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Saturday, May 6, 2000
Innocents in Web of Philippine Terror The New York Times reminds us of the ongoing hostage situation in Mindanao. More than fifty people have been held for up to six weeks by Islamic separatist rebels; several have been killed by their captors as government troops encroached. Hostages include more than a dozen schoolchildren. The crisis gives us a glimpse into an incredible "lawless world of pirates, smugglers
and warlords, where kidnapping for ransom is a business and
religious wars are fought by throwing bombs into markets
A Political Scientist Renews His Alarm at the Erosion of Community Ties: Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam decries the rise of "bowling alone" (the title of his new book) and other signs of the lack of connectedness in modern American life:
"Henry Ward Beecher's advice a century ago to 'multiply
picnics' is not entirely ridiculous today. We should do this,
ironically, not because it will be good for America -- though
it will be -- but because it will be good for us." [New York Times]
Epidemiological study finds link between in-home pesticide exposure and increased risks of Parkinson's Disease.
So much for house arrest with electronic monitoring bracelets.
Here's the schedule for the Physicians for Social Responsibility National Conference 2000, taking place now in Arlington VA. This agency founded in the '70's was a unifying vehicle for health professionals' raising public concerns about nuclear issues, under the powerful histrionic charisma of Australian physician Helen Caldicott. An offshoot organization, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, won the Nobel Peace Prize several years later. I was proud to collaborate with Caldicott and other inspiring physician activists when I was a medical student, started the PSR chapter at my school and organized a major conference in New Haven CT on the effects of the nuclear arms race on children in the early '80's. I was floored, and glad, to come across evidence that the organization still exists and thrives, with an apparently broadened agenda -- environmental health, nuclear security and violence prevention.
NewsWatch criticizes 60 Minutes II's "media circus" on MDMA (Ecstasy). Many bloggers' comments about the show were along the lines of how MDMA scares them, and it should. But the broadcast was rife with inaccuracy and sensationalism.
Greenpeace says the joint statement by the five nuclear weapons states to attempt to allay the concerns of non-nuclear states is "a lame attempt to excuse the inexcusable." Lasst week's conference by signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT) on progress toward halting the nuclear threat reminded the nuclear weapons states that the NNPT obligated them to take meaningful steps toward disarmament. Even with the stockpile reductions by the US and Russia since the "end of the Cold War", arsenals are massively larger than when the 1970 treaty was enacted. Had you stopped being concerned about disarmament issues?
Friday, May 5, 2000
An Australian team has extracted DNA from the remains of a Tasmanian Tiger, extinct for 60 years, and reports that a resurrection is possible. [Wired]
The NRA is chomping at the bit to have George W. in the White House, and Handgun Control wants you to know it. "...A report...released
last year based on information from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)...
indicated that there may be a large number of dangerous, convicted felons in illegal
possession of firearms in Texas. These felons are at large and have not been prosecuted,
despite their having provided the state of Texas with their names, addresses, color photos,
fingerprints and certification of their proficiency in the use of handguns when they applied for
a license to carry a concealed handgun. The report shows that, despite Governor Bush's
calls for tough enforcement of existing gun laws and more prosecutions of gun crimes, it is
the governor's own support for the carrying of concealed weapons that has conclusively
demonstrated that Texan felons can continue to own guns."
Expect Legislative Attacks on Environmental Protection This Summer:
"The nation's leading conservation groups warned today that
damaging congressional attacks on the environment are expected to proliferate this summer
as Congress rushes to adjourn before the November elections.
The groups expect that most anti-environmental riders will be added to "must pass"
appropriations bills that Congress has to enact in order to avoid a government shutdown." [Common Dreams]
American Society of Magazine Editors' National Magazine Awards 2000 Winners. I don't know about you, but these are not the magazines I read.
The Sierra Club is raising the hue and cry about a Dept. of Agriculture plan that would essentially sell out the Everglades to the sugar industry.
