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Scott Hixson

My heroes are predominately literary figures. Some are authors. All are dead. I like to collect antiquated things. My prized possessions in this world are two typewriters and neither one of them has ink. You could say I like useless things, and you’d be right. Between my typewriters, vinyl, library of yellowing pages and English major I am, in essence, utterly useless. In a past life, I was a drop of ink on page 57 of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None.” I then became a sandy rock and I have not moved since. I often like chain-smoking because I find I would rather worry about killing time than killing myself slowly. I pretend my freckles are constellations. I’ve yet to find any discernible shapes. My teeth are too big for my head. I’m just like everybody else, but stretched out. This has led many to feel like they can criticize, as if skinny people are less conscious about their weight than obese people. I’ve had nicknames ranging from the relatively tame “Tree” to the more absurd, and frankly offensive, “Ethiopian dynamite." I got a brain tattooed on my chest to remind me to think more. It didn’t work. I’ve noticed since I reached manhood that elderly men hit on me more than any other demographic. I can’t quite figure out why. I like ghost stories though I don’t believe in the existence of ghosts. I stole yard gnomes from a neighbor’s garden when I was much younger. I thought I was part of something coined the National Gnome Liberation Front. I’m pretty sure the statute is up for that so I have no qualms. Also, they were mean neighbors. I consider the smell of old books an aphrodisiac, I think it’s the sign of a serious mental condition. I think MDMA is a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream, cinnamon sugar and an Oreo on top on a rainy day. Whisox!

Russian launch failure scraps two multi-million-dollar satellites

The two telecom satellites were intended to provide Indonesia and Russia with advanced telecom capabilities

A Russian launch of two multi-million dollar telecom satellites late Monday resulted in failure, casting doubt on what was once considering a pioneering space industry.

The Russian launch of two satellites, Indonesia’s Telkom-3 and Russia’s Express MD2, was intended to provide both countries with telecom services. However, the botched launch of the Proton rocket stranded both satellites far below their intended orbit.

The error occurred shortly after the rocket’s launch from the Russian-leased Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan late Monday. The reason for the Russian launch failure has been attributed to the premature shut down of the Breeze M hydrazine-fueled rocket engine.

“According to the currently available data, the third burn of the Breeze M main engine occurred as scheduled,” said a statement released by Khrunichev, the Russian contractor for the Proton rocket and the Breeze M upper stage. “However, the engine was cut off within 7 seconds instead of after the nominal 18 minutes and 5 seconds.”

According to tracking data from the U.S. Air Force, the rocket and both satellites reached an orbit ranging in altitude from 165 miles to 3,118 miles with an inclination of 49.9 degrees.

 “The chances that the satellites will separate from the booster and reach the designated orbit are practically non-existent,” according to an industry source who spoke with the state news agency RIA. The source continued to say that further Proton rocket launches will likely be suspended pending an investigation into the failure.

The Telkom-3 satellite was the first satellite Jakarta purchased from Moscow. It was built by Russia’s ISS-Reshetnev and included equipment built by satellite maker Thales Alenia Space. The satellite had the capacity of 42 transponders, designed to contribute to Indonesia’s growing demand for telecommunications services.

The Russian Express MD2 satellite was built by the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre for the Russian Satellite Communications Company (RSCC).

The loss of the two telecom satellites is estimated between $100 million and $150 million, a source within the space industry told Interfax news agency.

The failure of Monday’s Russian launch echoed the 2011 incident that resulted in the loss of the $265-million Express AM-4 communications satellite. That mission also deposited its satellite into the wrong orbit after the Breeze M upper stage lost control of its orientation in space as the result of a programming error.

Industry expert and member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, Yuri Karash spoke of the recent failures, “The last failures to a certain extent undermine Russia’s position as a country that provides space launch services.”

Karash described Russia’s space industry as “not in the best condition by a long shot.”

The next Proton/ Breeze M launch was scheduled for Aug. 23 with the Intelsat 23 commercial communications satellite, but has been suspended pending an investigation into Monday’s launch failure.

Dr Donald Liu remembered as a hero and dedicated physician

The pediatric surgeon drowned Sunday while rescuing two stranded boys from Lake Michigan

Dr. Donald Liu was an elite pediatric surgeon at the University of Chicago Medicine’s Comer Children’s Hospital. His passing will be remembered as heroic as he is being mourned as a man who “always did the right thing.”

