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"I am the world crier, & this is my dangerous career...

I am the one to call your bluff, & this is my climate."

—Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972)

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Tuesday, February 29, 2000

The major question is whether this is merely a tactical move: Austria's Haider Resigns; Opponents Skeptical
'Asked if he still hoped to be chancellor one day, he replied: ``I do not exclude it.''

In Austria, Die Presse newspaper said Haider's decision was a shrewd move to distance himself from
unpopular government decisions such as planned tax increases and to position himself for the next election,
due within four years.

The opposition Social Democrats dismissed the resignation as a sham. ``It is quite clear that Haider is only
giving up his office but will continue to set the tone,'' said new Social Democratic leader Alfred
Gusenbauer.

``He sees that this government is unpopular so he seeks the first opportunity to ditch responsibility,
formally, to distance himself from this government. Everything that has been said indicates he will continue
to keep the party on a short leash."'

  •  

UPDATE! Tentative publication date for the fourth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Doomspell Tournament, is set. My son and I spent several months of bedtimes reading the first three aloud together. Haven't you got someone with whom you might be doing that?

  •  

Newest issue of Phil Agre's occasional notes and recommendations from the Red Rock Eater news service:
"In talking to all these people, I was endlessly struck by the chasm
between the telephone world and the computer world. Everyone in the
telephone world had superficial training and good manners; everyone
in the computer world had deep training and a bracing arrogance.
And with the sole exception of the one technical guy in the bowels
of Sprint, neither side exhibited the slightest comprehension of its
connection to the other. Hey, everyone: the telephone world and the
computer world are merging! This merger, it would seem, is not just
a technical matter."

  •  

From Medley: "One of Queen Elizabeth's cooks was fired for making remarks about poisoning
her and wondering where to buy cyanide." And I read somewhere today that, when the police came to help the Queen remove her personal effects from the Palace during that fire several years ago, she found one of them standing before an open dresser drawer in her personal bedchamber about ready to knick some of her knickers until he was aware of her standing there watching him.

  •  

Monday, February 28, 2000

Boy Bands and Girl Vixens - All you need to know about the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears.† by David Plotz [Slate]

  •  

Random Access Memory: "an experiment in collective recollection."

  •  

From Atlantic Unbound: Welcome to the Word Police Academy "The Word Police are looking for a few good people. As a
certified Word Police officer, you will be entitled to issue
Grammar Citations when you see or hear crimes against
the language. To be inducted into the force, you must
pass a Word Police Academy exam.

The Word Police Force has many divisions and squads.
The current entrance exam is for the Pronoun Patrol.
Coming soon: the entrance exam for Who Wants to
Marry a Word Police Officer? Just kidding!" [I passed the exam, despite any grammatical errors your finding in this blog...]

  •  

Eugenics Archive: "materials from the
Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor, which was
the center of American eugenics research from 1910-1940.
In the Archive you will see numerous reports, articles,
charts, and pedigrees that were considered scientific
"facts" in their day. It is important to remind yourself that
the vast majority of eugenics work has been completely
discredited. In the final analysis, the eugenic description of
human life reflected political and social prejudices, rather
than scientific facts."

  •  

Saturday, February 26, 2000

Behavioral Drug Use In Toddlers Up Sharply: This report confirms many people's concerns. As a psychiatrist and the father of two young children, let me add my voice to theirs. I'm not as upset as many that the effect of the medications in subjects this young hasn't been tested. What troubles me immensely is how in the world anyone could be so confident that a toddler's overactivity, poor impulse control, or mood instability are pathological. And, if they are, isn't that what parental nurturance and containment are for? And if the parental influence is lacking, how obscene is it to think that a medication can compensate? I have written and taught about "ADHD" since I was a medical student, and in my view the more popular it has become, the less and less meaning the diagnosis has come to have, and the more and more overused it is. To our children's peril, and our society's. Update: Dr. H Klasen writes in the current issue of the Harvard Review of Psychiatry on "The Medicalization of Hyperactivity."

  •  

40-ton boulder smashes home; little to salvage after direct hit. "I've lived here for 12 years, and for 12 years I've been
wondering when this was going to happen. When, not if. Why
anybody would build a house beneath these boulders is beyond
me."

  •  

Son ticketed rushing father to hospital with chest pains:"... it appears McClendon violated
department policy when he stopped the family
and kept them at the scene for, Lee said, about
14 minutes. The family said it was more like 30
minutes."

  •  

Thursday, February 24, 2000

the body politic / Germ Warfare by RUSTY UNGER (02/28/00: a long article from New York about the vehement and bitter controversy dividing the medical community about Lyme disease. First noticed in 1975 as a novel type of arthritis in Lyme, CT and determined to be caused by a tick-borne bacterium called borrelia, some maverick physicians want to alert their colleagues to their contention that the disease goes on in some cases to a persistent systemic form despite treatment. Of particular interest to me, as a psychiatrist, are reports that it may be behind certain puzzling cases of neurobehavioral symptoms. Most MDs scoff at these claims and discount case reports of patients whose deterioration has been reversed by aggressive recurrent treatment for the infectious process. "In one corner is a group of those predominantly university-based physicians who
develop drugs, receive research grants from federal health agencies, and often
advise insurance companies. They contend that Lyme is usually simple to
diagnose and easily curable with two to four weeks of oral antibiotics. Chronic
Lyme, they say, is extremely rare, not a disease but merely a group of
symptoms remaining after the initial infection is treated that usually disperse.

