Sophont
Monday, January 31, 2005
 
Insurgents vs booze
Paul Boutin :
Number of people killed in Iraq on election day: 35 (source: The New York Times, 1/31/05)

Average number of Americans killed daily by drunk drivers: 47 (source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2003 data)

 
Germany Forcing Unemployed Women into Legalized Prostitution
lifesite.net: "BERLIN, January 31, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) - News agencies around the world are carrying the story of a young German woman, a qualified information technologist, who has been told that she faces suspension of her government relief benefits if she refuses to take a ‘job’ as a prostitute in a Berlin brothel.

The unemployed woman, who has not been named, had indicated her willingness to take jobs outside her field and has worked in a café. Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported that the woman, who has not been named, received a phone call offering her an interview for a job. She did not realize the ‘job’ was prostitution in a brothel until she telephoned. After the woman refused, she was told by the job centre that her benefits would be cut off if she did not go into prostitution.

Germany’s unemployment rate has reached the highest levels since reunification in 1990 and its welfare laws have recently been reformed. The new welfare regulations and the legalization of prostitution have combined to create a situation where women can be ‘sold’ by the state into sexual slavery.

German law no longer considers prostitution, or as it is called, the ‘sex trade,’ to be immoral or inherently undesirable. Legalised German brothels are starting to avail themselves of national listings of unemployed women to ‘hire’ to perform sexual services. Under German law, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job or lose her unemployment benefit.

“There is now nothing in the law to stop women from being sent into the sex industry,' Merchthild Garweg, a lawyer from Hamburg who specialises in such cases, said. He added, “The new regulations say that working in the sex industry is not immoral any more, and so jobs cannot be turned down without a risk to benefits.”
"
jaynote: snopes now says this probably isn't true

Sunday, January 30, 2005
 
Panel predicted Sept. 11-style attack -- in 1977
suntimes: "BY FRANK BASS AND RANDY HERSCHAFT
WASHINGTON -- Nearly three decades before the Sept. 11 attacks, a high-level government panel developed plans to protect the nation against terrorist acts ranging from radiological ''dirty bombs'' to airline missile attacks, according to declassified documents obtained by the Associated Press.

''Unless governments take basic precautions, we will continue to stand at the edge of an awful abyss,'' Robert Kupperman, chief scientist for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, wrote in a 1977 report that summarized nearly five years of work by the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism.

The group was formed in September 1972 by President Nixon after Palestinian commandos slaughtered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games. The committee involved people as diverse as Henry Kissinger to a young Rudolph Giuliani, the once-secret documents show.

Task force met once

''It is vital that we take every possible action ourselves and in concert with other nations designed to assure against acts of terrorism,'' Nixon wrote in asking his secretary of state, William Rogers, to oversee the task force.

''It is equally important that we be prepared to act quickly and effectively in the event that, despite all efforts at prevention, an act of terrorism occurs involving the United States, either at home or abroad,'' the president said.

The full committee met only once, in October 1972, to organize, but its experts did get together twice a month over nearly five years to identify threats and debate solutions, the memos show.

Eventually, the group's influence waned as competing priorities, a change of presidents ushered in by Watergate, bureaucratic turf battles and a lack of spectacular domestic attacks took their toll.

But before that happened, the panel identified many of the same threats that would confront President Bush in the 21st century.

Committee members identified commercial jets as a particular vulnerability, but raised concerns that airlines would not pay for security improvements such as tighter screening procedures and routine baggage inspections"

 
Dr. Sanity: Challenger - A Flight Surgeon Remembers
Dr. Sanity: Challenger - A Flight Surgeon Remembers: The next 12 hours were something of a blur. I had read about mass hysteria in textbooks, but that description was far too mild for what I found when I reached the place the crew called home prior to a launch. All the members of the immediate and extended family were there. Women were screaming; babies crying. People thronged around me, wanting to know if the crew had parachuted to safety. I was stunned that they had not yet grasped what had happened. One family member was certain that a rescue plane would find the crew in the ocean somewhere. Several people fainted. I needed help to medically manage the 30 or more family members who were there, but George Abbey, the dictatorial head of Flight Crew Ops would not permit me to call in any other doctor. He was in full damage control mode, and wouldn't permit any TVs or radios to be turned on either. Certainly, no phone calls. I needed to hospitalize one person, who had become disoriented and confused. Abbey said no. I said that I couldn't accept that, and did it anyway (that moment, I realized much later, ended my chances of becoming an astronaut myself--a dream I'd had most of my life). Abbey didn't want anyone to leave and head back to Houston (where everyone lived; and where their entire support was) until after Vice President Bush arrived. The Vice President arrived at about 8:00pm that night. By then I was exhausted and could hardly stand up. I barely remember being introduced to Bush and shaking his hand. The closest I came to crying was when I heard the wife of the Shuttle Commander (Dick Scobee) say in a quavering voice to Bush that her husband would not have wanted space exploration to be halted because of what had happened that day. I realized that beyond the grieving was a fear that we all had at the time that this would hurt NASA.


