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