Americans ‘becoming more superstitious’: “A Gallup poll has revealed that more Americans now

believe in phenomena than they did 11 years ago.

It found that more people now believe in haunted houses,

ghosts and witches. The only phenomena to have seen a

decrease in belief is devil possession which went from 49%

in 1990 to 41%.” Ananova

Bookies slash odds on alien life: “Bookies in the UK have reportedly slashed the odds on the

Prime Minister making an official confirmation that aliens

exist. This comes after a Scottish photographer snapped a

picture of a possible UFO.

William Hill has halved the odds after Mark Runnacles

snapped the object flying over Glasgow. Student

Alexander McCallum, 38, of Dalmarnock, also took a photo of a UFO over Glasgow, which

he says looks identical to Mr. Runnacles’, who works for a Scottish newspaper.” Cosmiverse

Nowhere to hide: “We can tell you if you’re guilty or innocent. You can’t fool the lie detector that knows what you are thinking.”

You have just been arrested on suspicion of murder. You’re sweating it out in the interrogation room with a pair of beefy detectives. But your lips are sealed–you know your rights.

Then with a smirk they slip a thing like a hairnet covered in dozens of tiny electrodes over your head and sit you down in front of a computer. Pictures of the crime scene begin to flash up on the screen interspersed with multiple-choice questions.

Flash! A photo of a brick wall. Flash! “What lies behind this wall?” Flash! “Cement and blacktop?” Flash! “Sand and gravel?”

Flash! “Weeds and grass?”

You said nothing. You were even trying not to think. But sorry buddy, your brain just gave you away. It couldn’t help but show an electrical start of recognition at the image matching the memory of hurdling a wall and wading through a backyard of weeds as you fled. New Scientist

News Analysis: A Mideast Lull That May Not Last. Dismal outlook on the fragility of the cease-fire. Among other things, Sharon and another Israeli cabinet minister chose this moment to intensify efforts to undermine Arafat. Israeli critics say the statements were orchestrated, as one put it, “…to prepare public opinion, in Israel and around the world, for a

large-scale military operation that will topple the Palestinian Authority and lead

to Arafat’s expulsion.” Israel demands that Arafat “arrest en masse Islamic militants he released from detention earlier this year,” which he refuses to do. Paradoxically, hawkish Israelis see Arafat’s being able to restore calm as an indictment, not a credit; it proves, ending polarized debate, that he has indeed been in control of the Intifada and responsible for the bloodshed all along. In an atmosphere of such eroded trust, it is hard to see how any brokered agreement on security arrangements could hold for long with the difficulty of taking the next step of reopening political negotiation. New York Times

The Dramaturgy of Death. Garry Wills discerns fourteen types of capital punishment in terms of the social and emotional purpose served, of which a given execution embodies a certain combination. But, he argues,

“they all demand,

in logic, maximum display and publicity. The outlaw’s status must be proclaimed for people to act on it.

The other effects sought—whether cleansing, order enforcement, delegitimation, humiliation, repayment,

therapy, deterrence—can only be achieved if an audience sees what is being done to satisfy, intimidate,

soothe, or instruct it. “

But our ethos forbids “cruel and unusual punishment,” so we choose painless execution methods that do not disfigure, and

“we now provide (the condemned) with a long and costly

process meant to ascertain guilt, with free legal aid if he cannot afford his own, with counseling and family

visits, with reading of his choice and TV, a last meal to his specifications, a last request, religious

attendance, guaranteed burial, a swift and nearly painless death. We shut up his last hours from the

general public, and act as if this secret rite will deter by some magic of mere occurrence. We treat the

killing as a dirty little secret, as if we are ashamed of it. Well, we should be ashamed. Having given up on

most of the previous justifications for the death penalty, we cling to a mere vestige of the practice, relying

most urgently on one of the least defensible defenses of it, “

“…the insistence on using the deterrence

argument when it has been discredited by all the most reputable studies”, yet many politicians look to the polls instead of the policy studies in supporting the death penalty. Deterrence theory has the wind knocked out of it, too, by the increasing public awareness of the numbers of innocent people wrongly condemned to die, after “incompetent defenses, faked evidence and negligent procedure.” If the public knows it’s a matter of chance if the right person is caught and killed for a capital crime, deterrence won’t work.