Sunday, January 23, 2005
 
Victorian author had future off to a tee
Scotsman.com News : by CLAIRE SMITH

A FORGOTTEN Victorian text, written by a little-known Scottish author, accurately predicted the invention of flat-screen televisions, bullet trains and digital watches.

Written in 1892 and published under a pseudonym, the science-fiction work set in 2000 describes many modern inventions and social changes with uncanny accuracy.

Very little is known about the author, Jay McCullough, who is believed to have been from St Andrews and who wrote only one other book, a golf instruction manual.

The rare text - published under the pseudonym J.A.C.K. - goes under the hammer this weekend at Edinburgh auctioneers Lyon and Turnbull.

Entitled Golf in the Year 2000 or What Are We Coming To, it follows the tale of avid 19th-century golfer Alexander J Gibson, who falls into a deep sleep on 24 March 1892 and wakes up Rip Van Winkle-style on 25 March 2000 to find a world transformed.

Television, superfast trains, digital watches and female emancipation are all predicted in the tale, which envisages a world of leisure where golf is paramount.

Philip Gregory, of the auctioneers, said he was expecting a lot of interest in the book, which is part of the private library of golf professional and past captain of the PGA, Alan Walker. The small ink-stained book is estimated at £250, but the auctioneers believe it could double that price and that the golf library of more than 300 volumes will raise £70,000 in total.

While Mr McCullough’s book is not the most expensive item in the sale, its uncanny prescience makes the rare first edition a work of great curiosity value.

'I was really surprised that somebody back in 1892 had thought of the idea of television and digital watches. It was an age where there were huge jumps in technology, but only somebody with the imagination of Leonardo da Vinci or HG Wells would have made such accurate predictions.

'It makes you wonder where it all came from. It was very much written as a humorous book, but he seems to have got so many things right.'

McCullough’s time-travelling golfer is astonished to be invited by his host to watch famous comic actor Marmaduke Kinmont on a 'dark sheet of glass 12-feet square'.

Writing more than 30 years before the invention of television Mr McCullough describes watching a live performance from the West End stage on the magic screen, on which images are projected by a system of mirrors and wires.

The narrator also describes a superfast underground train, which links New York and London in less than three hours, anticipating the introduction of accessible international travel and the introduction of bullet trains, which were brought to Japan in 1964.

Mr McCullough also describes digital watches and predicts electronic miniaturisation, telling of rings, which display the time in numerals, rather than on a conventional watch face. The description predates the introduction of digital watches by more than 80 years.

He anticipates female emancipation and equality of employment, although his vision of the future is tinged with some wishful thinking.

In the author’s halcyon vision of the future women and men wear similar clothes, and women have taken over much of the work once done by men.

More than half of all MPs are now female and it is unheard of to see a male clerk. Men take advantage of their new lives of leisure by spending many hours on the golf course.

He writes: 'The dream of my former existence come true. I am indeed a lucky man to see it. The women working while the men play golf. Splendid.'

HITS AND MISSES

WHAT J.A.C.K. GOT RIGHT

• Flat-screen television
• Bullet trains
• Mini digital watches
• Driverless golf carts
• Unisex clothing
• Women in men’s jobs
• International golf competitions

WHAT HE GOT WRONG

• Control of the weather to ensure good sporting conditions
• The exchange of dinner dress for scarlet breeches
• A society of leisure where people work less than ever
• Parliament half female (currently 18 per cent)
• A world obsessed by golf"

 
Women Who Think
Dynamist Blog: "The flap over Larry Summers' bravely analytical comments on why women might be scarce at the top of math and science scholarship demonstrates that political correctness is alive and well and, even more depressing, that a remarkable number of scientifically talented women are incapable of understanding plain English or the difference between general statistical patterns and individual data points. It's been a long time since female scientists did so much to advance the stereotype of women as hysterically incapable of rational analysis."