The humbling of human conceit before the terrible majesty of raw nature always awes me. We need taking down a notch like that. The Perfect Storm was a good summer read a couple of years ago, and it looks to be a good summer movie. The author, Sebastian Junger, reacts to them making a film of his book. [New York Times]
Happy Cinco de Mayo. And don't forget the grand conjunction of the planets for which doomsayers have been waiting with dread. "All seven classical solar system bodies span their smallest
geocentric arc in ecliptic longitude -- 25° 53' -- at 8:08 UT on May 5. This moment is the culmination of the celestial massings. The
sun is near the center of the massing, so all that will be visible will be Mars and the crescent moon, both 16° east of the sun in the
evening sky, and perhaps Venus, 10° west of the sun in the morning sky."
Thursday, May 4, 2000
See colorful Mayan market towns in Guatemala, get exposed to quaint indigenous beliefs...and die.
House Republican Whip Tom DeLay probably thinks you are part of a 'Cultural Coup D'etat' against American values.
My son would go for this!
Do you remember where you were thirty years ago today when you heard about the Kent State murders?
Recreational Use of Ritalin Feared. I hate to mention this, but people have been using Ritalin recreationally for at least forty years.
Salon reviews Paulina Borsook's "Cyberselfish", which denounces high-tech culture as pitiless, egotistical and (ugghh!) libertarian. Does it matter that squabbles prevented it from coming to press until five years after it was written? Time warp: "She's especially talented at sketching
caricatures and does so throughout
"Cyberselfish," where we meet a host of
cypherpunks and nerverts (nerds who
indulge in unusual sex), ravers and gilders,
entrepreneurial newts and programming
flamingos. Her sketches are true enough that
you nod and think, yeah, I know the type.
Indeed, at its best, "Cyberselfish" reads like
the "Radical Chic" of mid-1990s San
Two interesting observations from Jason Levine's blog Q Daily News. First:
Last night, I had dinner with a friend who lived in Germany
before the Wall came down, and she said that there was an
almost-absolute policy in West Germany for what to do when
a parent tried to bring his or her kids across the Wall and
were killed in the process -- if the children had a surviving
parent in East Germany, they were returned to that parent.
In the reasoning of the West German government, the
differences in freedom between East and West did not justify
separating children from their parents.
And:ABC is back now on New York cable. Interestingly, when I
checked, I caught about five minutes of Oprah, when she had
Janet Reno on. I was thinking that Reno's Parkinson's is
getting more and more noticeable (she had a clear tremor),
and just then, Oprah recommended that Reno take a little
time off, and "maybe not shake so much." I was floored --
has anyone ever told Oprah to stop eating so damn much in
an interview? What an insensitive boob.
A Chicago Tribune article dissects the effects of China's draconian one-child policy. Apparently, it is being phased out because of the burden of the new generation caring for aging parents without siblings. Mathematically, if the policy continued for another generation, there would simply not be enough adults to care for their elders. My own curiosity is about the effects on the national psyche of essentially an entire population growing up without knowing the experience of brotherhood/sisterhood.
Other blogs always point with astonishment to sites like this. But, given my psychiatric work, I find them merely poignant and prosaic.
An otherwise uninteresting blog pointed me to this item on how Microsoft perverts our kids' understanding of the world. Knowledge Base article says they are "researching this problem and will post new information...as it becomes available."
... And by the Way, a Tsunami May Hit D.C. by Timothy Noah I blogged below the original reports about the tsunami risk. Here is a column on Washington's vulnerability. "The Geology article doesn't actually
address the possibility that Strom Thurmond, or some other
slow-moving senator, might drown in the basement cafeteria
of the Hart building, but let's face it: The Capitol stands not
too far from the banks of the Potomac River, as do the swank
salons of Georgetown, the John F. Kennedy Center for the
Performing Arts, the Republican political consulting firms that
line the streets of Old Town Alexandria, and the airport
recently renamed Reagan National." Because the risk of the undersea landslide that could trigger the tidal wave may be related to global climate change, it would serve Trent Lott right if he drowned in the Washington subway, Noah notes.
Slate's Politics column has a couple of interesting tidbits today: Clinton's reflections on his lame duck waning-days status; the phenomenon of Clinton nostalgia in light of the deficiencies of the men who vie to succeed him; the Republican plan to revamp the Presidential primary system; and Gary Coleman's impending entry into politics.
Deconstructing the media's obsession with Generation Y.
