Annals of the Invasion of Privacy (cont’d.): Face Scanners Turn Lens on Selves: ‘A leading maker of facial recognition software is calling for federal regulation of the controversial technology

to avoid misuse.

The technology, which converts facial images into an easily compiled and searched numerical code, has

been criticized by privacy advocates who say the scans amount to facial frisking… The technology first gained public notoriety in January, when Tampa, Florida, police used it to scan the

faces of unsuspecting football fans at the Super Bowl and compare their mugs with terrorists and other

criminals.” Wired

Fightin’ word: “It’s time for the left to reclaim the

term ‘anarchy’… It isn’t violence

that makes the anarchist; it’s the philosophy… A nuanced debate about anarchism would lend

credence to a set of ideas that challenge the status quo.” Mother Jones via wood s lot

Jeremy Rifkin makes an extraordinary observation, and an extraordinary prediction, in The Guardian. This is the age of biology, he says, and it will realign politics around shared goals that could not have been imagined a few years ago. He notes that right-to-life conservatives and left activists are finding common ground in their different, but converging, notions of reverence for life in contrast to a merely utilitarian view driven by the biotech industry and “market libertarians” who make the processes of life “amenable to design, customisation and mass production” and “available to customers as products and services.” He observes- — and I agree — that both groups share an oppositon to the granting of patents on “genes, cells, tissues, organs and organisms”; to GM foods; and to “designer babies”. However, I’m not as confident as he is that progressives are as united, and thus convergent with the right-to-lifers, as he claims they are in opposition to the cloning of embryos for research or even for clinical supply of stem cells, although of course they abhor commercialisation and corporate control of the process. The US does appear to be on the brink of a total ban on human cloning(BBC) for any purpose, as of this writing. But — more fundamentally — will positions with regard to these issues, as he proclaims, totally supplant classical political divisions organized around the industrial-age issues of control of the means of production and distribution of the fruits of labor and profit?

President Bush’s World is Turning. “The Bush administration’s alarming penchant for going it alone in world affairs could have

one unintended and salutary effect: Europe, however reluctantly, is learning how to lead.

And Europe could lead the way to a more balanced global order.” Boston Globe via Common Dreams

U.S. rigged highly-publicized ‘successful’ trial of anti-missile defense last week! “A U.S. anti-missile weapon was able to destroy a test warhead in space on July 14 partly because a beacon on the target

signaled its location during much of the flight, defense officials said on Friday.

The officials confirmed a report by Defense Week that the ”hit-to-kill” weapon was guided to the vicinity of the speeding warhead high over the Pacific

Ocean by signals from the electronic beacon in a successful, highly publicized test.” Reuters

U.S. Looking at Spacecraft as Bomber: “The Pentagon is exploring

development of a futuristic “space bomber” that

could destroy targets on the other side of the

world in 30 minutes but could also intensify the

growing international debate over the

militarization of space.” LA Times

Hopes for prion disease cure: ‘Antibodies which “cured” mouse cells of scrapie have raised hopes that the human form of mad-cow disease will one day be treatable.’ New Scientist

A tech-savvy Italian fashion house has shown a prototype shirt with fibers of the shape-memory alloy nitinol interspersed in its fabric. Since nitinol returns to its previous shape when heated slightly, the shirt can be pressed with a hair dryer or even the body heat of wearing it. Even more extraordinarily, the fibers in the sleeves can be programmed to shorten when the temperature crosses a certain threshold, i.e. the shirt can roll its own sleeves up! Don’t expect to buy it any time soon; ‘the prototype shirt cost around £2500 to make, and is available in any colour you like – provided you have a tendency to wear metallic grey, that is. “But it looks distinctly bronze-coloured in some lights,” says (a company spokesperson).’ New Scientist

Mnemonic Plague: ‘You are microwaving dinner, listening to the radio, finishing a crossword; you are Web-surfing

and talking on the phone. In short, you are “multitasking,” as we so often do these days. It’s a way

of keeping the mind constantly, if fitfully, employed–and in our society, it is becoming the norm.

At the same time, many of us are afflicted with worries about memory loss, as if some mnemonic

plague, including but not limited to Alzheimer’s, were at large. In light of the vast amount of

multitasking that we do, it’s worth asking if multitasking and memory are inversely related. Does

rapid attention switching interfere with the formation of memory in some way? In other words,

does a technique that was refined in computer science play havoc with the human mind?’ The American Prospect

Weapons-grade uranium seized. As Also Not Found in Nature, an exceedingly intelligent weblog (thanks for the link), commented, this may be the first known case of a sufficient amount to make an atomic weapon found available for sale on the black market. One of the world’s waking nightmares. Guardian UK

Requiem for the classical record. In an article that starts out about how the five classical music labels that control more than 80% of world sales have “lost the will to produce”, their output down to a trickle, the last nail in the coffin may be as follows:

Tower Records, the Sacramento-based retail chain, is in

trouble. With 229 stores in 17 countries, a Tower crash would endanger

the entire classical species. Corporate record labels would survive, but

dozens of independents, especially classical and jazz, would be wiped


Tower was founded in 1960 as an alternative outlet, a store that stocked

the kind of discs that were too quaint or quirky for big chains to handle –

the kind that every self-respecting music-lover would pay twice as much to

own. Over time, Tower went global and dressed up in wall-to-wall Britney

Spears. Then it overstretched.

