By Nick Farrell | the Inquirer
THE JAPANESE government has a novel plan to rid the world of terrorism. It is banning the sale of second hand electronic gear. From April 1, 2006, all electronics products manufactured prior to 2001 will no longer be allowed to be sold in the second hand market.
It is not clear about the government’s logic on this, apparently it is concerned that a second hand gadget could be turned into a weapon in the right hands and banning their sale will stop this.
More cynical minds are suggesting that the real reason is that electronics companies want people to buy new gear and have asked the government to prevent the sale of the old stuff.
All it will mean is that terrorists will have to buy their gear from underground carboot sales.
Totally unrelated: Happy Shrovetide!
Posted Tue Feb 28th, 2006 - 8:12am (EST) by CPC Top of page
AS A rule, the European Union doesn't do defence. At most, it messes around at the margin. In 1999, it promised to set up a 60,000-strong rapid-reaction force. When this turned out to be not much of a force, several countries promised 1,500-strong battlegroups, ready to jet off on peacekeeping missions at a drop of a blue helmet. What EU countries have never done is to club together to spend money on defence.
That could be about to change. In one of the least-trumpeted big ideas of recent years, the head of France's national armaments agency has called for a €200m ($240m) programme in which EU countries would collaborate on basic research and technology in defence. The programme would be run by the European Defence Agency, an offshoot of the EU's bureaucracy. France's defence minister will formally put the plan to a gathering of European defence ministers next month.
In the world of defence contractors, €200m barely buys you a Pentagon spanner. The American Defence Department's budget request for 2006 will be just over half a trillion dollars; DARPA, one of many agencies that do defence research, spends almost $3 billion a year. Yet thin as it is, this could be the end of a fairly thick wedge. If the plan is accepted, it will mark the EU's first real involvement in defence spending. If it takes off, it might one day point towards doing quite a lot more defence research collectively. Would that be a good thing?
No, say the sceptics, led (surprise, surprise) by the British. We support the idea of European co-operation in defence research, they say, but an EU programme is not the right way to go about it. Britain and France account for about two-thirds of the EU's total spending on research and technology in defence. These are the only countries that matter—and they are already co-operating. For example, they have just started work on small, portable radar systems to be mounted on unmanned drone aircraft.
Anything more than this project-by-project approach, say the British, would be unworkable, because European countries would not commit themselves to defence projects they do not control. Or if it did work, it would widen the military gap between America and Europe. European armies tend to be too backward to use the latest American military gadgets (the Iraq war showed that even the British, whose military machine is relatively advanced, cannot fully keep up with the Americans). In any case, the Americans are increasingly loth to share them because they do not trust several European countries with their defence secrets.
As a result, say the sceptics, any EU programme would end up as another pointless piece of top-down bureaucracy; and, if it did not, it would undermine NATO. Which, some mutter darkly, is the real point. Those most hostile to the idea detect a French plot to build up a European research capacity against the day when NATO falls apart. As computer geeks might put it, the challenge to NATO is a feature not a bug in the plan.
Fears like this are not fanciful. ...
Read the rest here
Posted Mon Feb 27th, 2006 - 6:02am (EST) by CPC Top of page
"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous... Having said that, all options are on the table." George W. Bush, February 2005
Witnessing the Bush administration's drive for an attack on Iran is like being a passenger in a car with a raving drunk at the wheel. Reports of impending doom surfaced a year ago, but now it's official: under orders from Vice President Cheney's office, the Pentagon has developed "last resort" aerial-assault plans using long-distance B2 bombers and submarine-launched ballistic missiles with both conventional and nuclear weapons.
How ironic that the Pentagon proposes using nuclear weapons on the pretext of protecting the world from nuclear weapons. Ironic also that Iran has complied with its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, allowing inspectors to "go anywhere and see anything," yet those pushing for an attack, the USA and Israel, have not.
The nuclear threat from Iran is hardly urgent. As the Washington Post reported in August 2005, the latest consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies is that "Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years." The Institute for Science and International Security estimated that while Iran could have a bomb by 2009 at the earliest, the US intelligence community assumed technical difficulties would cause "significantly delay." The director of Middle East Studies at Brown University and a specialist in Middle Eastern energy economics both called the State Department's claims of a proliferation threat from Iran's Bushehr reactor "demonstrably false," concluding that "the physical evidence for a nuclear weapons program in Iran simply does not exist." ...
Read the rest here
Posted Sun Feb 26th, 2006 - 9:34pm (EST) by CPC Top of page
A population milestone is about to be set on this jam-packed planet.
On Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7:16 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the population here on this good Earth is projected to hit 6.5 billion people.
Along with this forecast, an analysis by the International Programs Center at the U.S. Census Bureau points to another factoid, Robert Bernstein of the Bureau's Public Information Center advised LiveScience. Mark this on your calendar: Some six years from now, on Oct. 18, 2012 at 4:36 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, the Earth will be home to 7 billion folks.
These are estimates, of course, but clear trends emerge from the data behind them.
A report issued by the Bureau in March 2004 noted that world population hit the 6-billion mark in June 1999. "This figure is over 3.5 times the size of the Earth's population at the beginning of the 20th century and roughly double its size in 1960," the study explained.
Even more striking is that the time required for the global population to grow from 5 billion to 6 billion—just a dozen years—was shorter than the interval between any of the previous billions.
On average, 4.4 people are born every second...
Read the rest here
Posted Sat Feb 25th, 2006 - 7:23am (EST) by CPC Top of page
As sales presentations go, the one Robert Rich gave in Long Island, New York, in the summer of 1945 was one of the more nerve-wracking. Eighteen sales reps faced him. Mr Rich had brought along some samples of his new invention, a concoction of soy-oil shortening, isolated soya protein, corn syrup and water, in the hopes of persuading them that this could taste as yummy, and whip as lightly, as heavy cream. To keep them from the heat, on the long train journey from his home in Buffalo, he had wrapped the samples stoutly in dry ice and newspaper. Now they hit the table with a thud, frozen solid.
