Monday, October 30, 2006

Techdirt: E-Voting Concerns Going Mainstream?

Techdirt: E-Voting Concerns Going Mainstream?: "

E-Voting Concerns Going Mainstream?
from the nice,-but-too-late dept

Just as the latest reports of e-voting glitches float in (yes, these are brand spanking new reports of problems), it appears that the issue of e-voting machines is hitting the mainstream. In the past, Diebold has been able to brush these concerns off as being from a bunch of conspiracy-theory kooks -- even as example after example after example showed that their voting machines have serious problems. This weekend, however, we saw Time Magazine question if e-voting machines can be trusted while the popular comic strip Foxtrot made fun of e-voting machines by suggesting that dressing up as one was about the scariest costume you could have on Halloween (while then noting that no one really cares). It's great that the issue of e-voting machine problems is clearly reaching the mainstream (despite the fact that evidence of problems has been shown for many, many years), but it won't change the fact that many of these machines will be used in the upcoming election -- after which, do we really expect these issues to get much more attention?"

Britons 'could be microchipped like dogs in a decade' | News | This is London

Britons 'could be microchipped like dogs in a decade' | News | This is London

Human beings may be forced to be 'microchipped' like pet dogs, a shocking official report into the rise of the Big Brother state has warned.

The microchips - which are implanted under the skin - allow the wearer's movements to be tracked and store personal information about them.

They could be used by companies who want to keep tabs on an employee's movements or by Governments who want a foolproof way of identifying their citizens - and storing information about them.

The prospect of 'chip-citizens' - with its terrifying echoes of George Orwell's 'Big Brother' police state in the book 1984 - was raised in an official report for Britain's Information Commissioner Richard Thomas into the spread of surveillance technology.

The report, drawn up by a team of respected academics, claims that Britain is a world-leader in the use of surveillance technology and its citizens the most spied-upon in the free world.

It paints a frightening picture of what Britain might be like in ten years time unless steps are taken to regulate the use of CCTV and other spy technologies.

The reports editors Dr David Murakami Wood, managing editor of the journal Surveillance and Society and Dr Kirstie Ball, an Open University lecturer in Organisation Studies, claim that by 2016 our almost every movement, purchase and communication could be monitored by a complex network of interlinking surveillance technologies.

The most contentious prediction is the spread in the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.

The RFID chips - which can be detected and read by radio waves - are already used in new UK passports and are also used the Oyster card system to access the London Transport network.

For the past six years European countries have been using RFID chips to identify pet animals.

Already used in America

However, its use in humans has already been trialled in America, where the chips were implanted in 70 mentally-ill elderly people in order to track their movements.

And earlier this year a security company in Ohio chipped two of its employees to allow them to enter a secure area. The glass-encased chips were planted in the recipients' upper right arms and 'read' by a device similar to a credit card reader.

In their Report on the Surveillance Society, the authors now warn: "The call for everyone to be implanted is now being seriously debated."

The authors also highlight the Government's huge enthusiasm for CCTV, pointing out that during the 1990s the Home Office spent 78 per cent of its crime prevention budget - a total of £500 million - on installing the cameras.

There are now 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain and the average Briton is caught on camera an astonishing 300 times every day.

This huge enthusiasm comes despite official Home Office statistics showing that CCTV cameras have 'little effect on crime levels'.

They write: "The surveillance society has come about us without us realising", adding: "Some of it is essential for providing the services we need: health, benefits, education. Some of it is more questionable. Some of it may be unjustified, intrusive and oppressive."

Friday, October 27, 2006

World -- Ongoing 'intifada' in France has injured 2,500 police in 2006

World -- Ongoing 'intifada' in France has injured 2,500 police in 2006

Ongoing 'intifada' in France has injured 2,500 police in 2006

Special to World
Friday, October 27, 2006

This might have dropped below the radar, but Al Qaida and its allies are literally battling the Crusaders every day in Europe. And so far, Europe isn't doing so well.

"We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists," said Michel Thoomis, secretary general of the Action Police trade union. "This is not a question of urban violence any more. It is an intifada, with stones and firebombs."

The French Interior Ministry has acknowledged the Muslim uprising. The ministry said more than 2,500 police officers have been injured in 2006. This amounts to at least 14 officers each day.

The battles have been under-reported but alarming to French authorities. Muslim street commanders, who run lucrative drug networks, have organized youngsters in housing projects to ambush police and confront security forces. The response time allows hundreds of Muslims to storm police cars and patrols within minutes.

"You no longer see two or three youths confronting police," Thoomis said. "You see whole tower blocks emptying into the streets to set their comrades free when they are arrested."

France's huge Muslim minority community has come under the influence of agents often influenced and financed by Al Qaida. These agents have recruited Muslim youngsters for urban warfare in which police and government representatives are injured daily.

Not surprisingly, Muslim neighborhoods are becoming autonomous zones, with police and government workers too scared to enter. The police union is demanding the Interior Ministry supply officers with armored cars.

European law enforcement sources say France could be a model for other countries. The most worried are Britain and the Netherlands.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Muslim leader blames women for sex attacks.

Muslim leader blames women for sex attacks.

THE nation’s most senior Muslim cleric has blamed immodestly dressed women who don’t wear Islamic headdress for being preyed on by men and likened them to abandoned “meat” that attracts voracious animals.

