Your customized Dell page on Google.com

Computer maker Dell said Jan. 30 it has quietly begun testing a new partnership with Internet search provider Google.

For now, some Dell laptops and desktop computers are sold with two Google Inc. search features pre-installed, a Dell spokesman said.

Dell is also putting the paces to a Google-powered Web site that appears to be a hybrid of Dell's online store and Google's personalized Web site.

E-mail worm bent only on destruction

A fast-spreading e-mail worm is raising alarms because its sole purpose is to obliterate the everyday working documents widely used by consumers, students and businesses.

The Kama Sutra worm - also referred to as Nyxem.E and Grew.A - is unnerving because, unlike other e-mail worms, it appears to be detached from any profit motive.

It is designed to destroy all Microsoft Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint documents and Adobe Acrobat and Photoshop files on all hard drives connected to an infected PC.

"The amazing part is that there appears to be a lack of any motive behind this except destruction," says David Mayer, researcher at e-mail security firm IronPort Systems.

The worm appears in e-mail in-boxes with subject lines such as "hot movie," "A Great Video" or "Crazy illegal Sex!" enticing the recipient to click on an attachment. One variation makes reference to the ancient Sanskrit book on sexual positions.

By clicking on the attachment, the victim launches a program that disables anti-virus protection. The infected PC then begins to send copies of similarly tainted e-mail to every e-mail address on the victim's hard drive.

But while most e-mail worms also plant a back door to give an intruder control of the PC, or a program to steal log-ons and passwords, this worm's sole purpose is destruction. It implants a program to erase common work files on the third day of the month, hitting even external data-storage devices connected to the infected PC.

IDefense, a VeriSign company, confirmed the deletion program works. More than 500,000 PCs are believed to have been infected since it first appeared on Jan. 16. That's a modest infection rate, but victims face grim consequences. On Friday - Feb. 3 - any infected machines will lose all Microsoft documents and Adobe files.

Natural disasters killed 91,900 in 2005: UN

GENEVA (AFP) - Natural disasters were on the rise last year, leaving tens of millions of people destitute and in need of aid, but they claimed fewer lives, a United Nations monitoring body said.

The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) said it counted 360 natural disasters in 2005, including Hurricane Katrina in the United States and the South Asian earthquake, compared to 305 a year earlier.

The overall death toll dropped to 91,900, with 73,338 of the dead in Pakistan's quake zone alone.

In 2004 the total was 244,500, of which 226,408 victims were from the Indian Ocean tsunami.

The number of people caught up in disasters climbed to 157 million, or seven million more than in 2004, said the ISDR.

Total economic damage reached 159 billion dollars, compared to 92.9 billion dollars a year earlier.

The economic data covers insured losses, and so mostly relates to losses in richer countries, the ISDR noted. Hurricane Katrina inflicted 125 billion dollars of damage in the southern United States.

The ISDR count covers any disaster which kills more than 10 people and affects at least 100, and leads to a state of emergency being declared or an appeal for international aid.

Microsoft starts selling technology to start-ups

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT - news) said on Tuesday it has joined research-intensive organizations to sell its non-core technology to start-up companies in an attempt to earn money from discoveries that would otherwise gather dust.

The world's largest software maker said it was already working with government agencies in Ireland and Finland to reach young companies that may be interested in technology from Microsoft's multi-billion dollar research arm.

"We provided three Irish companies with source code to test and subsequently licensed it to one, Softedge Systems. Since then we've taken another three technologies to Entreprise Ireland and expect at least another two deals before July," said David Harnett, senior director at Microsoft IP Ventures.

Inflatable Concrete

As portable as canvas, but ends up as hard as concrete. Permanent structures could be delivered to disaster areas quickly, saving countless lives. These inflatable buildings last a minimum of 10 years, and can even be delivered sterile if you need a surgical center!

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Wikipedia blocks United States Congress IP addresses

Wikipedia has recently blocked a range of IP addresses belonging to the United States Congress due to staffers who have been engaging in revert wars regarding content associated with frequent politicians. This RFC was started to centralize the discussion on the violation of Wikipedia policy and alleged libelous behavior.

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List of unusual deaths

This is a list of unusual deaths, including unique or extremely rare causes of death recorded throughout history, as well as less rare but still unusual causes of death of prominent persons.

Ancient Age

  • 456 BC: Aeschylus, Greek dramatist, according to legend, died when a vulture, mistaking his bald head for a stone, dropped a tortoise on it.
  • 207 BC: Chrysippus, Greek stoic philosopher, is believed to have died of laughter after seeing a donkey eating figs.
  • 121 BC: Gaius Gracchus, Roman tribune, was, according to the ancient Roman historian Plutarch, executed by assassins out to receive a bounty on the weight of his head in gold. One of the co-conspirators in his murder, Septimuleius, then decapitated Gaius, scooped the brains out of his severed head, and filled the cavity of his skull with molten lead. Once the lead hardened, the head was taken to the Senate and weighed in on the scale at over seventeen pounds. Septimuleius was paid in full. [1]
  • 30 BC: Cleopatra, beautiful queen of Ptolemaic Egypt, allegedly killed herself with an asp snake bite.
  • 260: Roman emperor Valerian, after being defeated in battle and captured by the Persians was used as a footstool by their king Shapur I. After a long period of treatment and humiliation of this sort, he offered Shapur a huge ransom for his release. In reply, Shapur had molten gold poured down his throat. He then had the unfortunate Valerian skinned and his skin stuffed with straw and preserved as a trophy in the main Persian temple. Only after Persia's defeat in their last war with Rome three and a half centuries later was his skin given a cremation and burial.
  • 453: Attila the Hun suffered a severe nosebleed and choked to death on his wedding night.

