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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, May 30, 2000

The mysterious death of Carlos Ghigliotti, freelance infrared photography expert engaged by the House Committee on Gov't Reform to investigate whether the FBI had fired first in the siege of the Branch Davidians. [Washington Post]

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Superluminal Speeds [New York Times]

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I'm neglectful by several days in saying this: R.I.P. Sir John Gielgud, whose voice was described as being like "a silver trumpet muffled in silk." I'll never forget his Prospero in Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books. Unfortunate that it appears he's most destined to be remembered as Dudley Moore's butler in Arthur!

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The Solo Retreats From the Spotlight in Jazz. "I'm
often left wondering how it is that solos -- and especially
that theme-solos-theme format -- became such a necessary
part of jazz. Not everybody solos particularly well, after all,
and the number of bona fide stars whom you'd always want
to hear solo, because you identify with them, is at an
all-time low. Sometimes -- too often -- solos make listening
to jazz drudgework yet are nevertheless applauded, when
the real strength of the piece lay in some other part of it." [New York Times]

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Monday, May 29, 2000

New Scientist: Phantom cats revealed. Anaerobic bacteria introduced into the fibers of new carpets during the manufacturing process emit butyric acid. Many people find this to have an odor reminiscent of urine; customers, even in cat-free homes, raise vexing complaints that their new carpets smell of cat urine.

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Haiku movie reviews. And a query engine for more comprehensive movie reviews.

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On Left-Handedness, Its Causes and Costs. The New York Times organizes a discussion of the mystery of why some people are left-handed around the work of a geneticist who believes that about twenty per cent of the population lacks a specific dominance gene that makes others right-handed; people without the gene have a 50-50 chance of being right- or left-handed. Most interesting fact for me in this discussion: around 18% of identical twins have different handedness.

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Amex Nixes X-Rated Exchanges. American Expres decided this month to terminate all of its adult website merchant accounts because of the unacceptable number of disputed charges arising from that sector. '...Many porn
surfers deny they've made the charges when confronted by a spouse -- something
pornographers refer to as the "gak factor." (Husbands run up a credit card bill at a smut
site, then go "gak" when their wives see the monthly statement).' No matter; opportunity knocks -- Visa will be there to pick up the slack.

  •  

JAMA for Java: Association of Coffee and Caffeine Intake With the Risk of Parkinson Disease: data from a prospective study of over 8000 Japanese-American men suggests that caffeine intake is associated with a lower Parkinson's Disease incidence. [Journal of the American Medical Ass'n.]

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Putin and Other Parasites by Stephen Kotkin. The Russian government can't manage the failing Russian economy and society, because the Russian government is the biggest problem Russia has. In this light, the director of Russian studies at
Princeton University and the author of a forthcoming
book on "the Soviet collapse 1970-2000" tells us how to integrate this failing, worrisome Russia into the New World Order. Some of his advice: allow Russia an enhanced sphere of (economic) influence over the other former Soviet states; forge a tripartite mutual defense alliance with Russia and Germany; and exercise "China-like" considerations in foreign policy approaches to Russia.

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Sunday, May 28, 2000

For Memorial Day: A UNICEF report on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children;
a newsletter from Swedish Save the Children on the use of children in armed conflict;
an under-construction site from the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, whose aims are
the adoption of, and adherence to,
an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
(CRC) prohibiting the military recruitment and use in hostilities
of any person younger than 18 years of age, and the recognition
and enforcement of this standard by all armed forces and
groups, both governmental and non-governmental;
and a Human Rights Watch mobilization to stop the use of child soldiers.

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U.S. Uncovers New Evidence Against Pinochet. Finally, the Justice Dept. may have enough data to implicate Pinochet in the Washington car bombing that killed exiled Chilean socialist Orlando Letelier and U.S. peace activist Ronni Moffitt in September 1976. Since he had taken power in a coup that had overthrown Chile's populist socialist leader Salvador Allende three years earlier, Pinochet had been obsessed with Letelier's opposition. Just excused for health reasons from trial in the UK after the Spanish had tried to extradite him for civil rights abuses, he will doubtless never stand trial in the U.S. for the Letelier assassination even with the new evidence.

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Saturday, May 27, 2000

Utne Reader: Sidewalk Redemption: 'I hang from an iron fence
a banner with the message "Confessions
Heard Here," then sit beneath it with a
pen and notebook and wait to see what
happens. I have established some ground
rules: I will make it clear to anyone who
stops to talk to me that I'm writing a
story and plan to record their confessions
in my notebook. I'll use only first names
or made-up names. I will not offer
absolution because I do not consider
myself empowered to do so. "I have
come to hear confessions" is all I will
offer; the interpretation of confession will
be up to the person before me.'

  •  

Cryptographic challenge: crack a "numbers station." These mysterious shortwave broadcasts consist of a monotone human voice endlessly reading a series of numbers. There's been some thought that these are a way for intelligence agencies to communicate with agents in the field, but no one's sure. Reputedly, a civilian has never decrypted a numbers station message. Reputedly, the NSA has.
The Numbers Station Crack
Challenge is inspired by the RSA Laboratories Secret Key challenges which are designed to demonstrate the weakness of short key
lengths in commercial cryptography applications.
With the advances in networking that are available to everyone, an unprecedented amount of processor power can be rallied to crack
mathematical problems. Previously, only Governments that could afford Cray Supercomputers has access to this type of computational
power, and in the case of Cray the American Government forbade the export of such machines, effectively making them unavailable to
the rest of the world. Now with client based network cracking, almost any brute force cryptanalytic attack can be mounted with a more
than reasonable chance of quick success. Spectacular cracks have already been successfully mounted on problems that seemed
insurmountable only a few years ago. This can be done, the problem is, how can it be done? You are free to use any methods that you
can devise, using whatever you have at your disposal.


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"World's Hardest Movie Quiz"

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Martha Graham Dance Troupe suspends operations due to dire financial straits. Insufficient support for one of the world's preeminent dance companies. "This would never have occurred in France or Germany
or Denmark. They would not let this happen. The arts
flourish in this country because of the people who pay for it.
But it's not enough." [New York Times]

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Susan Sontag plagiarizes?

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Seventh-Grade Boy Held in Killing of Teacher in Florida: "...the boy had taken the pistol a week ago
from a dresser drawer in the home of his grandfather, who
owned it." The boy had been ejected from the last day of class for throwing water balloons, and returned late in the day with a Saturday night special.[New York Times]

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I generally like muckrakers, but the gentleman profiled in this article presents as an irresponsible, unoriginal attention-seeker. I knew him during his training; having had some pretty inspiring mentors back then, he appears to have been burdened ever since by the problem of his reach exceeding his grasp.

  •  

Salon.com: Who will care for the crazy? "The benefits provided by insurance companies for mental
illness are starvation rations. Reimbursement to providers for
face-to-face services have been cut in half over the past 10
years. Dr. John Iglehart in the New England Journal of
Medicine
described typical benefits as consisting of 'a
maximum of 20 outpatient visits and 30 hospital days each
year.' "

  •  

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
,

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,

Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.



Pastoral scene of the gallant South,

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,

Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,

And the sudden smell of burning flesh!



Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,

For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,

Here is a strange and bitter crop.

--Abel Meeropol (Lewis Allan)


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A friend suggests that, if we refer to weblogs as blogs, shouldn't we call the links they contain blinks? If it catches on, you saw it here first. I think.

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It makes intuitive sense that dietary cravings can indicate something about brain chemistry. For instance, a new study suggests that "alcoholics with strong cravings for carbohydrates may form a distinct
subgroup of patients with this disease. This type of alcoholic may drink to increase their serotonin levels, and may
increase their intake of carbohydrates if not drinking, to achieve the same effect, the researchers suggest." Recognition of this alcoholic subgroup, if valid, might impact their drinking with therapeutic strategies that affect serotonin.

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What To Do With Your Single, Precious Presidential Vote? Environmental activist Donella Meadows ends up not making much of an argument for her plan to "waste" her vote on Ralph Nader. Even if voting Green robs Gore of the chance to beat "George the Gerbil."

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Miami Herald op-ed piece calls for Repeal of The Second Amendment: "The right to bear arms made sense in the 18th Century to provide for the common defense
and afford citizens a guarantee against the encroachment of absolute monarchs. But today
we don't rely on a militia to defend the country, and tyranny would involve a monopoly of
media, not muskets. Born as a bulwark of democracy, the Second Amendment is the last
refuge of gun fundamentalists and their well-financed lobbyists indifferent to the tragedies
their liberal gun laws produce. Who will be the first politician to stand up and shout:
'Repeal!'"

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Dennis Hans, freelance writer and occasional adjunct professor of American foreign
policy and mass communications at the University of South Florida, reports on the Merger of CBS and the Colombian government. [Common Dreams]

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His knighthood is well-deserved, IMHO, but he had to wait two years to have it conferred until he was cleared of pedophilia charges.