In the other corner stands a group of primary-care
doctors, those on the front lines who see Lyme
patients every day, and a number of other
scientists -- all of whom maintain that the illness
is far more complicated. Late-term or lingering
cases of Lyme disease, they say, may require six
months or more of oral antibiotic therapy and
intense intravenous therapy -- which some like to administer in a hyperbaric
chamber. They believe that the increased oxygen of the chamber helps kill the
tenacious spirochetes -- known as Borrelia burgdorferi -- deposited by the
blood-sucking deer tick. Burrowing rapidly into the tissues, joints, and central
nervous system, borrelia slightly resembles the syphilis spirochete in the way it
feeds, sleeps, and reproduces." Detractors have accused the more aggressive Lyme doctors of overdiagnosing and overtreating. But recently they've gone further. Several of the "Lyme literate" (as they are known by their supporters) are under investigation or have already lost their licenses. Bad medical practice or merely the unpopularity of their approach and beliefs? A case study in how illness definition has political as well as scientific influences...

  •  

Readme Quick: Do you read too slowly, as most people who value reading complain about themselves? How do you measure up? Can you improve? The Slate reading test.

  •  

Infiltration: Transit Tunnels FAQ: a guide to the art of exploring abandoned subway tracks and stations beneath several of our cities. Includes a discussion of the possibilities of attack by "mole people" who, in unrban legend, live in these tunnels. The FAQ includes a list of recent films featuring people infiltrating transit tunnels onscreen; I can't believe I've seen every film on the list. Infiltration is a 'zine "about going places you're not supposed to go" and a part of an urban exploration webring.

  •  

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Wired notes the upsurge in weblogging:
"...For example, Memepool recently provided
links to sites for creating your own Old
Testament adventure, bubblewrap
lingerie, and entomophagy.

At the same time, Yahoo's What's New
linked to Philip Morris, Quaker Oatmeal,
and Clover Stornetta Farms.

Barger says in these days of
commerce-driven portals, weblogs are by
far the best way to explore the Net. So
efficient is the weblog circuit, Barger
estimates that anything new on the Web
will filter through the system within a
month."

  •  

"Youíre probably wondering why I allowed you to
bang on my car, why I didnít simply drive
away and leave you sputtering in my rear-view. So let me tell you: I was
considering the possibility of opening my glove compartment, pulling out the
handgun I keep there, and sticking that gun into your mouth until you forked
over whatever money you keep in your expensive-looking riding suit. I battled
the temptation. You gambled on a strangerís decency, and this time you won." [via World New York]

  •  

I've been pretty shaken since I learned last night about the death of a friend of mine, Phil Aranow. Phil was a beloved, deep, psychotherapist in Cambridge who wrote and taught about the integration of Buddhist theory into Western psychotherapy practice. I'd known Phil for almost thirty years since his younger brother and I became fast friends, and later roommates, the first day of college. His brother's violent murder several years after college took me down for a closer look with Phil. Although we were in and out of each other's lives, his marriage a decade later to one of my colleagues and friends at the hospital, and the birth of their first son around the same time my wife and I had our son, kept us pleasantly intertwined in spirit. I, who had found and lost my way with Buddhist teachings, was drawn to his even and mindful integration of Buddhist practice into this life. He was at the core of a group of psychotherapists, all practitioners of meditation, with whom my paths have crossed professionally in various ways in succeeding years. In recent times, as my work took me away from Cambridge and we were both busy with our families, we never got around to continuing to have lunch together as we had been doing. Phil and his family were driving to the airport last Friday night in Florida, returning from a working vacation and giving a workshop, when they were apparently hit head-on by a pickup truck. Thankfully, their two young boys are intact, but Phil succombed and his wife's condition is uncertain after surgery today. I'll be praying for her, for their children, and for the tragedy-stricken Aranow family. Phil, you'll remain on my heart....

Calligraphy: Heaven and Earth by Daigu Ryokan (1757-1831)



  •  

Why I won't be reading Dave Eggers: I caught Christopher Lydon on NPR's The Connection talking today to this 24 year-old new literary darling and author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (for those of you that are not yet aware of the buzz, yes, that's the title, not my blurb). He also edits the literary quarterly, Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern and its net-spinoff, Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendencies. One caller to the radio talk show, fawning all over Eggers, made it sound as if his writing has single-handedly taken us past postmodernism and out the other side "to something clear and simple," or something to that effect (it turns out the caller was part of Eggers' little literary clique and a contributor to his magazine). To judge from his interview, simple at least is right! Lydon quickly realized that he wasn't going to get any scintillating answers to his questions, beyond repetitious echolalia, so he began to lead Eggers around by the nose affirming points that Lydon wanted to make in the interview. Is this what they mean by the self-referentiality they apply to his work?? (I thought I liked self-referentiality 'til now...) It was uncomfortable to see Lydon squirm to maintain the obligatory stance that his current guest was the best thing since sliced bread, and to see Eggers eating it up, despite the fact that it was probably the least self-reflective interview I've heard in a long while. Not a literary movement I'll be following, or a bestselling buzzbook I'll be buying, I'm afraid. And if another nail was needed in the coffinlid, Eggers is equated as wunderkind with NPR's This American Life host Ira Glass, to whose show he has apparently contributed. Glass is a smug self-satisfied commentator whose profundity I can't see impressing anyone more than himself. Someone has described This American Life as driveway radio -- you sit in your driveway when you arrive home, unable to bear shutting the car off 'til it's over; but, even as an inveterate NPR listener, I scramble to turn the radio off when Ira Glass comes on. (And I've written to my local NPR station saying I won't contribute to them anymore as long as they use Ira Glass' demeaning and smarmy spots, based on gleefully shaming hapless non-contributing listeners, in their fund drives.) Maybe I'm just too old for these Gen-X'ers who think they've seen and realized it all. Listening to the interview with Eggers, it seemed he emoted mostly angst about having to live up to the adulation. It was hard to see what he'd ever have to offer in the way of a second book, unless it was something spun off of that angst...(And in case you were wondering, I don't feel particularly ashamed in admitting that I don't feel particularly awful about generating a diatribe like this without reading the book.)


