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Saturday, July 31, 2004
Friday, July 30, 2004
The Democratic National Convention
Friends, foes, and those who just happened to stop by: I'd like to apologize for not blogging as much as usual of late. I've been "on vacation" for the last two weeks or so, thus my Open Source production has declined a bit (though I have enjoyed plenty of R&R, so I should be back to a steadier clip forthwith). In my time off, I had the opportunity to watch television coverage of the Democratic National Convention for the four days it was on, and as watching it was the most exciting thing I did over the break, I thought I'd share its best moments with you.
But I've gotta say... it's really a shame that more time wasn't devoted to the convention by the major media outlets. Those of you who know me can attest to the fact that I often decry this country's two-party system, but like it or not, it's what we've got. So when Americans are shortchanged the chance to hear candidates speak (both Democrats and Republicans), a message is sent to Americans - politics isn't important. Instead of covering Barack Obama's brilliant speech Tuesday night, the networks were too busy airing reality TV shows.
Robert P. Laurence commented on Comedy Central's take on the whole matter:
[Jon Stewart] also tossed a few well-aimed barbs at the networks for ignoring Tuesday's sessions, observing that they'd offered instead visions of "a more humorous America (NBC's 'Last Comic Standing'), a more attractive America (ABC's 'Extreme Makeover'), an America where your wife goes to live with another family for a week and then they tape it. (Fox's 'Trading Spouses')."Never mind the fact that the networks are skirting their responsibility to use the PUBLIC AIRWAVES to inform and educate (remember, the airwaves are not owned by ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox -- they're the property of the American people): what's really shameful about this whole mess is the following comparison I read the other day in the Kansas City Star:
Stewart's jibe was well placed.
The networks have decided that anything, including the sleaziest reality show, is more important to them than making a serious effort to cover the political conventions.
You might think that some sense of duty would prevail. You might think that, for four nights every fourth summer, when ratings are down anyway and there's so little to lose, they could sacrifice a point or two and offer the nation something more substantial and lasting than schlock entertainment.
You might think that, but you'd be wrong.
Here's a revelation that should make U.S. network executives blush: The Arab news network al Jazeera is airing at least 90 minutes of live reports each night from the Democratic convention while the American networks are devoting just three hours of live coverage the entire week.Get it? Those in the Middle East probably have a better idea about what transpired at our country's political conventions than do most Americans. Feeding the public mind-numbing garbage night-after-night is a more effective propaganda technique than anything the Soviets ever invented.
Well, I've ranted about this issue long enough, but good news! Because I love you all, below is my ranking of the top 5 Democratic speeches from the past week with links to their videos on C-SPAN. I really encourage you to watch them, regardless of whether you're a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or a completely apathetic individual. They're the cream of the crop. Best first:
- Obamarific. If you watch one thing, watch this.
- Could not have delivered a better speech - wanna know Kerry? Meet him here.
- Same message as at Harkin's Steakfry. Man, he's good.
- Very impressed with his theme - discusses a "Politics of Hope."
- Al's on the list for three reasons. First, it's a Sharpton speech (lol). Second, he decided to "ad lib" in response to comments made by Bush and ended up giving a speech for 20 minutes (from memory) that was different from what was given to the teleprompter operator; done well, that takes skill. Finally, because TV pundits are retarded (Chris Matthews took him off the air because he was supposedly "off-message"). Decide for yourself.
From News Australia:
An on-air curse broadcast by CNN after US Presidential candidate John Kerry's nomination acceptance speech has left Democrats and network officials with red faces. After Senator Kerry's speech accepting the Democratic Party's nomination, balloons and confetti were released into the crowd. But apparently there weren't enough for DNC convention centre director Don Mischer, who was heard on voiceover urging workers to release more balloons and confetti.Ahh... the grand old tradition of Democratic Party Conventions: the failed balloon drop. I'm out for now. G'nite. :-)
'No confetti. No confetti yet. Go balloons. Go balloons. More balloons. All balloons. All balloons. Come on guys, let's move it," began a relatively calm Mr Mischer.
Soon afterward however the DNC director begam to panic. "Jesus, we need more balloons. I want all balloons to go, goddamn. No confetti. No confetti. No confetti. I want more balloons. What's happening to the balloons? We need more balloons. We need all of them coming down... balloons.
"Go balloons, balloons... what's happening balloons, there's not enough coming down. All balloons - where the hell - there's nothing falling," Mr Mischer said, before finally exploding: "What the f... are you guys doing up there?"
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Curfew Struck Down for Third Time
INDIANAPOLIS STAR - A federal judge ruled today that Indiana's curfew law is unconstitutional because it violates parents' rights to make decisions about their children. The action -- the third time a court has struck down the curfew since 2000 -- means communities must immediately stop enforcing the law that bans most minors from staying out past 11 p.m. on weeknights and 1 a.m. on weekends...
The Indiana Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the Hodgkins family, argued the curfew violated the parents' right to set rules for their children. "It is a fundamental right of a parent to say it's OK to go to the prom or walk the dog," said Ken Falk, ICLU legal director. U.S. District Judge John Tinder agreed, issuing a preliminary injunction to stop the state from enforcing the law...
Indianapolis Police Department statistics show that curfew hours are not a peak time for crime, [the judge] noted. "The hours for which the curfew is in effect are some of the safest hours of the day," the judge wrote. "It is doubtful the lack of a statutory curfew will be disastrous."
A Pro Explains How Sandy Should Have Done It
WASHINGTON POST - Merrell Williams, who made a name for himself a decade ago as a document-grabbing whistle-blower against Big Tobacco, laughs into his cell phone when discussing Sandy Berger's supposed sloppiness in taking secret government files. He has too much to say.
"What I don't understand is why someone who has such a respectable career would choose to demean himself in such a way," says Williams of the former national security adviser, who is being investigated for removing secret documents from the National Archives last year in advance of his Senate testimony on terrorism preparations. "Only people at the bottom, like me at the time, have the instincts to pull off this kind of work. You have to understand: I had nothing to lose, except for my job, my wife, my kids and my own life. And I would have done it all over again."...
"I remember how the papers would stick to my tummy when I sweated," Williams says. At other times, the papers he stuffed around his waist would be so crisp that they would make a crinkling sound as he walked. To hide the sound from the security guards, Williams says he often ate potato chips as he passed. It proved effective, not only because of the crunching sound but because "the guards would always be distracted by the chips," says Williams. "They were really fat and wanted my chips more anyway."
Democratic Socialists Back Kerry
UNDERNEWS - The Democratic Socialists of America Political Action Committee has urged its members to work for the election of John Kerry. "Kerry was hardly the first choice of our members. Most supported Dennis Kucinich or Howard Dean in the Democratic primary elections and would be very critical of Senator Kerry's voting record on trade issues, as well as his support for the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq; but the most important concern of our members now is to defeat Bush," said Frank Llewellyn, the National Director of Democratic Socialists of America.
The DSAPAC statement was very critical of the current direction of the Democratic Party, lamenting the strength of the Democratic Leadership Council as compared to the Congressional Progressive Caucus in Party circles. But the statement condemned the much greater threat to the interests of the average American posed by Republican control of all three branches of government.
Thursday, July 22, 2004
Feel-Good Story of the Day
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - Don has had many roles in life, few of them what most people would call admirable. He's been a burglar, a crack smoker, a state prisoner, an alcoholic and, for the past three years, a panhandler on Mission Street. But now, thanks to riches from out of the blue, he has a new role to add to his name: Art benefactor.
Don's long-estranged mother died recently, leaving him $187,000 -- and the first thing Don did when he got the money was cut a $10,000 check to the art gallery he has sat in front of for two years, panhandling and begging for free food. He got drunk to celebrate, then stumbled into the door of the Blue Room Gallery, walked straight up to owner Paul Mahder and handed him the check.
Mahder said he burst into tears when he saw the amount, and 56-year-old Don soon followed suit.
"We both stood there crying," Mahder said. "Me, because I knew how much this meant to Don. And Don was crying because, I think, he was able to really do something big for something he really cared about."
File Sharing Has No Impact on CD Sales
GUARDIAN – Despite the industry's belief that file sharing is anathema to record sales, a recent study has shown that it may not be so clear cut. "Downloads have an effect on sales that is statistically indistinguishable from zero," the controversial report claims, even going so far as to suggest that for popular albums, "the impact of file sharing on sales is likely to be positive".
The study, by Felix Oberholzer-Gee, Associate Professor in the strategy unit at Harvard Business School, and Koleman Strumpf, Associate Professor in the economics department at the University of North Carolina, analyses sales and download data, and its conclusions contradict the established music industry line. During the last quarter of 2002, the pair gathered data from two peer-to-peer file sharing servers on the Open Nap network and matched individual downloads to the weekly sales figures of 680 chart albums.
"Our hypothesis was that if downloads are killing music, then albums that are downloaded more intensively should sell less," says Strumpf. But, after adjusting for the effects of popularity, they discovered that file sharing has "no statistically significant effect" on sales. . .