In a Ramadan sermon that has outraged Muslim women leaders, Sydney-based Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali also alluded to the infamous Sydney gang rapes, suggesting the attackers were not entirely to blame.

While not specifically referring to the rapes, brutal attacks on four women for which a group of young Lebanese men received long jail sentences, Sheik Hilali said there were women who “sway suggestively” and wore make-up and immodest dress ... “and then you get a judge without mercy (rahma) and gives you 65 years”.

“But the problem, but the problem all began with who?” he asked.

The leader of the 2000 rapes in Sydney’s southwest, Bilal Skaf, a Muslim, was initially sentenced to 55 years’ jail, but later had the sentence reduced on appeal.

In the religious address on adultery to about 500 worshippers in Sydney last month, Sheik Hilali said: “If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat?”

“The uncovered meat is the problem.”

The sheik then said: “If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred.”

He said women were “weapons” used by “Satan” to control men.

“It is said in the state of zina (adultery), the responsibility falls 90 per cent of the time on the woman. Why? Because she possesses the weapon of enticement (igraa).”

Ireland threatened by Muslims

The flag of Islam should be flown over Leinster House, an Islamic extremist said tonight.

Speaking in Dublin before addressing a Trinity College debate, Anjem Choudray also reiterated controversial views that Muslim violence is justified in certain circumstances.

The British-born lawyer, 39, angered the Irish Government last year when he said that Ireland risked becoming a target for a 9/11 style attack because it allowed US war planes to refuel at Shannon Airport.

Mr Choudray said: “As a Muslim, I believe Islam is superior to every other way of life and that it can resolve all the social and economic problems that Ireland suffers from.

“And as a symbol of that, the flag of Islam should be flown over the Dáil.

“This is symbolic of the fact that all societies will be run better according to God’s law.”

Mr Choudray, who has visited Ireland several times, was invited by the Philosophical Society at Trinity College to debate Islamic violence with other speakers.

He added: “I think it is quite important that violence is defined and the Islamic context is presented because it is not as simple to say Muslims can never use any force or violence or fight to defend themselves. There is a context where Muslims have a right to defend their lives, their honour and their property.”

Referring to the US military stopovers at Shannon Airport, he said tonight: “If US warplanes are using Irish soil, then Ireland is seen as aiding and abetting the war on so-called terror. Ireland says it has a position of neutrality but I don’t think it is seen that way in the Muslim world at all.”

Mr Choudray also warned that the Pope must be careful with his public statements so that he doesn’t offend Islam: “He has enough advisers to tell him that this is a sensitive issue and that Muslims take their religion very seriously.”

Monday, October 23, 2006

Secrets of greatness: Practice and hard work bring success - October 30, 2006

Secrets of greatness: Practice and hard work bring success - October 30, 2006

The good news is that your lack of a natural gift is irrelevant - talent has little or nothing to do with greatness. You can make yourself into any number of things, and you can even make yourself great.

Scientific experts are producing remarkably consistent findings across a wide array of fields. Understand that talent doesn't mean intelligence, motivation or personality traits. It's an innate ability to do some specific activity especially well. British-based researchers Michael J. Howe, Jane W. Davidson and John A. Sluboda conclude in an extensive study, "The evidence we have surveyed ... does not support the [notion that] excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts."

To see how the researchers could reach such a conclusion, consider the problem they were trying to solve. In virtually every field of endeavor, most people learn quickly at first, then more slowly and then stop developing completely. Yet a few do improve for years and even decades, and go on to greatness.

The irresistible question - the "fundamental challenge" for researchers in this field, says the most prominent of them, professor K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University - is, Why? How are certain people able to go on improving? The answers begin with consistent observations about great performers in many fields.

Scientists worldwide have conducted scores of studies since the 1993 publication of a landmark paper by Ericsson and two colleagues, many focusing on sports, music and chess, in which performance is relatively easy to measure and plot over time. But plenty of additional studies have also examined other fields, including business.
No substitute for hard work

The first major conclusion is that nobody is great without work. It's nice to believe that if you find the field where you're naturally gifted, you'll be great from day one, but it doesn't happen. There's no evidence of high-level performance without experience or practice.

Reinforcing that no-free-lunch finding is vast evidence that even the most accomplished people need around ten years of hard work before becoming world-class, a pattern so well established researchers call it the ten-year rule.

What about Bobby Fischer, who became a chess grandmaster at 16? Turns out the rule holds: He'd had nine years of intensive study. And as John Horn of the University of Southern California and Hiromi Masunaga of California State University observe, "The ten-year rule represents a very rough estimate, and most researchers regard it as a minimum, not an average." In many fields (music, literature) elite performers need 20 or 30 years' experience before hitting their zenith.

So greatness isn't handed to anyone; it requires a lot of hard work. Yet that isn't enough, since many people work hard for decades without approaching greatness or even getting significantly better. What's missing?
Practice makes perfect

The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call "deliberate practice." It's activity that's explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one's level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition.

For example: Simply hitting a bucket of balls is not deliberate practice, which is why most golfers don't get better. Hitting an eight-iron 300 times with a goal of leaving the ball within 20 feet of the pin 80 percent of the time, continually observing results and making appropriate adjustments, and doing that for hours every day - that's deliberate practice.

Consistency is crucial. As Ericsson notes, "Elite performers in many diverse domains have been found to practice, on the average, roughly the same amount every day, including weekends."

