Monday, January 26, 2009

Mo. neo-Nazis join `Adopt-A-Highway' trash cleanup

By MARGARET STAFFORD, Associated Press Writer

Traffic passes by an Adopt-A-Highway sign along U.S. Highway 160 in Springfield, AP – Traffic passes by an Adopt-A-Highway sign along U.S. Highway 160 in Springfield, Mo., Thursday, Jan. …

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A neo-Nazi group has joined the state's "Adopt-A-Highway" volunteer litter pickup program, taking advantage of a free speech court fight won four years ago by the Ku Klux Klan.

The Springfield unit of the National Socialist Movement has committed to cleaning up trash along a half-mile section of Highway 160 near the Springfield city limits.

Two signs noting the group's membership in the Adopt-A-Highway program went up in October but drew attention only recently when the group picked up litter as part of a gathering in Springfield.

The state says it had no way to reject the group's application. A 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling arising from a similar effort by the Ku Klux Klan says membership in the Adopt-A-Highway program can't be denied because of a group's political beliefs. At the time, the state could reject applications for the program from groups that denied membership based on race or had a history of violence.

"It's a First Amendment thing, and we can't discriminate as long as they pick up the trash," said Bob Edwards, a spokesman for the transportation department's office in Springfield.

The state can deny an organization's application only if it has members who have been convicted of violent criminal activity within the past 10 years.

The NSM Springfield unit decided to take part in the highway project because it wants to clean up the community, said Ariana Glass, a 16-year-old member of the youth division of the group.

"We wanted to prove that we're not out here just to have fun, we want to make the community look good," Glass said.

The group heard both honks of support and jeers when about 30 members and supporters picked up trash Saturday. Greene County sheriff's deputies ticketed one man who group members said became threatening but there were no other incidents, Glass said.

Members of the highway cleanup program are required to clean up trash at least four times a year. Edwards said about 600 groups pick up trash in the 12 counties surrounding Springfield.

Edwards said his department had received only one phone call asking why the National Socialist group was allowed to adopt the highway. Louise Whall, spokeswoman for the city of Springfield, was not aware of the group's action until contacted by the AP, but said the city had no jurisdiction because it's a state program.

Most other states have programs similar to Missouri's. Ten states — Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Vermont — had joined in filing a brief backing Missouri's side in the court fight.

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No Snickering: That Road Sign Means Something Else


CRAPSTONE, England — When ordering things by telephone, Stewart Pearce tends to take a proactive approach to the inevitable question “What is your address?”

Hazel Thompson for The New York Times

Pratts Bottom, a village in Kent, is doubly cursed because “prat” is slang for buffoon.

John Nguyen/Ross Parry Agency

If you’re smirking at this sign, you’re mispronouncing the town’s name. It’s PENNIS-tun.

He lays it out straight, so there is no room for unpleasant confusion. “I say, ‘It’s spelled “crap,” as in crap,’ ” said Mr. Pearce, 61, who has lived in Crapstone, a one-shop country village in Devon, for decades.

Disappointingly, Mr. Pearce has so far been unable to parlay such delicate encounters into material gain, as a neighbor once did.

“Crapstone,” the neighbor said forthrightly, Mr. Pearce related, whereupon the person on the other end of the telephone repeated it to his co-workers and burst out laughing. “They said, ‘Oh, we thought it didn’t really exist,’ ” Mr. Pearce said, “and then they gave him a free something.”

In the scale of embarrassing place names, Crapstone ranks pretty high. But Britain is full of them. Some are mostly amusing, like Ugley, Essex; East Breast, in western Scotland; North Piddle, in Worcestershire; and Spanker Lane, in Derbyshire.

Others evoke images that may conflict with residents’ efforts to appear dignified when, for example, applying for jobs.

These include Crotch Crescent, Oxford; Titty Ho, Northamptonshire; Wetwang, East Yorkshire; Slutshole Lane, Norfolk; and Thong, Kent. And, in a country that delights in lavatory humor, particularly if the word “bottom” is involved, there is Pratts Bottom, in Kent, doubly cursed because “prat” is slang for buffoon.