Early this year, Tower demanded deep discounts and 360 days’ credit

from suppliers. Corporate labels agreed, but the minnows refused. Small

labels need cash flow. They cannot wait a year to be paid, any more than

Tower could let customers borrow discs for 12 months before paying up.

So Tower, whose parent group took a $34.4 million (£24.5 million) loss in

the last quarter, dropped the indies. Telegraph UK

Drug users turn to embalming fluid, says the BBC: “…even though it

is highly dangerous and can make them violent

and psychotic.

Research has found that the use of embalming

fluid is becoming increasingly popular among

young people who are searching for new drug


‘This is a violent drug, and it will turn into a big

fire if it’s not watched very closely.’

The most common method is to dip a tobacco

or marijuana cigarette in the embalming fluid,

then dry it before smoking it. The cigarettes are sold for about $20 a piece.

They are known by a variety of names,

including ‘wet’, ‘fry’ and ‘illy’.” [Users of this are hereby nominated for the Darwin awards…]

“A South African chemical warfare expert claims the US

used hallucinogenic weapons against Iraq
in the Gulf War.

Dr Wouter Basson made the allegation as he testified

about drugs bought by South African defence forces for

possible use in crowd control during the Apartheid era.” Ananova

He claimed film footage showed Iraqi elite troops affected

en masse from the weapons during the Gulf War.

Have a font you want to identify by its appearance? Linotype’s automatic font identifier uses an expert system to enable an untrained user “to identify a typeface by answering a series of simple questions about its key features.” Doesn’t work all the time, though…

“A teenager created his own death site on the

internet – and hanged himself.

Simon Kelly, 18, first searched the web for

information on how to commit suicide, then set

up a page saying how and why he would do it.

It contained heartbreaking messages for his

parents – who came home from holiday

yesterday to be told of Simon’s death by his

older brother Nick.” Supposedly. Hard to say if this is yet another story that’s going to turn out to have been a hoax; after all, this is from The Sun. Going to gives a page-not-found error.

Does this kind of uncertainty about whether someone is having at you speak to a moral issue in relation to the Internet? David Weinberger, co-author of The Cluetrain

and web-publisher of JOHO: The Journal of the

Hyperlinked Organization
, writes on
that “The World Wide Web reflects the best and

worst of humanity. But its structurally more

moral than any place we know.”

In fact, human interest and motivation is built right

into the architecture of the web. The web is only a

web because the pages are linked, and links are

created to anticipate the interests of readers. This

flies in the face of our real world geography,

where proximity has little to do with our beliefs

and interests and everything to do with the

accidents of location. The web’s geography is

neither alien, nor alienating. In fact, the web

consists of people, groups, and organizations that

for one reason or another would like us to see the

world through their eyes.

A Bicycling Mystery: Head Injuries Piling Up: “The number of head

injuries has increased 10 percent since

1991, even as bicycle helmet use has risen

sharply, according to figures compiled by

the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

But given that ridership has declined over

the same period, the rate of head injuries

per active cyclist has increased 51 percent

just as bicycle helmets have become

widespread.” Do cyclists have an inflated sense of security from wearing helmets? Are their natural predators, the motorists, becoming more aggressive or more distractible? Are more people wearing ill-fitting helmets, or wearing them wrong? Is off-road riding, inherently more dangerous, accounting for the injuries? New York Times

A Bicycling Mystery: Head Injuries Piling Up: “The number of head

injuries has increased 10 percent since

1991, even as bicycle helmet use has risen

sharply, according to figures compiled by

the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

But given that ridership has declined over

the same period, the rate of head injuries

per active cyclist has increased 51 percent

just as bicycle helmets have become

widespread.” Do cyclists have an inflated sense of security from wearing helmets? Are their natural predators, the motorists, becoming more aggressive or more distractible? Are more people wearing ill-fitting helmets, or wearing them wrong? Is off-road riding, inherently more dangerous, accounting for the injuries? New York Times

A Bicycling Mystery: Head Injuries Piling Up: “The number of head

injuries has increased 10 percent since

1991, even as bicycle helmet use has risen

sharply, according to figures compiled by

the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

But given that ridership has declined over

the same period, the rate of head injuries

per active cyclist has increased 51 percent

just as bicycle helmets have become

widespread.” Do cyclists have an inflated sense of security from wearing helmets? Are their natural predators, the motorists, becoming more aggressive or more distractible? Are more people wearing ill-fitting helmets, or wearing them wrong? Is off-road riding, inherently more dangerous, accounting for the injuries? New York Times

The Alchemy of OxyContin: From Pain Relief to Drug Addiction: “Part of what makes the spread of OxyContin abuse so difficult to track,

let alone to stop, is that the drug moves not physically but conceptually.

When crack cocaine spread from the big cities on either coast toward the

center of the country, it traveled gradually, along Interstates, city by city.