French police face 'permanent intifada' - Yahoo! News

French police face 'permanent intifada' - Yahoo! News

EPINAY-SUR-SEINE, France - On a routine call, three unwitting police officers fell into a trap. A car darted out to block their path, and dozens of hooded youths surged out of the darkness to attack them with stones, bats and tear gas before fleeing. One officer was hospitalized.

The recent ambush was emblematic of what some officers say has become a near-perpetual and increasingly violent conflict between police and gangs in tough, largely immigrant French neighborhoods that were the scene of a three-week paroxysm of rioting last year.

One small police union claims officers are facing a “permanent intifada.” Police injuries have risen in the year since the wave of violence.

National police reported 2,458 cases of violence against officers in the first six months of the year, on pace to top the 4,246 cases recorded for all of 2005 and the 3,842 in 2004. Firefighters and rescue workers have also been targeted — and some now receive police escorts in such areas.

On Sunday, a band of about 30 youths, some wearing masks, forced passengers out of a bus in a southern Paris suburb in broad daylight Sunday, set it on fire, then stoned firefighters who came to the rescue, police said. No one was injured. Two people were arrested, one of them a 13-year-old, according to LCI television.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Boing Boing: Boy Scouts shill for MPAA with copyright merit badge

Boing Boing: Boy Scouts shill for MPAA with copyright merit badge:

"Boy Scouts shill for MPAA with copyright merit badge
The Los Angeles Council of the Boy Scouts of America will offer rewards to Scouts who absorb a brainwashing regime written by the MPAA. The merit badge patch in 'respecting copyright' will almost certainly not include any training on fair use, anything about the fact that the film industry is located in Hollywood because that was a safe-enough distance from Tom Edison that the its founders could infringe his patents with impunity; that record players, radios and VCRs were considered pirate technology until the law changed to accommodate them; or that the entertainment industry enriches itself without regard for creators, who are routinely sodomized through non-negotiable contracts and abusive royalty practices. I'm sure it won't mention the anti-competitive censorship masquerading as the Hollywood 'rating' system, or the way that the studio cartel's copyright term extensions have doomed the majority of creative works to orphaned oblivion, since they remain in copyright, but have no visible owner and can't be brought back into circulation."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Confident students do worse in math; bad news for U.S. -

Confident students do worse in math; bad news for U.S. -

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- Kids who are turned off by math often say they don't enjoy it, they aren't good at it and they see little point in it. Who knew that could be a formula for success?

The nations with the best scores have the least happy, least confident math students, says a study by the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy.

Countries reporting higher levels of enjoyment and confidence among math students don't do as well in the subject, the study suggests. The results for the United States hover around the middle of the pack, both in terms of enjoyment and in test scores.

In essence, happiness is overrated, says study author Tom Loveless.

'We might want to focus on the math that kids are learning and just be a little less obsessed with the fact that they have to enjoy every minute of it,' said Loveless, who directs the Brown Center and serves on a presidential advisory panel on math.

'The implication is not 'Let's go make kids unhappy,'' he said. 'It's 'Let's give kids better signals as to how they're performing, relative to the rest of the world.''

Other countries do better than the United States because they seem to expect more from students, he said. That could also explain why high performers in other nations express less confidence and enjoyment in math. They consider their peer group to be star achievers.

Even efforts to make math relevant may be irrelevant, says the study, released Wednesday.

Nations that try to teach math in terms of daily life have the lowest test scores.

All this is not easy to compute. Math teachers typically don't avoid enjoyment, confidence and relevance in their math lessons. They strive for those things."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Omega-3, junk food and the link between violence and what we eat

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Omega-3, junk food and the link between violence and what we eat

Research with British and US offenders suggests nutritional deficiencies may play a key role in aggressive bevaviour


The Dutch government is currently conducting a large trial to see if nutritional supplements have the same effect on its prison population. And this week, new claims were made that fish oil had improved behaviour and reduced aggression among children with some of the most severe behavioural difficulties in the UK.


For the clinician in charge of the US study, Joseph Hibbeln, the results of his trial are not a miracle, but simply what you might predict if you understand the biochemistry of the brain and the biophysics of the brain cell membrane. His hypothesis is that modern industrialised diets may be changing the very architecture and functioning of the brain.

We are suffering, he believes, from widespread diseases of deficiency. Just as vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy, deficiency in the essential fats the brain needs and the nutrients needed to metabolise those fats is causing of a host of mental problems from depression to aggression. Not all experts agree, but if he is right, the consequences are as serious as they could be. The pandemic of violence in western societies may be related to what we eat or fail to eat. Junk food may not only be making us sick, but mad and bad too.


The researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which is part of NIH, had placed adverts for aggressive alcoholics in the Washington Post in 2001. Some 80 volunteers came forward and have since been enrolled in the double blind study. They have ranged from homeless people to a teacher to a former secret service agent. Following a period of three weeks' detoxification on a locked ward, half were randomly assigned to 2 grams per day of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA for three months, and half to placebos of fish-flavoured corn oil.

An earlier pilot study on 30 patients with violent records found that those given omega-3 supplements had their anger reduced by one-third, measured by standard scales of hostility and irritability, regardless of whether they were relapsing and drinking again. The bigger trial is nearly complete now and Dell Wright, the nurse administering the pills, has seen startling changes in those on the fish oil rather than the placebo. "When Demar came in there was always an undercurrent of aggression in his behaviour. Once he was on the supplements he took on the ability not to be impulsive. He kept saying, 'This is not like me'."