Mr Rich kept talking. As the words flowed, he took a knife surreptitiously to the chunks of “cream”, trying to soften them. When words ran out, he turned the hand-beater on them; and they whipped like a dream. White, unctuous, splendid stuff rose up in mounds, as in the picture above, where Mr Rich holds the bowl.
Few revolutions have been made with a hand-beater. But Mr Rich's was one. Before he began to experiment with flaking and precipitating soyabeans, whipped cream was a hit-or-miss affair. It would not keep, especially in the humid South. Nor would it freeze. Over-beating produced a buttery mess, and ambitious decorations sank gradually into gloop. To top it all, in wartime, heavy whipping cream was a banned substance. All available milk was needed fresh for the people, or dried and condensed for the troops. To dream of an éclair or a cream puff, even of a modest dollop nestling a cherry or topping off a sundae, was close to a traitorous act.
Mr Rich, however, dreamed often of whipped cream. His boyhood had been spent in and out of his father's ice-cream plant, and in 1935 he started such a plant himself, the Wilber Farms Dairy in Buffalo. He should have been fat, but he was a fine and fit sportsman, captain of both football and wrestling at university. Possibly he might have gone into sports professionally. But Mr Rich became fascinated with the process by which, through a series of vats and pipes and settling beds, the humble and ubiquitous soyabean could be made to do the work of a cow. ...
Read the rest of the obituary at the Economist
Posted Fri Feb 24th, 2006 - 6:12pm (CST) by CPC Top of page
The relationship between North America's two largest countries may have been a bit testy as the 20th century wrapped up and the 21st began. But compared to the 18th and 19th centuries, it was an arm-in-arm stroll through the park.
In the years following the American war of Independence, the United States and British North America relations were testy at best. People opposed to the American break with Britain headed north and settled in what would become New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario.
There was a movement south of the border that argued for an invasion – and annexation – of parts of what would become Canada. Britain was tied up fighting Napoleon's European ambitions and many Americans saw that as an opportunity to strengthen the new republic's security.
In 1812, the Americans invaded southern Ontario – but met much stiffer resistance than expected. By 1814, the war had ended with neither side making gains of note.
Relations between the two countries slowly but steadily improved after the war – until the 1837 rebellion in Upper and Lower Canada. The Canadian rebels – who sought more domestic and less British control of the government – received support from Americans in bordering states. Some of the Americans who were captured were tried and hanged. Others were shipped off to penal colonies in Australia. A few were sent home because they were deemed too young to have known better.
By the time Canada was officially a country in 1867, the United States was busy repairing the divisions caused by civil war. But by 1876, cross-border tensions would rise again. After annihilating General Custer and his army at Little Big Horn, Chief Sitting Bull and 3,000 of his followers slipped into what would become Saskatchewan. The Mounties spent the next five years working to keep the Sioux and the U.S. Army from launching cross-border raids on each other. By 1881, the Sioux were persuaded to return to the U.S.
In the years that followed, relations between Canada and the U.S. ebbed and flowed, mainly over economic matters, or boundary disputes. In 1903, an international tribunal imposed a settlement over a long-running dispute over the boundary between Alaska and British Columbia. A British judge on the panel sided with the Americans. Then prime minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier complained that because Canada had to rely on Britain to negotiate treaties, Canada could not adequately protect its international interests.
It wasn't as though Ottawa could ask its ambassador to Washington to deliver a sharply worded letter to the American president when these disputes flared up. Canada didn't have its own representative in Washington until 1944, when Leighton McCarthy was appointed. Before that, Canada was officially represented by the British, and unofficially represented by Canadian diplomats operating from legations in major world centres like Washington, London and Paris.
By 1957, Canada and the U.S. had jointly set up NORAD, the North American Air Defence Command. But the economy – and the growing American influence over Canadian industry – was catching the attention of Canada's new prime minister, John Diefenbaker. He argued for Canadian independence from U.S. influence. Following two decades of heavy U.S. investment in Canada. Americans controlled 70 per cent of the capital of Canada's petroleum and natural gas industry and 90 per cent of the auto industry.
The 1960s and 1970s featured testy relations right at the top. Diefenbaker said America's first president of the 60s –John F. Kennedy – was too young and brash for the job. When the U.S. announced its blockade of Cuba, it did so without telling Diefenbaker, which contravened the NORAD agreement. When Kennedy asked Diefenbaker to move Canadian troops into an advanced state of readiness, he didn't respond.
But compared to Lyndon Johnson and Lester Pearson, Kennedy and Diefenbaker were pals. In 1965, Pearson drew the ire of Johnson for suggesting in a speech that the U.S. cease bombing North Vietnam, and give negotiation a chance. At a lunch at Camp David later, an angry Johnson grabbed Pearson by the collar, lifted him off the ground and shouted, "You pissed on my rug!"
Relations between Canadian and American leaders hit a modern low with Pierre Trudeau at 24 Sussex Drive and Richard Nixon in the White House. In 1969, tensions between Canada and the U.S. peaked as Ottawa openly criticized the U.S. role in the Vietnam war and opened Canadian borders to American draft dodgers. Nixon was widely quoted as calling Trudeau an "asshole." Trudeau shrugged and said, "I've been called worse things by better people."
It wasn't until the mid-1980s that a Canadian prime minister and an American president would enjoy close relations. Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan became close friends. But that didn't prevent the birth of the softwood lumber dispute in 1984, an issue that would dog the two countries for two decades. It also made it easier for the two sides to negotiate the Free Trade Agreement in 1988.