Middle Age

Early Modern Age

Modern Age

  • 1901: William McKinley, 25th president of the United States, was assassinated while attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. The assassin, Leon Czolgosz, concealed the gun by a cast on his arm.
  • 1911: Jack Daniel, founder of the famous Tennessee whiskey distillery, died of blood poisoning due to a toe injury he received after kicking his safe in anger when he could not remember its combination code.
  • 1915: François Faber, Luxembourgean Tour de France winner, died in a trench on the western front of World War I. He received a telegram saying his wife had given birth to a daughter. He cheered, giving away his position, and was shot by a German sniper.
  • 1916: Grigori Rasputin, Russian mystic, died of drowning while trapped under ice. Although the details of his murder are disputed, he was allegedly placed in the water through a hole in the winter ice after having been poisoned, shot multiple times in the head, lung, and liver, and bludgeoned.
  • 1916 : Saki (the pseudonym of H. H. Munro), English satirist, novelist and wit, was killed in France, near Beaumont-Hamel during World War One by a sniper's bullet, having reportedly cried "Put that damned cigarette out!" to a fellow officer in his trench (lest the smoke revealed their whereabouts), thus alerting the enemy to his presence.
  • 1918: Young princesses of the Romanov tsar dynasty had to be slaughtered with bayonets, after their communist captors' bullets bounced off their garments, stuffed full of hidden family gems.
  • 1926: Barcelona's star architect Antoni Gaudi was run over by a tram. Cab drivers did not take him to hospital immediately, not recognizing the ragged figure who had no money in his pockets. Gaudi was brought to a pauper's hospital, where he died some days later.
  • 1927: J.G. Parry-Thomas, a British racing driver, was decaptitated by his car's drive chain which, under duress, snapped and whipped into the cockpit. He was attempting to break his own Land speed record which he had set the previous year. Incredibly enough, despite being killed in the attempt, he succeeded in setting a new record of 171mph.
  • 1927: Isadora Duncan, dancer, died of accidental strangulation and broken neck when her scarf caught on the wheel of a car in which she was a passenger.
  • 1928: Alexander Bogdanov, a Russian physician, lost his life following one of his experiments, in which the blood of a student suffering from malaria and tuberculosis was given to him in a transfusion.
  • 1933: Michael Malloy, a homeless man, was murdered by gassing after surviving multiple poisonings, intentional exposure, and being struck by a car. Malloy was murdered by five men in a plot to collect on life insurance policies they'd purchased.
  • 1937: Harold Davidson, a defrocked Church of England Rector, died after being mauled by a lion.
  • 1940: Leon Trotsky, the Soviet revolutionary leader in exile, was assassinated with an ice axe in his Mexico home.
  • 1941: Sherwood Anderson, writer, swallowed a toothpick at a party and then died of peritonitis.
  • 1943: Lady be Good, a USAAF B-24 bomber lost its way and crash landed in the Libyan Desert. Mummified remains of its crew, who struggled for a week without water, were not found until 1960.
  • 1945: After surviving the Second World War, composer Anton Webern was shot by an American sentry on the veranda of his house in Salzburg, Austria, when he had stepped outside to smoke his after-dinner cigar.
  • 1945: Austrian author Ödön von Horvath was killed by a falling branch during a thunderstorm in Paris
  • 1953: Frank Hayes, jockey, suffered a heart attack during a horse race. The horse, Sweet Kiss, went on to finish first, making Hayes the only deceased jockey to win a race.
  • 1960: Movie legend Clark Gable died of long term heart disease hours before his son was born. Some attributed his death to exhaustion caused by involvement with his film partner Marilyn Monroe, perhaps contributing to her worsening mental condition and eventual suicide.
  • 1967: A flash fire began in the pure oxygen atmosphere inside the unlaunched Apollo 1 spacecraft, killing its crew during a training exercise.
  • 1967: Harold Holt, the serving Prime Minister of Australia, vanished while swimming on a beach near Melbourne. His body was never found.
  • 1968: Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, author, was accidentally electrocuted to death while taking a bath.
  • 1971: John Fare, Canadian artist, decapitated by a robot during an art performance
  • 1971: Jerome Irving Rodale, an American pioneer of organic farming, died of a heart attack while being interviewed on the Dick Cavett Show. When he appeared to fall asleep, Cavett quipped "Are we boring you, Mr. Rodale?".[2] The show was never broadcast.
  • 1973: Péter Vályi, finance minister of Hungary fell into a blast furnace on a visit to a steelworks factory at Miskolc.
  • 1974: Christine Chubbuck, an American television news reporter committed suicide during a live broadcast on July 15th. At 9:38 AM, 8 minutes into her talk show, on WXLT-TV in Sarasota, Florida, she drew out a revolver and shot herself in the head.
  • 1977: Tom Pryce, a Formula One driver, and a 19-year-old track marshal both died at the 1977 South African Grand Prix after the marshal ran across the track beyond a blind brow to attend to another car and was struck by Pryce's car. Pryce was hit in the face by the marshal's fire extinguisher and was killed instantly.
  • 1978: Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident, was assassinated by poisoning in London by an unknown assailant who shot him in the leg with a specially modified umbrella that fired a metal pellet with a small cavity full of ricin poison.