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CNN.com - Technology - Microsoft to delay Outlook patch : "Microsoft said it will delay
until the week of June 1 the release of a
major security update to its Outlook 98
and 2000 e-mail software. The delay will
allow Microsoft to make certain
last-minute modifications to the software
in response to feedback from customers." The new, kinder, gentler, Microsoft?

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Friday, May 26, 2000

There's alot in Salon.com's health column that's fascinating this week, for various reasons. Take your pick:
Sound and fury Thousands of deaf
kids can hear, and speak, thanks to a
stunningly effective ear implant. So
why is the deaf community in an
uproar?
By Arthur Allen [05/24/00]


Into the closet Can therapy make gay
people straight?
By Barry Yeoman [05/22/00]


Ladies who spray If you sprinkle when
you tinkle, cut it out!
By Mary Roach [05/19/00]


Skin trade Are burn victims going
without so that supermodels can
engorge their bodacious bodies?
By Art Allen [05/19/00]

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Very little catches my eye on TV, and very little caught my eye in Salon's preview of the fall TV lineup. These items did, for different reasons. On ABC,
People Who Fear People "stars David Krumholtz as a paranoid guy
who thinks everybody is spying on him. Jon Cryer plays
his neighbor, who's spying on him." Sorry to be a stick-in-the-mud, but as a mental health professional I'm worried this will be another insensitive attempt to make a joke of mental illness. And it's an old joke, a one-liner really: "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you." And, also on ABC, Gideon's Crossing, 'starring Andre Braugher of Homicide: Life on the Street and executive produced by
Homicide creator Paul Attanasio. The ABC
announcement describes Braugher's character, Dr. Ben
Gideon, thusly: "The voice of reason, empathy and
wisdom in a world of medical chaos, bureaucracy and
hypocrisy ... he is Disease's mortal enemy." ' As over-the-top as that is, this one makes me worry that Braugher, an estimable and charismatic actor, will repeat David Caruso's mistake in leaving NYPD Blue and flounder in a star vehicle without strong ensemble support. And speaking of Caruso: David Duchovny, in reluctantly signing on for another season of The X-Files, praised Caruso's courage for walking out on a lucrative TV contract. (To self-destruct on the large screen, and then crawl back to the TV world with his tail between his legs and complete the act?)

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Scholars, artists and fans from around the globe gathered in Romania Thursday for the Second World Dracula Congress, four days of
lectures and debate on the blood-sucking legend.

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'Bob Auger of Electric Switch, a DVD production
company, says: "This is the first time DVD is being seen as it is meant to be seen." '

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This doesn't surprise me at all: "Concern over the accidental planting of genetically modified seed on several farms in Europe reached fever pitch
last week. And now a company in the US has warned that the problem is probably commonplace...In tests done last
year, but not widely publicised, 12 out of 20 random American consignments of conventional maize seed contained detectable traces of
GM maize. Two of these contained almost 1 per cent GM maize...Low levels of mingling are inevitable." One more Pandora's box has been opened.

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Creative Skills Can Develop With Dementia. "In some patients with dementia, specific musical and visual skills can be
enhanced, researchers at the University of California at San Francisco and Los Angeles report....Miller and his colleagues explain that 'these processes have in common the recall of previously learned
information or images' that permit them to continue 'without the mediation of language.'

Importantly, while creativity continues, the quality of the creativity is different since it lacks an abstracting
or symbolic component, the researchers explain. In paintings, this results, for example, in realistic
depictions." The researchers are fascinated by this glimpse into the machinery of creativity and the neurological locus of dementia. But, for the families devastated by the development of dementia in a loved one, this would be at best a poignant consolation prize, if you ask me.

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Thursday, May 25, 2000

House Vote on China Trade. Analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics shows the influence of PAC contributions on the China vote. If you simply divide the House members into two groups across party lines based on whether they voted for or against PNTR for China, you'll find that supporters took in 76% more than opponents from members of the Business Roundtable; and that unions contributed 150% more to opponents than supporters.

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Brain -- Impaired Social Response Reversal. As if there was any question of the role of brain regions, especially in the frontal lobe, in the control of social behavior, the authors present a case of a patient who acquired hallmarks of antisocial personality disorder, or sociopathy, after a right frontal injury.

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No one ever said neo-Nazi bomb-making killers were smart.

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New Scientist: Stress express. I was taught that the link between stress and illness was the negative effect it had on the functioning of various components of the immune system. Now it appears that stress hormone levels may directly facilitate disease-causing pathogens in your body.

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Video pill's 'fantastic voyage'. [BBC]

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New Scientist: It's not simply antibodies. We know less than we think we do about how vaccines work, and this ignorance is hampering the development of effective AIDS immunization. Once effective vaccines for other diseases have been developed, basic science research on their mechanism of action stops.

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A rose by any other name is one step nearer: Presbyterian Church court approves gay 'holy unions'
Local congregations are permitted to conduct religious ceremonies celebrating gay unions
if it is made clear they are not marriages, according to the highest court of the Presbyterian Church.

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There's something I find particularly outrageous about the killing of war correspondents by combatants. An Associated Press cameraman and a Reuters correspondent were killed in an ambush by rebel forces in Sierra Leone yesterday.

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Brain scans of Gulf War veterans show brain damage. As compared to healthy veterans, those who came home from the war sick had loss of brain cells (on a new more sensitive imaging technique called magnetic resonance spectroscopy) of a comparable magnitude to that found in degenerative neurological diseases, although affected areas were different.
"You need to ask yourself if you would be willing
to give up 5 percent to 25 percent of the brain cells in vital parts of your brain that serve as the relay station for all automatic
and subconscious functions of your brain." Some researchers propose three Gulf War Syndromes with differing symptom patterns that roughly sort out according to etiology. These new MR spectroscopy findings were in veterans complaining of the most debilitating of the syndromes, Type 2, which appears to correlate with low-level nerve gas exposure during the war. Type 2 patients may have genetically lower levels of a blood enzyme that protects against nerve gas damage, thus making them more vulnerable to damage from low levels of nerve gas (something no one knew about when we sent them into battle in Kuwait, of course). In the new study the subjects with the greatest evidence of brain damage were the ones with the lowest levels of the neuroprotective enzyme.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2000

Bullying for More Than Milk Money. An L.A. Times Tokyo correspondent tells an incredible story of what's happened to schoolyard bullying in Japan - extortion to the tune of a half-million dollars in one case. School authorities and police knew about the problem but failed to step in. The bullies' plot, which included killing their victim, making it look like suicide by forcing him to write a suicide note, was foiled only by the once-wayward son of a Japanese mobster seeking redemption. Although the drama and magnitude of this case grabbed headlines and prompted national soul-searching, Japanese social scientists say that extortion routinely accompanies schoolyard bullying in Japan. Picking on those cast as weak is significantly easier in a society with such an emphasis on group conformity.

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"More than 20 years of Israeli spying operations in
Washington culminated in the interception of
e-mails from President Bill Clinton
, intelligence
sources claimed last week.

The revelations come at a sensitive time as Ehud
Barak, the Israeli prime minister, is expected to
fly to Washington today for talks with Clinton
about the Middle East peace process."[Times of London]

  •  

All this back and forth between the pharmaceutical industry and its detractors about whether selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants (Prozac [fluoxetine], Zoloft [sertraline], Paxil [paroxetine], Celexa [citalopram], Luvox [fluvoxamine], etc.) cause or contribute to suicidal feelings misses the point. A potential side effect of these medications is an intense kind of restlessness called akathisia that makes people feel so unbearably frantic that some may be driven to take their lives. Every mental health professional prescribing these drugs knows that, and it is useless for the pharmaceutical industry to argue that it is merely the patients' depression, and not a drug effect, that contributes to the SSRIs' suicide statistics (which indeed, as critics charge, may have been "spun" by the manufacturers to preserve profits). But the point is that the makers of these drugs have for the past decade or more aggressively marketed them to primary care providers (PCPs) over and above psychiatrists. The drug companies' strategy is to persuade non-psychiatrists that they are so easy to prescribe that patients' depression can be managed without needing to refer to psychiatrists or psychotherapists. Do we hear inadequate care here?? Most PCPs do not have the time or the expertise to track a patient's suicidality adequately, and they are not sophisticated enough psychopharmacologically to recognize and address akathisia. (I know; I teach both suicide assessment and psychopharmacology and, at various times, have been approached by pharmaceutical companies to train PCPs,) I'll bet that the proper analysis would show that any excess suicide mortality over the last decade or so in patients on SSRIs has a correlation with the proportion of SSRI 'scripts written by non-psychiatrist MDs. ( No offense to the primary care physicians among you; you are victims of the no-holds-barred marketing tactics of Eli Lilly et al as well!)

