[Follow Me!]


"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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Friday, June 30, 2000

New Scientist: "Just a normal town...
out of nowhere a wave of chaos was to wash over
that world. In a millisecond it was gone. There were no
phones, no computers, no power, nothing. Yet nobody
had died, no buildings razed to the ground. And then the
blind panic set in." EMP weapons may already be part of some nations' arsenals.

  •  

CNN.com: No prescription for the Pill? The FDA considers allowing over-the-counter sale of the pill. The price would be right, and on the surface of it, it would be an extension of a woman's discretion over her own body. But I think this is a very very bad idea. It comes down to the amount of irrationality, eccentricity and bad judgment there is around so many matters related to sexuality and sex. Because of the possible complications of hormonal treatment, skipping gynecological checkups (as unpleasant as the exams can be) would be tempting but potentially disastrous. Then there's taking the pill continuously to suppress the inconvenience or discomfort of menstruation, which can be quite medically dangerous if unsupervised. And the problems with potential overdoses (for example, in an ill-advised attempt to induce an abortion). And the considerable potential for adverse interactions with other prescription medications, which no lay person can be expected to recognize or track. By all means, women should learn as much as they can about the incredibly complicated reproductive cycle and its hormonal manipulation, but by all means allow an MD who is qualified to do so and committed to "first doing no harm" be an expert consultant.

Can you really trust the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture and distribute oral contraceptives to give you reliable and complete information in an unregulated market, when the only protective considerations toward their "customers" they have are around product liability costs? Take a look at some of the direct-to-consumer ads for other medications and tell me if they appear to be thoughtful comprehensive attempts to make you an informed careful consumer, or if they're just trying to sell you something while making the most perfunctory of nods in the direction of product safety, usually in rapidly-scrolling small print. Don't you bet the industry is just salivating at the potential expansion of this market, and that they will trot out any number of physicians in their pockets to talk about how medically safe this will be?

Other drugs being considered for release from prescribing requirements include antihypertensives, oral diabetic agents, and anti-cholesterol medicines. I'm ambivalent about some of these as well, especially the antihypertensives.

Addendum: an article that develops a more comprehensive critique of the medical advertising phenomenon. "If direct-to-consumer advertising empowers anyone, it's drug companies." This comes from a thought-provoking anti-consumerist webzine I was just pointed to, Stay Free.


  •  

Responding to Hate Groups: Ten Points to Remember, from the Center for Democratic Renewal.

  •  

The excellent weblog Romenesko's Obscure Store and Reading Room is too subversive for some people's tastes, apparently. If you've been blocked from accessing his site from your workplace, you may not have seen this yet. So, as a public service:
ACCESS DENIED?: Several Obscure Store visitors report that their companies
-- AT&T included -- now block my site. It seems that obscurestore.com has
been added to some master list of sites to be filtered out. If you need to get
around that, you can also enter Obscure via redwood.he.net/~obscure. Also,
some people say they're being directed to www.he.net when they punch up
obscurestore.com. If a friend or associate reports this, tell them to refresh
their browser to access the site via my new Web hosting service.

  •  

Now, finally, there might be some entertainment value in Election 2000. [Salon]

  •  

Thursday, June 29, 2000

An original Declaration of Independence auctioned off at SOTHEBYS.COM today went for $8.14 million; the opening bid was $4 million. The document had reportedly been found in the backing of a picture bought at a Philadelphia flea market in 1989 for $4 by someone who was interested in the frame.

  •  

Gene found for color blindness in Pacific Islanders. I can't believe that this news report doesn't even mention that this (achromatopsia) is the subject of Oliver Sacks' fascinating Island of the Colorblind.

  •  

Retailers Hid True Costs of 'Free' PCs - FTC You're all pretty savvy consumers, aren't you? The FTC says you might not have known what you were really getting yourself into if you bought one of those computer-and-internet deals, because of deceptive advertising.

  •  

The Decline and Fall (cont'd.): Wildfire Rages at Wash. State Nuclear Site. Is there a natural uprising against human nuclear hubris this summer? Grassfires now threaten the Hanford Reservation as they did the Los Alamos National Laboratory last month. Radioactive environmental catastrophe looms, some say, if the winds spread the fire the wrong way through this obscene, contaminated dumping ground. Plutonium could be dispersed in smoke and ash, and radioactive ground denuded of vegetation by the fires could be washed into the Rio Grande by seasonal rains. Public health officials have demonstrated over and over again that they minimize risks to prevent public panic; "serves-you-right" doomsayers (like me) always spin worst-case-scenarios to wag our fingers more dramatically. I'd love to hear some credible, objective environmental scientist's estimation of the degree and impact of such risks.

  •  

Pollution Eats Into Russian Exports of Caviar. What is the story on why the reduction is so drastic? This news item says that pollution of the Caspian Sea attributable to oil exploration and industry, as well as a contribution from increased illegal poaching, has cut caviar harvests by 2/3 in just one year.

  •  

Technology may finally enter the land mine-disposal fray.

  •  

Pressure Increases to End Nuclear Reprocessing. 90% of radioactive pollution of the northeast Atlantic comes from the Sellafield (UK) and La Hague (France) reprocessing plants for spent nuclear fuel. Now, but for the abstention of Luxembourg, the other countries with northeast Atlantic concerns are unanimously urging a move to dry storage of spent nuclear fuel instead of reprocessing. No comment from the UK or France yet. In the early '90's, this watchdog group was successful in pushing through a ban on direct sea dumping of nuclear wastes, which had been rampant up to that point. The UK and France, which initially opposed that earlier ban, joined in within a year. Recall that Sellafield's viability is already questioned on fiscal grounds, far more persuasive than environmental concerns are to the nuclear industry. Also recall that Germany recently became the first industrialized state to resolve to totally decommission its nuclear power-generating capacity.

  •  

Forget me not. Neuroscientists are pushing the envelope, even if the work remains reductionistic and inferential for now, of understanding the biological basis of social affiliation. Recall the posts below on mirror neurons in primates, and autistic subjects' failure to use facial recognition circuitry in the brain in interpersonal perception. Now this elucidation of the role of oxytocin in shaping relationships, at least in rodents...

  •  

Do they really still think, no matter how glaring or grotesque, that New Tobacco Labels actually deter smokers? It's not as if any of the health warnings will be news to anyone, or that being better informed is the key to beating one's compulsion.

  •  

Relatively Few Watch Penile Implant Webcast. The penile pump is the highest-rated solution for serious male erectile dysfunction; an implantation was webcast to increase public understanding of the technique, but only a few thousand, orders of magnitude less than those who have "tuned in" to other surgical procedure webcasts, watched. Might penile surgery be too unbearable for male viewers in particular?

  •  

The venue is different, but the white man is still not letting any savages stand in the way of his land grab.

  •  

Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Canada Researchers Make Major Anti-Cancer Discovery. Many common cancers are destroyed by being injected with vesicular stomatitis virus, not infectious to humans. Tumors affected include melanomas, leukemia, lung, breast and prostate cancers. Human patients have not yet been exposed to the massive doses of VSV that therapeutic application of this discovery would involve.

  •  

The mortuaries in Lagos, Nigeria are filling up due to a strike of government workers, and Authorities Have Ordered a Mass Burial of over 600 unclaimed corpses.

  •  

Supreme Court Strikes Down Anti-Abortion Law. The Nebraska law banning "partial birth abortion" (a heinous propagandistic term for the medical procedure flogged by its opponents) is unconstitutional. You never know with this Court, but you do know where some of its justices sit. The usual Gang of Three -- Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas -- were joined in dissenting by Kennedy.

In a 6-3 vote, the Court also upheld the states' rights to protect those going into or out of medical facilities from anti-abortion protesters. Kennedy wrote the opinion, and Kennedy and Scalia wrote dissents.

Regrettably, a 5-4 vote upheld the right of the Boy Scouts to exclude gays, overturning a decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court in the case of a Scout leader dismissed once known to be gay. Rehnquist wrote for the majority. Let's see how the Boy Scouts fare now as an openly anti-gay institution.


  •  

Thank Goodness, It Appears Finally to be Over

  •  

Jon Carroll, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist, ponders Mondegreens.

  •  

Duh: Reasons to Live Help Prevent Suicide During Depression, says new psychiatric research. However, as a psychiatrist treating suicidal patients every day, I largely disagree with the article's inference that treatment of a suicidally depressed patient be directed toward instilling hope. You can rarely persuade a hopeless patient that they should not be hopeless. If they were susceptible to that kind of reasoning, they wouldn't be as desperately depressed,would they? And, more important, if you contradict their hopelessness, you've usually just made them feel you don't take their complaints seriously and you've blown your alliance with them. One of my mentors once said that treating the suicidal means, first and foremost, paradoxically empathizing with the desireability of death.

  •  

Tuesday, June 27, 2000

I knew they couldn't pull off the (derivative) public fiberglass animal art in NYC as they did in Chicago. Holland, Mich. is having difficulties too. And Toronto as well.

  •  

Steven Baum's feeling abit peevish about some of the attributes of the weblogs he's finding. I agree. [Ethel the Blog]

  •  

News of Palm's next direction from the PC Expo, courtesy of Wired: "Palm, meanwhile, announced that it will support a different
module/expansion slot than those currently used by
Handspring and the soon-to-be-debuted Sony.

Palm's official add-ons will be built around the Secure
Digital slot technology, from Toshiba, Matsushita, and
SanDisk."

  •  

Jorn Barger, at Robot Wisdom, has been doing what he calls
Cliche Watch for awhile. He posts the links to Google searches he's done of various phrases to elucidate their net.overuse. Search on "cliche" in the Robot Wisdom weblog page to find recent examples, which have included "half full half empty", "in your pocket or are you just", "ways of looking at a" (not "blackbird"), and "portrait of the artist as a" (not "young man"). A Google search of "cliche AND 'robot wisdom' " lets you glimpse some of the recognized impact of Barger's Cliche Watching.

  •  

Apparently partners.nytimes.com doesn't work anymore. If you need to get to some of the previous New York Times links I've posted, reportedly you can use www10.nytimes.com. I can't tell if these things are functional because I'm a registered NYT reader (and I don't think, in this case, that's such a bad thing), so they let me in on anything that redirects to nytimes.com itself. Thanks for readers informing me of links that don't work for them...

  •  

The news doesn't have to be logged, but I think the quote does:
"We have caught the first glimpses of our instruction book,
previously known only to God."



-Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human
Genome Research Institute.


  •  

Monday, June 26, 2000

The Halfbakery, a repository of all things halfbaked. "Whatever you can think of."

  •  

Supreme Court declines to hear appeal of denial of law license to white supremacist. "...(The) leader of the segregationist World Church
of the Creator was denied a law license last summer even though he
graduated from Southern Illinois University's law school and passed the state
bar exam.

State bar officials noted that Hale had "dedicated his life to inciting racial
hatred," and said he could not "do this as an officer of the court."

  •  

I Was Certain, But I Was Dead Wrong. Any conviction based on the sole evidence of one eyewitness, no matter how competent and confident, can be a mistake. Commentary in the aftermath of the execution in Texas of Gary Graham.

  •  

The American Civil Liberties Union reacts to the completion of the human genome map with a warning about the urgency of legislation against genetic discrimination.