  • 1981: A 25-year-old Dutch woman studying in Paris, Renée Hartevelt, was killed and eaten by a classmate, Issei Sagawa, when he invited her to dinner for a literary conversation. The killer was declared unfit to stand trial and extradited back to Japan, where he was released from custody within fifteen months.
  • 1982: Vic Morrow, actor, was decapitated by helicopter blade during filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie and was killed instantly, along with two child actors.
  • 1982: Vladimir Smirnov, an Olympic champion fencer, died of brain damage nine days after his opponent's foil snapped during a match, pierced his eyeball and entered his brain.
  • 1983: Sergei Chalibashvili, a professional diver, died after a diving accident during World University Games. When he attempted a three-and-a-half reverse somersault in the tuck position, he smashed his head on the board and was knocked unconscious. He died after being in a coma for a week.
  • 1983: Jessica Savitch, NBC television news anchor, drowned after the car she was riding in fell into a canal, flipping over and sinking in mud, sealing the doors shut.
  • 1984: Tommy Cooper, British television magician, died on stage at Her Majesty's Theatre during a live television routine. Most of the audience and viewers believed it was part of his act.
  • 1984: Jon-Erik Hexum, an American television actor, died after he shot himself in the head with a prop gun during a break in filming. Whether he deliberately committed suicide or was simply unaware of the potentially deadly effects of the blank round was not determined.
  • 1986: Jane Dornacker, a musician, actress and comedienne turned radio station traffic reporter, died after a helicopter owned by New York's WNBC-AM in which she was a passenger crashed into the Hudson River. The fatal crash occurred as Dornacker was delivering a traffic report, and was broadcast live on air. Her final words (to the helicopter pilot), "Hit the water! Hit the water! Hit the water!", were clearly heard by listeners.
  • 1987: Dick Shawn, aged 63, an actor and comedian, died onstage on April 17, during a monologue about the Holocaust in San Diego, California. Due to the nature of his act, audience members were at first unaware that he had suffered a massive heart attack.
  • 1987: R. Budd Dwyer, a Republican politician, committed suicide during a televised press conference. Facing a potential 55-year jail sentence for alleged involvement in a conspiracy, Dwyer shot himself in the head with a revolver.
  • 1989: A Belgian teenager was killed by a crashing soviet MiG-23 fighter jet, which escaped from Poland on autopilot after the crew ejected over a false engine failure alarm.
  • 1993: Brandon Lee, the son of Bruce Lee, was shot and killed by a prop .44 Magnum while filming the movie The Crow. The scene involved the firing of a full-powder blank (full charge of gunpowder, but no bullet) at Brandon's character. However, unknown to the film crew/firearms technician, a bullet was already lodged in the barrel. The gun had previously been fired with a dummy round that had had all its gunpowder removed, but its primer charge left intact in error. The firing of the 'squib' lodged the bullet inside the barrel. When the full powder blank round was later fired, the bullet already in the barrel shot out and fatally wounded Lee.
  • 1996: "The Engineer" Yahya Ayyash, chief Palestinian bombmaker of Hamas and responsible for over 60 Israeli civilian casualties, was assassinated by way of a Shin Bet (Shabak) rigged mobile phone, which detonated when he answered a call.
  • 1998: Sani Abacha, Nigerian dictator, died at his residence in Abuja of a heart attack, rumored to have been caused by the ingestion of large quantities of the drug Viagra as a prelude to an orgy.
  • 1999: Owen Hart, WWF (now WWE) wrestler, died when he fell 78 feet while being lowered into the ring by a cable from the stadium rafters before an upcoming match. He had been scheduled to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship that night.
  • 2001: June 1, Crown Prince Dipendra of Nepal, enraged from a dispute over his marriage arrangements (and possibly intoxicated), reportedly went on a rampage at dinner and massacred nearly the entire Royal Family, including his father the king. But in accordance with custom and tradition, Dipendra, then in a coma due to wounds sustained either from palace guards or a botched suicide attempt, became king for three days before dying on June 4. He was succeeded by his uncle, whose son mysteriously survived the massacre unscathed.
  • 2003: David Bloom, NBC news reporter, died of a pulmonary condition, DVT, possibly caused by his long hours cramped in a troop carrier while reporting on the invasion of Iraq.
  • 2003: Brian Wells, pizza deliveryman, was killed by a time bomb fastened to his neck. He was apprehended by the police for robbing a bank, and claimed he had been forced to do it by three people who had put the bomb around his neck.
  • 2003: Timothy Treadwell, an American environmentalist and self-proclaimed "eco-warrior" that had lived in the wilderness among bears for thirteen summers in a remote portion of Alaska, was killed and partially consumed along with his girlfriend after they had been slated to leave due to the impending harsh fall/winter in Alaska. The critically-acclaimed documentary film Grizzly Man, directed by Werner Herzog, was released in 2005. [3]
  • 2005 - In Enumclaw, WA. a Seattle man died of peritonitis after submitting to anal intercourse with a stallion. The man had done this before, though apparently this time his partner was a little too keen. The case may lead to the criminalization of bestiality in Washington. [4]

Allchin: Buy Vista for the security

If new features won't get you to upgrade to Vista, security enhancements should, Windows chief Jim Allchin has urged.

