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"I am the world crier, & this is my dangerous career...

I am the one to call your bluff, & this is my climate."

—Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972)

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Wednesday, January 31, 2001

Sobering thought: "Rowdy drinkers can't blame their violent behaviour on alcohol,
say Canadian researchers who have found that drinkers can
'sober up' if offered a small reward. The findings suggest that
being intoxicated is no defence if someone commits a crime." But, on the other hand, even water makes you stupid. New Scientist

  •  

G. Gordon Liddy, on trial for defamation of Ida Wells, a Democratic National Committee secretary, advances the theory that John Dean masterminded the Watergate break-in to retrieve photos of his future wife Maureen. He claims her pictures were part of a packet of photos of call-girls used to set up liaisons in nearby apartments for visitors to the DNC, and were kept in Wells' desk. Liddy claims he committed the break-in under the misconception that it was, as has been commonly understood, about bugging the DNC in support of the Nixon re-election effort, and that he only found out the true rationale for the break-in years later when he was told about the photographs by "a disbarred attorney and convicted felon with a history of mental illness," Phillip Mackin Bailley.

' "I know he hates my husband but I know on some level he's
trying to lessen his culpability and stupidity for the Watergate
break-in and to get even with my husband for exposing all of
the criminal acts in the Nixon White House," (Maureen) Dean said
in what she described as her first interview on the subject in
10 years.' Boston Globe

This is a bizarre theory from one of the strangest characters on the American scene, but is it really any more implausible than the commonly accepted theory of the break-in? Coverage of this defamation trial is the first I've heard of this zaniness but he and Dean have apparently been battling it out for awhile now. Here's a Google search on "Liddy AND 'Maureen Dean' AND call-girl".


  •  

Salon.com Radio launches March 1 on Public Radio International affiliates. "Each week, Salon.com Radio will take the
wry, opinionated personality of Salon.com
to the airwaves. Hosted by Stephan Cox,
the one-hour program will feature stories,
interviews and commentary on current
events, technology, arts and culture, with
reporting and interviews by Salon.com's
writers and editors." How will it differ from, say, All Things Considered on NPR (except insofar as it is only one hour a week)?

  •  

"When You Get an Email Petition, Think Delete". I've usually just signed them and passed them on if I agree with them, but this columnist makes a coherent argument that it's largely a waste of your time. Chicago Tribune

  •  

Peggy Kamuf, Professor of French and Comparative Literature at USC, describes the witchhunt by a freelance reporter for Salon and, subsequently, a US News and World Reports columnist, who couldn't even begin to understand the line of argument she was making in her lecture 'The End of Reading.' In the lecture, she tried to describe the contributions literary criticism and psychoanalytic theory could make to the neurologically-based science of reading and reading disorders, expanding our perspective on the interiority of the reading experience rather than just focusing on its externals. She was described by her detractors as making a 45-minute rant about the violence done by parents' reading aloud to their children. She links to the text of her lecture, the Salon article and the USN&WR writeup, and her responses to both. Here, admittedly taken out of context, is the offending passage of her lecture:

The common notion of reading
as information-extraction sets the principles, and thus institutes the laws and the institutions through which reading practices are maintained, that is,
reintroduced, reproduced, and reinforced in each new generation of readers, as we like to think of them. And we do like our dearest common notion of
reading to remind us of the whole family scene. Reading is also thereby getting produced and maintained as site for the patriarchal, paternalistic family’s
reproduction of itself. The practice gets passed down, most typically, in the voice of mothers, usually mothers, reading aloud to their children. There where
this ancient practice of reading aloud survives, before the child’s invention of silent reading, it is the mother’s voice that has been made to echo with the
letters taking shape on the page. I say “has been made to” because the scene is certainly not a natural one. It has also to be produced, reproduced, instituted.
With the scene we are evoking of the child learning to read by listening to the mother’s voice, it is the institution of written signs themselves, and thus of all
possible institutions that is being passed down. The institution of the family of man takes place in a scene of learning to read. But what we forget, what we
have to forget or repress is that this is always also a violent scene inasmuch as it has to repeat, reinflict the violence that wrenches the human animal out of
the state of sheer animality, where, as we are taught to believe once we can read, there is no such thing as reading in this common sense, the sense we all
supposedly share, sharing thus the belief that only humans read or do what we call reading.


Some might suggest that, with prose like that, Prof. Kamuf set herself up for a hysterical misreading! But it's no more lurid than much to be found in the psychoanalytic literature, for example, and far more comprehensible than much contemporary literary criticism, IMHO.

  •  

Chronicle of a Massacre Foretold: "The growing power and brutality of Colombia's paramilitary forces have become the chief concern of international human rights groups
and, increasingly, Colombian and U.S. officials who say the 8,000-member private army might pose the biggest obstacle to peace in the
country's decades-old civil conflict.

This massacre, the largest of 23 mass killings attributed to the paramilitaries this month, comes as international human rights groups push
for the suspension of U.S. aid to the Colombian armed forces until the military shows progress on human rights. The armed forces, the
chief beneficiary of the $1.3 billion U.S. anti-drug assistance package known as Plan Colombia, deny using the paramilitaries as a shadow
army against leftist guerrillas, turning a blind eye to their crimes or supporting them with equipment, intelligence and troops." Washington Post

  •  

A Phoenix New Times reporter scores An Exclusive Interview With the Preserves Arsonist, and an Arizona Republic editorial is roundly critical, asking Where's The Outcry Over These Arsons?

  •  

Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Wired has two stories about what the connectivity of the Internet has done to two very different social phenomena.
crush of humanity, from satelliteFirst, Will the Hatemongers Survive? Rightwing hate groups are evolving a new model in which their dirty work is done by "lone wolves", individuals acting independently after having been inspired by the hatemonger's justification and encouragement. The Internet is tailor-made to trawl in this way for adherents whle insulating the hate group from any direct connection to or legal liability for the actions committed in their name.

And Holy and Hooked Up in India tours the web presences of some of the "enlightened souls" at this year's Kumbh Mela. By the way, the site has an incredible satellite photo (right) showing the dense mass of millions of people at the river bank at the start of the most sacred and busiest bathing day of the festival.

  •  

A gold star for tedium. As a father of two children whom we shower with books and to whom we read aloud all the time, I look for any pointers I can get to good children's literature. I commented some months ago on the bewildering variety of children's book medals, but the greatest attention and acclaim seem reserved for the Newbery medalists. So why do they have to be so boring, I wondered as I perused this year's list, and this Salon essayist agrees that the Newberys are "insomnia-curing", "eat-your-spinach books", "the books
that stayed on display at the library
because no one checked them out".

...(M)any adult
readers unquestioningly and uncritically accept the
Newbery medal...because many of us were well-trained and
obedient children, children who respected authority.
Bookish kids were often the homework-doers, the
good-grade-getters, the ones who took our vitamins and sat
still for the eye doctor. When we rebelled we did so
sneakily, with a flashlight under the covers. And so lurking
in the back of many minds is an atavistic belief that the
grownups are always right -- that the books we were
sneaking for pleasure weren't as good for us as the
award-winners we should have been reading. We too often
treat the Newbery awards as if we were still children being
told what's good and what's bad, what's right and what's
wrong.

  •  

The New Yorker Inane Ad of the Week site proclaims: "Each week this site highlights an especially absurd advertisement from the pages of the militantly bourgeois
New Yorker magazine. The selected advertisements evince the ridiculous excesses of our consumer culture.
They target an audience with a disgustingly high rate of disposable income and hawk to it the most frivolous
of baubles, endeavoring to engender -- and promising, for a hefty sum, to gratify -- desires nobody could have
developed on her or his own. So check this URL every seven days for a new, hilarious, hyperbolic example of
decadent consumerism."

  •  

Tongue twisters, Zungenbrecher, Trabalenguas, Skorogovorki: the first international collection.

  •  

Making the complex simple. In the early '90's, scientists hoped it would be easy to find the generalities that explained complex systems or processes, and failed miserably, especially if real applicability (predicting the weather, the stcok market, human behavior, etc.) was to be the gold standard. Now complexity science has another, more modest go at it. The Economist [Could the answer be '43' after all?]

  •  

After Meritocracy. The sociology of the presidential administrations: Bush Sr.'s people were "WASP elitists", Clinton's were "meritocratic elitists", and the Shrub's people are "smart but anti-intellectual organization men. They rose through the
ranks of institutions—government,
industry, the military—and value loyalty
above all other traits. Their backgrounds have made the
transition run smoothly, but at the first sign of crisis, they
might lack the creative flexibility to wiggle their way out." The New Republic

  •  

Human clone attempt 'in a year'. It's always been clear to me that, as soon as it can be done, it will be:
A fertility expert says he will try to produce the first cloned human being within a
year.



After a vote in the House of Lords to allow scientists to clone human embryos for
research, Severino Antinori, who runs a fertility clinic in Rome, claimed to have 10
couples willing to take part in the experiment.



If successful, it will produce a baby who will be an exact genetic replica of its
father.



Dr Antinori is already notorious for enabling a mother of almost 63 to have a child to
replace her adult son who died, and for causing uproar in Britain six years ago when
he helped a 59-year-old unmarried woman have twins.



Dr Antinori told a meeting in Lexington, Kentucky, that he was forming an
"international coalition" of scientists to work on the cloning project in 'a country of
the Mediterranean where I had consent'.

  •  

Why I am Not a Cultural Anthropologist by Nicholas Nicastro

  •  

Darwin Awards Candidate? Boy Suffers Burns After Imitating MTV. But then again, if shows like 'Jackass' pandering to the lowest common denominator of human intelligence bring in the advertising revenues, isn't this just an unfortunte cost of doing business? After all, there is a disclaimer warning viewers not to attempt these stunts at home...

  •  

Ring Travels 10,000 Miles, Stuck in Man's Boot. "A ring given up for lost by its owner traveled 10,000 miles around Egypt,
the United States and Costa Rica stuck to the bottom of her boyfriend's hiking boot."

  •  

Humans Biggest Threat to Galapagos. " 'It was a close shave, but I think it's safe to say the spill did
not have a major impact on the Galapagos,'' said Godfrey
Merlen, a British researcher who has lived in the archipelago for
two decades and is helping the Galapagos National Park Service
monitor the damage...

Only one pelican and two seagulls are known to have died from
the spill off San Cristobal, the easternmost island in the remote
Pacific archipelago. But dozens of sea lions and birds, including
albatrosses and blue-footed boobies unique to the Galapagos,
had to be trapped and cleaned.



Scientists say the main concern now is whether fuel will settle
to the bottom of the ocean and kill algae, the only source of
food for marine iguanas, another species found only in the
Galapagos." AP


  •  

The AIDS Questions That Linger. What we still don't know, on the eve of the upcoming international conference:

  • Why does AIDS predispose infected persons to certain types
    of cancer and infections and not others?
  • What route does H.I.V. take after it enters the body to
    destroy the immune system?
  • How does H.I.V. subvert the immune system?
  • What is the precise function of H.I.V.'s nine genes?
  • What is the most effective anti- H.I.V. therapy?
  • Is a vaccine possible?
  • In the absence of a vaccine, how can H.I.V. be stopped?
  • Why do most babies born to infected mothers escape
    infection?
  • Why do H.I.V. rates differ so greatly among regions in Africa
    and elsewhere?
  • How many people are infected in the United States and has
    the rate changed in recent years?
  • Where did AIDS come from?

  • New York Times

      •  

    New Yorkers Ponder 'Rain Rage'. "What this city needs is better umbrella etiquette." New York Times

      •  

    Monday, January 29, 2001

    "Before
    the UN inspectors came, there were 47 factories involved in the
    project. Now there are 64." Saddam has made two atomic bombs, says Iraqi defector: "Saddam Hussein has two fully operational nuclear bombs and is
    working to construct others, an Iraqi defector has told The
    Telegraph
    ...The fresh evidence comes only a week after President George
    W Bush took office. In his inaugural address, he promised to
    confront weapons of mass destruction, without mentioning Iraq.
    Under Anglo-US policy, any attempt by Saddam to build nuclear
    or biological weapons could lead to military action.

    Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State and a Gulf war veteran,
    and Vice-President Dick Cheney are both known to favour a
    radical approach in dealing with Iraq." How convenient this comes up just a week after the contentions ascension of Dubya, as the international consensus to maintain the pressure on Saddam is fading. His father did so well consolidating his leadership of the "Free World" with the demonization of the Iraqi Hun.

      •  

    Dogs don't kill people, people kill people?? Friends and neighbors saddened, angered over deadly dog attack. The San Francisco woman died in the hospital after being set upon by two dogs, each of which weighed more than she did, who bounded out of their owner's neighboring apartment as she was putting her keys into her door. The dogs were a blend of the Canario, a Spanish fighting breed so ruthless that it was outlawed in Spain in the '30's, and the massive English Mastiff; the cross has been deemed irresponsible by some dog experts. Apparently the owner had only recently acquired them. How should we parse out the responsibility for this? SFGate

      •  

    Start Paying for Napster in June. "Germany's publishing powerhouse Bertelsmann said on Monday it was planning for an
    early summer introduction of a subscription service of Napster music downloads over the Internet." Wired And Gnutella is spreading itself thin. "Predictions that Gnutella would quickly offer an effective file-swapping alternative to
    Napster have proven premature, with the technology's own developers admitting
    more work is needed before it will take off as a way to trade free music and other
    digital wares. " ZDNet

      •  

    Nominees announced for National Book Critics Circle Awards: 'Jacques Barzun, a best-selling author at 92, and Zadie Smith, a best-selling author
    at 24, were among the nominees announced Monday for the National Book Critics Circle Awards. [Smith's White Teeth is on the pile of pending books on my nightstand.]



    Other finalists included four-time nominee Cynthia Ozick for her essay collection Quarrel & Quandary and Michael Chabon for his fanciful novel about
    comic books, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. ' Nando Times


      •  

    BlogVoices is back.

      •  

    Sunday, January 28, 2001

    "...it seems we inhabit and enjoy
    a world where the real thing does not really matter". On "the declining
    importance of authenticity in western culture and our
    acceptance of a world where imitation is
    all-pervasive....

    In the arts and in our lifestyles, endless bricolage,
    regurgitation and imitation bear testament to this
    trend. We drink in fake Irish pubs, cocoon ourselves
    in virtual reality, and visit Disneyland to immerse
    ourselves in the worlds of ancient Egypt, Greece,
    Rome, Olde England or the Wild West. Some - such as
    the residents of Celebration, Florida, a recreated
    world of Midwest America - even live in a simulated
    world. Eclectic genres of rap and dance music
    unashamedly borrow guitar riffs from the Seventies,
    looping them over a Sixties bass-line. Meanwhile, a
    put-together girl band mimes on stage and reaches
    number one." New Statesman

      •  

    Techgnosis author Erik Davis ponders the "cost to our sense of being" of wireless technology and its erosion of place:
    As with so many technologies, the
    penetration of wireless into global society will be
    simultaneously convenient, weird, banal, and
    deeply disturbing. We already accept the little
    antisocial wormholes that cell phones open up in
    the midst of public space, a phenomenon that,
    while further cranking up the knob on
    individualism, at least adds another wrinkle to the
    boundaries that define our social interaction. But
    the growth of wireless access to data may have
    a very different effect, because it erodes the
    sense that the world we wander through has any
    real variation at all.

      •  

    A droll Washington Post staff writer trolls the hot, hot AOL Britney Spears chatroom for opinions on Dubya and the election.