  •  

Greenpeace press release: Greenpeace Installs Webcam At The End Of France's
Nuclear Reprocessing Discharge Pipe 'To Open The Eyes
Of Governments'

  •  

The Register: Sony to unveil Palm-based multimedia handheld, according to the WSJ, which apparently got a sneak preview. With a slot for a memory stick and possibly a Handspring-like Springboard expansion slot for modem etc., "The Sony device will weigh a light 5.3 ounces, be narrower than the
stylish Palm V and thinner than the Palm III, and come in
black-and-white as well as color versions," explained an unusually
gushing Journal. It also boasts a "JogDial scrolling and highlighting
button that allows users to manoeuvre the screen with one hand".

  •  

St. Louis Riverfront Times: Not Just Another Pin-up in the Ste. Genevieve County Jail. In a bid for an interview scoop, St. Louis TV reporter Deanne Lane sent a handwritten letter and a postcard-sized color photo of herself to convicted and incarcerated serial rapist Dennis Rabbitt, now serving several consecutive life sentences after pleading guilty to sexual assaults on 14 women. "Think about it. Sending a picture of yourself to a sex offender
-- what do you think he's gonna do with it? It was just gross,"
says Rabbitt's attorney. "Dennis thought it was ridiculous. Dennis gave
it to me. He said, 'This is what I got. You keep it.' He thought
it was silly. He was unimpressed."

Asked about the handwritten letter and the photo, Lane is
foggy on details. "I don't recall that," she says when asked
whether she included a photo with her letter to Rabbitt.

  •  

Norman Mailer to draw cartoons for the New York Observer. "They're somewhere between Feiffer and Picasso,"
Observer editor-in-chief Peter Kaplan says. "There is a nuance to them that is a
little darker and a little more intense than the average
cartoon. They look like they were done by a
novelist."

  •  

Helping Parents Choose Wrong. Op-ed piece in The New York Times by Patrick Murphy, public guardian of Cook County IL, decries the bill just passed by the New York State legislature allowing legally sanctioned abandonment of newborns:
I work at the bottom of the judicial food chain, in juvenile
court, and the clients I represent there, abused and
neglected children, have the least clout of any in the legal
system. Daily I see their lives laid waste. In some cases it is
inevitable: what some parents do to children cannot be
undone by social workers, judges and lawyers. But too often
the misused influence of politicians and interest groups is
causing unintended misery.
But IMHO his opposition is for the wrong reasons -- he mainly fears the discouragement of the adoption process. I think the problem with the law is, first and foremost, that it strips away any remaining residue of responsibility, thoughtfulness or obligation from the decision to have a child. It should be thought of as one of those benchmarks by which we measure the worth of our society, like several others I can think of off the top of my head -- our incarceration rate; our eagerness for state-sanctioned murder; and our glorification of the mediocre and unthinking insofar as someone like George Dubya leads the pack for President. Just for starters.

  •  

New York Times: A Magic Carpet of Cultures in London In a much more vibrant and fertile way than, say, in New York or LA, multiculturalism pervades London's cultural life. Maybe it comes of being an erstwhile colonial power?
But unlike before, the purveyors of diversity are more than
suppliers. They choose not to be possessed but to possess,
and to move beyond becoming just another choice for the
insatiably greedy white consumer. The "ethnic minorities"
are beginning to redefine the very essence of what it means
to be a Londoner.

  •  

Sunday, June 25, 2000

Seeing Drugs as a Choice or as a Brain Anomaly. Psychiatrists debate whether the brains of abusers are malfunctioning badly enough to make their actions nonvolitional. Brain changes in heavy chronic drug users are easy to demonstrate, but when do they cross the line to being considered responsible for alterations in behavior, or worthy of being called a disease? Ramifications are legal and fiscal as well as medical, of course. [New York Times]

  •  

EPIC Testimony on Use and Misuse of the Social Security Number. Mark Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, testified before a subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee on May 11.
In conclusion, there is clear authority in both legislation and judicial opinion that supports the enactment of further laws to limit the collection and use of the
Social Security Number. It is particularly important that such legislation not force consumers to make unfair or unreasonable "choices" that essentially
require trading the privacy interest in the SSN for some benefit or opportunity.

  •  

What's News at Junkbusters. "This page is updated frequently, for the benefit of both reporters and consumers who want to keep posted on current events affecting
their privacy. "

  •  

Wired: New York Times Site Exposes CIA Agents. "A freedom of information activist plans to publish online a classified CIA document that was pulled from The
New York Times
' site after newspaper officials learned it exposed the identities of Iranians involved in the
1953 U.S. and British-backed coup that overthrew Iran's elected officials.

The Times used the graphic to accompany an article detailing the coup. In a technical glitch, those who
visited the Times website on June 16 were able to read the names of the agents when they downloaded
the graphic."

  •  

Wired: Amazon to Break Embargo on early sales of fourth Harry Potter book, slated for July 8th release and inspiring booksellers' dreams of dollar signs and ringing cash registers.

  •  

Oh my, Dr. Laura says her feelings have been hurt by those nasty homosexuals trying to axe her upcoming TV show. "I've cried more at times than I would like to admit," Schlessinger told Time magazine. "It's been agonizing." But she also persisted: "Not being able to relate normally to a member of the opposite sex is some kind of error. We were biologically meant
to give birth to more people."

  •  

In Gamble, U.S. Supports Russian Germ Warfare Scientists. U.S. support is massively endowing the careers of some 2200 scientists at more than 30 institutions throughout the former Soviet Union. It might not be an oversimplification to say that we are buying them out mostly to prevent them from selling their expertise to some notorious "rogue state".

  •  

Feed: Street Level, the brave new world of urban mapping. "New York City and Los Angeles,
already seen as the epicenters of American narcissism, are
getting to know themselves a lot better these days. With
sophisticated computer simulation and mapping projects
underway, they'll soon know themselves down to the square
foot. Both maps will integrate aerial photos with data gathered
from city agencies, utilities, and developers, and will be
continuously updated in years hence." Among other consequences, the maps, it is claimed, will make for "one-stop shopping" for potential terrorists.

  •  

The Jerusalem Report is amused as Islamists attack apparent hidden anti-Islamic messages in multinational brand name advertising.

  •  

Squall: Blowing the lid on the Bilderberg conference: "You'd imagine that if the President of the World Bank, the director of the World Trade
Organisation, the Queen of the Netherlands and the head of the Xerox Corporation were
amongst the delegates at an international conference, there would be some mention of it in
the media.

But then again this is the annual meeting of the highly influential and highly secretive
Bilderberg Group, a collection of top ranking western politicians, media moguls, corporate
presidents and big bankers who meet at a different location each year to conduct
clandestine talks on the furthering of global capitalism. Every delegate, including a handful
of carefully selected journalists, are sworn to secrecy."

  •  

APB news: Satanists Suspected in Theft of General's Skull
A satanist likely is to blame for the theft of a Civil War general's skull from a Rochester cemetery during
this week's summer solstice, police said today.

  •  

Fading aroma. The gene pool of wild arabica coffee plants is under threat. Over 90% of the coffee we drink is arabica, and the highland forests of Ethiopia from which it originates, and where wild coffee plants make up most of the underbrush, have lost more than half of their trees in the past 30 years. When cultivated coffee on plantations outside Ethiopia is devastated by the diseases from which they are in peril, breeders turn to the Ethiopian gene pool for help.

  •  

Fetus Develops Taste for Food in the Womb. It appears that exposure to
flavors either through amniotic fluid or in breast milk can influence a child's food preferences.

  •  

Saturday, June 24, 2000

Slate: The Sultans of Stats - A Harvard professor pooh-poohs McGwire's records. Is he right? I've suspected this was true; here is the best articulation of it. "Home runs can't be as meaningful as they once were if
Steve Finley is on pace to hit more in a season than Reggie
Jackson ever did. But it is also irrelevant. Baseball history,
even as the purists who complain about today's cheapened
offensive statistics construct it, is little more than a record of
inflated achievement. Insane numbers don't threaten the
integrity of baseball's historical accomplishments. They
constitute it."

  •  

Matthew Rossi, in the excellent and maniacal (!) Once I Noticed I Was on Fire, I Decided to Relax and Enjoy the Fall, on weblogging:

Lately, it seems as though you might as soon admit to consorting with Lucifer
as maintaining one of these sites. Everyone's tired of it, it seems. Everyone's
sick of the link economy, or the cookie cutter nature of 9/10's of the content of
these 'blogs' as people have taken to calling them. Everyone wants to get
back to the purity of maintaining a site just for them.



Well, not me, baby. Me and my diseased imagination are gonna keep on
keeping on till they pry our cold dead fingers away from the keys. Let me bare
myself to my limited readership for an instant; I am fully aware of how unique I
am, and I like it. I like that I'm smart. I like that I'm erudite. I like that I read
and think about what I read and melt my disparate reading into mental alloy. I
am, in short, not all that humble about this page, or what it is I do on it. Is it
Earth-Shattering? Nope. Does anyone care? Well, a few people do, and
they've been very nice about it. To everyone who has bothered to come by and
send me a nice email, I thank you kindly. Your simple generosity has been
appreciated.



But I do not do this for you, and I never did. Go back in the archives and
look. I was rampaging along the edges of the sanity borderlands well before
anyone was linked to me, before anyone read a damn thing I had to say, and
I'll be doing it as long as there's a cheap and easy way for me to screed out
these demented babblings without having to work too hard at coding.

  •  



vnunet.com: Deserted domains to go under the
hammer
. "Hundreds of thousands of domain names that have been
abandoned by their owners will be sold in an auction next
week, and there might be some real bargains on offer.

On Wednesday, US domain name registrar Network Solutions
will run the first ever auction of its kind, which will include
.com, .net and .org domains and could be the internet sale of
the century because a ceiling of just $35 has been set on
each name."

  •  

Thursday, June 22, 2000

I'm sure everyone's heard this already, but it's too exciting not to log. Signs of Recent Water Flow Spotted by a Mars Orbiter: "A
spacecraft orbiting Mars has
sighted grooved surface features
suggesting a relatively recent water
flow on the planet, a finding that
could redirect efforts to find
evidence of past or present life
there, experts said today." [New York Times]

  •  

Greil Marcus profiles Sleater-Kinney, with audio clips. Courtney Love, in her recent critique of the music industry, cited them as one of the bands too good not to be heard.

  •  

Protesters "Just Do It" Again to Nike [New York Times]

  •  

Among the Deaf, Sign Language Faces a Challenge. In face of burgeoning acceptance of ASL, critics say
the overreliance on sign
language fosters a kind of false pride in deaf separatism. The consequences include needless academic impairments. [New York Times]

  •  

Wednesday, June 21, 2000

CBS News: Harry Potter's Magical Print Run: 1.5M
"We have certainly never
heard of anyone else doing
such a large first print of a
book, children's or
otherwise," said Sarah
Odedina, editorial director of
children's books at the
London-based publishers.

  •  

This meme is being propagated rapidly through the weblogging world (if you want to call it a meme). The do.some.good bookmarklet (linked to the left) opens browser windows for four donation sites -- the
Hunger Site, Click for a Cause, The Rainforest Site,
and Clear Landmines --
with one click. Just go to each, click to donate,
and close the window. Drag the "do.some.good" link to the personal toolbar on your
browser and click on it daily to do.some.good with ease. [via Rebecca Blood]

  •  

An Apple a Day may be a better antioxidant than high-dose vitamin C.