Over the last century most western countries have undergone a dramatic shift in the composition of their diets in which the omega-3 fatty acids that are essential to the brain have been flooded out by competing omega-6 fatty acids, mainly from industrial oils such as soya, corn, and sunflower. In the US, for example, soya oil accounted for only 0.02% of all calories available in 1909, but by 2000 it accounted for 20%. Americans have gone from eating a fraction of an ounce of soya oil a year to downing 25lbs (11.3kg) per person per year in that period. In the UK, omega-6 fats from oils such as soya, corn, and sunflower accounted for 1% of energy supply in the early 1960s, but by 2000 they were nearly 5%. These omega-6 fatty acids come mainly from industrial frying for takeaways, ready meals and snack foods such as crisps, chips, biscuits, ice-creams and from margarine. Alcohol, meanwhile, depletes omega-3s from the brain.

To test the hypothesis, Hibbeln and his colleagues have mapped the growth in consumption of omega-6 fatty acids from seed oils in 38 countries since the 1960s against the rise in murder rates over the same period. In all cases there is an unnerving match. As omega-6 goes up, so do homicides in a linear progression. Industrial societies where omega-3 consumption has remained high and omega-6 low because people eat fish, such as Japan, have low rates of murder and depression.

Of course, all these graphs prove is that there is a striking correlation between violence and omega 6-fatty acids in the diet. They don't prove that high omega-6 and low omega-3 fat consumption actually causes violence. Moreover, many other things have changed in the last century and been blamed for rising violence - exposure to violence in the media, the breakdown of the family unit and increased consumption of sugar, to take a few examples. But some of the trends you might expect to be linked to increased violence - such as availability of firearms and alcohol, or urbanisation - do not in fact reliably predict a rise in murder across countries, according to Hibbeln.

There has been a backlash recently against the hype surrounding omega-3 in the UK from scientists arguing that the evidence remains sketchy. Part of the backlash stems from the eagerness of some supplement companies to suggest that fish oils work might wonders even on children who have no behavioural problems.

Alan Johnson, the education secretary, appeared to be jumping on the bandwagon recently when he floated the idea of giving fish oils to all school children. The idea was quickly knocked down when the food standards agency published a review of the evidence on the effect of nutrition on learning among schoolchildren and concluded there was not enough to conclude much, partly because very few scientific trials have been done.

Professor John Stein, of the department of physiology at Oxford University, where much of the UK research on omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies has been based, agrees: "There is only slender evidence that children with no particular problem would benefit from fish oil. And I would always say [for the general population] it's better to get omega-3 fatty acids by eating fish, which carries all the vitamins and minerals needed to metabolise them."

However, he believes that the evidence from the UK prison study and from Hibbeln's research in the US on the link between nutritional deficiency and crime is " strong", although the mechanisms involved are still not fully understood.

Hibbeln, Stein and others have been investigating what the mechanisms of a causal relationship between diet and aggression might be. This is where the biochemistry and biophysics comes in.

Essential fatty acids are called essential because humans cannot make them but must obtain them from the diet. The brain is a fatty organ - it's 60% fat by dry weight, and the essential fatty acids are what make part of its structure, making up 20% of the nerve cells' membranes. The synapses, or junctions where nerve cells connect with other nerve cells, contain even higher concentrations of essential fatty acids - being made of about 60% of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA.

Communication between the nerve cells depends on neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, docking with receptors in the nerve cell membrane.

Omega-3 DHA is very long and highly flexible. When it is incorporated into the nerve cell membrane it helps make the membrane itself elastic and fluid so that signals pass through it efficiently. But if the wrong fatty acids are incorporated into the membrane, the neurotransmitters can't dock properly. We know from many other studies what happens when the neurotransmitter systems don't work efficiently. Low serotonin levels are known to predict an increased risk of suicide, depression and violent and impulsive behaviour. And dopamine is what controls the reward processes in the brain.

Laboratory tests at NIH have shown that the composition of tissue and in particular of the nerve cell membrane of people in the US is different from that of the Japanese, who eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids from fish. Americans have cell membranes higher in the less flexible omega-6 fatty acids, which appear to have displaced the elastic omega-3 fatty acids found in Japanese nerve cells.

Hibbeln's theory is that because the omega-6 fatty acids compete with the omega-3 fatty acids for the same metabolic pathways, when omega-6 dominates in the diet, we can't convert the omega-3s to DHA and EPA, the longer chain versions we need for the brain. What seems to happen then is that the brain picks up a more rigid omega-6 fatty acid DPA instead of DHA to build the cell membranes - and they don't function so well.

Other experts blame the trans fats produced by partial hydrogenation of industrial oils for processed foods. Trans fats have been shown to interfere with the synthesis of essentials fats in foetuses and infants. Minerals such as zinc and the B vitamins are needed to metabolise essential fats, so deficiencies in these may be playing an important part too.

There is also evidence that deficiencies in DHA/EPA at times when the brain is developing rapidly - in the womb, in the first 5 years of life and at puberty - can affect its architecture permanently. Animal studies have shown that those deprived of omega-3 fatty acids over two generations have offspring who cannot release dopamine and serotonin so effectively.

Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite? - New York Times

Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite? - New York Times:

"FOR the past several months, I’ve been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?”