So, if downloading hasn't caused the slump in sales, what has? There are several factors that could be involved, but the easiest explanation is the popularity of DVDs. "Over the period 1999 to 2003, DVD prices fell by 25% and the price of players fell in the US from over $1,000 to almost nothing," says Strumpf. "At the same time, CD prices went up by 10%. Combined DVD and VHS tape sales went up by 500m, while CD sales fell by 200m, so a possible explanation is that people were spending on DVDs instead of CDs."
Prior to Oberholzer-Gee and Strumpf's report, there were no empirical studies based on actual file sharing behaviour, and the music industries in the US and the UK have based their policies on, at best, incomplete research. At worst, the surveys and analyses they quote are misleading and inaccurate. Yet still the RIAA has sued its customers - an action Strumpf calls "one of the stupidest things in the world to do". The BPI has stated it is "prepared to go that route if forced".
Some even question whether the fall in sales the RIAA quotes is real, or a product of a creative redefinition of the word "sale". Even if it is real, there is one final fly in the ointment that can't easily be explained away: during the past nine months, CD sales in America have increased by 7%, despite continued growth in file sharing. As Strumpf says: "If file sharing is killing record sales, why are records starting to sell better?"
Tanning 'may be an addiction'
BBC - Sunbathing may be a physical addiction, research in the United States suggests. Scientists believe exposure to ultraviolet rays may stimulate the release of chemicals in the blood which produce a natural high.
The team from Wake Forest University in North Carolina say this may explain why some people are prepared to ignore the fact that too much sun exposure can cause cancer. Their research is published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. The Wake Forest team analysed 14 people, aged between 16 and 34, who typically used tanning beds two times a week.
Each volunteer spent 15 minutes lying on a sunbed which exposed them to UV rays and then on another - again for 15 minutes - which released no rays. The volunteers were not told which beds released UV. The subjects were asked if they would like to return days later and use a sunbed of their own choosing. Twelve returned and 95% opted for the bed which radiated UV light. They said it made them feel good and helped them relax.
The researchers believe that tanning may release endorphins into the bloodstream... Frequent tanners may become addicted to the feelings induced by the chemicals, it is believed.
The British Association of Dermatologists warns that the long-term effects may include premature ageing, skin cancer and an increased risk of cataracts. The British Medical Association has also advised people not to use sunbeds.
Tanners, let it be known: when all is said and done, you're not too different from a crackwhore. ;-)
Saturday, July 17, 2004
BBC - Scientists have observed the biggest raindrops recorded on Earth - which may be a whopping 1cm in size. The monster water droplets were observed from the air, by atmospheric experts studying clouds. They were recorded over Brazil and the Marshall Islands, a group of atolls and reefs in the central Pacific Ocean.
Professor Hobbs and colleague Arthur Rangno, of the University of Washington, US, recorded the droplets as being about 8.8mm and possibly as large as 1cm. He speculated that some of these giant droplets even reach the ground. Average drops of rain are between 1 and 2mm in diameter. The previous largest raindrops recorded - 8mm wide over Hawaii - were reported by researchers in 1986. Images of the raindrops were taken by a laser instrument on a research plane that flew through cumulus congestus clouds spawned by burning forest in Brazil's Amazon and in clean marine air over the Marshall Islands.
Thursday, July 15, 2004
A Solution to Science City's Woes
REUTERS, LONDON - The Science Museum says it is considering a radical way of paying its hefty energy bills -- using visitors' poo. The central London museum said it was considering taking the waste from its 14 toilet blocks and converting it into electricity. "With free admission it would be a great way for visitors to give something back to the museum and help keep the overheads down," said the museum's head Jon Tucker. "We have almost 3 million visitors each year and have huge electricity bills."
The museum said the plan would be to siphon off excrement from the toilets, store it and then either burn it as fuel in a mini-power station or turn it into electricity using a microbial fuel cell. The power produced from the excrement of 100,000 visitors could produce enough to power 500 light bulbs, while also breaking down harmful organic matter, it said.
60% of Mississippi Drivers Flunk Exam
ASSOCIATED PRESS - Nearly 60 percent of people applying for regular Mississippi drivers licenses have failed the general knowledge test since the state switched to a computerized testing system in December. Only 20 percent failed before, said Rene Morris, state administrator of the Automated Drivers License Testing System. The passing rate for commercial license applicants declined slightly, from 60 percent to 54 percent. All commercial license tests are now given through computers...
The touch-screen technology eliminates cheating because the questions on the Mississippi driver-license general knowledge test are randomly chosen from a database of more than 600 questions. This process prevents any two applicants from receiving the same test. "They don't have cheat sheets anymore," Morris said. "Most people had a copy of every test we handed out or had it memorized."
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
This Land is Your Land
UNDERNEWS - "I hate a song that makes you think you're not any good. I hate a song that makes you think you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are either too old or too young or too fat or too slim or too ugly or too this or too that... Songs that run you down or songs that poke fun of you on account of your bad luck or your hard traveling. I am out to fight these kinds of songs to my very last breath of air & my last drop of blood." –-Woody Guthrie, who was born this day in 1912
800,000 New Nigerian Orphans Last Year
ALL AFRICA - An estimated 800,000 Nigerian children became orphans in 2003 as a result of the death of their parents from HIV/AIDS related complications. A release by the Communication Officer of the United Nations Children's Fund stated that 5.2 million children lost one or both parents in Sub-Saharan Africa last year, while by 2010, the region will be home to an estimated 50 million orphaned children.
Obama to Give Keynote Address
WASHINGTON (AP) - Barack Obama, the Democratic Party's candidate for the Senate in Illinois, will deliver the keynote address at the convention, officials announced Wednesday. Obama, a law professor and state senator, will speak on July 27, the second night of the convention, with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. Obama will talk about the future of America that a Democratic administration would provide, along with the need to make jobs, families and communities top priorities in the lives of Americans.
Obama has a compelling story: His father was a member of Kenya's Luo tribe, born on the shores of Lake Victoria. He met Obama's mother, who was white, when both were students at the University of Hawaii. When Obama was 2, his father left the family, returning to Kenya, where he eventually became a senior economist in the Ministry of Finance.
Obama graduated from Columbia University in New York, and received his law degree from Harvard Law School. He became the first black president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. He worked as a community organizer in New York and Chicago on job-training programs and other projects, and as a civil rights lawyer. He is now a senior instructor in constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School.
Barack Obama Slideshow
5-Minute Video Introduction to Barack Obama
Ashcroft Shuts Up a Whistleblower
JAMES RIDGEWAY, VILLAGE VOICE - Attorney General John Ashcroft took yet another step last week to deep-six the Sibel Edmonds case by classifying the report of an investigation into her allegations of FBI wrongdoing so the public will never know what it says. Meanwhile, Justice Department officials met in secret with a federal judge in Washington, following which he dismissed her suit charging the FBI with wrongfully firing her.
Edmonds is the translator hired by the FBI after 9-11 to help its woefully inadequate staff translate documents and wiretaps pertaining to the attacks in languages such as Farsi and Turkish... She soon discovered that there were what she describes as two enemy moles with possible connections to 9-11 working both in the FBI and with the Air Force in weapons procurement for Central Asia, at one point...
When Edmonds tried to tell her FBI superiors what was going on, the bureau seized her home computer, gave her a lie detector test (which she later found she passed), and then fired her, warning her not to talk—backing that up by following her around in an open and intimidating surveillance. That didn't stop her. She went to the Senate Judiciary Committee and told her story. The committee's then chair, Vermont's Patrick Leahy, and ranking minority member Charles Grassley of Iowa wrote a letter to Justice demanding to know what was going on. Subsequently the FBI confirmed some of Edmonds's claims...
To shut her up, Ashcroft invoked the States Secrets Act, classifying everything she had said or was about to say, down to the most absurd detail: "She speaks languages which the FBI says are classified," explained Mark Zaid, her attorney, at a press conference in Washington last week...
Then, on July 6, Reggie Walton, a federal district judge in D.C., dismissed Edmonds's case challenging the FBI for firing her. Around the same time, he ruled in another lawsuit, in which attorneys had wanted to depose Edmonds, by setting forth in detail what Edmonds could and could not say. Judge Walton said it was OK for her to answer when asked, "Please state your name." But she must not answer "When and where were you born?" She could respond to "When did you come to the United States?" as well as "Are you a resident of the United States?" But she was not to answer "Where did you go to school?"
Finally after two years, the Justice Department's Inspector General last week released his report on the Edmonds case—and it was immediately classified.
Chirac Attacks U.S. for AIDS 'Blackmail'
BBC - In a veiled attack on the US, France has criticized bilateral trade deals that force poor nations to give up rights to make cheaper anti-Aids drugs. President Chirac said such deals undermined an international accord that lets poor countries produce such drugs. In a statement to an Aids conference in Bangkok, he said such policy would be tantamount to "blackmail". But US officials dismissed the charge, saying their trade deals were in line with World Trade Organization rules.