      •  

    Kevin Phillips: "The GOP has never met a tax cut it didn't like, and that weakness may pave the way for a repetition of the 1981-92 recession." With Federal Reserve chairman Greenspan having gone forked-tongued on this one already (he knows where his bread is buttered), and the doubts expressed by new Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill being steamrolled over, keep your fingers crossed for the misgivings of Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and William Thomas (R., Calif.), new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to amount to something.

      •  

    "It is a conspiracy theory that would make Oliver Stone blush, but the pieces fit
    so perfectly well together that it has an eerie ring of truth. The theory: California
    utilities and a Texas-based power cartel purposely turned the lights out to pressure
    California's governor and Legislature into a lucrative bailout.
    If this theory is correct, it would be one of the most outrageous examples of
    corporate exploitation ever perpetrated
    . This is not just because of the tens of
    billions of dollars to be transferred from Californians to corporate interests. It is also
    because the crisis may well drag the rest of the nation into a nasty recession.
    Let's look then, at the facts and logic supporting the 'blackout-bailout' theory." LA Times

      •  

    EJ Dionne to the illegitimate son: "We'll Get Over It If You Get Off Your High Horse" Washington Post

      •  

    'Promising' tests on car speed limiters extended. After a three-year trial with a Ford Escort, the government of the UK has commissioned a twenty-car experiment with limiting vehicle speed using a computerized override on the throttle linked to a GPS which downloads data about the speed limit for a given road. Guardian

      •  

    Despair, Inc. secures official trademark registration for :-( "In a move that has
    millions across the Internet
    community frowning, Despair,
    Inc. today announced that the
    U.S. Patent and Trademark
    Office (USPTO)
    had awarded
    them a registered trademark for
    the 'frowny' emoticon which
    serves as their logo." Will an explosion of trademark infringement lawsuits ensue? I have just one thing to say about that:

    :-(

    [from Red Rock Eaters]


      •  

    A fairly technical exposition on How SETI@Home works, from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). From radio telescope reception to distributed computing and postprocessing. And what the SETI project will do if a signal arrives, according to the 1989 "Declaration of Principles
    Concerning Activities Following the Detection of
    Extraterrestrial Intelligence
    ".

      •  

    S*c*i*e*n*t*o*l*o*g*y allegedly steals website. [You'll notice I always write their name that way. I'll admit to trying to cloak myself from search engine hits because I'm paranoid about their web-intentions if they find me badmouthing them.]

      •  

    Google Link Is Bush League:
    'There's an old schoolyard taunt that goes, "When you look up 'stupid' in the dictionary, you'll see a picture of
    George."

    Well, here's a tech spin on that insult, only this one is not for kids.

    When you type "dumb motherfucker" into Google, the search engine's top result is a site about President Bush. Actually, what you get is a link to an online store that sells George W. Bush merchandise. The
    site is decidedly pro-Bush, and doesn't cast any aspersions upon the intelligence of the new U.S.
    president.' Wired

      •  

    Monster move for Church of Godzilla. Churchgoers hope that renaming the Church of God in Zillah, Washington the 'Church of Godzilla' will
    prove Christians have a sense of humour and attract younger churchgoers. A 10-ft. statue of the monster now adorns the church's parking lot. Ananova

      •  

    New Primates Discovered in Madagascar and Brazil. "Nine new lemur and
    two marmoset species have been discovered in the forests of
    Madagascar and Brazil, scientists announced earlier this month. But
    the news is not all good - some of the newly named species may
    already be endangered, joining the dozens of other primate species
    that may face extinction this century. " Environmental News Service

      •  

    Police radios can trigger positive breath test, at least with the equipment used in the UK, according to an ex-police officer informant for The Register who revealed that while at training school they were taught never to hit the transmit button on their handset while waiting for the breathalizer analysis to finalize. This leads to inevitable speculation that an officer "might surreptitiously give a
    quick burst of transmit on his radio whilst his partner was
    administering the breath test to an uncooperative suspect." Even if the suspect is eventually acquitted, they will have been paid back for their cheekiness with massive inconvenience. The Register article advises those stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence to request that the officers turn their radios off. Let's forget for a minute the fact that you ought to be caught if you drink and drive. IMHO it would be better for you to just keep an eye on their itchy fingers on their handset triggers and, if they transmit, you might be able to use the facts above to invalidate any positive test findings. (It's akin to the way in which you can get your radar speeding citation dismissed if you can establish that the officer doesn't know how long it's been since the radar gun was last calibrated.)

      •  

    Possible blood test for schizophrenia? "Israeli researchers may have found a way to diagnose schizophrenia by analysing
    white blood cells for signs of a chemical that is overactive in patients with the
    psychiatric condition." The amount of mRNA that codes for a specific subset of the dopamine receptor, D3, implicated in schizophrenia, is reliably sngiificantly elevated in the new test. Over the decades, there have been a number of claims of blood chemistry alterations that could predict schizophrenia, none of which has panned out. But this seems less smoke and mirrors than most to me. Of course I'll mention my standard caveat -- schizophrenia is a heterogeneous condition, only some of which relates to neurotransmitter or receptor alterations, so this test isn't going to be global. British Medical Journal

      •  

    Negative Emotions Fade with Age: Study. "In a study that spanned 23 years and four different generations, a team of researchers probed
    the positive and negative emotions of 2,804 people. ... They say that negative emotions like loneliness,
    depression or boredom become less burdensome as people age." This is something anyone who spends considerable time with a selection of elders already knows.


      •  

    Must men fight? Probably. "Tests on fighting fish, angry wasps show
    machismo may be biologically inevitable." Toronto Globe and Mail

      •  

    Saturday, January 27, 2001

    If you enter your (or any) zipcode at EnviroMapper, this EPA site generates a map depicting your local environmental quality, including "drinking water,
    toxic and air releases, hazardous waste, water discharge permits, and Superfund sites.
    EnviroMapper also links to text reports, which provide even more information." They'll also give you the code to display an EnviroMap on your website.

      •  

    Thanks for Jorn Barger at Robot Wisdom for pointing to this update on the progress of Martin Amis' novels to film. No word yet about my favorite, London Fields; not sure it would translate that well (or that anyone would go to see it if it did). Here's a feature from the New York Times archives about Amis, including a collection of reviews of his books and links to articles about him.

      •  

    Bottom Dollar: "The ultimate in sophisticated swabbing products has just been launched by US sanitary
    giant Kimberly-Clark. The busy boffins at K-C have been beavering away to bring the
    world "Cottonelle Fresh(TM) Rollwipes -- America's first and only dispersible,
    pre-moistened wipe on a roll!"

    Yep, you guessed it. Now you can buy a roll of wet toilet paper; highly useful for
    achieving that squeaky clean feeling." And for your littlest ones: "For parents wishing to do away with the smell and mess
    of wet, leaky diapers, wrapping their baby in mashed fish
    may be the answer. A food scientist at the University of
    Wisconsin, Madison, believes that we should extend our
    recycling consciousness to embrace dead, unwanted fish,
    and in so doing reduce both waste and diaper rash." Beyond 2000

      •  

    Friday, January 26, 2001

    DeCSS Allies Ganging Up The federal court ruling in a suit brought by eight movie studios against 2600 Magazine that restricted its right to publish a decryption program for DVDs "ignores free speech rights and should be
    overturned, eight different coalitions claim.

    The groups, representing everyone from cryptographers to journalists, have ganged up to attack the ruling in separate amicus
    briefs scheduled to be sent to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday." Wired

      •  

    The killer illness for a new world order: "Mad cow fits the classic profile of a disease likely to cause
    hysteria. Ebola, AIDS, and polio—three of the most
    flamboyant illnesses of the century—overshadowed deadlier
    but less flashy plagues, such as malaria, for several reasons.
    First, the hysteria-inducing illnesses usually affect young
    people and strike in particularly gruesome ways. Ebola causes
    massive bleeding from every orifice. AIDS is responsible for
    grotesque cancers and infections. Polio paralyzed young
    children.

    Second, at the moment of the panic—before much is learned
    about the disease's origin—everyone seems vulnerable, and
    it's not clear that prevention is possible. Maybe an Ebola
    victim flew in from the Congo and breathed on you! Maybe
    your dentist is HIV-positive! And finally, the disease
    organism is new and weird and seems to have sprung from a
    dark, mysterious place. AIDS is a creepy mutating monkey
    virus. Ebola remains a riddle: The Hot Zone traces it to the
    bats in a spooky East African cave." Slate

      •  

    Telling the Truth About "False" Memory: 'Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia
    now can distinguish between true and "false" memories, which could lead to further discoveries about the human mind.



    "Although people believe they remember events accurately, the human memory is error prone, creating memories of events that never happened," said
    (one of the researchers). "Learning how true and false memories differ will allow us to better understand how memory works
    and fails, and how memories are stored and processed."



    "Memory retrieval involves the reactivation of sensory information present during an event...However, memories of events that never
    occurred have no sensory information to reactivate. By detecting this brain activity, we can differentiate between true and false memories." ' Although this research technique is not soon likely to become a clinically useful test, this has enormous implications for the polarizing and seemingly insoluble debate -- kind of like arguing about religion -- about the falsity or reality of "recovered memories" of early abuse (zealously defended and sometimes zealously encouraged by some therapists, and met with contempt by others) that has been ripping through the mental health field and the popular culture over the last decade. This link should take you to the abstract of the study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

      •  

    The 2001 US Big Brother Awards. Call for nominations for the four awards, which will be given at the March 7 Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference in Cambridge, MA:
  • Worst Government Official/Most Heinous Government Organization:
    A government department, ministry, or agency which has unreasonably invaded privacy
    and established comprehensive programmes of surveillance. Or a government official
    who has a particularlly bad record in promoting or encouraging privacy invasions.
    Previous winners were the US Department of Commerce and Rep. Bill McCollum
    (R-FL)


  • Most invasive company:
    A company or other private organization based in the United States which has
    demonstrated profound disregard for the privacy of either its own personnel or the
    general public. The previous winners were Elensys Inc and DoubleClick.


  • Most Appalling Project --
    private, government or a partnership -- that has reached an advanced stage of
    development or implementation, and which will achieve substantial intrusion into
    privacy. Winners have included the FDIC's 'Know Your Customer and the Federal
    Aviation Administration's BodyScan system.


  • Lifetime Menace:
    A person or organization (government or non-governmental) that has made an
    extraordinary contribution to the destruction of privacy. The previous winners have been
    TransUnion and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  • ' "Winners" are encouraged to attend and accept their awards.' [via Red Rock Eaters]

      •  

    Big Bang Scientists Get Dense More than 700 scientists convened last week at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Stony Brook NY, the site of the new Relativistic Heavy Ion Accelerator, to discuss its preliminary success in creating the highest density of matter ever made. The point of producing such exotic matter composed of pure quarks held together by gluons is to approach on a small scale the conditions in the universe microseconds after it came into existence in the Big Bang, "an explosion from a single point of nearly infinite energy density." Wired [Is anyone wondering: if they can get back all the way to the singularity, any chance they could create a new universe, microscopic or otherwise? What effects might that have on our own,"inside" which it was created?]

      •  

    At least Dubya's accession is likely to lead to a resurgence of clever sloganeering on the nation's rear bumpers.

      •  

    In what at least has the appearance of impropriety, according to the New York Post the inclusion on Clinton's Presidential pardon list of four members of a New York Hasidic community (convicted in 1999 of a $40 million swindling scheme) may have been the price for delivering their community's votes to Hilary Clinton in her recent successful bid for a New York Senate seat. Her near-unanimous vote in the neighborhood was in marked contrst to the Republican majorities polled in two adjacent but unrelated Hasidic districts. Ms Clinton's denials sound disingenuous in the same way as her husband's denials about having sex with Monica Lewinsky, master wordsmiths that they both are.

      •  

    Annals of the Age of the Clown Prince: Dubya Exits the Information Superhighway. "Never much of a cyber-cowboy, President Bush
    has now exited the information superhighway altogether to
    avoid having his e-mail become public. Before he came to
    Washington, Bush said he wasn't much of an Internet surfer but
    did like to e-mail family members, especially his mother and
    brother Jeb, Florida's governor."

      •  

    An Inside Look at the First United Nations Prison, located in Tanzania to hold detainees being tried at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. If convicted and sentenced, African countries have agreed to imprison them; the United Nations is exerting pressure for these countries -- so far Mali, Swaziland and Benin -- to bring conditions in their prisons up to acceptable standards to host those convicted of some of the most heinous genocidal atrocities known. Internews, which got this 'scoop', is a US-funded organization that provides support to worldwide independent media; I wasn't aware that they appear to do their own reporting as well.

    And in other war crimes news, a US Report Says Serbs Burned Ethnic Albanian Bodies: "Serbian security forces
    incinerated the remains of hundreds of ethnic Albanians in a lead refinery during the 1999
    hostilities in the Yugoslav province, a U.S. radio reporting team said on Thursday." An explicit
    aim appears to have been to destroy evidence that might lead to war crimes prosecution,
    according to a Serbian source close to the operation.

      •  

    A Living Hell or a Life Saved? Attorneys for Russell Weston, a man with paranoid schizophrenia who killed two U.S. Capitol Police officers in July 1998, have fought a successful battle since to prevent his forcible medication in the federal psychiatric hospital where he has been detained since. They argue that treating his psychosis and making him competent to stand trial on charges for which he could face the death penalty if convicted is unethical and illegal. In the meanwhile, he remains tortured by his illness and, potentially dangerous, has been kept in seclusion for an unheard-of two years. But which is the greater cruelty? Washington Post

      •  

    Wrong response to energy mess could be recipe for environmental ruin: "At the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, which opens here Thursday, the conversations among
    corporate, political and academic leaders will be more about bringing Western-style economic progress to
    developing economies than about finding ways to save the planet. Oh, the program pays some attention to the
    issues. For example, there's a session titled ``Whatever Happened to Sustainable Development?'' and
    non-governmental organizations, including environmental groups, were invited to be part of the conversation. But
    the bulk of the talk will be about sustaining growth in the rich nations, and bringing growth to the places where so
    many people live in hopeless deprivation." San Jose Mercury News

      •  

    Dalai Lama Criticizes Proselytizing. "Stepping into one of the hottest religious
    controversies in South Asia, the Dalai Lama today joined Hindu leaders in
    condemning the Muslim and Christian practice of proselytizing." As a sometime student of comparative religion, I have long felt that the worth of a religion is inversely proportional to the degree to which its devotees actively seek converts. ABC News And, while we're on the topic of religion without prescription,
    "Killing the Buddha is a
    religion magazine for
    people made anxious by
    churches, people
    embarrassed to be
    caught in the 'spirituality'
    section of a bookstore,
    people both hostile and
    drawn to talk of God. It is
    for people who somehow
    want to be religious, who
    want to know what it
    means to know the
    divine, but for good
    reasons are not and do
    not. "

      •  

    Thursday, January 25, 2001

    Think of words ending in 'gry' .

    Angry and hungry are two of them.

    There are only three words in the English language.

    What is the third word?

    The word is something that everyone uses every day.

    If you have listened carefully,

    I have already told you what it is.

      •  

    I guess whether you think the departing Clinton administration staffers' actions at the White House were innocent pranks or heinous crimes of vandalism is a litmus test.

      •  

    The goal of the Degree Confluence Project "is to visit each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world,
    and to take pictures at each location. The pictures and stories will then be posted here." Courtesy of last year's US government removal of restrictions on the accuracy of civilan GPS's. So far, 432 "successful, official confluences" in 38 countries are posted.