OxyContin abuse pops up suddenly, in unexpected locations.” One of the privileges of practicing psychiatry is the intimate glimpses of the lives of people more different than one would otherwise often meet. This week, a patient in my hospital with whom I have a candid relationship because I’ve treated him as more than “just an addict” (the way the profession often sees them when they come in for psychiatric admission), offered me a sociological treatise on the recent eruption of oxycontin onto the urban, Boston-area drug scene. Looks to me we are not going to stop this epidemic. A pain patient on Medicaid pays 50 cents for a month’s prescription of the drug, which may be as many as 60 or 100 80-mg tabs. S/he can immediately get $2000-3000 cash for the pills, because the man who buys them will turn around and sell them — within the day — for current street value, which is $1 per mg. That amounts to a $5000 profit on that one prescription, and the dealer is doing similar deals with dozens of recipients each month. As long as the price stays at or near current levels (which is partly driven by public hype, I realize…), the financial incentives make this trade virtually unstoppable.

Nobody inspired to comment on anything here? Take a chance; a blog can be a conversation, at least once in awhile. Click on the comment icon…

Study: W. Nile Virus Underreported:

“For every New Yorker

diagnosed with encephalitis or meningitis

from West Nile virus in the

summer of 1999, there were probably 140 milder infections that

went undetected, scientists have estimated.

The findings, which suggest that 2.6 percent of the metropolitan New

York City population was infected during that outbreak, indicate that

West Nile infections are vastly underreported.”

I actually wondered about this last summer after I came down with a mild, brief flu-like syndrome after a night that I had gotten numerous mosquito bites walking my dog in my neighborhood, which was only several blocks from the then-recent finding of several dead WNV-infected birds.

“As the mosquito season on the U.S. East Coast intensifies and the virus

threatens to spread elsewhere, health officials advised in The Lancet

medical journal that doctors should consider West Nile infection when

diagnosing unexplained summertime fever, especially if it’s

accompanied by headaches, muscle ache and joint pain.

For most people, West Nile virus causes only a flu-like sickness and

many who are exposed don’t get sick at all. It is mostly a concern for

the elderly.”

I called the public health agency monitoring for the virus and offered to have antibody titers drawn, and had a great deal of difficulty getting a return call from a knowledgable person, probably because I was seen as a crackpot (my wife scoffed at me too). But wouldn’t it be important to know, when they were continuing to state publicly that there were no known cases of human infection in the Boston area, that there in fact were? And that the nightly spraying in my neighborhood (itself not benign from a public health standpoint) was not effective? By the time a public health official returned my call, I was told it would no longer be useful to draw my blood because infection is established by comparing acute-phase and convalsecent antibody titers, and we had missed our chance to draw the former. Oh, well, chalk another one up for hypochondria…

And here’s a New York Times Magazine interview with Andrew Spielman, Harvard public health expert on mosquitoes and author of the new book Mosquito, which is somewhere on my summer reading list.

So you have a double-edged relationship?

Yeah, absolutely. And in a philosophical sense they’re interesting. The

book has a quotation from Havelock Ellis that says something like, If you

would see all of nature gathered up at one point in all her beauty and

her deadliness and her sex, where would you find a more perfect

example than the mosquito? The mosquito is deadly; it’s dangerous. But he

also looked at them as beautiful. And I suppose there’s a sexual

connotation there — that whole thing in his eyes, apparently, translated

into an element of his science; i.e., human sexual behavior. It’s the female,

not the male, that can kill.”

Brain Reacts Differently to Faces Based on Race: “People have been found to remember faces of their own race

better than they remember faces of other races. Now researchers may have uncovered the

changes in the brain that underlie that phenomenon.

Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt and colleagues from Stanford University in California asked 19 men–9

black and 10 white–to look at pictures of faces of people from both races while they monitored

participants’ brain activity with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The investigators found that when the study participants looked at faces matching their own race, a

specific area of the brain ‘lit up’ on the MRI. But when they looked at pictures of faces of another

race, the brain area did not activate to the same degree, according to the report in the August

issue of Nature Neuroscience.” I’ve previously covered other evidence that this brain region, the fusiform gyrus, processes face recognition only and that this data is processed inherently differently from object recognition. For example, one of the clues to the social interaction impairment of autistic patients is that they seem to process the perception of other people as if they were objects. I think what this current study is saying is not that we are neurologically programmed to process the faces of other races differently, but that when our biases and preconceptions dictate that we approach the Other as an object, it is even reflected in basic neurological processes. It would be interesting to see whether distinctions around the degree of objectification of women by various men would also be reflected on fMRI. Reuters

Teenager Kills 48 for Rituals? “A teenage girl in Nigeria has confessed to taking part in the ritual killing of 48

people in the last seven years, media reported on Thursday.