Earlier, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan urged Washington to show the same commitment to the fight against HIV/Aids as to the war on terror. Terrorism could kill thousands but "here we have an epidemic that is killing millions", Mr Annan said in an exclusive interview with the BBC...
WTO rules allow poorer countries to ignore foreign patents and produce much cheaper copies of expensive drugs in times of health crises. The agreement was signed by all WTO members, including the US. But analysts say the it does not prevent a nation from imposing patent restrictions in a bilateral trade deal.
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
What is "this guy rocks"?
SEATTLE POST - Ken Jennings could someday become the answer to a trivia question for becoming the person with the longest winning streak on the television game show "Jeopardy!" Making his 30th straight appearance on "Jeopardy!" tonight, he pushed his winnings past the $1 million mark -- $1,004,960 to be precise.
One question must be: How does he do it? A curious mind, good memory and astute buzzer technique, said Jennings.
A Seattle native who grew up in South Korea -- his father works for an international law firm in Seoul -- Jennings watched "Jeopardy!" on the U.S. Armed Forces TV network and thought to himself, "Hey, maybe you could go on 'Jeopardy!' You're not half bad at it." After years of toying with the idea, he finally got "fed up with being wishy-washy," he said, and made a road trip to Los Angeles to audition.
Jennings knows his celebrity status will be short-lived. When it's all over, he said, he probably will cut back on his work hours at the Salt Lake City company where he works as a software engineer so that he and his wife, Mindy, can travel, probably to Europe. He plans to invest what he's won and put money aside for his 19-month-old son, Dylan, for college.
The movie buff managed to come up with the wrong answer to the question of what he'd do with his winnings the first time his wife raised it.
"She asked me what we're going to do with all the money and I told her it's all going to DVDs. I don't think she thought that was too funny," Jennings said.
A member of Brigham Young University's College Bowl team in the 1990s, Jennings writes and edits literature questions for the National Academic Quiz Tournament. "A lot of it is just God-given memory that I can't take any credit for," he said. "I've always been interested in a lot of different fields."
His love of novels -- he was an English literature major in college -- and general fascination with the world have served him well on "Jeopardy!" He also has a willingness to study. A teetotaler, Jennings read up on alcoholic drinks in anticipation of the "Potent Potables" category that can, and did, come up. He handled it easily.
"My expectations were maybe to get a few answers to show I wasn't a total dummy, so even if I was getting shut out on the buzzer I still looked like I knew a thing or two," he said. "And I would have been happy with that."
Anyone Who Is For Amendment 2 Should Read This
Idealism, Not Fear, Should Be Inspiration for Changes in Missouri's Constitution
The Kansas City Star
Missourians will vote in August on whether to amend the state's constitution to forever deny gay and lesbian couples the fundamental right and legal benefits of marriage. I am asking each of you who lives in Missouri to vote against this measure.
Much of the pro-amendment talk revolves around the necessity of marriage as an institution to promote stability within society. If marriage stabilizes society, as it no doubt does, then why deny that stability to thousands of same-sex couples? Obviously, society would be even more stable if all people were allowed to benefit from the marriage contract.
After all, marriage is a contract, a social institution, first and foremost. Supporters argue that without the amendment, churches will be forced to marry same-sex couples. This is nonsense.
Thanks to the First Amendment, churches and pastors are free to set any rules they like on those they will marry. Some pastors require that prospective spouses undergo a specified number of premarital counseling sessions before they are wed. Some churches share their buildings only for weddings involving members of their congregations. Some churches recognize marriages only between two members of the same faith.
Although many wedding ceremonies are performed in church buildings, the marriage itself is a social contract, licensed by the state. For this reason, the officiant often declares, “By the power vested in me …” Who does this vesting? It's not God, Allah, Yahweh or Buddha. The power is bestowed by the state. That's why religious and civil ceremonies are both considered valid, because the state grants its recognition.
Other arguments put forth by supporters of an amendment also fail to hold water.
They contend that the primary benefit/goal/purpose of marriage is procreation. So what? Just because a relationship does not involve child-bearing, those involved still are receiving other benefits, including companionship, mutual support, financial stability, friendship and, most especially, love.
If procreating couples have the only valid marriages, let's eliminate marriage for those who can't have children for health reasons. For those who decide not to have children. For widows and widowers who are well past their time for procreating.
Certainly, not all marriages or families today look like the traditional “Father Knows Best”/“Leave It to Beaver” model of yesteryear, nor did they then, even in the halcyon days they portrayed. But our families are no less valid. Building a marriage, a family, is accomplished by sharing of lives — the meals, the trips, the illnesses, the triumphs, the tragedies, the laundry, the good times and bad, the love.
Amendment proponents say marriage needs protecting. Yes, it does. It needs protection from those who don't take it seriously. From a 50 percent failure rate. From “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” From much-publicized marriages and divorces of celebrities (from the serial monogamy of Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney to the 55-hour “marriage” of Britney Spears). Yes, marriage needs protection, but not from me and my partner of more than 18 years.
Amendment proponents say that judicial fiat has brought the issue of same-sex marriage to the fore, and that such matters should be left to the state legislatures. Surely no one needs to be reminded that it was the judiciary, not the states, that paved the way for progress on civil rights matters such as dismantling the doctrine of “separate but equal.”
Amendment supporters contend that allowing same-sex marriages is the first step down a slippery slope. They say that incest, bigamy, bestiality and other horrors lie just down the slope. This argument needs no reply, for it is simply a smokescreen for their real fear, that granting recognition to same-sex marriages is a step down the slippery slope toward social legitimacy for homosexuals. That frightens them, for whatever reason.
Constitutions of states and nations should have the loftiest of ideals. From the beginning, amendments to the U.S. Constitution have been toward the expansion of individual rights, not their restriction. Think about the abolition of slavery and the poll tax, granting nationwide suffrage to women, lowering the voting age to 18.
And this is how it should be. Constitutions should support the people's highest aspirations, not pander to their lowest fears.
Paul Backer is a copy editor on The Star's Universal Desk. He lives in Kansas City.
Obama vs. Da Bears
It looks like Illinois' Senate race is shaping up between Barack Obama and Mike Ditka (now that Jack Ryan had to resign).
I honestly think Obama will win (which is good, because I like the guy). But after voters picked movie actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in California and wrestler Jesse Ventura in Minnesota, I'm left thinking:
A Tribune sports columnist wonders what a Ditka/Obama debate would look like.
This theoretical debate performance notwithstanding, I'm still for Barack...
Zimbabwe 'Returning to Stone Age'
BBC - The introduction of ox-drawn ambulances is a sign that President Robert Mugabe is taking Zimbabwe back to the stone ages, the opposition says. The nine ambulances are destined for rural areas around the capital, Harare, as well as more remote regions, where there is a lack of motorized transport. "Our neighbours are getting state-of-the-art services, while we are going backwards," an opposition official said. Zimbabwe's health minister said the new ambulances would save many lives. Zimbabwe is in the midst of an economic crisis, with annual inflation running at more than 400%, unemployment of some 70% and shortages of foreign currency. One health official told a South African newspaper that in many state-run hospitals, Panadol is the only available drug. "An ambulance will thus be a big luxury," he told the Johannesburg Star. . . "We are going back to the stone ages," Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi told BBC News Online.
Bush Regime Moves to Open Roadless Forests to Logging
JULIET EILPERIN WASHINGTON POST - The Bush administration said yesterday it plans to overturn a Clinton-era rule that made nearly 60 million acres of national forest off-limits to road-building and logging, setting aside one of the most sweeping land preservation measures in decades. Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman proposed replacing the Clinton rule with a policy that would allow governors to petition the federal government if they wished to keep certain areas roadless. She said this approach would encourage cooperation between state and federal officials and end the litigation that has dogged Clinton's "roadless" rule since its inception...
Environmentalists were quick to decry the proposal, which will be subject to public comment for the next 60 days. They noted that nearly 2.5 million Americans submitted comments when Clinton considered the issue, with the vast majority favoring the roadless policy. "It's another case of the Bush administration having happy talk on the environment, but it's basically rape and pillage," said Earthjustice attorney Doug Honnold, who has defended the rule in Idaho, Wyoming and D.C. courts. "The broader debate is: Should [national forests] be devoted to development and corporate subsidies, or should they be set aside for amenity uses like wildlife protection and places where people can go to avoid the crush of civilization?"
Clear Channel Bans Peace Billboard
CNN - Anti-war group Project Billboard has threatened to file a lawsuit against Clear Channel Communications, alleging that the media company has blocked a billboard opposing the Iraq war from being mounted in Times Square, according to the New York Times. The billboard -- an image of a red, white and blue bomb with the words "Democracy is Best Taught by Example, Not by War" -- was supposed to go up next month to coincide with the G.O.P convention in New York City, the report said. The group is accusing Clear Channel with breach of contract after it said a leasing agreement was reached last December to erect the sign next month on space the company owns on the Marriott Marquis hotel at Broadway and 45th Street, the Times reported. Project Billboard spokesman Howard Wolfson was quoted as saying that Clear Channel rejected the design that was submitted earlier this month. "I guess we can have a war, but we can't talk about it," Wolfson told the Times. The group said its lawsuit is expected to be filed in Manhattan federal court. The Times noted that this is not the first time that Clear Channel, one of the nation's largest owners of radio stations, has found itself in the middle of a free speech and censorship debate. The company's critics point out that Clear Channel country music stations boycotted songs of the Dixie Chicks last year after the group's lead singer told fans she was "ashamed" that President Bush is from Texas.