  •  

Tuesday, February 22, 2000

Galileo swoops by volcanic Io
"Jupiter's strange moon Io is
literally bursting with volcanoes. Dozens of active
vents pepper the landscape, which also includes
gigantic frosty plains, towering mountains and
volcanic rings the size of California. The volcanoes
themselves are the hottest spots in the solar system
(not counting the sun) with temperatures exceeding
1800 K. The plumes, which rise 300 km into space, are so large that the Hubble
Space Telescope can see them from its low Earth orbit."

  •  

I'm on an arts rip today, it seems. As the Grammies approach, recording companies are raking in the cash.
But record executives say they can't recall a bleaker time in pop music creativity. "They don't like the
music, they don't get it, and they're horrified that people like
Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera are becoming stars," said
Jeff Pollack, a programming consultant for more than 100 U.S.
radio stations. Are they elitists out of touch with mainstream taste? Or is mainstream taste no longer anything but what market forces make it?

  •  

Ain't No Problem: A West Virginia linguistics professor says that heavily dialectical speech is no sign of lack of intelligence. And his detractors want his resignation.

  •  

N.Y. arts group refuses regulations 'The New York Foundation for the Arts has pulled out of administrating a major city-sponsored art project this summer to paint and display 1,000 fiberglass cows. The city had sought to have the foundation impose a rule on artists stating: "Designs that are religious, political or sexual in nature will not be accepted."' [Arts Journal] First of all, after the wonderfully creative, zany and at times magical Chicago cows (which I was pleased to get to see), how derivative is this? I mean, why not thousands of fiberglass cats, or rats, or something? And hasn't Rudy Giuliani learned anything from the city's embarrassment in the Brooklyn Museum controversy? Update: Hew Orleans is doing fish.

  •  

Portal of entry to the latest upgrade of the Jargon File, the canonical dictionary -- and more -- of computer/techie related terms. It also includes essays on such topics as "Jargon
Construction", "Hacker Writing Style", "Lamer-speak", and appendices that include hacker
folklore, an extensive bibliography, and a portrait of "J. Random Hacker". Netmeg.net offers one of the
better Jargon File search interfaces.

  •  

Monday, February 21, 2000

Critics Slam Judge's No-Pregnancy Sentence: putting a womb in state custody.

  •  

Sunday, February 20, 2000

'And here's today's space weather forecast...' "Space weather has joined earthquakes, hurricanes and gales in having official scales of severity. The worst events on the scale are accompanied by some severe impacts on human activities."

  •  

Saturday, February 19, 2000

Evidence of Mystery Particles Stirring Excitement and Doubt: Researchers at the University of Rome have stirred both doubt and excitement by reporting evidence of a heavy particle predicted by supersymmetry theory. Proof of the existence of this particle could account for the long-sought "dark matter" that may make up at least 70% of the mass of the universe. It would be exciting evidence of the validity of the supersymmetry hypothesis, a possible first step toward the holy grail of a "grand unifying theory".

  •  

What I Saw at the Revolution by Donald Trump:
"I leave the Reform Party to
David Duke, Pat Buchanan and Lenora Fulani. That is not
company I wish to keep."

  •  

Friday, February 18, 2000

How High Maintenance Are You?

  •  

"Fight the Real Enemy": "Now, if I were to go out and take down some Internet sites, I wouldnít waste my time with Yahoo! Thatís for kids ... which is what you are, cyberstupids. Itís pointless. There are sites out there that are begging for a large, steaming serving of whupass. If you had any guts, cyberwussies, you would make a new list. And the ten sites below are where I would start."

  •  

Winning entries from the Adbusters Creative Resistance Contest:
"...we challenged people to
create social marketing concepts that best represented their
concerns about the world we live in. Here are some of the
best. The contest generated submissions from over 300 people
around the world: activists, students, graphic designers,
illustrators, photographers, painters, filmmakers, digital
artists, writers and poets. Their entries ranged from spoofs
to caustic commentary and included everything from school
projects to guerrilla protests. All of the submissions were
designs to change the way people think and act."

