Category Archives: News

Mal Zrt. Sludge Spill Updates

Updates on Hungarian Mal Zrt. spill reveal some significant social and scientific developments surrounding a major toxic spill that many compare to recent BP Gulf of Mexico Deepwater oil spill.

For one, Hungarian government has taken over the operations of Mal Zrt. while detaining its Hungarian executive (it has an international executive board) for 72 hours in custody. The authorities say that the company will be paying for damages and cleanup, using public service workers to rebuild a new reservoir. The reservoir will be completed by Tuesday.

The kind of swift action on the part of Hungarian government puts US government and its treatment of Deepwater oil spill to shame. The press and rescue workers did not have to contend with facing private military operations barring them from access to affected areas. Nor is anyone trying to save the money and integrity of Mal Zrt. private operations. Quite the contrary, Hungarian government seems to be tackling the seemingly impossible task of containing a potentially cancerous toxic spill with gusto and a sense of justice.

Meanwhile, the sludge analysis reveals twice as much arsenic in this alumin oxide by-product, as well as high concentrations of chromium and mercury. This chemical soup represents a major concern to both Hungary a neighbouring countries, especially since Danube is relatively close to the spill, as are sources of groundwater. Environment may take years to recover, warn experts, while the villages that received the first wave of sludge may be abandoning their possessions for good, as many will not be able to return to their homes.

European Commission will be fully involved with the cleanup efforts, and the bill for it, will of course, come out of the profit margins of the company at the heart of this major environmental disaster. Mal Zrt. is just not lucky enough to be based in the US.

SF Author Dr. Peter Watts Gets Arrested at the US Border, Thrown In Detention, Now Facing Charges


by Irma Arkus

over at BoingBoing, hot news item is that Dr. Peter Watts, a scifi Hugo nominee, has been detained at the US border for reasons unknown.

After border patrol decided to conduct a search of his rented vehicle, Watts faced physical abuse by the officers, was stripped half-naked and spent almost a day in a cold detenion cell.

Seizure of his personal computer, flash drive, and even his paper notepad was explained as a way to halt terrorism: “even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots,” explained Peter in his own words.

After being harassed and abused by the border officials, and posted bond for his release, Dr. Watts was sent out in his shirt, in a midst of a cold Ontario snow-storm.

Now, Dr. Watts faces charges of assault against a federal officer. How questioning a search amounts to an assault is still unknown, but one thing is for sure, Dr. Watts will need a lot of financial support to dispute the charges in Michigan.

To help with his situation, please send your support funds via PayPal to donate@rifters.com

Asteroid Explodes Above Indonesia With Force of Three Hiroshima Bombs


by Irma Arkus

New Scientist is reporting on the asteroid that caused a “dramatic explosion” above Indonesia on Oct. 8th. Just how dramatic? About 50,000 tons of TNT worth of drama. The worst part is not so much that the asteroid in question had the power of three Hiroshima nuclear bombs, that could have devastated Indonesia and cost countless lives, but rather that the entry of the asteroid was undetected.

While this time, Indonesia has escaped a narrow destruction, due to the asteroid breaking apart in upper atmosphere, some 15 to 20 km above Earth’s surface, neither telescopes detected its entry or approach, nor any other instruments have detected its entry to the Earth’s atmosphere.

This is a cause for concern, say scientists, who point out that we’ve vested billions of dollars into developing expensive communications satellites that seem to spy on everyone these days. Maybe we could invest a few more dollars to ensure Earth’s safety. [New Scientist]

Baloon Boy Story: So Much More Under That Surface of Crazy


by Irma Arkus

Yesteday I was mesmerised by a headline, as was the rest of the world, describing a frantic father calling Fox News to help him retrieve his adventurous boy who flew off in a makeshift helium balloon.

The drama was accentuated by Fox Newscasters giving some rather violent advice in parenting, including the suggestion that the father should apply some physical violence in teaching his son a lesson.

But the drama continued, and the more it did, the more we wanted to find out just what kind of family this is, that has an attic, a helium balloon parked, and a father, Robert Heene, who is a supposed “Psyence Detective.”

Did you say “Psyence detective?

Not only did I learn about “psyence,” but I also learned about Heene’s personal belief development: he describes that his firm belief in aliens is a result of an incident at a fast food restaurant where he hit his head against the tile floor and lost consciousnes.

Precious. Watch the Heene’s below:


Balloon Boy on Wife Swap 1 of 5
by sdwfdura
UPDATE: Oct 17, 2009 10:17 pm

The assistant of Heene’s, Robert Thomas, has worked on the UFO-like baloon, apparently as a form of a promotion for their TV-show pitch.