      •  

    Blogvoices discussion service closes. Here's the author's notice:
    I have received word that several BlogVoices users have sent
    harassing emails to Hostrocket.com. Please stop. I understand your
    frustration, but harassment will not solve anything.



    UPDATE



    A "friendly face" has offered to host BlogVoices. I am currently
    discussing the situation with them. Stay tuned.

    NOTICE



    At 10:53PM on Monday, January 22: I received an email from the
    billing department of Hostrocket.com informing me that the
    BlogVoices.com account was in violation of the Hostrocket Terms of
    Service. Regardless of whether or not I agree with the reasoning, the
    decision has been made.

    Hostrocket was to be the third and final attempt to host the
    BlogVoices service and I do not intend to deviate from my
    resolution. BlogVoices.com will be closing indefinitely.

    Unfortunately, the short and long-term demands of my job prevent
    me from dealing with the situation in a more preferable manner. I
    will, however, continue with the planned source code release and will
    continue to work on the code-base as time permits. For further
    up-to-date information relating to BlogVoices, please check:
    www.chrish.org regularly. I will set up a permanent location for
    downloads and documentation as soon as possible.

    I will be saving the entire BlogVoices database and will make every
    opportunity to provide each user (as requested) an exported version
    of their BlogVoices data. For those who choose to install BlogVoices,
    I can provide the data in a manner useful to the mysql
    command-line utility.

    I wish I could adequately express my feelings in the wake of this
    decision, but given the electronic nature of this notice, that is just
    not possible. I would like to thank everyone who supported the
    service and hope that you will support those who launch their own
    Blogger discussion systems.

    It'd be nice to know the entire story; it seems to be the latest variant on the "tragedy of the commons", in which selfish users of a community resource thoughtlessly ruin it for the rest of us. I'll be removing the "discuss" facility from my template when I get a chance. Anyone out there who knows of an add-in to Blogger similar to Blogvoices -- please point me to it. I loved providing discussion capability on the weblog! Please consider the mailing list (see sidebar) I set up several weeks ago.

      •  

    What's become of the papers? A friend sent me this:

  • The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

  • The New York Times is read by people who think they run the country.

  • The Washington Post is read by people who think they ought to run the country.

  • USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't
    understand the Washington Post.

  • The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country
    if they could spare the time.

  • The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country.

  • The New York Daily News is read by people whho are not sure who is
    running the country.

  • The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the
    country as long as they do something scandalous.

  • The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren"t sure there is
    a country or that anyone is running it.

  • The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country.

  •   •  

    Trial Heat:
    The American Prospect asks seven pundits -- Wendy Kaminer, David L. Kirp, Michael Nelson, Peter Schrag, Cass Sunstein, Jon Margolis,
    Russ Baker, Rick Perlstein, and Hans Riemer -- who they'd like to see challenge George Bush in
    2004. And a readers' poll.

      •  

    Francis Fukuyama gets his digs in about the Clinton legacy. Under the guise of profound social analysis, the piece is just an excuse to remind the reader about the 'bobo' ('bomemian bourgeoisie') concept, and then conclude: '(T)he Clintons were quintessential "bobos": crudely materialistic, self-absorbed, and
    power-hungry, but at the same time unable to admit any of this to themselves because they believed
    their intelligence, education and sophistication entitled them to a higher level of respect. Like others in
    his generation, the man presiding over America's most recent decade of greed could look himself in the
    mirror and pronounce himself satisfied with what he saw.' Wall Street Journal

      •  

    "It would have been `Wow,' but the W was removed, so now it's just `o.' " New White House Staff Faces a Few Mysteries, e.g. how can George W. ascend to the throne when the White House keyboards are all suddenly bereft of their W's, and other pranks of the departing Clinton staff. One former Clinton aide commented on the pranks, "It was nothing serious. Nothing
    like stealing an election."



    There are also suggestions that a few of the new denizens of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have not yet figured the place out.

    "Anybody got any burgers in there?" Mr. Bush said at one point today, suddenly and unexpectedly sticking his head into a briefing room where reporters were idling away the time. They were too stunned to answer, and not in possession of ground beef.

    New York Times

      •  

    Planet Suffers Big Hack Attack. 'A group calling itself Pentaguard simultaneously cracked
    government websites in the United States, England and
    Australia

    The group replaced the home pages of the sites over the
    weekend with a statement reading "The largest .gov & .mil
    mass defacement in the history of mankind." It caused the
    temporary disruption of at least two dozen sites....In the United States, the Republican Caucus for the California
    Legislature
    was hit while the state is facing rolling blackouts. The
    Alaskan Office of the Department of Interior was targeted because
    Secretary of the Interior-designate Gale Norton favors drilling for oil in
    the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.' Wired

      •  

    Wednesday, January 24, 2001

    The "Bloggies": The finalists in the 2001 Weblog Awards have been posted and voting is open to the weblogging public from now until January 31. I'm honored that Follow Me Here
    is a finalist in the "best-kept secret Weblog" category ("Best weblogs that are not in the Weblogs.com Hot List"). [If I win in my category, there's a $1.50 prize waiting for me!]
    The ballot itself, apart from being your medium to vote, is worth a visit as a sort of portal to what the weblogging community considers its best. There are some unsurprising favorites there, of course, but also many sites and resources with which I'm not familiar and which I'm excited to explore, especially those others in the best-kept-secret category. Congratulations to all of you finalists who might be reading, welcome to any of you who are encountering FmH for the first time via the ballot page, and thank you to all you return visitors for your support of FmH. I've already won the real brass ring, which is a lively readership base for whom to continue to write!

      •  

    Tuesday, January 23, 2001

    A No-Drug Approach to Wellness. A thoughtful essay by an internist-turned-psychiatrist, confronting the struggle many patients have accepting medications for emotional symptoms such as depression or anxiety because they don't want to cede control over who they are. Ironically, people who reluctantly accept antidepressants, as the essayist concludes, often end up saying they "feel more like myself." New York Times

      •  

    Mysterious Night Glow in the Skies of Venus Puzzles Scientists New York Times

      •  

    Pee on Your Own Time Arkansas Times [via Red Rock Eaters]

      •  

    Bush Bans Aid to Foreign Groups Promoting Abortion. As if we were surprised, we wades right into the most polarizing issue in domestic politics with the first major action of his administration. "Uniting, not divisive"? Wanting to make early points with the religious right, as he did with the Ashcroft nomination? Opponents of abortion are loving it.

      •  

    Ominous Findings on Seattle Quake Risk "It's like building on Jell-O. You put a bowl of
    Jell-O on a table and shake the table, that bowl of Jell-O is
    going to oscillate a lot." New York Times

      •  

    Monday, January 22, 2001

    Andy McFadden's canonical CD-Recordable FAQ (frequently asked questions)

      •  

    Small town tests TV, DSL combo via phone lines. Instead of bringing you telephony over your cable hookup, the local telephone company in this small Georgia town is offering 60 channels of TV over the phone lines. CNN [via Slashdot]

      •  

    Anesthesiologists Outraged Over New Policy. A change in Medicare regulations will now allow nurse anaesthetists to administer anaesthesia during surgery without being under the supervision of an anaesthesiologist or other medical doctor. Nurses argue that this is good policy for underserved areas where no anaesthesiologists are available; the MDs counter that in such areas the nurse should be supervised by the surgeon performing the surgery (whom Medicare hasn't yet ofund a way to do away with). The rhetoric about serving the underserved just doesn't hold up to scrutiny, and this smacks of more meddling with lives to save an almighty dollar. Besides, who thinks it is going to remain restricted to medically underserved areas?

    The closest I come to having seen anything like this in my own specialty of psychiatry is the growing encroachment of cheaper "nurse clinical specialists" managing psychiatric outpatients' medications in place of psychiatrists. Unfortunately, I have rarely seen one who has the breadth and depth of perspective to do justice to sorting out the complicated patients, often the sickest in the mental health arena, they tend to treat, since they usually appear to be hired by the public sector mental health clinics that are under the tightest budgets. Being at the receiving end of the fruits of their difficulties managing their patients in the community, I can attest to the fact that patients simply do not od as well under their care as under the care of a physician, and end up requiring psychiatric hospitalization at a far greater rate than patients who have psychiatrists. And that's just expensive hospital bills; in the realm of anaesthesia, we' re talking about mortality. WCVB Boston

      •  

    Is ANDi a miracle or a monster?
    Readers will remember the dark eyes of ANDi, the world's first
    genetically modified monkey, gazing up at them from this
    newspaper recently.

    After several failed attempts to insert jellyfish genes into rhesus
    monkeys, ANDi - "inserted DNA" in reverse - was created at the
    Oregon Regional Primate Research Center in America. ANDi's
    case has attracted worldwide interest because of its implications
    for the manufacture of "designer babies": genetically modified
    humans, created from a shopping list of desirable
    characteristics. Other GM animals already exist, but the
    modification of primates brings the possibility of similar
    experiments on humans much closer.



    Ever since Aldous Huxley's Brave New World appeared nearly 70
    years ago, thoughtful people have been haunted by his vision of
    a dystopian society of laboratory-bred human robots. Until the
    Nazis gave eugenics a bad name, many intellectuals in Britain and
    America supported the idea. Now the genetic revolution has
    made eugenics respectable again. Scientists at the cutting edge
    of genetic research are often invited to defend their work, but
    we hear less often from philosophers. Theirs, however, is the
    task of assessing the meaning of such research.



    The Telegraph asked seven of the world's leading philosophers a
    number of questions arising from the ANDi case.
    The Telegraph

      •  

    I just stumbled upon this November 28, 2000 Metafilter discussion thread about whether the July Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article was JAWA "just another weblog article") mentioning the SOWs ("same ol' weblogs"). Several people appreciated, and the article's author Jim Higgins pops into the thread to agree, the inclusion of FmH.

      •  

    "Making it hard to go on eating fast food in blissful ignorance": a review of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: "The aim of his
    book, developed from articles written for Rolling Stone, is
    to force his readers to stop and consider the consequences
    of McDonald's and its ilk having become inescapable features
    of the American (and, increasingly, global) landscape -- to
    contemplate ''the dark side of the all-American meal.''

    This sounds kind of frivolous. After all, practically everyone
    in the country has at least dabbled in fast food at one time
    or another. So what's the big deal? Readers who have grown
    weary of attempts to locate the DNA of the contemporary
    American soul within the history of video games or tennis
    shoes or whatever might also feel a wave of fatigue when
    Schlosser announces his interest in fast food ''as a metaphor.''

    But the good news is that
    this isn't a frivolous book at
    all." New York Times via Looka! I previously pointed to Schlosser's Atlantic article on "the flavor industry".

      •  

    Too Clever by Half: Metafiler pointed to this transcript of Bill Maher's Jan. 11th Politically Incorrect show in which he crosses the line in demeaning the less able. That's guest Martin Short concluding that Maher is a "hideous, cold person." Excerpts:

    Bill: What? Dogs are like retarded children.


    Jay: The show is living up to its name.


    [ Scattered boos]


    Sarah: Boo.



    ...



    Bill: But they're not a regular person.


    Sarah: Well, they are regular people.
    They have a heart and a soul.


    Cynthia: Limitations.


    Bill: They have a heart and a soul and a brain that's
    retarded.
    That's a fact, people! Excuse me!


    Sarah: No, because you can't say that.
    Do you know their brain is retarded --
    this word retarded? They could just be lacking in the
    ability.


    Bill: That's what we call retarded.


    [ Laughter ]


    I mean, people, are you all retarded? I mean --

    [ Laughter ]


    That's a fact.


    Martin: I'm not gonna comment.
    You're a hideous, cold person.


    Bill: I'm a truthful person.



      •  

    If weblogs were band names. What kind of music would a band called Follow Me Here play, do y'suppose?

      •  

    Thanks to Dan Hartung at Lake Effect for pointing to this update on the health of Dr. Jerri Nielsen, the scientist whose drama (as she was stranded at the South Pole with a breast cancer diagnosis) we watched unfolding last year. She's doing fine, it appears.

      •  

    Presidential notes to self [via Random Walks]

      •  

    Constantine's Sword, by James Carroll, argues that the Church's relationship with Jews has not only been a problem but, in a sense, the problem throughout its two thousand year history.

    The Church’s failure to protest the Holocaust -- the infamous
    “silence” of Pius XII -- is only part of the story: the death
    camps, Carroll shows, are the culmination of a long,
    entrenched tradition of anti-Judaism. From Gospel accounts
    of the death of Jesus on the cross, to Constantine’s
    transformation of the cross into a sword, to the rise of blood
    libels, scapegoating, and modern antisemitism, Carroll
    reconstructs the dramatic story of the Church’s conflict not
    only with Jews but with itself.


    As a troubled practicing Catholic himself, Carroll calls for Vatican III to address the problem in a multifold way: (a) a reexamination of and distancing from anti-Semitic thought in the New Testament, in essence turning it on its head as exemplary of how not to be a good Christian; (b) grappling earnestly and openly with the way in which power has corrupted the message of the Gospels; (c) [this is the conceptually challenging suggestion, IMHO] a subtle shift in portraying Jesus' role which would recast the concept of the Jewish God against whom he 'plays' -- from a vengeful, wrathful one (which Carroll feels inherently fuels and reflects anti-Semitism) against whom Jesus has to interpose himself as salvator, toward a more benificent and merciful one, of which nature Jesus' role was more as the revelator; and (d) an attitude of repentance for the wrongs done to the Jews in the name of the Church through the ages, starting with the silence of the Holocaust. Carroll recognizes, of course, that the doctrine of Infallibility has to fall for this to occur, but argues that understanding the two-thousand-year arc of this troubling history makes that contingent.

      •  

    Here's a Drug Czar for Bush. 'Before he appoints a drug czar, President-elect Bush should reflect on
    the legacy of President Clinton and current czar Barry McCaffrey's drug
    policy... He
    should remember the official goal of our drug
    policy -- "educate and enable America's
    youth to reject illegal drugs as well as alcohol
    and tobacco" -- when he selects his drug
    czar.' Tompaine.com

      •  

    ''You can't blur the lines between fact and fiction if you don't
    have fact,'' and a new computer game does just that. Majestic, named for the supposed shadowy covert group headed by Truman in the '50's, collects real-life information from participants then later begins blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction, intruding into their lives with, for example, threatening telephone calls. It will inevitably draw comparisons to the film of several years ago, The Game, in which Michael Douglas is driven crazy by the incursion of a similar live-action game, in which he had been enrolled as a birthday present, into his life. Boston Globe

      •  

    Girl Scouts curbed protesters at the inaugural ceremonies. They cordoned off a group of demonstrators who had occupied a large set of bleachers along the parade route. By the way, what do you make of the by-line on this article? Boston Globe

      •  

    "My very educated mother just served us nine." But where's the pizza? According to the Planetarium, it's not there...but not gone either. New York Times

      •  

    The Foibles of Leadership: A New York Times editorial holds up to our examination A German Metamorphosis: "Despite the publication of photos of
    him beating up a policeman at a 1973
    demonstration, Foreign Minister
    Joschka Fischer of Germany should be
    allowed to continue serving his
    country." And a New York Times op-ed piece suggests that Moral Leaders Need Not Be Flawless. "Mr. Jackson's situation illustrates the need to acknowledge
    that our leaders will occasionally disappoint themselves and
    us. If we demand that they be perfect, we risk
    disillusionment when their shortcomings surface. The
    underlying flaw of our unwritten compact with leaders is the
    desperate need to believe that they must be pure to be
    effective. The best leaders concede their flawed humanity
    even as they aspire to lofty goals.



