Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Shadows

Unearthing a few small stories lurking in the shadows of bigger news on a sunny Friday morning.

Feral: The rise of an alarming new trend in the UK, as dogs are increasingly being used as weapons by Britain's new generation of thugs.
It's been obvious to those working in animal welfare that this has been an increasing trend, and recent statistics produced by the RSPCA put an objective slant on the issue. Sixty-six per cent of all calls to the RSPCA about dog fighting last year involved youths fighting their animals in public places. This compares with 37 per cent in 2007.
... The figures tie in with the increasing trend amongst teenagers and young males for using stereotypically macho-type dogs as weapons of intimidation in urban areas of England and Wales.
The problem isn't limited to London. Areas including Merseyside, West Yorkshire, and the West Midlands have also seen a trend for young people using dogs to intimidate or attack other people and animals.

Initiative: The case for private solutions to the public problem of Somali piracy.
The international effort to combat piracy involves many navies operating in separate alliances, working with different rules of engagement in poorly coordinated operations. As governments fail, private security companies move to fill the void.
One such company, US-based Phoenix Intelligence Support, initiated a private sector conference in Cairo this week to discuss what it calls "real solutions" to the piracy threat. Speaking on phone from Cairo, Phoenix managing director William Fielding said so far a group of companies operating almost 1,000 ships have expressed interest in his protection services.
"The ideal situation would be to never have a pirate come on board a ship at all," Mr. Fielding said. "We are looking at the most humane ways to deter anyone from getting on board the ship, but we need to be true to our customers as well."
Mr Fielding said his company plans to install teams on board vessels, armed with high pressure hoses, long range acoustical devices and, as a last resort, conventional weaponry. The company also intends to employ airplanes to spot pirates at sea.
"We want our philosophy to be, just keep them off board the ship the gentlest way possible."
Mr Fielding argues the private sector can thwart pirates in a simple and cost-effective manner, while navies lack the resources to patrol enough ocean.

Synaesthesia: Hearing shapes? Tasting sounds? Just how separate do our senses remain as we navigate our way through life's challenges? Interesting article studying our capacity to blend sensory experiences together when we try and figure out what's going on around us.
It seems our brains may use these synaesthetic associations, says Professor Spence, "to combine all of the different sensory cues that are hitting our receptors at any one time".
"If there are lots of other visual events at the same time, for example, if I'm at a noisy party, how do I know which face goes with which voice?" he asked.

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