TO: Technical Support
SUBJECT: GirlFriend 1.0
I'm currently running the latest version of GirlFriend and I've been having some problems lately. I've been running the same version of DrinkingBuddies 1.0 forever as my primary application, and all the GirlFriend releases I've tried have always conflicted with it.
I hear that DrinkingBuddies won't crash if GirlFriend is run in background mode and the sound is turned off. But I'm embarrassed to say I can't find the switch to turn the sound off. I just run them separately, and it works okay.
Girlfriend also seems to have a problem co-existing with my Golf program, often trying to abort Golf with some sort of timing incompatibility.
I probably should have stayed with GirlFriend 1.0, but I thought I might see better performance from GirlFriend 2.0. After months of conflicts and other problems, I consulted a friend who has had experience with GirlFriend 2.0. He said I probably didn't have enough cache to run GirlFriend 2.0, and eventually it would require a Token Ring to run properly. He was right - as soon as I purged my cache, it uninstalled itself.
Shortly after that, I installed GirlFriend 3.0 beta. All the bugs were supposed to be gone, but the first time I used it, it gave me a virus anyway. I had to clean out my whole system and shut down for a while.
I very cautiously upgraded to GirlFriend 4.0. This time I used a SCSI probe first and also installed a virus protection program. It worked okay for a while until I discovered that GirlFriend 1.0 was still in my system.
I tried running GirlFriend 1.0 again with GirlFriend 4.0 still installed, but GirlFriend 4.0 has a feature I didn't know about that automatically senses the presence of any other version of GirlFriend and communicates with it in some way, which results in the immediate removal of both versions. Apparently the versions of GirlFriend have conflicts over shared use of the I/O port. You think they would have fixed such a stupid bug by now.
The version I have now works pretty well, but there are still some problems. Like all versions of GirlFriend, it is written in some obscure language I can't understand, much less reprogram. Frankly I think there is too much attention paid to the look and feel rather than the desired functionality. Also, to get the best connections with your hardware, you usually have to use gold-plated contacts. And I've never liked how GirlFriend is totally "object-oriented."
A year ago, a friend of mine upgraded his version of GirlFriend to GirlFriendPlus 1.0, which is a Terminate and Stay Resident version of GirlFriend. He discovered that GirlFriendPlus 1.0 expires within a year if you don't upgrade to Fiancee 1.0. So he did, but soon after that, he had to upgrade to Wife 1.0, which he describes as a huge resource hog. It has taken up all his space, so he can't load anything else.
One of the primary reasons he decided to go with Wife 1.0 was because it came bundled with FreeSexPlus.
Well, it turns out the resource allocation module of Wife 1.0 sometimes prohibits access to FreeSexPlus, particularly the new Plug-Ins he wanted to try. On top of that, Wife 1.0 must be running on a well warmed-up system before he can do anything. Although he did not ask for it, Wife 1.0 came with MotherInLaw which has an automatic pop-up feature he can't turn off.
I told him to try installing Mistress 1.0, but he said he heard if you try to run it without first uninstalling Wife 1.0, Wife 1.0 will delete MSMoney files before doing the uninstall itself. Then Mistress 1.0 won't install anyway because of insufficient resources.
Last year a friend of mine upgraded GirlFriend 1.0 to Wife 1.0 and found that it's a memory hog leaving very little system resources for other applications.
He is only now noticing that Wife 1.0 also is spawning Child-Processes, which are further consuming valuable resources. No mention of this particular phenomenon was included in the product brochure or the documentation, though other users have informed him that this is to be expected due to the nature of the application.
Not only that, Wife 1.0 is always launched at system initialization, in order to monitor all other system activity. He's finding that some applications such as PokerNight 10.3, Football 2.5, and PubNight 7.0 are no longer able to run at all, crashing the system when selected (even though they always worked fine before).
At installation, Wife 1.0 provides no option as to the installation of undesired Plug-ins such as MotherlnLaw 55.8 and Brother-in-Law 0.5 (Beta). Also, system performance seems to diminish with each passing day.
Some features he'd like to see in the upcoming Wife 2.0.
1. A "Don't remind me again" button.
2. A Minimize button.
3. An InstallShield Wizard feature that allows Wife 2.0 be installed with the option to uninstall at anytime without the loss of cache and other system resources.
4. An option to run the network driver in promiscuous mode, which would allow the system's hardware probe feature to be much more useful.
For some reason, I can't seem to get my version of GirlFriend to install on my system. Any help would be much appreciated. :-)
Monday, July 12, 2004
The Infinite Cat Project
Cats Watching Cats
"It all began innocently enough when a user on an Apple help forum posted a picture of his cat, Frankie, contemplating the beauty of a flower. Shortly afterwards another user posted a picture of his cat, Sammy, bristling at the image of Frankie on the monitor. I decided this was too much fun and advanced the concept as The Infinite Cat Project, which is, simply, cats regarding cats regarding cats."
Ahhhh, the internet.... I enjoyed this way too much for my own good.
Spot the Fake Smile!
Spot the Fake Smile!
I was surprisingly bad (9/20). You should have no trouble beating that score. :-} (fake)
Sunday, July 11, 2004
ORLANDO SENTINEL - Florida elections officials decided Saturday to scrap a list of "potential felons" after discovering another flaw that could have proved politically explosive for a state trying to run an undisputed election. The database, maligned for weeks by civil-rights advocates, was dumped because it shielded virtually all Hispanic felons from being purged from the voter rolls. The admission came on top of earlier errors, such as including thousands of people on the list who already had their rights restored.
Florida's Hispanic population includes a large number of Cuban-Americans, who vote overwhelmingly Republican. Black Floridians overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.
Because the list included only 61 Hispanic names and more than 22,000 blacks, it was clear that black Floridians had a much greater chance of being dropped from voter rolls.
Such action would have proved a haunting echo of the 2000 presidential election, when thousands of voters, many of them black, were turned away from polling places because of errors involving a similar felon list, or had their ballots disqualified because of other irregularities.
"This smells to high heaven," said Ralph Neas, president of the People For the American Way Foundation, another group battling the state over the felons list. "It strains credulity to think that Hispanics were somehow left off the list, while African-Americans remained on the list."
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported Wednesday that although Hispanics make up 17 percent of Florida's population, only 61 voters were identified as "Hispanic" on the statewide purge list of nearly 48,000 potential felons.
After a Leon County judge ordered the list released to media groups after a lawsuit led by cable giant CNN, a computer analysis by the Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun-Sentinel showed more than 2,000 names of felons were listed whose voting rights had been restored.
Sancho said the latest disparity involving Hispanic names would never have been revealed if the list had not been made public.
"None of these records would've come to light if the secretary's office was successful in keeping the list secret," he said. "I think there should be an investigation into how this list was put together by the department."
Sec. of State Hood has said little about how the list was developed by her office, in cooperation with Accenture, a technology firm whose lobbyists include Van Poole, a former state Republican Party chairman, as well as two former party staffers and a former top aide to Bush.
County officials will now go back to their conventional approach of verifying voter names based on lists of felons provided by local court clerks, Cowles said.
The change effectively returns Florida to the system used before Bush took office, said Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida executive director. (Jeb Bush was elected in 1998)
"Purging was based on the good judgment of county supervisors," he said. "There's still going to be purging. It's just not going to be polluted by the list developed by state officials."
Ghee's War on Stucture Function Timeline
Monday, January 5th: Troops deployed to Theatre A of School of Medicine
Tuesday, January 20th: 1st Alliance Victory
Monday, March 15th: Cardiovascular Battle--Major Alliance Loss--Dozens Wounded
Monday, March 29th: Respiratory System Rampage. Many terminally wounded. Fibutch added to Axis of Evil.
Mid April 2004: Judgment Day--Most Devestating loss of Troops since Mid February.
Monday, May 24th: HSF III, Battle II... Begin 2 week Recess for Troops while Axis Powers form plan for "Operation Screw Over" (aka. Final)
Wednesday, July 7th: Declaration to an end to Major Enemy Combat (i.e. Lectures)
Friday, July 9th: Closed in on HSF IV Battle #2 (Major Alliance Victory)
Friday, July 16th is D-Day (Habib's Jihad*)
*Habib has offered himself up as a martyr in the coming battle.
