Saturday, July 31, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Leading article: Mr Cameron's antiquated passage to India - Leading Articles, Opinion - The Independent
For a thoroughly modern politician, David Cameron appears to have some strangely antiquated ideas about how the modern global economy works. This week, the Prime Minister will board a plane to India in the company of scores of senior British businessmen. At the other end, much flesh will be pressed and the merits of British firms loudly trumpeted. A new defence contract for BAE Systems is expected to be brandished. This is the traditional way of conducting trade policy. It is also thoroughly outdated. If there is business to be done between Britain and India, the private sectors of each country are perfectly capable of getting on and doing it without politicians of either nation smoothing the way.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Publicist Howard Bragman is set to launch a new television series about coming out of the closet, Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood reports.
The show, titled “Coming Out” will follow currently closeted celebrities in their journeys to publicly disclose their sexual orientation.
According to Deadline Hollywood, “The Coming Out Guru” is teaming up with JUMA entertainment and A&E to develop the new series.
Bragman recently served on a panel at the Los Angeles gay and lesbian film festival Outfest, where he described closeted public figures as “sad.”
“If there are superstar male actors who are in the closet and they are worth $100 million and they have this whole fake life, there’s just nothing sadder,” he said.
At the panel, Bragman reportedly called on the crowd to refer any public figures coming out of the closet to him for a “great TV opportunity.”
Malcolm Dando thinks we neuroethicists are not talking enough about the problem of dual-use: the simultaneous application of advances in (neuro)science to both improving society as a whole and to assist military capabilities. I think he is right. In an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Dando tells us that,
“in regard to the question of dual-use the advances in neuroscience have already seen application in the Russian use of some form of fentanyl, a powerful painkiller, as a novel incapacitating chemical agent to break the 2002 Moscow theater siege. Moreover, Russia is unlikely to be the only state interested in the development of such new agents, given the changing nature of modern warfare. One can only hope that neuroethicists will begin to pay some attention to the clear and present danger that the hostile misuse of modern neuroscience could lead to the erosion of the prohibition of chemical weapons embodied in the Chemical Weapons Convention and make a valuable contribution to the discussion of this problem in the run up to the 3rd Five Year Review Conference of the convention in 2013. For example, the peaceful purpose defined in Article II.9 (d) as “Law enforcement including domestic riot control purposes” could be read to mean that ordinary domestic riot control agents are a sub-category of a larger group of chemical agents that can be used legally. On this reading, novel so-called non-lethal chemical incapacitating agents based on advances in modern civil neuroscience could be developed and used. Yet all the evidence is that use of such agents would be very difficult to distinguish from the use of lethal agents; recall that more than 120 of the hostages in the Moscow theater siege were killed by the chemical agent. Such developments by states could undermine the whole prohibition and lead to a downward spiral of misuse. Therefore, this issue of dual-use should be of great concern to neuroscientists, and particularly neuroethicists, who wish to help protect civil neuroscience from such dreadful distortion of its intended purpose.”
The truth is that other than Jonathan Moreno, few neuroethicists have applied serious scholarship to the issue of dual use. Of course, it is a simple matter to just say no: neuroscience should only be used for improving the quality of human life. But frankly, that is too simplistic. One can take a rather strong position against the use of neurobiological tools for torture and killing, but there are some very challenging grey zones as well. The one that springs to mind most readily is the idea of developing ‘calmants’, agents that might incapacitate an enemy briefly, allowing them to be captured without any loss of life. As recounted in Dando’s piece, the Russians used fentanyl as an incapacitating agent to end the 2002 siege at a Moscow theatre; the consequences were disastrous, with more than 120 people killed. Of course, fentanyl is a very potent fast acting narcotic that has been around since the 1060′s. Worrying about fentanyl’s use as a ‘calmant’ is in some ways akin to worrying about methylphenidate as a cognitive enhancer: both agents have been around for a while, and while some people (college students and the Russian government come to mind) might think they are useful in one arena or another, they are really crude tools. But if a better agent were to be developed, would such incapacitation be unacceptable? Would allowing some forms of chemical warfare (there is really no other word for it) open the door to a whole new armamentarium that emerges from neuroscience laboratories? The only thing that I know for certain is that this is an area worthy of further debate.