  •  

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: 'Our country did not go the way of Nuremberg, to bring the perpetrators
of such crimes to trial...Our country rejected the other extreme of a blanket amnesty, as
happened in General Augusto Pinochet's Chile....
Our country chose a middle way of individual amnesty for truth. Some
would say, what about justice? And we say retributive justice is not the
only kind of justice. There is also restorative justice, because we believe
in Ubuntu -- the essence of being human, that idea that we are all
caught up in a delicate network of interdependence. We say, "A person
is a person through other persons." I need you in order to be me and
you need me in order to be you.' [via iBoy]

  •  

Honoring a Heretic Whom Vatican 'Regrets' Burning. Freethinkers and atheists gathered to honor Giordano Bruno in observance of the four hundredth anniversary of his burning at the stake. Bruno, a Dominican priest whose scientific investigations led him to believe that the universe was infinite and the teachings of the Church irrational, refused to recant to save his life. 'The pope has marked this Holy Year as a time for the church to
apologize for past errors and excesses, from the Inquisition to the
persecution of Jews. Today, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican
secretary of state, said the church "regretted" that it had resorted to
violence in Bruno's case, but pointed out that Bruno's writing was
"incompatible" with Christian thinking, and that he therefore remains a
heretic.'

  •  

A coronal mass ejection is headed for Earth:
"Yesterday, a medium-sized solar flare erupted from a sunspot group near the
middle of the solar disk. It was accompanied by a
coronal mass ejection (CME) that appears to be
headed directly for our planet.

>


There's no cause for
alarm -- CMEs aren't dangerous to people -- but this
one could trigger beautiful aurorae and other
geomagnetic activity when it passes by our planet
around February 20." [via Abby, thanks]

  •  

With games like these, who needs life?

  •  

England's in love with alien embryos.

  •  

Life is hard for TWA Flight 800 skeptics.

  •  

Reality Ain't What it Used to Be: Robert Anton Wilson ponders thirty-five years' legacy of Bell's Theorem.

  •  

A World Community of Old Trees: an eco-art project in progress by June Julian.

  •  

R.U.Sirius interviews Stephen Gaskin on Al Gore, cannabis, and hypocrisy. I've followed Gaskin's pilgrim's progress since the '60's as one of the enduring honest presences in the counterculture whose actions are on the scale of his words.

  •  

Biar Witch Project sequel lost in the woods seeking product promotions.
According to a promotional packet entitled "The
Blair Witch Franchise," kids will soon be able to play
four different "Blair Witch" PC and PlayStation
games, read "Blair Witch" comic books, collect
"Blair Witch" trading cards, and play with "Blair
Witch" action figures designed by "Spawn" creator
Todd MacFarlane.

The packet also promises "Dozens of New Licensed
Products -- Computer Accessories, Jewelry, Apparel,
Leather Goods, Stationery ... and many more."

  •  

Thursday, February 17, 2000

International experts worried about U.S.-based Internet racism
'Experts at a U.N. meeting Wednesday said Wednesday that the United States could
do more to curb the use of the Internet for racist material while upholding freedom of speech.

"New forms of communications technology such as the Internet are being used to support the dissemination of racial hatred," Mary Robinson, the U.N.
High Commissioner for Human Rights, told participants in a three-day seminar on racism.

Speakers noted the legal challenges of controlling Internet content in, and originating from, the United States, where the First Amendment of the
constitution guarantees freedom of speech.

There are an estimated 250 to 400 self-proclaimed hate groups in the United States with their own Web sites.'

  •  

NPR's Instrumental Bits Become an Online Music Show
"Although NPR makes some of its on-air shows available on
demand through its Web site, the leap by a major radio
organization into Internet-only programming helps validate
the concept of using the Web to "narrowcast" to a smaller
listener base. The eclectic material heard on "All Songs
Considered" might have limited appeal among NPR's 600
member stations, which can be as rigidly formatted as their
commercial counterparts. Yet the show can still reach an
audience by going online."

  •  

A High-End Top 30 List: Myths About Nietzsche: review of Robert Solomon and Kathleen Higgins' new book this "most popular philosopher of the 21st century." [New York Times]

  •  

Wednesday, February 16, 2000

BBC News | EUROPE | Pinochet 'brain damaged': The Spanish press
and ABC reportedly have extracts from the crucial medical report
into the former Chilean dictator's health which prompted British Home Sec'y Jack Straw to say he intends to allow him to return home. Pinochet, who has diabetes and a pacemaker and has reportedly suffered two recent strokes, is said to have extensive frontal and temporal lobe dysfunction from progressive cerebro-vascular injury. A medical analysis in lay terms explains this.

  •  

The Peculiar Practice of Dr. John Ronald Brown: The story of a California back-alley surgeon convicted of murder after his patient died in the aftermath of the amputation of his healthy leg on demand, apparently to gratify the patient's bizarre sexual fetish. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of this graphic and disturbing story.

  •  

Music lovers 'have fish to thank': Researchers suggest that a vestigial part of the vestibular system passed on evolutionarily from fish to humans, and without significance to normal hearing, is sensitive to loud sounds at the frequencies that predominate in music. We may have fish to thank for the pleasure we experience in listening to loud music.

  •  

Who's Alive and Who's Dead: "the site that helps you keep track of which famous people
have died and which are still alive!" Journalists can avoid those embarrassing gaffes; you can settle those arguments with friends or family; search for your own name...

  •  

Urban Legend Machine: Generate your own.