Dr. Donald Liu, chief of pediatric surgery at Comer Children’s Hospital, passed away Sunday after diving into the waters of Lake Michigan in an attempt to save two boys struggling to swim after having fallen from their kayak.

Dr. Donald Liu raced along the beach in Berrien County, Mich., after spotting the boys. According to Liu’s wife and local authorities, despite objections from his children, who worried about the dangerous conditions presented by the rough water, Liu dove in to save the boys, who were not wearing lifejackets.

Dr. Liu made it to the boys, said his wife, Dr. Dana Suskind, but was not able to escape the rip current. Emergency responders arrived at the scene at about 10:40 a.m. and pulled Liu, 50, from the water. His wife of over 17 years, who is also a surgeon, performed CPR, but Liu was pronounced dead shortly after. The boys he saved, who were friends of the family, reached land safely.

“You couldn’t stop him,” Suskind told ABCNews.com. “He always did the right thing.”

Suskind continued, “He had the biggest heart. He was a brilliant surgeon … but what was amazing about him was that he was the best father, that was his priority in life, and he loved me with all of his heart.”

“This is a man that would wake up at 2 o’clock in the morning, be in the operating room in 10 or 15 minutes, literally save a child’s life who was bleeding to death from trauma – a car accident, gunshot wound, a beating,” said Dr. John Alverdy, executive vice chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Chicago.

Jeffrey Matthews, chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine, said of Dr. Donald Liu, “He was known as a selfless individual who was completely devoted to children.” Matthews added, “People will tell you that he’s the heart and soul of our pediatric programs. And always going the extra mile. He was tireless. You know, the kind of guy would operate all day and all night and say, ‘Where do we have to go next?’ And he would do whatever the children needed.”

“Everything [Liu] did, everything he talked about was always for the children,” Matthews continued. “And so the tragedy is that he died, of course, as a hero doing what he did every day, which was saving children.”

Dr. Donald Liu is survived by three children – Genevieve, 13, Asher, 10, and Amelie, 7 – and his wife, Dr. Dana Suskind.

“I’m really sad that my dad died because every time he would come home from work at 5 o’clock, even though he didn’t have to, he would play baseball with me and we would go in the backyard,” Asher said. “We would always watch the White Sox together.”

Dr. Donald Liu will be buried in University of Chicago surgical scrubs. He will be holding a White Sox baseball, a video game and his children’s pictures.

Services will be Wednesday morning at a yet to be determined time at KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation at 1100 E. Hyde Park Blvd.

The University of Chicago campus is planning another memorial to be held in September.

Jeffrey Ross stirs up controversy with remark at Roast of Roseanne

The comedian appeared dressed as the late Joe Pa and joked about the Aurora shooting

Jeffrey Ross has appeared at numerous celebrity roasts over the years and now his form of shock-comedy has drawn criticism and forced Comedy Central to cut one of his jokes from the final broadcast.

Jeffrey Ross, while appearing at the Comedy Central Roast of Roseanne Barr, made an ill-timed joke comparing comedian Seth Green to the accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes.

“Seth, congratulations. This is actually a great night for you,” Jeffrey Ross joked. “You haven’t gotten this much attention since you shot all those people in Aurora. … I’m kidding. You are not like [accused shooter] James Holmes. At least he did something in a movie theater that people will remember!”

According to a report Monday from NBC, guests responded the Ross’s joke with “an audible gasp, followed by awkward applause.”

Jeffrey Ross later admitted his joke “crossed the line,” but defended it as well. “That is what the roasts are about,” Jeffrey Ross said of the shock-value spirit that permeates each and every roast. “That’s what Roseanne is about – unapologetic comedy. If I held back, I would have done her a disservice.”

“I think that this particular roast – in these particular times we are in – it is important to exercise freedom of speech,” Ross continued. “Comedians are apologizing a lot. I am not saying that is right or wrong. But it scares me when I start second-guessing myself. So I wanted to put it out there and remind people what America is about – and on some level, what the roasts are about.”

In an interview with The Huffington Post in February, Jeffrey Ross spoke of an obligation “to not hold back.”

“Do you want me to apologize after every joke?” Ross said. “If it doesn’t offend somebody it’s probably not a joke. It’s probably an observation that’s not funny. It’s gotta offend somebody somewhere.”

Roseanne Barr commented on Ross’s joke after the taping, saying that it “crossed the line.” Barr continued, “But comedy is about moving the line … And where is the line in a country that has freedom of speech? Maybe there isn’t one.”