As for Penistone, a thriving South Yorkshire town, just stop that sophomoric snickering.

“It’s pronounced ‘PENNIS-tun,’ ” Fiona Moran, manager of the Old Vicarage Hotel in Penistone, said over the telephone, rather sharply. When forced to spell her address for outsiders, she uses misdirection, separating the tricky section into two blameless parts: “p-e-n” — pause — “i-s-t-o-n-e.”

Several months ago, Lewes District Council in East Sussex tried to address the problem of inadvertent place-name titillation by saying that “street names which could give offense” would no longer be allowed on new roads.

“Avoid aesthetically unsuitable names,” like Gaswork Road, the council decreed. Also, avoid “names capable of deliberate misinterpretation,” like Hoare Road, Typple Avenue, Quare Street and Corfe Close.

(What is wrong with Corfe Close, you might ask? The guidelines mention the hypothetical residents of No. 4, with their unfortunate hypothetical address, “4 Corfe Close.” To find the naughty meaning, you have to repeat the first two words rapidly many times, preferably in the presence of your fifth-grade classmates.)

The council explained that it was only following national guidelines and that it did not intend to change any existing lewd names.

Still, news of the revised policy raised an outcry.

“Sniggering at double entendres is a loved and time-honored tradition in this country,” Carol Midgley wrote in The Times of London. Ed Hurst, a co-author, with Rob Bailey, of “Rude Britain” and “Rude UK,” which list arguably offensive place names — some so arguably offensive that, unfortunately, they cannot be printed here — said that many such communities were established hundreds of years ago and that their names were not rude at the time.

“Place names and street names are full of history and culture, and it’s only because language has evolved over the centuries that they’ve wound up sounding rude,” Mr. Hurst said in an interview.

Mr. Bailey, who grew up on Tumbledown Dick Road in Oxfordshire, and Mr. Hurst got the idea for the books when they read about a couple who bought a house on Butt Hole Road, in South Yorkshire.

The name most likely has to do with the spot’s historic function as a source of water, a water butt being a container for collecting water. But it proved to be prohibitively hilarious.

“If they ordered a pizza, the pizza company wouldn’t deliver it, because they thought it was a made-up name,” Mr. Hurst said. “People would stand in front of the sign, pull down their trousers and take pictures of each other’s naked buttocks.”

The couple moved away.

The people in Crapstone have not had similar problems, although their sign is periodically stolen by word-loving merrymakers. And their village became a stock joke a few years ago, when a television ad featuring a prone-to-swearing soccer player named Vinnie Jones showed Mr. Jones’s car breaking down just under the Crapstone sign.

In the commercial, Mr. Jones tries to alert the towing company to his location while covering the sign and trying not to say “crap” in front of his young daughter.

The consensus in the village is that there is a perfectly innocent reason for the name “Crapstone,” though it is unclear what that is. Theories put forth by various residents the other day included “place of the rocks,” “a kind of twisting of the original word,” “something to do with the soil” and “something to do with Sir Francis Drake,” who lived nearby.

Jacqui Anderson, a doctor in Crapstone who used to live in a village called Horrabridge, which has its own issues, said that she no longer thought about the “crap” in “Crapstone.”

Still, when strangers ask where she’s from, she admitted, “I just say I live near Plymouth.”

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Want better sex, fellas? Have a stiff drink

By Clair Weaver

Drinks anyone? ... research shows that alcohol improves men's sexual performance.
IT gives the phrase "a stiff drink" a whole new meaning: Australian researchers have made the surprise discovery that alcohol improves, rather than damages, men's performance in the bedroom.
They hope the finding, which flies in the face of conventional belief, will reassure men who worry about the affects of drinking on their sex lives.

Until now, it has been widely believed alcohol consumption could cause erectile dysfunction, commonly called "brewer's droop''.

But a study of 1580 Australian men has shown the reverse may be true, with drinkers reporting as many as 30 per cent fewer problems than teetotallers.