Relations continued to go relatively smoothly after Mulroney and Reagan left the scene. Jean Chretien and Bill Clinton enjoyed a good working relationship that included frequent trips to the golf course.
But the election of George W. Bush in 2000 signaled the first time in a decade and a half that ideological opposites occupied the highest offices in the two countries. Bush's first trip as president was to Mexico and not Canada, Washington's biggest trading partner.
In the days after the 2001 attacks on Washington and New York, Bush thanked several countries for their support. He didn't mention Canada. When Chrétien decided not to join the American-led attack on Iraq in 2003, Bush's schedule suddenly got too busy to accommodate a planned trip to Ottawa. The schedule did, however, permit Bush to entertain Australian Prime Minister John Howard at his Texas ranch on the days Bush was to have visited Canada. Australia had sent troops to Iraq.
Bush didn't make an official trip to Canada until Nov. 30, 2004 – after he had won a second term in office and after Chrètien had stepped aside as prime minister for Paul Martin.
Bush used the visit to make his first major speech on foreign policy since his re-election. He didn't offer much on resolving the softwood lumber dispute – or ending the American ban on Canadian beef over fears of mad cow disease, even though there had been no cases of infected Canadian cattle in more than a year and a half.
Martin's decision – a few months later – not to join in Bush's proposed ballistic missile defence system also did not sit well. It was a decision Stephen Harper promised to revisit as he made mending fences with the United States a key part of his election campaign. His government also committed to signing a new NORAD treaty that will expand the air-defence agreement with the United States to include maritime surveillance.
Still, it didn't take Harper long as prime minister to ruffle a few American feathers when he stressed that Canada will invest heavily in protecting its claim to Arctic waterways – a claim Washington has never recognized.
Posted Thu Feb 23rd, 2006 - 5:05pm (CST) by CPC Top of page
The Local (Sweden's News in English)
They might not look like sensitive sorts, but seven out of ten Hell’s Angels in Stockholm are on sick benefits with depression, Stockholm’s police commissioner Carin Götblad told the press on Monday.
Now the doctor who signed most of the men’s sick notes could be struck off the medical register.
Doctor Roman Nowik is at the centre of an enquiry announced on Monday into members of the biker gang, which has about 30 members in Stockholm. It is believed that many of those on benefits were working at the same time.
Police and officials at the Swedish social insurance administration (Försäkringskassan) say they plan to work together more closely to find proof that the bikers were cheating the system.
Nowik told Dagens Nyheter on Wednesday that the Hell’s Angels members he had seen were not faking.
“They are depressed – in many cases suicidal – and have not tricked me. I am an expert on depression,” he told the paper.
But a report in December from the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) said that Nowik had often failed to provide medical evidence when signing sick notes.
Meanwhile, officials at the insurance administration have said that announcing the investigation into the Hell’s Angels publicly will make the probe more difficult.
Christoffer Franzén at Försäkringskassan said the public announcement was “unfortunate”.
Dagens Nyheter reported that many police were upset that a previously secret investigation had been put into the public domain.
But Inspector Christer Nilsson said that the police had “made the operative decision that it was not wrong,” to announce that the Hell’s Angels were being investigated.
Posted Thu Feb 23rd, 2006 - 2:15pm (CST) by CPC Top of page
By JAMES WOLCOTT | Vanity Fair
Screening a new documentary, Why We Fight, and The Unrecovered, a meditation on 9/11, the author examines what they reveal about American fears, power, and grief
Every documentarian with integrity to spare should enshrine a Buddha statue of Michael Moore in the editing room, next to the coffee machine. It doesn't matter whether the filmmaker is a fan of Moore's or considers him a meatball sandwich—homage should be paid. Without Moore's brazen effrontery, documentaries might still be poor cousins camped on the stoop, ringing the buzzer and being ignored. He's elevated everybody's visibility and expanded the playing field, making it possible for movies as disparate in tone and subject as Super Size Me, Control Room, Bush's Brain, and Grizzly Man to attract audiences that otherwise might have stayed home and let their hair go gray. It's not that interesting, provocative docs weren't being made before Moore shambled onto the scene with Roger & Me (1989), holding the microphone like an ice-cream cone as he bird-dogged the chairman of General Motors, Roger Smith. It's that they didn't seem to matter. After the glory run of Gimme Shelter, The Sorrow and the Pity, Harlan County U.S.A., and Frederick Wiseman (High School, Hospital) in the late 60s and the 70s, the documentary genre receded into a prolonged malaise, a diminished status. Like the literary novella or repertory theater, the documentary form seemed a cultural holdover, unplugged from anything urgent. Going to a documentary felt like an educational chore—a force-feeding for our own good. As Pauline Kael wrote in Deeper into Movies, "Many of us grow to hate documentaries in school, because the use of movies to teach us something seems a cheat—a pill disguised as candy—and documentaries always seem to be about something we're not interested in."
We might be still digesting our yawns had Roger & Me been a fluke, a novelty item. (For the record, Kael detested it, accusing Moore of cinematic chicanery.) But the ballistic impact of Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 served notice that there was a method to Moore's madcap approach, a larger ambition. Moore's movies made news not only because he had a Colonel Tom Parker knack for larger-than-life promotion ("Call it first-person polemic, or expressionist bulletin board, or theatricalized Op-Ed piece" is how film essayist Geoffrey O'Brien described Moore's brassy approach), but also because each succeeding film drilled deeper into the corporate-political-media dementia we take for granted. He matured beyond the gadfly antics of Roger & Me, ascending the slopes of Lower Slobovia and elevating his gunsights to mount a multi-track attack on institutional power, propaganda, and the destruction of civic bonds in this new Hobbesian landscape. More important, Moore found his signature theme.