An Umpire Taking Sides
NY TIMES - Elections should not be managed by partisan politicians. Right now, a major flaw in the American electoral system is that the top election officers in most states are men and women who are publicly rooting for the Democratic or Republican side. This year in Missouri, it's hard to imagine that voters can have great confidence in the objectivity of the secretary of state, Matt Blunt, who is active in the Bush-Cheney campaign and is himself a candidate for governor. He has insisted on staying on the job, and he has ruled on important election matters in ways that help his own campaign.
Missouri is one of the most politically divided states. Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat, was elected in 2000 by roughly 21,000 votes out of nearly 2.3 million cast. Jim Talent, who is Missouri's junior senator, and a Republican, was elected in 2002 by about 22,000 votes. In this year's presidential race, a few thousand votes could determine whether Mr. Blunt becomes Missouri's next governor. And they could determine who wins Missouri's 11 electoral votes and, perhaps, the White House.
One of Missouri's biggest political battles this year has been over scheduling a referendum to ban gay marriage. Republicans wanted it on the ballot in November so it would draw conservatives to the presidential and gubernatorial elections. But Governor Holden, who is responsible for setting the date, scheduled it for August, the next time state voters would go to the polls. In a letter to the governor, Mr. Blunt challenged the decision and implied that he would insist on pushing the vote to November.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled, 6 to 1, against Mr. Blunt. The majority opinion, which was joined by two justices appointed by John Ashcroft when he was governor, held that Mr. Blunt had no right to "frustrate the governor's constitutional authority" to choose the date of the election.
Right now, Mr. Blunt is trying to stop St. Louis from holding early voting this fall. The Missouri legislature voted to join the majority of states that allow voters to cast ballots in advance of Election Day. St. Louis — where many voters were wrongly prevented from voting in 2000 because of the incompetence of election officials — announced plans for early voting, a move that would give eligible voters a better chance of making sure that their ballots were properly cast. Republicans have opposed early voting in the city, which has a large black population and votes overwhelmingly Democratic.
Mr. Blunt is trying to stop the St. Louis plan, decreeing that although the new law generally calls for early voting, it does not authorize it to occur this year. That conflicts with the interpretation of the law's bipartisan sponsors, who told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the law allows St. Louis to vote early if the city picks up the extra cost, which it has agreed to do. The state attorney general, who is likely to be asked for his views, should support St. Louis's effort to allow early voting.
There is one group, however, that Mr. Blunt is going to extraordinary lengths to help vote — and it is one that usually votes Republican. He is allowing soldiers in combat zones to vote by fax, even though election officials will be able to read the ballots as they come in. Mr. Blunt's willingness to abandon the secret ballot, one of the most important safeguards of American democracy, is troubling. It is all the more so when the voters are members of the military who are being asked to vote for or against their commander in chief.
These decisions may reflect Mr. Blunt's honest beliefs. But by ruling consistently in his own party's favor, he invites cynicism about the electoral process. Secretaries of state should recuse themselves from making decisions about elections when they are running for office, or have endorsed candidates who are. And states should overhaul their election systems to put such decisions in the hands of people who are not immersed in the political fray.
6-Year-Old Cries When Told MTM Productions Kitten Dead By Now
RYE, NY - Following a WKRP In Cincinnati rerun Monday, 6-year-old Megan Connor was devastated to learn that the mewling orange kitten in the MTM Productions logo has almost certainly been dead for years. "All I said was that that kitten was around back when I was a kid, so it probably died 15 or 20 years ago," said father Bruce Connor, 39. "Now she won't come out of her room." Megan's parents plan to forbid Megan from watching Family Ties reruns for fear of having to explain the whereabouts of Ubu.
Saturday, July 10, 2004
“In my view, constitutional amendments should not to be used to restrict or deny freedoms, but to protect and expand freedom. Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civic unions. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay-bashing, and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages. Instead of trivializing the constitution, we need some laws that give families the kind of help they really need, like job-training and child care assistance, stronger schools and health insurance coverage for every family.”
--Coretta Scott King, March 23, 2004
The Attempt to Alter Missouri's Constitution
The Missouri General Assembly gave final approval to Senate Joint Resolution 29 on May 14th in the closing minutes of the 2004 legislative session.
The Text of Senate Joint Resolution 29
Section A. Article 1, Constitution of Missouri, is amended by adding thereto one new section, to be known as section 33, to read as follows: Section 33. That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.
The ammendment will be before voters on August 3rd.
How the Amendment Will Affect the Lives of MissouriansSame-sex couples are already prohibited from marrying in Missouri under legislation passed in 2001. A similar, federal law passed in 1996 prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages by the federal government.
It’s thought that these laws are likely to be overturned in some states, but not in Missouri, given the make-up of our state’s judicial branch.
However, same-sex couples in other parts of the country have successfully petitioned for partnership benefits such as hospital visitation and inheritance rights by appealing to their states’ constitutions. When state constitutions are amended to prohibit recognition of same-sex couples, the legal strategy behind such moves becomes much less effective.
More importantly, the amendment will provide legal precedent and justification for further discriminatory policies and laws at state and local levels, especially if the final version of the amendment is closer to that passed by the House. This version could be interpreted as prohibiting civil unions or domestic partnerships currently recognized by the governments of Kansas City, University City, and the City of St. Louis.
The Anti-Marriage Amendment Is Just the Latest Step in a Radical Legislative AgendaNext on the chopping block:
State money for any institution or company in Missouri, public or private, that includes sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policies. (House Bill 885)
Prohibiting adoption by any Missourian in a relationship with someone to whom they are not legally married. (House Bill 1677)
Amendment 2 Tampers With Our Bedrock Values
The Missouri state legislature has foisted a contemptuous constitutional amendment upon us that is a slap in the face to the people of this state.
Constitutional Amendment 2 states that marriage can only be between a man and woman, despite Missouri's existing law banning gay marriage. Amendment 2 is not only redundant and irrelevant, it is a cynical political ploy.
As I watched the news conference given by the National Avenue Christian Church decrying the damaging effects of Amendment 2, I heard a number of gay Springfieldians speak of truly disturbing experiences. The story of a local woman who could lose her children if her partner's parents decide to take custody. The lifetime partner refused intensive care visitation rights because she was not legally "family." The horrific case of a man who buried his partner according to his partner's wishes, only to have the body exhumed by his family and removed to another site. This man was legally refused information on where his partner of over a decade was reburied.
This is not to mention tax exemptions, health insurance, pension and death benefits that longtime committed life partners are denied.
If you have religious objections about who some people love, you have the right to scream it from your church's rooftop. But tamper with the state constitution to deny fellow Missourians the legal right to make decisions concerning health, property and even burial arrangements for their loved ones?
I have personally knocked on doors canvassing Springfieldians on this issue and found that many who oppose gay marriage on biblical grounds are equally opposed to adding a constitutional amendment for something that is already illegal. They show a lot of common sense.
Our constitutions, both state and federal, are our most important bedrocks of rights.
They are not to be amended lightly. What is astonishing is that both Amendment 2 and the proposed federal amendment banning gay marriage would be the first time in our nation's and state's history where an amendment is proposed to deny, rather than provide rights.
This is a dangerous road we are going down.
Holly Baggett teaches American History at SMS. She is a member of the Constitutional Defense League.
Pentagon Say Bush Records of Service Were Destroyed
NY TIMES - Military records that could help establish President Bush's whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon.
It said the payroll records of "numerous service members," including former First Lt. Bush, had been ruined in 1996 and 1997 by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service during a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm. No back-up paper copies could be found, it added in notices dated June 25.
The destroyed records cover three months of a period in 1972 and 1973 when Mr. Bush's claims of service in Alabama are in question.
The disclosure appeared to catch some experts, both pro-Bush and con, by surprise. Even the retired lieutenant colonel who studied Mr. Bush's records for the White House, Albert C. Lloyd of Austin, said it came as news to him.
The Eight Beatitudes of Jesus
DAILY KOS - I continue to be troubled by a particular scene in Fahrenheit 9/11 - one that is part of the full trailer but, as fortune would have it, can be viewed solo as well. (Either way, go here for links.)
In the clip, President Bush jokes that his base consists of the "haves and the have mores." This from the man who not only identifies Christ as his personal savior and favorite philosopher, but implicitly alluded to Christ (or god generally) as a more important authority than his own biological father for guidance on what he should do about Iraq.
Self-deprecating humor is one thing. But a president joking to his "have mores" while he perpetuates the expansion of the gap between the most and least fortunate Americans is, to put it mildly, heretical to almost every Christian value. By contrast, this pro-Christian site provides a list and interpretation of the "Beatitudes" that Christ delivered during his Sermon on the Mount, as recounted in the Gospel of Matthew. (Interpretation is often important; for example, the first Beatitude says the "poor of spirit" will own the kingdom of heaven, but "poor of spirit" is generally interpreted to mean humble and modest, not depressed or disconsolate.)....
Question: have the president's behaviors in office (not personally, but in office) contradicted any of the principles espoused by the man he cites as his philosopher-savior-policy adviser?