Even binge drinkers had lower rates of erectile dysfunction than those who never drank, although this type of drinking can cause other health problems.

Lead study author Dr Kew-Kim Chew, of Western Australia's Keogh Institute for Medical Research, told The Sunday Telegraph men who drank within safe guidelines appeared to have the best erectile function.

"We found that, compared to those who have never touched alcohol, many people do benefit from some alcohol, including some people who drink outside the guidelines,'' Dr Chew said.

Dr Chew said he had patients with erectile dysfunction who had been told to stop drinking completely.

The latest finding should prevent them compounding the problem by feeling "guilty and stressed'' about present or past drinking, he said.

After other risk factors were excluded, weekend drinkers, high-risk drinkers and those who exceeded alcohol-intake guidelines had lower rates of erectile dysfunction than those who drank one day a week or less. Ex-drinkers, however, had the highest risk.

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Taking a bite into fast-food ads on Twitter

The postings to the Whopper Virgins Twitter account aren't what you might expect from a major corporation like Burger King.

"Gained like 5 lbs. in 1 week. I don't understand. ... At least I have my whoppers to keep my spirits up," a message posted a few weeks ago read. "Lost my virginity to a whopper. Feeling like a slut," read one of the earliest tweets.

As you may have gathered, this isn't affiliated with the Burger King company or its marketing team, which is running the TV campaign in which foreigners document their first encounters with the hamburger. The Whopper Virgins account is maintained by a Milwaukee man who calls himself Paul. (He refused to give his full name to protect himself from potential legal recourse.)

Whopper Virgins video. (Credit: Burger King)

And he does seem to have reason for concern. Last month, theBKlounge, which looks much more like a legitimate account run by Burger King, sent a public message to Whopper Virgins, saying, "CEASE AND DESIST. UNAUTHORIZED USE OF TRADEMARK. What is your motivation by the way ... ?"

Paul hadn't seen the tweet until I pointed it out to him Thursday. "It looks very unofficial," he said. "I've never had a cease and desist presented to me, but I would imagine it doesn't normally look like that. ... It seems like they're joking around."

He was right. TheBKlounge account, just like Paul's own, is simply another overzealous burger fan. A Burger King spokesperson said, "We're flattered the King has fans on Twitter. While we appreciate the love, we do want to clarify those twittering are unofficial members of the Kingdom, and not the King or his Court."

And since that 89-character legal warning, theBKlounge has begun sending Twitter messages ...

... to Whopper Virgins, conversing casually and rebroadcasting some of the Whopper Virgins' messages (a practice known as re-tweeting).

Paul says he has no ulterior motives behind his project. "I'm just doing it for fun," he said. "I have nothing against Burger King."

"I think their commercials are funny. I laugh at them. So, I hope they find some humor in what I'm doing, too."

The idea for Paul's pet project came from his friend, Ryan Thompson, a social media strategist from Milwaukee. This type of pop culture spoofing is a way that consumers are taking a company's advertising to the next level, Thompson said.

"It's just part of the conversation -- open communication," he said. "All we're doing is continuing that conversation in a different forum."

Thompson was so impressed with Paul's success with Whopper Virgins -- it has amassed 422 followers --that he started his own version. The 3conomics account on Twitter, based on the Wendy's TV ad campaign, hosts fewer satirical jabs at the burger franchise. It occasionally interacts publicly with Whopper Virgins.

Thompson says he's also doing it for fun and has no intention of troubling the fast-food company. "There's no ill will," he said. "I'm a fan of the Biggie Fries."

With global communication tools within the social media realm becoming so prevalent, Thompson says that for companies to have a truly successful marketing plan, they must talk with the consumer, not to them.

"I believe you have to be part of the conversation, or you're not saying anything at all," he said.

But when consumers are in a way assuming the identities of these corporations, it becomes more difficult to filter the true company-consumer interactions from the fake ones. But at least they're not trying to extort, as in the case of the hijacked Howard Stern account.

The Twitter corporate account verification tool that co-founder Biz Stone said the company was working on a month ago could really come in handy right about now.