    " This does not mean that we should not hold leaders
    accountable for their actions. To his credit, Mr. Jackson
    acknowledged his failure, sought the forgiveness of his
    family and followers, and provided for his infant daughter.
    He is willing to practice the same moral accountability he
    preaches." The author, Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of religious studies at
    DePaul University, wrote the controversial I May Not Get There With
    You: The True Martin Luther King Jr.
    , in which he chose not to shy away from discussing King's moral flaws.

      •  

    The New York Times reviewer of Nega Mezlekia's Notes From the Hyena's Belly extolls "the author's fine storytelling
    instincts and the value of getting these stories told," calling it "the most riveting book about Ethiopia since
    Ryszard Kapuscinski's literary allegory The Emperor and the
    most distinguished African literary memoir since Soyinka's
    Ake appeared 20 years ago". The review does not mention the controversy brewing around a Canadian government investigation of Mezlekia's alleged plot to kill his former thesis advisor and other faculty of his doctoral program in Canada, to which I blinked several months ago.

      •  

    Sunday, January 21, 2001

    A Death Sentence on page A5? Speculation at Plastic that the Justice Dept. has arranged for the New York Times to publicize details of an unsuccessful plea bargain by Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali, one of four defendants in the imminent trial for the bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi in August 1998, in which he tipped authorities to what might subsequently turn out to be the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen. That way, if his prosecution for the Embassy bombing is not successful, he'll be extremely unpopular with his jihadist former comrades. In receiving Mr. al-'Owhali's tip, the FBI reportedly assured him the information would not be 'used against him', of course. The New York Times reporting doesn't flesh out this prosecutorial blackmail, focusing instead on whether the information might have prevented the attack on the Cole, whihc resulted in 17 U.S. deaths.

      •  

    Cool Things To Put on Your J20 Protest Sign. "Mr. Bad
    feels your pain, so he's given you this list of fine angry things to scribble in
    magic marker on your picket sign. So now you don't have an excuse to stay home!" Some of the better ones:

  • EX-Cocaine User? Nobody Likes a Quitter, George.
  • I Drive Drunk Better Than W Governs Sober
  • Maybe He Can Hold Down THIS Job
  • Illiterate Cokehead Mama's Boys For Bush:
    Finally, Our Voice Will Be Heard

    Pigdog Journal

  •   •  

    Fish Rots From the Head. The overthrow of the old Pacifica continues; after cleaning house at KPFA last year, the new order completes takeover of New York's WBAI. And more coverage of the attempted creation of "NPR Lite" on the New York airwaves.

    For the uninitiated, trying to sort fact from spin in the long-running Pacifica battles is rather like trying to
    unravel a murky family feud in which the elders don't deign to come to the table. In the past, squabbles
    within Pacifica have always been between progressive visions, says Steve Rendall of Fairness and
    Accuracy in Reporting, the media watchdog in New York. "What's different now is that there is one group
    that has no interest in radio, community, or progressive politics."


    For you New York progressive communitarian radio listeners, here's how to join the fight. Village Voice

    In other radio news, why has Rush Limbaugh alone on the right not crucified Ronnie White? "Maybe he knows White is no more pro-criminal than his
    own cousin, Missouri Supreme Court Justice Stephen
    Limbaugh Jr." Salon

      •  

    Annals from the Age of Dubya: Welcome to Surrendered Wife.com. An innovation in the reform of sex roles, a way to achieve true intimacy through spiritual transformation of your marriage, especially for those wives with, as the LA Times put it, an "inability to cope with the pressures of trying to be superwomen." Among other things, this new movement teaches you to apologize to your husband if you ever anger him by saying something "disrespectful." No, really.

      •  

    The Reader's Digest Theory of the Web: This kind of unattributed snippet circulating by email (I get loads of these things sent to me; how about you?) reminds me of the "Humor -- the Best Medicine" or "Life in These United States" fluff I remember from reading my mothers' Reader's Digests as a child:

    During taxi, the crew of a US AIR departure flight to Ft. Lauderdale made a wrong turn and came nose to nose with a United 727. The irate ground controller (a female) screamed, "US Air 2771, where are you going? I told you to turn right on "Charlie" taxiway; you turned right on "Delta. Stop right there! I know it's difficult to tell the difference between C's & D's, but get it right!" Continuing her lashing to the embarrassed crew, she was now shouting hysterically, "God, you've messed everything up; it'll take forever to sort this out. You stay right there and don't move until I tell you to! Then, I want you to go exactly where I tell you, when I tell you, and how I tell you. You got that, US Air 2771?" The humbled crew responded, "Yes, Ma'am." The ground control frequency went terribly silent; no one wanted to engage the irate ground controller in her current state. Tension in every cockpit at LGA was running high. Then an unknown male pilot broke the silence and asked, "Wasn't I married to you once?"


      •  

    Clinton Pardons List from the Washington Post. AP via Robot Wisdom

      •  

    Annals of the Age of Impotent Websurfing: "Welcome! Thanks to all our customers for making us the #1 Penis Enlargement e-Manual Publisher on the Internet!"

      •  

    A friend pointed me to this troubling story. Eric Weisstein's Mathworld website, a virtual encyclopedia of mathematics, has been yanked off the web after a preliminary injunction granted to CRC Press, which charged copyright infringement. More than three years ago, Weisstein had signed a book deal giving CRC page images of his website; CRC published "Eric Weisstein's CRC Concise Encylopedia of Mathematics" in November 1998. Now CRC claims he sold the rights to the website, not just a printed book; a court found the contract ambiguous on this point and granted CRC's injunction.

    Although I realize your eyes glaze over with dry discussions of mathematics, the issues have broader applicability to the relationship between publishing on the web and in print. The question comes down to whether the standard book contract clause granting the publisher the "right to reproduce in all media" is applicable to a preexisting website from which the book is derivative. If you've signed a book deal involving reproduction of any portions of a website you've authored (caveat Jorn Barger, for example, in the weblogging world, who has been talking about a Robot Wisdom book), make sure you explicitly specify what rights your book contract signs over!

    This blink points to answers from Weisstein's perspective to frequently asked questions about the dispute, and contains links to news coverage of the issues. Programmer and author John MacDonald's comments at oreilly.com (of course, a publisher spanning the web and printed media) are interesting. [from Abby]

      •  

    Saturday, January 20, 2001

    Harry Potter hanky-panky. Close readers of the fourth novel, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, noticed a plot discrepancy...or was it a deliberate twist? Speculation abounded, until the mistake (as it turned out to be) was corrected, clumsily and with no public announcement, in subsequent printings. Fans criticize inordinate deadline pressures and inadequate prepublication editing, and wonder whether J.K. Rowling was involved in the inept correction at all. [My son and I had gotten a first printing of Goblet on the day of its release too, but we never noticed the error.]

      •  

    My Untold Story. Ralph Nader explains how he tried to engage the media during his Green Party run for the Presidency, and how it didn't work. Brill's Content

      •  

    Roundup: Dubya's Press Posse. When the Administration changes, so does the White House press corps. Brill's Content

      •  

    New police powers unveiled, further erosion of civil liberties in the UK: 'Jack Straw today unveiled new measures to crack down on
    antisocial behaviour, including a version of Tony Blair's
    controversial "instant fines for louts" proposal. The criminal justice
    and police bill introduces fixed fines for being drunk and abusive
    and grants powers to extend curfews. Civil liberties groups
    condemned the bill for expanding the national DNA database by
    allowing police to retain samples indefinitely.' BBC

      •  

    Party animals gather for Bush's ball: "They
    were looking for the biggest and brightest in Texas to come
    to Washington for this event..." Ananova

      •  

    The disease of bipartisanship: Will it infect the
    environment?
    Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr., says George W. Bush
    plans his bipartisanship around compromise-prone
    conservative Democrats. "It is this conservative bipartisan
    coalition that allows Ralph Nader to say we have one
    corporate party with two different names," says Jackson.
    He adds, "If Democrats go down this bipartisan path it
    will only strengthen Nader and the Greens for 2002 and
    2004."

    With Bush appointees such as Gale Norton, and a Bush
    agenda so unfriendly to the environment and civil
    liberties, we need an opposition party to the Republicans.
    I would like to see the Democrats rise to the occasion.
    Jackson and certain Progressive Caucus members have
    their fingers on the electorate's pulse. Conservative,
    compromise-prone Democrats would be wise to remove
    their fingers from their ears and feel that pulse, too.
    Online Journal

      •  

    Say It Ain't So, Van: a distraught counter-culturalist's open letter to Van Morrison responding to reports that he had accepted an invitation to play at Dubya's inauguration festivities. 'I can understand why groups like ZZ Top or The Kentucky
    Headhunters would be invited to appear at this so-called gala;
    on the face of it, they fit right in with a crowd that I'm told likes
    to munch on a delicacy called "Bull Balls" (I'll spare you the
    gory details).' Back in March, the Guardian did report that Van the Man is among Dubya's favorite musicians and Moondance among his favorite discs. (But Travis Tritt did Moondance too...)

      •  

    Outsider Art Fair: Art So Out It's Almost In. For fifteen years, ever since I spent a day at Dubuffet's Muse´e de l'Art Brut in Lausanne, I've been getting mailings announcing their new shows and wishing I had the chance to go back. Now it's in New York in a major way (and apparently has been on an annual basis, at the Outsider Art Fair in Soho each January). Although as a psychiatrist I have been particularly interested in the works of art brut produced by those suffering mental illnesses, it is less a matter of who produced it than its spontaneity, drivenness and untutored nonconformity to any artistic formalities or conventions that defines the genre. New York Times And a self-proclaimed outsider artist (which, before the term was "in", would have been a contradiction in terms) Max Podstolski contributes some "insights: to Spark which show how far the term has degraded.

      •  

    United Bush Front Running Into Early Challenge; it's especially convoluted on abortion policy: "Mr. Bush's choice for attorney general, John Ashcroft, also
    seems to have staked out a slightly different position from
    the president-elect on an element of the highly charged
    debate over abortion.



    On Thursday, a day after Mr. Ashcroft told the Senate
    Judiciary Committee that he would not seek opportunities to
    challenge Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark ruling
    on abortion rights, Mr. Bush said in an interview with Fox
    News that he would not rule out having his Justice
    Department argue for a change in the law.



    Further muddling the incoming administration's position,
    Laura Bush, the president-elect's wife, told NBC News in an
    interview broadcast today that she did not think the
    Supreme Court decision should be overturned." New York Times

      •  

    Friday, January 19, 2001

    Evidence grows for safety of mobile phones. Although they do not fully put the issue to risk because of the need for surveillance for longer induction periods, two new studies that together encompass more than 1250 patients with brain tumors and an equal number of healthy individuals found "no increased risk of cancers among those who used the devices more frequently." British Medical Journal

      •  

    My friend Jim Higgins, the journalist I first met when he profiled FmH in a July, 2000 Milwaukee
    Journal Sentinel
    feature and who shares with me being an adoptive father, sent me several blinks about Cambodia that might be of interest. His son is from Cambodia:



    "Closer to Trial: Cambodia's National Assembly approved guidelines to set up a tribunal to try the leaders of the Khmer Rouge movement. AsiaSource sums up the latest news and provides extensive links to related articles, opinion pieces and Cambodian-related Web sites, including the excellent Cambodia Genocide Program at Yale University.



    "The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 until their overthrow by Vietnam in 1979. During that time, an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died from starvation, execution, overwork and disease. In April 1998, Pol Pot, the group's leader, died under Khmer Rouge house arrest in the Cambodian jungle. Most of the other leaders defected to the government between 1995 and 1998 in exchange for an informal amnesty.



    "My colleague Catherine Fitzpatrick interviewed Loung Ung, a child survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide, when she was visiting Milwaukee on a book tour. Today she is national spokeswoman for the Campaign for a Landmine-Free World, sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans of America in Washington, D.C." Thank you, Jim. [I added the blink (above) to an outpouring of feeling I had upon learning of Pol Pot's death, which persists on the web in an archive of the defunct Fringeware mailing list to which I contributed in the old days before weblogging.]

      •  

    Electricians Less Suicidal Than Thought. "Electricians are less suicidal than other
    men in Sweden, according to a study launched after U.S. reports that power-line workers
    exposed to strong electromagnetic fields were at higher risk of suicide." [When I read the headline, I thought it was referring to the habit, which every electrician I've ever had in to do work in my house has demonstrated, of declining to shut off the power before they work on the wiring.]

      •  

    'Mad Deer Disease' No Threat Yet to U.S. - Panel. There's a prion disease which causes a spongiform encephalopathy in Western U.S. populations of deer and elk; but is it a "transmissible spongiform encephalopathy" (TSE)? i.e. transmissible to humans, as is 'Mad Cow Disease' (bovine spongiform encephalopathy [BSE], the human expression of which causes a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease [CJD]). Do you think you should risk eating any elk meat or venison until we know for sure? Reuters

      •  

    Instinctive sleeping and resting postures: an anthropological
    and zoological approach to treatment of low back and joint
    pain
    . "If you are a medical professional and have been trained in a "civilised" country you probably
    know next to nothing about the primate Homo sapiens and how they survive in the wild. You
    probably do not know that nature has provided an automatic manipulator to correct most spinal
    and peripheral joint lesions in primates. In common with millions of other so called civilised
    people you suffer unnecessarily from musculoskeletal problems and are discouraged about how to treat the exponential rise in low back
    pain throughout the developed world. Humans are one of 200 species of primates. All primates suffer from musculoskeletal problems;
    nature, recognising this fact, has given primates a way to correct them." British Medical Journal

      •  

    "President Clinton admitted Friday for the first time
    that he made false statements in the Monica Lewinsky case and entered
    into a deal with prosecutors to avert an indictment. He surrendered his
    law license for five years....Clinton will have immunity from further prosecution under the deal with (the) Independent Counsel..." AP

      •  

    A poetry-free presidency: "The lack of a poet at Bush's Inauguration is a bleak omen of his
    administration's attitude toward culture -- but then again, what
    poet would agree to appear?" Salon Laura Bush, on the other hand, seems determined to establish her credibility as a lover of books. CNN

      •  

    Why You Should Watch The Superbowl

      •  

    Empathy with the devil: "The
    Adversary
    is not just an account of a murder in the 'true crime'
    genre. Carrère had initially planned to write it like that, to
    construct his own In Cold Blood out of this minor news item. But
    he found that to 'erase' himself from the narrative as Truman
    Capote had done was 'dishonest'. He had to deal with his
    obsession with the murder, and give an account, as he puts it,
    'of my relationship to this story - my impressions, my
    hypotheses, my doubts, my anxieties'. In order to be truly
    honest, in other words, he had to implicate himself.



    'On the morning of Saturday January 9,
    1993,' the book begins, 'while Jean-Claude Romand was killing
    his wife and children, I was with mine in a parent-teacher
    meeting at the school attended by Gabriel, our eldest son. He
    was five years old, the same age as Antoine Romand. Then we
    went to have lunch with my parents, as Jean-Claude Romand
    did with his, whom he killed after the meal.' " Guardian/Observer booksunlimited


      •  

    Beat Poet Gregory Corso Dies at 70. Crusty, irreverent friend of Allen Ginsberg, discovered by Ginsberg through his prison writings. Some selections from Corso's poetry may be found here, and this tribute page includes one of my favorite of his pieces:

    Gregory Corso


    ...Like the jester who blew out candles

    tip-toeing in toe-bell feet

    that his master dream victories

    --so I creep and blow

    that the cat and canary sleep.