Microsoft has already touted the bells and whistles it is putting into Windows Vista, the operating system successor to XP that's due out by the end of the year. There will be flashy new graphics, a spiffed-up user interface and advanced search features. Other changes include improved touch-screen support and a Windows sidebar that can display all kinds of information such as upcoming appointments, just-in e-mail messages and a clock.

But if none of that strikes your fancy, Vista will still be worth getting, thanks to its better defenses against phishing attacks, spyware and other malicious code, Allchin said.

"Safety and security is the overriding feature that most people will want to have Windows Vista for," the co-president of Microsoft's platform, products and services division said in an interview with CNET News.com. "Even if they are not into home entertainment or in any of the specialty areas, they are just going to feel safer and more secure by using it."

That said, Allchin maintained there are plenty of new things to try out in Vista, pointing to a chart filled with added features. In particular, he demonstrated a collaboration tool that uses a "People Near Me" feature, which searches over a Wi-Fi connection for other Vista users nearby and then sets up a peer-to-peer network with them. The tool is meant mostly to enable laptop users to share applications and files, among other things.

But one of the features Microsoft wanted to include was a bit too much for some of its beta testers, the software maker found. It is reversing its plan to add virtual folders that contain all the files that match specific criteria, such as "created by Michelle" or "images," no matter where they are on the PC. Originally, Microsoft wanted virtual folders to replace standard views, which show the physical location of files on a hard disk drive, but it has backpedaled on that decision.

Microsoft is following updated development practices to prevent security bugs and is using new approaches to analyze source code, Allchin said. Additionally, the innards of the operating system are being designed to ward off attacks. "We have put features into the product to double-check itself," he said.

As an example of double-checking, Allchin said Microsoft has marked the OS services to know what network ports they should open and what OS functions they should call. Then, another part of the OS verifies the process. "If we ever find something trying to open a port that the developer said it should not be opening, it is immediately shut down," he said.

Additionally, Vista aims to offer improved security by letting people run their PC with fewer privileges, which control how a particular person can interact with the software. In Windows XP most users have "administrator" privileges, which could be abused by malicious software to install itself on a computer. In Windows Vista, the default will likely be "protected administrator," a new privilege level that Microsoft is introducing with Vista, Allchin said.

If the system is set to protected administrator, people will have to change it to full administrator level to perform certain tasks, such as installing an application. The operating system will warn the person when full privileges are needed.

Microsoft also has updated the security software in Windows Vista to help fend off threats. The firewall has been updated and now looks at incoming as well as outgoing traffic--in XP SP 2 only incoming traffic was watched. Also, Microsoft has made its anti-spyware tool, Windows Defender, part of the operating system.

"The first step is protection from doing things inadvertently or warning you about the level of impact it could have," Allchin said. "Then, if you let something in, Defender is there to (warn you) and you can undo it. If the thing gets in and has really done some awful things, using the equivalent of System Restore in Windows XP you can back up time and undo it," he said. Microsoft doesn't yet have a new name for System Restore, he said.

Xbox 360's match?? on a PC??

The Xbox 360, it seems, has already met its match...on the PC front, at least.

Tech sites HardOCP and Tech Report have uncovered a leak that supposedly shows off the specs of ATi's secret PC video card line, the Radeon x1900. The card boasts some of the same specs as the Xbox 360's graphic processor; judging by the numbers, the card will stand toe-to-tow to the Xbox 360 in terms of raw pixel-pushing capabilities.

The high-end card--the Radeon x1900 XTX reportedly weighs in with 48 pixel pipelines, just like the Xbox 360's bleeding-edge graphical processor (also designed by ATi). The Radeon x1900 XTX also sports a super-speedy 650 mhz CPU core and 512 megs of high-end 1.5 Ghz RAM.

Meanwhile, HardOCP has received official word from an ATi representative, who states that an embargo is under effect until the 24th of January. At that point, ATi should be releasing confirmed information about the upcoming graphics card.

You can apparently order a lower-end model--the Radeon x1900 XT--for over $600 American.

Hurricanes Shape New Natural Order

OVER THE NORTHERN GULF COAST - Last year's record hurricane season didn't just change life for humans. It changed nature, too.

Everywhere scientists look, they see disrupted patterns in and along the Gulf of Mexico. Coral reefs, flocks of sea birds, crab- and shrimp-filled meadows and dune-crowned beaches were wrapped up in — and altered by — the force of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Dennis.

"Nothing's been like this," said Abby Sallenger, a
U.S. Geological Survey oceanographer, during a recent flight over the northern Gulf Coast to study shoreline changes.

For him, the changes are mind-boggling: Some barrier islands are nearly gone; on others, beaches are scattered like bags of dropped flour.

Hurricanes have been kneading the Gulf Coast like putty for eons, carving out inlets and bays, creating beaches and altering plant and animal life — but up to now, the natural world has largely been able to rebound. Trees, marine life and shoreline features tourists and anglers enjoyed in recent years were largely the same types as those 17th century buccaneers and explorers encountered.