Police arrested the 13-year-old school student last week as a suspect in the killing of a

two-year-old boy in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, the independent Vanguard newspaper


The girl told police she was initiated into a secret cult by a civil servant seven years ago, the paper

said. The man has since been arrested.” Although it seems to have peaked and receded, I’ve been quite troubled by the last decade’s epidemic of psychiatrically distressed patients’ claiming to be victims of cultic ritual abuse here in the US. Law enforcement agencies up to and including the FBI have repeatedly found no forensic evidence of the killings these quite disturbed patients report. (The claimants have explanations for the lack of evidence too, of course. Recall that a sound hypothesis is supposed to be falsifiable as well as verifiable…) While it’s politically incorrect to disbelieve even the most outlandish abuse claims, they have usually seemed to be, at worst psychotic or at best histrionic/hysterical, fabrications or exaggerations, often subconsciously encouraged by credulous mental health professionals, by character-disordered patients, many of them indeed victims of horrible but far more prosaic abuse histories and stuck seeking pathological attention. Now, of course, the veracity of this report from Nigeria, where, Reuters notes, “ritual killing is common in some parts of Africa’s most populous country, where some people believe

witchcraft involving the use of human parts can make them rich”, is hard to assess. If true as pitched, does its plausibility depend upon the cultural belief system of the society? If so, we should look again at the U.S. situation, because there are probably plenty of depraved people out there with equally outlandish belief systems. While it would not affect my dismissal of the bulk of the claims I hear as distorted elaborations or fabrications, I would not, in the last analysis, be surprised to hear incontrovertible proof that there had been a case of multiple ritual sacrifices by a group of deluded, like-minded individuals conspiratorially working together somewhere in the darker hidden recesses of the American psyche. Addendum: Lo and behold, here’s a story of Satanic ritual murder in the Western world. Guardian UK

In Latest Hardy Boys Case, a Search for New Readers:

“The Hardy Boys turn 75 next year, still living at

home and enrolled in Bayport High. They are still

well-scrubbed Boy Scout types from the 1920’s,

with personalities that barely extend beyond the

color of their hair. And their books still sell more

than a million copies a year.

Holding on to the sunset of the Hardy Boys’ adolescence has not been simple. To keep them au courant,

their publisher, Simon & Schuster, now equips them with cell phones, computers and high- tech gadgets,

dispatching them on torn-from-the-headlines adventures involving citywide surveillance systems, corporate

whistle- blowers, extreme sports and online crime.

As with many children’s series, sales of new Hardy Boys books are flagging, publishers and booksellers

say, and some wonder how much longer the formulaic escapades can hold boys’ scarce attention. This

summer, a new team at Simon & Schuster’s children’s book division plans to re-examine its plans for the

Hardy Boys, said Anne Greenberg, executive editor in charge.” New York Times

New York Law May Fan the Fire in Divorces Like Giuliani’s: ‘Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and his wife, Donna Hanover, are enmeshed

in a system that maximizes opportunities for conflict, Professor Schepard

said, but they are also part of the problem. “They set the tone for

everybody else,” he said. “The media culture filters down. If Rudy does it

and Donna does it, then this is the way it’s done.” ‘ New York Times

A Bicycling Mystery: Head Injuries Piling Up: “The number of head

injuries has increased 10 percent since

1991, even as bicycle helmet use has risen

sharply, according to figures compiled by

the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

But given that ridership has declined over

the same period, the rate of head injuries

per active cyclist has increased 51 percent

just as bicycle helmets have become

widespread.” Do cyclists have an inflated sense of security from wearing helmets? Are their natural predators, the motorists, becoming more aggressive or more distractible? Are more people wearing ill-fitting helmets, or wearing them wrong? Is off-road riding, inherently more dangerous, accounting for the injuries? New York Times

Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker: How caffeine created the modern world. Without it, there would have been no Enlightenment and perhaps no Industrial Revolution (“One way to explain the

industrial revolution is as the inevitable

consequence of a world where people suddenly

preferred being jittery to being drunk. “), no Manhattan Project…

The interviewer is interviewed: Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross.

AJR: One interesting thing about your questioning

technique is that you often ask your guests “How did you

feel?” when key events happened in their lives.

TG: Here’s the thing. I never went to journalism

school, but I think that journalists are usually taught not

to use words like “feel” when what you’re trying to get at

is something that’s more objective. But part of what I’m

interested in when I’m interviewing somebody is their

inner life. So I’m in that murky territory of feeling and

perception. That’s where I try to go, and that’s why the

word “feeling” gets used a whole lot.

Interesting to hear what other interviewers she admires, and the tidbits about the number of people who have walked out on her — Nancy Reagan, Monica Lewinsky, and Jan Wenner of Rolling Stone. Her description of the way she bludgeoned Wenner over the head with some embarrassing data about him, making for the shortest interview she ever did, at less than three minutes before he bailed out, is what some people cherish about her but what makes me cringe every time I hear her wading right in there. Interviewing is, after all, the bread and butter of psychiatric practice…

American Journalism Review

In other NPR news, you’ll recall my coverage of the bitter breakup between the erstwhile host of the nationally syndicated talk show The Connection, Christopher Lydon, and the Boston NPR station where it originated, WBUR. While Lydon is, personally, abit pompous and impatient, especially in response to call-ins from the public, his interviewing skills and helmsmanship of his talk show were unparallelled and made for the consistently most enlightening and listenable talk radio anywhere, at any time. I felt The Connection was Lydon, and would be dead without him.

