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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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Saturday, April 22, 2000

Put Ananova, the computer-generated virtual newscaster, through her paces.

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The New York Times makes public the history of the CIA-engineered coup in Iran which returned the Shah to power in 1953 and toppled its elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh. The document was written in 1954 by one of the coup's main planners.

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Bedbugs make their return in UK and perhaps US.

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Hacker fells Area 51 Web site

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Feds Try Odd Anti-Porn Approach: "The U.S. Department of Justice is quietly recruiting critics of filtering software to help it
defend a controversial anti-pornography law in court.

Government attorneys are asking librarians and academics who have published criticisms of the
controversial filtering products to testify in an expected trial over the Child Online Protection Act. The Justice Department's reasoning is simple: If products like Cyberpatrol and Surfwatch are
so badly flawed that they don't block what they should, then the judge in the case should
uphold a federal law making it a crime to post erotica online instead." [Wired]

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FBI works to head off plans to pardon Leonard Peltier: 'FBI officials across the nation are mobilizing to prevent a presidential pardon for Leonard
Peltier, the American Indian activist imprisoned for murder whose claim of innocence has inspired a two-decade protest movement in his behalf.

(Officials)... say they fear that Peltier, in prison for killing two FBI agents will be freed by President Clinton on his way out of office.

"Recently, information has been received to indicate that Leonard Peltier, who has been convicted for his direct participation in the murders of
two Special Agents of the FBI, will be considered for release from prison as a result of executive intervention," David Williams, special agent in
charge of Milwaukee's FBI office, wrote in a letter to the Journal Sentinel, one of a number of letters the FBI sent to newspapers around the
country....Amnesty International considers Peltier to be a political prisoner who should be unconditionally released. Gina Chiala, a coordinator for the
Leonard Peltier Defense Committee in Lawrence, Kan., said "the Justice Department has been pretty tight-lipped" about any possible plans for
Peltier's release.

With Peltier's growing status as a political prisoner in Native-American circles, the FBI appears to be taking the unusual step of entering into a
public relations battle to affect the possible actions of the executive branch. ' Fascinating development, as is the fact that for the first time an Administration might finally be listening to the longstanding fervent advocacy on Peltier's behalf.

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Pot Calls Kettle Black: ``They said they were going to do this in a sensitive way. What does this do to this little boy? What have
they done to this boy? He lost his mother, and now this.''

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I realize that I seem to be posting more stuff recently related to my interests as a physician. I'm thinking about recent days' items such as the feuding addictionologists, the research findings about face recognition in autistic-spectrum disorders, and the comparative ratings of state medical boards. Is this stuff meaningful to you lay people or would you rather see it shifted to a second weblog geared more for medical or mental health professionals? I've toyed with the idea of separating it out. [Of course, then I could have two weblogs nobody reads instead of just one!] Comments?

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"Mafiaboy" wiretaps also land his father: Police allege that surveillance in international hacking case turned up plans for assault. [Montreal Gazette]

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How Stuff Works!

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Showdown With The Pinkertons
"...Jim told me something I hadn't quite grasped: the anonymous reporting culture is a growing
business, now deeply entrenched in the United States, a result of the victimization movement
and lawsuit epidemic rampant for nearly a generation. Encouraged by federal and local
governments, and many corporate and educational institutions, hotlines operate all over the
country to report date rape, sexual harassment, abuse, and other forms of brutality and
insensitivity. Since so many institutions in the United States are now presumed to be
unresponsive to the needs of one group or another, privately-administered anonymous
reporting hotlines are spreading. Pinkerton itself runs more than 800 such lines. It was
inevitable, said Jim, that they would move into schools..."