But maybe it isn't SSRIs at all. If there were a different reason over the past ten or fifteen years that depressed patients were committing suicide more (like the adverse impact on quality of mental health treatment caused by the penetration of managed care), this might be misconstrued as an SSRI effect. Since SSRIs became the first-line medications for depression during that time period, totally supplanting older antidepressants, treatment with medication for depression during that time period has been virtually synonymous with treatment with an SSRI.


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Coup News Back on Fiji Site. "For the first several hours of the attempted overthrow of the government of the South Pacific island of Fiji,
one small website was feeding the world with news.

When it was inaccessible after that, fears were raised that the insurgents, led by coup leader George
Speight, had cut access to fijilive.com. As it turns out, it was probably a case of server overload. The site is back up, as is a mirror." [Wired]

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Geek.com Geek News - Intel's new Xeons. "Intel announced limited availability of its newest Xeon
processors, running at 700MHz. The chips feature L2 cache sizes
of 1MB and 2MB, and unlike the older 550MHz Xeons that use
separate L2 cache chips, the L2 caches are built directly into
the chip die." These chips run $1,980 apiece at present. Commentators note that the chips won't be available in any quantity until the third quarter, making this a 'paper' rollout to offset Intel's other woes in the press.

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Black bear kills hiker in Smoky Mountain park, apparently without provocation. [I hike in black bear territory and had become accustomed to thinking of them as inoffensive, in comparison e.g. to the acknowledged threat when hiking in grizzly country.]

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Images reveal lakes, snow, geysers on Jupiter moon Io. Galileo spacecraft flyby pictures depict an impossibly harsh, impossibly beautiful landscape (right).

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Northwestern scientists shed new light on neurodegenerative diseases. A roster of apparently dissimilar neurodegenerative diseases are major challenges to neuropsychiatry: Huntington's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, Creutzfelt-Jakob Disease and the other prior diseases (see below), cystic fibrosis. They all share one basic common pathway -- they arise from the neurotoxic effects of the accumulation of misfolded proteins due to metabolic errors. Misfolded protein is insoluble because of its conformation change, and aggregates, and the aggregation takes down good protein with the bad in a snowballing effect. It turns out there are a class of "chaperone" molecules called heat shock proteins that function to prevent misfolding and detect already-misfolded proteins to prevent their further accumulation. Neurodegenerative diseases, new research suggests, represent the body's losing race between the misfolding process and its supply of the protective heat shock proteins.Elucidating the role of these molecular chaperones suggests a possible avenue for prevention and remediation of this vexing class of gruesome and fatal diseases.

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Monday, May 22, 2000

Who needs males?


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Four museum curators share their lists of the top ten picks for the most influential visual artworks of the past 1,000 years. It would've been nice if the lists were hyperlinked to web reproductions of each piece.

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Political scientist Daniel Bell's experience teaching in Singapore teaches him that classical education and multiculturalism need not conflict. I'm not sure this makes the case persuaively in a way that translates into our own culture.


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Scholars search for da Vinci's DNA. Testing DNA found in smudges and
fingerprints in Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks and sketches may be a useful way to distinguish da Vinci's work from that of his apprentices. An Italian art historian in Vinci has collected dozens of fingerprints from the master's notebooks and drawings.

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'Dirty phone call' acquires new meaning.

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"Irradiating meat is the meat industry's answer to filthy meat processing
practices that leave meat contaminated": The union representing federal food inspectors joined a coalition opposing food irradiation (brokered by Public Citizen and including the Center for Food Safety, the Campaign for Biodemocracy,
Friends of the Earth, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the Nuclear Information
and Resource Service, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine). The union is concerned that irradiation is central to a meat industry initiative to police itself and displace the role of federal inspectors. "Although the meat industry claims that irradiation will make
food safer, the health impacts of eating irradiated food are uncertain. New chemicals called
unique radiolytic products are created in the irradiation process. No testing has been done
to identify these chemicals, much less to determine if they are safe for human
consumption. Evidence indicates that chromosomal damage (among other problems) could
occur as the result of consuming irradiated food. Further, meat that is treated using
irradiation often gives off a very strange odor."

  •  

Violence Policy Center reacts to planned NRA cafe and store in Times Square, NYC: "Today's announcement by the NRA that they are opening an NRA cafe and store in Times
Square is an amazing example of how bizarrely out of sync the organization is with
mainstream America. It will go down in history as the worst marketing decision since New
Coke. What will their sign say, 'Over a Million Killed?' It will quickly become a protest
Mecca in the wake of the high-profile shootings that now define our nation, each of which
will be laid at the NRA's doorstep." --Josh Sugarman, VPC executive director and author of the 1992 book NRA: Money, Firepower and Fear

  •  

Creative arts a vital industry in New England. The Boston Globe features a new report indicating that "The 'creative industry' (nonprofit institutions such as museums and libraries, individual
artists, and arts-related commercial activities) makes up
3.5 percent of New England's total job base - more than our software or
medical technology industries. It is growing at a remarkable rate of 14
percent each year - nearly twice as fast as the average rate of job
growth in New England." The arts, apparently, are a very good investment to stimulate employment and economic growth.

  •  

McCaffrey and his lieutenants once more firing on unarmed civilians.

  •  

Annals of the Age of Depravity (cont'd.): Family friend swiped girl's life preserver to save himself, Mississippi police say. The seven-year-old girl drowned. Her body was recovered three days later. The survivor will stand trial for murder if he doesn't succeed in evading his suicide watch in the county jail.

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BBC: Children 'losing sleep over internet': "Excessive net-surfing and television is leaving
12-year-olds suffering the symptoms of
chronic sleep deprivation, say experts...Many children now have television and
computers even in their bedrooms, and are
allowed to stay up late using the internet."

  •  

Guide climbs Everest in record 16 hours. Congratulations to 34-year-old Babu Chhiri, who in his tenth successful assault of Mt. Everest, climbed the peak in less than 16 hours! Last year, he also established a record for duration spent at the summit.

  •  

NIH knew drug could cause fatal brain disease, newspaper reports. Before there was synthetic growth hormone, human growth hormone extracted from the pituitaries of cadavers was used to treat growth hormone deficiency from 1963 and 1985. The program was ended because of accumulating deaths from Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (CJD), one of several gruesome incurable fatal diseases with long incubation periods (kuru, sheep scrapie and "mad cow disease", or bovine spongiform encephalopathy [BSE] are others) thought to be caused by mysterious, minute transmissible agents called prions. A new report alleges that, despite warnings, the NIH for seven years ignored signs that a more costly extraction technique with more intensive filtering was necessary to insure the safety of the cadaveric hormone.

  •  

The editor of the Washington Times objects to the characterization that his paper is under the editorial control of owner Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church. The Washington Post had made the attribution in covering Rev. Moon's purchase of the UPI wire service earlier this week.

  •  

Atlantic piece takes swipe at Harvard prof. Christina Hoff Sommers, who set herself up in the early '90's as the conservative counter to "liberal hijacking" of gender studies, defames renowned Harvard gender identity psychological theorist Carol Gilligan in the latest Atlantic. She claims the research materials for Gilligan's prizewinning and paradigm-changing 1982 book In A Different Voice were either flawed or faked. But neither Sommers nor the Atlantic ever contacted Gilligan to check this claim, and it apparently just isn't true, reports Alex Beam of the Boston Globe. "Didn't the Atlantic find it strange that Gilligan isn't quoted
defending herself against Sommers's dramatic accusation? 'Sommers said to me that she tried unsuccessfully to reach
Gilligan,' reports story editor Michael Curtis. He says Sommers's
article wasn't subjected to the usual fact-checking scrutiny
because it was a book excerpt, not an assigned article. Gilligan
will have to defend herself in a letter to the editor, which
won't attract quite as much attention as Sommers's cover story."

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Sunday, May 21, 2000

Perfect Sound Forever is a quirky online music magazine that's been around since 1993. Their self-described foci include performers/artists that deserve more recognition,
exploring little-known corners of music (i.e. bootlegs, music therapy), the politics of music, the music of politics, and exposing cliches about certain bands and styles of music. Here's a compilation of some of their interviewees' favorite music and here's a page of their staff's favorite music. Discerning folks, it seems, although there are some who appear to have stopped listening in the early '70's [Who am I to talk??]

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More passion from the impeccable Médecins Sans Frontières. Drug Companies and the Third World: A Case Study in Neglect.
"The poor have no consumer power, so the market has failed
them," said Dr. James Orbinski, international president of
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, the medical
agency whose work in war zones and in the third world won it
the Nobel Peace Prize last year. "I'm tired of the logic that says,
'He who can't pay, dies.' " [New York Times]. The agency advised African states not to sign new drug laws. "The medical relief agency Médecins Sans Frontières on Thursday called on a group of 15
African countries not to ratify new patent laws that it says could deny poor people access to life-saving
drugs. 'The revised arrangement relating to intellectual property reinforces the monopoly given to patent-holders
beyond existing requirements in international trade rules and would cause a major obstacle to access to
medicines,' MSF said in a statement."