I got no charge out of the succession of guest hosts WBUR put on the show while waiting to select a new permanent host, whom they’ve now found in one-time Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Dick Gordon (who?). Boston Globe The guest hosting (or “ghost hosting”, as one Lydon-supporting wag put it) interval showed that even very interesting print journalists make stiff radio hosts; the only interesting substitutes were NPR veterans like Nina Totenberg (who couldn’t do much beside politics), Robert Siegel (who would never be lured away from All Things Considered for this!) and Neal Conan (who was in contention with Gordon). Meanwhile, NPR is considering distributing a new syndicated Lydon show. Would WBUR pick it up? The station manager who fired him says she doesn’t want to talk about it. Boston is lucky, however, to have two NPR stations, so I hope WGBH would take a crack at it.

No More Periods, Period?: Progestin antagonists now being developed “would eliminate menstruation altogether, while still allowing women to get

pregnant,” or “…eliminate both periods and pregnancy.” Wired

In Order to Have Your Advice: ‘ The most clueless people in the world used to be the ones driving down the highway for miles with their turn signal on.

Every time it blinks, it blinks, “I’m clueless, I’m clueless, I’m clueless.” They’re still clueless but they’re not the world’s most clueless anymore.

The most clueless people in the world are those who click on

attachments in their e-mails, sent to them by people they don’t know.

Or even from people they do know.’ Wired

Huge identity theft uncovered: “Key personal data belonging to

hundreds of individuals have been shared in an

Internet chat room, in what one expert says

could become one of the largest identity theft

cases ever. The data include Social Security

numbers, driver’s license numbers, date of birth

and credit card information…” MSNBC

Indonesia’s George W. Bush: Remarkable similarities between Dubya and Sukarnoputri, notes William Saletan: ‘Chatterbox expects Bush and Megawati to get along

famously. White House aides will soon be sent scurrying for

answers to W.’s questions: Can she golf? Does she fish?

How’s her slider? What nickname should POTUS give her?

How about “Megawatt”? Maybe that one would lighten up the

mood in California.’ Slate

Critics decry Bush stand on treaties: ‘ “The administration has, from day one, engaged in a wholesale assault on

international treaties,” says Ivo Daalder, a National Security Council

official under President Clinton.

The moves also have sparked sharp rebukes from other nations. The Bush

administration is “practically standing alone in opposition to agreements

that were broadly reached by just about everyone else,” says Fred

Eckhard, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The administration’s rejection of the biological weapons draft accord

“confirms a pattern of reckless, unilateralist behavior on arms control, as

on environmental and other issues,” an editorial said Thursday in the

London newspaper The Guardian.

Bush’s new foreign policy vision “has largely amounted to trashing

existing agreements without any clear idea of what to put in their place,”

the newspaper said.’ USA Today And “A leading critic of the military’s missile

defense testing program has accused the Pentagon of trying to

silence him
and intimidate his employer, the Massachusetts Institute of

Technology, by investigating him for disseminating classified documents. ” New York Times

Woman in Coma 8 Months Gives Birth to

Healthy Baby
. A 24-year old Kentucky woman had a severe head injury in a November motor vehicle accident and remains in a vegetative state. Doctors realized after she was admitted to the hospital that she was two weeks pregnant. Labor was induced a week before the fullterm due date to manage the unique high-risk factors. ABC

Leaving children in cars OK to many / 20% of young parents surveyed approve: “At least 120 children — most of them 3 and

younger — have died of heatstroke in parked

cars during the past five years, according to

research sponsored by the National SAFE KIDS

Campaign and General Motors. By 2004, GM

plans to start selling vans and sport utility vehicles

equipped with sensors that will detect a child

breathing in a car on a hot day and honk the horn

to alert passers-by. Eventually, all GM cars will

use the technology.” SF Chronicle

My name is George, and I’m an alcoholic: “Nearing the 15th anniversary of the president’s sobriety, a fellow ex-drinker tells what he sees when he looks at George

W. Bush.”

A drunk hides nothing from another drunk. So when I look at Bush, I don’t see a conservative Republican, a flirter with the Christian right, a Texas oilman,

a son of political royalty. I see a guy like me who never wants to quit, who has an infinite thirst and an infinite appetite for whatever you’ve got and who, if

he could, would drink up the whole room and then tear it apart looking for more. I see a guy barely containing a murderous contempt for anyone who

doesn’t drink like he does; I see a guy who has to pause when answering questions not because there’s nothing in his head but because there’s too much in

his head and most of it is vile and the rest is obscene; no doubt the first thing that pops into his head when asked a question at a press conference is “You

have the face of a barnyard animal” or “I’d like to fuck you silly.” That apparent blankness, as though his brain is having a rolling blackout, is actually a

sign that he’s sorting, looking for an answer that’s both true and bland, something that won’t set off any alarms, something that will satisfy his need to tell the

truth yet not give in to the grandiose and contemptuous impulses so familiar to alcoholics far and wide.

Salon [thanks, David!]

Tourists leap on dead whale, pat sharks — “Australian tourism authorities may change

laws ‘to protect people too stupid to protect themselves’ after sightseers

clambered on a floating dead whale and patted great white sharks eating

the carcass.” CNN [via NextDraft]

Boing Boing‘s playing that old parlour game: “Which three weblogs would you take with you on a desert island?” I read the discussion on this item, obviously because I wanted to see if anyone had listed FmH. (They hadn’t…) But in so doing I was directed to a few stimulating sites I’d never heard of.