  •  

Are you part of a Newer, Lonelier Crowd? [New York Times]

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Tuesday, February 15, 2000

Seeing Is Deceiving '"Once upon a time, Antonio J. Mendez, 59, a lifelong student of the "accumulation of millimeters" that form the human identity, could alter your appearance so profoundly that not even your mother could tell who you were.
Though his disguises often had to work only for a day, or an hour, or a split second, his audience could be extremely judgmental. A sloppy job could mean death.
Nine years ago, Mendez, the son of a Nevada copper miner, retired from the CIA after a quarter-century. He had worked his way up from the lowly forgery unit--bogus signatures, altered documents, counterfeit currency and the like--to become head of the espionage agency's division of disguise, with a rank equal to that of a two-star general.
He created some of the CIA's most elaborate, if little-known, productions--the ploys, skits, scams, masquerades and sleights of hand designed to dupe foreign agents and enemy surveillance teams. His specialty, he writes in a new memoir, "The Master of Disguise," was "exfiltration," wherein endangered persons are whisked away from bad guys and taken to safety.'

  •  

Astrobiology: on interplanetary biotic transfer.
Paul Davies (Imperial College London, UK) presents a
review of current ideas concerning the seeding from elsewhere of
life on Earth.

  •  

The latest issue, as always, of the Flummery Digest fires refreshing potshots -- or at times withering blasts -- at the absurdities of political correctness, excess regulation, and our litigation-proneness each month.

  •  

Slow Down: If your car sports a transponder for "Fast Lane" (MA), "EZ-Pass" (NY), or a similar automated toll collection system, read this. Apparently they are monitoring the speed with which you pass through the tollgates. It also occurs to me that they could determine from the time interval between your entry to and exit from the tollway whether your average speed exceeded the speed limit. [via CamWorld]

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Monday, February 14, 2000

Defend Your Medical Data: The ACLU is mounting a campaign for public comment on the national medical privacy regulations proposed in November 1999 by the Clinton Administration. A previous accumulation of over 2,400 comments solicited by the ACLU was refused by the Dept of HHS on a technicality.

The ACLU says that the current proposed regulations are a reasonable first step and that their position is to encourage the government to take them further. However, from my vantage points both as a health care provider and a concerned citizen, they sound like ominous and objectionable privacy erosion!



The regulations dismantle real legal barriers to law enforcement and government access to medical records. Law enforcement agents would obtain patient records with simple written demands to doctors, hospitals and insurance companies without the necessity for judicial review or the issuance of a warrant. A patient would receive no notice or opportunity to contest the demand. The failure to require patient consent to release of information erodes the bedrock principle that patients own their medical records and must authorize the disclosure of their medical information or if they so choose, decline to give access.

Police would be free to browse all computerized medical records to seek matches for blood, DNA or other health traits. The proposed regulations in essence facilitate the creation of a government health databank. Although the system may initially be established to support "functions authorized by law," the regulations themselves state that "government data are notoriously susceptible to expansion and abuse." A major concern is that patients, when faced with the realization that government agencies might have access to their medical history, would avoid needed treatment or lie about their history.


  •  

Other recent ACLU concerns include support for Senator Patrick Leahy's proposed federal legislation to protect innocent people sentenced to death; and an initiative against racial profiling in traffic enforcement, the nationwide problem euphemistically referred to as being stopped for "driving while black."

  •  

Sunday, February 13, 2000

February 13 is the 55th anniversary of the Valentine's Day 1945 firebombing of Dresden Germany, one of the most ignominious and little-recognized moments of the Allied war effort. This was the single most destructive air raid in history, far surpassing the toll inflicted on Japan in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to come that August. At least 130,000 -- some estimates place the figure as high as 300,000 -- were killed when, in a three-day period, 3,400 tons of explosives & incendiaries were dropped, reducing six square miles of the city, famed for its artistic heritage and devoid of significance to the German war effort, to rubble. Many Allied officials were outraged--Germany was clearly on the verge of collapse, and the raids apppeared designed to inflict maximal civilian casualties on this city filled with refugees fleeing the advancing Soviet armies on the eastern front. It is far harder to argue in the German instance, as some do in countering antiwar revulsion about the use of the atomic bombs in Japan, that the attack was important to hastening the end of the war and may have saved lives. Kurt Vonnegut's horror about Dresden apparently motivated the writing of Slaughterhouse-Five. On the other hand, the firebombing of Dresden has apparently become a rallying point for Holocaust deniers and other far right historical revisionists who focus on putative Allied war atrocities as "the real Holocaust of WWII".

Today's edition of The Daily Bleed, which I logged somewhere below, provides the above two links in its item about the Dresden anniversary. I have written to the listmaster asking him whether these links were included inadvertently or intentionally; if you're interested, I'll let you know how he responds.


  •  

Is Net Dyslexia a disease?

  •  

You've got to marvel at this elaborate and inventive joke.

  •  

This idiotic poll claims to assess Americans' attitudes on The Best/Worst Ways to Die. However, take a look at the way they constrain the question: "If you had to choose one of the following ways to die, which would you choose: drowning, fire, car accident, disease, gunshot,
plane crash, or other?" Most polltakers chose "other".

  •  

N.Ireland Politicians Throw Down Gauntlets. Britain's suspension of the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland leaves a power vacuum likely to be fertile ground for hardline extremists who might end cease-fires that would
completely spell the end of the hopes of the 1998 Good Friday pact.