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Metafilter sent me to this compendium of Dumb Laws from the various states.

  •  

An adult adoptee stalked by her birth mother dismantles the fiction that all who were adopted at birth yearn for the passionate reunion. "To believe that blood ties alone can bind a family goes beyond
the cliché of blood being thicker than water to assume a
miracle. Sure, it's possible that the long lost can be suddenly
found and reclaimed in a hail of tears and kisses, but it's not
something I'd count on, no matter how many times you've
seen it on TV." [My adopted daughter is two, and my wife and I have recently been preoccupied again, as we had not been since we first contemplated her arrival, with the issue of what lies ahead in her (and our) coping with her adoptive identity issues.]

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Salon: Movies in heat
"Films used to erotically seduce us; now they tend to sedate instead."

  •  

Rock's Original Poets, Still Howling: Stephen Holden wants us to think that Bob Dylan, Lou Reed and Patti Smith are a holy triumvirate analogous to Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs. [New York Times]

  •  

National Rifle Association Unleashes Attack on Gore:
"Vice President Al Gore is the type of politician where nothing is
sacred, that will say and do anything to preserve their own
political future, even if that means using fear and deceptive
means," Mr. Watts was to say, according to an advance text of
his speech. "His party used to say, 'There's nothing to fear but
fear itself.' Now the vice president has nothing to offer but fear
itself." I blogged below one persepctive on the centrality of racism to the NRA's thinking. In fact, the more I read about their current defiance and grandiosity, the more it stars to look as if they're trying to appeal mostly to the radical right of the black-helicopter, New-World-Order conspiracy peranoiacs; paramilitary militias; and tax resisters.

  •  

Saturday, May 20, 2000

Challenging Islamic Myth on Organ Transplants as Ailments Rise: "...religious leaders are rallying with doctors and
community outreach workers to dispel a decades-old myth
that the Koran forbids organ donation." Because organ transplantes between relatives, and even ethnically similar people, are more successful, both medical and transplant advocates and religious leaders in the Arab-American community are trying to get their constituents to go with the Muslim dictum that 'He who saves a life saves humanity' rather than the one that says the a Muslim will not see Heaven if the body does not go before God whole. [New York Times]

  •  

Court Rules U.S. Cable Law Is Constitutional. The FCC does have the right to limit the number of households a cable company may reach, and to force cable companies to share their capacity with others instead of filling it entirely with their own programming. The intention is to prevent consolidation in the cable industry similar to that bedevilling the rest of the public media. Get this -- Time Warner Cable had contested the FCC's authority on the grounds that it was an infringement of free speech rights!

  •  

RIP: Jean-Pierre Rampal, 78; Paul Bartel, 61.

  •  

"Microsoft has introduced a significant security enhancement for Outlook 98 and Outlook 2000. The Outlook 2000 E-mail Security Update and the Outlook 98
E-mail Security Update provide protection from most viruses, such as the ILOVEYOU and Melissa viruses, as well as other viruses
that spread through e-mail, or worm viruses that can replicate through Outlook. The Outlook 98/2000 E-mail Security Update puts
you back in control of your software. Once you have installed the update, mail is not sent on your behalf without your permission,
and you are protected from accidentally opening attached files that pose a security risk to your computer.

This update limits certain functionality in Outlook to provide a higher level of security; it was not created to address a security
vulnerability within Outlook. The update provides unprecedented security protection for Outlook and Microsoft encourages that all
users of Outlook 2000 and Outlook 98 install this update."

  •  

Researchers from IBM, Compaq and AltaVista collaborated on this paper on the Connectivity of the web: "The study of the web as a graph is not only fascinating in its own right, but also yields valuable insight into web algorithms for crawling,
searching and community discovery, and the sociological phenomena which characterize its evolution. We report on experiments on local and
global properties of the web graph using two Altavista crawls each with over 200M pages and 1.5 billion links. Our study indicates that the
macroscopic structure of the web is considerably more intricate than suggested by earlier experiments on a smaller scale.... One can pass from any node of IN through SCC to any node of OUT.
Hanging off IN and OUT are TENDRILS containing nodes that are reachable from portions of IN, or that can
reach portions of OUT, without passage through SCC. It is possible for a TENDRIL hanging off from IN to
be hooked into a TENDRIL leading into OUT, forming a TUBE -- a passage from a portion of IN to a portion
of OUT without touching SCC." [Is that clear??]

  •  

Friday, May 19, 2000

A press release from the Violence Policy Center gives evidence that racism is a core value at the National Rifle Association.

  •  

NewsWatch: Mad About Media Criticism. The Center for Media and Public Affairs whines about journalists who whine about media critics.

  •  

US magazine issued a prominent retraction of its earlier story (which I blogged below) that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were disenchanted with S-c-i-e-n-t-o-l-o-g-y. "The US about-face reflects an increasingly common problem for
magazine editors in these days of steepening competition for a shrinking list of celebrities
who can actually sell newsstand copies. 'Cruise obviously has his share of pull,' says a
journalist who's experienced the clout of Cruise and PMK. 'At a magazine like US, they need
to be able to have Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman on the cover. You can tell from the size
of the correction that they were interested in keeping him happy and available to the
magazine.'" Cruise's publicist also warned reporters calling for interviews with the star about his forthcoming M:I-2 that any question they ask about S-c-i-e-n-t-o-l-o-g-y will be the last question they get to ask. I guess S-c-i-e-n-t-o-l-o-g-y's thugs don't have to make US an offer it can't refuse when Cruise's publicists and attorneys do it for them.

  •  

Environmentalist Brower Quits Sierra Club Board. For those who follow environmental politics, the name of David Brower is among the most venerable. He led the Sierra Club in the '50's and '60's, was removed from its leadership in 1969 because of his contentiousness; remained contentious elsewhere in environmental advocacy through the '70's and rejoined the Sierra Club in 1983. Now he's lambasting the Sierra Club for backing governmental proposals for usage of the Sierras, and for not coming out strongly against increased immigration to the US, which has recently been his bete noir. "I find going to the meetings is, frankly, a total waste of
time," Brower said in a recent interview. "They practically discuss nothing
about conservation. You just get layers and layers and layers of
bureaucracy." The Sierra Club shrugs off his criticism and his departure.

  •  

Going Cashless As Small Change Dries Up. "A strike by armored van security guards, now in its 11th day, is turning France into a cashless society.

Sales are down in small shops, waiters are losing out on their usual tips and beggars are deprived of the few coins they live off.

With the normal flow of cash between banks and shops cut off, the small change and banknotes normally used for everyday purchases
are becoming ever harder to find. Credit cards and checks are often the only way to pay for purchases."

  •  

U.S. Surname Distribution. This site will generate a map of the US, with each state color-coded for the frequency with which a chosen surname appears in the state. Good starting point for a genealogical search. [via Robot Wisdom]

  •  

Feed explores two subtle but, it notes, far-reaching changes to the fabric of everyday life. First, Yield. Merge. Exit. Freak Out, dissecting the impact of the introduction of the new fluorescent yellow green street signs: "government-sponsored change to the visual landscape." Then, the move to the new dollar coins : "Although the Sacagawea coin isn't yet a
common sight, the advertising campaign
certainly is. Every bus and subway has
that creepy, deadwhitemale face of
George Washington urging us to use the
new coin, assuring us that it's OK. But
isn't a high-profile marketing blitz for
money itself a little odd? Why is the
government so desperate for us to adopt
this new coin? The party line is that the
Golden Dollar, while more expensive to
produce than paper money, is the better
deal in the long run since coins last around
thirty years while dollar bills are out of
circulation within a year.

But another possible reason is that the
new coin helps to placate powerful
lobbies such as the vending, transit, and
gaming industries ... The U.S. Mint
made sure that the Sacagawea had the
exact same size, weight, and
electromagnetic composition as the (Susan B. Anthony dollar coin),
saving vending and slot-machine
manufacturers hefty retrofitting costs.
Conveniently, then, the government is
able to present itself as progressive while
keeping some big, important friends
happy along the way. "

  •  

IDÉE FIXE: Portrait Of The Blogger As A Young Man Some thoughts on where weblogging fits.
...Even if it’s true the vast majority of
blogs would not be missed by more than a handful of
people were the earth to open up and swallow
them, and even if the best are still no substitute for
the sustained attention of literary or journalistic
works, it’s also true that sustained attention is not
what Web logs are about anyway. At their most
interesting they embody something that exceeds
attention, and transforms it: They are constructed
from and pay implicit tribute to a peculiarly
contemporary sort of wonder. A Web log really, then, is a Wunderkammer. That is
to say, the genealogy of Web logs points not to the
world of letters but to the early history of museums
-- to the "cabinet of wonders," or Wunderkammer,
that marked the scientific landscape of Renaissance
modernity: a random collection of strange,
compelling objects, typically compiled and owned
by a learned, well-off gentleman.
There's an informative (I hope) portrait of Jorn Barger interwoven into the article as well.
Robot wisdom? That’s as good an encapsulation as
any, and none are very good. Barger’s ideas are at
once subtle and florid, and they don’t summarize
easily. Suffice it to say that they’re as much literary
as scientific, and that they orbit a complicated
connection between artificial intelligence and the
masterworks of James Joyce. Barger discovered that
link in the midst of trying to map out a
programmable taxonomy of human emotions...