A “gotcha” question? Perhaps. But if knowing your enemy is the most basic rule of war, I don’t think it’s out of bounds. And as I quickly explain to my subjects, I’m not looking for theological explanations, just the basics: Who’s on what side today, and what does each want?

After all, wouldn’t British counterterrorism officials responsible for Northern Ireland know the difference between Catholics and Protestants? In a remotely similar but far more lethal vein, the 1,400-year Sunni-Shiite rivalry is playing out in the streets of Baghdad, raising the specter of a breakup of Iraq into antagonistic states, one backed by Shiite Iran and the other by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states.

A complete collapse in Iraq could provide a haven for Al Qaeda operatives within striking distance of Israel, even Europe. And the nature of the threat from Iran, a potential nuclear power with prot�g�s in the Gulf states, northern Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, is entirely different from that of Al Qaeda. It seems silly to have to argue that officials responsible for counterterrorism should be able to recognize opportunities for pitting these rivals against each other.

But so far, most American officials I’ve interviewed don’t have a clue. That includes not just intelligence and law enforcement officials, but also members of Congress who have important roles overseeing our spy agencies. How can they do their jobs without knowing the basics?"

ABC News: Tripping Your Way to Sobriety

ABC News: Tripping Your Way to Sobriety:

"You are hooked on alcohol and you want help getting off the booze.

You go to your doctor, and he or she says, 'Drop some acid.'

That's right. LSD, the infamous drug of choice for many hippies in the 1960s and '70s.

Lysergic acid diethylamide, the drug that caused hallucinations or 'tripping,' was, of course, outlawed, giving it immeasurable street cred in its time, before fading away as flower-painted bodies grew into gray-flannel suits.

So, in the 21st century, why would a respected medical doctor even consider prescribing LSD as a wonder drug to help cure alcoholism?

And will it actually happen?

The answer, like an LSD trip, is elusive, but some in the scientific and medical community are beginning to discuss the possible merits of acid for this generation.

Erika Dyck, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta, Canada, researches and teaches the history of medicine.

She raised the issue after studying a series of LSD tests of alcohol-addicted patients carried out in the 1960s in Saskatchewan. The tests were done by British psychiatrists Humphrey Osmond and John Smythies.

She tells ABC News that two-thirds of the alcoholics stopped drinking for at least 18 months after receiving one dose of LSD, compared to 25 percent who stopped after group therapy, and 12 percent after individual therapy.

According to Dyck, even Alcoholics Anonymous endorses the LSD research.

Alcoholics Anonymous 'felt that one of the major obstacles to joining Alcoholics Anonymous was 'Step 2, admitting that there is a higher power.''

Even the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Dyck said, 'felt that LSD was the first intervention that helped many people to reach this step.'

According to Rick W in the organization's New York office, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous 'was supportive in a lot of ways in all kinds of research, so he might very well have written something in support. He also experimented with LSD himself.'

Dyck told the Independent newspaper of London, 'The LSD somehow gave these people experiences that psychologically took them outside of themselves and allowed them to see their own unhealthy [behavior] more objectively, and then determine to change it.'"

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Business 2.0...Big Innovations: Zopa - Sep. 20, 2006

Business 2.0...Big Innovations: Zopa - Sep. 20, 2006:

"The Innovation: Peer-to-peer lending

The Disrupted: Traditional banks

Any industry making a huge profit margin off its customers is a good candidate for disruption. Banking is a classic case -- just think of the 19 percent interest you pay on credit cards and the 2 percent you earn on your savings account.

Zopa is closing that gap by using the Web to allow personal lending on a massive scale. The startup was the first company to introduce peer-to-peer lending in the United Kingdom 18 months ago and is about to launch in America. 'What Skype did to telecoms, this could do to banks,' says David Cowan of Bessemer Venture Partners, which contributed some of the $31 million in funding the startup has attracted to date.

Scott Anthony, a managing director of Clayton Christensen's consulting firm, Innosight, is intrigued by the disruptive potential of peer-to-peer lending. 'Are there ways to loan amounts that banks won't lend because they're too small,' he asks, 'or to serve customers who would otherwise never be served?'

The idea is simple. People join Zopa online as either borrowers or lenders. The lenders proffer money not to individuals but to a pool of people grouped together because of similar creditworthiness. Zopa assesses the credit risk of the borrowers, pools the capital, and matches consumers who need money with consumers who want to lend it. Since Zopa is not technically a bank and doesn't lend money itself, the capital requirements to run the business are relatively small."

Friday, October 13, 2006

LMNOP: America's Most Fonted: The 7 Worst Fonts

LMNOP: America's Most Fonted: The 7 Worst Fonts:

"America's Most Fonted: The 7 Worst Fonts"

Ha ha. I love stuff like this!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State :: Daley: By 2016, cameras on 'almost every block'

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State :: Daley: By 2016, cameras on 'almost every block':

"Security and terrorism won't be an issue if Chicago wins the right to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games because, by that time, there'll be a surveillance camera on every corner, Mayor Daley said Wednesday.

'By the time 2016 [rolls around], we'll have more cameras than Washington, D.C. ... Our technology is more advanced than any other city in the world -- even compared to London -- dealing with our cameras and the sophistication of cameras and retro-fitting all the cameras downtown in new buildings, doing the CTA cameras,' Daley said.

'By 2016, I'll make you a bet. We'll have [cameras on] almost every block.'

The mayor talked about the steady march toward a Big Brother city during a free-wheeling exchange with the Sun-Times editorial board after unveiling his proposed 2007 budget."