Jeffrey Ross also received mixed reactions when he appeared on the red carpet dressed as Joe Paterno, accompanied by two young men clad in nothing but football helmets and towels.

According to Comedy Central producer Jonas Larsen, Jeffrey Ross’ joke about the Aurora shooting will be censored from the show’s official broadcast on Aug. 12 due to widespread criticism.

Just one week after the Aurora shooting, Dane Cook joked, “So I heard that the guy came into the theater about 25 minutes into the movie. And I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie, but the movie is pretty much a piece of crap… Yeah, spoiler alert. And I know that if none of that would have happened, I’m pretty sure that somebody in that theater, about 25 minutes in, realizing it was a piece of crap, probably was like, ‘Ugh f-king shoot me.’”

Cook took to Twitter the next day to apologize for his “bad judgment call.”

New Mars Photos will take your breath away

The Curiosity rover has sent back a number of grainy images from the Martian landscape

New Mars photos taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover reveal the Martian surface after an eight-month, suspense-ridden 352-million-mile journey to the red planet. The mission has been heralded as a tremendous success by NASA administrators, engineers and citizens alike.

The new Mars photos reveal Martian gravel, a mountain framed by the Martian sunset and the craft’s suspenseful descent through the atmosphere in grainy, black-and-white detail.

The Curiosity rover weighs one ton and many feared its seven minute plunge through the atmosphere from 13,000 mph to zero would result in disaster. However, the roving laboratory, approximately the size of a compact car, touched down late Sunday night on a perfectly flat portion of a crater, right on target.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory rung with the cheers and applause of engineers and administrators as they rejoiced the mission’s initial success, JPL Director Charles Elachi compared the mission to the ongoing Olympic Games, “This team came back with the gold.”

“Everybody in the morning should be sticking their chests out and saying, ‘That’s my rover on Mars,’” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

“We have ended one phase of the mission much to our enjoyment,” said mission manager Mike Watkins. “But another part has just begun.”

The $2.5 billion nuclear-powered roving laboratory will not begin moving for a couple of weeks but will eventually dig into the Martian surface to analyze soil and rock for some of the molecular components of life, including carbon, while also sending color photos, panoramas and videos back to Earth. The color photos, videos and panoramas will start arriving in the coming days.

The news Mars photos relayed to NASA shortly after Curiosity’s landing are the result of tiny cameras designed to spot obstructions in front of the rover’s wheels. Despite the poor quality of the pictures, NASA scientists are ecstatic.

According to Watkins, every photo reveals “a new Mars we have never seen before. So every one of those pictures is the most beautiful picture I have ever seen.”

One of the new Mars photos was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a 7-year-old craft orbiting 211 miles directly above Curiosity as it plummeted towards the Martian surface. The orbiter was able to snap a photo of the rover as it was suspended from its parachute approximately one minute before touchdown.

In another of the new Mars photos, you can see “a silhouette of Mount Sharp in the setting sun,” according to chief mission scientist from the California Institute of Technology, John Grotzinger.

“It’s just mind-boggling to me,” said Miguel San Martin, chief engineer for the landing team.

Former NASA chief technologist Bobby Braun said of the mission, “I think its engineering at its finest. What engineers do is they make the impossible possible.”

Thanks to the International Business Times for an excellent compilation of the photos, available here.

Andrea Sneiderman taken into custody in connection with husband's murder

The mother of two is charged with malice murder, attempted murder, insurance fraud, racketeering and perjury


Andrea Sneiderman was taken into custody by Putnam sheriff’s deputies at about 10:45 a.m. Thursday. The 36-year-old mother of two was taken into custody at her home and transported to the DeKalb County, Ga. jail.

Andrea Sneiderman is being charged in connection with the November 2010 murder of her husband, Rusty Sneiderman, outside a day-care center in Dunwoody.

Sneiderman’s arrest comes less than five months after her former boss at GE Energy, Hemy Neuman, was found guilty of the murder. Neuman was declared mentally ill by the DeKalb County jury and is currently serving a term of life in prison without the possibility of parole at the Diagnostic and Classification Center in Jackson.

According to DeKalb District Attorney Robert James, the grand jury took about an hour to return a “true bill” on the charges of malice murder, attempted murder, insurance fraud, racketeering and two counts of perjury and false statements.

The District Attorney has said he is “confident in the case and evidence” and that prosecutors would use “the same formula that worked [for Neuman’s conviction].”

According to Sneiderman’s attorney, they had no prior knowledge of her arrest, claiming they asked the District Attorney two months ago to allow them to hand their client over if charges were brought against her.