  •  

Crazy for Star Wars by Robert Wright Poking holes (big enough to require thinking about) in the logic of the need for protection against nuclear attacks from "rogue states."
"Even
if you examine the unabridged list of rogue states—Iraq,
North Korea, Iran, Lybia, Syria, etc.—you will search in
vain for a national leader who aspires to early death.
Muammar Qaddafi, for example, may seem erratic,
but look what happened when Ronald Reagan gave him
a sanity test. American jets bombed Qaddafi's house as
punishment for sponsoring terrorism. The question was:
Would Qaddafi a) retaliate, b) not retaliate but maintain a
conspicuous association with terrorism, or c) start
keeping a lower profile? He chose c) and thus passed the
test." [Slate]

  •  

Fortune: A New Way to Attack Cancer. A rundown on the excitement over anti-angiogenesis agents, slanted toward those looking for investment potential.

  •  

Thursday, May 18, 2000

In The Issue. Believe it or not, the editor of the conservative National Review feels he has to defend McDonald's to be pro-American. "Clearly McDonald's is giving
people something they want. And, one last thing in their
defense: Big Macs taste really good."

  •  

Cola row in India: Coke and Pepsi are squaring off to carve up the huge untouched Indian soft drink market.

  •  

On guard. Chickens are the newest guards of Canada's southern border with the U.S.

  •  

Girl dies in Colorado after controversial "rebirthing" therapy. 'The girl ... told the therapists seven times that she could not
breathe and said six times that she was going to die.

But instead of unwrapping her, the therapists said "you got to push hard if you want to be born --
or do you want to stay in there and die?"' ... 'According to an investigator who viewed the tape there was a 20-minute lapse between the time
the girl's last breath could be heard to the time she was unwrapped.'

  •  

New Privacy Threat: Genealogy? Your mother's maiden name, which you use as your super-secret password prompt -- right? -- can be ascertained easily.

  •  

Invasion of the ePods. "This device could revolutionize the way we think about using
the 'Net."

  •  

Breast cancer deaths plummet 25% in UK and US over the last decade -- "...most sudden drop in mortality for a
common cancer seen anywhere in the world."

  •  

Wednesday, May 17, 2000

Anthrax could be killing heroin users: "Scientists at Porton Down biological defence laboratory, in Wiltshire, have discovered signs of anthrax infection in
two victims of a disease which killed 10 Scottish heroin users in the last month. One person in Norway also died
from the same disease.

A further nine Scots are ill, and one bears the black scab typical of localised anthrax infection, the report said."

  •  

"This is a repugnant act against human and Christian ethics," the pastor of the local evangelical church told reporters.

  •  

For Doctors, a Chance to Spot Victims in Denial. An article in a British trauma journal instructs ER workers on recognizing injuries consistent with "shaken adult syndrome", indicative of covert physical victimization.

  •  

Two Accused of Murder in 1963 Alabama Church Blast:
One more in a growing, and welcome, wave of current prosecutions of white suspects believed responsible for
attacks on blacks in Alabama, Mississippi and other Southern states in the 1960s.

  •  

Kalle Lasn is Mad as Heck and Isn't Going to Take It Any More. A portrait of the culture-jamming founder of Adbusters.

  •  

Web Skews Sex Education, Psychiatrist Warns: 'A rising tide of Internet pornography is creating a growing public health
problem in sex education, a psychiatrist said on Tuesday.

"I'm very concerned about children," Donna Woods of the University of Michigan said, adding that
easily accessed pornography was portraying sex as a public event, disconnected from human
commitment. ..."There is going to be a be a big public health issue ... explaining (to children) what sex is and
isn't," Woods told a session at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.'

  •  

I'm trying to point you to something on the net about the Seymour Hersh investigation of "Drug Czar" Gen. Barry McCaffrey's command during the Persian Gulf War, but the search engines are not coming up with anything. Renowned investigative reporter Hersh started out to dig up dirt on McCaffrey's war on drugs but a former colleague told him to look instead at McCaffrey's role in Desert Storm. It appears that there were at least three incidents during which American forces under McCaffrey's command fired on disarmed or surrendering Iraqi troops; two of the incidents appear to have been after the ceasefire. Hersh interviewed more than 200 enlisted men and officers in reaching his conclusions about the inappropriateness of attacks that McCaffrey ordered; the general ends up appearing to have been consumed with bloodlust. Overwhelming Force, a long piece reporting on this, will appear in next week's New Yorker. I heard both Hersh and McCaffrey interviewed last night on NPR's All Things Considered; of course McCaffrey denies the allegations, to my mind evasively and unconvincingly. Update: Here's the text of Hersh's article.

  •  

Another reason to cool your jets.

  •  

"X-Files" Back...with Duchovny. Fox announces that X-philes won't be bereft; E! Online claims to have scooped everyone to the fact that Duchovny will be back for at least "a handful of episodes"; but the real news is that producer Chris Carter will have a spinoff revolving around The Lone Gunmen ready for Fox's midseason schedule!

  •  

'The artist formerly known as "The artist formerly known as Prince"' "Forget the symbol, erase the acronym. The artist formerly known as Prince
announced Tuesday that he will be, now and forever, known again as Prince."

  •  

You Can Run, But Not Fast Enough: "A British man who has been imprisoned, shot at and robbed during a 3-1/2-year quest to become the first person
to run round the world decided on Monday to abandon plans to traverse Colombia.

'There were tanks. Everyone seemed to be in uniform and carrying a machine gun,' he told Reuters by telephone from Maracaibo in
western Venezuela. 'It's too dangerous. It's just not worth it.'"

  •  

Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Ecological disaster in the Los Alamos fire? "The basic question in the Los Alamos fire is whether and
to what extent depleted uranium strewn about the Los
Alamos National Laboratory site has been sucked up
into the plume by the fire. In addition, whether the
following materials—also known to be on the site—are
in the smoke plume: lead, beryllium, arsenic,
thorium, uranium, plutonium, PCBs, barium, high
explosives.
Other questions: are the firefighters themselves
being monitored for contamination. There is no real
protection for fire fighters working in such a
volatile situation. And is the government monitoring
fall out from plume as it passes across Colorado,
Oklahoma and Texas?" With a number of links to sites covering various aspects of the fire.

  •  

A Dallas Morning News investigative report concludes that there's been more than a decade of whittling away at the fundamental right to a trial by jury. "More and more matters once decided by juries are being
handled by judges or private arbitrators or are being banned
from the courtroom entirely. 'The American jury is in serious
trouble,' says Valerie Hans, a
University of Delaware
psychology professor and
recognized authority on the role
of juries in the national culture." Trends include limiting the amount of civil jury monetary awards; the removal of entire areas of decision-making from juries; corporations that require customers to surrender their right to jury trial in future disputes as a condition of doing business; and an increase in judicial reversals of jury findings, a right judges have but have historically used only sparingly. Attacks on rule by jury arise from fears that modern lawsuits are too complex for the lay public to understand; that juries are too easily manipulated by lawyers; and that jurors are too prone to find for the "little guy" against a corporation.

  •  

Monday, May 15, 2000

"the dog trots freely in the street and sees reality ...
drunks in doorways and moons on trees"
--Lawrence Ferlinghetti

  •  

Boston Globe film critic Michael Blowen proposes a national film registry to protect certain movies we love from being remade.

  •  

Younger authors assess Martin Amis, enfant terrible of English letters whom nearly all of them love to hate. I'm not too proud to admit I love and devour his work. Amis' "much-hyped" autobiography is imminent.

  •  

Enjoy the Show. Test Will Follow. Awhile ago I logged the arrival of the play Copenhagen, about Werner Heisenberg. And several days ago I logged an essay about the literary abuses of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Now the New York Times does man-on-the-street interviews with theater patrons to see what they understand of the physics behind the play. As suggested the other day, without understanding quantum physics, Heisenberg uncertainty becomes just a metaphor, and an overused one at that. If all you're saying is that the observer affects the process observed, why try so hard?

One reader of this blog wrote to say that this discussion of the uncertainty principle reminds him of a pet peeve he has about the frequent use of "one-dimensional" in literary criticism. From his understanding of geometry, he's sure the writers mean to say two-dimensional, as in lacking depth. That one doesn't bother me as much as the misuse of the uncertainty principle does, because to speak of "dimensions" isn't necessarily using (misusing) a geometric metaphor; the word has a commonsense meaning as well. A character, or a plotline, may well be only one-dimensional in that common sense of the word, e.g. reduced to only one conflict.