Slate Diary: A police officer looks at casual marijuana use. "A cop is a cop 24 hours a day, and even when I'm off
duty, I find it difficult to observe drug use nonchalantly.
That's why, as my girlfriend dressed and her roommate
consumed her "Chinese food" on the roof, I found myself
hitting the redial button on their phone pad, trying to get
the number of the delivery service."
Wednesday, May 3, 2000
NLPstuff Michal Wallace has started a "wiki" about Neurolinguistic Programming. This "wiki" tool intrigues me, as a medium for web-based collaborative learning. This is the first time I've run across it. NLP, on the other hand, is something I've long been interested in, as both a set of specific techniques for helping people change through changing beliefs, and as a unique way of describing what change agents may be doing without knowing it.
When I was newer to weblogging, I noticed that everyone had a big list of other weblogs as a sidebar, so I made one myself. I found a list of one week's most popular logs (in terms of how many others linked to them), so I linked to them. I think it was a sign of progress when I changed the header to "weblogs I read," but I just tonight finished culling out the ones I don't really follow. There are a few others I need to add...
Do you think this was deliberate, or was it really a typo? [courtesy of Metafilter]
Here are librarians' accounts of the stupid people about whom they snicker with other librarians.
Tuesday, May 2, 2000
David Bianculli, New York Daily News TV critic, finds "Buffy the
Vampire Slayer" pushes the envelope.
Relieved to report that Cruise and Kidman appear to be defecting from S-c-i-e-n-t-o-l-o-g-y, according to Hollywood gossip. "And (Cruise) appears not to have been very
supportive of fellow S-c-i-e-n-t-o-l-o-g-i-s-t John
Travolta's attempts to turn B-a-t-t-l-e-f-i-e-l-d E-a-r-t-h (by L. R-o-n H-u-b-b-a-r-d, the founder of S-c-i-e-n-t-o-l-o-g-y) into a movie.
While working on Eyes Wide Shut, it is
claimed that he hinted to executives at
Warner Bros, the studio behind both movie
projects, that releasing B-a-t-t-l-e-f-i-e-l-d E-a-r-t-h would
be a mistake." (No matter, the film is likely to be a bomb anyway, but maybe a few more people will avoid it if its provenance is known.)
Indian village is ostracised for one murder too many: "In India, daily reports abound of crimes against women - dowry burnings,
gang rapes, female infanticide and cases of low-caste women stripped and
paraded through villages.
Many of these crimes pass barely noticed. Ms Devi's death would also have
gone unpunished - her attackers are wealthy and would probably have
bribed the police - had it not been for the mahapanchayat."
Germans fooled by D. Duck. Two journalists from the venerable Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung admit they've been having more than a chuckle or two at the expense of the culturally authoritative German newspaper's highbrow readers. Members of a society called Donald that promotes Donald Duck, they've been slipping Donaldisms into the paper's headlines and captions with astonishing regularity for more than ten years.
Will Frank Gehry's stupendous proposed waterfront "cumulus cloud of titanium" design for a new Guggenheim Museum branch in New York ever really get built?
If it's only rock and role [sic] why should we like it? by Hannah McGill: "Can we really trust our rock stars to venture beyond the
boundaries of their job descriptions? Increasingly, they are
getting above themselves. They produce movies. Star in
movies. Write movies. Write novels. Diddle about with stocks
and shares and web-related ventures. Import absinthe. Model
for Calvin Klein. Become priests. Today’s pop star has the
attention span of a cocaine-addled gnat. No wonder it takes
them an average of six years to make an album." [The Scotsman]
"Lucian Freud has long been regarded as one of Britain's
greatest living artists, and auctioneers at Sotheby's were
delighted when one of his paintings came up for sale at their
But two porters at the Bond Street auction house did not quite
see it that way and when it arrived they threw it into a giant
crushing machine, where it was destroyed. Yesterday
Sotheby's was coy but it is understood the porters were not
making a critical evaluation on Freud's artistic technique. The
plant study, valued at £100,000, arrived in a wooden case the
porters put out with the rubbish, believing it to be empty." [The Independent]
New PBS President Seeks Input on Future of Network, plans a creative summit of film and TV heavyweights to brainstorm on what PBS ought to be doing. Do you really want the likes of Steven Spielberg, Katie Couric, and Ted Koppel to reinvent public television for you?