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Friday, April 21, 2000

[via Phil Agre's Red Rock Eater News Service]: PRIVACY Forum: Massive Tracking of Web Users Planned -- Via ISPs!. "Picture a world where information about your every move on the Web,
including the sites that you visit, the keywords that you enter into search
engines, and so on, are all shipped off to a third party, with the willing
cooperation of your Internet Service Provider (ISP). None of those pesky
cookies to disable, no outside Web sites to put on block lists--just a direct
flow of data from your ISP to the unseen folks with the dollar signs (or
pound, yen, euro, or whatever signs) gleaming brightly in their eyes behind
the scenes. You'll of course be told that your information is "anonymous"
and that you can trust everyone involved, that you'll derive immense benefits
from such tracking, and that you have an (at least theoretical) opt-in or
opt-out choice."

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This is seemingly one round fired in an internal battle between two luminaries in the addiction medicine field. Stanton Peele's website attacks Doug Talbott's Recovery Program by hosting the open letters of a disgruntled attorney who had a terrible experience under Talbott's care and knows an ethical violation when he sees one. But, since you probably don't care about Peele or Talbott, this is interesting to read as a good encapsulation of the clash of two treatment paradigms. Patients best understood as "dual-diagnosis" are often, in my opinion, ill-served and even damaged at the hands of rabid "recovery" proponents. [As an aside, Talbott's Recovery Campus has been one of the flagship sites of Charter Behavioral Health Systems, the largest for-profit owner-operator of mental health care facilities in the country which is about to be liquidated under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. I'm currently acting as medical director of a psychiatric hospital that was until recently a Charter facility.]

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"It's virtually impossible for animals to consent to sex with humans..."

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Health officials warn of transgender tuberculosis risk.

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Duck 'n' Cover, '00's style

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Newest installment in the Annals of the Age of Depravity: Mich. Moves to Ban Sale of Babies

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Thursday, April 20, 2000

The Cosmos is Coming:
"When it comes online in six months to a year, Microsoft’s SkyServer will be the astronomical
equivalent of the company's popular TerraServer, which catalogs aerial images of the Earth
and is one of the biggest databases on the Internet.

In the same way users of the TerraServer choose a region of the planet and drill down for
pictures of the ground at ever greater resolution, users of the SkyServer will be able choose
a region of the sky and probe deeper and deeper into space...
But unlike the TerraServer, which is essentially a collection of unprocessed pictures, the
SkyServer data will be somewhat 'cooked' –- analyzed and catalogued -- allowing members
of the public to do science with the data." [Wired]

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The Sociable Media Group at MIT investigates issues
concerning identity and
society in the networked
world.

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I just found out that Dave McReynolds, whose work for the New York-based pacifist organization the War Resistors' League I've watched for more than thirty years, is running for President on the Socialist Party ticket.

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[Salon]:
"On the eve of the
Columbine massacre anniversary, stunning new allegations
about the killings emerged from long-expected lawsuits filed
by victims' families late Wednesday. They include charges that
a law enforcement officer, not Dylan Klebold or Eric Harris,
killed student Daniel Rohrbough, and that officers knew early
on that Klebold and Harris were dead, and thus could have
saved teacher Dave Sanders, who bled to death four hours
after he was shot."

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Born to pop pills:
"I was a Girl Scout in pursuit of my pharmaceuticals badge. I
was a walking medicine cabinet; I nearly rattled when I
walked. I trusted pills. I could have kissed the chemist who
created gel caps. Two blue-green gel caps -- meditate on that. I
mean, was there any image more soothing? Not for me." [Salon]

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Molly Ivins tries to goose up your outrage level.

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Lies, Damed Lies Statistics and Yellow Journalism: Sure I'm defensive about this. The advocacy group Public Citizen has posted a report by Sidney Wolfe MD ranking the 50 state medical boards' rates of serious disciplinary actions in 1999 and earlier years. My state, Massachusetts, rates near the bottom. Wolfe and Public Citizen imply that that means the medical board is lax, or that its members are covering for their inept colleagues:
"These data raise serious questions about the extent to which patients in many states with poorer records of serious doctor discipline are
being protected from physicians who might well be barred from practice in states with boards that are doing a better job of disciplining
physicians. It is likely that patients are being injured or killed more often in states with poor doctor disciplinary records than in states
with consistent top performances."