Canada troops battle 10-foot Afghan marijuana plants -

Canada troops battle 10-foot Afghan marijuana plants -

"OTTAWA, Canada (Reuters) -- Canadian troops fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan have stumbled across an unexpected and potent enemy -- almost impenetrable forests of marijuana plants 10 feet tall.

General Rick Hillier, chief of the Canadian defense staff, said Thursday that Taliban fighters were using the forests as cover. In response, the crew of at least one armored car had camouflaged their vehicle with marijuana.

'The challenge is that marijuana plants absorb energy, heat very readily. It's very difficult to penetrate with thermal devices. ... And as a result you really have to be careful that the Taliban don't dodge in and out of those marijuana forests,' he said in a speech in Ottawa, Canada.

'We tried burning them with white phosphorous -- it didn't work. We tried burning them with diesel -- it didn't work. The plants are so full of water right now ... that we simply couldn't burn them,' he said."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Young shoppers want to pay with chip in skin | the Daily Mail

Young shoppers want to pay with chip in skin | the Daily Mail:

"Some customers are willing to have microchip implants as a means of paying in stores, a report out today says.

Teenagers are more open to the idea of having a high-tech shopping experience, the Tomorrow's Shopping World report suggests.

Around 8 per cent of 13 to 19-year-olds were open to the idea of microchip implants while 16 per cent wanted trolleys to be fitted with SatNav systems.

This compared to just 5 per cent and 12 per cent respectively for adults asked the same questions. Two thirds of teenagers and 62 per cent of adults questioned for grocery think tank IGD's report wanted self-scanning systems at shop check-outs.

Some 7 per cent of people in both age groups were willing to use biometric iris or retina recognition payment systems."

Cockroach-eating contest bugs animal group�|�Oddly Enough�|�

Cockroach-eating contest bugs animal group Oddly Enough -

"TORONTO (Reuters) - An animal rights group called Tuesday for a North American theme park operator to cancel a competition in which people will try to break the world cockroach-eating record.

Theme park operator Six Flags Inc, based in New York, is staging the contest as part of a promotion leading up to Halloween in which it is also offering customers free entry or line-jumping advantages if they eat a live Madagascar hissing cockroach.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said it had been flooded with calls from children, adults and even anonymous employees of Six Flags opposing the record-breaking contest and the overall promotion.

'Insects do not deserve to be eaten alive especially for a gratuitous marketing gimmick,' PETA spokeswoman Jackie Vergerio told Reuters."

Napa Valley Register Online | Stories From ApBusiness

Napa Valley Register Online | Stories From ApBusiness:

"A radical idea is sweeping the world of American bicycle manufacturing: building bikes that people will use for actual transportation.

After decades of pushing models designed for recreation, from full-suspension mountain bikes to ever-faster road bikes, industry heavyweights are now moving into commuters -- rugged specimens made for riding to work. Nearly every major manufacturer has a new or revised commuter model for 2007. They may look like 1940s Schwinns, but materials like aluminum and carbon make the frames lighter, while technological advances mean better brakes, shock-absorbing seats, smoother shifters and even electric power. The models usually come with practical accessories, like racks for carrying briefcases, fenders for splash protection on wet roads, lights that turn on automatically at dusk and big chain guards to keep legs and clothing away from chain grease.

Specialized's new Globe commuter line has nine selections, from $410 to $1,300. The 2007 Transporter from Diamondback is billed as an 'AWB' (All-Weather Bike), thanks to fenders and lightly treaded, all-purpose tires. Manufacturer Breezer, which came out with its first commuter models in 2002, has added a new version of its Uptown 8 this season, with LED headlights, more comfortable handlebars, a full chain case and more puncture-resistant tires.

Europeans, of course, have been riding commuter bikes for decades. In Holland, there are twice as many bikes as cars, and nearly as many bicycles as people. Now, in the U.S., the industry is pitching the new models as gas prices remain high and concerns over obesity grow. They also come as cities and states move to become more bike-friendly."

Monday, October 09, 2006

WJZ: Healthwatch - ADD and ADHD - Harnessing the Power of ADHD

WJZ: Healthwatch - ADD and ADHD - Harnessing the Power of ADHD:

"With information about this disorder spreading quickly, many adults are suddenly realizing that their previously unexplainable childhood and adult problems may have stemmed from ADHD. Jergen, now in his late 30s, didn’t have a name for his problems until he was 22, and ironically, taking a class on special education.

But, as Jergen explains in his book, The Little Monster, the signs started much earlier.

'As soon as my eyes would pop open after a nap, the crib would start to tremble and [my mother] would always know when the little monster was awake.' says Jergen.

Growing Up Different
The nickname 'little monster' was bestowed upon Robert as he destroyed everything in his path; his parents just didn’t understand that he couldn’t control his actions. Jergen describes numerous situations where he would impulsively throw a knife, dismantle a lamp or toss lit matches at a model ship, each time thinking a moment too late, 'Now that wasn’t such a good idea.'

It’s not that Jergen didn’t know right from wrong; he just acted without realizing. And being hypersensitive, like many other ADHD children, Jergen’s head is still filled with his mother saying over and over, 'Jesus Christ, give me strength! You are such a rotten kid!' even though he is not entirely sure if she ever said it more than once.

It was the constant disappointment and scolding, both at school and at home, and constant comparisons to his athletic, intelligent, sweet brothers that caused a slow slide into depression.