Read the rest of the article here
see also: Less Butter, More Guns at the Nation
see also: 'WWIII or bust: Implications of a US attack on Iran'
Posted Thu Feb 23rd, 2006 - 8:17am (EST) by CPC Top of page
Kellogg's Corn Flakes turns 100 years old in 2006.
100 years ago, the Kellogg brothers changed the way North Americans and the world ate breakfast.
From the Kellogg's web site:
"In 1906, W.K. Kellogg entered the cereal business, as American eating habits began shifting from heavy, fat-laden breakfasts to lighter, more grain-based meals. W.K. discovered that a better flake was produced by using only the corn grit or "sweet heart of the corn." To help consumers distinguish Kellogg's Corn Flakes® cereal from the products of the 42 other cereal companies in Battle Creek, Michigan, W.K. put his signature on each package, saying that these Corn Flakes are the "The Original." The company succeeded because it believed the entire populace, not just those on special diets, might be interested in wholesome cereal foods, and because it continually improved its product line and packaging techniques to meet the needs of an ever-changing and evolving consumer base."
See also: Celebrating the Corn Flake's Centenary @ NPR
Posted Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 - 5:33pm (EST) by CPC Top of page
Conference Board of Canada report warns country ill-prepared
by James Gordon | The Ottawa Citizen
An "imminent" flu pandemic would kill one in 20 Canadians and grind the manufacturing industry to a halt, a major economic think-tank predicts, and Canada is not prepared to deal with it.
"Border disruptions would shatter integrated production lines and could last more than a year," says the new research report from the Conference Board of Canada. "Direct medical costs could surpass hundreds of millions of dollars."
The report calls on Canadian businesses to get ready by reducing the risk of disease transmission in the workplace and forming plans to maintain essential business functions in the event of high employee absenteeism. It also advises companies to co-ordinate with government agencies to respond to such a pandemic.
The report, titled: Facing Risks: Global Security Trends and Canada, is the fourth in a series of five global economic forecasts issued by the board.
It notes health crises "will worsen existing inequalities in Canada," such as concentration of income and regional disparities.
"The continuing challenges confronting Canada's public health-care system will create profound differences between those who can afford private care and those who cannot," the report says.
A health crisis isn't the only thing that could drive a deeper wedge between the rich and poor, the report warns. Transnational crime will also widen the gap.
"Criminal organizations do not need an epidemiological disaster to enrich their coffers," the report says, putting the value of worldwide criminal activity between $500 billion U.S. and $1.5 trillion U.S.
"This value is likely to increase in coming years, riding the many waves of globalization -- from increasingly efficient transportation and communications networks, to the perpetuation of pockets of extremely poor governance," the document reads.
To protect against health and crime risks, the board suggests enhancing and tailoring social programs to certain "vulnerable populations. ..
see the rest of the article here
Posted Tue Feb 21st, 2006 - 7:23am (EST) by CPC Top of page
By SCOTT SHANE | New York Times
WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 — In a seven-year-old secret program at the National Archives, intelligence agencies have been removing from public access thousands of historical documents that were available for years, including some already published by the State Department and others photocopied years ago by private historians.
The restoration of classified status to more than 55,000 previously declassified pages began in 1999, when the Central Intelligence Agency and five other agencies objected to what they saw as a hasty release of sensitive information after a 1995 declassification order signed by President Bill Clinton. It accelerated after the Bush administration took office and especially after the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to archives records.
But because the reclassification program is itself shrouded in secrecy — governed by a still-classified memorandum that prohibits the National Archives even from saying which agencies are involved — it continued virtually without outside notice until December. That was when an intelligence historian, Matthew M. Aid, noticed that dozens of documents he had copied years ago had been withdrawn from the archives' open shelves.
Mr. Aid was struck by what seemed to him the innocuous contents of the documents — mostly decades-old State Department reports from the Korean War and the early cold war. He found that eight reclassified documents had been previously published in the State Department's history series, "Foreign Relations of the United States."
"The stuff they pulled should never have been removed," he said. "Some of it is mundane, and some of it is outright ridiculous." ...
Read the entire article here
Posted Tue Feb 21st, 2006 - 7:14am (EST) by CPC Top of page
Seen at Doggy Style:
Mars Inc., the company that makes Milky Way, M&M's, and Whiskas cat food, is about to launch heart healthy chocolate. Called CocoaVia, the dark chocolate is high in flavanols, an antioxidant found in cocoa beans that some people claim thins the blood and lowers blood pressure. Just to be safe, the chocolate is also enriched with vitamins and injected with cholesterol-lowering plant sterols from soy. For a minute there it was almost sounding good.
In related news, Frito-Lay is releasing a new version of Cheetos they claim constitutes a daily serving of dairy product, Pringles are being marketed as a vegetable, and Campbells is launching an ad campaign insisting that eating beans by the campfire doesn't make you gay.
I like this Q&A at the CocoaVia site:
Q: Can I consume too much CocoaVia™ product?
A: This product, like any food, should be consumed in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet. CocoaVia™ snacks can be enjoyed as a substitute for other foods without heart health benefits.
Posted Mon Feb 20th, 2006 - 7:10am (EST) by CPC Top of page
Mister Jalopy bought this glass peanut butter jar filled with nifty little treasures at a garage sale for $1, and expertly photographed each item individually. Says Boing Boing: "A dirty rubber band never looked so good".
This jar houses the collected treasures of Mr. Frankie Bartoli of Chicago, Illinois and was sold to me by his family for $1. I bought it because the Smithsonian had not stopped at the garage sale prior to my arrival. But, like the Smithsonian would have, I took a photo of every single item inside.