  •  

I haven't been much interested in city planning and I know next to nothing about architecture, but this essay was fascinating and worthwhile (I did grow up in New York, though...) New
York to Architecture: Drop Dead!
"A new proposal to overhaul the city's
zoning laws is now forcing New Yorkers to confront these
fundamental questions. Titled the Uniform Bulk Program, the
proposal amounts to the architectural manifesto of the Giuliani
administration -- a major statement on the most famous skyline
in the universe." Three major provisions -- a height limit on new buildings, a requirement that buildings extend out to the street (effectively reversing the mandate in previous zoning regulations that plazas and parks be included in development plans as a "trade" for height), and the establishment of a review board under the control of a political appointee -- will "turn the city planning chairman into the design czar of New York, with sweeping powers to define the cityscape for years to come." When does government regulation of architecture become akin to trampling on constitutionally guaranteed free expression?

  •  

The Entman-Rojecki Index of Race and the Media
"To introduce their new book
The Black Image in the
White Mind: Media and
Race in America
, Robert
M. Entman and Andrew
Rojecki present some of
the statistical evidence of
how the mass media treat
racial differences." For example:
1. While Black actors are now more numerous in
film, it's an open question as to how well they're
being represented. In the top movies of 1996:


Black female movie characters shown using vulgar
profanity: 89%.

White female movie characters shown using vulgar
profanity: 17%.

Black female movie characters shown being physically
violent: 56%.

White female movie characters shown being physically
violent: 11%.

Black female movie characters shown being restrained:
55%.

White female movie characters shown being restrained:
6%.


  •  

Sunday, May 14, 2000

Maggot Therapy (Larva Therapy) Project Home Page. From a UC Irvine assistant professor of medicine and pathology who offers mail order maggots to start your own project.

  •  

My Pickle..er..oops, I mean My Guestbook. Most fun guestbook I've ever run across.

  •  

Some people will be very disappointed by this: Vatican Discloses 'Third Secret' of Fatima. Shortly after this week's beatification of two of the child witnesses to the 1917 apparition of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, a representative of the Pope disclosed that the so-called third secret is interpreted as a reference to the 1981 assassination attempt against the Pope. While the first two alleged predictions of the Virgin were made public (they are interpreted as referring to the course of the World Wars and the rise and fall of Communism), the third was sent in a sealed envelope to the Vatican and remained a secret since the apparition. Theories about what it prophesized have been rife, and the basis of all sorts of arcane conspiracy scenarios involving the Vatican. A very popular notion is that it spoke of a deep rift in the Roman Catholic Church and rival papacies, which some believe exist today. Fatima fanatics have resorted to desperate acts at times to attempt to compel the Vatican to reveal the third secret, and the prophetic significance of the Fatima apparition has far outstripped the devotional importance of the shrine, e.g. in its becoming an ideological touchstone for anti-Communist fervency during the cold war. It remains to be seen if third secret devotees accept the Vatican announcement or see it as a conspiratorial cover-up. Others may be let down.

  •  

Couldn't some of the hackers out there make this happen more often?

  •  

South Carolina Legislature Ponders Bill Requiring Student Politeness

  •  

"People who lose their language ability because of brain damage
develop an extraordinary gift for spotting liars, scientists have
discovered.

Stroke victims who have suffered damage to the brain's language
centres learn how to detect the subtle facial expressions that can
indicate when a person is lying. Tests on a group of aphasics –
people who cannot converse after brain damage – showed they could
detect liars nearly threequarters of the time, compared with a 50:50
success rate for undamaged people. One aphasic who had recently
suffered brain damage performed no better than healthy subjects,
indicating that the ability is learnt through experience." [Nature via The Independent]

  •  

New Scientist: Killing off an archetype "Is our perception of infanticide all wrong? Step-parents are no more likely than biological parents to
murder their children, according to Swedish researchers. This
flies in the face of Canadian findings from over a decade ago,
which indicated that having a step-parent is the single
greatest risk factor for being maltreated as a child."

  •  

"Go ahead. Make my day."
'(Clint) Eastwood, whose Mission Ranch Hotel in Carmel,
Calif., has been sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, is striking back
with a Washington lobbying campaign for new legislation to
modify the law. "I figure I won't back down because of all these
people ... who can't defend themselves," says the 69-year-old
Mr. Eastwood. Well, "I can, and they will be seeing me for a
long, long time." ' [Wall Street Journal]

  •  

Defendant promises to keep his nose clean

  •  

Some say macabre tour in Salem, Massachusetts, goes too far
"People say tourism is the answer here," Councilor Regina Flynn told The Salem Evening News. "On the other hand, it's what kind of tourism do
you want?" This city which capitalizes heavily on its infamous witch trial history goes just nuts with gloom and grue, especially around Halloween, but is denying a license to a proposal to give tourists tours by hearse of gory landmarks including the sites of some recent murders.

  •  

Lego Links up with Spielberg: he lends his name to Lego Studios' new digital movie-making kit for kids, and will judge the results. Kids build "stories" with Lego movie sets and bricks, film them with an included movie camera, dump the film into their USB port, and use a movie editing suite to do stop-action animation, add sound effects and dialog, and make credits and titles. Completed films are uploaded to a chld's personal page at a Lego Studios website for possible nomination for a "junior Oscar."

  •  

Alternative therapy at state expense: Study looks at Medicaid coverage of nonconventional care for children: A study by a University of Michigan family practitioner shows that 3/4 of the states reimburse for some alternative medical treatments given to children covered by their Medicaid programs. "The percentage of states that have agreed to pay for such services ranges from 74 percent for chiropractic down to 11
percent for naturopathy. Several states allow children to see an alternative practitioner as their primary care physician, or to
see alternative providers under Medicaid's preventive screening, immunization, vision, dental and hearing program. Terrence Steyer, M.D., a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar and lecturer in the U-M Departments of Family Medicine and
Internal Medicine, conducted the survey of 46 state Medicaid programs to get a sense of how far the current trend toward
alternative medicine had extended into state-funded pediatric care.... Alternative medicine is usually defined as care not generally taught at American medical schools nor provided at U.S.
hospitals. It spans the spectrum from vitamins and herbal supplements to acupuncture and hypnosis."


  •  

Cannes Do or Die?
The first lady of film festivals ain't no Sundance. Or is it that film festivals ain't what they used to be? Or is it that film ain't what it used to be?

  •  

Prosecutorial and journalistic difficulties in "shaken baby" cases: "Shaken baby cases are amongst the most difficult to prosecute.
There are usually no witnesses to the crime, the determination
of time of death must often be based on statements made by
potential suspects, and the conviction frequently rests on the
persuasiveness of dueling expert witnesses.

Media coverage of these cases also rarely illuminates the key
question: How much doubt do experts have about the diagnosis
and timing of death? In coverage of the court room, defense and
prosecution experts are given equal weight - but journalists
rarely go to outside sources to determine which position
represents the medical mainstream.

As a result, public opinion can be swayed by arguments that are
considered specious by most experts." [Newswatch]

  •  

Physicist Group Says Missile Defense Tests Fall ´Far Short´. Apart from politically-based misgivings about an anti-missile defense system, there's the unanswered question of its technical feasibility.
The world's largest professional association of physicists says the Pentagon's test program is an inadequate basis for an informed decision about whether the proposed weapon can actually shoot down enemy warheads. Interception tests do not take into account at all the offensive countermeasures an attacker would take to overwhelm or confuse a missile defense system. President Clinton plans to decide after the next round of testing in June whether the $60 billion program should be given the green light. The American Physical Society's statement is available at the group's website. The Pentagon, of course, rejects the group's criticism.

And China has weighed in on the proposed weapon. Its "chief arms negotiator said today that the American proposal to build an antimissile defensive shield posed an unacceptable threat to China's security and could force Beijing to significantly expand its own nuclear forces in response." [New York Times]


  •  

Saturday, May 13, 2000

The editor of Newswatch explores the journalistic invocations of Heisenberg uncertainty.

  •  

"one of those very rare technology changes that bring really interesting
potential in several dimensions"
: a unanimous May 11 decision by the FCC opens the way to the use of ultrawide band wireless technology that makes leaps in data transmission rates and also relieves pressure on the crowded wireless spectrum by operating in frequency ranges already occupied without causing interference. "The technology allows a range of science fiction-like applications. Initially, the services were created as radar tools, which can see
through walls when traditional radar is blocked. That could allow such things as devices allowing firefighters to see who or what is in
burning buildings or helping rescue workers find earthquake victims trapped underneath rubble.

It also acts as a positioning device far more accurate than ordinary global positioning services. Time Domain has signed a deal with
a golf company that plans to use the technology to give golfers exact measurements from tee to hole. That
application could be used to keep track of children in crowds or find lost pets"

  •  

"I only wish I lived there there because I could put it on my
headed notepaper."