THE EIGHT BEATITUDES OF JESUS
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
- Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
- Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
- Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
- Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
- Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Gospel of Matthew 5:3-10)
Thursday, July 08, 2004
Big Brother's Watching
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Republican-led House bowed to a White House veto threat Thursday and stood by the USA Patriot Act, defeating an effort to block the part of the anti-terrorism law that helps the government investigate people's reading habits.
The effort to defy Bush and bridle the law's powers lost by 210-210, with a majority needed to prevail. The amendment appeared on its way to victory as the roll call's normal 15-minute time limit expired, but GOP leaders kept the vote open for 23 more minutes as they persuaded about 10 Republicans who initially supported the provision to change their votes.
"Shame, shame, shame,'' Democrats chanted as the minutes passed and votes were switched. The tactic was reminiscent of last year's House passage of the Medicare overhaul measure, when GOP leaders held the vote open for an extra three hours until they got the votes they needed.
"You win some, and some get stolen,'' Rep. C.L. Butch Otter, R-Idaho, a sponsor of the defeated provision and one of Congress' more conservative members, told a reporter.
"I told you I was sick!"
Remember those secrets that I said I would take to my grave? Well, you might want to make a new deal.
BBC - A US inventor has come up with a hi-tech way of allowing the deceased to talk from beyond the grave - by fixing video screens to their tombstones. Robert Barrows says people could leave video messages before they died, to be played to friends, loved ones or the just plain curious from the grave side. He told the BBC that messages could include telling life stories or having the final say on a disagreement.
Mr Barrows, of Burlingame, California, has filed a patent application for his design of a tombstone that can accommodate video equipment operated by a remote control.
"You can go from grave to grave and click on anything that person wanted to say before they died," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
Messages could include telling your side of the story, making amends or saying "sweet things to loved ones", he added.
"There's no business like showbusiness," he told Today. "Imagine how interesting it would to go to tombstones where you didn't know the person, or historical tombstones to find out what someone had to say..."
He said computer equipment could also be installed in the tombstone that connected up to the internet, enabling people to programme their messages to be delivered long after they have died.
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
Portland Oregon Among Best Places to Use the Bathroom
KOIN TV - Two of the city's sewer treatment plants are among the best in the nation. The Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Tryon Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant have won the top award in the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies Peak Performance Award Program. The two plants won the AMSA Platinum award, reserved for wastewater treatment facilities with 100 percent compliance with their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination permits for five consecutive years. The plants serve a population of over 614,000 and have a combined sewage treatment capacity of nearly 109 million gallons per day.
William Buckley Joins Pot Reform Movement
WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, NATIONAL REVIEW - Today we have illegal marijuana for whoever wants it. An estimated 100 million Americans have smoked marijuana at least once, the great majority, abandoning its use after a few highs. But to stop using it does not close off its availability. A Boston commentator observed years ago that it is easier for an 18-year old to get marijuana in Cambridge than to get beer. Vendors who sell beer to minors can forfeit their valuable licenses. It requires less effort for the college student to find marijuana than for a sailor to find a brothel. Still, there is the danger of arrest (as 700,000 people a year will tell you), of possible imprisonment, of blemish on one's record. The obverse of this is increased cynicism about the law.
We're not going to find someone running for president who advocates reform of those laws. What is required is a genuine republican groundswell. It is happening, but ever so gradually. Two of every five Americans, according to a 2003 Zogby poll cited by Dr. Nadelmann, believe "the government should treat marijuana more or less the same way it treats alcohol: It should regulate it, control it, tax it, and make it illegal only for children."
Such reforms would hugely increase the use of the drug? Why? It is de facto legal in the Netherlands, and the percentage of users there is the same as here. The Dutch do odd things, but here they teach us a lesson.
Thanks, Mom... water would have worked just as well. ;-)
"Time and proper hydration are the best treatment for most respiratory infections and the benefit that comes from cough syrups is likely psychological.
The study confirms what many physicians already know. In fact, the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, a reference book used by physicians and written by an editorial board of medical experts, says there is little evidence that cough syrups provide any benefit."
Television Watching May Hasten Puberty
NEW SCIENTIST - Children who watch a lot of television produce less melatonin, new research suggests - the "sleep hormone" has been linked to timing of puberty. Scientists at the University of Florence in Italy found that when youngsters were deprived of their TV sets, computers and video games, their melatonin production increased by an average 30 per cent. Girls are reaching puberty much earlier than in the 1950s. One reason is due to their average increase in weight; but another may be due to reduced levels of melatonin, suggests Roberto Salti, who led the study. Animal studies have shown that low melatonin levels have an important role in promoting an early onset of puberty.
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
"Back in 2000 a Republican friend warned me that if I voted for Al Gore and he won, the stock market would tank, we'd lose millions of jobs, and our military would be totally overstretched. You know what? I did vote for Gore, he did win, and I'll be damned if all those things didn't come true!" --James Carville
Monday, July 05, 2004
NY TIMES - John Kerry's advisers said Monday that he was planning to announce his running mate on Tuesday morning and that he was orchestrating an elaborate rollout of the Democratic ticket first on the Internet, then at a rally here and finally in a multistate tour beginning in Ohio and ending later this week in the vice-presidential candidate's hometown...
Senior Democrats identified the top three contenders for the position as Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa. Mr. Kerry's aides reported that placards had been printed with at least three versions of the Democratic ticket: Kerry-Edwards, Kerry-Gephardt and Kerry-Vilsack, though they acknowledged that Mr. Kerry could still surprise even them with a different selection...
Speculation increasingly centered on Mr. Edwards, Mr. Kerry's longest lasting serious rival in the Democratic primaries, because of a meeting held Thursday night between him and Mr. Kerry at the Georgetown home of Madeleine K. Albright, the former secretary of state, Democratic officials said. Mr. Edwards interrupted a family vacation in Florida for the session. Mr. Edwards's advocates said they were increasingly hopeful on Monday. But aides to Mr. Kerry cautioned that too much should not be read into the late-night meeting, noting that the Democratic presidential contender had held similar unannounced sessions with Mr. Vilsack, Mr. Gephardt and other Democrats he has been considering over the last three months...
Mr. Kerry, said one associate familiar with the plan, intended to begin calling the major candidates in contention around 7 a.m. Tuesday to give them the news of his choice.
The first public word of Mr. Kerry's selection is to be conveyed after the phone calls in an e-mail message to supporters who signed up on the campaign's Web site, johnkerry.com, aides said. More than 150,000 people have enrolled on the site since Friday, when Mr. Kerry first promised to release his decision this way, his spokesman, David Wade, said.
If all goes according to plan, Mr. Kerry will appear at a big morning rally in Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh and announce his choice at about 9 a.m. Tuesday, aides said, before flying to Indianapolis to address a convention of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He will then return to his wife's farmhouse in Fox Chapel, Pa., in the critical electoral turf of Allegheny County, to await the arrival of his new No. 2 for an overnight visit.
At some point Tuesday afternoon Mr. Kerry and his running mate are to appear for a wave to the cameras, which would provide, in time for the evening news, the first post-selection images of the two men together...
Although Mr. Edwards, Mr. Gephardt and Mr. Vilsack continue to be listed as the top contenders for the job, Democrats near Mr. Kerry held out the possibility that he would spring a surprise, in keeping with the history of vice presidential picks.
Among the most-mentioned other candidates are Senators Evan Bayh of Indiana, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Bob Graham of Florida; Gen. Wesley K. Clark; and former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen...
[A]ides have contacted television networks, meanwhile, inquiring about the possibility of getting large blocks of prime-time coverage for interviews with the presumptive nominee and his running mate in the coming days.
A running mate's staff was largely in place, with no clue as to its boss but with a jet ready to pick up the new candidate and family members, brief them on the many ways in which their lives have instantly changed.
The vice presidential candidate's chief of staff is to be Peter L. Scher, who was chief of staff to Mickey Kantor when Mr. Kantor was the United States trade representative and then commerce secretary.
Aides confirmed that the running mate's political director would be Linda L. Moore, who was President Bill Clinton's deputy political director and then Senator Bayh's deputy chief of staff. She was a field director at the Democratic Leadership Council in the early 1990's.
The running mate will also inherit a press team that includes Mark Kornblau, who was Mr. Kerry's New Hampshire press secretary in the primaries and has since handled press in the battleground states of Florida, Ohio and West Virginia. He was previously press secretary to Mr. Bayh and for Debbie Stabenow's successful Senate campaign in Michigan in 2000...
Please don't pick Bayh....
Eligible Voters Removed From Fla. Rolls
MIAMI HERALD - More than 2,100 Florida voters - many of them black Democrats - could be wrongly barred from voting in November because Tallahassee elections officials included them on a list of felons potentially ineligible to vote, a Herald investigation has found. A Florida Division of Elections database lists more than 47,000 people the department said may be ineligible to vote because of felony records. The state is directing local elections offices to check the list and scrub felons from voter rolls. But a Herald review shows that at least 2,119 of those names - including 547 in South Florida - shouldn't be on the list because their rights to vote were formally restored through the state's clemency process. That's a potentially jarring flaw, critics say, in a state that turned the 2000 presidential election to Gov. Jeb Bush's brother George on the narrowest of margins - 537 votes.