But scientists say the future could be different. Nature might not be able to rebound so quickly. The reason: the human factor.

"Natural systems are resilient and bounce back," said Susan Cutter, a geographer with the University of South Carolina. "The problem is when we try to control nature, rather than letting her do what she does."

The seas are rising, the planet is getting hotter and commercial and residential development is snowballing. Add those factors to a predicted increase in nasty hurricanes and what results is a recipe for potentially serious natural degradation, some say.

"It may bring about a situation (in which) the change is so rapid, it's something that's very different from what the ecosystem experienced over the last three, four thousand years," said Kam-biu Liu, a Louisiana State University professor and hurricane paleoscientist. "We may be losing part of our beaches, we may lose our coastal wetlands, and our coastal forests may change permanently to a different kind of ecosystem."

Sabotage claim over Pakistani train crash

The minister responsible for Pakistan's rail network has suggested that sabotage could have caused a train to plunge into a ravine, killing at least three people.

The crash happened late on Sunday when several carriages of the Islamabad Express travelling between Rawalpindi and Lahore derailed in a hilly area near Jhelum city. Up to 40 people were injured.

Ishaq Khakwani, the railways minister, said: "It is almost confirmed now that it is an act of sabotage."

A senior security official said the track was damaged before the train passed on its run from Rawalpindi to Lahore, and that tools apparently used for the job, including spanners, were left at the scene and that the fish plates that join different rail sections were open.

Khakwani said there are "several elements" who could be involved in tampering with the rails. "It could be internal, it could be external," he said.

The minister said the suspected sabotage was in a "technically important" area. "Such a derailment in a hilly area could have caused greater loss but luckily there were not many casualties," he said.

He said the repair work was under way and rail traffic was likely to resume on Monday afternoon.

There was no claim of responsibility for the incident.

Pakistan suffered its worst train crash in a decade last July, when a train driver misinterpreted a signal and hit another train at a station.



King rat and the brilliant squibbon


Experts imagine a future with, and without, humans

SEATTLE - It's not that Peter Ward has a special fondness for rats. It's just that he sees them as survivors and, in the future world he posits, they might be the ultimate survivor — and evolver.

Sure, humans will still have their pets, but they probably will not thrive on their own and many will be genetically engineered. As for large mammals such as lions and tigers and bears, in Ward's world they will be driven to extinction by the loss of their habitats and global warming.

No, the real rulers will be rodents and snakes. "The fossil record shows that they have the genetic capability of whipping out new species," says Ward, a biology professor at the University of Washington.

Oh yeah, cockroaches are also within the category he calls "champion speciators."

Ward is among the academics who focus on the future of evolution. Many agree that animal evolution will be shaped by urbanization, genetic engineering and climate change. But some disagree on whether humans themselves will continue as a species.

British geologist Dougal Dixon, in the book "The Future is Wild," creates a scenario millions of years from now in which humans become extinct and are replaced by an animal kingdom dominated by a giant land-based squid.

Why dabble in what Dixon himself calls "speculative biology?" For Dixon, it's a "novel approach to the instruction of science.

"To give fictitious examples of factual process and situations, especially in evolution, ecology and the other life sciences, gives people another way to look at those subjects — a way that has not been explored before," he says.

The future is now

In Ward's world, described in his book "Future Evolution," humans don't die off, but Earth as we know it sure has changed. "You've got to assume that humans are going to continue and at high population numbers," he tells MSNBC.com.

If that's the case, he says, then animals will have to evolve to thrive in two dominant environments — cities, where the masses live, and tracts of cropland cultivated to feed those masses.

Gone will be the vast grasslands that gave rise to large mammals. "I bet we'll never see a large animal species ever again," Ward says. "Give it a million years," he says, and lions, tigers and bears might all be gone.

Temperature swings over time in this world will favor species that can adapt relatively quickly, and animals will have to be able to survive in polluted air and water. A perfect world for rodents, snakes, cockroaches and foraging birds like crows.

Ward believes rats and snakes belong in the category known as "supertaxa," groups of organisms that create many new species while having a relatively low extinction rate.

Steve Stanley, a geobiologist at Johns Hopkins University who coined the term, agrees. Rats and snakes "are diversifying rapidly today," he says, "and if rodents continue to diversify, they will further stimulate the diversification of snakes, because many snakes eat rodents."

The human touch

A parallel track in this future world involves animals domesticated or engineered by humans.

Stanford biologist Stephen Palumbi, in his book "The Evolution Explosion," argues that humans have accelerated evolution with well-intentioned tinkering — and usually without thinking of the consequences.

He calls this tinkering "brute force evolution," writing that "we humans have a talent for upping the evolutionary ante and accelerating the evolutionary game, especially among the species that live with us most intimately — our diseases, food and pests."

"Anything that works we like to do more and more and more of," he said in an interview, noting that in the case of vaccines, insecticides and herbicides, that means short-term gains against disease and pests only to see them develop a resistance and come back even stronger.

Palumbi does see a "movement towards greater awareness" of such dangers and suggests that society take them into account much as it does significant environmental changes that come with development. "There's no reason we couldn't do an 'evolutionary impact statement,'" he says.

Do we really need a cat-dog?

Ward agrees with Palumbi's concerns, saying it's one thing to mix dog genes to come up with a new breed, but another to mix genes from different animals.