Users of compression technology (.zip, .tar etc) usually consider opening an archive benign. However, even without opening any executables, there are ways to do malicious, virus-like damage with file extraction. Most archivers, here reviewed competitively, are affected by the nasty techniques described here, but I was delighted to see that WinZip, my archiver of choice, received an almost perfect safety record on this issue by the Neohapsis reviewers.

New Cautions Over a Plant With a Buzz — “An obscure hallucinogenic herb from Mexico is gaining a toehold in the

world of recreational drugs, prompting law enforcement officials to

increase their scrutiny of the plant, which is legal, and moving health experts to

issue cautions about the drug, whose jarring effects are not fully understood.

The herb, Salvia divinorum, is a type of sage plant that can cause intense

hallucinations, out-of-body experiences and, when taken in higher doses,

unconsciousness and short-term memory loss. Users have also reported sensations

of traveling through time and space, assuming the identities of other people and

even merging with inanimate objects.” New York Times The newest new thing isn’t really new at all. In fact, although I’m a little rusty on my Castaneda, I think it had a role in the Don Juan books. Let’s try a Teoma search for it… 3000 hits.

Rhyming Suicide Notes: “The writings of poets who wound up committing suicide contain words and language

patterns that serve as precursors to their eventual fate, researchers say.” Comparing the language patterns of more than a hundred poems of nine poets who ended their own lives — John Berryman, Hart Crane, Sergei Esenin, Adam L. Gordon, Randall Jarrell, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Sylvia Plath, Sarah Teasdale and Anne Sexton — with a similar number from nine demographically matched poets who had not suicided (including, interestingly, the psychiatrically troubled Robert Lowell) revealed that “the suicidal poets gravitated toward words indicating their detachment from other people and preoccupation with themselves,” according to the study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. Some of the parameters examined included the ratio of self-reference as compared to references to other people; trends in the frequency of word relating to interpersonal communication; and, of course, words related to death. Wired

India’s ‘Bandit Queen’ MP shot dead. Of mythic folk hero stature, Phoolan Devi’s story reads like an incredible, cinematic, spaghetti Western, and she comes to an appropriately dramatic end. The article does not indicate who might be responsible for her assassination, curiously… CNN

Left-handers at greater risk of bowel problems. Taking my cue from the late great Harvard neurologist Norman Geschwind, I have believed for a long time in a relationship between left-handedness, immune dysfunction, digestive system problems and certain neurobehavioral disorders. Few have found this credible; here’s some empirical data for part of the observed association. Ananova

Is this the rival to Google?

We’ve spent most of the afternoon testing out a new search engine

called Teoma. You may have heard of it but it seems unlikely. Only

this month did it hit the search engine industry’s consciousness (it

first appeared in May apparently), so we suppose its techie sites

like us and then the mainstream.

So what’s the fuss about? Well, it looks as though it may give

Google a run for its money. It’s certainly improves on Google’s

methodology in one sense but it may end up being the ideal search

tool if you know exactly what you are after. The Register

Here’s the Search Engine Showdown review of its strengths and weaknesses. Biggest limitation? No Boolean searching, although it does support the use of ‘”-” (the minus sign) before a search term to exclude it.

U.S. rejects germ warfare treaty: ‘The United States, again

standing alone against most world opinion, on

Wednesday rejected as unworkable a proposed

international plan for enforcing a 30-year ban

on using germs in warfare. “In our assessment,

the draft protocol would put national security

and confidential business information at risk,”

Washington’s representative, Ambassador

Donald Mahley, said.’

I can’t describe better than this the visceral contempt and rage I feel when I hear these people telling the world what the “United States” can and can’t support as if they are speaking for me or my children, when in fact they make it clear it is the nation’s corporate interests they represent. There’d be an element of shame if I thought the world were so naive as to believe Li’l George had our mandate. MSNBC

Now former President Carter is more ‘politic’ about his feelings, which run more to concern and disappointment. Encouragingly, the meaningless tradition of not criticizing the President while he is out of the country was broken by both Carter and Tom Daschle this week. Rumsfeld and Cheney were not spared Carter’s scorn either. New York Times

The summer ’01 Whole Earth Review, guest-edited by Bruce Sterling and the Viridians (not yet online) has a comprehensive broadside and call to action, “Let the Carbon Wars Begin!”, by Kert Davies, the director of Greenpeace USA’s global warming campaign, that needs to be read. Although it is somewhat fatalistic, the derisive tone is in almost exact resonance with my own feelings. While you’re waiting, here‘s an April 2001 interview with Davies, although without the affect. Stay tuned…

And, not letting up easily, the Guardian gives us this lesson in How to Rule the World:

The leaders of the free world present a glowing example to the

rest of the planet.

Of the eight men meeting in Genoa this week, one seized the

presidency of his country after losing the election.

Another is pursuing a genocidal war in an annexed republic. A

third is facing allegations of corruption. A fourth, the summit’s

host, has been convicted of illegal party financing, bribery and

false accounting, while his righthand man is on trial for

consorting with the mafia.

Needless to say, the major theme of this week’s summit is

“promoting democracy”.