He also describes Heene as a man experiencing paranoias and getting more desperate for money. Also, Thomas’ familiarity with the family places serious doubts that Falcon, the child in question, would have hid from his father to begin with.

The Gawker exclusive also has two audio interviews with Thomas worth listening to HERE.

Basic Building Blocks For Life Found Abundant In Space


by Irma Arkus

Glycine, a basic compound from which proteins are built of, has been found in the Wild 2 comet dust samples.

The abundance of this amino acid in comet dust may be a signal that life is common, and often seeded by comets and meteors: “The discovery of glycine in a comet supports the idea that the fundamental building blocks of life are prevalent in space, and strengthens the argument that life in the universe may be common rather than rare,” says Carl Pilcher, NASA astrobiologist working on the project. [AFP]

HiSciFi: Temporary Down


I am wading through your letters and emails and thank you for sending words of concern. Many have asked why the postings and the show have been “off air” for a few weeks now?

Our host station, CJSF 90.1FM has experienced some server changes / errors… call it what you want, either way a few shows that were recorded live have literally disappeared into the ether, leaving me in tears. I wouldn’t be sentimental, but after working my little butt off to arrange the interviews, and bring you the select news in an audio form, losing a copy of those seemed horrific, demoralizing and plain discouraging.

Next few weeks are looking up though – we will have an interview by Kipleigh Brown, Chase Masterson, and none other than Peter Mayhew, better known as Chewbacca.

Coolness galore we have prepared for you aside, the news have been killing me, softly.

Between debilitating arguments in an economic recession regarding money, copyright, eroding rights and freedoms, net neutrality, Pirate Bay, torrent technology, and more devastatingly, environment and climate change…I needed to take a personal break for a few weeks…a la vacation, to clear my head so to speak.

So do forgive me for being MIA for a week or two, and I hope you come back to visit us again, and as always, and most faithfully, listen to our show.

Sincerely,
Irma Arkus

Health Insurance Investments In Big Tobacco Revealed


by Irma Arkus

Privatisation of health care is a fabulous thing, if you are a health insurance company, that is.

According to the latest report in the New England Journal of Medicine (Vol 360:2483-2484, no. 23, Jun 4, 2009) by Boyd, Himmelstein and Woolhandler, the insurance companies in US and abroad have been confirmed to own stock in tobacco manufacturing amounting to almost $4.5 billion in investment. The largest being Prudential.

In other words, the lovely people who are vested in keeping you healthy, are also intentionally vested in manufacturing and distributing variety of cancer-causing substances.

Introduction of a US national health care coverage is currently a hot topic, as people are faced with a broken health care system. This report only adds fuel to fire, as health insurance companies directly profit and twofold, from patients suffering due to use of tobacco. [NEJM, subscription required]

H1N1 or The Swine Flu Is a Global PANDEMIC, WHO Announces

by Irma Arkus

WHO announced today that H1N1 is indeed a global pandemic. The first global pandemic in last 40 years has already infected some 30,000 people across the globe, including South and North America, EU and Middle East.

Mexico, where the virus was thought to have originated, has experienced many deaths from influenza complications. The flu has been detected across the world and reported cases amount to whopping 30,000 infected and growing.

The fears are that due to current southern hemisphere weather, the virus will mutate into an even deadlier strain that would potentially result in greater number of deaths.

Currently in Canada, concerns are primarily over aboriginal populations: any flaws in providing adequate health care will undoubtedly result in deaths of a fragile population.

Additionally, major questions and concerns entail Africa: the reporting currently does not entail any parts of Africa, which happens to be a huge continent. Noone is certain as to how many cases of the flu can be found in different parts of African continent.

Ladies Home Journal: Predicting The Future

by Irma Arkus

In December of 1900, the Ladies Home Journal published its “prophecies,” speculations on what the world will be like as researched by John Elphreth Watkins Jr.

“These prophecies will seem strange, almost impossible. Yet they have come from the most learned and conservative minds in America” writes Watkins, describing in detail the “dawn of 2001.”

While many predictions bear political leanings of the era, such as the entry on South American countries, seeking entry to the Union, due to the expanding European interests; others are either funny or remarkably accurate.

“Five Hundred Million People,” declared the Journal, “there will probably be from 350,000,000 to 500,000,000 people in America…by the lapse of another century.”

Or “Ready-Cooked Meals will be Bought from establishments…they will purchase materials in tremedous wholesale quantities and sell the cooked foods at a price much lower than the cost of individual cooking.” While that prediction is relatively true, the explanation of how these will be delivered is far more amusing. “Food will be served hot or cold to private houses in pneumatic tubes or automobile wagons. The meal being over, the dishes used will be packed and returned to the cooking establishments where they will be washed.” Ahhh, the joys of mass catering.