  •  

Mean and green. Viruses given a gene for a toxin from one of the world's deadliest spiders could replace chemical pesticides, say
researchers...When the modified baculovirus infects an
insect, the insect's cells should start to produce the toxin, killing it faster than wild viruses." ?Famous last words: " Because the host dies
quickly, before much virus can replicate, the modified virus shouldn't persist in the environment, say the
researchers." [New Scientist]

  •  

"It's just a horror, a plague. It's biblical."

  •  

"Left Behind": Superficially Christian. Christian editor Michael G. Maudlin and theology professor Randall Balmer agree that this bestselling millennial pulp fiction series turns the Book of Revelation to "camp Christianity." Along the way, they explain end-times theology to unbelievers.

  •  

Remote-Control Assassination. The improvement in precision of GPS now available to private citizens allows missile targeting of individuals by would-be assassins, says Robert Wright in Slate. Weblogger David Brake, who also knows something about location technology, thinks the Slate article isn't worth much.

  •  

Happy Summer Solstice! At 01:48 Universal Time today the Sun reaches its northernmost point in the sky.

  •  

Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Nearing Diagnosis Of Alzheimer's In Living Patients. A test for the first time promises to allow radiological visualization of Alzheimer's plaques in living patients. Until now, the diagnosis has been presumptive until autopsy reveals the plaques.

  •  

The Nation cover story depicts David Horowitz's Long March from Ramparts editor and major Black Panthers white liaison, to combatant against "political correctness", to chief Republican strategist.

  •  

Aim Low by Yossi Klein Halevi. New Republic commentator argues that the prospects for Arab-Israeli peace are slim, that Assad's death will not improve relations with Syria, and that Israel should have "a
government without great expectations, inward-looking
and aware of its limits: a government of national
humility."

  •  

Slate: Rogue State Contest Winners

  •  

Politics makes strange bedfellows, but apparently no one can stand sleeping with Buchanan for long...

  •  

Why is the Lockerbie trial being ignored by the media?
"The Lockerbie case is probably the most interesting and
important criminal trial taking place anywhere in the world. But
you're not likely to be reading or hearing very much about it in
the weeks and months to come." [The Guardian]

  •  

Have you been wondering who's driving those new PT Cruisers and VW Beetles? [US News & World Reports]

  •  

Pimping enters the Internet age

  •  

Inside The World of Art Theft

  •  

"To put your head in the sand as a governor, to my mind, that's dereliction of duty." A Virginia activist has filed suit to compel Gov. James Gilmore to acknowledge clandestine UFO landings and alien abductions, and to repel the space invaders with all available force.

  •  

Salon: Slaves of a different color. "In writing a book on the mixing of black
and white life throughout American history, I discovered
that white slavery did occur before the Civil War in small
but significant numbers. And in unearthing this fascinating
lost chapter in American history, I also discovered how
slavery has been partitioned into a piece of
African-American cultural property -- made sacred by black
Americans, abandoned by whites. Petrified by politics and
shame, the richest and most central drama of early American
history is now playing to segregated houses."

  •  

Monday, June 19, 2000

Good news: [Chuck Taggart at Looka! chose to cluster these three news items together and I'm taking his lead.] First, in the Louisiana case, the Supreme Court ruled that schools can't be required to include a disclaimer mentioning creationism whenever they teach evolution. Dissenting were (of course) Rehnquist, Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Next, in the Texas case, with George Dubya weighing in on the other side, the Court ruled that school districts allowing student-led prayer are violating the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state. Supporters of school prayer were hoping to be allowed to continue using student pawns to attempt to circumvent government-religion separation. Dissenting? Rehnquist, Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Lastly, Bob Lucente, the NYPD officer who had called Bruce Springsteen a "fucking dirtbag" and a "floating fag," found that his apology to those he had offended was not enough, and he handed in his badge. Law enforcement officers around the city have protestedSpringsteen's new song "American Skin",
which they perceive as critical of police actions in the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo, the West African
immigrant who was shot and killed during a confrontation with police.



  •  

Flesh or Fiction? Special effects capabilities in modern film have reached the point where it's becoming more and more difficult to suspend disbelief...and it's only going to get worse. [Hartford Courant]

  •  

Disney snubbed Churchill's plea for comic relief.
Winston Churchill's wartime government secretly urged Walt
Disney to make an anti-Nazi cartoon based on the legend of St
George and the Dragon.

Documents discovered by The Telegraph disclose that ministers
desperately wanted a popular film to be made with a strong
pro-British message which would appeal to a large audience in
an isolationist America.

The papers, dated 1940, show that Noël Coward, the playwright
and actor, and officials from the Ministry of Information went to
America to try to persuade Disney to help with Britain's
propaganda campaign. Their requests, however, were ignored
by Disney who was determined to keep America out of the war
and was anxious to protect the international market for his films.

There is also speculation that he may have snubbed Britain
because he was unhappy with the way his films had been
received by the London critics. He is known to have been
particularly hurt by a suggestion by some censors that Snow
White and the Seven Dwarfs was too dark a film for children and
should not be shown in cinemas.

This lack of respect for his efforts was in contrast to the critical
acclaim his films received elsewhere, particularly in Germany
where even Hitler was a fan.

  •  

Moyers Challenges PBS on Public Affairs Coverage.
"Don't get me wrong," he told attendees of the PBS annual meeting in his keynote address. "What we do is good. It's just not enough. We need to
respond more to the needs of America as a democratic society, not just a
consumer market. We need more hard-hitting public affairs programming on
controversial issues. We're good, but we're bland," he said, adding that too
often, producers and stations are fearful of offending Congress or driving off
the corporate underwriters who sponsor shows.
Moreover, said Moyers, "With media ownership consolidating, public
television stands alone in our ability to provide independent journalism free
from corporate strings."

  •  

Consumers of classical recordings locked in cutthroat competition. "Classical-recording consumers are becoming the new counterculture." [Philadelphia Inquirer]

  •  

Brill's Content: Southern Exposure "The Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger is prying open
murder cases from the ugliest days of the civil-rights era. In
the process, it has come to terms with its own role in fueling
the racism of the South."

  •  

Satellite Events Art from the "perfect storm" 0f October 30, 1991, portrayed in the eponymous book (and forthcoming film), from The National Climatic Data Center of NOAA.

  •  

Sunday, June 18, 2000

A new alternative to fans and heatsinks for cooling off your overheating CPU. It seems to have problems of its own, however. Anyone have experience with these?

  •  

How to handle telemarketers. Some of these, forwarded by a reader, seem promising:


1. If they want to loan you money, tell them you just filed for
bankruptcy and you could sure use some money.



2. If they start out with, "How are you today?" say, "Why do you
want to know?" Alternately, you can tell them, "I'm so glad you
asked, because no one these days seems to care, and I have all
these problems; my arthritis is acting up, my eyelashes are sore,
my car won't start..." When they try to get to the sell, just
keep talking about your problems.



3. If they say they're John Doe from XYZ Company, ask them to
spell their name. Then ask them to spell the company name. Then
ask them where it is located. Continue asking them personal
questions or questions about their company for as long as
necessary.



4. This works great if you are male: Telemarketer: "Hi, my name
is Judy and I'm with XYZ Company..." You: (Wait for a second)
With a real husky voice ask, "What are you wearing?"



5. Cry out in surprise, "Judy! Is that you? Oh my God! Judy,
how have you been?" Hopefully, this will give Judy a few brief
moments of terror as she tries to figure out where she could know
you from.



6. Say "No", over and over. Be sure to vary the sound of each
one, and keep a rhythmic tempo, even as they are trying to speak.
This is most fun if you can do it until they hang up.



7. If MCI calls trying to get you to sign up for the Family and
Friends Plan, reply, in as SINISTER a voice as you can, "I don't
have any friends...would YOU be my friend?"



8. If the company cleans rugs, respond: "Can you get blood out?
Can you get out GOAT blood? How about HUMAN blood?"



9. Ask him/her to marry you. When they get all flustered, tell
them that you could not just give your credit card number to a
complete stranger.



10. Tell the telemarketer that you work for the same company,
they often can't sell to their fellow employees.



11. Answer the phone. As soon as you realize it is a
telemarketer, set the receiver down, shout or scream "Oh my
God!!!" and then hang-up.



12. Tell the telemarketer you are busy at the moment and ask them
if they will give you their HOME phone number, you will call them
back. When the telemarketer explains that they cannot give out
their HOME number, you say "I guess you don't want anyone
bothering you at home, right?" The telemarketer will agree and
you say, "Now you know how I feel!" Hang up.



13. Ask them to repeat everything they say, several times.



14. Tell them it is dinner time, BUT ask if they would please
hold. Put them on your speaker phone while you continue to eat at
your leisure. Smack your food loudly and continue with your
dinner conversation.



15. Tell the telemarketer you are on "home incarceration" and ask
if they could bring you some beer.



16. Tell the telemarketer, "Okay, I will listen to you. But I
should probably tell you, I'm not wearing any clothes."



17. Insist that the caller is really your buddy Leon, playing a
joke. "Come on Leon, cut it out! Seriously, Leon, how's your
momma?"



18. Tell them you are hard of hearing and that they need to
speakup... louder... louder... louder...



19. Tell them to talk VERY SLOWLY, because you want to write
DOWN EVERY WORD



  •  

There's a crop of interesting articles in this week's Science Times I've just gotten to:

Health Sleuths Assess Homocysteine as Culprit. Elevated homocysteine levels are a new focus of concern as a cause of heart attack and other maladies. B-vitamin supplements are the major way of lowering it, as well as reducing stress.


  •  

3 Suits Say Lyme Vaccine Caused Severe Arthritis

  •  

Two Stars Collide; a New Star Is Born. computer simulation of star collision Scientists at the first symposium on interstellar collisions report on detecting the aftemath of two- and even three-star collisions.

  •  

Mr. Mom Dies; 2 Hatchlings Live. Had been set to become the first weedy sea dragon to give birth in captivity.

  •  

Genetic Analysis Yields Intimations of a Primordial Commune: "Everything about the
origin of life on earth is a
mystery, and it seems the
more that is known, the
more acute the puzzles
get...The best efforts of chemists to
reconstruct molecules typical of life in the laboratory have
shown only that it is a problem of fiendish difficulty. The
genesis of life on earth, some time in the fiery last days of
the Hadean, remains an unyielding problem."

  •  

Will the Web Make Us Better Patients? Two doctors discuss the problems and promise of patients' coming for medical care armed with information from the 'net. [Slate]

  •  

The relativistic heavy-ion collider has begun working and we're still here. This newest and biggest particle accelerator in the world has been aiming gold ions at each other. The thought is that the quarks and gluons that make up the protons and neutrons in the gold nuclei will be freed for a fleeting moment to exist in a plasma simulating the conditions in the universe in the first millionths of a second after the Big Bang. The problem is that some credible critics feared that this might create a mini-black hole that would suck up all surrounding matter, perhaps destroying the earth. Others felt a new form of matter made up of strange quarks might begin converting all the other matter nearby to its type, sort of like Vonnegut's Ice-9. Some physicists feared that such an energetic collision might even cause a decay in the fabric of empty space itself which would propagate outward at the speed of light until it changed the entire universe. Brookhaven National Laboratory actually convened a committee to consider such speculative disaster scenarios, which concluded that "...the candidate mechanisms for catastrophic
scenarios at RHIC are firmly excluded by existing empirical evidence, compelling theoretical arguments, or both. Accordingly, we see no reason
to delay the commissioning of RHIC on their account." Many people have been reminded of the concerns in 1945 that the first fission bomb explosion might set the whole atmosphere on fire. Put yourself in the head of the scientist at the moment her/his finger is poised on the final button to initiate any of these experiments...