Link via Boing Boing
Posted Sun Feb 19th, 2006 - 6:59am (EST) by CPC Top of page
An "underground artist gang" in Detroit is painting the city's many derelict buildings "Tiggeriffic Orange," in order to decorate the landscape. They call the project "Detroit. Demolition. Disneyland."
"The artistic move is simple, cover the front in Tiggeriffic Orange - a color from the Mickey Mouse series, easily purchased from Home Depot. Every board, every door, every window, is caked in Tiggeriffic Orange. We paint the facades of abandoned houses whose most striking feature are their derelict appearance."
Posted Sat Feb 18th, 2006 - 7:03am (EST) by CPC Top of page
Hrmm. 1,200 GB on a 3.5" drive for my PC. That will be about right (at the rate I continue to fill hard drives with junk), in four years time when these hit the market.
US inventor Michael Thomas, owner of Colossal Storage, hopes to achieve exactly that. He says he's the first person to solve non-contact optical spintronics which will in turn ultimately result in the creation of 3.5-inch discs with a million times the capacity of any hard drive - 1.2 petabytes of storage, to be exact.
Read about it here
see also: A Brief History of Hard Drives @ C/Net
Posted Fri Feb 17th, 2006 - 11:42am (EST) by CPC Top of page
Bit from news story:
LG Electronics, the world's leading air conditioner maker, said on Thursday that it will start selling air conditioners that prevent avian influenza with a special filter coated with a substance extracted from a fermented kimchi. The new air conditioners target Southeast Asian countries affected by bird flu and will be marketed this year. The new products, nicknamed ``Anti-A.I. Aircon,'' have a filter covered with an anti-bacterial substance extracted from kimchi, South Korea's spicy fermented cabbage dish, the company said in a press conference.
see also: Spicy Airconditioner
Posted Thu Feb 16th, 2006 - 6:34am (EST) by CPC Top of page
From the website:
"For some readers, News of the Weird is merely a light diversion from the heavier news of the week. However, for others, it's much more: A weekly chronicle of the continuing decline of civilization. Or a therapeutic personal benchmark for reassuring yourself that it's all those other people (not you) who are the problem. Or, for the few who actually wind up in News of the Weird, a monument to lives interestingly lived."
Posted Wed Feb 15th, 2006 - 7:11pm (EST) by CPC Top of page
Apparently, that 130 year old French bombshell Bardot has nothing better to do again, and has rejoined her vocal displeasure at the annual seal hunt off the coast of Newfoundland.
That means it's time for my usual response -- a counter-protest call for everyone to "eat a seal".
see previous entry: Save the Cod, Eat a Seal
see previous entry: I'll eat Kangaroo, if You'll eat Seal
Posted Tue Feb 14th, 2006 - 12:49am (EST) by CPC Top of page
About the day (@ Wikipedia)
About the man (@ Wikipedia)
Posted Tue Feb 14th, 2006 - 12:06pm by CPC Top of page
On the Make Blog, Todd Vanderlin documents an experiment: "I bought a $10 electronic baby in china town. I cracked it open and soldered a couple of switches to the the speaker. Now the baby is possessed and I have hacked a baby."
Don't miss the video.
Link (lifted from Boing Boing)
Posted Tue Feb 14th, 2006 - 12:02pm by CPC Top of page
Have you seen any of these? They are hilarious!
by Bob Mondello | NPR
Movie previews have a tough task. In roughly two minutes, they are supposed to establish what a two-hour movie will be like, conveying all its moods without giving away too much. Often, the preview will completely misrepresent what ends up on screen, and in some cases, that is the point.
Brokeback to the Future, created by a comedy troupe at Emerson College, is at the crest of a wave of mock trailers circulating on the web, which manipulate the lines and images of familiar films to suggest vastly different plotlines. Instead of the story about Wyoming ranch hands Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, this preview highlights romantic tension between suburban time travelers Marty McFly and Doc Brown.
Brokeback is the most-satirized movie of the moment, with a nearly wordless, hyper-romantic preview that is easy to mimic. Brokeback Penguins, Brokeback Goodfellas, and the almost painfully obvious Top Gun: Brokeback Squadron, in which Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer do exactly what they did in the original...puffing out their chests, playing volleyball and exchanging lingering glares and glances.
But other movies are also being switched. Imagine a repositioned Taxi Driver, with Robert DeNiro's psycho killer now the hero of a slacker comedy, or Big, the flick about a little boy transformed into a man's body, revamped as a thriller.
This kind of thing is easy to do badly. But the mock trailers that started the current wave of creativity made it look like a snap. For a genre-switching contest, film editor Robert Ryang decided to turn the horror movie The Shining into just Shining, a bright family comedy starring that cuddly father-figure Jack Nicholson. ...
See and hear more the rest at NPR
Posted Mon Feb 13th, 2006 - 7:10am by CPC Top of page
By Christian Science Monitor (via Albuquerque Tribune)
The U.S. government is developing a massive computer system that can collect huge amounts of data and, by linking far-flung information from blogs and e-mail to government records and intelligence reports, search for patterns of terrorist activity.
The system - parts of which are operational, parts of which are still under development - is already credited with helping to foil some plots. It is the federal government's latest attempt to use broad data collection and powerful analysis in the fight against terrorism.
But by delving deeply into the digital minutiae of American life, the program is also raising concerns that the government is intruding too deeply into citizens' privacy.
"We don't realize that, as we live our lives and make little choices, like buying groceries, buying on Amazon, Googling, we're leaving traces everywhere," says Lee Tien, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"We have an attitude that no one will connect all those dots. But these programs are about connecting those dots - analyzing and aggregating them - in a way that we haven't thought about. It's one of the underlying fundamental issues we have yet to come to grips with."
The core of this effort is a little-known system called ADVISE - Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement. Only a few public documents mention it. ...