"If you really want to see how fast evolution can be," he says, "just focus on dogs." In just the last 200 years of human domestication, dogs "are now the most widely genetic type of creature on the planet."

But, he asks, "What happens if the same ease in producing things gets caught up in creatures we don't like?"

"We're attacking things with an ax and we don't yet have the sophistication" to know the impacts, Ward says. "There will be an escape of genomes from good stuff to bad stuff ... (and) it's going to effect evolution."

Earth without humans

In "The Future is Wild," Dixon, the British geologist, and co-author John Adams create an animal kingdom in which humans no longer reign.

Dixon and Adams give whimsical names to the creatures they dream up, aiming not so much to predict the future but to show some possibilities.

In their vision, humans become extinct in an Ice Age 5 million years from now. "Shagrats," or giant rodents, and "gannet whales," large aquatic birds, have evolved during this stretch of time.

The Ice Age melts away 100 million years later, marking the beginning of the end of large mammals and giving rise to creatures like the "ocean phantom," a jellyfish the size of a truck; the "swampus," a relative of the octopus that emerges from swamps to feed; and the "toraton," a reptile bigger than dinosaurs.

In 200 million years, evolution brings bizarre animals like "flish," birds that evolved from fish; "bumblebeetles," beetles that fly; and "megasquid," multi-ton, land-based squid creatures.

"Squibbons," a hybrid squid-gibbon ape, live in trees, eat plants as well as flish and "represent the pinnacle of intelligent life on Earth," according to Dixon and Adams' vision.

But it won't be the last species on top. "Undoubtedly," the authors conclude, "the far future will be even wilder."

Rival worlds

Dixon says speculating about such a future helps educate people. "The public appetite for monsters and aliens and strange things of that sort can be a valuable tool and can deliver an audience that would be willing to be informed and educated," he says.

Ward isn't convinced and says his interest in the field of future evolution is driven by presenting scenarios that contrast with visions such as Dixon's.

'"I get tired of futurists so missing the mark, or so it seems to me," he says. "First, there is the sense that humans will soon be gone, or second, that we will produce some 'Blade Runner' world that is all pollution and Michael Jackson mouth masks."

Palumbi, the Stanford biologist, says that as long as humans do inhabit the planet it will pay to listen to Mother Nature. "Changes to the environment are irreversible," he said, "and thinking them through is important."

© 2006 MSNBC Interactive

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MS Windows Error Messages

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Girl, 11, treated for heroin use


An 11-year-old girl from Glasgow has been treated in hospital for the effects of heroin after she collapsed at school, officials have said.

The girl, who has not been named, fell ill at a primary school on Wednesday. She is now said to be recovering.

Hamas rejects donor 'blackmail'

From BBC News

A senior Hamas leader has rejected demands that the Islamic militant group renounce violence, to prevent aid cuts for the Palestinian Authority.

Ismail Haniya, who headed Hamas' election list, said they would not give in to "blackmail" by foreign donors.

President Bush warned US aid to the authority, worth $400m (£225m), may be cut following Hamas' surprise poll win.

Microsoft to License Part of Key Code to European Rivals

New York Times

BRUSSELS, Jan. 25 — Facing daily fines from European regulators, Microsoft said on Wednesday that it would license some of the source code for its Windows operating system to competitors.

The move is an attempt to comply with a ruling by the European Commission in March 2004 that Microsoft had violated antitrust laws. The company was fined 497 million euros (about $600 million) at that time and ordered to share details of its operating system with rival software makers.

The company generated 12,000 pages of technical documentation, but the commission was not satisfied and filed a new lawsuit against Microsoft in December, accusing it of failing to supply the information the commission had demanded and of charging too much for the data it was offering. Microsoft has until Feb. 15 to reply to the objections.

Under European antitrust rules, regulators were threatening to fine Microsoft up to 2 million euros a day if it failed to comply with the ruling.

The decision to allow access to some Windows source code aims to address "categorically" all of the issues raised by the commission last month, Microsoft said in a statement.

"Today we are putting our most valuable intellectual property on the table so we can put technical compliance issues to rest," Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, said at a news conference in Brussels.

The company will offer licenses to examine the code that controls communications between servers, which rivals could use to develop Windows-compatible software. The rivals will not be allowed to copy the code and it will not be available for open-source platforms, like Linux.

"We're not open-sourcing Windows," Mr. Smith said.

Calif. board links secondhand smoke to breast cancer

From USAToday

SACRAMENTO — California regulators ruled Thursday that secondhand smoke causes breast cancer in younger women, an unprecedented finding that could lead to tougher anti-smoking measures.

Secondhand smoke concentrations in vehicles with smokers is 10 times higher than in the homes of smokers, the report found. Its key new finding is that women under 50 exposed to secondhand smoke had a 68% to 120% greater risk of breast cancer than women who weren't exposed. Women past menopause were not at significantly higher risk.

Major cancer groups, including the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, said evidence that secondhand smoke causes breast cancer is inconclusive. The disease kills 40,000 women a year in the USA.

Kidnappers Threaten to Kill Four Hostages

From Y! News

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Kidnappers of four Christian peace activists threatened to kill them unless all Iraqi prisoners are released from Iraqi and U.S. prisons, according to a tape broadcast Saturday.