Thursday, January 20, 2005
 
MacInTouch Home Page
MacInTouch Home Page: "Doug McLean pointed out a possible alternative to AppleCare:
I just read the fine print for my Visa card and discovered the 'Performance Guarantee' that, for a fee, will extend the manufacturer's warranty for items bought with the card. For about $180, my PowerBook repairs can be covered for four years, compared to $349 for three years of AppleCare. Of course, you don't get the one-stop phone assistance and 'peace of mind'.
  The phone operators says that the insurance can be bought anytime during the first two years (which are covered automatically by 'Extended Warranty'), and that failed batteries are covered.
  Has anyone used this as an alternative to AppleCare, and what was your experience?"

Thursday, January 13, 2005
 
Is Heaven Populated Chiefly by the Souls of Embryos?
Harvesting stem cells without tears:
"As far as I know, bioconservatives like Robert George do not advocate the rescue of naturally conceived unimplanted embryos. But why not? In right-to-life terms, normal unimplanted embryos are the moral equivalents of a 30-year-old mother of three children.

Of course, culturally we do not mourn the deaths of these millions of embryos as we would the death of a child—and reasonably so, because we do in fact know that these embryos are not people. Try this thought experiment. A fire breaks out in a fertility clinic and you have a choice: You can save a three-year-old child or a Petri dish containing 10 seven-day old embryos. Which do you choose to rescue?"

Sunday, January 09, 2005
 
climate
Current Chaos Manor mail: "There are some basic facts which always seem to be overlooked:

 Greenland was inhabited by the Vikings. Any climate discussion needs to take this into account. There are theories about ocean currents and such, but the fact remains that Greenland was inhabited, Vineland was inhabitable, and Europe was warmer and had better climate.

We have had much colder periods. Alexander Hamilton dragged the guns of Ticonderoga across the frozen Hudson River to General Washington on Manhattan Island in 1776. I don't have the exact date of the last year the Hudson was frozen that solid, but it was certainly before CO2 caused any great warming.

Any discussion that doesn't at least account for such data is advocacy not science.

As to who are the 'real scientists' the facts here haven't changed much. Everyone since Arrhenius has understood that increasing CO2 levels will cause some warming. Arrhenius did some calculations on the back of an old envelope, so to speak, and all our refined models don't seem to have done much better.

The situation remains: climate modelers see approaching doom. Physical scientists don't find the predicted trends in their measurements. The modelers say 'it's coming, just you wait.' And money better spent on getting better observation data goes to conferences, travel, hype, and 'remedies' when we don't really know what is going on.

There may be a genuine crisis coming. There may not be. We really don't know, and the advocacy style of the debate isn't helping a bit."

Wednesday, January 05, 2005
 
Missplacing the Remote
mock_the_stupid::
This BBC News story is about how a woman lost her only remote control for her BRAIN!

The remote controls a tremor contol brain implant, which needs to be turned off so that she can sleep. It was in her handbag when the bag was stolen.

One would think since everyone involved from the surgeon, to the Medtronics salesman, to the woman herself, has experianced the frustration of a lost television remote, they would have a few spares on hand, but it appears not to be the case.

I'm sure that Harry Benson would be laughing about this.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005
 
THE WORLD QUESTION CENTER 2005
SETH LLOYD:
Quantum Mechanical Engineer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

I believe in science. Unlike mathematical theorems, scientific results can't be proved.They can only be tested again and again, until only a fool would not believe them.

I cannot prove that electrons exist, but I believe fervently in their existence. And if you don't believe in them, I have a high voltage cattle prod I'm willing to apply as an argument on their behalf. Electrons speak for themselves.

Monday, January 03, 2005
 
City's mesh network nets criminals
[IP]: "The police department is also using the Wi-Fi connection to transmit police reports and ticket information so that when a traffic ticket is issued, the data is sent directly into the city's computer system, bypassing a manual process that is prone to errors.

But Drake said the most effective element of the program has been the IP surveillance cameras. They pan over 350 degrees and zoom in and out.
They are shielded behind bullet proof casings and are remotely controlled from headquarters.

The cameras can shoot between five and 10 frames per second, and are set up to provide a clear enough picture of a criminal's face that a perpetrator can be positively identified in court. The images are captured to a hard drive and archived for 72 hours.

Rather than use the more popular MPEG digital video format, the city instead uses the Motion JPEG format. Drake said courts have thrown out MPEG images because they combine frames for a composite image. Motion JPEG, however, does not merge frames and, as a result, has held up more successfully in court. "


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