-- Mark Milian

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Domino's and Subway's fight turns nasty

jerry jerry.jpg

In the food hierarchy, Domino's and Subway's feud is like watching two Jerry Springer guests beat the living shit out of each other: You have no vested interest in who wins, you just want it to be entertaining.

This feud just got more entertaining.

It had to do with Domino's taste test comparison commercials. I've already written how commercials are illogical but Subway went further and said the ads were unfair. So Domino's CEO, David Brandon, said screw them. Last night, in a new commercial, he lit a cease-and- desist letter from Subway on fire.

As for why Subway thinks the ads are unfair, it has to do with the methodology of taste tests. According to Subway's CEO, Domino's only "did the comparison against three sandwiches and have written the ads to suggest that the results are relevant across the whole product line" and didn't compare competing sandwiches to each other.

Subway has yet to respond. But if the company is smart it will keep the lawyers out of this and have Jarrod challenge Brandon to a fight. Jarrod has been seen in YMCAs of late so it's possible he's getting in shape for something.

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Five hours of community service equal to one tall coffee

By Owen Morris in News

starbucks in.pngHow much is community service worth to you? How about prison-like-wages of 35 cents per hour? That's the cost of giving five hours to community service in exchange for one free tall coffee from Starbucks ($1.75).

Customers who fill out cards in Starbucks' stores pledging to volunteer five hours of time will receive one free tall coffee today through Sunday.

It's part of Starbucks' plan to get in on Obama's inauguration good vibes. They've teamed up with the HandsOn Network in an effort to "raise pledges in excess of one million hours of service from all over the country." HandsOn has a bunch of recommendations on its Web site, ranging from "Make New Kids on the Block survival kits" which are packages for new children in the neighborhood that have stuff like welcome cards, school calenders, maps of places to go and school supplies, etc. More involved work includes a self-organizing kit. (Warning! Zip File.)

While I am not always a big fan of Starbucks initiatives I do like the HandsOn Network and let's face it-- if anyone in this country has the time and money to give to community service, it's people who can still afford Starbucks. A free tall coffee may seem stingy but the coffee is not the point. It's just a way to get people invested the way you use doughnuts to get people to come to boring but important meetings. There's even a special Web site called Pledge Five for people to track their hours and encourage their friends to volunteer.

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to give more to my community and knowing that I've got some free coffee coming just makes that resolution a little creamier. (I would have said sweeter but I don't take sugar in my coffee.)

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5 Things You Didn't Know: Human Hair

Haircut - Credit:

By Ryan McKee

Human hair is a simple thing made of keratin and dead skin cells. Its function is to prevent heat loss from a person’s head, yet it also causes women to weep, men to buy Porsches and people to spend billions each year on its upkeep.
Throughout history, humans have used their hair to represent their class, indicate religious faith and piss off their parents. Madonna changes her hair to represent each comeback, while Donald Trump represents his wealth with a comb-over made from 40 kt gold. Samson used his hair to store his power, while Rapunzel used her hair to sneak the prince into her tower (how early teenage rebellion began).

Such a simple thing as human hair leads to all kinds of complexities. Here are examples in which hair is more than just a dandruff jungle, so check out these 5 things you didn’t know about human hair.

1- Hair can clean up oil spills

When the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill occurred in the San Francisco Bay, a group of eco-friendly volunteers used mats of human hair to clean the beach. Hair absorbs oil from the water, working as a natural sponge. The innovator of this idea, Phil McCrory, said he saw footage of oil-soaked otters after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and his harebrained plan was hatched. He collected human hair clippings from local salons, stuffed them into a pair of his wife’s pantyhose and voila: oil mop.

After the oil is collected, oyster mushrooms are added to the mat. They absorb the oil and convert the environmental threat into nontoxic compost. Environmentalists would like these hair mats carried on oil tankers, so in case of a disaster the mats can be thrown in to start working immediately.

