Hugh Pickens writes writes: "America loves bacon. Now CNBC reports that Proctor and Gamble has announced the newest addition to its product line with "Scope Bacon," the mouthwash that tastes like bacon while killing 99.9% of bad breath germs and keeping your breath minty fresh five times longer than brushing alone. According to their press release a synthetic bacon flavoring is infused in the unflavored mouthwash formula during the manufacturing process and "no pigs are harmed during the making of Scope Bacon." Scope's commercial on YouTube describes previous "crowning achievements of bacon." It's first crowning achievement? Being bacon. Other achievements include carbonated bacon, "spreadable bacon," bacon shaving cream, and a bacon Kevin Bacon portrait. Now comes the bacon mouthwash, "for breath that sizzles.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Mercury News reports that Nolan Bushnell, who ran video game pioneer Atari in the early 1970s, says he always saw something special in Steve Jobs, and that Atari's refusal to be corralled by the status quo was one of the reasons Jobs went to work there in 1974 as an unkempt, contemptuous 19-year-old. "The truth is that very few companies would hire Steve, even today," says Bushnell. "Why? Because he was an outlier. To most potential employers, he'd just seem like a jerk in bad clothing." While at Atari, Bushnell broke the corporate mold, creating a template that is now common through much of Silicon Valley. He allowed employees to turn Atari's lobby into a cross between a video game arcade and the Amazon jungle. He started holding keg parties and hiring live bands to play for his employees after work. He encouraged workers to nap during their shifts, reasoning that a short rest would stimulate more creativity when they were awake. He also promised a summer sabbatical every seven years. Bushnell's newly released book, "Finding The Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Hire, Keep and Nurture Creative Talent," serves as a primer on how to ensure a company doesn't turn into a mind-numbing bureaucracy that smothers existing employees and scares off rule-bending innovators such as Jobs. The basics: Make work fun; weed out the naysayers; celebrate failure, and then learn from it; allow employees to take short naps during the day; and don't shy away from hiring talented people just because they look sloppy or lack college credentials. Bushnell is convinced that there are all sorts of creative and unconventional people out there working at companies today. The problem is that corporate managers don't recognize them. Or when they do, they push them to conform rather than create. "Some of the best projects to ever come out of Atari or Chuck E. Cheese's were from high school dropouts, college dropouts," says Bushnell, "One guy had been in jail.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Guardian reports that Cuban programmers have unveiled a new 3D video game that puts a revolutionary twist on gaming, letting players recreate decisive clashes from the 1959 uprising in which many of their grandparents fought. "The player identifies with the history of Cuba," says Haylin Corujo, head of video game studies for Cuba's Youth Computing Club and leader of the team of developers who created Gesta Final – roughly translated as "Final Heroic Deed". "You can be a participant in the battles that were fought in the war from '56 to '59." The game begins with the user joining the 82 rebels who in 1956 sailed to Cuba from Mexico aboard the Granma. Players then fight their way through swamps shoulder-to-shoulder with bearded guerrillas clad in the olive green of Fidel Castro and Ernesto "Che" Guevara to topple 1950s Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. The game lets you pick from three player profiles, one in an olive hat similar to the one Fidel Castro was known for, another wearing a Guevara-style beret and the last with the kind of helmet worn by the ill-fated Camilo Cienfuegos in many revolution-era photographs. Rene Vargas, a 29-year-old gamer who tried his hand at "Gesta Final" when it was presented at a technology fair in Havana last week, says the graphics were surprisingly sophisticated. "Bearing in mind the level of technical support there is in Cuba, it looks pretty good," says Vargas. There are about 783,000 computers in this country of some 11 million inhabitants, according to government statistics from 2011. Private ownership of computers is low, but many Cubans access them at work, school or cyber cafes. "We developed (it) keeping in mind the purchasing power and reality of Cubans," says Corujo. "It doesn't require incredible technological features.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "BBC reports that the Brazilian Association of Supermarkets, representing 2,800 members, says it will no longer sell meat from cattle raised in the rainforest, a step they hope will cut down on the illegal use of rainforest where huge swathes have been turned into land for pasture and soy plantations. Public Prosecutor Daniel Cesar Azeredo Avelino says consumers will benefit from the deal. "The agreement foresees a series of specific actions to inform the consumer about the origin of the meat both through the internet and at the supermarkets," says Azeredo. "We hope that the big chains will quickly take action." The supermarkets' pledge comes as part of an initiative by the Public Prosecutor's Office to deprive the meat producers of outlets and an internet campaign aimed at informing Brazilian consumers of the ethics of boycotting meat from Amazonian sources is also planned. Brazil's Greenpeace advocacy group says the growth of the cattle industry in the Amazon is the single biggest cause of deforestation. For decades now, Brazilian authorities have battled illegal logging and other activities that continue to reduce the rainforest and in January the Brazilian government announced it plans to prepare an inventory of the trees in the Amazon rainforest. The Forestry Ministry said the census would take four years to complete and would provide detailed data on tree species, soils and biodiversity in the world's largest rainforest. The last such exhaustive survey was conducted more than three decades ago but didn't help stop deforestation."