    I've no plumed helmet, no blue-white raiment;

    and no jester of-old comes wish me on.

    I myself am my own happy fool...



    "Clown"

      •  

    From my continuing coverage of the "underground": Tunnel Vision: Using Sociological Radar to Snare a Seat -- everyday applications of ethnic savvy in subway hand-to-hand combat. Next, the extraordinary portrait of the impostor subway motorman, a favorite of the Spike Report. New York Times And online and underground: "Thanks to the Web, the sport of
    infiltration -- creeping through
    abandoned buildings and unused
    subway tunnels -- is thriving as
    never before." Salon This article points to the entertaining Infiltration site, "the zine about going places you're not supposed to go": utility and subway tunnels, drains and catacombs, abandoned buildings and other edifices and institutions. Here's a list of the sites in the Urban Exploration webring. "We don't break locks or
    bolts or climb over fences; what we're really overcoming is
    imaginary barriers that are just understood but barely
    questioned." And this, from Salon as well, on Subway Love: "With much of its crime and grime
    wiped clean, or at least swept into the corners, the subway has
    become a blank slate for our sexual fantasies. It has become a
    place for flirtation, self-invention, play."

      •  

    Bay Area Bug Eating Society: "No one can resist the toe tappin', hand clappin', exoskeleton snappin' satisfaction of Entomophagy." With anecdotes, pictures, recipes, frequently asked questions, and links to other bug-eating sites.

      •  

    The virginity hoax: 'Toss out words like "sexual behavior of teenagers,"
    "virginity" and "highly effective" and the parents of adolescents
    claw their way to newsstand and keyboard in a panicky search
    for enlightenment, looking, always, for relief from the kind of
    angst they heaped on their own elders just long enough ago not
    to remember.

    So what did they -- we -- learn from the study of "virginity
    pledges" by the National Institute of Child Health and Human
    Development?' That they don't work, in short. When pledgers break their vows (and they do) they tend to have unsafe sex. As the study points out, it's hard to imagine how someone could both pledge chastity until marriage and carry a condom whle unmarried. Furthermore, they tend not to think of anal or oral sex as violating their commitment to chastity. Salon

      •  

    Thursday, January 18, 2001

    Diamond trade fuels bloody wars. "It is the poorest country in the world and it is
    conceivable that the diamond ring being enjoyed by a young woman in the
    richest part of the world could have resulted in the dismemberment of a young
    woman in Sierra Leone." CNN [via Medley]

      •  

    Lower Pneumonia Risk in Some With AIDS. "Researchers
    are offering additional evidence
    that people infected with the AIDS
    virus can safely stop taking drugs
    designed to prevent a deadly
    pneumonia as long as their immune
    systems are relatively healthy." The risk of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, an opportunistic infection that was one of the early causes of devastation in HIV-infected patients, has consigned a generation of AIDS sufferers to preventive therapy. This new finding is important both because of the possibility they do not have to take pneumocystis-preventing meds but also as a paradigm. If the immune system with modern AIDS treatment can be kept vigorous enough to prevent this infection, patients may be at lower risk than commonly thought from other infections that prey on immune-compromised hosts. New York Times

      •  

    Britney Spears guide to Semiconductor Physics:

    Radiative and non-radiative transitions! "It is a little known fact, that Ms Spears is an
    expert in semiconductor physics. Not
    content with just singing, in the following
    pages, she will guide you in the
    fundamentals of the vital laser components
    that have made it possible to hear her super
    music in a digital format."


      •  

    "It's really remarkable. The 21st Century comes to a Vermont boy!"
    Parkinson's Sufferer Improves After Surgery. The procedure implanted a pacemaker-like device in the 37 year-old man's chest, to electrically stimulate parts of the brain and block the impulses causing his tremors. WCVB Boston

      •  

    Kumbh Mela update: devotee photo gallery. Reuters [via Robot Wisdom] Recent news stories from the festival. Yahoo News

      •  

    A collection of articles in the latest issue of New Scientist takes a look at what the illegitimate son is likely to do as commander-in-chief of the world's largest scientific research budget:
  • Ronald Reagan's Star Wars Project is Back


  • Environmentalists Fear the Worst

  • Big Science Gets the Silent Treatment

  • Will Embryonic Stem Cell Research Grind to a Halt?


  •   •  

    Scientists Bring Light to Full Stop, Hold It, Then Send It on Its Way New York Times

      •  

    California in State of Emergency Over Power, Hundreds of thousands of people in a swath from the Oregon border to Bakersfield had their power cut temporarily in rolling blackouts; frantic efforts to buy power from the Northwest grid were unsuccessful as other utility companies refused to sell, citing the near-bankruptcy of California's two largest utility companies. Traffic lights and ATM machines stopped functioning.

    When I read Samuel Delaney's Dhalgren -- which someone has neatly described as the first novel of "ambiguous heterotopia" -- several decades ago, it burned itself into my consciousness as an archetype -- chaotic life in the ruins of the metropolis after some vague, unnamed apocalypse. Nothing as specific as those (often clumsy) novels explicitly posing the aftermath of nuclear war, which was the only apocalyptic referent I had in those days, so it never seemed possible we'd actually live it during my lifetime. But if I were living in California right now, I might think I was on the doorstep... "...not with a bang but a whimper"?

      •  

    Wednesday, January 17, 2001

    The power of e-mail. Six degrees of separation revised for the connected world. Update: 115,000 responses from all seven continents to date. The teacher regrets that he didn't put a stop date on the original request.

      •  

    align=center alt="Dark. Like America's Future." border=0 height=30 width=500>

      •  

    "Minor Literary Celebrities Against Fascism", a call-to-arms from Neal Pollack, whom I still maintain may not exist.

      •  

    As an adoptive parent, I find this particularly outrageous. Washington Post [via Rebecca's Pocket]

      •  

    This will definitely be on our travel agenda. Spy Museum Shows Off Espionage Tools The museum is slated to open in Washington in February of next year. Thanks to Rebecca Blood for pointing to this item; she comments on how much fun it would be to work for a company whose business is setting up museums, and I agree.

      •  

    A bland antidote for Bill 'n' Al fatigue: George W.. Camille Paglia's postgame analysis on the election and the current status of the Democratic and Republican parties; on the Linda Chavez flap; and the bankruptcy of current literary criticism. In passing, she declares her crankiness at the "low level of play" in last weekend's NFL championship games. But everyday concerns pale in the face of her recent trip to immerse herself in Mesoamerican ruins in Mexico, she reports. Salon

      •  

    Jews in Bush's Cabinet? Don't Hold Your Breath.
    "George Bush has put every kind of American in his cabinet
    except Jews, and no one has complained about this, even
    though everyone knows it’s nuts. Remaking the American
    power structure without Jews is like remaking sports without
    blacks. At least when it comes to blacks in sports, you can talk
    about it; you can say that blacks changed sports. But no one is
    allowed to speak up about something we all quietly know: Jews
    changed America."
    What follows in this essay by a Jewish writer is a discussion about whether Jewish paranoia is justified, e.g. in discerning anti-Semitic indicators in Dubya's actions.
    "So long as Jews continue to see themselves as powerless, they fail to recognize the
    effect they have had on society and, worse, fail to move outside a privileged
    position of wounded self-regard and come to terms with their real spot: big winners
    in the new order. It looks like the next chapter in the democratic discourse is going
    to be about winners and losers in the globalist pursuit of excellence. Liberal Jews
    owe it to themselves and to American ideals to take an honest part in that
    conversation. Doing so might begin with asking the President-elect bluntly what’s in
    his heart." New York Observer [via Robot Wisdom]


      •  

    Tuesday, January 16, 2001

    McVeigh Execution Date Set "Federal officials set a May 16 execution date Tuesday for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted of murder and conspiracy for the bombing that killed 168 people in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building...

    The 32-year-old McVeigh, who is on death row at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., has said he doesn't want any more appeals, but he has reserved the right to seek executive clemency." Martyrdom awaits; at least the killing isn't going to be on the anniversary of the April 19, 1995 bombing. AP

      •  

    A reader wrote to say that the "[discuss]" button doesn't work; Java errors. After I installed the feature, I clicked on it and it was trouble-free for me. Anyone else care to try?

      •  

    Google Search: "George W. Bush" and "favorite book"; Gore said his was Stendhal's The Red and the Black.

      •  

    Fight for future of dance ideal is taking shape "Fredrika vs. the (SF) Ballet is the latest round in the high-profile
    battle between politics and art, where aesthetic standards and
    business realities often clash with notions of liberty, diversity,
    and self-esteem.



    But this case has earned a heightened sense of importance
    because of the death of ballerina Heidi Guenther, whose
    mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Boston
    Ballet. Guenther was 22 years old, 5 feet 3 inches tall, and
    weighed 93 pounds when she died of heart arrhythmia in
    1997. The suit contends that Guenther starved herself to a
    state of ill health after the ballet pressured her to lose
    weight. And her death has prompted a broad debate about
    who is at fault when people harm themselves in pursuit of
    someone else's physical standards." Boston Globe

      •  

    Monday, January 15, 2001

    Review of Peter Knight's Conspiracy Culture: "Rumour has it that you no longer have to be paranoid
    to believe that there exists a conspiracy to spread
    conspiracy theories about everything." New Statesman

      •  

    Thanks to a reader for pointing me to further discussion of the Death Cycle of Presidents Elected in a Zero Year, which I discussed awhile back. I was not aware of Tecumseh's curse.

      •  

    Hollywood Prepares to Fight File-Swappers. Although no widespread Internet film-swapping system has yet emerged, Hollywood executives are running scared, studying the Napster phenomenon as the inevitable digital distribution of movies looms nearer. The Standard

      •  

    Stars quit charity in corruption scandal: "Luciano Pavarotti has walked out of the high-profile overseas aid
    charity, War Child UK, with five other celebrity patrons after
    discovering that its co-founder had taken a bribe from contractors
    building a prestigious music centre named after him in Bosnia.

    The opera maestro - who along with the rock musician Brian Eno persuaded
    other stars like Elton John, Bono and Eric Clapton to perform in
    concerts and donate royalties to raise millions of pounds for the
    charity - quit after discovering that two people involved with the
    organisation had taken bribes and that there were concerns over
    financial and management controls. Pavarotti himself has raised more
    than $10m (£6.6m).

    High profile patrons of the charity included the playwright Sir Tom
    Stoppard, film and Royal Shakespeare Company actress Juliet Stevenson,
    pop star David Bowie, and MTV chief Brent Hanson." The Guardian

      •  

    Un-American Activities: The rehabilitation of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his redbaiting? New York Review of Books

      •  

    For those few of us who listen: two Village Voice critics grapple with the state of 'serious' music today. First, from Kyle Gann, Death Wish "New music is at an impasse -- you can't convince people it exists.

    There is a certain small culture around it, but it is impossible to get power brokers outside that culture to believe that anything is going on. The offcial line is, classical music is finished, a closed book, Glass, Reich, and maybe John Zorn the end of history. And it does not help that jazz is ever more officially referred to as "America's classical music." First of all, what is that supposed to do for jazz? Legitimize it, make it blandly respectable and therefore ignorable? And it slaps those composers whose training is classical out of the water. With the Wynton Marsalis crowd threatening to bring jazz history to a close and turn it into a repertoire museum, jazz musicians who believe in the ongoing evolution of the art are in the same boat as the new-music people. We need to band together."


    And Voice jazz critic Larry Blumenfeld blasts the Ken Burns documentary currently on PBS, echoing much the same concern about the Marsalis hegemony, as I wrote about several months ago. Burns has said that this is a series that isn't supposed to be for those who already listen to jazz, and dismisses criticism from the jazz critic community, who have complained that it is unduly classicist at the expense of the living tradition of improvisation and the "embrace of entropy" that lies at the heart of jazz. "Burns's film may raise jazz's water level in our culture at large, as the record-company executives hope, but it may also signal a final dry season for the music's forward flow."



      •  

    Itch Gets Its Own Neurons. It has long been thought that the itch sensation is conveyed by pain neurons, and that that is why scratching, which stimulates the pain sensors, can relieve an itch. But now it has been found that there are specific, separate neurons in the CNS that respond to itch.

      •  

    "Eco-pornography": The latest book by a Pacific Northwest journalist who has given much aid and comfort to environmentalists throughout his career commits the heresy of saying that the "handbasket-to-hell" pronouncements of the Greenpeace set are dead wrong, and that things are improving. He cites new oceanographic and marine biological data to suggest that the notion of a "sacred balance" is askew -- the North Pacific ecosystem undergoes dramatic periodic "sea changes" of its own accord independent of human impact. Terry Glavin believes that public despair about environmental degradation is another version of millennialism. He cites a long list of species whose numbers have been rising exponentially over recent decades, and he says the First Peoples fished out the salmon to a similar extent to modern commercial fishing endeavors long before the European presence in the Northwest. National Post

      •  

    For the perfect party, invite a mathematician. A mathematical theory predicts how large a gathering of people must become before it inevitably breaks down into cliques of mutual interest and mutual dislike.

    The same mathematical column has the following tidbit which I find fascianting (and am clipping and saving) but is guaranteed to have only limited appeal, I fear:

    Is there
    a formula for working out the day of the week
    corresponding to a date of birth?


    Indeed there is. Suppose the date is September 23,
    1959. First, take the final two digits of the year (in
    this case, 59), divide them by four, ignoring any
    remainder (14), and add the result to the original
    two digits (giving 73). Now add to this the day of
    the month (23) and divide the result by seven, this
    time keeping only the remainder (five).

    Next, add the "month number": six for January (five
    in leap years), two for February (one in leap years);
    two for March; five for April; zero for May; three for
    June; five for July; one for August; four for
    September; six for October; two for November; four
    for December. Finally, add two and divide the result
    by seven, again keeping only the remainder. The
    result is the day of the week on which you were
    born, starting from one for Sunday. So September
    23, 1959, was a Wednesday. The Telegraph
    [If you try this for dates >12/31/99, instead of using just the last two digits of the year, you have to use the number of years since 1900, i.e. '100' for the year 2000 etc.]

      •  

    Violent Children: Where Do We Point the Finger of Blame? The author, a clinical psychologist from Cornell, proposes an "accumulation-of-risk" model that he hopes will stop the finger-pointing. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine

      •  

    Sunday, January 14, 2001

    Deadly virus fuels bio-terror fears. "Scientists who accidently (sic)
    created a deadly
    version of mouse smallpox in the laboratory say
    lethal human viruses are only a step away.



    The prospect of such dangerous organisms
    being produced relatively easily have left
    bioterrorism experts fearful of killer global
    epidemics." Subtle modifications to the genome of a virus can, it seems, render it much more virulent and render vaccines useless in producing immunity. Scientists are already busy making small modifications to various pathogenic viruses to use them as vectors to carry genes into the body's cells for genetic therapy. BBC

      •  

    Bad Moon Rising: The sinister influence of the full moon on behavior has a venerable place in folklore and inconclusive support in scientific studies. Leaving humans aside for the moment, might there be a general tendency toward hostility under the full moon? Two studies coincidentally published in the same issue of the British Medical Journal, one from the UK and the other from Australia, reached contradictory conclusions in examining the relationship of severe animal bites and lunar phase. Beyond 2000

      •  

    The Milk of Human Kindness: "How to make a simple morality tale out of a complex public health issue" British Medical Journal [free registration required]

      •  

    Galaxies Made of Nothing? New Theory of Mysterious Dark Matter. "If the concept of dark matter gives you a bit of a headache,
    hold on to your Advil.