In the Quantum World, Keys to New Codes. Researchers report that they are using the previously arcane philosophical concept of quantum entanglement as the basis for an almost-fully-realized system of secure cryptography.
Who's Filling Your Prescription? I don't know if this is true in your state, but in Massachusetts, if it walks like a pharmacist and talks like a pharmacist, and wears a white coat and performs many of the same functions as a pharmacist, it's not necessarily a pharmacist and, thus, not necessarily regulated by the state. "Pharamacy technicians" have little required training beyond a high school degree and, by some accounts, are responsible for half of all prescription errors.
Lake Monster Now Has a Price on His Head: "After years of unconfirmed sightings, Ogopogo -- Western Canada's equivalent of the Loch Ness monster -- now has a reward on its head
thanks to local businessmen, who have taken out an insurance policy just in case it is found."
Wild at heart
"Paleontologists have found what appears to be a fossilised dinosaur heart in the chest cavity of a 300-kilogram
plant-eating beast that died 66 million years ago. The discovery may help resolve a long-running debate over dinosaurs' metabolism."
Two new medical research findings with potentially very important implications in reducing suffering: Researchers Target Mechanism for Cancer Pain, finding a protein that may block some of the bone destruction responsible for the excruciating pain in bone cancer. And Researchers Reduce Transplant Rejection in Mice: by using antibodies against a T-cell surface antigen, they block activation of the T-cells that cause graft-vs.-host disease, a major cause of catastrophic failure of bone marrow transplants.
A warning for you parents of young children: Mixing Fever-Reducing Drugs Is Bad for Children. Many pediatricians have advised fever-phobic parents that, instead of holding to the four-to-six-hourly dosage interval for either ibuprofen (Motrin etc.) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), parents could alternate doses of the two agents every two or three hours. Word is that this can cause additive side effects and do more harm than good.
Tsunamis Seen Possible Along U.S. East Coast. Newly-discovered sea floor cracks off the mid-Atlantic coast, if geologically active, could trigger tsunamis along this heavily-populated coast. Geologists predict that the "tidal waves" would be on a par with the storm surges caused by class-three or -four hurricanes. 1992's Hurricane Andrew, a class-four storm, was the costliest natural disaster in human history, largely because of its storm surge damage.
Study Sees No Benefits From DARE. "Cash-strapped schools are still relying primarily on the DARE program to keep their students off
drugs even though a number of studies have questioned its effectiveness, according to a survey of educators.
In recent years, several studies have concluded DARE does little to keep children off drugs....(T)he study's author, said she
was disappointed to see so many schools continuing to use the program."
I know I shouldn't be linking so often to the New York Times, because the links expire pretty quickly, but this is one fascinating article -- read it quickly! The Human Family Tree: 10 Adams and 18 Eves: "...geneticists, by tracing the DNA patterns found in people
throughout the world, have now identified lineages
descended from 10 sons of a genetic Adam and 18 daughters
On the record: NASA plans to put flight data recorders in future Mars missions, preparing for mission failures.
Monday, May 1, 2000
The Epidemic of Cyberstalking: the Internet can be a truly scary place to live. [Wired]
Because she reported that her obesity prevented her from getting a job, a British woman qualified for a grant to join a slimming club under a government scheme aimed at helping the long-term unemployed find work. (She ended up losing 180 lbs. but still hasn't found work.)
The Secret Service is taking a closer look at 'Where's George', the site I previously described where you follow bills whose serial numbers you've registered and marked with its URL.
Sunday, April 30, 2000
Webdweller - Home of the average human face. This site collects photos of viewers and morphs them together, aiming at portraying the "average human face." So far they have around a hundred contributions, almost all of them Caucasian, but they hope that will broaden in time. Not 'til the ethnic mix of web users broadens...
'This is a new disease and we are
entering the unknown.' Britain may still
harbour CJD timebomb, warns professor.
I'd been following this (Boston) story. The survivor's story just didn't add up. Now, desert mercy-killing man charged with murder.
More Rx-Free Medications: "The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that it would
consider making several kinds of drugs -- from blood pressure
treatments to birth control pills -- available without a doctor's
prescription for the first time."