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Richard Gray reports that scientists have found a way to help anyone plagued by those annoying tunes that lodge themselves inside our heads and repeat on an endless loop — when snippets of a catchy song inexplicably play like a broken record in your brain. The solution can be to solve some tricky anagrams to force the intrusive music out of your working memory allowing the music to be replaced with other more amenable thoughts. “The key is to find something that will give the right level of challenge,” says Dr Ira Hyman, a music psychologist at Western Washington University who conducted the research. “If you are cognitively engaged, it limits the ability of intrusive songs to enter your head." Hyman says that the problem, called involuntary memory retrieval, is that something we can do automatically like driving or walking means you are not using all of your cognitive resource, so there is plenty of space left for that internal jukebox to start playing. Dr Vicky Williamson, a music psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, says that the most likely songs to get stuck are those that are easy to hum along to or sing and found that that Lady Gaga was the most common artist to get stuck in people’s heads, with four of her catchy pop songs being the most likely to become earworms – Alejandro, Bad Romance, Just Dance and Paparazzi. Other surveys have reported Abba songs such as Waterloo, Changes by David Bowie or the Beatles’ Hey Jude."
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Jared Serbu report that the Department of Veterans Affairs says it is determined to eliminate the backlog of nearly 630,000 disability claims and says the number will be down to zero by 2015, even though the current backlog includes 30,000 more cases than it did a year ago. "There are many people, including myself, who are losing patience as we continue to hear the same excuses from VA about increased workload and increased complexity of claims," says Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. Members of Congress have zeroed in on figures that appear to show that despite an influx of new claims adjudication personnel, the number of cases handled per full-time equivalent staff member is declining. "The data I have says that in 1997, we were doing 136 claims per field employee. Today that number is 73," says Rep. Kevin McCarthy. The VA's Allison Hickey says the VA is now taking major steps it's never taken before to speed up the claims process and that technology will be a major contributor to changing the trajectory of the backlog. VA is currently in the process of deploying its Veterans Benefits Management System to its field offices throughout the country.that will allow all new claims be processed electronically. "[Veterans] can, today, go online and submit a claim in an interface that's a lot like TurboTax," says Hickey. "They can upload their own medical evidence, and it goes directly into our paperless IT system." In addition the Pentagon has agreed for the first time to provide VA with a verified, complete package of medical records when a service member is discharged from one of the military services. "They're certifying to me that they have all the service member's medical evidence in that one record so that I'm not doing what I'm doing now, which is exhaustively going out and searching for records that we don't own and never owned in the beginning.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Gosia Wonzniacka reports that farmers in Fresno County, California, supported by university experts and a $5 million state grant, are set to start construction of the nation's first commercial-scale bio-refinery to turn beets into biofuel with farmers saying the so-called 'energy beets' can deliver ethanol yields more than twice those of corn per acre because beets have a higher sugar content per ton than corn. "We're trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to shift our transportation fuels to a lower carbon content," says Robert Weisenmiller. "The beets have the potential to provide that." Europe already has more than a dozen such plants, so the bio-refinery would resurrect a crop that has nearly vanished. The birthplace of the sugar beet industry, California once grew over 330,000 acres of the gnarly root vegetable (PDF), with 11 sugar mills processing the beets but as sugar prices collapsed, the mills shut down. So what’s the difference between sugar beets and energy beets? To produce table sugar, producers are looking for sucrose, sucrose and more sucrose. Energy beets, on the other hand, contain multiple sugars, meaning sucrose as well as glucose, fructose and other minor sugars, called invert sugars. To create energy beet hybrids, plant breeders select for traits such as high sugar yield, not just sucrose production. America's first commercial energy beet bio-refinery will be capable of producing 40 million gallons of ethanol annually but the bio-refinery will also bring jobs and investment putting about 80 beet growers and 35,000 acres back into production. "This project is about rural development. It's about bringing a better tax base to this area and bringing jobs for the people," says farmer John Diener,"