'I always heard, ’Rob, I love you, but you don’t do what you’re told, you don’t finish what you start, you do things without thinking,’' he says. 'And what I grew up hearing was, ’I really don’t love you, but I would, if you would stop doing this.’'

By eighth grade, Jergen had twice attempted suicide.

The Lowest Point
Jergen’s outlook improved after meeting an accepting group of friends in high school, but the hopelessness returned in college when he fell in with a group who called themselves the 'All-American Drinking Team.'"
Jergen, typical of those with ADHD, found alcohol to be the one tool that could be used to quiet his head, which helped him concentrate in class, improve his grades and calm his constant anxiety over how he appeared to others. But alcohol also brought out years worth of pent-up rage. So, after an ugly night at a bar, Jergen realized he had to stop drinking.

Gee, I know someone with ADD who drinks alot...

With the drinking stopped, Jergen’s head became noisy again. And while he loved his job teaching adolescents with special needs, it was the quiet paperwork, long meetings and coworkers angry with his antics that made work miserable. The stress was quickly driving Jergen back to alcohol and depression.

To try to stem the tide, Jergen returned to school, where he last felt most comfortable. It would be here that he would receive an answer to all of his problems.

A Wall of TVs
At the beginning of a master’s program, Jergen’s condition became steadily worse. Rude comments would just pop out of his mouth without him even realizing.

Gee, I know someone with ADD who is rude and deosn't think about what she says.

He once poked his boss in a thin patch of hair and proclaimed "bald spot!" Unable to concentrate on any of his reading assignments, unable to control his actions or even his mind, Jergen was again considering suicide.

Potheads send Alzheimer's up in smoke | Health | The Australian

Potheads send Alzheimer's up in smoke | Health | The Australian:

"IT seems illogical, but the same compound that addles the brains of marijuana users may help treat the symptoms and slow the onset of Alzheimer's disease, the leading cause of dementia among elderly people.

In laboratory experiments, the compound, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), preserved levels of a brain chemical that declines in Alzheimer's, permitting the build-up of brain-gumming 'amyloid plaques'.

The plaques are the hallmark of Alzheimer's and its dementia-inducing damage.

'Our results provide a mechanism whereby the THC molecule can directly impact Alzheimer's disease pathology,' researchers reported in the US journal Molecular Pharmaceutics."

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ramadan Muslim riots in Sweden :: Aftonbladet: V�g av skadeg�relse i G�teborg

Aftonbladet: V�g av skadeg�relse i G�teborg

Tonight there were power shortages all over Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg. “Youth gangs” took the opportunity, spreading the European tradition of “Ramadan Riots.” Within an hour most schools and commercial centers in the north eastern suburbs were vandalized.

- It’s complete chaos in north eastern Gothenburg. “We’ve sent all available police units but there’s no way we can stop the vandalisation,” police spokesman Frank Karlsson tells

- Several youth gangs are wandering about smashing windows and breaking into schools, malls, banks and a retirement center.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Muslim cabbies refusing the blind and drinkers |

Muslim cabbies refusing the blind and drinkers |

MUSLIM taxi drivers are refusing to carry blind passengers with their guide dogs or anyone carrying alcohol.

At least 20 dog-aided blind people have lodged discrimination complaints with the Victorian Taxi Directorate. Dozens more have voiced their anger. And there have been several complaints that drivers refuse to allow passengers to carry sealed bottles of alcohol.

Victorian Taxi Association spokesman Neil Sach said the association had appealed to the mufti of Melbourne to give religious approval for Muslim cabbies to carry guide dogs.

One Muslim driver, Imran, said yesterday the guide dog issue was difficult for him. “I don’t refuse to take people, but it’s hard for me because my religion tells me I should not go near dogs,” he said.

There are about 2000 Muslims among drivers of Melbourne’s 10,000 taxis. Many are from countries with strict Islamic teachings about “unclean” dogs and the evils of alcohol.

Drivers who refused to carry blind people with their dogs attended remedial classes at Guide Dogs Victoria, Mr Sach said. “They are taught why blind people need dogs,” Mr Sach said. “The Victorian Taxi Association has included a program in their taxi driver training program.”

Guide Dogs Victoria spokeswoman Holly Marquette said blind people regularly reported taxi drivers refusing to carry them because of their dogs.

But if people started refusing to get in taxis driven by Muslims, that would be racist.

Gallery scraps art, fearing Muslim rage -curator�|�UK�|�

Gallery scraps art, fearing Muslim rage -curator�|�UK�|�

"PARIS (Reuters) - A London gallery has decided not to show some works of art because it fears they would upset Muslims, a curator said on Friday, a week after a German opera house canned a Mozart production for the same reason.

The director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery decided to remove works by surrealist artist Hans Bellmer from an exhibition the day before it was due to open, one of the museum's curators, Agnes de la Beaumelle, told Reuters.

'The motive was simply to not shock the population of the Whitechapel neighbourhood, which is partly Muslim,' she said.

The Whitechapel area in east London is home to many ethnic minorities including a large Bangladeshi community.

The gallery issued a statement saying that some works were not included in the exhibition because of space constraints but declined to comment specifically on what Beaumelle said.

Last week, Berlin's Deutsche Oper reignited a heated debate in Europe over free speech and had to fend off charges of cowardice after it cancelled performances of Mozart's 'Idomeno', fearing they could enrage Muslims and pose a security risk.