Florida - one of just six states that don't allow felons to vote - has come under intense criticism over its botched attempts to purge felons since the bitterly contested 2000 presidential election, when myriad problems prompted many elections officials to ignore the purge altogether. The new list is causing its own problems, raising more questions about the fairness and accuracy of the state's efforts to purge the voter rolls of ineligible voters.
The Amazon Contrarian Game
REKLAW, METAFILTER - First, look up the most popular and critically-acclaimed books, movies, and music on Amazon. Click on 'Customer Reviews,' and sort them by 'Lowest Rating First'..."
Please stop the hype on Citizen Kane. It doesn't work. It's like you are trying to convince people that poop smells good.
Catcher in the Rye: This book was linked with the murders of John Lennon, and actress Rebecca Schaeffer. How could this book be around, when so many nutcases use it for such things?
"The Godfather" has an ugly consciousness and a mean spirit. I see no justification for it, thoroughly disliked it, and have tried to forget it.
Lawrence of Arabia: To my horror, I saw that Columbia had seen fit to alter a masterpiece. Yes, the film came complete with those horrific black bars at the top and bottom of my screen, which obscured about half of the picture. I've seen those bars on the "artsy" videos on TV, and I sometimes enjoy them. But this is a classic work of art! You don't try to make it "hip" and "relevant" with modern touches. It would be like adding a moustache to the Mona Lisa. Until Columbia drops the act and releases "Lawrence of Arabia" without those bars, letting us see all of the picture, stay away.
Ulysses is a hardcover bounded knife in the face.
Norah Jones - This is 100% rectum
Why is the "Shawshank Redemption" listed in the same galaxy as "Casablanca" and "Citizen Kane"? I don't know anyone who's not a stoned college sophomore that thinks Shawshank is a great cinematic landmark.
Walden: If he wanted to find out who he was, he should've become a buddhist monk or something. I've seen someone else who left society and moved to the woods, and he is locked away for a long time for sending people bombs in the mail.
Living deliberately stinks.
Streetcar Named Desire: 1951 movie not as good as cartoon. I remember seeing the cartoon production of this play as a child. Vivien Leigh is nothing compared to Marge Simpson, and Marolon Brando just couldn't pull off the same caliber of performance as Ned Flanders. It's your typical delicate-flower-turned-crazy-slut story. And it's jammed packed with poetic moments- one after another after another until you want to smash something- which is what Stanley does.
Animal Farm: Let's try to be a little more optomistic, and work on a happier ending, shall we...
Read something happier like, oh I don't know, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone...
Kafka: In my opinion, it sounded like it was written by someone on weed. I say he woke up trippin and saw himself as a bug and later decided to write about it."
Melville: I am quite the fan of stories which involve man eating sea creatures, such as Jaws. Moby Dick is nothing compared to such classics, I fear. In fact, it is boring with a capital B. What is the whales motivation? You don't know.
Why anybody would ever need Cliffs notes to figure out what the book is about is beyond me. If you read the first 20 pages, you already know how the book is going to end. What, you mean the pigs gave themselves even MORE power? Shocking! I never saw that one coming! Save your energy for a book worth reading.
Sunday, July 04, 2004
Reflections on Patriotism
This land is your land This land is my land
Fom California to the New York island
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me
-- Woody Guthrie
Before September 11, patriotism wasn't doing all that well. You might have noticed it at the ballpark, as the "Star Spangled Banner" was turned into a novelty number and the guy next to you continued munching on his hot dog as you stood at attention. Less obvious, however, was that in the media and the nation's talk it just didn't seem to matter that much.
One reason was that learning about the country and its values had been widely displaced in school by things like driver, drug, and sex education. Social studies, history, and civic education were in decline as we taught our kids how to behave as individuals rather than how to be part of a community.
Immigrants didn't get much help either, as neither of the two great acculturating institutions of the past - the church and the political machines - held the influence they once had.
Richard Croker, a tough 19th century county boss of Tammany Hall, had grown almost lyrical when he spoke of his party's duty to immigrants:
"They do not speak our language, they do not know our laws, they are the raw material with which we have to build up the state . . . There is no denying the service which Tammany has rendered to the republic. There is no such organization for taking hold of the untrained, friendless man and converting him into a citizen. Who else would do it if we did not? . . . [Tammany] looks after them for the sake of their vote, grafts them upon the Republic, makes citizens of them."
Alexander B. Callow Jr. of the University of California has written that Boston pol Martin Lomansey even met every new immigrant ship and "helped the newcomers find lodging or guided them to relatives. James Michael Curley set up nationalization classes to prepare newcomers for the citizenship examination . . . Friendly judges, anticipating election day, converted their courts into naturalization mills, grinding out a thousand new Americans a day. . . . Flags were waved, prose turned purple, celebrations were wild on national holidays. . . . Patriotism became a means for the newcomer to prove himself worthy."
But there was a darker side, one that often comes to the fore when patriotism is prominent: "Enemies of the organization and reformers in general were identified as opponents of true patriotism and American ideals." Like other isms, patriotism is easily driven more by hatred of the Other than by positive love of one's own. This is why Osama bin Laden, the KKK, and various movements of American nationalism have typically recruited from among society's weakest and most insecure.
Today, immigrants, like other Americans, are far more likely to learn their civics from TV - the main source of news of three-quarters of the public - than from a ward boss, priest, or teacher. The results make Tammany Hall look good. For example, a 1998 poll found that while three-quarters of all teenagers knew the zip code for Beverly Hills, only 25% could name the city in which the Constitution was written. Ninety percent could identify Tim Allen as the star of "Home Improvement" but only 2% knew that William Rehnquist was the Chief Justice. And it's not getting better; just recently the Boston Globe reported that MTV has begun playing excerpts of videos because when they play the whole thing - all three and a half minutes - ratings start to go down.
It is worth noting that those pols who "grafted immigrants upon the Republic" were all Democrats. They saw no conflict between their love of country and an economic populism so radical it would ban them from today's C-SPAN. To them, the palaces of the Morgans and Carneigies were not the same as the place called America. Americans had not yet been indoctrinated into the false notion that the revolution was fought to let corporations do whatever they want. And Democrats had not yet turned over bragging rights for faith, family, and home to the right wing.
Consider these words from a Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, speaking to a group of newly naturalized citizens: "You have just taken an oath of allegiance to the United States. Of allegiance to whom? Of allegiance to no one, unless it be God. Certainly not of allegiance to those who temporarily represent this great government. You have taken an oath of allegiance to a great ideal, to a great body of principles, to a great hope of the human race."
By the end of the century, our presidents saw it differently. Bill Clinton told a 1995 Michigan State University commencement shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing, "There's nothing patriotic about hating your government or pretending you can hate your government but love your country." And in a few years, George Bush's attorney general would imply that even criticizing government policy was unpatriotic.
How had loyalty to government come to replace loyalty to ideals, place, and people in the pantheon of patriotism? In part because the American elite had decided that nations no longer mattered all that much. It was government we needed to honor lest our parochialism interfere with corporate multi-nationalism. In 1992, Strobe Talbott had written in Time Magazine, "Within the next hundred years . . . nationhood as we know it will be obsolete; all states will recognize a single, global authority . . . All countries are basically social arrangements, accommodations to changing circumstances. No matter how permanent and even sacred they may seem at any one time, in fact they are all artificial and temporary."
Talbott was expressing a centrist consensus later confirmed by that Washington favorite, Francis Fukuyama: "Globalization will not be reversed." And by Vaclav Havel, approvingly quoted in the New York Review of Books referring to nations as "cultlike entities charged with emotion."
It was not just a matter of words. No assault on American sovereignty has been more successful than that carried out in recent years by the globalization movement, using such mechanisms as NAFTA and the WTO. That which, over the course of our history, the British, Mexicans, Confederates, Spanish, Germans and Japanese had been unable to do was now being accomplished by a handful of lawyers armed only with cell phones, fax machines and the support of politicians willing to trade their country's nationhood for another campaign contribution.
And it wasn't just happening to America. By the 1990s, about half the top economies of the world were not nations, but corporations. Trade had replaced ideology as the engine of foreign affairs. Politics, nationhood and the idea of place itself was being supplanted by a huge, amorphous international corporate culture that ruled not by force but by market share. This culture, in the words of French writer Jacques Attali, sought an "ideologically homogenous market where life will be organized around common consumer desires."
Yet now, suddenly, we speak of patriotism again. Why did so many need the Viagra of violence to demonstrate love for their land? Where was this love when NAFTA and the World Trade Organization were being forced down our throats? Where was it as corporations raped our waters and forests and infected our crops? Where was it when the young took to the streets to defend old American values against a new world order? And where was this love of America during the long "war" on drugs as a growing number of politicians, police, and financial institutions served as allies to the drug lords?