  •  

Nature Makes the Man.
"Two studies published on Friday confirm that sex-reassignment surgery for boys born with deformed sex organs is misguided and possibly cruel.

The studies of 25 genetically male children raised as girls because of genital deformities showed all of them
retained strong male characteristics, despite hormone and other treatments. Most reassigned themselves to
be males when they got older, the researchers at Johns Hopkins University said." But anyone who's tried to raise a boy in a more gender-neutral way has already known that maleness is "built in"!

  •  

Friday, May 12, 2000

Keep cell phones out of reach of nematodes as well as children, new study warns.

  •  

"Ginzu" school of journalism

  •  

To our great societal shame IMHO, a new study shows that medical bills accounted for
40% of bankruptcy filings

last year. About 500,000 Americans filed for bankruptcy protection in 1999 largely because of heavy medical expenses, according to the study,
which is to be published next month in a finance journal, Norton's Bankruptcy Adviser.

  •  

Mirrors Help Deter Suicide Leaps? Rising numbers of Japanese suicides (attributable to the economic downturn in what many consider one of the world's most stressful societies) are a headache for Japanese railway companies, since leaping in front of trains is a favored way to go. 'East Japan Railway Co, which reported 212 suicides at its stations last year, will set up large, adult-sized mirrors opposite platforms
hoping this will deter potential leapers.

"Specialists say it makes it difficult for a person to jump if they think someone is looking, say from the opposite platforms," said a
spokesman for JR East.

"We hope the mirrors will serve a similar effect," he said. "When a train stops after someone has jumped, we get many angry complaints from other passengers," he said.'

  •  

A letter to the British Medical Journal warns that natural remedies can be harmful.
Certainly a few
treatments such as kava (Piper methysticum), which is rich in coumarins which interfere with warfarin, have been mentioned in the BMJ
in the past year.

In our practice we have seen a case of severe dyspepsia caused by zinc, which had been bought by mail after hair analysis by mail, being
taken at six times the recommended daily allowance; a patient with blood pressure that was difficult to control because of ginseng; a
patient with severe headaches on waking caused by evening primrose oil; and a patient with myopathy caused by creatine, to mention
only a few. These conditions necessitated an endoscopy, a medical referral, and a computed axial tomography scan, as well as numerous
blood tests. The aetiology was only ascertained by direct questioning. All cases resolved when the patients stopped taking the substance.
We suspect that these cases represent the tip of the iceberg.

Caution should be exercised in condoning the use of any supplement or herbal preparation without checking with a pharmacist or reliable
source. Many herbal remedies are dangerous to patients with epilepsy or diabetes and to those taking warfarin; they also have the
propensity to cause illness in those who are otherwise healthy and not taking drugs.
By coincidence, just today, I discovered that the troubling cognitive dysfunction I've seen in a hospitalized patient of mine is probably attributable not to her psychiatric condition, nor her serious medical conditions, but to poisoning with dietary supplements she had been taking unbeknownst to her doctors.

  •  

Another letter to the editor of the British Medical Journal proposes a peer-reviewed, not-for-profit, global medical knowledge database.
Realistically it is practical for a clinician to question, search, select, acquire the paper(s) and appraise them, and act only three or four
times a year. Importantly, the knowledge acquired remains inaccessible to any other professional. If we could share these appraisals on a
web based (and CD Rom) database we could avoid a massive duplication of effort. We could also make access to the knowledge much
faster.

The global medical knowledge database will match each clinical query as closely as possible with both answered and unanswered
questions. If there is an answer the software will display it automatically, in the form of a critically appraised topic. If the question is
unanswered the doctor will be able to see whether someone is trying to answer it (and could offer to help). If the question is not on the
database then the doctor will be prompted to post it.
I know that I, in the course of my medical practice, do several dozen literature searches a year to answer clinical dilemmas I face. The gathered citations remain on a hard drive of a machine at the hospital, and my synthesis and conclusions remain in my head. Occasionally I summarize them for a small community of medical peers on a mailing list in my subspecialty. But, I agree, it would be powerful and not that much extra work for each of us to make the results of these queries accessible to one another worldwide.

  •  

I'm honored to have been noticed by at least a couple of my favorite weblogs today. Both Jorn Barger's Robot Wisdom and Chuck Taggart's Looka pointed to "Follow Me Here..." As you know if you've been reading awhile, I've always wondered if anyone's out there. It'll be interesting watching my own reaction to knowing I'm writing for more of an audience. To start with, no more blatant plagiarism from other weblogs [grin], 'cuz you might notice! One immediate reaction I have -- if they like me, it means they value content over style (the apparent polarities in the perennial weblog aesthetic debate).

  •  

New security flaw in Internet Explorer for Windows: cookies stored by IE are readable anywhere. IE for the Mac does not appear to be affected, and Netscape is unaffected. I use Netscape, but I'm already being inconvenienced by some sites (e.g. Blogger) disabling their "remember me" features which work via storing cookies. Now I have to log back into Blogger anytime I want to work on my log. The workaround in IE for Windows is to disable Javascript, says Peacefire.

  •  

Chernobyl's effects linger on. "Levels of radioactivity from the Chernobyl explosion in 1986 remain unexpectedly high in some parts of northern Europe, researchers
have found.

They say restrictions on some foods in both the United Kingdom and the former Soviet Union will have to remain in place for up to 50
years.

They found that the environment is not cleaning itself as fast as previously thought, and that radioactivity can be released to the soil
again after it has been absorbed."

  •  

Battlefield Earth: Film Dogged by Links to Scientology Founder: "Controversy has swirled around the film because it is based
on the 1982 novel by L. Ron Hubbard, who founded the
Church of Scientology, and because the film was the pet
project of Mr. Travolta, who has made no secret of his
dedication to Scientology. Could this be a sneaky attempt to
lure unsuspecting moviegoers into Scientology?" [New York Times]

  •  

Battlefield Earth: Earth Capitulates in 9 Minutes to Mean Entrepreneurs From Space. "It may be a bit
early to make such
judgments, but
Battlefield Earth may well turn out to be the worst movie
of this century." [New York Times review by the discerning Elvis Mitchell]

  •  

Non-partisan group urges caution on death penalty
A newly formed group including both supporters and opponents of the death penalty, the National Committee to
Prevent Wrongful Executions, is encouraging restraint in the use of the death penalty and urging other states to consider adopting an Illinois-style moratorium on executions.

  •  

Schizophrenic Yale law professor won't stand trial in fiancée's slaying. This is indeed a very tragic one, but unfortunately discouraging relapses are not uncommon in dealing with major mental illness: He was once celebrated for succeeding as a Yale Law School graduate and faculty member despite his schizophrenia, but at some point he stopped taking his medication and began to deteriorate. His fiancee stayed home from work that day to try and help, but the prospect of a crisis intervention apparently drove him to murder her, thinking she was '"a nonhuman impostor" conspiring to
hospitalize him for torture, experimentation and death', according to psychiatric reports. Even the prosecution's psychiatric expert conceded the merits of his insanity plea. [Nando Times]

  •  

Microsoft asks Slashdot to remove posts revealing copyrighted material. After Microsoft reportedly reneged on a commitment to publish its proprietary extensions to the open source Kerberos security technology (which authenticates logins to Unix systems), a public message on Slashdot by some open source types including one of the co-developers of the Kerberos standard accused Microsoft of abusing the protocol and preventing the interoperability of its "branded" systems with other Unix systems. They published Microsoft's data specification as well as ways to circumvent its control....Later in the day, Slashdot went down as a result of a distributed denial-of-service attack.

  •  

Stay away from the seals: Seals pose influenza threat. For the first time, an animal reservoir of the influenza B virus has been discovered. After an ailing seal found on the Dutch coast was diagnosed with the flu in 1999, up to 2% of seals in the area were found to be infected. Animal reservoirs of viruses that infect humans pose a potentially devastating threat because they (a) allow viruses to resurface after hiatuses when human resistance has faded, and (b) also allow viruses to mutate into more virulent strains unimpeded. (Mutation into a more deadly strain in a human population would usually, in contrast, be self-limiting, because the infection would kill its hosts so rapidly that it could not spread far; notice how many of the terrifying recently-emergent diseases appear to have jumped from animal reservoirs.) The 'A' type of the influenza virus is harbored in birds and mammals ("swine flu") and the cyclical emergence of new virulent A strains has been responsible for serious flu epidemics worldwide. In contrast, the influenza B virus was thought to be exclusively human. Stored seal blood samples showed no signs of infection prior to 1995 but, since that date, 2% of the samples showed evidence of the virus. The viral "footprint" for all infected seals indicates a 1995 strain. Scientists speculate that someone coughed or sneezed in the face of a stranded seal encountered on a beach somewhere in 1995 and the virus made the jump to the new species. [BBC]

  •  

Cruelty to detainees and prisoners is becoming institutionalized
across the USA, Amnesty International said today, on the eve of the US
Government's first appearance before the UN Committee against Torture in Geneva.