Al-Jazeera TV aired a tape dated Jan. 21 showing the four workers from the Chicago-based Christian Peacemaker activists, who disappeared Nov. 26. The previously unknown Swords of Righteous Bridge claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

The newsreader said the group issued a statement with the tape saying it was the "last chance" for U.S. and Iraqi authorities to "release all Iraqi prisoners in return of freeing the hostages otherwise their fate will be death."

Japanese Lab Develops Robot for Errands

From Y! News
TOKYO - Though his movement is a bit stiff, slow and voice monotonous, he willingly turns on the television with a chest-mounted remote control, and brings a can of drink for you. Within years, a humanoid robot HRP-2 — currently under development by a Japanese national technology institute — could be a little domestic helper.

The robots — named Promet — are being developed by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and can run errands. They are designed to respond to verbal instructions and are capable of capturing three-dimensional images of objects and locating them through an infrared sensor.

"We are hoping to make them something comparable to service dogs," Isao Hara, senior researcher at the institute in Japan's technology hub of Tsukuba, just northeast of Tokyo, said of the pair of robots painted in silver and blue. "I think it's quite possible for them to interact with humans. We are now studying how robots can join the human society."

As Hara tells one of the two robots, "Please come here," it responds with a robotic voice saying, "What can I do for you?"

Asked to turn on the TV, Promet repeats the instructions, "I will turn on the TV" before he executes the command.

When Hara asks for a bottle of juice, the two demonstrate a more advanced task, one relays the instruction to the other, saying "Please take care of this."

The second robot huddles to a refrigerator, stands in front of it for a while, saying "Confirming the location of the refrigerator." Then he says "Searching for the juice," slowly opens the door with a right hand, grabs a bottle of drink with his left hand, shuts the fridge, then walks back to him, squats down at the table and carefully places it on the coffee table.

Researcher: Pollution Limits Sun in China

From Y! News
BANGKOK, Thailand - China's skies have darkened over the past 50 years, possibly due to haze resulting from a nine-fold increase in fossil fuel emissions, according to researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The researchers, writing in this month's edition of Geophysical Research Letters, found that the amount of solar radiation measured at more than 500 stations in China fell from 1954 to 2001 despite a decrease in cloud cover.

"Normally, more frequent cloud-free days should be sunnier and brighter but this doesn't happen in our study," said Yun Qian of the energy department's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington state.


Credit Card Numbers Stolen Off Web Site

From Y! News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Thousands of credit card numbers were stolen from a state government Web site that allows residents to register their cars and buy state permits, authorities said Friday.

The private company that runs http://www.ri.gov said that 4,118 credit card numbers had probably been taken, a state official said. All online transactions were suspended Friday until any possible security problems could be fixed.

'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' Makers Sued Over Sexual Content

From MTV
The makers of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" were sued on Thursday by Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo for allegedly hiding explicit sexual material in the popular video game. According to The Associated Press, Delgadillo filed a lawsuit against developer Rockstar Games and its parent company, Take-Two Interactive, for allegedly violating the state's business code by making misleading statements in marketing the game and engaging in unfair competition.

Russia to Build Permanent Moonbase

"We are planning to build a permanent base on the moon by 2015 and by 2020 we can begin the industrial-scale delivery...of the rare isotope Helium-3."

read more | digg story

Amazing Tech facts -- THE INTERNET

From Amazing Tech facts

Google got its name from the mathematical figure googol, which denotes the number 'one followed by a hundred zeros'.

Yahoo! derived its name from the word Yahoo coined by Jonathan Swift in Gulliver's Travels. A Yahoo is a person who is repulsive in appearance and action and is barely human!

Researchers consider that the first search engine was Archie, created in 1990 by Alan Emtage, a student at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Marc Andreessen founded Netscape. In 1993, he had already developed Mosaic, the first Web browser with a GUI.

It was once considered a letter in the English language. The Chinese call it a little mouse, Danes and Swedes call it 'elephant's trunk', Germans a spider monkey, and Italians a snail. Israelis pronounce it 'strudels' and the Czechs say 'rollmops's...What is it? The @ sign.

In the Deep Web, the part of the Web not currently catalogued by search engines, public information said to be 500 times larger than on the WWW.

The first search engine for Gopher files was called Veronica, created by the University of Nevada System Computing Services group

Tim Berners-Lee predicted in 2002 that the Semantic Web would "foster global collaborations among people with diverse cultural perspectives", but the project never seems to have really taken off.

In February 2004, Sweden led the world in Internet penetration, with 76.9 percent of people connected to the Internet. The world average is 11.1 per cent.

The top visited websites in February2004, including affiliated sites, were Yahoo!, MSN, the Warner Network, EBay, Google, Lycos and About.com.

The search engine "Lycos" is named for Lycosidae, the Latin name for the wolf spider family.
The US International Broadcasting Bureau created a proxy service to allow Chinese, Iraians and other 'oppressed' people to circumvent their national firewalls, relaying forbidden pages behind silicon curtains.

Lurking is to read through mailing lists or news groups and get a feel of the topic before posting one's own messages.

SRS stands for Shared Registry Server. The central system for all accredited registrars to access, register and control domain names.

WAIS stands for 'Wide Area Information Servers' - a commercial software package that allow the indexing of huge quantities of information, the makes those indices searchable across the Internet.