  •  

"In 1916, as the
American daily
newspaper hit its
media peak, a
philosophical
cockroach
named archy
transmigrated
onto the pages of
the New York
Sun
. Today, as
the Web hits its
own media peak,
archy's cousin,
bernie, has
e-mailed his way
into
eXaminer.com": bernie - the world's first
cockroach in
cyberspace
.

  •  

The Science of Sex. It makes good evolutionary sense that we find more symmetric faces more appealing. [Nerve]

  •  

Saturday, June 17, 2000

Navy sonar may have killed whales in Bahamas. [AP via Robot Wisdom]

  •  

Dumb and Dumber. To judge from the new crop of men's magazines, it's getting harder and harder to be a man's body even vaguely connected to a brain. Dreck sells, says Andrew Sullivan in The New Republic.

  •  

Author George Saunders defends like. 'There's an Orwell essay that I love, called "Politics
and the English Language," in which he says that
language is inherently political. So something like
"like" is a sort of indicator of a larger societal
dysfunction. What "like" does is allow you to join
two thoughts that are grammatically distinct but
associatively linked, without having to go to great
lengths to make the connection. It's kind of an
impressionistic device. You can say, "The truck was
going so fast, like, I just went, like: Slow down,
jerk?" I'm sure we stumbled across that sort of
device because we needed it. It's meaningful.' [Atlantic]

  •  

Public Citizen: did you think the high price of gasoline at the pump was just higher costs being passed on to the consumer??

  •  

A plea to let corporations accelerate efforts to buy the rights to attach their names to public edifices and institutions.

  •  

One third of Eritreans face humanitarian crisis - UN. "I believe nobody is entirely ready to deal with this scale of disaster, which has grew dramatically in the last 30 to 45 days," says Carol Bellamy, head of the UN's children's agency.

  •  

Navy sends agents into gay bars. Washington Post: "Navy investigators are routinely
sending informants and undercover agents into
Washington area gay bars to identify military
personnel among the clients, and then using
sting operations to catch some of them in drug
trafficking, according to Navy officials and
testimony in a recent military court proceeding."

  •  

Number of US Nuclear Targets Has Grown Since 1993. Like I said, if you think the arms race is over, think again. [Manchester Guardian via Common Dreams]

  •  

Sovereign Bank Coming To Massachusetts. Thirty years ago I opened a bank account at Harvard Trust Co. when I moved to the Boston area. When it conglomerated with other Massachusetts banks, I had a "Bay Bank Harvard Trust" account. Then they dropped the affiliates' autonomy and it became a "Bay Bank" account. About two or three years ago, the Bank of Boston bought Bay Bank and my new cards and checks said "BankBoston." Last month, after Fleet bought BankBoston, they gave me Fleet accounts and cards. And now it appears that, to avoid anti-trust implications, they're forcing me to become a Sovereign Bank customer. All this without lifting a finger in thirty years.

  •  

The sniffing detective. The effort to develop an "electronic nose" that could hone in on the time of death of a decomposing body (by analyzing the chemicals it produces over time) includes getting a graduate student to spend successive nights in a morgue taking vapor samples near corpses. A forensic entomologist objects, saying his approach -- analyzing developmental stage of the insect populations that populate a decomposing body -- is more accurate. [New Scientist]

  •  

Medical Records Sent To Wrong Place. This is probably so common it shouldn't even be a news item anymore, unfortunately.

  •  

RadioShack to Co-Sponsor Moon Mission. "With a new age of commercial space exploration on the horizon, U.S. electronics
retailer RadioShack Corp. hopes to bolster its image and sales by going to the moon.

RadioShack said on Thursday it will co-sponsor the first commercial lunar landing, a robot probe for ancient
ice... "

  •  

Thursday, June 15, 2000

Neurosurgeons 'fear risky surgery'. Patients are losing out as neurosurgeons, faced with burgeoning numbers of lawsuits, curtail chancy practices.

  •  

The Decline and Fall (cont'd.): Why didn't the NYPD stop the Central Park wolf pack? "With Amadou Diallo, the
cops went too far. In
Central Park, not far enough. But guess what? It's the same
problem." The author makes a case that the problem is the NYPD's contempt for the people of the city, leading it to be both tough on suspected 'perps' and soft on victims; and that this attitude trickels down from above, ultimately from Giuliani. There's also the possibility that this is payback for recent protests of police brutality including, of course, the flap over the new Springsteen song "American Skin (41 Shots)". [Salon] But let's get more basic -- is why the police didn't stop this even the right question to ask? Giuliani actually tried to softpeddle the events (until the rising tide of public outcry against the police flipped him to a get-tough 'spin') by saying that there wasn't any more violence at this year's Puerto Rican Day parade than there was last year, and one of his police spokespeople said something along the lines of: what's the big deal, this happens in New Orleans every year at Mardi Gras? It's unbelievable to me that we have come to the point of living in the kind of world where bystanders are going to be savaged at a public celebration unless they have police protection.

  •  

Software that can spy on you.
"Why did Mattel include technology that can encrypt and send data to and from your PC in its children's CD-ROMs?" [Salon, via Robot Wisdom]

  •  

Complete list: "100 Funniest Films" as chosen by a panel of 1,800 people in the
industry for the American Film Institute. Here are the top ten:
1. ``Some Like It Hot,'' 1959

2. ``Tootsie,'' 1982

3. ``Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love
the Bomb,'' 1964

4. ``Annie Hall,'' 1977

5. ``Duck Soup,'' 1933

6. ``Blazing Saddles,'' 1974

7. ``M*A*S*H,'' 1970

8. ``It Happened One Night,'' 1934

9. ``The Graduate,'' 1967

10. ``Airplane!,'' 1980

  •  

The Y2K MacArthur Fellowship winners announced. Links to biographical sketches of the award winners.

  •  

[American Prospect]: Harvey Blume, "Neuro-Narrative," May 22, 2000. I thought it was only because of my own involvement with neuroscience that I've been noticing fiction pivoting around characters with such conditions as Tourette's disorder, autism, and temporal lobe epilepsy. But this essayist argues that, reflective of an emerging new worldview, "neurology and neuroscience have in recent years become major forces in American arts and media, charting new narrative pathways. If noted at all, this development
has been written off as only another example of our
culture's hunger for varieties of victimhood."

  •  

Review of Daniel Pick's Svengali's Web: the alien enchanter in modern culture:
The intricate complicity between symptoms and cures - and
between what people are considered to be suffering from and
what they claim to be suffering from - has made the history of
medicine, in its broadest sense, of so much recent interest. Part
of the fascination (so to speak) of mesmerism and hypnosis -
and of the history that is so well told in Svengali's Web - is that,
as potential cures for a wide range of miseries, they were so
quickly seen to be at once remarkable breakthroughs, and
disreputable, if not criminal activities.
The reviewer wonders what it is about psychoanalysis that keeps it from being another form of hypnosis, if indeed it is not; and whether hypnosis shows that seducing and being seduced are the only things we are truly free to do, "making a mockery of our ideas of freedom."

  •  

The impossible world of DI John Rebus. A London Review of Books essay surveys Ian Rankin's appealing, encyclopedic series of crime novels featuring a gritty Scottish detective.
The sheer
range of subjects treated in the novels is one of the keys to their
interest. John Rebus, born in irritation at the self-ghettoising of
the literary novel, grew into a highly effective tool for describing
and engaging with modern Scotland. Rankin does not indulge
any temptation to play formal games with his character. There is
no ludic or ironic component to the series, just as there is none
to Rebus himself; the books do not experiment with the
crime-novel form, and do not make any kind of distancing or
Post-Modern gestures towards it. A writer who began by trying
to write a book his father might want to read found himself, after
the publication of Dead Souls, occupying eight of the top ten
positions in the Scottish bestseller list.

  •  

Memorable journalistic bloopers submitted by readers to Jim Romenesko's Media News.

  •  

Two-faced kitten dies unexpectedly in Pennsylvania. "Image, the...kitten that received
a good prognosis for survival even though he
was born with two sets of eyes, two mouths
and two noses, died yesterday morning in his
quilt-lined bed...Aside from his
facial features, the rest of the kitten seemed
normal. The two mouths opened in unison but
were attached to one esophagus. Image has one
head, two ears and one set of lungs." Image The kitten was too young for its four eyes to have yet opened, rendering moot the fascinating question of how it would have seen the world.

  •  

Wednesday, June 14, 2000

Flawed process leads to executions in Texas despite Bush's vows of confidence in the system. The Chicago Tribune conducted the first comprehensive investigation of all 131 executions in Texas under Bush's tenure and concludes that scandalous flaws undermine the process of capital convictions there. As a psychiatrist, I'm particularly appalled by the abuse of psychiatric expert testimony:
In at least 29 cases, the prosecution presented
damaging testimony from a psychiatrist who,
based upon a hypothetical question describing
the defendant's past, predicted the defendant
would commit future violence. In most of
these cases, the psychiatrist offered this
opinion without ever examining the
defendant. Although this kind of testimony is
sometimes used in other states, the American
Psychiatric Association has condemned it as
unethical and untrustworthy.
Other failings included representation in one-third of the cases by an attorney later disbarred, suspended or otherwise sanctioned; and the frequent use of jailhouse informants ("a form of testimony so unreliable
that some states warn jurors to view it with
skepticism. The prevalent use of jailhouse
informants in capital cases was one of the
central problems Gov. George Ryan cited when
he declared the moratorium in Illinois"). Witnesses, experts and lawyers on whose contributions capital convictions have turned have included
a forensic scientist who was
temporarily released from a psychiatric ward
to provide incriminating testimony in a capital
case; a pathologist who has admitted faking
autopsies; a psychiatrist, nicknamed "Dr.
Death," who was expelled from the American
Psychiatric Association; a judge on the state's
highest criminal court who has been
reprimanded for lying about his background;
and a defense attorney infamous for sleeping
during trials.
This all ought to be disturbing regardless of whether one supports the death penalty or not in the abstract. Let's elect George W. to the presidency just to get him out of the role of signing death warrants in Texas, for God's sake!

  •  

New heights of intrusiveness from the Census Bureau.
"I work for the federal government and I'll do what I have to do to do my job," says arrested census worker.