"Since the United States ratified the Convention against Torture in October 1994, its increasingly punitive approach towards offenders
has continued to lead to practices which facilitate torture or other forms of ill-treatment prohibited under international law."

  •  

Bill got away with it, and now Rudy seems to be making out like a bandit as well. Slate runs down the new rules for adultery in politics.

  •  

Nike Cuts Off Funds for 3 Universities (Michigan, Oregon and Brown) which have recently joined The Workers' Rights Consortium, which attempts to persuade colleges to be more aggressive in monitoring pay and working conditions in overseas "sweatshops" including Nike's factories. Millions of dollars for outfitting athletic teams and renovating sports facilities at the three schools have been withdrawn. Nike supports a different organization, the Fair Labor Association, which claims to monitor overseas working conditions but involves industry representatives in policy making and, unlike the WRC, does not support a "fair living wage" standard and does not advocate unannounced spot checks of factories.

  •  

Thursday, May 11, 2000

The dinosaurs fighting the War on Drugs are at it again. House Bill Would Ban Drug Instructions. "Free speech advocates say proposed anti-drug legislation that would make it a crime to dispense
information on controlled substances, could send innocent people to jail and have a chilling effect on First Amendment rights.
The bill, known as the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act, is aimed at combating the spread of the powerful stimulant by boosting
the number of Drug Enforcement agents investigating methamphetamine cases, providing more training for agents and stiffening the
penalties for distribution.

The bill also bans the distribution of information relating to the manufacture of controlled substances, which opponents say could open
the door for the prosecution of innocent people."

  •  

Annals of the Age of Depravity: Drug Smugglers Hide Stash in Girl's Corpse. "Drug smugglers stuffed their stash in the corpse of a young girl whom they had apparently killed, in a foiled attempt
to bring narcotics into the Gulf Arab region, a senior UAE policeman was quoted Tuesday as saying...An airport official became suspicious when he tried to play with the apparently sleeping child..."

  •  

Yahoo! News - No place like home.
"An electronic tagging system for domestic appliances that will deter thieves has been developed by British
Telecom's research labs at Martlesham in Suffolk. The system stops your appliances from working if they are plugged
into someone else's mains supply." [New Scientist]

  •  

'Love Bug' Virus Said Accidental: 'a Filipino computer student said
today he may have accidentally released the "Love Bug" virus that crippled computer e-mail systems
worldwide.

The student, Onel A. de Guzman, who had been missing for several days, would not say whether he had
written the "ILOVEYOU" virus. De Guzman said he was unsure whether he had sent the virus into cyberspace.
But asked whether he might accidentally have done so, de Guzman replied, "It
is possible."' (And if you believe this, I have a bridge I want to sell you cheap.)

  •  

Scientist Urges Curbs on Children's Use of Mobiles. "LONDON (Reuters) - Children should be discouraged from using mobile telephones because of potential health risks, the chief of a
British government-commissioned inquiry into the phones' safety said on Thursday."

  •  

Wednesday, May 10, 2000

Village Voice: a special section on the right-wing web, including James Ridgeway's essay on how to follow conservatives on the web; Ward Harkavy urging the left to catch up with the rapid web penetration of the far right; Meg Murphy on "fighting back online"; and Russ Kick on "finding documents the Man wants to hide".

  •  

Richard Smith, an Internet consultant based in Brookline, Mass., says "I fell out of my chair" when he heard what Britain was planning to do. [Christian Science Monitor

  •  

Tuesday, May 9, 2000

It's about time [thanks, Abby].

  •  

Holocaust Victims Claims Rejected: European insurers continue to improperly fail to honor
claims filed by Holocaust survivors or the heirs of those who perished under Nazi oppression. An International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, established to resolve allegations of insurance company malfeasance on the issue by appealing unjust rejections, is overwhelmed. The commission has no enforcement power and participation in it is voluntary. Numerous other insurance companies have declined to participate in it at all.

Some U.S. insurance regulators said they were shocked by the high rate of rejections because the initial claims were submitted by the
commission on behalf of individuals considered to have particularly strong cases. Insurance companies appear to have less compunction about rejecting claims now that a separate humanitarian fund has been endowed. The extent of insurance company contributions to the fund has yet to be established.

  •  

Talking dirty [Salon]: "Could it be that our laudable cleanliness has something to do
with the increase in immune disorders? Epidemiologists,
immunologists, bacteriologists and parasitologists from
England to Iowa think this may be the case. According to
what's called the "hygiene hypothesis," our immune systems,
which evolved in environments where we couldn't escape
disease, microorganisms of every description and just plain
dirt, don't always develop normally if they don't meet these
things during our childhood development." Recently, I noticed restauranteur Terence Conran saying the same thing about the public health regulations for eating establishments.

  •  

Discovery of pigment and paint-grinding accoutrements shows that Stone Age proto-humans were painting before they were human. "British archaeologists have found evidence suggesting
humans were producing art 350,000 to 400,000 years ago.

It is the earliest indication of humanity's artistic nature and
suggests the activity was linked with evolution that turned
pre-anatomically modern humans into Homo sapiens."

  •  

For you public radio listeners interested in ins and outs: PRI sues to stop "Marketplace" sale. Minnesota Public Radio, which founded Public Radio International, has started to compete with its offspring in producing, and PRI fears it may now do so with distribution as well.

  •  

"Shut up!" says veteran film critic. John Simon, New York magazine reviewer, could not stand these children enjoying themselves at a recent performance of "The Music Man".
"It was disturbing as all hell. Finally, after 30 or 40
minutes I leaned forward and said, 'Madam, could
you please try and control your brats?'

"She said, 'I will try and control them, but they're not
brats.' Well, for the purposes of a theater audience,
they certainly were brats." [New York Post via Jorn Barger]

  •  

A Ryerson University (Toronto) conference will tackle the issue of Hollywood's anti-intellectualism and glorification of stupidity. Is it the filmmakers' populism, an insulting appraisal of the American viewing audience, or realistic dumbing-down? Or is it that thoughtfulness and the life of the mind are just much harder to portray on film than their converse?

  •  

Monday, May 8, 2000

Things Creationists Hate. A list of the truths they have to ignore to avoid cognitive dissonance with their cherished creationist beliefs.

  •  

Nick Park, creator of the Wallace & Grommit shorts, is working on his first feature length film, Chicken Run. Park describes it as "The Great Escape with chickens." Alas, W & G are nowhere to be found in Chicken Run.

  •  

Bookmark and click daily: The Rainforest Site is a sister site to the Hunger Site. Each click-through on this page (which you can do once a day) causes corporate sponsors to donate the cost of 19.2 square feet of rainforest to The Nature Coservancy, which has a massive program to buy up acreage in the world's shrinking rainforests to preserve and protect them.

  •  

Red Rock Eater Digest: a primer on global internet finance. 'Who pays for the Internet? "The answer is either really long or
really short depending on what you're trying to say," says Scott
Bradner, a leading Internet expert at Harvard University. The
Internet does not have a set economic model, so there's no standard
way network providers are remunerated for the resources they use.
End of story.

The longer answer is more complicated...'

  •  

A New Kind of Storytelling: The New Arrival is a short immersive film debuting at Cannes on May 10. "This is certainly a film of a different stripe: The viewer sees the world from the vantage
point of a worn-out TV set being shipped off to an old-age home to join 8-track tapes and
other retired technologies. Using a Be Here add-on to Real Player, the viewer can pan the
car transporting the TV, the well-wishers welcoming the TV to the home, and so on." [Wired]

  •  

Buzz pix are M.I.A. at Cannes, "...plenty of screenings to keep buyers bleary-eyed, but not enough to stop complaints that there's nothing big to pick up."

  •  

Man Smuggles Dead Father-In-Law on Bus. Upon arising in his Glasgow hotel room, he found that his father-in-law, who had accompanied him to Scotland for a rugby match, had died overnight. Damned if I don't get to use the other half of that return fare to England, he might've said.

  •  

Putting Their Stamp on the World: Canadians can now buy personalized postage stamps with the photo of their choice front and center. Twenty five of the 46-cent stamps cost around $25 Canadian.

  •  

Sunday, May 7, 2000

A report in the Journal of Virology offers strong indications that the hepatitis B virus originated in apes or monkeys.

  •  

British Film Institute top 100 British films of all time. As a fan of British film, I've seen well over half of them.

  •  

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
and churches."

  •  

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
Francisco."

  •  

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...

  •  

dack.com > web > flash is evil

  •  

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
august institution.

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.

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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."

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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
of Eve."

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On the record: NASA plans to put flight data recorders in future Mars missions, preparing for mission failures.

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Monday, May 1, 2000

The Epidemic of Cyberstalking: the Internet can be a truly scary place to live. [Wired]

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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.)

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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.

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