Link to Malcolm Dando’s article
Image Credit: Nature
Former Givati Brigade commander Ilan Malka is among the IDF officers under investigation for war crimes in Gaza
On July 18, a bombshell report appeared in the Israeli daily Yediot Aharanot. The article, which has only been published in Hebrew and was buried on page 8 as a small news item, stated that 550 officers and soldiers who participated in Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in late 2008 and early 2009 have been questioned by IDF military police about possible war crimes the IDF committed during Cast Lead. Among them is the former commander of the Givati Brigade, Ilan Malka, who was interrogated for an air strike that resulted in the killing of 21 members of one family in Gaza City. At least one other soldier is accused of using human shields, or “use of neighbor” tactics. In fact, nearly all battalion commanders who participated in Cast Lead have been interrogated regarding their conduct. Maybe Judge Goldstone wasn’t so crazy after all.
A full translation of the article is below:
YEDIOT AHARONOT Sunday, July 18, 2010 page 8
Officers under interrogation
550 OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS OF “CAST LEAD” HAVE BEEN INTERROGATED.
By our military correspondent Yossi Yehoshua
Brigadier Ilan Malka is not alone. More than 550 officers and men of IDF who participated in the “Cast Lead” operation have been interrogated by the investigative military police of the IDF in the last 18 months.
Last Friday “Yediot Aharonot” wrote that former GIV’ATI brigade commander [Ilan Malka A.O.] will be interrogated about an aerial attack in “Cast Lead” that killed 21 members of one [Gaza A.O.] family. It now turns out that hundreds more were interrogated, some more than once. Among the interrogated are almost all battalion commanders who participated in the operation and dozens of soldiers in regular service and in the reserves. It is a number without precedent in any other [Israeli A.O.] operation or war. Senior officers expressed their worry that this will create a situation in future wars where commanders in the field will think twice before carrying out problematic operations, due to fear of legal steps taken against them later. Battalion and platoon commanders who participated in “Cast Lead” find it difficult to go through the interrogations. One battalion commander said he had to spend his few days of Leave in interrogation chambers instead of with his family. He said “Even if they try to deny it the damage caused to commanders is immense” adding “It is an unpleasant feeling to risk your life for your country and then be interrogated about it again and again”.
So far the interrogations gave rise to a considerable number of disciplinary – and legal – steps. The most serious one was taken last week when the Chief Military Prosecutor, Aloof Avihai Mandelblit, decided to charge a Giv’ati soldier for committing murder. On another occasion he decided to court-martial a Golani battalion commander for ignoring IDF instructions forbidding “use of neighbor” tactics.
(My note: “Use of neighbor” tactic is the act where soldiers preparing to enter a suspected house force the neighbors to walk in front of them as a human shield.)
A new study published in the August 2010 journal, Appetite, further demonstrates that people who consume low-calorie sweeteners (sugar substitutes) are able to significantly reduce their caloric intake and do not overeat. In fact, study participants who received the sugar substitutes instead of sugar consumed significantly fewer calories and there was no difference in hunger levels despite having fewer calories overall.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Budget Cuts Force British Government To Shut Down Mysterious Seaside Village | The Onion - America's Finest News Source
Friday, July 23, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Have you heard of the city of Bell? I didn't think so. It's one of the dozens of little municipalities that surround Los Angeles, and it's now on the surprisingly large list of such municipalities that are in trouble. In this case, it's because of an LA Times story revealing that the City Manager earns about $800,000, his assistant earns $400,000, the police chief makes nearly half a million dollars, and the city council members pay themselves $100,000 per year. All for a town with a population under 40,000.
Surprisingly, this is not actually all that surprising. The variety of corruption varies from town to town around LA, but there's a helluva lot of it. And Bell's is typical, the result of a small cadre of insiders who manage to gain control of the municipal apparatus and basically run it as their own little fiefdom. But the question is, have they actually done anything illegal? California law limits the pay of city councilmembers, but they got around that via a technicality: paying themselves not for being on the council, but for being on a variety of planning boards — all of which met infrequently and consisted solely of city councilmembers. The city manager and the police chief got loads of cash, but there's nothing illegal there. The city council voted to pay it to them fair and square.
But it's even worse than that! Here's the latest:
Bell City Council members are seeking the resignations of the city manager and two other top officials amid growing public outcry over salaries that appear to be among the highest in the nation, according to three sources close to the discussions.
Resigning would make City Manager Robert Rizzo, Police Chief Randy Adams and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia eligible for lucrative pensions. But the three also have contracts that protect them from being fired without cause.
As a result, unless they agree to resign, the city would face the prospect of buying out their contracts, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional payments.
Isn't that great? These guys connive with the city council to get paid astronomical salaries, and when the gravy train finally ends they have (enforceable!) contracts that pay them big bucks if they're fired without cause. And since pensions are based on salary levels, they're entitled to astronomical pensions even if they do leave.