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Jack Mirkinson reports that Pew Research Center's annual "State of the Media" study found that, since 2007, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC have all cut back sharply on the amount of actual reporting found on their airwaves. Cheaper, more provocative debate or interview segments have largely filled the void. Pew found that Fox News spent 55 percent of the time on opinion and 45 percent of the time on reporting. Critics of that figure would likely contend that the network's straight news reporting tilts conservative, but it is true that Fox News has more shows that feature reporting packages than MSNBC does. According to Pew MSNBC made the key decision to reprogram itself in prime time as a liberal counterweigh to the Fox News Channel’s conservative nighttime lineup. The new MSNBC strategy and lineup were accompanied by a substantial cut in interview time and sharply increased airtime devoted to edited packages. The Pew Research examination of programming in December 2012 found MSNBC by far the most opinionated of the three networks, with nearly 90% of MSNBC's primetime coverage coming in the form of opinion or commentary. "Given the current liberal approach at nighttime at MSNBC, it’s hard to remember that back in 2007, the prime-time airwaves were split between liberals (Keith Olbermann and, to a lesser extent, Chris Matthews) and conservatives (Joe Scarborough and Tucker Carlson). Now, Al Sharpton, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz are linchpins in an ideologically reconstructed liberal lineup.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Christopher Williams reports that Frank Abagnale, the celebrated con man, confidence trickster, check forger, impostor, and escape artist portrayed in the Steven Spielberg film 'Catch Me If You Can,' warns that data posted on Facebook is an open invitation to identity thieves. "If you tell me your date of birth and where you're born [on Facebook] I'm 98 per cent [of the way] to stealing your identity," says Abagnale who escaped from police custody twice, once from a taxiing airliner and once from a US federal penitentiary, before he was 21 years old. "Never state your date of birth and where you were born [on personal profiles], otherwise you are saying 'come and steal my identity'." Abagnale, who now works as a security consultant, was the target of a US federal manhunt in the 1960s as he posed as an airline pilot, doctor and attorney to steal millions of dollars. “What I did 40 years ago as a teenage boy is 4,000 times easier now,” says Abagnale who urged Facebook members to educate themselves and their children about the risks of giving away personal information online. “I have three sons on [Facebook]. I totally understand why people like it. But like every technology you have to teach children, it is an obligation of society to teach them how to use it carefully.”"
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "James Fallows writes that Google has a problem — a problem that it has created itself. Here's the problem. "Google now has a clear enough track record of trying out, and then canceling, "interesting" new software that I have no idea how long Keep will be around. When Google launched its Google Health service five years ago, it had an allure like Keep's: here is the one place you could store your prescription info, test readings, immunizations, and so on and know that you could get at them. That's how I used it — until Google cancelled this "experiment" last year. Same with Google Reader, and all the other products in the Google Graveyard that Slate produced last week." Fallow adds that he trusts Google for search, the core of how it stays in business. Similarly for Maps and Earth, which have tremendous public-good side effects but also are integral to Google's business. Plus Gmail and Drive, which keep you in the Google ecosystem. "But do I trust Google with Keep? No. The idea looks promising, and you could see how it could end up as an integral part of the Google Drive strategy," concludes Fallows. "Until I know a reason that it's in Google's long-term interest to keep Keep going, I'm not going to invest time in it or lodge info there.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "After the Watergate scandal taught Richard Nixon the consequences of recording White House conversations none of his successors has dared to do it. But Nixon wasn't the first. He got the idea from his predecessor Lyndon Johnson, who felt there was an obligation to allow historians to eventually eavesdrop on his presidency. Now David Taylor reports on BBC that the latest set of declassified tapes of President Lyndon Johnson's telephone calls show that by the time of the Presidential election in November 1968, LBJ had evidence the Nixon had sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks — or, as he put it, that Nixon was guilty of treason and had "blood on his hands". It begins in the summer of 1968. Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war that he knew would derail his campaign. Nixon therefore set up a clandestine back-channel to the South Vietnamese involving Anna Chennault, a senior campaign adviser. In late October 1968 there were major concessions from Hanoi which promised to allow meaningful talks to get underway in Paris. This was exactly what Nixon feared. Chennault was despatched to the South Vietnamese embassy with a clear message: the South Vietnamese government should withdraw from the talks, refuse to deal with Johnson, and if Nixon was elected, they would get a much better deal. Meanwhile the FBI had bugged the ambassador's phone and transcripts of Chennault's calls were sent to the White House. Johnson was told by Defense Secretary Clark Clifford that the interference was illegal and threatened the chance for peace. The president gave Humphrey enough information to sink his opponent but by then, a few days from the election, Humphrey had been told he had closed the gap with Nixon and would win the presidency so Humphrey decided it would be too disruptive to the country to accuse the Republicans of treason, if the Democrats were going to win anyway. In the end Nixon won by less than 1% of the popular vote, escalated the war into Laos and Cambodia with the loss of an additional 22,000 American lives, and finally settled for a peace agreement in 1973 that was within grasp in 1968."