  •  

The New York Times today reports that a State Dept. review found it unlikely that Gen. Pinochet's Chilean junta would have gone ahead with the 1973 murders of two Americans, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, without a nod from the CIA. The two were supporters of the overthrown socialist government of Salvador Allende. The Horman family's search for information on the deaths was dramatized in the 1982 film "Missing" with Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon playing the parents of the missing American.

``At best, (the CIA) was limited to providing or confirming information that helped motivate his murder by the government of Chile. At
worst, U.S. intelligence was aware the government of Chile saw Horman in a rather serious light and U.S. officials did nothing to
discourage the logical outcome of government of Chile paranoia,'' the Times report said. Facing pressure from Congress, the State Dept. ordered the review in 1976; it concluded that it was "difficult to believe" that Pinochet would have proceeded with the executions without U.S. encouragement that they would not have serious repercussions to U.S.-Chile relations. President Clinton ordered the declassification of the material after the 1998 arrest of Pinochet in London.The CIA continues to protest its innocence.


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Saturday, February 12, 2000

On this date in 1963, Sylvia Plath died, a suicide, in London, age 30, on her third attempt.


Dying


is an art like everything else.

I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.


ó "Lady Lazarus" (1962)



  •  

Man Charged in Decade-Long Abduction Case
"A Japanese man alleged to have abducted a schoolgirl and hidden her in his room for almost a decade in the home
he shared with his mother was arrested on Friday, police said."

  •  

A new issue of the Center for Disease Control's Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal, which tracks new and reemerging infectious diseases worldwide, is available on the web. Current topics include coccidioidomycosis, Norwalk-like calcivirus infection, TB, malaria, and Japanese encephalitis.

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Michael, we never knew you wanted to be a stand-up comic too:
``Robert Downey Jr. is the finest actor of his generation. He can do anything and we hopefully will have him around for a long time to come.'' -- actor Michael Douglas, on his ``Wonder Boys'' co-star Robert Downey Jr., who is serving time for using drugs in violation of his probation.

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Daughter probes Ramblin' Jack Elliott: A new documentary by his daughter is a career tribute to the semi-obscure legendary folksinger and one-time protege of Woody Guthrie. 'Interviewee Kris Kristofferson tells her, "I never met anyone who was so enchanting on subjects I didn't give a damn about.'' Indeed,
Elliott is delightful company: a master at spinning tales, killing time, even doing drop-dead parodies of musical styles he doesn't fancy.
But pic does arrive at a wistful half-catharsis when Jack, cornered at last by his exasperated daughter, confesses they'll "never uncork
the secret'' of why he's been a less-than-ideal father. He is what he is: a rambler, albeit a marginally more settled one these days,
based in Northern California..., buoyed by belated accolades, including a '95 Grammy for his first
recording in 20 years, and a '98 National Medal of the Arts handed over by President Clinton himself.'

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United Colors of Sleaze and Exploitation: 'Missouri's attorney general has sued Italian clothing maker Benetton for alleged fraudulent
misrepresentation in gaining access to four American death row inmates who later appeared in the company's ad campaign.
Attorney General Jay Nixon said that when prison authorities in Potosi, Missouri, granted permission they were told that Benetton's
``We, On Death Row'' project was sponsored by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and that interviews done with
the inmates were intended for an article for Newsweek magazine.

``Instead, we find out that the project is a part of a Benetton advertising campaign, and the photographs and interviews are being
used in an ad campaign that includes billboards, videos and a 90-page supplement to be distributed nationwide in magazines,'' Nixon
said.'

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Do you know somebody on a protease inhibitor who needs to know this information immediately?
"One of the most commonly used herbal remedies, St. John's wort,
substantially reduces blood levels of the HIV-fighting drug indinavir, and may cause treatment failure in
some HIV-infected patients, US researchers report." [Reuters]

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Nelson Mandela celebrates the 10th anniversary of his release from 27 years of political imprisonment by the U.S.-backed South African apartheid regime for "high treason" .

>


Unveiling a plaque at a new monument in Mvezo, part of rural Transkei, where he was born July 18, 1918, the son of a chief's adviser. (photo: Juda Ngwenya/Reuters)


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Thursday, February 10, 2000

"Cyborgasms:" An Ethnography of Cybersex in AOL Chat Rooms
"Cybersex Amongst Multiple-Selves and Cyborgs in the
Narrow-Bandwidth Space of America Online Chat Rooms." Robin Hamman's 1996 master's thesis in sociology from the University of Essex (UK). By the way, she requests: "Please link to this paper by linking to my homepage at: http://www.cybersoc.com/" .

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Excited to learn from Lindsay Marshall's weblog that Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast novels have been adapted for the screen and just telecast on BBC. This was one of my favorite fantasies as I cast about after a J.R.R. Tolkien phase in early adolescence. Unique, very atmospheric; this darkly gothic fantasy world is an entire kingdom in a sprawling labyrinthine, uncharted castle. It's something I can't wait to read aloud to my children. "(The show) was very good, though there some rather OTT performances which were
weak (Warren Mitchell and Spike Milligan were the worst offenders). I don't know why people are saying it was a failure
because it was anything but. Whatever else it is a fantastic snapshot of the state of British acting at this time."

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While we're on the topic of network maps, see this nifty Java-based interactive map "... of some of the players in the internet space along with a portion of the alliances they have
formed. This visualization demonstrates the forces that agents exhibit upon each other in a complex interconnected
system. The interactions amongst the nodes emerge from the pattern of direct, and indirect, ties throughout the network." You can play with it, drag nodes around to change the scale and explore the network's innards. Does this remind anyone else of the visualization and manipulation of similar data Gibson describes in "Neuromancer"?