All I can say is: there just has to be something illegal here. I don't know what, but is it really possible that such an obvious abuse of the public trust can be legal? I know the answer to this: yes, it's possible. But in practice, I sure hope someone manages to figure out how to pin something on these guys.
Capsaicin, the stuff that gives chili peppers their kick, may cause weight loss and fight fat buildup by triggering certain beneficial protein changes in the body, according to a new study on the topic. The report, which could lead to new treatments for obesity, appears in ACS' monthly Journal of Proteome Research.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Andrei Niemim?ki)
British scientists claim to have solved one of the great mysteries of life, the universe, and everything in it: The chicken came before the egg, they say, and they're not mincing words.
"It had long been suspected that the egg came first, but now we have the scientific proof that shows that in fact the chicken came first," Sheffield University's Colin Freeman, according to a report in the Metro.
Researchers from Scotland and England used a supercomputer called HECToR to look in such detail at a chicken eggshell that they were able to determine the vital role of a protein used to kick-start the egg's formation.
That protein is only found, wait for it...inside a chicken.
Freeman, who worked on HECToR with counterparts at Edinburgh's Warwick University, said the protein had been identified earlier by scientists and was known to be linked to egg formation, "but by examining it closely we have been able to see how it controls the process," he added, describing it as a catalyst.
Professor John Harding, who also took part in the research, told Metro the discovery could have other applications.
"Understanding how chickens make shells is fascinating in itself, but can also give clues towards designing new materials." he said.
Which is good, because in spite of HECToR's hard work and the "scientific proof" it yielded, the study offered no explanation as to how the chicken got there in the first place.
If not from an egg, perhaps it just came from across the road.
This story originally appeared on CBSNews.com.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy portrayed Russians as a brooding, complicated people, and ethnographers have confirmed that Russians tend to focus on dark feelings and memories more than Westerners do. But a new University of Michigan study finds that even though Russians tend to brood, they are less likely than Americans to feel as depressed as a result.
It's All About the Wages -- Our Economy Would Be Fine If Everyone Made Their Fair Share | | AlterNet
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The 20 Worst Mel Gibson Rant Quotes (Presented By Kittens): In case you haven't heard the vitriolic taped phone calls between Mel Gibson and his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, here's your chance to experience all the hate and anger in a more palatable way: WITH ADORABLE KITTENS! [ Update : There was a 3rd call released today. BONUS KITTENS!]..The 1st Mel Gibson Rant
Saturday, July 10, 2010
That's right, now you can have all the same disregard for the environment (albeit virtual) that big oil does everyday! Why should they get to have all the fun?
Simply enter the web address of the site you'd like to contaminate and watch the spill happen.Note: This doesn't really harm other websites. We're not complete a**holes! ;)
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
WalesOnline - CardiffOnline - Cardiff news - TV archeologists search for 16th century house that disappeared
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Samsung's ultracompact ML-1665 laser printer is perfect for homes and small offices. (OK, very small offices.)(Credit: Newegg)
Inkjet printers are all well and good for printing photos and other items that require color, but for everything else, the faster, cheaper, smarter bet is a laser.
As you might expect, this is a bare-bones, entry-level laser--not that there's anything wrong with that. It can crank out 17 pages per minute (according to Samsung), and it delivers an output resolution of 1,200 by 600 dpi--not at all shabby.
The ML-1665 has a 150-sheet input tray, 100-sheet output capacity, and USB interface. It's compatible with both Windows and Macintosh systems. Like most low-priced lasers, this one ships with a "starter" toner cartridge that's good for around 700 pages.
Unfortunately, standard-yield cartridges (good for about 1,500 pages) are kind of hard to come by, and not exactly cheap. Plan on spending around $70, unless you go the toner-refill route (which I've never done, but it looks simple enough).
It might be worth the effort, as the ML-1665 does have a couple slick features. Its PrintScreen button prints the entire contents of your screen, just like that. Hold it for 2 seconds and you get a printout of just the active window.
The ML-1665 is also one of the world's smallest laser printers, measuring just 13.4 inches wide by 8.8 inches tall by 7.2 inches deep. If there's a desk that won't accommodate this little guy, I haven't seen it.
Newegg's coupon code is good until Monday (and I'm outta here till Tuesday, FYI), but there's always the chance the printer will sell out before then. I'm not wild about the toner situation, but a laser printer for 50 bucks is just plain hard to pass up.
Bonus deal: Also at Newegg this weekend: the Iomega Select 1.5TB USB external hard drive for $89.99. The promo code on that one is EMCYVYN2. That's an unreal deal on a huuuuuge drive!