“We were as surprised as anyone else,” said J. Tom Morgan, Sneiderman’s attorney.

Morgan’s co-counsel, John Petrey, has said his client “had nothing to do with [her husband’s murder].” He added, “We deny each and every one of these charges.”

Petrey has denied claims that Andrea Sneiderman was romantically involved with Neuman, which is believed to be the motive for the murder.

According to the indictment against Andrea Sneiderman, although she did not pull the trigger that killed her husband, she “did with malice aforethought cause the death” of Rusty Sneiderman.

The family of Rusty Sneiderman released a statement in which they thanked the District Attorney’s office for its “relentless pursuit of the truth in this case.” The statement continues to say the family “will continue to support their efforts in every way through the trial. We will never stop fighting for justice for Rusty.

“The arrest and indictment of Andrea Sneiderman is another important step in the pursuit of justice for Rusty,” the statement continues. “This action, however, brings us no joy.”

San Antonio International Airport reopened after "very specific" bomb threat

Airport officials received a phone call alleging there were explosives in the lower level of the parking structure


San Antonio International Airport officials reopened the airport Wednesday afternoon after a “very specific” phoned-in bomb threat forced the evacuation of more than 2,000 passengers and airport personnel.

San Antonio International Airport was shut down and an evacuation ordered Wednesday just after 2 p.m. when airport officials received a “very specific threat” that alleged three packages had been left in the basement of the short-term parking garage. According to police, the caller, who has yet to be identified, also made unspecified threats against both airport terminals.

Airport officials soon evacuated passengers onto the tarmac and sent arriving planes to spots at a safe distance from the gates. Bomb squads investigated terminals A and B and determined they were clear of any threats.

According to San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, bomb-sniffing dogs hit on three cars in the basement level of the parking structure “as if there could possibly be explosives.”

All three cars were later deemed free of explosives and, according to airport spokesman Rich Johnson, the “all clear” was given at about 5 p.m., allowing the airport to reopen.

Eminem tops list of Facebook's most "Liked" musicians

With 60 million Likes, Eminem trails Facebook’s official page by about ten million


Eminem is now the most popular musician on Facebook with over 60 million Likes, surpassing both Lady Gaga and Rihanna. Eminem became the first person to reach that milestone with approximately one in every 16 Facebook users giving him the cyber-thumbs-up.

Eminem is currently gaining around 24,000 Likes on average per day, according to CNET, with 180,000 new Likes in the past week alone, according to PageData.

But Eminem can’t lay claim to the most-liked page on Facebook as that title belongs to the official Facebook for Every Phone page with 116.82 million Likes. For comparison, Facebook’s official page has 70.21 million Likes.

Eminem, 39, surpassed Lady Gaga (53 million Likes) last summer and Rihanna is even closer to Eminem with 59 million Likes. But, as far as Twitter goes, Eminem lags far behind.

Eminem has approximately 11 million followers on Twitter whereas Rihanna has 23.4 million Twitter followers. Both lag behind Justin Bieber who has 25.8 million Twitter followers, but Lady Gaga tops the list with 27 million.

Skin cancer found in wild fish population for first time

The skin cancer was found in wild coral trout and resembles melanoma in humans


Skin cancer, similar to melanoma found in humans, has been found in a wild marine fish population for the first time, according to a study conducted by Newcastle University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

The skin cancer was found in coral trout on the Great Barrier Reef, directly under the largest hole in the ozone layer in the world.

According to Dr. Michael Sweet of Newcastle University and leader of the research team, this is the first time cancer has been found in any wild fish and the skin cancer found is nearly identical to melanoma found in humans.

“The individuals we looked at had extensive surface melanomas, which means the cancer had not spread any deeper than the skin so apart from the surface lesions the fish were basically healthy,” Dr. Sweet said.

“Further work needs to be carried out to establish the exact cause of the cancer but having eliminated other likely factors such as microbial pathogens and marine pollution,” Dr. Sweet continued. “UV radiation appears to be the likely cause.

“Once the cancer spreads further you would expect the fish to become quite sick, becoming less active and possibly feeding less, hence less likely to be caught. This suggests the actual percentage affected by the cancer is less likely to be higher than observed in this study.”

The study found 15 percent of the 136 coral trout sampled showed dark lesions on the skin. The legions ranged from covering as little as 5 percent of the skin to almost the entire fish.