    Theorists attempting to explain some of the "missing mass"
    in the universe now say there may be entire galaxies that are
    dark.: A new theory "...suggests that for every normal,
    star-filled galaxy, there may be 100 that contain nothing, or
    at least nothing that we understand." space.com

      •  

    Splinters is the Spike magazine daily weblog. I was pointed to it from LinkMachineGo, which I have just discovered to be an excellent London-based weblog.

      •  

    Mobile Phone Forces Plane to Land. "A Slovenian airliner made an emergency
    landing Tuesday after a passenger's mobile phone caused its electronics system to
    malfunction and indicate there was a fire on board, Adria Airways said Wednesday." Reuters

      •  

    A World Divided Into Two-Way-Pager Camps. "Two wireless systems, two passionate camps. The
    rectangular, rigid BlackBerry is the choice of a high-tech and
    financial elite, including Bill Gates, Michael Dell and the
    investment bankers at Goldman, Sachs. They would not be
    caught dead carrying a fire-engine-red or cobalt-blue
    Motorola Talkabout, which the company markets to young
    adults — even teenagers passing e-notes in class." But they all seem to feel that cellular is passé, as in "20th century"...New York Times

      •  

    3 Sisters (Sorry Chekhov), Maureen Dowd: " The president-elect, known for his gunslinger's stance and
    circle of establishment good ol' boys, has added some female
    swagger to his staff — the G.O.P.'s three most famous alpha
    females, tall, tough, salty, relentless and fanatically loyal
    operatives Mary Matalin, Margaret Tutwiler and Karen
    Hughes. Jealousies, one-upmanship and hijinks bound to
    ensue?



    Never before has a White House had this many powerful,
    senior, vocal women in it — at least not since Hillary Clinton
    dined alone. And, more deliciously, never before has a
    White House had this many powerful, senior, vocal women
    assigned to do exactly the same job." New York Times

      •  

    'I Think He's Nuts', said the wife of a 36-year-old seminary student from Jerusalem. He had opened a knapsack he found on the ground next to a neighborhood school to find it contained two mortar shells connected to a cellular phone, so he gave a tug and disconnected the phone from the explosives. Several minutes later, the phone rang, a signal that would have triggered the explosion.

      •  

    "We've got lawyers looking at every single issue, every single opportunity'' to reverse
    actions taken by Clinton
    in the waning weeks of his presidency, says the illegitimate son. New York Times

      •  

    Update from the Kumbh Mela

      •  

    Everyone has a different 'now' New Scientist

      •  

    Saturday, January 13, 2001

    See the "[discuss]" link on each post? I've added BlogVoices' functionality to FmH. BlogVoices By clicking on the link, you can add to a public discussion thread about any of my postings, or just 'lurk' and read the discussion (if any) to date. Enjoy.

      •  

    The depleted uranium furor continues not to attract the attention in the U.S. with which it is being covered in Europe. A new report, scoffed at by the British Ministry of Defence, reveals that a secret, but leaked, paper from the British Army's medical team warned the Army four years ago that soldiers exposed to dust from depleted uranium weapons risked lung, lymphatic and brain cancer. Of course, all the concern about NATO peacekeeping forces' exposure to radiation pales in comparison to the likely Balkan victims. Independent And now Britain's Royal Navy announces that it is "phasing out depleted uranium ammunition on its warships
    after the U.S. manufacturers stopped producing the shells that have sparked safety
    concerns." Reuters via ENN

      •  

    The Patriot Missile "Didn't Work". "Secretary of Defense
    William S. Cohen, supporting a
    decade of questions about the
    Patriot missile's performance, said
    Raytheon Co.'s famous antimissile
    system failed to work in the Persian
    Gulf War." Raytheon begs to differ. Critics have long claimed its kill rate was anywhere between 0-10% in contrast to the 70% figure the U.S. Army and Raytheon have cited. Cohen's point: we need to invest in research to improve antimissile technology. Watch this space, since the antimissile defense program is certainly alive and well, especially with Dubya ascending to the throne. Boston Globe

      •  

    How will Microsoft position Whistler, the Win-9x replacement OS now in beta and due out (so they say) in the second half of Y2K1? Is it an upgrade or something new? The Register And here's a good preview of several of its features. Windows Help.net

      •  

    What the heck is Kaiju? B-movie wrestling? pop art? shameless opportunism? The New York Press

      •  

    An Unacceptable Risk. Washington Post op-ed piece by Lloyd Cutler, former counsel to Presidents Carter and Clinton, and Howard Baker, former Republican Senator from Tennessee and Senate majority leader: "Russia's nuclear stockpile is the most serious national security threat we face today."

      •  

    Genre Trouble: The Boston Review considers the densely-written fiction of John Crowley (The Deep, Beasts, Engine Summer, Little Big, Aegypt, Love and Sleep, Daemonomania), off the critical radarscreens because he "(tries) to create literature with the tools of the genre writer". He runs the risk "of intimidating readers and baffling
    reviewers, of trying the patience of his publisher, of falling
    off the literary map altogether." He's largely out of print and what there is is buried in the sci-fi/fantasy section of your bookstore.

      •  

    Paean to a Jan. 8th New Yorker piece describing the writer's mental illness and psychiatric hospitalizations. "Daphne Merkin bravely gives words to the silent scream and deserves not our pity,
    not our voyeurism, but—better than our sympathy—our envy and admiration of her
    sharp eye and sharper tongue. We need her to stay with us for a very long time." The New York Observer

      •  

    A consortium of six daily newspapers including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the parent company of the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal has convened to cost-share on an examination of all the uncounted Florida ballots. The Miami Herald is racing them to complete its own solo recount effort. The New York Observer

      •  

    "I
    have good news for you: You may have the opportunity to
    be president of France." An open letter to Bill Clinton from a French scientist. New York Times

      •  

    Star in the East: Krishnamurti -
    the Invention of a Messiah
    : review of the new, accessible biography of Krishnamurti by Roland Vernon. London Telegraph via net.headlines

      •  

    Remembrance of the public as well as the personal departed is a renewing experience for those surviving them, I'm convinced. One of my year-end rituals is to make a point of reflecting on those lists that start showing up of those we lost in public life during the preceding year. This, abit belatedly, is a thorough list of those in the arts who died in 2000. There are people on the list whose passing will diminish me, and surprises, people I did not know had left us. SF Chronicle

      •  

    U.S. Shifts Policy on Sierra -- Trees, Wildlife Protected "The U.S. Forest Service unveiled a
    long-awaited management plan for the
    Sierra Nevada yesterday, signaling drastic
    cutbacks in logging and sweeping
    protections for old-growth trees and
    endangered species.



    The plan's dramatic shift in policy sparked
    predictable responses from
    environmentalists, who enthusiastically
    endorsed it, and timber industry
    advocates, who vehemently opposed it." SF Chronicle

      •  

    Clear and Present Danger James Ridgeway: "Democrats have the goods to sink John Ashcroft's nomination. Now the question is whether they have the
    guts." The hottest property on Capitol Hill is two dozen boxes of "opposition research" painting a damning portrait of Ashcroft "entirely at odds with the bland, friendly image the ever-smiling conservative tries so hard to project". The files were gathered by Democrat Mel Carnahan who unseated Ashcroft posthumously after dying in a plane crash during a polarized campaign. Village Voice

    Democrats are eyeing a 1999 speech by John Ashcroft that may give clues to his lack of belief in the rule of law. New York Times Ashcroft appears to have been in his element, being given an honorary degree at Bob Jones University; here's the text of the speech. Phil Agre comments:
    "When the Constitution was written, religious conservatives opposed
    it because, as everyone perfectly well understood, it did not create
    a Christian nation. Their arguments sound more or less identical
    to the arguments that their descendants make today, as for example
    in John Ashcroft's speech at Bob Jones University, enclosed. Having lost
    that fight, the opponents of the Constitution now take a different
    approach: they claim to have invented it. The evidence being so
    overwhelmingly against them, they use bits and pieces of quotations
    to dance around the Constitution's straightforward assertion that
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
    or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. It's okay for them to hold
    these opinions. That's what we're here for. What's not okay is for
    them to be placed in charge of enforcing the laws. Lately they have
    taken to accusing John Ashcroft's opponents of opposing him because
    he believes in God. This is going to get worse before it gets better." Red Rock Eaters' Digest




    Guilty by Association? "Ashcroft appeared in a 1997 video from Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum that portrayed the feminist movement, multiculturalism, reproductive
    rights, gay rights, environmental concerns, global cooperation, and even chemical weapons treaties as part of a secret conspiracy to promote a
    socialist One World Government and New World Order.




    This type of conspiracist allegation is found in the right-wing of the Republican Party, the Patriot and armed militia movement, and the Far
    Right. The use of language about cosmopolitan international financial elites shows insensitivity to the historic use of such phrases to promote
    antisemitic claims of an international Jewish banking conspiracy." Political Research Associates


    And here's some commentary by attorney and former federal prosecutor Edward Lazarus on The Proper Standard for Ashcroft's Confirmation Fight: "If the Senate does reject Ashcroft,
    no one should lose sleep over it. It would be poetic justice for a
    man who deprived so many others of confirmations they rightly
    deserved."

    Since I seem unable not to mention Gale Norton, interior secretary-designate, in the same breath as Ashcroft, the New York Times today reviewed her record of "declin(ing) to endorse high-profile laws with which she disagrees," as Greg Wetstone, the national program director for
    the Natural Resources Defense Council, nicely put it. Of course, one of her most egregious declarations was a 1996 speech that described the cause of states' rights
    as having suffered a grievous blow with the defeat of the cause
    of the Confederacy in the Civil War. Dubya is certainly acting as if he has a mandate, isn't he?

      •  

    Friday, January 12, 2001

    ' IT's the new sensation, across the nation...' Nobody, it appears, knows what IT is... "All they do know: IT, also code-named Ginger, is an invention developed by 49-year-old scientist
    Dean Kamen, and the subject of a planned book by journalist Steve Kemper. According to
    Kemper's proposal, IT will change the world, and is so extraordinary that it has drawn the attention
    of technology visionaries Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs and the investment dollars of pre-eminent
    Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr, among others.... A
    venerable press pays $250,000 for a book on project cloaked in unprecedented secrecy."



    Some clues as to IT's nature can be gleaned from the proposal:
  • IT is not a medical invention.
  • In a private meeting with Bezos, Jobs and Doerr,
    Kamen assembled two Gingers — or ITs — in 10
    minutes, using a screwdriver and hex wrenches from
    components that fit into a couple of large duffel bags and
    some cardboard boxes.
  • The invention has a fun element to it, because once a
    Ginger was turned on, Bezos started laughing his “loud,
    honking laugh”.
  • There are possibly two Ginger models, named Metro
    and Pro — and the Metro may possibly cost less than
    $2,000.
  • Bezos is quoted as saying that IT “...is a product so
    revolutionary, you’ll have no problem selling it. The
    question is, are people going to be allowed to use it?”
  • Jobs is quoted as saying: “...If enough people see the
    machine you won’t have to convince them to architect
    cities around it. It’ll just happen.”
  • Kemper says the invention will “sweep over the world
    and change lives, cities, and ways of thinking.”
    The “core technology and its implementations” will,
    according to Kamen, “have a big, broad impact not only
    on social institutions but some billion-dollar old-line
    companies.” And the invention will “profoundly affect
    our environment and the way people live worldwide. It
    will be an alternative to products that are dirty,
    expensive, sometimes dangerous and often frustrating,
    especially for people in the cities.”
  • IT will be a mass-market consumer product “likely to
    run afoul of existing regulations and or inspire new
    ones,” according to Kemper. The invention will also
    likely require “meeting with city planners, regulators,
    legislators, large commercial companies and university
    presidents about how cities, companies and campuses
    can be retro-fitted for Ginger.”

  • " The inventor himself is as interesting as the invention may prove to be.
    Kamen —'a true eccentric, cantankerous and
    opinionated, a great character,' according to the proposal
    — dropped out of college in his 20s, then invented the
    first drug infusion pump; he later created the first portable
    insulin pump and dialysis machine." [Inside] Wired profiles Kamen here.
    As someone commented on Metafilter, "I'm really hoping for this to be either for real or a complete and total hoax. If it's just some overhyped
    invention I'm going to be so disappointed."
    It seems hard, if one believes the 'hints' above, not to draw the conclusion that IT is a new form of personal transportation device; maybe IT stands for "individual transport" or something similar. And I'm not talking about anything resembling a Star Trek matter transporter as much as something like a motorized personal scooter.

      •  

    First report of successful genetic modification of primates: researchers succeeded in inserting a gene into the unfertilized eggs of rhesus monkeys. "The eggs were then fertilized, resulting in
    several pregnancies and the birth of three live monkeys. The gene was successfully incorporated into one monkey's DNA, making this
    the first genetically modified non-human primate. Previous gene transfer attempts in animals have been confined largely to rodents
    and agricultural animals. " EurekAlert

      •  

    'Death Spiral' Around a Black Hole Yields Tantalizing Evidence of an Event Horizon:

    Observable evidence of a black hole?? "The Hubble telescope may have, for the first time, provided direct evidence for the existence of black
    holes by observing how matter disappears when it falls beyond the "event horizon," the boundary
    between a black hole and the outside universe. Astronomers found their evidence by watching the
    fading and disappearance of pulses of ultraviolet light from clumps of hot gas swirling around a massive,
    compact object called Cygnus XR-1. This activity suggests that the hot gas fell into a black hole." Clicking on the image will send you to an animation of how matter falling into the black hole might look.Space Telescope Science Institute


      •  

    Federal Guidelines for Searching and Seizing Computers and Obtaining Electronic Evidence in Criminal Investigations from the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) of the Dept. of Justice.

      •  

    The New England Journal of Medicine reviews Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession by distinguished psychiatrist Harrison Pope.
    This interesting and provocative book describes a form of obsession in which otherwise healthy men become absorbed by
    compulsive exercising, eating disorders, body-image distortion, and ultimately, abuse of anabolic steroids. In a manner
    analogous to the course of anorexia nervosa, the social norm of male "fitness" turns, in these sad men, into an insatiable
    obsession with growing "bigger" and more muscular. When exercise and dieting rituals, no matter how fanatical, fail, recourse
    to drugs, mostly anabolic steroids, appears to be an easy transition. Body-obsessed men find that drugs are readily available
    from underground suppliers who gravitate to gyms like moths to the light. Gripped by unshakable fat phobias as well as
    dietary and drug-related rituals, these pathetic men lose touch with reality and become isolated, socially dysfunctional, and
    sometimes even dangerous.

      •  

    Update on "Kosovo Syndrome' furor: Uranium-Tipped Arms Ban Rejected by NATO Majority. "A
    majority of NATO
    countries turned down
    requests today from several
    of their allies for a
    temporary ban on the
    inclusion of
    depleted-uranium munitions
    in NATO arsenals." New York Times A seventh Italian soldier involved in the handling of these weapons has died of leukemia within a year of exposure. Official dismissals of the danger of these depleted-uranium shells are based on the fact that they are only mildly radioactive at rest. But as my blink several days ago suggested, the shells burn on impact and release a radioactive aerosol. European testiness with the U.S., the main proponent of these weapons, joins the tensions with Europe of last month over implementing the Kyoto accords on clean air.

      •  

    Thursday, January 11, 2001

    Astronomer Seth Shostak speculates on Why ET Will Be More Advanced than Humanity. Why will our listening experiments – if they
    succeed – find only highly advanced aliens? space.com

      •  

    Hatch pledges to keep online music accessible. "Putting the recording industry,
    entertainment conglomerates and even
    the future AOL-Time Warner on notice,
    the chairman of the U.S. Senate
    Judiciary Committee warned that he
    would work to ensure that online music doesn't fall under the control of a few
    powerful distributors.