But were the G8 nations governed by angels, they would still be

incapable of promoting global democracy. These eight hungry

men represent just 13% of the world’s population. [thanks to wood s lot]

The Crimson to use labor in 3d world. Thanks for this link and congratulations to NextDraft, which celebrates its 50th anniversary — its 50th issue, that is — today. The Harvard Crimson, which editorializes in favor of a “living wage” for campus workers, is turning to Cambodian typists paid around 40 cents an hour to typeset the 19th century editions of the Crimson as part of its project to create a free internet archive going back to its first edition published in 1873. A group of monks in India is handling the 20th century portion of the project. Boston Globe

Margarine linked to dramatic asthma rise: “Campaigns to reduce heart disease by promoting polyunsaturated

margarines and cooking oils could be partly responsible for the

recent dramatic increase in childhood asthma in the developed

world, say researchers in Australia.

They found that a diet high in polyunsaturated fats more than

doubles a child’s risk of asthma.” New Scientist

Scathing Reviews of Junkets. Even apart from Sony Pictures’ fabrication of critics’ and viewers’ comments, many film viewers have little use for reviews and especially ‘pull quotes’ splayed all over movie ads. Self-conscious film journalists face the daunting task of defending the merit of the industry-sponsored press junkets they go on; even Hollywood itself has turned a scathing eye on the practice recently, with the cynical America’s Sweethearts, which

“drips with cynicism about junkets:

The celebrities depicted in the movie, who are portrayed by Catherine

Zeta-Jones and John Cusack, lie straight-faced and unabashedly to the

press. The journalists, meanwhile, are presented as simpering and feckless,

the sniveling, unctuous lackeys of the harried studio publicity head, played

by Crystal.”

A group of filmgoers are now bringing suit for redress of the fraudulent nature of the favorable reviews that result. LA Times

The amazing disappearing book review section: “In the age of market research, newspaper editors have

decreed that their readers just don’t care about books.” Salon And as literacy dwindles in the post-industrial West, it’s been assumed that the great working class masses had little use for

literature and intellectual pursuits in ages past either. A new book by Jonathan Rose, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, suggests that wasn’t the case. A century ago “the

working-class pursuit of education was not an accommodation to middle-class values, a capitulation to

bourgeois cultural hegemony. Instead, it represented the return of the repressed in a society where the

slogan ‘knowledge is power’ was passionately embraced by generations of working-class radicals who were

denied both.” The Telegraph (UK)

Uncle Joe loved a good joke A new Top Secret Soviet file has been uncovered, containing cartoons and

doodles done by senior Politburo staff made during their meetings with Stalin. “Not only did Soviet leaders

often doodle during their meetings, they also passed their drawings around the room for each other’s

comments. Stalin joined in the game too.” The Telegraph (UK)

The Tabloid Public Is Not the Majority. Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, writes in the New York Times op-ed page that a relatively small proportion of viewers with an appetite for tabloid journalism — e.g. the Chandra Levy saga — drive the TV news business into mindless infotainment.

Dissident or Don Quixote? “Challenging the HIV theory got virologist Peter H. Duesberg

all but excommunicated from the scientific orthodoxy.

Now he claims that science has got cancer all wrong.” Scientific American

First Tear Gas, Now Bullets: “While many activists feel galvanized by the repressive policing, others question whether the level of

street combat at recent events has gone too far. They fear the violence from small factions of

militants—greatly amplified by the media—plays to police efforts to demonize the movement, while

obscuring its pro-democracy aims.” The Village Voice

Oregon Democratic Party Backs Court Impeachment: ‘The party’s central committee voted overwhelmingly to begin a campaign it hopes will take the

issue to the U.S. House of Representatives, which has the authority to impeach justices.

The resolution passed Sunday by the 66 Oregon party activists called for the “immediate

investigation of the behavior” of the five justices who voted to stop hand recounts of Florida ballots.’ Reuters

Damaged Brains and the Death Penalty: “Almost without exception, Dr. Lewis has

found in evaluating dozens of death-row

inmates, they have damaged brains. Most

were also the victims of vicious batterings

and often sexual abuse as children. Psychotic symptoms, especially

paranoia, are common.

A professor of psychiatry at New York University, Dr. Lewis is among a

handful of researchers who are rethinking the etiology of violence. Her

studies focus on some of the most violent criminals; she has interviewed

150 to 200 murderers, sorting through their medical histories and, as

much as it can be done, their brains.” New York Times

Review: The Holocaust Encyclopedia ed. Walter Laqueur and Judith Tydor Baumel. “The

Nazi genocide of the Jews has been turned into a cheap

moral resource, called on to support just about any cause.” New Statesman

Becoming Literature

James Merrill died in 1995, aged 69, just

before his last book of new poems, A

Scattering of Salt
s, appeared. …..Since the

1970s he had been one of America’s

best-known serious poets: the formal agility

of his shorter poems had inspired legions of

imitators, and his book-length poem The

Changing Light at Sandover
had acquired

a flock of interpreters. Even as Merrill’s

admirers (me, for example) treasured that

last book, new questions arose: When would there be a book of all

the poems? Were there post-Salts poems, and would we see them?