2- Human hair is used in soy sauce

Finding hair in your food can ruin a meal. But, what if your food was made of hair -- or at least your condiment? The Internet Journal of Toxicology reported that the Chinese company Hongshuai Soy Sauce marketed their product as “using the latest bioengineering technology.” Priced lower than the competitors’ soy sauces, Hongshuai became popular on the shelves of Chinese stores. However, an investigation by journalists found the company didn’t use amino acids derived from soy and wheat, but amino acids derived from human hair swept off of barber shop floors. One person’s recycling is another person’s retching over a toilet.

3- Beards were taxed

Peter the Great is cited as one of the greatest rulers from the 17th century, and he was a great friend to Russia. However, he was no friend to the beard. The emperor wanted Russia to become westernized, so he required all of his courtiers, state officials and the military to adopt western fashions and to shave their beards. This decree spread through the country until the only Russians exempted were peasants and priests. If a man refused to shave, he had to pay an annual beard tax of 100 rubles. Henry the VIII imposed a similar tax in England during part of his reign. However, as a fickle king who beheaded wives he no longer liked, he later grew a beard himself and ended the English beard tax.

4- Redheads may be aliens

There’s a conspiracy theory that redheads are alien-human hybrids. Think about it: Why did several kings and queens of Europe have red hair even though, percentage-wise, redheads are fairly rare? Why do so many Southies have red hair and speak a different language than other Boston locals?

It sounds crazy, but carrottops do have biological differences other than appearance. Redheaded women bleed longer, which is why doctors make special preparations for them in childbirth. They also have the smallest hair count on their heads, about 90,000 as opposed to 140,000 on people with blond and brown hair. That’s why Kick a Ginger Day began, just to keep these possible aliens on their toes.

5- Human hair was once used as jewelry

During the Victorian era, women often wore jewelry made from the hair of deceased loved ones. Since there were no photos of dear old grandma, her gray hairs paid homage. While it started as just a way to remember, hair art blossomed and become popular fashion. This may have been the most morbid fashion since Amazonians wore shrunken heads around their necks. To this day, there are a number of websites selling antique hair art and they will even fashion a new piece from a dead shih tzu’s hair. Haven’t these people seen digital cameras?

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Text messages could be used to stop stolen cars

By David Millward

Text messages could be used to stop stolen cars
A mobile phone with text message alert Photo: PA

They could be given the power to stop cars remotely as a result of trials being carried out by the Home Office.

It has asked for companies to come up with schemes for "vehicle stopping technology" which would enable officers to stop stolen and getaway cars.

The aim is to cut the number of high speed car chases, which have led to the deaths of officers and civilians.

"If new technology can help police stop vehicles more safely and more effectively then it is right that we look at all the options carefully," the Home Office said.

"We have asked companies to propose possible electronic solutions and we will be in a position to say more once all the options have been properly tested and fully evaluated."

According to Police Review, they could include "intelligent transport systems", commercially available technology which enables owners to use a mobile phone to regain control of their cars when they are stolen.

This tracking system uses satellite navigation to locate a car, whose position is shown on a website. The car is also fitted with a receiver which can receive text messages.

Should the car be stolen the owner – or a company acting on his or her behalf – can use a text message to send instructions to the car's on-board computer.

It can switch on the headlights, sound the horn, slow the car down or – if it is stopped – immobilise it completely.

According to Police Review, officers would welcome access to the technology as an alternative to devices such as "stingers", which they currently use.

Stingers throw spikes into the path of the car, which burst the tyres.

Alan Jones of the Police Federation welcomed the Home Office initiative.

"If the police service can use technology to its benefit to improve policing and ensure it is far safer for both police officers and members of the public, then ultimately we should applaud those developments.

"But we also recognise that it is sensitive area and we need to have a proper debate and discussion about where it may go."

A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers added. "The police service nationally is involved in pursuits which, by their very nature, involve an element of risk, on a daily basis. Safe resolution of pursuits is essential and while current methods of stopping vehicles have proven effective, we must not be complacent.

"The service is constantly looking to improve practices and research technologies which may have the potential to offer new ways of delivering front line policing in a safer, more efficient manner."

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