But, at least for Massachusetts, couldn't it mean that the quality of medical care is higher and the need for disciplinary action lower, as I think it might be? The state has four medical schools and an enormous proportion of its medical practitioners are medical faculty, leaders in their disciplines; another large proportion are researchers without enough patient contact to commit disciplinable offenses. Think about it: the four best-ranked states are AK, with a total of just 1160 physicians; ND, with 1596 physicians state-wide; WY, with 981; and ID, with 2278. Massachusetts had 27622 physicians in 1999.

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Why Web Journals Suck by Diane Patterson. Some of the comments are germane to weblogs too. There's a section called "Hit Sluts" on how to attract more readers, with some thoughtful suggestions. One of them is to post a long diatribe about how web journals suck. Good work, Diane. Another is to link to other journals or weblogs, especially popular ones. Good work, Eliot. Let's face it, I'm a hit slut too.

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HIV puzzle explored:
new report of an elderly patient
who has survived with the infection for about 15 years, untroubled by any virus-related complications,
according to a group of Italian physicians.

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Mounties Probe Fragrant Student
"A teacher (in Sheet Harbour, Nova Scotia) has asked Royal Canadian Mounted Police to investigate whether a student is ignoring the
school's policy against wearing scented products and intentionally trying to cause her to experience allergic reactions.

If investigators deem the boy is intentionally trying to harm the teacher, the student could be charged with assault or mischief."

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Can George W. Save Bill G.? by Ted Rose
Last week, the New York Times reported that George W.
Bush campaign consultant Ralph Reed was moonlighting for
Microsoft, lobbying Bush about the company's antitrust case. Could
Bush really make a difference in the case if he assumed the
presidency in 2001? [Slate]

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Slate: Baby Needs a New Set of Genes - Everyone's against genetic discrimination. Or so they think.  by Michael Kinsley
"So this ban on genetic discrimination that everyone seems
to be for would, if applied consistently, be an exercise in social
leveling like nothing since the Khmer Rouge turned Cambodia
into Kampuchea. That seems to leave only two logically
coherent positions, both intolerable: 1) level away; or 2) don't
start down this road, because there's no place to stop." Does Kinsley really think we'll stop and think just because we're on a slippery slope??

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Wednesday, April 19, 2000

The scoop on The Copernicus Plot: Seven of the 260 surviving copies of Polish
astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus' momentous 1543
book De Revolutionibus Orbium
Coelestium (On the Revolution of Heavenly Spheres)
, in which he argued that the Earth goes around the
sun and not vice versa, have been stolen from university
and scientific libraries worldwide over the past several
years. Worth $400,000 apiece but virtually impossible
to fence, why have multiple thieves, or one thief very
gifted at disguise, used various ruses to take the tomes
from cities as far apart as Krakow, Kiev,
Stockholm, St. Petersburg and
the University of Illinois? [Chicago Tribune]

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Old News: former
Washington Post pop-music critic Richard
Harrington filed suit in February alleging that
he had been demoted to a part-time job on the
weekend section as a result of his age.

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What is the link between depression and artistic genius?
An Oscar-nominated documentary about emotionally tortured concert violinist Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg, Speaking in Strings, "looks at her difficulties
sympathetically but in the process may have turned her into the next David Helfgott as far as the public is
concerned. That's unfair to Salerno-Sonnenberg, who is vastly more talented and capable than Helfgott,
the pianist whose story was chronicled in the movie Shine, and who was then exploited by his wife and
managers in a concert tour for which he was not fit. But it does raise a question: Do depression and other
emotional problems have a particular connection with artistic creativity?"

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Mixed signals
NPR says it supports low-power FM, a new standard for a class of 10- and 100-watt grassroots community stations. But it's joining with industry lobbyists to gut the standard by claiming it fears interference with existing broadcasting signals. [Salon]

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Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Last fall, British and Danish inve