“Now it’s been found it’s more than likely that people will start to notice it elsewhere and we think we have only found the early stages,” Dr. Sweet said. “The fish with the later stages might well suffer from big behavior changes, for example they could be eaten by predators or simply die. The findings are strongly linked to UV and it’s too much of a coincidence for it not to be linked to the hole in the ozone layer.”

Until this discovery, UV-induced melanoma in fish had only been observed under laboratory conditions.

Weight-loss drug shown to promote weight loss and keep the pounds away

The drug promotes sensitivity to the hormone leptin, a naturally occurring appetite suppressant


A new weight-loss drug may help people shed weight and keep the pounds at bay, according to a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism. 
The weight-loss drug, which has so far only been tested in mice, increases sensitivity to the hormone leptin, an appetite suppressant found naturally in the body. Researchers believe this discovery will aid in developments to combat obesity in humans.
According to George Kunos of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “By sensitizing the body to naturally occurring leptin, the new drug could not only promote weight loss, but also help maintain it. This finding bodes well for the development of a new class of compounds for the treatment of obesity and its metabolic consequences.”
Kunos has said that because the new weight-loss drug has only been tested in mice, it’s not clear whether the effects will translate to people. Human testing of the weight-loss drug will begin once the drug passes a safety test required by the National Institutes of Health, according to Kunos.
Leptin may supress appetite, but those who have taken leptin supplements alone have not witnessed a reduction in body weight for reasons not quite clear. Researchers believe this is due in large part to desentization of the hormone as it is found naturally within the human body.
Researchers believe cannabinoid receptors, the same receptors activated by chemicals in marijuana that promote feelings of hunger in marijuana smokers, contribute to the desensitization process. Blocking cannabinoid receptors has been shown to cause weight loss; however, a previously developed weight-loss drug, rimonabant, that blocked cannabinoid receptors caused serious psychiatric side effects, including anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Rimonabant was taken off the market after initially being sold in Europe beginning in 2006.
The new weight-loss drug, called JD5037, was designed to not enter the brain so as to reduce psychatric side effects. According to Kunos, the drug blocks cannabinoid receptors in other parts of the body, including the liver and musle tissue. 
Obese mice given the weight-loss drug for approximately a month lost 28 percent of their body weight and, according to Kunos, reached the weight of an average-size mouse. The mice accomplished this weight-loss despite continuing to eat the same high-fat diet that initially led to their obesity. There were no psychiatric side effects reported in the mice tested with the drug.
Obesity rates among American adults have risen to 35 percent, which has brought about calls for the FDA to approve new weight-loss treatments; however, a littany of prescription diet pills have been seen as dangerous with side effects including heart problems. 
“Obesity is a growing health problem, and there is strong need for new types of medications to treat obesity and its serious metabolic complications, including diabetes and fatty liver disease,” Kunos concluded.

Louisiana Tech mascot initially reported missing, dead of heatstroke

Tech XX, an English bulldog, was the university’s mascot since 2008


Louisiana Tech mascot initially reported missing actually died of heatstroke as the result of being left outisde on Sunday, according to university officials.
The Louisiana Tech mascot, an English bulldog by the name of Tech XX, was left outside by a now-fired employee, according to the veterinarian that kept the mascot, Patrick Sexton.
“Regretfully, I learned this morning that through negligence of an employee, Tech XX was left outside too long on Sunday evening and passed away from a heat stroke. That employee unfortunately chose to handle it the wrong way and attempted to cover it up. Due to his negligence, the employee is no longer employed by Sexton Animal Health Center,” read  a statement sent from Sexton to the university Wednesday.
“Tech XX was a member of our immediate family and a daily part of our lives for the past four years,” said Patrick Sexton in a statement. “We are devastated over the circumstances of his passing, and there will be a large void in our hearts for some time to come. As with any family member, we will spend considerable time grieving his passing.”
The mascot was initially reported missing as an employee stated he let the dog out to use the bathroom and that is when the dog disappeared. Students and residents of Ruston, the home of Louisiana Tech University, immediately went looking for the English bulldog as a $2,000 reward was offered for the mascot’s return.
According to the university, Tech XX received superior care and a loving home from Sexton’s team since becoming the Louisiana Tech mascot in 2008. 
“He will be remembered for being a fan favorite and a symbol of the spirit of Louisiana Tech,” the university said. 
The Louisiana Tech mascot’s predecessor, Tech XIX, was retired in 2007 due to health concerns stemming from a bout of heatstroke, according to the university’s website.