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Comments from the weblog lake effect about this week's DoS attacks on prominent websites. I agree; we're going to continue to see this happening, it's so absurdly easy to do, it seems. "The big media are missing the key point on this DoS Hell Week. The
computer security of the sites attacked -- Amazon, Yahoo, CNN, et cetera --
is not in question. The cause of these attacks is lax security on possibly as
many as 100,000 compromised sites where the hackers install their proxy
tools. These tools -- which can be effective with as few as 100 compromised
sites -- are the result of security research in the last year that turned up a
variety of Denial-of-Service Tools and techniques (here documented at
CERT). In short, this was a problem that was simmering quietly on the stove
while almost nobody paid attention -- until this week, when the techniques
began to be used for the first time against high-profile sites. This problem
will only get worse, as the number of poorly-managed systems with 24/7 net
connections continues to rise. New products like Norton Internet Security (a
one-PC firewall) will help -- except in this case, where the compromised
systems are Unix-based. I don't know of one at this moment, but a Windows
client can't be far behind."

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Arrest of Wisconsin man with mental illness quells public alarm about mysterious vials found taped to utility poles in several Wisconsin communities. The suspect told police they contained plain water and he'd taped them to utility poles because he was testing radio frequencies he believed were bombarding him, authorities said. When you reflect on it, it's much more likely than the scenarios that were probably going through people's minds about biological terrorist attacks, isn't it? As a psychiatrist, I teach trainees that there is a way in which the distress we feel when we're engaged with someone with mental illness is, in an initially mysterious way that has to begin to make sense to do this work, an inroads into the internal distress that the client feels. But I've never seen it illustrated in quite this way, or affecting an entire community. The story, it seems to me, isn't over now that the mystery is solved and the "perp" arrested; the interesting part, I hope, might just start now. It could have a positive effect on the ongoing public misconceptions about and stigmatization of those with psychiatric illnesses if anyone speaks out, in a manner akin to my point above; or it could merely reinforce...

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A Picture of Weblogs mapped onto a linkage space. I'm a peripheral participant in this weblog phenomenon but continue to be fascinated by its sociology. Somewhere down below, I said something about the incestuousness of the blog community, I think. This makes it graphical. Is there any comprehensible reason the weblog-space organizes itself this way? Something about the balance between momentum and gravity? "a picture of approximately 240 weblogs and the links connecting them. Weblogs are denoted by a box, a link is
denoted by a line. Clicking on a box will show the URL of the weblog that was scanned." What the author of this mapping application needs to do is make it possible for the viewer to navigate to the sites by clicking on their loci, IMHO...

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Ford's Astoundingly Better Idea. Commentary from Jon Katz (Slashdot) on Ford's announcement that it will be giving computers and net access to each of its 350,000 employees and their families. Other corporations are reportedly already following suit. Possibly good business sense and potentially socially transformative, when you think about it:
"If other American companies adopted Ford's model, the technological gap looming between
the middle-class and underclass would begin to close. The United States workforce would
become the most technologically sophisticated in the world. The high-tech workforce would
expand dramatically, along with the educational, cultural, social and economic benefits of
computing still unavailable to more than half the American population."

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So You've Decided to be Evil Given the "banality of evil," I knew there must be a DIY manual for this somewhere!

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Monday, February 7, 2000

I've always been a cult-watcher. Sometimes I've been fond of saying that there's little difference between our indoctrination into our common cultural dream and what cults do to hook their members. One cult I find particularly insidious, both because of their web presence and their anti-psychiatric biases, is Sc*ent*l*gy. Here is a massive collection of links to web information about them from the alt.religion.sc*ent*l*gy Usenet newsgroup.

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Sunday, February 6, 2000

Asian Recipes . with herbs, culture, ingredients, glossaries and cooking from Afghanistan to Vietnam.

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The Ad Critic: Super Bowl XXXIV Coverage If you don't watch football but you want to stay attuned to the state of the art in the battle for your heart, mind and bank balance, (or maybe you just enjoy ads! My wife's father was an advertising executive and she tells me that, growing up in her household, commercials were watched with rapt attention and the programs in between were just interruptions one could talk through) this site will provide quicktime videos of all the TV commercials from this year's Superbowl.

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Pro-choice Democratic women candidates: EMILY's List
"identifies viable pro-choice Democratic women candidates for key federal and statewide
offices.

EMILY's List has helped elect six pro-choice Democratic women to the U.S. Senate, 44 to
the U.S. House, and three women governors."

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Caught this comment at the Evhead weblog: "I predict, the next big thing in
weblogging will be actually have a rest of a site -- wherein, the weblog is but a feature.
Ah hell, what am I talking about, that sounds like work." Well, I've got you covered; for some of us newcomers to weblogging, the site came first...

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Saturday, February 5, 2000

BBC News | EUROPE | Profile: Controversy and Joerg Haider Some details on the Austrian far-right leader with a history of praising Nazi policy, whose inclusion in the new governing coalition is so controversial. The next leader of Austria?

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New Scientist: Backwards to the future A paper published in the last days of 1999 suggests there is no theoretical reason why there might not be regions of the universe in which time runs backwards.