  •  

Controlled infection "A live HIV vaccine that can't infect the people it's supposed to protect may be possible after all. A team based in
California has created a hybrid of HIV and another virus that can enter cells, but can't replicate once it's there. " Not really a vaccine as much as immunotherapy for those already HIV-infected; introduced to the patient through an arduous process, to prime the patient's cell-mediated immune response. [New Scientist]

  •  

Tuesday, June 13, 2000

Taste for flesh troubled Neanderthals. The Neanderthals were dedicated carnivores; was this related to their demise? [BBC]

  •  

Monday, June 12, 2000

Seattle's Purple Haze. Frank Gehry (who prefers Haydn) meets Jimi Hendrix. [Newsweek.com]

  •  

Behind Enemy Lines - Premier Services Exposed. Hacking into a spammer's computer. [via Phil Agre's Red Rock Eaters News Service]

  •  

Secret Nuclear Weapons Data Missing From Los Alamos Lab. As if it weren't already bad enough, hard drives containing sensitive data had disappeared from inside locked containers which were inside a locked vault when officials went to check for them after the lab had been evacuated in the brush fires last week.
The material, stored in the vault of
the laboratory's X Division, where
nuclear weapons are designed,
contained what officials described
as nuclear weapons data used by the
government's Nuclear Emergency
Search Team, or NEST, which
responds to nuclear accidents and
nuclear-related threats from
terrorists. The material includes all
the data on American nuclear
weapons that the team needs to
render nuclear devices safe in
emergencies.

In addition, the missing material
included intelligence information concerning the Russian
nuclear weapons program, law enforcement officials said.
The article contains many links to older stories in the continuing saga of security leaks from the U.S. Nuclear Lab.[New York Times]

  •  

Radio-Frequency Tags Could Pierce Some of the Fog of War. Other applications for transponders of the sort I use to whiz through a toll booth without stopping are being pioneered by the military.

  •  

Call me old-fashioned, but: I hadn't realized that there's already, apparently, a brisk trade in digitized pirated hit films on the web. [Washington Post]

  •  

Sunday, June 11, 2000

Mysterious deadly disease surfaces among drug users. Almost sixty cases, in Glasgow, Dublin and English sites, involving local inflammation at the IV injection sites, dropping blood pressure, elevated white blood cell counts, and frequently progressing to heart failure. More than half of affected patients have died, usually within about two days and despite aggressive treatment with antibiotics. Reports last week suggested it might be anthrax, but this has not been borne out. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, called in by British health officials to help with the investigation, says "the emergence of a new disease is possible...Right now, though, the greatest likelihood is that it is an organism previously known and described and showing itself in a new way." Multiple organisms are cultured out of blood and tissues of victims, but none so far is a likely culprit. Surveillance in the UK and the US (where no cases have yet been seen) is being tightened. Global dissemination of overwhelming infection is just a plane ride away, as AIDS taught us, but AIDS also taught us that the urgency about a disease depends on the constituency it affects. Press releases from health officials so far are attempting to reassure the public that this disease, whatever it may be, appears intrinsically associated with IV drug use.

  •  

Screams haunt town. Bloodcurdling cries in a wooded area of a Quebec town prompt large scale search. Rescuers continue to hear the screams, increasing their urgency to find the source, but the cries fall silent by dawn and the searchers turn up nothing. Eventually written off as coyotes, but residents see they've never seen any around...

  •  

The first chapter of British philosopher Colin McGinn's Mysterious Flame, which argues that not only do we not presently understand how consciousness arises out of the physical brain in which it is rooted, but that the intellect we have is ill-equipped to ever understand this essential mystery.
...the bond between the mind and the brain is a deep mystery. Moreover, it is an ultimate
mystery, a mystery that human intelligence will never unravel. Consciousness indubitably exists, and it is connected
to the brain in some intelligible way, but the nature of this connection necessarily eludes us. The full import of this
thesis will take some time to unfold. I am especially concerned to examine the reasons for this mystery. I am not
just throwing my hands up in despair; I am interested in uncovering the deep reasons for our bafflement and
examining the consequences of our constitutional ignorance. Socrates was concerned to show people that they
know less than they think they do. I too am concerned with the nature and source of human not-knowing; I want to
know why some things are so hard to know. What is it about consciousness that makes it so elusive to theoretical
understanding? And what is it about the knowing mind that makes it founder here?

  •  

Slate: The End of Mystery - The encroachment of science on fantasy's last redoubts. Charles Paul Freund takes the occasion of the Church's revealing the Third Mystery of Fatima to say that science is taking all the mystery out of life:
Comes science with its DNA and its bioarchaeology,
its mummy CAT scans, its satellite imaging, its sonar, its
computer analysis, and soon lost cities are found, dead
royalty turns out really to be dead, pretenders to be but
pretenders. The past must then reveal itself in fantasy's
ashes.
But I say pity anyone whose mystery is so petty that it can be cast aside by the results of DNA analysis and the the like! There's still plenty to truly, unassailably enchant us.

  •  

Not Your Average Bear. Reinhold Messner, first to climb Mt Everest solo (and without oxygen) claims to have solved the yeti mystery, determining it to be a species of bear, in a frustratingly colorless book that never explains why no one else pondering the mysteries of the abominable snowman had ever noticed the similarities before.

  •  

Personalized computer program increases smokers chances for successfully quitting by more than 50 percent.

  •  

Who Gets to Tell a Black Story? The behind-the-scenes racial politics of the fascinating HBO miniseries The Corner, from the book by a white Baltimore reporter who says he's colorblind, directed by the complicated and mercurial Charles Dutton, one angry African-American man who himself comes from these very corners, has been there, done that. An unflinching look at ghetto life and especially the way heroin is interwoven through its fabric, but would it be too humiliating to blacks to be that real? [New York Times]

  •  

Slate: The Myth of Russian Reform by Anne Applebaum
This is why Western newspaper analysis of Russia is so often
wrong or at least misplaced: To date, the writing about Putin's
Cabinet and entourage has generally focused on how
well-known a given Putin appointee or adviser is in the
West—and therefore how "reformist" he is likely to be.
Russian analysts, on the other hand, focus on which particular
business clan supports the man in question (they are all men)
and whose interests he is therefore likely to favor. Likewise,
the most important political battle in Russia over the past year,
that between the interests grouped around Putin and the
interests grouped around Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and
former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, had nothing to do
with "Left vs. Right" or "Reform vs. Nasty," but is better
characterized by the Leninist phrase "Who Whom?" In that
context, calling one group more or less "democratic" or
"internationalist" or "pro-Western" makes no sense.

  •  

Finding New Audiences for Alienation. New York Times status report on the Beckett Film Project, bringing all nineteen of his plays to celluloid with impressive personnel by the end of this year. Can you imagine seeing them all in one sitting??

  •  

Texas Lawyer's Death Row Record a Concern. You don't have to be legally well-versed to recognize the incompetence of the Texas attorney portrayed here. He believes he's had more clients sentenced to death than any attorney in the US and the jurisdiction in which he practices has the third-highest number of executions in the country; he boasts that he failed criminal law in law school; he's been reprimanded multiple times for professional misconduct; it appears he conducts professional business with the smell of alcohol detectable on his breath; and listen to how he handled the defense of Gary Graham, scheduled for execution in Texas on June 22. It is contended that he assumed throughout his defense that his client was guilty. "There's nothing I could have done that would have changed the result," he said. Sounds true enough; as his new attorneys handling his appeal point out, this is a textbook case of how poor representation sends poor people to death row throughout the nation.



The Nation's Deathrow Rollcall site keeps a running tally of the year's executions by state, and has a calendar of upcoming executions. You can click on an inmate's name to send an email to the governor of her/his state requesting a stay of execution for the inmate and a moratorium on executions on the whole. The source of The Nation's information is Rick Halperin's Death Penalty News & Updates.


  •  

CIA, FBI Say Iran Defector Is Impostor -Washington Post. Below, I took note of this man's claim that Iran had been behind the Lockerbie bombing. CIA says no. This might signal U.S. wishes for a warming of relations with Iran, it would seem, otherwise wouldn't we let the suggestions stand even if they were misinformation?

  •  

Saturday, June 10, 2000

Testing the claims for Gingko. The NIH's fledgling National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine initiates its largest project yet -- a prospective study of whether ginkgo biloba extract halts cognitive decline in the aged.

  •  

Last year's massive mosquito extermination didn't work.

  •  

Fort Collins man gets approval to adopt sister.

  •  

Half fish, half robot. An "artificial animal" using part of the brain of the sea lamprey to control an off-the-shelf mechanical body exhibits complex behavior in response to external stimuli.

  •  

Pat Metheny on Kenny G's musical necrophilia.
since that record came out - in protest, as
insigificant as it may be, i encourage
everyone to boycott kenny g recordings,
concerts and anything he is associated
with. if asked about kenny g, i will diss
him and his music with the same passion
that is in evidence in this little essay.

normally, i feel that musicians all have a
hard enough time, regardless of their
level, just trying to play good and don’t
really benefit from public criticism,
particularly from their fellow players. but,
this is different.

  •  

Thanks for Nothing A master's degree candidate is denied his degree for adding a postscript (after his thesis committee signed off on it) telling his institution and advisors what he really thinks of them. He says it's a free speech issue; they say it's...well, it's not.

  •  

V.S. Ramachandran: "The discovery of mirror neurons in the frontal lobes of
monkeys, and their potential relevance to human brain
evolution — which I speculate on in this essay — is the
single most important "unreported" (or at least,
unpublicized) story of the decade. I predict that mirror
neurons will do for psychology what DNA did for
biology: they will provide a unifying framework and help
explain a host of mental abilities that have hitherto
remained mysterious and inaccessible to experiments." To my read, an intriguing but overreaching theory. Good to see they intend to empirically test some elements. [Edge]

  •  

Scientists boost power of morphine. The opioid receptor, site of action of morphine and like analgesics,desensitizes with continuing exposure to opiate drugs. It appears now that scientists have isolated the mechanism of that down-regulation, provoking hopes that they can figure out how to defeat desensitization and produce more sustained opiate effects. In other pain control news, researchers have found a way to make kappa-opioids, a class of painkilling substances thought effective only in women, work in men too, and more effective in both.

  •  

Nader Picks Up Speed In New Bid For Election. This time around he'll be campaigning in all fifty states rather than just "standing still for President" as he did in 1996. The reason he's fired up, even though he knows he can't win? If the Green Party gets 5% of the popular vote, it'll qualify for federal election matching funds for 2004. Sounds like a reason voting Green would not be a waste if you can't bring yourself to vote Republicratic.

  •  

An op-ed piece in the St Louis Post-Dispatch says nothing changes until some forbidden topics get discussed.

  •  

We should have such problems: Who's Spoiled? Forbes columnist's advice for dealing with the angst of raising children of affluence.

  •  

NATO's shame: our morals are right, everybody else's are wrong, and international law be damned.

  •  

War Hero Sent To Prison For Protesting US Army's 'School of Assassins'. Former medal of honor winner given one-year sentence for civil disobedience at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, which trains Latin American military officers. "I consider it an honor to be going to prison as a result of an act of conscience in response
to a moral imperative that impelled and obligated me to speak for voices silenced by
graduates of the School of the Americas, a military institution that has brought shame to
our country and the U.S. Army.''

  •  

Man says he doesn't remember leaving waitress $10,000 tip
"A British man who left a Chicago waitress a $10,000 tip later rejected by his credit card company claims he was drunk and doesn't remember
leaving the huge amount on a $9 bar tab...But Leg Room owner Fred Hoffmann said (the man) seemed to be thinking clearly at the time, noting that the bar's manager photocopied his
passport and had him sign a statement agreeing to the tip....The bar's owners have pledged to give (the waitress) the money themselves because of the publicity generated by the incident."