An anonymiser is a privacy service that allows a user to visit Web sites without allowing anyone to gather information about which sites they visit.

Archie is an information system offering an electronic directory service for locating information residing on anonymous FTP sites.

On the Internet, a 'bastion host' is the only host computer that a company allows to be addressed directly from the public network.

'Carnivore' is the Internet surveillance system developed by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who developed it to monitor the electronic transmissions of criminal suspects.

Did you know that the original URL of Yahoo! was http://akebono.stanford.edu/ ?

Developed at the University of Nevada, Veronica is a constantly updated database of teh names of almost every menu item on thousands of gopher servers.

The Electrohippies Collective is an international group of 'hacktivists' based in Oxfordshire, England.

UIML (User Interface Markup Language) is a descriptive language that lets you create a Web page that can be sent to any kind of interface device.

In Internet terminology, a demo is a non-interactive multimedia presentation, the computer world's equivalent of a music video.

Did you know that the name of the famous search engine AltaVista came into existence when someone accidentally read and suggested the word 'Vista' on an unclean whiteboard as 'Alta Vista'?

Boeing was the first airline to discover the Y2K problem, way back in 1993.

Did you know that Domain registration was free until an announcement by the NAtional Science Foundation on 14th September, 1995, changed it?

The Internet was initially called the 'Galactic network' in memos written by MIT's J C R Licklider in 1962.

Shokyu Ishiko, a doctorate in agriculture and chief priest of Daioh Temple in Kyoto has created an online virtual temple which will perform memorial services for lost information.

A 55 kg laddu was made for Lord Venkateswara at Trumala as a Y2K prayer offering.

The morning after Internet Explorer 4 was released, certain mischievous Microsoft workers left a 10 by 12 foot letter 'e' and a balloon with the message, "We love you", on Netscape front lawn.

If you were a resident of Tongo, a monarchy in the southwest Pacific, you could own domains as cool as 'mail.to' and 'head.to'.

The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) began the administration of Internet IP address in North and South America in MArch 1998.

The testbed for the Internet's new addressing system, IPv6, is called the 6bone.

The first Internet worm was created by Robert T.Morris, Jr, and attacked more than 6000 Internet hosts.

According to The Economist magazine, the first truly electronic bank on the Internet, called First Virtual Holdings, was opened by Lee Stein in 1994.

The French Culture Ministry has banned the word 'e-mail' in all government ministries, documents, publications and Web sites, because 'e-mail' is an English word. They prefer to use the term 'courriel'.

The German police sell used patrol cars over the Internet, because earlier auctions fetched low prices and only a few people ever showed up.

Rob Glasser's company, Progressive Networks, launched the RealAudio system on April 10, 1995.

'Broswer safe colours' refer to the 216 colours that are rendered the same way in both the PC and Mac operating systems.

Though the world Wide Web was born in 1989 at CERN in Switzerland, CERN is mainly involved in research for particle physics.

The first computer company to register for a domain name was Digital Equipment Corporation.

The 'Dilbert Zone' Web site was the first syndicated comic strip site available on the Internet.

Butler Jeeves of the Internet site AskJeeves.com made its debut as a large helium balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in 2000.

Sun Microsystems sponsors NetDay, an effort to wire American public schools to the Internet, with help from the US government.

In Beijing, the Internet community has coined the word 'Chortal' as a shortened version of 'Chinese portal'.

Telnet is one of the oldest forms of Internet connections. Today, it is used primarily to access online databases.

Domain names can be really sell at high prices! The most expensive domain name was 'business.com', which was bought by eCompanies for $7.5 million in 1999.

The first ever ISP was CompuServe. It still exists, under AOL Time Warner.

On an average, each person receives 26.4 e-mails a day.

Ray Tomlinson, a scientist from Cambrige, introduced electronic mail in 1972. He used the @ to distinguish between the sender's name and network name in the e-mail address.

Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) was designed in 1973.

The Apple iTunes music store was introduced in the spring of 2003. It allows people to download songs for an affordable 99 cents each.

Satyam Online become the first private ISP in December 1998 to offer Internet connections in India.

The number of UK Internet users increase by an estimated 75 percent each year.

The Internet is the third-most used advertising medium in the world, closely catching up with traditional local newspapers and Yellow Pages.

It took 13 years for television to reach 50 million users- it took the Internet less than 4 years.

As of now, there are over 260 million people with Internet access worldwide.

1 out of 6 people used the Internet in North America and Europe, as per a 1999 survey.
The average computer user blinks 7 times a minute.

In 1946, the Merriam Webster Dictionary defined computer as 'a person who tabulates numbers; accountant; actuary; bookkeeper.'

An estimated 2.5 billion hours were wasted online last year as people waited for pages to download, according to a study sponsored by Nortel Networks.

AOL says spam is the number one complaint of its customers, and that it has to block over one billion unsolicited e-mails every day.

In 2002, the average Internet user received 3.7 spam messages per day. The total rose to 6.2 spam messages per day in 2002. By 2007, it is expected to reach 830 messages per day.

A terminology industry research firm called Basex says that unsolicited e-mail cost $ 20 billion in lost time and expenses worldwide in 2000.

In 2003 an Atlanta- base ISP called Earthlink won a lawsuit worth $16.4 million (US) against a spammer in Buffalo NY, and a $25 million (US) lawsuit against a spammer in Tennessee.