“These considerations join longer-term flaws in the deterrence argument. Juries are readiest to

convict people for crimes of passion, sexually charged rape-murders, child-abuse murders, or

serial killings. To see these offenders caught will not necessarily affect the person most likely to

have the coolness and calculation that deterrence requires. And obviously they do not affect

other people in the grip of obsessions, mental instability, or drug- or alcohol-induced frenzy.

Plato was against executing those guilty of a crime of passion (Laws 867c-d), but our juries

reflect more the anger of society than the didactic strategies of deterrence. In doing this, the

juries fail to make the calculations that we are told future murderers will make. The whole

theory is senseless.”

Wills similarly disposes of the argument that execution creates ‘closure’ for the victim’s survivors. And he closes by holding our moral hypocrisy up to us in the mirror of our Clown Prince:

“Conservative Catholics, who are aghast at fellow believers’ willingness to ignore the Pope on matters like

contraception, blithely ignore in their turn papal pleas to renounce the death penalty (addressed most

recently to the McVeigh case). And I have not seen Bible-quoting fundamentalists refer to the one place in

the Gospels where Jesus deals with capital punishment. At John 8:3-11, he interrupts a legal execution

(for adultery) and tells the officers of the state that their own sinfulness deprives them of jurisdiction. Jesus

himself gives up any jurisdiction for this kind of killing: “Neither do I condemn you.” George W. Bush said

during the campaign debates of last year that Jesus is his favorite philosopher—though he did not

hesitate to endorse the execution of 152 human beings in Texas, where half of the public defenders of

accused murderers were sanctioned by the Texas bar for legal misbehavior or incompetence. Mr. Bush

clearly needs some deeper consultation with the philosopher of his choice.” New York Review of Books

Support San Francisco’s finest : Salon is on the block and unable to find a buyer. “Its woes suggest that the media adage ‘content is king’ is fine until the kingdom starts running out of cash.” Guardian UK

Rebecca Blood points to this news that warms my heart (in a minor league way). I’ve resented the supermarket and drug store “loyalty program” discount cards ever since they made their entry onto the scene, for two reasons. Most insidiously, they create a database of my buying history to hit me with more targeted marketing efforts. (What, did you think the store was doing it just as a favor to you??) And they drive up prices by reserving sale prices previously offered to everyone for a subset of their clientele. Personally, I’m glad to forego the discounts for my privacy, but not everyone’s resources allow that. I speak up, loudly, in the cashier’s line about my reservations every time the store personnel react with incredulity or negativity about my disdain when they ask me if I have the magic card. Now it seems doubts are being raised by some consumers, and some supermarket chains are dropping the programs. Christian Science Monitor

Still Fab by Charles Paul Freund: The resurgence of Beatlemania prompts an insightful revisionist inquiry into the sources of their original popularity. “By 1966, the Beatles were far more interested in melody than in beat, had largely abandoned the influences

from American country music and American blues that had been apparent on their earlier recordings, and

were building an increasing number of their compositions around narrative lyrics that told stories rather than

expressed adolescent emotions. The more they developed as composers and lyricists, the less they tried to

harmonize like the Everly Brothers or whoop like the Isley Brothers, and the more they drew on their own

roots in British popular music. While they continued to use rock elements to make their music, there is

almost as much British Music Hall in their later work as there is rock.

The apotheosis of their personal development is not the avant-garde experimentation of the White Album

(only a few of its cuts get much play anymore). It is Abbey Road, which, dear as it is to the hearts of many

rock enthusiasts, could just as well be hailed as the greatest pop album of all time. Certainly, it could have

been played almost in its entirety on MOR radio.” It was, by the way, not on a youth-oriented rock’n’roll station but a MOR station in Washington DC that the Beatles first caught on with American audiences. Reason Magazine