Beaumelle said the exhibition had already been to Paris and Munich without provoking any protests and Bellmer, who died in 1975, is well-known in the art world, which made the decision by gallery director Iwona Blazwick all the more surprising to her.

Bellmer's work includes dolls of naked young girls.

'It surprised me because Bellmer's work is very well known. She already knew it well and by committing to take our exhibition she must have known what would be on the walls,' Beaumelle said."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Google boss warns politicians about Internet power :: My Way News

Google boss warns politicians about Internet power :: My Way News:

"LONDON (Reuters) - Imagine being able to check instantly whether or not statements made by politicians were correct. That is the sort of service Google Inc. boss Eric Schmidt believes the Internet will offer within five years.

Politicians have yet to appreciate the impact of the online world, which will also affect the outcome of elections, Schmidt said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Wednesday.

He predicted that 'truth predictor' software would, within five years, 'hold politicians to account.' People would be able to use programs to check seemingly factual statements against historical data to see to see if they were correct.

'One of my messages to them (politicians) is to think about having every one of your voters online all the time, then inputting 'is this true or false.' We (at Google) are not in charge of truth but we might be able to give a probability,' he told the newspaper.

The chairman and chief executive of the world's most popular Internet search engine was speaking during a visit to Britain this week, where he met British Prime Minister Tony Blair and spoke at the opposition Conservative Party's annual conference.

'Many of the politicians don't actually understand the phenomenon of the Internet very well,' Schmidt told the Financial Times. 'It's partly because of their age ... often what they learn about the Internet they learn from their staffs and their children.'

The advent of television taught political leaders the art of the sound bite. The Internet will also force them to adapt.

'The Internet has largely filled a role of funding for politicians ... but it has not yet affected elections. It clearly will,' Schmidt said.

Writing in the Sun tabloid, the Google boss said the online world has empowered ordinary people with the ability to challenge governments, the media and business.

'It has broken down the barriers that exist between people and information, effectively democratizing access to human knowledge,' Schmidt wrote.

'This has made us much more powerful as individuals.'"

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Did Democrats Page Mark Foley? - Yahoo! News

Did Democrats Page Mark Foley? - Yahoo! News

the immediate take by Democrats and much of the mainstream media was that this was a classic example of Republican hypocrisy -- talking "morals" and "values" while all the time shielding a child predator. But it was nothing of the kind.

If anything, the episode reveals the Democrats' hypocrisy about their own behavior. The fact that Foley resigned virtually within minutes of being told that ABC News had copies of his salacious e-mails and text messages indicates he at least felt shame for his actions. Can the same be said for Democrats?

Sadly, it doesn't seem so. How else can you explain the following?

In 1983, then-Democratic Rep. Gerry Studds of Massachusetts was caught in a similar situation. In his case, Studds had sex with a male teenage page -- something Foley hasn't been charged with.

Did Studds express contrition? Resign? Quite the contrary. He rejected Congress' censure of him and continued to represent his district until his retirement in 1996.

In 1989, Rep. Barney Frank (news, bio, voting record), also of Massachusetts, admitted he'd lived with Steve Gobie, a male prostitute who ran a gay sex-for-hire ring out of Frank's apartment. Frank, it was later discovered, used his position to fix 33 parking tickets for Gobie.

What happened to Frank? The House voted 408-18 to reprimand him -- a slap on the wrist. Today he's an honored Democratic member of Congress, much in demand as a speaker and "conscience of the party."

In 2001,
President Clinton, who had his own intern problem, commuted the prison sentence of Illinois Rep. Mel Reynolds, who had sex with a 16-year-old campaign volunteer and pressured her to lie about it. (Reynolds also was convicted of campaign spending violations.)

You get the idea. Democrats not only seem OK with the kind of behavior for which Foley is charged, but also they protect and excuse it. Only when it's a Republican do they proclaim themselves shocked -- shocked! -- when it comes to light.

We have a lot more questions about this whole affair. The timing of the revelations, as we noted, couldn't be more propitious for the Democrats. Turns out both the Democrats and several newspapers seem to have known about Foley's problem as far back as November, according to research by several enterprising blogs.

Why didn't they come forward then? Who dredged up these e-mails -- and why did they hold them until now? This reeks of political trickery.

We're glad Foley's gone. He betrayed Congress, his party and the trust of the 33 pages who serve in Congress, and their parents. He behaved immorally, and we won't be surprised at new revelations.

That said, if this scandal is the Democrats' answer to their problems at the polls, it's pretty pathetic. It shows a base contempt for the voters.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Internet thrives in post Saddam Iraq

Internet thrives in post Saddam Iraq

Moving Baghdad into cyberspace has been a feat of free- market ingenuity.

Perhaps the hardest part is electricity. Much of Baghdad had electricity for 12-18 hours a day before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Most neighborhoods now get electricity from the grid for just four to six hours a day.

It means ordinary people have to know their ohms from their amperes and their megabits from their kilohertz.

Most middle class households now have cables snaking down the street to a neighborhood "generator man" who gives them diesel-generated power for a monthly fee of about $10 per ampere. Six or seven amperes are usually enough for a computer, a TV and a fridge. An air conditioner costs more.

A neighborhood Internet cafe will sell a subscription for wireless Wi-Fi access to its satellite broadband hookup for about $40 a month.

Most Iraqis have only experienced the Internet since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.