Read the rest here
See also: ADVISE @ Wikipedia
Posted Mon Feb 13th, 2006 - 7:04am by CPC Top of page
Would you trust a computer hacker to cook your dinner? What if the menu included dishes baked with lasers or served up in laboratory test tubes?
A high-tech brand of haute cuisine called "molecular gastronomy" is gaining more than a few fans from the pocket-protector set, who have taken to experimenting at home in their kitchens and coming up with some extraordinary recipes and unexpected flavor combinations.
One of the rising stars of the "food hacker" movement is 28-year-old Marc Powell, once voted top computer hacker by San Francisco's Bay Guardian newspaper. These days, he spends more time tinkering with the "code" hidden inside food, using the principles of organic chemistry to design futuristic recipes.
He recently shared some of his new recipes at Dorkbot, a monthly gathering for tech enthusiasts in the Bay Area. The usual topics are software or robots, but on one recent gathering the highlight of the night was geek gourmet...
See and hear the rest here
Posted Sun Feb 12th, 2006 - 11:01pm by CPC Top of page
I've been reading quite a lot about Sam Brownback lately... Someone to watch.
by Robert Siegel | NPR
When he was in college at Kansas State, Sam Brownback was asked at job interview about his life's ambition. "To be president of the United States," the student told his future boss at the university radio station.
These days the U.S. senator is being talked about as a potential presidential contender two years from now.
When asked if he still wants to run for the White House, the Kansas Republican replies: "I am interested and I have been encouraged." But, he says, "I think the environment is not yet set. I think these things are about the right person, the right message, the right moment all coming together. I think that's pretty hard to see for 2008 right now."
Brownback is an interesting political creature. Even for an age of rampant public piety, he is extremely religious. And his faith takes him to some surprising positions. But for all that, he says, his politics are familiar.
Here's how he describes his political philosophy: "I'm a Ronald Reagan conservative, I'm an economic conservative, I'm strong military. But I also voice and speak and work hard on the social issues. I am pro-life. I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I think the real needs in the country are for cultural renewal." ...
See and hear more about Sam Brownback here
See previous entry: God's Senator
See also: the Anti-Sam blog
Posted Sat Feb 11th, 2006 - 1:13pm by CPC Top of page
By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN | New York Times
They're callous and feeble cartoons, cooked up as a provocation by a conservative newspaper exploiting the general Muslim prohibition on images of the Prophet Muhammad to score cheap points about freedom of expression.
But drawings are drawings, so a question arises. Have any modern works of art provoked as much chaos and violence as the Danish caricatures that first ran in September in the newspaper Jyllands-Posten?
The story goes back a bit further, to a Danish children's author looking to write a book about the life of Muhammad, in the spirit of religious tolerance, and finding no illustrator because all the artists he approached said they were afraid. In response, the newspaper commissioned these cartoons, a dozen of them, by various satirists. And like all pictures calculated to be noticed by offending somebody, the caricaturist's stock in trade and the oldest trick in the book of modern art, they would have disappeared into deserved oblivion had not their targets risen to the bait.
The newspaper was banking on the fact that unlike the West — where Max Ernst's painting of Mary spanking the infant Jesus didn't raise an eyebrow when recently shown at the Metropolitan Museum — the Muslim world has no tradition of, or tolerance for, religious irony in its art.
But there are precedents going all the way back to the Bible for virulent reactions to proscribed and despised images. Beginning with the ancient Egyptians, who lopped off the noses of statues of dead pharaohs, through the toppling of statues of Lenin and Saddam Hussein, violence has often been directed against offending objects, though rarely against the artists who made them.
Educated secular Westerners reared on modernism, with its inclination toward abstraction, its gamesmanship and its knee-jerk baiting of traditional authority, can miss the real force behind certain visual images, particularly religious ones. Trained to see pictures formally, as designs or concepts, we can often overlook the way images may not just symbolize but actually "partake of what they represent," ...
Read the rest of the article here
Hey! If you are weary from all of the prophet cartoon hullabaloo, and want your "faith" in humanity restored (please take note of sarcastic sneer) -- check out the Jesus Pancake story. Afterwards, go check out eBay. (Links probably won't last long).
I love it! (Following is excerpt via link from Bourque News)
"Mike Thompson said he was making flapjacks for his family over the weekend when an image caught his eye.
Upon closer inspection, Thompson noticed what appeared to be the face of Jesus. He showed his wife, who agreed the image appeared to be Jesus.
Thompson said he believes the image is a sign from above.
The couple is selling the pancake on eBay with an opening bid of $500."
Bidding is up over $1200 this morning.
Posted Fri Feb 10th, 2006 - 7:12am by CPC Top of page
Whaa??! Apparently, an Israeli Mossad front organization wanted John Bolton nominated for a Nobel Prize for "exposing" the Iran "nuclear weapons program".
WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Two Americans who played a major role in exposing Iran's secret nuclear weapons plans have been nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
United Nations Ambassador John Bolton and longtime Iran investigator Kenneth R. Timmerman were nominated for their repeated warnings and documentation of Iran's secret nuclear buildup and revealing Iran's "repeated lying" and false reports to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Bolton was formerly U.S. Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security and was author of the Proliferation Security Initiative, an international effort to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction and related materials, which led to the eventual breakup of the secret nuclear network directed by Pakistan nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. Bolton repeatedly warned of Iran's nuclear plans.
Timmerman, an independent researcher, has written extensively on Iran's nuclear activities for more than 20 years. His report for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in 1992 first detailed Iran's ties to A.Q. Khan. His most recent book, "Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran," was published last year.
Bolton and Timmerman were formally nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Sweden's former deputy prime minister and Liberal party leader Per Ahlmark.
Ahlmark is meeting with journalists, opinion leaders and policymakers in Washington this week at the invitation of the Jewish Institute for National Security Afffairs (JINSA).