  •  

BBC: Cannabis found in Palace kitchen "...Furious
Queen has demanded a full search for the
culprit. " But what were police doing raiding Buckingham Palace??

  •  

Foreskin Cells May Assist HIV Transmission. Compelling evidence accumulates that circumcised males are far less likely to contract HIV with HIV-positive sexual contacts.

  •  

Thursday, June 8, 2000

WebBrain.com. I do like this search interface.

  •  

Success of Christian Thriller Reflects Rising Interest in Religious Fiction. "Pre-millennial dispensationalism," a literal interpretation of the Book of Revelation, drives potboiler fiction. "The books read like artifacts of a time
machine sent to retrieve pulp science fiction -- and our
morality -- from the 50s," said one critic.

  •  

No, I'm Not Talking to You. The New York Times takes the proliferation of those little earbud-and-mic-bud hands-free cellular phone accessories as an opportunity to take another well-deserved potshot at all the people seemingly talking to themselves on city streets and in other public places. [Curmudgeon that I am, I love the approach to this constant barrage of people's personal business in my aural space that someone once suggested -- feel free to join into their personal conversations, offering observations and suggestions, since they've already been so kind as to include you. At best, it'll chasten them and may change some behavior; at worst, at least you'll have some fun.]

  •  

November 17 group: Small but deadly. 'A Greek politician who survived a November 17
attack remarked that "Greece is the only
country where it has been impossible to not
only smoke out terrorism, but even to make a
single substantial strike against it."

But some commentators believe that because
the group emerged from the same resistance
movement that gave rise to today's political
establishment, there may be influential figures
in Greece who do not want its members
brought to book.' [BBC]

  •  

A Data Sanctuary is Born. This Wired article has alot more color and background on the goings-on at Sealand than the Times coverage I logged below.

  •  

The Decline and Fall (cont'd.): "Mixing obscenity with retail is nothing new. That's what porn is, right? But the way Betty Ray does it, the
product is almost literary...In episodes to come, the group will stumble on Fuckertown and its
shady lady leader, Natasha Strap. The products the characters use and see are all for sale
to Fuckertown viewers."

  •  

Small Bookstores Get Booksense, finally a unified web presence to compete with amazon and barnesandnoble. "A publisher pays Barnes and Noble $10,000 to feature a certain title...But the
titles on our front tables are there simply because we've read them and loved them. This
marketing effort will make the public to understand that our opinions haven't been bought." [Wired]

  •  

Bedside terror. "18,391 people like me -- fresh from medical school --
will be unleashed on the patients of this country on July 1.
We will infiltrate local hospitals, clinics and medical centers
near you. Despite the four years we spent memorizing
textbooks and not sleeping, many will feel, like I did on that
day, completely ill-prepared to be a doctor." [Salon] And even after several years of residency training, this doctor didn't know what he was doing... or on the other hand, maybe he knew exactly.

  •  

Mugged by a serpent? [Salon]

  •  

Wednesday, June 7, 2000

Famed pianist Glenn Gould seen as autistic.

  •  

"I've lost all respect for beavers. I never would have imagined this from a beaver."

  •  

Charges and counter-charges over Montenegran assassination. Whom to believe? CIA spokesman or senior Milosevic aide?? Remember Sergio Aragones' Spy vs. Spy? [Nando Times]

  •  

Big Brother is coming [Brill's Content]

  •  

A reader commented on something that is painfully obvious to me -- how slow this enormous blog page has been to load, especially for those of you who may well still have a dial-up connection as I do. I'm probably losing readers who are more impatient than you are about waiting for the page to come up. How frequently do you read Follow Me Here? Instead of ten days' worth of my posts, I've just whittled it down to five days on the main page. Go back to the archives (link at the bottom) for older posts if you like. Let me know if this seems okay, and if it seems faster to download...

  •  

Tuesday, June 6, 2000

The Sunday Times: novelist James Delingpole is Young, Successful, Prosperous: I Could Just Kill Myself.
"How our ancestors would have laughed if we had mentioned
any of these perils to them. Rightly so, for such things could
be taken seriously only in an age so pampered and decadent
that it has to invent illusory dangers in order to replace real
ones that no longer exist. You do not agonise about animal
rights and gluten allergies when your family is starving; you do
not worry about Lyme disease in times of rampant
tuberculosis, typhus or bubonic plague; you have no urge to go
bungee jumping or white-water rafting when you are about to
be blown up on the western front.

We have all been spoilt rotten, that's our problem."

  •  

Salon: Billy and the bullies. I seem to have missed out. This is about a dispute between Billy Collins' humble university press and blockbuster Random House over publication rights to some of his poetry. But Collins is supposed to be America's most popular poet?? Oh, that's it, sales figures had soared after two appearances on A Prairie Home Companion in 1998, and his poems are described as "funny and accessible."

  •  

Feed: Legal rights for apes.
"Chimpanzees are our
closest biological relatives, sharing 98.4 percent of our DNA…
Because the similarities between us are so compelling, there is
no ethical justification for the difference in legal status."

  •  

A FAQ from the Guardian about the National Missile Defense plan, "son of Star Wars." Learn more about this issue! Major problems with the plan: (1) it's made to deal with a nonexistent threat, nuclear attacks by "rogue states". It could legitimately be perceived, therefore, as a stalking horse for a more large-scale program directed against other nuclear powers.(2) It will utterly destabilize hard-won arms control measures that have kept the real danger of the strategic arms race at bay. (3) Technologically, it won't work. (4) If funded, it would be a massive windfall for the ailing aerospace corporations which can't afford it to be found unnecessary or unfeasible. (5) It looks like the Administration is pushing us towards implementation at least partially to position Gore better against his more hawkish opponent. (6) There's little effective public opposition because most people have been lulled into complacency about the continuing dangers of the arms race by the "end of the Cold War", most people think it's a non-issue because they think we already have a Star Wars defense system (since the Reagan years), and most people don't make foreign policy issues a factor in their voting decisions. [By the way, here's a wonderful resource, the entire archive of FAQs, which the Guardian calls "The Issue Explained", on a range of topics in the news deserving further explanation.]

Before leaving the issue, read why Jonathan Schell, author of the seminal disarmament tract The Fate of the Earth and, most recently, of The Gift of Time: The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons Now, calls today The Second Age of Nuclear Danger:

In short, the post-Cold War period has turned out to be less hospitable to nuclear arms control than the Cold War. Why has the end of
the great global conflict in whose name almost all nuclear weapons were built been followed by the near-collapse across the board of the
world’s efforts to control these weapons? Why has peace been worse for nuclear disarmament than cold war?
[Boston Review]


  •  

[Slate]: Timothy Noah notices something funny about Bayer. As part of the IG Farben German industrial conglomerate, the pharmaceutical giant was a key
player in the Final Solution ("it manufactured the Zyklon B used to
gas Jews in the death chambers; it designed ovens used to
incinerate the corpses; and it used as slave laborers those Jews
at Auschwitz who were still alive") and has recently just barely, in a sense, acknowledged its role by conceding massive financial reparations to Holocaust survivors. Best known for Bayer aspirin, it has just decided that the next product for which it will create brand-name recognition is Bayer Advanced Home, a highly efficient poison to kill household pests. "Bayer, though dunderheaded enough to trumpet its valuable
brand name in a TV commercial that will remind people of this
history, was, sadly, just smart enough to deny Chatterbox's
request to view the ad in question (and to instruct its ad firm to
do the same)."

  •  

Rethinking Tactics in War on Drugs. After 30 years of fervent support by the church-at-large for the war on drugs since
the Nixon administration declared war on
drugs in the late 1960s--a war pressed by each succeeding
administration--growing numbers of religious leaders are breaking
ranks.
Not only are they questioning the war's effectiveness and its
burgeoning costs--they also charge that its execution violates
biblical imperatives of justice and mercy.
Rather than reducing the threat to society posed by illegal
narcotics trafficking, the war is making orphans of tens of thousands
of children by unnecessarily jailing their parents and
disproportionately targeting people of color, religious critics charge.
A new group, Religious Leaders for a More Just and Compassionate Drug Policy, counts many of the U.S.'s most influential religious leaders among its founding members. They focus on disparities in policing drug offenses by race and class; the decreasing opportunities for prosecutorial or judicial discretion in sentencing in face of "get-tough" policy pressures; and the lack of rehabilitative efforts in the penal system. (Update: Human Rights Watch report cites disparity in race-based drug offense sentencing in the U.S. [New York Times]) "When it comes to addiction, the rich go to Betty Ford, the poor
go to county jail," the Rev. Scott Richardson, of All Saints
Episcopal Church in Pasadena, said recently.
A Rand Corp. study in 1997 found that treatment reduces 15
times more serious crime than mandatory minimum sentences and
that residential treatment programs cost a little more than half of the
$30,000 annual cost of housing a prisoner, Richardson notes.
Gen. Barry McCaffrey, "czar" of the White House Office of National Drug Policy, warns that if the public begins to think the war on drugs is unfair, it will lose crucial momentum and support. [LA Times]

In other WoD (War on Drugs) news, powerful U.S. anti-drug forces in Congress and the corporation supplying the raw goods are compelling Colombia to apply fusarium, a fungus that acts as an herbicide, to the coca crop in their country. Trouble is, it can destroy other crops and farm animals and may cause overwhelming infection to immune-compromised humans. Years of U.S.-backed aerial spraying of other herbicides has been at best useless against the coca and opium crops, and at worst harmful. "The New York Times reported in early May that US-funded
spraying of the herbicide glyphosate (marketed as Roundup by
Monsanto Company) may have exposed scores of Colombian
villagers to harmful toxins and damaged nondrug crops. But the
proposed Fusarium program, experts say, could unleash far
worse consequences." [The Guardian]


  •  

David Brake just pointed me to his blog, with a worldview quite consonant with mine.

  •  

Stuffing Yer Holes: Feasting Black Hole Blows Bubbles.
"A monstrous black hole's rude table manners include blowing huge bubbles of hot gas into space. At least,
that's the gustatory practice followed by the supermassive black hole residing in the hub of the nearby
galaxy NGC 4438. These NASA Hubble Space Telescope images of the galaxy's central region clearly show
one of the bubbles rising from a dark band of dust." And: Black Holes Shed Light on Galaxy Formation. "Astronomers are concluding that monstrous black holes weren't
simply born big but instead grew on a measured diet of gas and stars
controlled by their host galaxies in the early formative years of the
universe. These results, gleaned from a NASA Hubble Space Telescope
census of more than 30 galaxies, are painting a broad picture of a
galaxy's evolution and its long and intimate relationship with its central
giant black hole. Though much more analysis remains, an initial look at
Hubble evidence favors the idea that titanic black holes did not precede
a galaxy's birth but instead co-evolved with the galaxy by trapping a
surprisingly exact percentage of the mass of the central hub of stars
and gas in a galaxy."