Food will apparently not be exposed to air as “storekeepers who expose food to air breathed out by patrons or to the atmosphere of the busy streets will be arrested with those who sell stale or adulterated produce.” This prediction is of course, far ahead of its time. Even ours perhaps, as we seem to be only starting with increased policing.

Resources such as coal are predicted to run out, while hydro-electric power, harnessed from “every river or creek” is predicted, as well is the power of the ocean: “along the seacoast will be numerous reservoirs continually filled by waves and tides washing in. All of our restless waters, fresh and salt, will thus be harnessed to do the work which Niagara is doing today: making electricity for heat, light and fuel.” This electricity is also predicted to affect food supply, as “in cold weather he will place heat-conducting electric wires under the soil of his garden and thus warm his growing plants. He will also grow large gardens under glass. At night his vegetables will be bathed in powerful electric light, serving, like sunlight, to hasten their growth.”

Say goodbye to your cherry tomatoes, as the fruit of the future will be giant. While I cannot disagree with the statement “Strawberries as Large as Apples,” as they seem to be size of potatoes these days, and taste as much too, or the fact that most fruit will be seedless, the Ladies Journal does predict for some giant fruit: “One cantaloup will supply an entire family,” or “Peas as Large as Beets,” and “Roses will be as large as cabbage heads.”

The sadder ones are “There will be No Wild Animals.” Ladies Journal predicts that wild animals will only be preserved in private hands, or circus. This one, ominously, has almost come true.

And the expectation of free university education for all, is but wishful thinking.

Read all about it here. [via Reddit]

Leo Awards: We Like Mostly Sci-Fi


by Irma Arkus

I am running a tad late reporting this, as Leo Awards were held a few days back, but the fact that so many awards were handed to science fiction shows is worty of note.

Unlike in other parts of the world, where science fiction gets a mere mention for a great FX, CGI or costumography, Canada seems just fine with its huge number of science fiction productions.

Indeed, this year’s Leo Awards honoured quite a few achievements on popular sci-fi shows and fan favorites.

Amongst notable winners, Brad Wright won for Best Screenwriting in a Feature Length Drama for his work on “Stargate Continuum,” joining Paul Sharpe, Iain Pattison, Graeme Hughes for Best Sound on same production.

None other than Michael Shanks won for Best Lead Performance by a Male in a Feature Length Drama, also for “Stargate Continuum,” while Amanda Tapping won for Best Lead Performance by a Female in a Dramatic Series for Sanctuary “Requiem.”

Joining our Stargate champions on Leo Awards is also Tyler Labine, winning Best Lead Performance by a Male in a Dramatic Series for Reaper “Coming to Grips.”

I am still coming to grips that Reaper is considered a “dramatic series,” rather than comic relief.

List of other winners as following:

Best Dramatic Series
Stargate Atlantis
Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie, Brad Wright, Robert Cooper,
Carl Binder, Martin Gero, Alan McCullough, John Smith – Producers

Best Direction
in a Dramatic Series
Robert Cooper
Stargate Atlantis – Vegas

Best Screenwriting
in a Dramatic Series
Alan McCullough
Stargate Atlantis – The Queen

Best Cinematography
in a Dramatic Series
Michael Blundell
Stargate Atlantis – Vegas

Best Picture Editing
in a Dramatic Series
Mike Banas
Stargate Atlantis – Vegas

Best Overall Sound
in a Dramatic Series
Kelly Cole, Patrick Ramsay, Bill Mellow,
Joe Watts, Hugo De Le Cerda, Kevin Belen
Stargate Atlantis – Enemy at the Gate

Best Sound Editing
in a Dramatic Series
Steve Smith, Matthew Wilson,
Kirby Jinnah, Jay Cheetham, Jason Mauza
Stargate Atlantis – Enemy at the Gate

Best Production Design
in a Dramatic Series
James Philpott
Smallville – Quest

Best Costume Design
in a Dramatic Series
Valerie Halverson
Stargate Atlantis – The Queen

Best Make-Up
in a Dramatic Series
Todd Masters, Nicholas Podbrey,
Sarah Pickersgill, Harlow MacFarlane
Sanctuary – Warriors

Best Visual Effects
in a Dramatic Series
Mark Savela, Shannon Gurney,
Kodie MacKenzie, Viv Jim, Dan Weir
Stargate Atlantis – First Contact

Best Guest Performance by a Male
in a Dramatic Series
Ryan Robbins
Sanctuary – Edward

Best Guest Performance by a Female
in a Dramatic Series
Gabrielle Rose
Sanctuary – Edward