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The web has grown to over a billion unique documents, a new study asserts.

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Getspeed.com. Find out if broadband internet access services are available at your location by entering your zipcode.

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The American Experience | Race for the Superbomb | Nuclear Blast Mapper My most passionate activism has been for disarmament. I went to the UK once just because I had been so enamored of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). I helped Helen Caldicott and others found Physicians for Social Responsibility when I was a pre-med and medical student. In large measure, I was "turned" by my exposure to the BBC film "The War Game," a ground's-eye neighborhood view of the effects of a nuclear attack that I believe was banned in the UK for many years because it was so disturbing. (Do you remember the network media event of "The Day After"? This was a decade earlier, and without the Hollywood bathos and glitz.) Disarmament activism works best when it brings the effects of a nuclear blast home to your dinner table, as does this site. Here is what happens to my part of the country from a 25 megaton air blast.

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Fantastic Prayers
"Fantastic Prayers describes an urban landscape inscribed with memories of lives
lived, objects possessed or discarded, and places inhabited. In eight magical
environments, you become a visitor, who, like an archeologist, is invited to dig
through and uncover fragmentary narratives, laden with physical and
psychological histories."

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"Don't do housework on
New Year's Day. Sweeping dirt out through
the front door was akin to sweeping away the
family."

óOne tradition to consider following
today, the inauguration of the
Chinese New Year of the Dragon. Happy new year! I was born in a year of the dragon myself.

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Is anybody reading this weblog? If you're out there, please drop me a line to let me know. I fear I'm sending these thoughts out into the utterly cold and empty void to dissipate as random electrons...

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The Bush Bubble by William Saletan
Well, I'm violating a promise I made to myself that this blog wouldn't get involved in the largely meaningless and inconsequential quadrennial quibbling we call Presidential politics. If there are any Bush supporters reading this (and there probably aren't, if you've followed my ideological bent as previous postings reflect it...), William Saletan (in Slate) thinks you're not thinking for yourself: "Here's what George W. Bush has accomplished: He won the
governorship of a big state without Republican opposition in a
year in which every palatable Republican nominee was swept
into office. He administered that institutionally weak office
during a national boom that poured surpluses into state
treasuries and enabled governors and legislators to cut taxes
without cutting spending. He accumulated enough time in
office to become a plausible presidential candidate just as the
country's Democratic president was discrediting his heir
apparent with yet another scandal, and just as Republican
congressional leaders were discrediting themselves by
reducing their agenda to the president's impeachment, thereby
clearing the Republican presidential field for Bush.

You were supposed to vote for Bush because everyone else
was supposed to vote for him. In New Hampshire, they didn't.
Bush says it's just a blip in the market, and you should keep
holding his stock. But he's already lost most of his lead in
South Carolina. If he suffers another defeat there, people will
begin to ask why they should vote for him even if he's not
inevitable or more electable than his rivals. McCain, Alan
Keyes, and Gary Bauer have spent two years explaining why
you should vote for them even if nobody else agrees with you.
Bush ought to be able to answer the same question."

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"The Turning Point Project was
formed in 1999 specifically to design and produce a series
of educational advertisements concerning the major issues
of the new millennium. The ads will appear in The New
York Times and, funds permitting, other newspapers
through spring of 2000. The issues discussed are those that
will be crucial in determining the quality of life on Earth in
the near and distant future. Despite this, they have not been
given the in-depth coverage in the major media that they
deserve." Their list of featured issues includes the extinction crisis, genetic engineering, industrial agriculture, economic globalization, and "technomania". Their board of directors includes the estimable Jerry Mander, whose thinking and agitating I have been influenced by since his "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television" in the '60's (read it if you can find it!).

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CRT - Campaign for Responsible Transplantation
Raises concerns about the risk of facilitating the transfer of devastating animal viruses to the human population through xenotransplantation. "The Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization and
eminent scientists have acknowledged that xenotransplantation could
transmit deadly animal viruses to patients and the general public.
Baboon Cytomegalovirus was recently detected in stored blood from
a recipient of a baboon liver who died in 1992. Pigs can carry
bacterial, viral, fungal, protozoal and helminth pathogens, as well
as prion proteins, implicated in 'mad cow disease'. Known pig viruses
include the porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERVs) that have infected
human cells. In 1998-99, the novel Malaysian "Nipah" virus jumped
from pigs to humans, infected 269 people, killed over 100, left dozens
brain-damaged, and led to the mass slaughter of one million pigs. The
swine flu epidemic of 1918 killed 20-40 million people worldwide. We
know relatively little about pig viruses, or animal viruses in general.
There may be dozens waiting to be discovered." Of course, several recent devastating infectious diseases, including HIV and gruesome hemorrhagic fevers such as Marburg and Ebola, presumably made the jump from animal reservoirs... On the other hand, are we merely tapping into a new virulent arena for human xenophobia?

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Thursday, February 3, 2000

Panorama: Transcript of a special BBC report on a physician who may have killed as many as one hundred of his patients.

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Swiping at Crime Solving cases with the help of metrocard records: "
A swipe at a turnstile in
Manhattan, for example,
demolished a crime suspect's
alibi that he never left Staten Island the day of a
Central Park West robbery, authorities said." Never use your farecard on the way to or from a compromising position, I guess. Not to mention your car's toll transponder, or your credit card, or your ATM card, or....

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