    At a two-day conference on the future of digital music that pitted such parties as
    Napster and the Recording Industry Association of America against each other in
    panel discussions, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, pledged to use his position to keep
    the Internet open for the benefit of fans and artists." CNN

      •  

    "Be All You Can Be' is out; Ads Now Seek Recruits for 'An Army of One'.

      •  

    News Analysis: Lessons of a Swift Exit. The Linda Chavez embarrassment, which seems to be treated by the press as a casualty of the foreshortened transition period and hasty vetting of candidates rather than a reflection on Dubya's judgment or ideology, may yet "embolden
    Democrats, unions and
    environmentalists with other nominees
    in their sights, particularly John
    Ashcroft, the religious conservative
    attorney general- designate, and Gale
    A. Norton, Mr. Bush's choice to run the
    Interior Department." I certainly hope so. New York Times

      •  

    Satisfied With U.N. Reforms, Helms Relents on Dues. The Clinton administration had long struggled to "conduct diplomacy under the stigma of being a deadbeat nation." New York Times

      •  

    Calls for Change in the Scheduling of the School Day. A groundswell of support for lengthening the schoolday and the schoolyear joins increasingly rigorous curriculum design and the imposition of exit-exams as the latest thrust in educational reform; designed to address "a troika of sociological forces:
    more parents working outside the home; research showing
    that children get into trouble during the late afternoon and
    lose educational ground during summer breaks; and the
    higher standards that have been embraced from coast to
    coast over the last decade." But how does having our children spend more hours in school square with the stultification they already face in the classroom, where financial constraints have increasingly stripped any richness and breadth from what they're taught? New York Times

      •  

    Ancient DNA gives debate a new life. An Australian scientist, who claims that his analysis of the oldest DNA recovered from human remains -- an aboriginal skeleton from New South Wales claimed to be 60,000 years old -- casts doubt on the common genetic ancestry of all modern humans, is embroiled in two sorts of controversy. He is besieged by challenges to his dating techniques from leading Australian scientists on the one hand. On the other, there's this buried in the last paragraph of the news story -- Aboriginal leaders are apparently upset that they were not kept abreast of the DNA findings and issued a statement yesterday that they did not need scientists to inform them that their ancestors had "been here forever."

      •  

    Clinton To State No Gun Ri Regret -- but not issue a formal apology for the apparent massacre of South Korean civilians by U.S. forces in July 1950, during the Korean War. The "statement of regret" may be something as generic as lamenting civilian casualties throughout the war. The U.S. has already decided not to pay reparations to the families of the victims. The Pentagon's official conclusions of its investigation of the incident, due out on Thursday, will reportedly emphasize "that the U.S. troops who were
    sent to fight in the early weeks of the war were ill-equipped, poorly trained and led by
    commanders who were not prepared for the chaotic conditions." The American white knight is further besmirched.

      •  

    Wednesday, January 10, 2001

    Defense Rests in Lockerbie Trial after calling just three witnesses, as contrasted with the prosecution's 230. Establishing reasonable doubt is all they had to do...

      •  

    N.H. Lawmaker Alciere Resigns. The recently elected legislator (to reports about whose statements advocating the legitimacy of cop-killing I blinked below) has been forced by popular demand to resign, effective 11:59 tonight. Alciere has acknowledged posting anti-police messages on the
    Internet, including one that said: "There is nothing wrong with
    slaughtering a cop. Just throw the carcass into the Dumpster
    with the rest of the garbage.'' He's apparently a radical libertarian who, as a condition of his resignation, demanded that the NH Legislature vote on the abolition of public education and the legalization of all drugs. Another legislator has stepped in and agreed to be Alciere's proxy in introducing the bills, stating that the issue has been such a distraction to the Legislature that he'll do anything to facilitate Alciere's departure. Alciere thinks he stands a chance of being re-elected in the special run-off election that will fill the vacancy his resignation causes. Amazing that, this time, the voters might get a second chance when they squandered their first one. In all the public outcry, I haven't heard anyone saying "I told you so" yet to them -- this is what you get if you vote the party line instead of investigating your candidate's views before electing him. In the same state, Republicans also elected a legislator who had failed to reveal his conviction and incarceration on check-forgery charges in neighboring Massachusetts in the '80's. Who was it who said something to the effect that a people get the government they deserve? Whether or not a government serves the people well, it serves them right, I'd say.

      •  

    Intergalactic 'Pipeline' Funnels Matter Between Colliding Galaxies. "This visible-light picture, taken by the Hubble telescope, reveals an intergalactic 'pipeline' of material
    flowing between two battered galaxies that bumped into each other about 100 million years ago." Space Telescope Science Institute

      •  

    "They are unique and frightening..." Found: 2 Planetary Systems. Result: Astronomers Stunned. "Astronomers
    have discovered two more
    planetary systems in the universe, and
    they appear to bear little or no
    resemblance to each other or to the
    solar system.



    In one of the systems, a Sun-like star is
    accompanied by a massive planet and an even larger object
    17 times as massive as Jupiter. If this whopper is a planet, it
    is the largest ever detected, defying current theory.
    Scientists suspect that it could be a dim failed star or a type
    of astronomical object that has never been observed before.



    In the other system, two planets of more normal size are
    orbiting a small star. But their orbits are anything but normal.
    The pair of planets are locked in resonant orbits, moving in
    synchrony around the star with orbital periods of 61 and 30
    days; the inner planet goes around twice for each orbit of
    the outer one." New York Times


      •  

    Tuesday, January 9, 2001

    "What Questions Have Disappeared?" John Brockman, a New York literary agent and writer who runs The Edge, the stimulating online intellectual salon ("To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves") poses his annual question to a wide group of distinguished respondents.

      •  

    Thank you to R Mark Woods (of the excellent weblog Wood's Lot) who let me know that the Galbraith article is from The American Prospect and can be found here. Too new to have been indexed by the search engines, I suppose, although I don't really understand all the arcana of what they do and don't discern.

    As it turns out, the article is not by John Kenneth Galbraith but by James K. Galbraith. Information about the author is here; he's a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin. I recall somewhere in the dim recesses of my memory that this may be John Kenneth's son "Jamie"; does anyone know? In any case, nice to have someone so feisty on Dubya's home turf.

    I'm going back and editing the original blink to correct the misattribution and also to remove the full text of the article from my weblog in favor of the link, as the usual ("This article may not be resold,
    reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind
    without prior written permission from the author.") copyright notice appears at the bottom.

      •  

    The Kumbh Mela starts today in Allahabad. This confluence of religious pilgrims, which occurs in each of four places in India (Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik) every 12 years or so (on a schedule determined by the position of the planet Jupiter in the sky), is expected to draw more than 30 million souls, the largest gathering of humanity ever seen on the planet. As one weblogger put it, "Eat your heart out, Burning Man." Heck, eat your heart out, Woodstock! I was at the last-but-one Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, at the headwaters of the Ganges River, in 1975. That had a mere 10 million attendees, I'd venture to say 99.99% of them from the Indian subcontinent (back before the days of "ecotravel") and most of those renunciant sadhus. However, material souls plan to seek salvation as well at the upcoming gathering. A British tour agency confirms that it is bringing in some of the biggest showbiz stars [Times of India, via Robot Wisdom]
    for the experience, including the ubiquitous Madonna. Indian tour operators are making the most of the festival, selling it to international travellers as the quintessence of the mystical East. Plan now for 2013.

      •  

    NSA abandons wondrous stuff. This is being widely blogged, because it's fascinating. What a group of astronomers found after they took occupancy of an abandoned National Security Agency listening post in backcountry North Carolina.

      •  

    I'm too proud and aloof to suggest that you nominate me for the 2001 Bloggies, but consider nominating some of the nice folks in the black box over in the lefthand column...

      •  

    The Decline and Fall (cont'd.): Eminem's latest outrage: 'Eminem's "Marshall Mathers LP" was
    "probably the most repugnant record of the year." So says
    Michael Greene, president of the National Academy of
    Recording Arts and Sciences, home of the Grammy.

    Yet Greene can hardly contain his glee over the fact that the
    gay-bashing, misogynist rapper was nominated last week for
    four Grammys, including the prestigious album of the year
    award.... Now, with the hand-picked selection of
    Eminem's hate-filled record as album of
    the year, ...the
    once-respectable albeit feckless Grammy has transformed
    itself into just another trend-chasing music awards show.

    The predictable outcry accompanying Eminem's
    nominations virtually guarantees the Grammy telecast --
    undoubtedly featuring a performance by the rapper -- will be
    another ratings hit.' Salon

      •  

    The crime of my life: Salon contributor Charles Taylor dissects the modern mystery scene and tells us which books got him through a particularly tough year (and not just because of election and recessionary fears). His tastes run to both the genteel British genre and the hard-boiled American writers.

      •  

    Corporate Democracy; Civic Disrespect: More incisive thinking on the meaning of the theft of the election, the peculiar perils of American "forgetting," why Dubya is not the "President-elect", the tribalism of American politics, and a potential viable agenda for the Democratic Party in the new, post-2000 Americn political landscape from James K. Galbraith, professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin. He lays out important priorities progressive-thinking people should have, to prevent Dubya's co-optation of the political process from having an enduring impact. This was originally sent to me by email and misattributed to John Kenneth Galbraith, now 92, who I seem to recall may be James K.'s father (anybody know?). The American Prospect

      •  

    Sunday, January 7, 2001

    "...Some of Paul W. Ewald's best thinking started with an attack of
    diarrhea on a field trip to Kansas." Biologist says germs, not genes, to blame for most human ailments. The time may be ripe for a renascence of infectious disease approaches to many 'unsolved' illnesses, after several decades in which the field has been eclipsed by advances in other specialties in medicine. Cervical cancer, Burkitt's lymphoma and peptic ulcer disease have all been accepted as having associations with infectious agents, and Ewald says in his new book, Plague Time: How Stealth Infections Cause Cancers, Heart Disease, and Other Deadly Ailments (2000) that the 'best' is yet to come. In my own field, I've recently cited E. Fulller Torrey's speculation on the infectious etiology of schizophrenia. Nando Times

      •  

    Sex: The Annabel Chong Story "Annabel Chong (is) a porn star who
    infamously took part in a film in which she had sex with 251
    men. She later took part in a documentary about the
    experience: it turns out she was gang-raped years before she
    made the film. A disturbing read, and not for the easily offended", says the Guardian weblog in pointing to this portrait. "Sex is a fascinating and occasionally unsettling film,
    whose subject comes across as a complicated
    young woman, alternately assertive and thoughtful,
    damaged and deluded. The gang-bang itself is one
    of the least erotic things you’ll ever see," says the Spike article.

      •  

    American Memory Deficit Disorder "Why are Americans so quick to forget even the most
    egregious political outrages, when the rest of the world
    seems to have no trouble holding grudges for centuries?" Abuse of the political process -- most recently the Supreme Court's underhandedness in giving the election to the illegitimate son, or Dubya's lies about his drunk driving conviction or his military service, which lost him not one percentage point in popularity -- seems predicated on the confidence that the public will forget soon enough and 'get over it.' "When no one remembers what you did wrong, being American means never having to say you're sorry." Mother Jones

      •  

    Dear Mr. Bush: An open letter from Mikhail Gorbachev to the President-elect cautions that U.S. bullishness is bad for American and world security. "...the post-Cold War period ushered in hopes that are now faded. Over the course of the past decade, the United States has continued to operate along an ideological track identical to the one it followed during the Cold War -- but now without a cold war...Isn't is amazing that disarmament move further along during the last phase of the Cold War than during the period after its end? And isn't that because U.S. leadership has been unable to adjust to the new European reality...(which) has placed Europe on the world scene as a new, independent and powerful player(?)" Washington Post



    And some further advice about Losing before you start: "George Bush is undoubtedly about to embark on a stupid and
    disastrous war in Latin America." Guardian


      •  

    Photoshop for free? Not quite--- but getting closer: GIMP -- the GNU
    Image Manipulation Program -- is a freely distributed piece of open source
    software suitable for such tasks as photo retouching, image
    composition and image authoring. Recently ported to Windows; it's to the Windows download which clicking on the link above will send you.


      •  

    Saturday, January 6, 2001

    Cholesterol-lowering drugs may prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Here's a Google search on the generic name of one of the most popular and effective, atorvastatin, AND (dementia OR cognition OR cognitive OR Alzheimer).

      •  

    Israeli critics join Palestinians and human rights groups in condemning pinpoint killings [via Robot Wisdom]

      •  

    Baudrillard Sees Dead People: "No one ages less gracefully than a hipster
    past his prime -- unless it's a prophet of
    technological revolution, once his vision reaches
    the sell-by date. Roll them into one, and it's a
    miserable spectacle all around. The books Jean
    Baudrillard started publishing in France about
    thirty years ago ran selected concepts from Marx
    and Freud on an operating system cobbled
    together from Marshall McLuhan and Alvin Toffler." Feed

      •  

    Autoimmunity May Come From Confluence Of Normal Events. A new study elucidates the process of autoimmune disease, in which components of the immune system meant to defend against invaders turn on our own tissues.

      •  

    Honey May Prevent Recurring Tumors AP

      •  

    What Controls Nerve Growth?. "Impelled by the tragic plight of
    paralyzed victims of spinal-cord
    injuries, scientists move ever
    closer to unlocking the mysteries
    of nerve development and
    regeneration." The molecular mechanisms that guide axon growth are remarkably preserved throughout the animal world, so that research on simple species can bear enormous fruit with regard to humans.

      •  

    Generation Statistics: 'Trademarks have become so ingrained in our psyches that we
    need hear only a few notes of a jingle or see the colourful swirl
    of a logo and we are automatically drawn into their world,
    reminded of how thirsty we really aren't or how necessary a new
    shirt is what we wear or drink defines us, as people. We are
    whoring and de-valuing ourselves, but in exchange we get to be
    a walking advertisement. But that's okay because, hey, it's
    SHINY while we maintain that we have the ultimate decision, as
    far as they're concerned, they've already sold the shirt.' Spark

      •  

    A reporter's coverage of the Pagan Federation Conference 2000 in Croydon (UK) in November found the witches, warlocks, druids and vampires "frighteningly clean and well-behaved." Fortean Times

      •  

    Blather: The Alan Moore Interview. In-depth musings of the master of the "graphic novel."