It now feels odd to this Vietnam era vet, whose great-great-great fought with his four brothers in the Revolution and whose parents both lost brothers in World War I, to be lectured on patriotism by those who until the morning of September 11 had evinced so little interest in loyalty to any larger entity than themselves and their careers.
To be sure, the sudden rise in patriotic self-branding is not entirely a spontaneous reaction to the tragic events. It has also been the direct result of intense government and corporate propaganda capitalizing on these events and on a long-cultivated shift by which Americans have been reduced to being spectators and consumers, rather than actual citizens, of their government. We have been taught to cheer rather than act, to wear logos rather than think, and to purchase rather than control and influence. At a moment calling for the most rational vision and thought, our leaders - from the White House to CNN - have instead chosen to turn this tragedy into a Super Bowl of national affairs in which our only assignment as Americans is to choose the right team and cheer it on.
This is a dirty business that does a huge disservice to the country they purport to honor. Remember: these are the people who, in the months before September, not only were assuring us that our future lay in giving up our national independence for the greater good of a corporate-dominated global culture, but who arrested our young people who dared suggest this was not right, and who ridiculed anyone who spoke with feeling of the need to protect America's sovereignty on behalf of its workers, its environment, and its civil liberties.
These people have further failed us by creating a world so filled with hatred for our land. They have failed us by not protecting us against the consequences. They have failed us by selling out our interests to the highest multinational bidder. And now they fail us again, by presuming that they know how best to love this land and imputing disloyalty to those who doubt them. They are in no position to say who is a good American. While we pledge allegiance to the republic for which America stands, we do not have to pledge allegiance to the empire and its failed policies for which America is now suffering. There are few finer, albeit painful, expressions of loyalty than to tell a friend, a spouse, a child, or a parent that what they are doing may be dangerous or wrong. If our country is about to run into the street without looking, there is absolutely nothing disloyal about crying, "Stop!"
Besides, true patriotism is an act of love, not hate. It is service not revenge, contributions not cheers, participation not prohibition, and debate not salutes.
To find the real America buried in our hearts, we have to turn off the amps of propaganda and hype, the reverb and distortion of our fears and failures, and listen to the country unplugged. Some of the best things can only be heard when everything else is still.
There are lots of different ways to think about America. Some people like to call America a "nation of laws," but that sounds like we just spend our days obeying regulations - the sort of place only an attorney could love.
Other people think of America as a government, or as a geographical subdivision, which is fair enough but fails to give the real flavor of the place or explain the strong feelings many Americans have for their land.
But it is also a triptych of environment, people, and ideals...
In short, America is not the answer; it is only a good place to look for the answer. America has never been perfect; it's just been a place where it was easier to fix things that were broken. The ability to repair ourselves has long been one of our great characteristics as a people and a nation.
Each of us can express love for America in their own way. The Green may do so through care of our environment. The libertarian or anarchist may do so by preserving our faith in liberty. The progressive or socialist may do it by insisting that America's promise of social justice be fulfilled. The conservative may do it by preserving the good. The deeply religious may do it through personal witness. The oppressed may do it through protest and leading us towards our ideals. The cop may do it through upholding the laws of the land - including the most important one, the Constitution. The artist may paint it, the musician sing about it, the teacher teach it.
Most of all, being an American means nobody gets to tell you how best to be an American. As Woodie Guthrie pointed out, this land may be your land, but it is mine as well.
Saturday, July 03, 2004
Voter List Released
CNN - A state court judge in Florida ordered Thursday that the board of elections immediately release a list of nearly 50,000 suspected felons to CNN and other news organizations that last month sued the state for access to copies of the list.
The list is used to determine who will be eligible to vote in November's presidential election in the state.
In a statement issued shortly after the ruling was announced, Secretary of State Glenda Hood accepted the ruling as final. "Now that the court has ruled that statute to be unconstitutional, we will make these records accessible to all interested parties," she said.
Florida bars people convicted of felonies in that state from voting.
In 2000, a similar list was the center of controversy when state officials acknowledged after the election that it contained thousands of names in error, thus barring eligible people from voting.
Many of the barred voters were African-Americans, who traditionally tend to vote Democratic.
Bush won the state by a 537-vote margin and, with it, the presidency.
The lawsuit, filed by CNN and joined by other news organizations, challenged a 2001 statute passed by the Republican-controlled legislature that limited the public's access to the list.
Sharapova Takes Title
GUARDIAN UNLIMITED SPORT - The 17-year-old dubbed a 'Russian sensation' lived up to that moniker today with an easy 6-1, 6-4 win over holder and No1 seed Serena Williams.
Maria Sharapova, only the second Russian woman to win a grand slam title, also became the second youngest Wimbledon champion - Martina Hingis was only 16 when she won in 1997.
Survey: Kids Dependent on Cell Phones
Yomiuri Shimbun, JAPAN - More than half of middle and high school students who own cell phones said they felt uncomfortable when they did not have the devices at hand, according to a survey by the National Police Agency. The survey also found that nearly half of the respondents preferred not to turn off their cell phones even while sleeping and suggested that children have become dependent on such technology.
Bush Campaign Wants Church Lists
REUTERS - President Bush, seeking to mobilize religious conservatives for his reelection campaign, has asked church-going volunteers to turn over church membership directories, campaign officials said on Thursday.
In a move sharply criticized both by religious leaders and civil libertarians, the Bush-Cheney campaign has issued a guide listing about two-dozen "duties" and a series of deadlines for organizing support among conservative church congregations.
A copy of the guide directs religious volunteers to send church directories to state campaign committees, identify new churches that can be organized by the Bush campaign and talk to clergy about holding voter registration drives.
But the Rev. Richard Land, who deals with ethics and religious liberty issues for the Southern Baptist Convention, a key Bush constituency, said he was "appalled." "First of all, I would not want my church directories being used that way," he said, predicting failure for the Bush plan.
The conservative Protestant denomination, whose 16 million members strongly backed Bush in 2000, held regular drives that encouraged church-goers to "vote their values," said Land.
"But it's one thing for us to do that. It's a totally different thing for a partisan campaign to come in and try to organize a church. A lot of pastors are going to say: 'Wait a minute, bub'," he added.
The latest effort to marshal religious support also drew fire from civil liberties activists concerned about the constitutional separation of church and state.
"Any coordination between the Bush campaign and church leaders would clearly be illegal," said a statement from the activist group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Diet Drinks Can Make You Fatter
HA! Just drink regular soda, people... or better yet, try WATER!
Diet drinks may make slimmers fatter, scientists claimed yesterday.
They say the taste of the artificial sweeteners which replace sugar in the low-calorie drinks damage the body's ability to link sweetness with high calorie content in other items.
Research at Purdue University, Indiana, showed people learn from childhood that sweet tastes signal fattening food. But this ability to distinguish foods which are high in calories can be disrupted when they take low-calorie sweet foods, such as diet drink.
Professor Terry Davidson said: "The body's natural ability to regulate food intake and body weight may be weakened when this natural relationship is impaired by artificial sweeteners."
The number of Americans using sugar-free products increased from fewer than 70 million in 1987 to more than 160 million in 2000.
Army Stage-Managed Fall of Hussein Statue
LA TIMES - The Army's internal study of the war in Iraq criticizes some efforts by its own psychological operations units, but one spur-of-the-moment effort last year produced the most memorable image of the invasion.
As the Iraqi regime was collapsing on April 9, 2003, Marines converged on Firdos Square in central Baghdad, site of an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein. It was a Marine colonel - not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images - who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.
After the colonel - who was not named in the report - selected the statue as a "target of opportunity," the psychological team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist, according to an account by a unit member...
Ultimately, a Marine recovery vehicle toppled the statue with a chain, but the effort appeared to be Iraqi-inspired because the psychological team had managed to pack the vehicle with cheering Iraqi children.
ALTERNET - In an article titled "How to Sell a War" published in the magazine In These Times last August, the authors suggest that some of the images of the war in Iraq may have been cooked by public relations specialists and "perception managers."
While that could be true, Bytwerk says "such an approach is usually not necessary, and a bad idea. It is not necessary because there is usually so much information that something can be found to fit. It is a bad idea because, if found out, which it often is, it reduces the overall credibility."
This war was more "about not seeing images", contends Snow. "People in the U.S. didn't see the same war as people outside the U.S. or as did viewers of al-Jazira – it's all about the disparate perceptions by the news media in the U.S./Middle East and Europe."
When on Apr. 9, 2003 the statue of Saddam was finally brought down in Baghdad's Firdos Square, U.S. media commentators rushed to assign iconic connotations to the toppling, ranking it alongside the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 or the protesters opposing tanks at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. "Jubilant Iraqis Swarm the Streets of Capital", Rampton and Stauber quoted The New York Times as saying. The main papers and television channels in the U.S. showed the same scene, and proffered similar comments.
But a BBC photo sequence of the statue's fall displayed a sparse crowd of approximately 200 people, they observe; a Reuters long-shot photo of Firdos Square showed that it was nearly empty, sealed off by U.S. tanks.