  •  

www.sticker.com

  •  

American 'Culture,' Cooked by the Melting Pot. In the strict (anthropological) sense of the word, culture no longer exists; we live in a post-cultural world, says Christopher Clausen, whose book Faded Mosaic is reviewed here by Jonathan Yardley. And the distinction is not merely a semantic one [Washington Post]:
"The truth is that "the connection with an ancestral culture is now so vestigial that whether to assert or deny it has become entirely a matter of choice." The greatest influences on us are not ethnic or religious or racial (though this last, for African Americans, remains a powerful and unavoidable consideration) but "the expanding reach of a homogenizing federal government, universal access to the same products and television programs, interstate highways and a restlessly mobile population." Today, Clausen argues, "what most ordinary people who call for multiculturalism want is something more like post-culturalism: no conflict based on cultural factors, none of the sharp edges that cause bleeding." The idea of the melting pot may no longer be fashionable, but a melting pot is where we live.


Instead of a crazy quilt of conflicting cultures with specific rules, demands and expectations, we inhabit a mass society that claims to value individuals and that places "extreme emphasis on personal feelings and self-gratification" yet is in fact a society of "mass individualism, an individualism without much individuality." We are "oriented to pleasure--the desires of the self, not its duties," yet because we all worship at the same altars--most notably, or notoriously, mass entertainment and the cult of personality, or celebrity--the result is "a mass individualism that encourages people to assert themselves in nearly identical ways."



  •  

New Statesman: Scott Lucas, a University of Birmingham cultural historian, asserts that George Orwell was not a socialist, despite usually being held up as having impeccable "English socialist" credentials. For one thing, he apparently "named names" in the British equivalent of the McCarthy witchhunt; for another, Lucas says, his values were not particularly socialist.
Praise, if you will, Orwell's fighting spirit, praise his
generous anger, praise his free intelligence. Just
remember that, no matter how smelly the
orthodoxies, 19th-century liberalism and 20th-century
anti-communism did not, and still do not, constitute
socialism.


  •  

New Statesman: After a long preamble on Ted Hughes' gatekeeping on Sylvia Plath's posthumous legacy, Ian Hamilton decries the stranglehold T.S.Eliot's widow has on his reputation.
So, one day, one day. In the meantime, let us hope
that, by the time an Eliot biography gets nodded
through, he won't be consigned to the popular
histories as an anti-Semite who wrote amusingly
about pussy cats and had his first wife locked away
for keeps in an asylum - a first wife who may have
written certain of his best-known lines. Eliot's
posterity, one feels, will always need an extra
measure of protection from the philistines, and
maybe, in his case, disclosure will serve his
reputation more effectively than reticence.

  •  

A Dangerous Masquerade
"Anyone watching the hostage
crisis in Luxembourg last week
would applaud the release of nursery
school children and their caregivers
after a crazed gunman was shot by
local police. But by using a camera crew as camouflage for
their gun and by shooting the suspect who thought he was
getting ready to give a television interview, the Luxembourg
police have now made it more dangerous for other
journalists to do their jobs and thus harder for them to get
news of critical importance." [New York Times]

  •  

Monday, June 5, 2000

The Guardian: Iranian link to bomb on Pan Am 103. CNS News last night reported that an Iranian defector (who reportedly controlled his country's terrorist operations for a decade and is being debriefed by the CIA) has proof that Iran planned and financed the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

  •  

Blair gets tough with doctors, comes back from his paternity leave ready to move British medicine away from professional self-regulation and the "consultant is king" culture of the National Health Service.

  •  

GoodBye! The Journal of Contemporary Obituaries, "an opinionated bimonthly magazine which chronicles the dead – famous, infamous and non-famous."

  •  

A science writer I like very much, Matt Ridley, summarizes the evidence for a controversial theory that AIDS was caused when thousands of Africans were given a live polio vaccine grown on chimpanzee kidney tissue in the '50's. "(A) particular type of live polio vaccine called Chat may have been grown in the 1950s in cells
derived from chimpanzee kidneys. Chimpanzees are the probable animal source of the AIDS virus; live
vaccines could have been contaminated if an infected animal was used. Chat was tested on more than 1 million Africans in 1957-60, in the very areas where AIDS subsequently became epidemic for the first time.
Two other, less serious forms of AIDS developed in parts of west Africa at about the same time, each epidemic closely associated with an
area in which similar live polio vaccines may have been tested.

Stated thus, the theory seems purely circumstantial. It boils down to seven assertions, all of which must be tested to destruction...."

  •  

Sunday, June 4, 2000

'The descent into scumdom is a slippery slope, as
(Harry) Stein notes in his charming new memoir, How I
Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing
Conspiracy (And Found Inner Peace)
...His
fellow converts from the pre-fab liberalism of their
youth will know what he means. One day you get
an inkling that maybe affirmative action isn't very
fair; the next thing you know, you're joining the
NRA, even though you hate guns...Like the good conservative he now is, he
blames it all on a woman...'

  •  

Philospoher Ian Hacking is tired of "the social construction of..."

  •  

Joey Skaggs is at it again: cemetery theme parks. [Salon]

  •  

New Scientist reviewer says frothy book deserves cult status.

  •  

The Punch Lines: 'Although the literati like to think they're
superior to the millions of simple folk who tune
into Jerry Springer and Who Wants to Be a
Millionaire
, their savage attacks on each other
are often as ugly, tacky, and phony as any
World Wrestling Federation bout. Still, a quick
breeze through last month's Manhattan
publications proves that literary fuck-you fests
are alive and kicking, along with our
fascination for them.' [The Voice Literary Supplement]

  •  

Salon: If code is free, why not me?
"Some open-source geeks are as open-minded about sex
as they are about hacking," says reporter Annalee Newitz from a rapturous position "at the feet of three charming naked men..." in a state of partial undress.

  •  

The New York Times calls it a Rebel Outpost on the Fringes of Cyberspace. It's going to be interesting to see how this shakes out. A group of libertarians has struck a financial deal with Roy Bates (a British businessman and former army major who has maintained that the abandoned antiaircraft bunker in international waters six miles off the coast of England of which he took possession in 1968 is the independent Principality of Sealand, and that he and his wife are its regents) to allow them to establish a "data haven" there for "a diverse
clientele that may wish to operate beyond the reach of large
nations for reasons of privacy or financial necessity. They
expect their customers to include people who wish to keep
their e-mail safe from government subpoenas as well as
other businesses seeking to avoid regulation, like
international electronic commerce, banking and gambling." In other Sealand news, purported representatives of the principality "tried to
acquire arms worth at least $50 million from Russia, Spanish
authorities said Friday." The investigation also revealed that Bates has commissioned a tailor to design battle uniforms for Sealand, "reserving one with the rank of Colonel for himself", and that a vigorous trade in driver's licenses, university degrees and passports from Sealand goes on. When investigated, those pursuing these activities have claimed diplomatic immunity for their actions.

  •  

How U.S. Left Sierra Leone Tangled in a Curious Web. 1998: Clinton goes to Africa, promising an African Renaissance and greater U.S. involvement in the continent. 1999: U.S. brokers peace accord empowering rebels. 2000: U.S. invisible in the faltering peacekeeping effort. "When the Rev. Jesse Jackson, President Clinton's special
envoy for democracy in Africa, came to West Africa to help
defuse the crisis, he was forced to cancel a stop in Sierra
Leone because he was not welcome.

Mr. Jackson was given the role of special envoy to Africa
after helping to keep the black vote solidly behind Mr.
Clinton in 1996. He is a vocal proponent of intervening in
Africa's conflicts.

In May last year, Mr. Jackson criticized the administration for
protecting Kosovo Albanians but leaving Africans to defend
themselves so that Sierra Leone's war was "fought in the
dark" for seven years." [New York Times]

  •  

Matan Has Two Mommies, and Israel Is Talking. 'A classic Israeli idiom, which means to proclaim that there's
no one like mom, says, "There is only one mother." And the
government felt that the catch phrase should be taken
literally: it was biologically impossible, the government
insisted, for anyone to have more than one.' [New York Times]

  •  

Nymphet at the Net: skin-deep still counts. [New York Times]

  •  

Living in the Shadow of Chernobyl's Reactors. A current status report from the site of the 1986 disaster. There's continuing thyroid cancer downwind; the concrete "sarcophagus" is on shifting ground, admitting rainwater to corrode pipes and girders and increase the risk of collapse; President Kuchma has promised to close the remaining operating reactor at Chernobyl but international wrangling about the costs of decommissioning it and replacing its electricity generating capacity has stalled implementation; the "forbidden zone" turns into a post-industrial resurgent wilderness tempting poachers in search of burgeoning deer populations; and -- this is just nuts -- employees of the plant wearing surgical masks stir up the radioactive soil with hoes to till the earth to plant flowers. Someone with post-apocalyptic credentials -- Lewis Shiner, Jack Womack or Samuel Delaney come to mind off the top of my head -- should write a novel set there.

  •  

Hate Sites Bad Recruiting Tools. Several hate-watchers say that, contrary to public concerns, the aggressive and expanding web-presence of right-wing hate groups has not paid off in terms of recruitment. Moreover, increased public scrutiny may be harmful to them. [Wired]

  •  

"This isn’t just a
decent film or a good film. If everything comes together right, this could stand as a beloved film, something that not only honors the memory of Dr. Seuss, but actually adds to the luster of his name." [via Robot Wisdom]

  •  

Saturday, June 3, 2000

Another new tick-borne disease, HGE, human granulocytic erlichiosis. First recognized in 1994, around 1,000 cases have been reported. 2-3% fatality rate reported when prompt diagnosis and care are not received, according to the CDC.

  •  

Archaeologists' playtime: Ancient Cities Reported Found Under Sea Off Egypt, and Lost City Discovered in Peruvian Jungle.

  •  

Canada Funds Clinical Trials of 'Invisible Condom'. This probably deals with the male concerns about the notorious loss of sensation caused by conventional condoms, but of course it appears to be inconvenient to use and the burden falls on the woman (in heterosexual sex).

  •  

Look at it this way. This is one of those things that is perfectly obvious once you think about it but took a long time for anyone to recognize. Engineers at Fuji have realized that the world has more horizontal and vertical lines than oblique ones, probably because both natural and manmade things organize themselves in relation to the pull of gravity. That means that the linear gaps in a conventional horizontal array of photodiodes in a digital camera will result in more loss of detail than an innovative, different arrangement of the diodes they are now introducing. [New Scientist]

  •  

Raising a stink. The methane produced from decaying vegetation in stagnant water makes hydroelectric power schemes worse greenhouse-gas offenders than large coal-fired power plants, says the World Commission on
Dams, a group of scientists, engineers and environmentalists supported by the World Bank, the world's biggest funder
of large dams.

  •  

The New York Times Book Review summer reading list 2000.

  •  

Salon TV critic Joyce Millman reflects on the debut episode of The Survivor, finds few surprises. "When the president of CBS TV, Leslie Moonves, tells
reporters that he participated in the casting of "Survivor,"
helping choose the final 16 contestants, and gets all giddy
describing the show's "voyeuristic appeal," then you can bet,
my friends, that this is not "reality," but some winking faux
version of it. Still, I'm sure that won't stop "Survivor" from
becoming this summer's national obsession and then, who
knows, maybe next year's sweeps programming main event.
I can see the celebrity edition of "Survivor" now: Bobby
Knight, Oprah Winfrey and the cast of "Friends" vs. Martha
Stewart, the Dixie Chicks, Jerry, George, Kramer and
Shaquille O'Neal."

