flying High Edition, Part Deux

Personal jet packs have been around, theoretically, since 2007 from companies like Jetpack International and Tecnologia Aeroespacial Mexicana. (really cool product offerings and images on the landing page of the TAM site -- GH) Now, the Martin Aircraft Company has delivered a fairly inexpensive ($90,000?) solution.

Are we going to start building undersea cities and extra-terrestrial stations & colonies next? And when...? (Thursday? ...maybe a week or two beyond? 5 years...? More?)

No matter what, or when, technology is advancing. If only we could do something to ensure that our capacity for wisdom and empathy could keep pace...

Welcome to Saturday Night. This is an Open Thread.

Saturday Morning Open Thread: The Terrafugia Transition, Flying High Edition

It's finally here -- the flying car. It's been the stuff of legend and future-dreamers for decades, but now the dream has become reality. Introducing the Terrafugia Transition:

Way cool, eh?

More information is available here, here and here. Please share your thoughts about it in the comments below, and remember: this is an Open Thread.

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