      •  

    America's Tribes: " In the past 40 years, the Democratic and Republican parties in the US have almost
    entirely switched places. But a longer-lasting contest underlies this strange
    history," says Michael Lind, a senior fellow at the New American Foundation in Washington
    "—a struggle between two tribal coalitions, the socially-minded Puritans of the
    north and the colonial gentlemen of the south." Ethnography, not ideology, is the way to understand American politican partisanship in this fascinating incisive essay. Prospect

      •  

    The Bastardization of the 'Masterpiece': "...(I)f there are no ahistorical standards and no objective
    criteria for assessing superior achievement, then every form
    of cultural activity can claim masterpieces, which then
    freely proliferate. All that can be done is to display those
    varied tastes with appreciative acclaim. This can lead to
    expanded horizons but also contracted perspective." New York Times

      •  

    The French Paradox. "They eat all the
    butter, cream, foie gras, pastry and cheese that their hearts desire, and yet
    their rates of obesity and heart disease are much lower than ours. The French
    eat three times as much saturated animal fat as Americans do, and only a third
    as many die of heart attacks." All sorts of hypotheses have been proposed. Curiosity about this is stimulating a sort of culture war. Salon

      •  

    Friday, January 5, 2001

    Scooby-Doo, How Could You? The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) laments the transformation of the Scooby-Doo crew from skeptical debunking to credulity. The writer is "stunned, shocked and appalled" as a new episode of the show actually portrays paranormal events as real!
    No longer do the intrepid investigators
    prove that the paranormal is all a ruse. In their latest
    incarnation, Daphne is now a TV reporter for an
    Entertainment Tonight-type show. She goes to New Orleans to look into reported
    hauntings, bringing her old friends along. She and the other members are once
    again beset by a ghost of a pirate, as well as assorted zombies, werewolves and
    vampires. But this time, when Fred and Velma present possible rational
    explanations for the weird events, they are pooh-poohed by Daphne, who goes so
    far as to tell Fred "you're not a skeptic, you're in denial." When Velma suggests
    that these horrifying apparitions are really humans behind masks, she is ridiculed.
    Obviously the new storywriters are parodying the show's past, but at what
    expense? At the end, we see that there really are ghosts, zombies, werewolves
    and vampires running amok. It's all such a sad betrayal of the original show's
    glorious skeptical tradition.

      •  

    Mood Menders. Recent research on the molecular mechanisms of antidepressants begins to circle around the first advance in understanding the nerobiology of depression and its treatment since the "low-serotonin" theory of the last decade and a half, linking it to the leaps and bounds being made in the understanding of the neurobiology of memory and the effects of trauma as well.

      •  

    Thursday, January 4, 2001

    'In the 1970s and 1980s, the German Democratic Republic's
    secret police - the Stasi - frequently labelled suspected
    dissidents with highly radioactive chemicals
    so that agents
    wearing concealed Geiger counters could keep tabs on them,
    according to a paper by Klaus Becker, a leading radiation
    protection expert.



    It has long been suspected that the Stasi used radiation as a
    weapon. Becker reports that "unusual non-medical X-ray
    machines" in former political prisons could have been used for
    covertly irradiating inmates.

    Large doses of X-rays are thought to be behind the deaths
    from cancer of a number of prominent dissidents.' New Scientist

      •  

    Is ozone responsible for the asthma epidemic in children? The evidence mounts that smog damages the lungs of growing infants and causes asthma. A recent study from UCDavis confirms a widely suspected correlation. The increasing incidence of asthma has been a troubling and puzzling phenomenon of public health. New Scientist

      •  

    Happy perihelion! The earth was at its annual closest point to the sun this morning at 5:00 EST. The sunlight falling on the earth's surface was around 7% more intense than it is at the height of the summer.

      •  

    Microsoft, Starbucks in wireless venture. Their coffee shops around the world will be endowed with wireless network links allowing customers to access local arts, entertainment and shopping information. Starbucks is also launching a system to let customers pre-order via cellphone on the way in to their coffee bar. Infoworld

      •  

    Accidental e-mail violates 12,000 patients' confidentiality. California insurer sends the names of patients receiving treatment for mental conditions to the wrong doctors, blames "computer glitch." San Jose Mercury

      •  

    Celebrities: Enough, already "After a year of
    tales of their addictions, affairs and (optional) clothing choices, the rest of us need a break." Philadelphia Inquirer

      •  

    Ashcroft is pro-privacy, defied FBI on encryption export restrictions and opposed FBI-supported 1997 bill that would have mandated a "key-recovery" scheme. "Working for him is what made me realize I could be a [Republican
    Party] civil libertarian," said one former advisor. The Register

      •  

    As if you hadn't noticed: The Net is a commercial failure: study. "In spite of heroic efforts by vast armies of e-merchants to pervert the
    Net into some commercial Valhalla, it remains primarily a tool for
    research (albeit commercial in many cases) and for socializing,
    according to a recent study by the Pew Internet Project." The Register

      •  

    Girl sues friend for $5m after saving her life. The 17-year-old was severely injured at 11 when she pushed her friend out of the path of an oncoming truck. Now she blames her friend's parents for failing to "supervise (their daughter) properly, or instruct her on how to cross a road safely." National Post

      •  

    Reducing the entire universe to the level of the complete idiot? Washington Post

      •  

    Wednesday, January 3, 2001

    Complete List of Grammy Nominations for the 43rd annual awards ceremony to take place in LA on 2-21-01. AP

      •  

    Elephant Tramples Man And Keeps the Corpse. The animal pulled the man from a tree after he had climbed up to escape a rampaging herd, breaking the man's legs. Enraged by villagers trying to extricate the man from its grasp, the elephant trampled him to death and has refused to part with the corpse for more than two weeks. Reuters

      •  

    [via Slashdot]: Does 2001 mean monoliths to you? Apparently it does to someone in Seattle, joining a gleeful tradition of anonymous art in that city. Seattle Times

      •  

    Alarm over NATO uranium deaths. The cancer deaths of six Italian soldiers who served with the NATO peacekeeping force in the Balkans raises concern about the use of depleted uranium weapons, valued for their armor-piercing capabilities, in that theater. A heavy metal almost twice the density of lead and only mildly radioactive in its native state, it turns on impact with a solid object into a burning vapor creating radioactive dust. US and British military officials have always denied the level of alarm about DU, which began with suspicions it was implicated in Gulf War Syndrome.

    "We've always known
    that it was a danger
    only in absolutely
    exceptional
    circumstances like, for
    example, picking up a
    fragment with a hand
    on which there was an
    open wound, while in
    normal circumstances it
    isn't dangerous at all.

    But now we're starting
    to have a justified fear
    that things aren't that
    simple," worries Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato. BBC


      •  

    Arafat 'accepts' US peace plan. One more upswing on the roller-coaster-ride to hopes for Middle East peace. Arafat reserves the right for his approval to be subject to his own "interpretations and principles." Ehud Barak, briefed on Arafat's response, has gone on record to state his doubts that Clinton can make progress in brokering a peace before the end of his term of office. Barak called an urgent meeting of his top ministers, whose rhetoric has been increasingly confrontational. The Israeli deputy defense minister states Israel will continue its policy of assassinating Palestinian leaders involved in attacks on Israelis.

      •  

    The Typing of the Dead: I'm not a gamer but this still caught my attention: 'If you think you've seen everything there is to
    see in gaming, you're wrong - if you haven't
    tried out The Typing of the Dead, that is.
    Sega has created possibly the weirdest game
    ever, a title that's so unexpected it defies logic
    when one tries and figure out the frame of
    mind of the individual at Sega of Japan who
    said "Hey, we'll make a typing game, and
    make it fun." The Typing of the Dead is the
    kind of game that, like Dance Dance
    Revolution
    and Beatmania makes people
    look on as you play, and with good reason:
    you're killing zombies with precise key
    strokes! Who wouldn't be intrigued at the
    prospect.'

      •  

    Tuesday, January 2, 2001

    Capitol Hill Blue: Civil Rights Groups Challenge Ashcroft
    Selection
    , "demanding that Democratic senators abandon the tradition of supporting former colleagues
    and vote against the nomination." Ashcroft (whose recent distinction, you'll recall, was to lose his
    reelection bid for his Missouri Senate seat to an opponent who had been killed in a plane crash before
    the election) "has drawn opposition for his anti-abortion views and for leading a drive to defeat the
    nomination of a black Missouri Supreme Court judge, Ronnie White, to the federal bench."

    In a
    related story, a researcher in Ashcroft's home state finds that he has "...actively cultivated ties to white supremacists and extreme hate groups." John Hickey,
    executive director of the Missouri Citizen Education Fund, singles out Ashcroft's praise of the quarterly
    Southern Partisan, which the New Republic characterizes as the "leading journal of the neo-
    Confederacy movement," for over 20 years serving up "a gumbo of racist apologies."

      •  

    To each their own: Russia looks for funding to build a tunnel link to the U.S., while France seeks financial backing to allow President Jospin to roll the workweek back to 35 hours.

      •  

    Passersby may have ignored dead woman. "Commuters may have stepped over a woman killed by an escalator in Calgary after assuming she was intoxicated.... An anonymous caller had told police a woman had passed out there.

    The paramedics found Ms. Turning Robe's scarf and hair snarled in the escalator. Police believe she died of strangulation
    and head injuries. National Post

      •  

    Researcher Challenges a Host of Psychological Studies. "If scientists do not know whether they are dealing with
    elephants or mice, ...it becomes anyone's
    guess what small and large really mean." New York Times

      •  

    Dysfunction in the brain's 'hub' in the earliest stages of schizophrenia: "A new brain imaging study from the Institute of Psychiatry shows for the first time that the thalamus, the brain's main sensory filter
    or 'hub', is smaller than normal from the earliest stages of schizophrenia. The findings, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry
    in January, may explain why people with schizophrenia experience confusion during their illness.

    The thalamus is the area where information is received and relayed to other areas of the brain. It is of particular interest in
    schizophrenia because of the role it plays in processing information. The thalamus receives information via the senses, which is then
    filtered and passed to the correct regions of the brain for processing. People with schizophrenia often have difficulties in processing
    information properly and as a result may end up with an information overload in some areas of the brain." EurekAlert



    As people who have read some of my earlier comments know, I think some schizophrenia involves a primary information processing deficit...since I think it's really a wastebasket term for a collection of disparate diseases. Because the study populations are, from this point of view, heterogeneous, it's been difficult to find any important defining characteristics in most studies of "schizophrenics." There will be "brain findings" in a subset of any schizophrenic population, I'm fond of saying. And it's a further obfuscating factor that it's difficult to find medication-naive schizophrenics in this day and age, and the medications used to treat psychosis have been such heavy-hitters that the brain may take a hit from them. If this finding about the thalamus is as universal as claimed, it could prove very important. The abstract of the article, from the American Journal of Psychiatry, is here.

      •  

    Obscene Interiors: "Amateur porn photography is one of the rare instances where
    everyday people expose their naked bodies to the public. Seeing your
    neighbors nude my be shocking, I, however, am more frequently disturbed by
    the gross display of amateur interior design found in these photos.

    'Oh my God! How could they do that? Those curtains are so wrong, I
    can't believe this stuff is allowed on the net.' Yes, it can be pretty
    hardcore stuff. I've gathered a random selection of male amateur porn and
    personal ad photographs and asked a professional interior designer to join me
    in a lively critique of these truly obscene Interiors. (No need to shield your
    virginal eyes, the nude figures have been laboriously obscured.)"

      •  

    Monday, January 1, 2001

    New York's Great Outdoors: "Since 1998, billboards covering entire buildings
    have sprung up all over Manhattan, transforming
    the Big Apple into something out of Blade
    Runner
    . So last fall, about 35 volunteers
    scouted out Manhattan's major thru-ways, taking
    notes on the outdoor advertising. Thus was
    born New York's Great Outdoors, our rough guide
    to Manhattan ad creep." For New York culture jammers, and an inspiration to others to organize against ad creep everywhere. Stay Free!

      •  

    New Year's Day History, Traditions, and Customs. Years ago, the Boston Globe ran a January 1st article compiling folkloric beliefs about what to do, what to eat, etc. on New Year's Day to bring good fortune for the year to come. I've regretted since -- I usually think of it around once a year (grin) -- not clipping out and saving the article; especially since we've had children, I'm interested in enduring traditions that go beyond watching the bowl games and making resolutions. A web search brought me this, less elaborate than what I recall from the Globe but to the same point:


    Orobouros

    "Traditionally, it was thought that one
    could affect the luck they would have
    throughout the coming year by what they
    did or ate on the first day of the year. For
    that reason, it has become common for
    folks to celebrate the first few minutes of
    a brand new year in the company of
    family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night
    after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the
    first visitor on New Year's Day would bring either good luck or
    bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor
    happened to be a tall dark-haired man.



    "Traditional New Year foods are also
    thought to bring luck. Many cultures
    believe that anything in the shape of a ring
    is good luck, because it symbolizes
    "coming full circle," completing a year's
    cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe
    that eating donuts on New Year's Day will
    bring good fortune.



    "Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming
    black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by
    either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes
    have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and
    thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes
    prosperity. Cabbage is another 'good luck' vegetable that is
    consumed on New Year's Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also
    considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper
    currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on
    New Year's Day."



    The further north one travels in the British Isles, the more the year-end festivities focus on New Year's. The Scottish observance of Hogmanay has many elements of warming heart and hearth, welcoming strangers and making a good beginning:

    "Three cornered biscuits called
    hogmanays are eaten. Other special foods are: wine, ginger cordial, cheese, bread, shortbread, oatcake, carol or carl cake, currant loaf, and a pastry called scones.
    After sunset people collect juniper and water to purify the home. Divining rituals are done according to the directions of the winds, which are assigned their own colors.
    First Footing:The first person who comes to the door on midnight New Year's Eve should be a dark-haired or dark-complected man with gifts for luck. Seeing a cat,
    dog, woman, red-head or beggar is unlucky. The person brings a gift (handsel) of coal or whiskey to ensure prosperity in the New Year. Mummer's Plays are also
    performed. The actors called the White Boys of Yule are all dressed in white, except for one dressed as the devil in black. It is bad luck to engage in marriage
    proposals, break glass, spin flax, sweep or carry out rubbish on New Year's Eve."

      •  

    Ray Bruman's List of Weird and Disgusting Foods. "I have a theory that many (all?) cultures invent a food that is weird or disgusting to
    non-initiates as a sort of a 'marker. ' The kids start out hating it, but at some point they cross
    over and perpetuate it (perpetrate it) on the next generation. Then they nudge each other when
    foreigners gasp." Listed geographically, with a glossary of explanations attached.

      •  

    NYPD Faces Challenges as Cops Leave. Police are demoralized about the pressure to maintain the crime rates at their low ebb and the blame they will garner as statistics inevitably rise again. Leaving the force in demoralization will hasten the upswing. AP

      •  

    9 Million Gaining Upgraded Benefit for Mental Care. In a significant victory for mental health advocates, President Clinton acted by executive order to give federal employees improved mental health benefits in parity with those for physical ills. Both Bush and Gore endorsed the concept of parity, currently enacted in the laws of 32 of the 50 states. But the laws include so many restrictions and loopholes that equal coverage is illusory. A thorough, long analysis of the issues. New York Times

      •  

    "The statistics are mind-boggling...Don't expect any drastic changes..." Addicted to Guns. New York Times op-ed page commentator Bob Herbert finds the outpouring of outrage and grief over the Wakefield rampage abit incongruous with our societal fascination with and marketing of gun violence. "...a society hopelessly addicted to gun violence, and in deep denial about its hideous consequences."

      •  

    U.S. Signs Treaty for World Court to Try Atrocities. Powerful American endorsement of the treaty establishing a permanent international criminal tribunal by President Clinton, despite its not being legally binding without unlikely Senate ratification, comes in defiance of the Pentagon and Republicans and poses a diplomatic challenge for the incoming administration. The US' signing, as well as a last-minute decision of Israel to add its approval (seen as a testament to Clinton's influence), brings the number of signatories to 139. 27 have already ratified the treaty, of the 60 necessary to bring the tribunal into existence.
    Senior advisers to Mr. Bush, like many Republicans in
    Congress, have strongly opposed the treaty. One of them is
    Mr. Bush's selection for secretary of defense, Donald H.
    Rumsfeld, who joined 11 other prominent retired policy
    makers last month in signing a letter warning that "American
    leadership in the world could be the first casualty" of the
    tribunal.
    New York Times

      •  




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