  •  

Improve Performance; Check your BIOS Settings

  •  

The Turn. "At the very heart of winged flight lies the banked
turn, a procedure that by now seems so routine and
familiar that airline passengers appreciate neither
its elegance and mystery nor its dangerously
delusive character. The author, a pilot, takes us up
into the subject." One of the points in this essay is the way in which the aerodynamic forces in a turn can counteract the inner ear's positional sense and contrary to common sense one may be unable to feel one's position relative to the vertical, especially when flying without visual cues. A pilot friend of mine explained to me the way in which, if I understood it correctly, this can easily get inexperienced pilots in trouble and may have caused the fatal crash of JFK Jr's plane. [Atlantic Monthly]

  •  

Salon: L.A. to serve toilet water. One proposal for the Southern California water shortage. In the '70's, I worked briefly for an environmental concern that promoted wastewater recycling. But they were talking about "grey water" -- bath-, sink- and laundry-drainage. In this scheme, waterless composting toilets keep human waste contamination out of the recycling stream and "stop the five-gallon flush"; seemed like a good idea then and now. In recent years, I've been delighted to discover this system in use at several of the Appalachian Mountain Club's backcountry huts in the White Mountains, but imagine the economy of scale and public acceptance that could come from its LA-wide introduction!

  •  

Friday, June 2, 2000

Cal State Long Beach (CSLB) psychology professor Kevin MacDonald, as a recent New Times LA article describes it, uses
evolutionary
psychology to argue that Judaism is not merely a religion; it is
also a Darwinian strategy that serves to raise Jewish IQ, and
that anti-Semitism can be understood rationally as a by-product
of natural selection. He writes that Jews have reacted to
anti-Semitism by taking over intellectual movements and
attacking Gentile culture to promote Jewish interests. The
result, he warns, is a "present decline of European peoples in
the New World." He also asserts that Jews protect their
interests by suppressing criticism of Judaism, and cites David
Irving as an example of a writer whose work has been
suppressed by Jewish groups.
MacDonald agreed to testify on behalf of Irving at the prominent London libel suit Irving recently lost against Deborah Lipstadt, whose academic criticism of Holocaust deniers claims distortions in Irving's work. MacDonald says he is an "agnostic" about the question of the reality of the Holocaust because he has not studied its history extensively enough and that his decision to support Irving was based on academic freedom considerations. (He writes here about his reasons for testifying.)

Now critics on the faculty of CSLB want him to defend his own controversial doctrines in a public academic forum, which he refuses to do partially on the grounds that it is not appropriate to ask a tenured professor to present such complicated ideas orally to an audience that is likely to be hostile. CSLB, whose enormous psychology dept. (with over 1200 students and 55 faculty) was criticized in a 1994 external audit for doing too little to foster open debate of academic issues, has put off until the fall its decision on calls for a public forum on MacDonald's ideas. Many colleagues say they'll be reading his work this summer, vowing to move forward with criticism in the fall whether MacDonald participates or not. His colleagues point out that they believe MacDonald's right to do the kind of research he does is protected by academic freedom, and no one is calling for his discipline or expulsion.

One prominent critic is UC Santa Barbara professor John Tooby, arguably the founder of the discipline of evolutionary psychology in the early '90's. Tooby wants to defend the good name of evolutionary psychology against what he perceives as a disreputble extremist extrapolation. He has recently reportedly denied that MacDonald's work is even evolutionary psychology at all. 'Blaming the new science for MacDonald's views, Tooby says,
is like asking doctors, "What do you physicians have to say
about Josef Mengele?"' A lengthy refutation of MacDonald's work on which Tooby is currently at work is slated to appear on his website later this summer.

MacDonald may essentially be cursed simply by being a shy, reluctant public speaker whose trio of books on Judaism, published between 1994 and 1998, received little attention (except among rightwing extremist hatemongers, whose websites have been laudatory), but he may now regret the visibility his decision to participate in Irving's trial has engendered. Academic work in which there is such a dramatic tension between scholarly freedom and the use of the work in the service of extremist hatred and divisiveness has long provoked heated ethical controversy on campus. I recall the very similar bitterness of the debate over the work on the genetic basis of intelligence done by Harvard professor Roger Herrnstein in the early '70's, EO Wilson's sociobiology (also engendered at Harvard in the '70's), and the Bell Curve flap (Herrnstein again, with Charles Murray) several years ago. Critics always claim that these are bad science even if well-intentioned; prejudice presented as if it were undistorted scientific fact. It'll be interesting to see how explicitly MacDonald paints himself as a victim of the "Jewish agenda" he sees at work against threats to its "eugenics program" in public defenses.

Read an earlier New Times LA article about MacDonald and his work here. And, thanks to Jorn Barger who commented that the above exposition was one-sided (I actually feel I'm not being unfair to MacDonald as much as noting with interest a one-sided groundswell of response), this link to MacDonald's replies to the New Times LA publicity. MacDonald says in part:

Ortega quotes me as saying that the Jews brought the Holocaust on
themselves. This is just wrong. I claim only to have a theory of anti-Semitism,
not a theory of the Nazi Holocaust. In my book, Separation and Its
Discontents, I argue that perceptions of real conflicts of interest engendered
and exacerbated widespread popular anti-Jewish feelings in Germany prior to
and during the Nazi era, as they have in many other times and places. These
perceptions of conflicts of interest are related complexly to real conflicts of
interest. For example, exaggeration and even fantasies may color the
situation once the battle lines have been drawn between groups. Other
scholars have also argued that Jewish behavior—very often Jewish success—is
an important factor in anti-Semitism; see, e.g., Albert Lindemann’s Esau’s
Tears[Cambridge University Press, 1998]). My position is that we should not
simply assume that every instance of anti-Semitism is completely irrational.
Rather, we should suppose that in general there are indeed real conflicts of
interest between groups and that outbreaks of hostility are a complex
interplay of fantasy and reality. Anti-Semitism has taken many different
forms from simple dislike to economic boycots, pogroms, expulsion and
genocide.
And:
In the last chapter of The Culture of Critique I suggest that the
increasing ethnic division in the U.S. and other European-derived societies
resulting from high levels of immigration and the rise of multiculturalism will
lead to increased ethnocentrism on all sides and a decline in the
Enlightenment values of de-ethnicized individualism. I state only that this is
a dangerous situation and I do so on the basis of psychological theory and my
reading of the history of the Jews as well as a great many examples of ethnic
conflict in contemporary and past societies.
This is just a start; I imagine MacDonald would agree with me that a "soundbite", or weblog, review cannot be thoughtful enough about these complex issues. If this controversy interests you, I'm sure you'll delve further.

In connection with my post on this issue, Barger has also referred me to his page on Israel Shahak, a Holocaust survivor turned anti-Zionist civil rights campaigner in Israel. He has paid special attention to the efffects of Jewish fundamentalism on Israeli policy and politics. I'm just beginning to absorb this material. Thank you again, Jorn.


  •  

CokeSpotlight. Greenpeace and Adbusters kick off a massive campaign against Coca Cola's environmental hypocrisy as a polluting sponsor of the first "Green" Olympics: 'To be Number One in the world: that's the
goal of The Coca-Cola Company. That's
why Coke is the longest running
corporate sponsor of the Olympic Games.
It's a partnership that has helped make
Coke the world's best known brand, sold
in nearly 200 countries.

But there's something different about the
2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney,
Australia. They will be the first Green
Games, a global celebration of sport,
culture, and the environment.
In the Green Games, Coca-Cola isn't winning the race. Coke keeps
its products "always cool" with the help of HFCs, some of the most
potent global warming gases ever produced.'

  •  

Thursday, June 1, 2000

Mental Health is Not an Issue...Yet. "Then, you realize you've asked the wrong question. You are asking how many of the downtrodden have to die. Nobody gives a rat's ass about
the mentally ill. They're crazy. Not until the mentally ill begin to see who is responsible for their continued suffering, and find that person, and show
up on his doorstep with their agony, and share it with him, will mental health care be available for all who need it."

  •  

"...simply a mistake where a piece of type accidentally fell onto the page during production", or (much more likely, it would seem) a clever culture-jam by a guerrilla Seattle Times employee?

  •  

I want one of these!

  •  

Alas, Inability to secure funding stream axes NewsWatch.
'On Tuesday, May 30,
NewsWatch.org, a daily media
criticism Web site run by The Center
for Media and Public Affairs, ceased
operations. Described by Smart
Computing as one of the "best
little-known Web sites," on the Web,
NewsWatch.org was launched a year
and a half ago to serve as a
"consumer's guide to the news."
Rather than look at the inside stories
behind the day's news - who was up,
who was down and who did what to
whom - NewsWatch focused on news
content, examining inaccuracies,
distortions, lack of context and other
controversies of interest to the
consumers as well as the producers
of news.'

  •  

Scientists Excited by Rare Meteorite Find in Canada:
like "...sampling on the surface of a comet". But why does Reuters confuse meteorites and asteroids?

  •  

A Spelling Test of fifty commonly misspelled words. I consider myself to be a strong speller yet I'm chagrined to say I only scored 86%.

  •  

Adult stem cells can produce a wealth of cell types, Science authors report. This exciting study by a Swedish team shows that, when grown within an embryo, adult neural stem cells can revert to a precursor state that can give rise to lineages of a variety of tissue types. The pluripotentiality of embryonal stem cells has long been recognized, but current ethical concerns have led to a ban on tissue from embryos. This discovery about the open-ended potential of stem cells from adults opens the way to therapeutic advances, such aas growing replacement organs, that do not require embryonic tissue. Of course, neural stem cells are among the most difficult cell types to obtain from living adults, so it would be nice if we discovered similar versatility in other types of adult stem cells.

  •  

Toshiba euthanasia laptop goes on display. "The patient got a needle in their arm, while the computer sat on the bed. The laptop
asked the patient twice if they knew what they were doing. The third time they had to
hit the space bar to confirm they wanted to die. Fifteen seconds later a message was
sent to a switching unit, which turned on a compressor." [The Register]

  •  

New Scientist: Before the big bang. One cosmologist's attempt to apply string theory to the thorny problem of the singularity at the origin of the universe has some surprising results:
"Our Universe is a patch of the inside
of a black hole," amd there was a time before the Big Bang. Something like this notion is all over science fiction, however, from even before we knew about black holes. Does anyone remember the culmination of James Blish's Cities in Flight series from the late '50's?

  •  

Survey: Online Therapy Bad Idea. I don't think I'm just trying to protect my market niche as a psychiatrist when I say that I agree with this survey finding.

  •  

Little-known ventriloquist puts words into Gabriel Garcia Marquez' mouth.

  •  

Annals of the Age of Depravity (cont'd.): Mother Kept Son Locked Up for 30 Years.
'"Why didn't we report it? Because this was something between the two of them," one person from the village was quoted as saying.'

  •  

The Travel Guide Says what? Words fail me.

  •  

"They're Going to Eat What?" World nettle-eating challenge in Dorset UK; sponsored by Ben & Jerry's, to be netcast live...

  •  

Wet, Windy Atlantic Hurricane Season Starts Thursday. I've always wondered. Do the hurricanes know they're okay to come as of Thursday but not Wednesday?

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