See previous entry: Bush Stands by His U.N. Man
Sound the great kazoo-band fanfare -- Canadian Forces are off to protect Arctic sovereignty on snowmobiles! Yay! This will surely stop those pesky nuclear submarines (packed full of intercontinental missiles) from navigating northern Canadian waters...
by Adrian Humphreys | National Post
Canada's military is embarking on its largest affirmation of Arctic sovereignty, with five armed patrols snowmobiling 4,500 kilometres to converge in the High Arctic -- where the soldiers are inviting the Governor-General to meet them.
Scheduled to begin next month, the sovereignty mission over the Arctic islands and sea ice of the Northwest Passage is codenamed Operation Nunalivut, which means "land that is ours" in Inuktitut, the Inuit language.
The five patrols will pass through or near some of the Arctic areas that have been under increasing international dispute.
One patrol will be leaving from Ellesmere Island, off of which lies Hans Island, the barren rock claimed by both Canada and the Danes. That patrol will head west.
Three patrols will head east from Prince Patrick Island, which is to the east of an area of sea claimed by both Canada and the United States.
A fifth patrol will head northwest from Resolute over part of the Northwest Passage, an area that several countries claim is international water, in contrast to Canada's claim that it is sovereign territory.
Several patrol will rendezvous on Lougheed Island, in the middle of the Arctic archipelago, on April 4, according to the plan provided to the National Post in a military briefing.
"The hope is that both the Commissioner of Nunavut and also the Governor-General will meet with the patrols on the ice at the rendezvous point," said Colonel Norm Couturier, commander of the Canadian Forces in the north.
A spokeswoman from Rideau Hall said Governor-General Michaelle Jean had not yet received the invitation, but would be pleased to consider it.
"This shows the flag and exerts our sovereignty. If you never show up there it is hard to claim your sovereignty," Col. Couturier said of the mission...
Read the rest of the article here
See previous entry: Canadian Troops capture Danish flags from Hans Island
See previous entry: Canada flexes its muscles in dispute over Arctic wastes
Posted Thu Feb 9th, 2006 - 10:10am by CPC Top of page
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN | New York Times
Despite opposition from some of their colleagues, 86 evangelical Christian leaders have decided to back a major initiative to fight global warming, saying "millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors."
Among signers of the statement, which will be released in Washington on Wednesday, are the presidents of 39 evangelical colleges, leaders of aid groups and churches, like the Salvation Army, and pastors of megachurches, including Rick Warren, author of the best seller "The Purpose-Driven Life."
"For most of us, until recently this has not been treated as a pressing issue or major priority," the statement said. "Indeed, many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians. But now we have seen and heard enough." ...
Read the rest of the article here
See previous post: Planet Earth, Year 2050
See previous post: Severe shortages might spark 'water wars'
See previous post: Warming hits 'tipping point'
Posted Wed Feb 8th, 2006 - 3:47pm by CPC Top of page
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- A Russian astronomer has predicted that Earth will experience a "mini Ice Age" in the middle of this century, caused by low solar activity.
Khabibullo Abdusamatov of the Pulkovo Astronomic Observatory in St. Petersburg said Monday that temperatures will begin falling six or seven years from now, when global warming caused by increased solar activity in the 20th century reaches its peak, RIA Novosti reported.
The coldest period will occur 15 to 20 years after a major solar output decline between 2035 and 2045, Abdusamatov said.
Dramatic changes in the earth's surface temperatures are an ordinary phenomenon, not an anomaly, he said, and result from variations in the sun's energy output and ultraviolet radiation.
The Northern Hemisphere's most recent cool-down period occurred between 1645 and 1705. The resulting period, known as the Little Ice Age, left canals in the Netherlands frozen solid and forced people in Greenland to abandon their houses to glaciers, the scientist said.
Posted Wed Feb 8th, 2006 - 12:32am by CPC Top of page
There's not much here besides animals wearing underpants.
Posted Tue Feb 7th, 2006 - 7:29pm by CPC Top of page
Somehow last night's discussion turned to "what's your all-time favourite song?", and I immediately blurted out Dreamweaver by Gary Wright. This, of course, is an out-and-out lie. While I really like the song, it probably appears well down my list of "top 50". Compiling such a list would be hard... it's a moving target, after all.
Favorite album of all time? Ha! Reminds me of one of my favourite movies -- High Fidelity.
Identifying my all-time 10 favorite albums is much easier. Here they are in ascending order:
Hrmm. Seems there is nothing in my list that was recorded in the last 20 years! However, if this was expanded to include my 25 most favorite albums, the list would include lots of stuff recorded in the last few years.
Posted Tue Feb 7th, 2006 - 12:31pm by CPC Top of page
by Jeff Chester | the Nation
The nation's largest telephone and cable companies are crafting an alarming set of strategies that would transform the free, open and nondiscriminatory Internet of today to a privately run and branded service that would charge a fee for virtually everything we do online.
Verizon, Comcast, Bell South and other communications giants are developing strategies that would track and store information on our every move in cyberspace in a vast data-collection and marketing system, the scope of which could rival the National Security Agency. According to white papers now being circulated in the cable, telephone and telecommunications industries, those with the deepest pockets--corporations, special-interest groups and major advertisers--would get preferred treatment. Content from these providers would have first priority on our computer and television screens, while information seen as undesirable, such as peer-to-peer communications, could be relegated to a slow lane or simply shut out.
Under the plans they are considering, all of us--from content providers to individual users--would pay more to surf online, stream videos or even send e-mail. Industry planners are mulling new subscription plans that would further limit the online experience, establishing "platinum," "gold" and "silver" levels of Internet access that would set limits on the number of downloads, media streams or even e-mail messages that could be sent or received. ...
Read the rest of the article here
Posted Mon Feb 6th, 2006 - 11:26pm by CPC Top of page
Six Degrees of Wikipedia will trace the interlinking path between any two Wikipedia entries.
"iterative deepening depth first search shortest path query tool for Wikipedia... six degrees finds the shortest path between any two Wikipedia articles in the main namespace using wiki links"
For example, here's how llamas are connected to the video-game Counter Strike:
Posted Mon Feb 6th, 2006 - 7:24am by CPC Top of page
Today is one of those strange annual American festivals that I barely comprehend. This particular one is called the Super Bowl, and involves some football, but mostly revolves around drinking, half-time shows, and eating off of tail gates.
Apropos to nothing, Cook Industries sells this BBQ Kitchen rig for trucks. It's priced at $3395. The sales videos are quite a treat. From the product description: No doubt about it. Cooking in the back yard would be more fun if you could have your whole kitchen out there with you. As a matter of fact, so would camping adventures. That's why many homeowners and campers are choosing the Ultimate BBQ Kitchen from Cook Industries.
Beginners may take up to two minutes to unfold the kitchen, while the more experienced will set it up in under a minute. It's just that easy to have your 90,000 BTU propane stove, grill and griddle, microwave oven, mini-fridge and yes, even the kitchen sink.
Link (via Boing Boing)
See also: Nipplegate's Legacy
Posted Sun Feb 5th, 2006 - 3:15pm by CPC Top of page
I-Wei Huang builds gorgeous, live-steam powered radio-controlled vehicles -- steampunk walkers, crabs, centipedes (pictured here), rowboats, tanks and hotrods. His site is full of photos and videos of the toys in action -- these are stupendous.
Posted Sat Feb 4th, 2006 - 10:46pm by CPC Top of page
Chris Floyd's Empire Burlesque
Last month, President George W. Bush murdered four children. This is not a controversial statement. There is no dispute about the facts. Indeed, Bush's own minions fully acknowledge – even celebrate – the deed. Nor has the political opposition or the national media offered the slightest objection to the principle of presidential murder.
Strange, isn't it? While the American Establishment is now convulsed over the issue of a president ordering wiretaps without court approval, the same president's assertion of the right to kill anyone on earth he chooses without charges, trial or judicial review is readily accepted on all sides. Even when these "targeted assassinations" go horribly awry – as in Pakistan last month, when 18 innocent people, including four children, were obliterated in their homes by Hellfire missiles, as the Observer reports – there is no demur, no moral shock. Just tough talk about "doing whatever it takes" to defend civilization from the barbarians.
The misfired Hellfires were reportedly aimed at al-Qaeda honcho Ayman al-Zawahiri, thought to be the Dick Cheney-style brains behind the gang's dimbulb, Bush-like frontman, Osama bin Laden. The missiles were directed by unmanned CIA Predator drones, acting on the usual "credible intelligence" that Zawahiri was in the village of Damadola, near the Afghan border. But of course, in this kind of shell game, you can never know exactly which coconut the evil ones might be hiding under – so the CIA targeted not one but three houses, just to be sure. Thus even if the intelligence had not been the usual half-chewed cud and Zawahiri really had been in Damadola (sitting on top of Saddam's phantom WMD, perhaps), the scattershot attack on the residential area would have guaranteed civilian casualties in any case...
Read the rest of article here
As bone-chilling as the article supposes itself to be, I find the comments to the article to be far more interesting. It is fascinating how otherwise intelligent people on either the American left and right of these matters can see only one dichotomous- opposite side or the other.
Posted Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 - 10:04am by CPC Top of page
From The Economist print edition
AS MOST Americans will tell you if you can stop them long enough to ask, working people in the United States are as busy as ever. Sure, technology and competition are boosting the economy; but nearly everyone thinks they have increased the demands on people at home and in the workplace. But is the overworked American a creature of myth?
A pair of economists have looked closely at how Americans actually spend their time. Mark Aguiar (at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston) and Erik Hurst (at the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business) constructed four different measures of leisure.* The narrowest includes only activities that nearly everyone considers relaxing or fun; the broadest counts anything that is not related to a paying job, housework or errands as “leisure”. No matter how the two economists slice the data, Americans seem to have much more free time than before.
Over the past four decades, depending on which of their measures one uses, the amount of time that working-age Americans are devoting to leisure activities has risen by 4-8 hours a week. (For somebody working 40 hours a week, that is equivalent to 5-10 weeks of extra holiday a year.) Nearly every category of American has more spare time: single or married, with or without children, both men and women. The only twist is that less educated (and thus poorer) Americans have done relatively better than more educated ones (see chart). And that is not just because unemployed high-school drop-outs have more free time on their hands. Less educated Americans with jobs—the overstretched middle class of political lore—do very well.
These findings will no doubt be scoffed at by many Americans who are certain that they, and nearly everyone they know, are overworked (and who may find time to write letters to the editor saying so). Indeed, a 1992 book by Juliet Schor, “The Overworked American”, became a best-seller by telling people something that they thought they already knew.
Read the rest of the article here
Posted Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 - 8:49pm by CPC Top of page
Says the web site:
"The Daily Monkey is what you've always wanted but you didn't know was possible. Every day, or an approximation thereof, we* post an image** of a monkey*** as well as a quote or some other piece of text that relates in some way to monkeys. We will almost always try to make this humorous, but sometimes, as we all know, the world takes a serious turn and we are no different. Eventually, sooner than later, we hope to make this thing all geeky what with a real archive (I want it to look like a little calendar) and an RSS feed. Why do we do all this? Because we care. You need monkey, we're here for you. "
Get your daily dose of monkey here
Posted Wed Feb 1st, 2006 - 1:30pm by CPC Top of page