What would his work look like as a whole? Would important facts

about the man emerge? This monumental and timely Collected

answers the first three questions, while Alison Lurie’s brief, frustrating

memoir tries to answer the last. Both books remind us how, and how

often, the poems depict, and reflect on, Merrill’s life.

Boston Review

Monks to Lift Century-Old Curse — ‘Greek monks have agreed to lift a century-old curse on an island village to

“never sleep again” for bringing the wrath of the Ottoman empire on their monastery, the village’s

mayor said on Monday.’

Enzyme Could Lead to Medical Marijuana Alternative: “In findings that could one day offer an alternative to so-called

medical marijuana, scientists have discovered that blocking a particular enzyme in mice allows a

natural marijuana-like compound in the brain to trigger pain-numbing effects comparable to the


…These findings, (the investigator) said, hold out the possibility that a drug that blocks the FAAH enzyme in

humans will allow the natural anandamide system to work as a painkiller–but without making

patients inhale the toxic compounds in marijuana smoke or experience the drug’s mind-altering

effects.” Reuters via Yahoo!

Miniature Supernova Created in Lab: “A form of matter called Bose-Einstein condensate, which first was created in a laboratory in 1995,

has been tinkered with until it caused miniature explosions that resemble exploding stars called

supernovae, according to a new study.”

Bonn Climate Deal May Not Bring Down Emissions: “Backslapping

and cheers greeted Monday’s rescue of

the Kyoto accord on fighting global

warming but the pact, 10 years in the making, may not achieve its

stated goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions this decade.

According to calculations by the environmental lobby group

Greenpeace, the “loopholes” agreed to at the U.N. talks in Bonn

and at the original treaty discussions in Kyoto, Japan in 1997, may

mean emissions even go up instead of down.” Reuters

And: “the administration would be hard-pressed to

find a better alternative. While Kyoto is often maligned by the U.S. media —

the New York Times routinely calls it “flawed” — it is by many measures a

sweetheart deal for the

Rage Against the Machines:

In some ways, it is easy — and tempting — to write off the neo-Luddites as sad-sack ’60s refugees, aging

hippies who pine away for a romantic, preindustrial idyll that never existed in the first place or, to the extent

it did, was actually characterized by large-scale human deprivation. But in the wake of demonstrations in

Seattle over the World Trade Organization and, more recently, in Quebec over the Free Trade Agreement of

the Americas, it is clear the neo-Luddite mentality is not only widespread, but a powerful motivating force in

attacks on free trade and technological innovation.

Those of us who believe that markets and technology offer the best hope for reducing human poverty and

misery — and for increasing human opportunity and flourishing — would do well to examine the basic

premises of the neo-Luddite movement and engage its underlying fallacies. Because it drew together so

many of the intellectual architects of the neo-Luddite movement, the IFG Teach-In provides a perfect

occasion for such an exercise.

Smug, superior Reason commentator succeeds in showing us how uncritically naive are his own boundless optimism and kneejerk opposition to government regulation. Actually tries to ridicule neo-Luddite concerns about new technology by citing the invention of fire, bows and arrows, crop cultivation, domestication of animals, the invention of writing…

God’s Many Unique Visitors ‘… the online masses are flocking to a homespun site run by Reata Strickland, a Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Sunday

school teacher who took a short, inspirational, anonymously written “Interview with God,” and set it to Shockwave

animation.’ Wired

God’s Many Unique Visitors ‘… the online masses are flocking to a homespun site run by Reata Strickland, a Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Sunday

school teacher who took a short, inspirational, anonymously written “Interview with God,” and set it to Shockwave

animation.’ Wired

God’s Many Unique Visitors ‘… the online masses are flocking to a homespun site run by Reata Strickland, a Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Sunday

school teacher who took a short, inspirational, anonymously written “Interview with God,” and set it to Shockwave

animation.’ Wired

Coke sued over death squad claims: “Trade union leaders in the United States have

said they are suing the soft-drinks company

Coca-Cola for allegedly hiring right-wing death

squads to terrorise workers at its Colombian

bottling plant.” BBC

“We decided that death in the desert is wrong and we are going to do something about it…” A cup of mercy for the illegals — After the May deaths from dehydration of 14 border crossers from Mexico in the Arizona desert, a group of Tucson volunteers has formed an alliance called Humane Borders and begun to take water to those parched in the desert. Since 1998, the article says, there have been 1,118 documented deaths during Mexican border crossings. The Guardian UK

The wild boy who became a martyr: The Observer pulls together a portrait of Carlo Giuliani, 23-year-old ‘punk anarchist’ killed by police in Genoa. “The Reuters photographs of his death are likely to become icons for the militant Left, who see the killing as a state execution. A reconstruction of Carlo’s final moments,

however, reveals he was killed by a terrified youth three years his junior.”

‘As Frank Rich wrote recently in the New York Times: “He is a man who does not know how much he does not know, and seems

in no rush to find out.” If he is treading down policy paths that infuriate and antagonise the rest of the world, he is probably the last person to find out, or

even care.’ Is This the Most Dangerous Man in the World?: “The last time the wider world was quite this appalled by the actions and policy agenda of a new American president, international relations were buried

deep in the Manichean logic of the Cold War, the postwar consensus on the welfare state was about to blow apart and market-driven greed, that defining

characteristic of the Eighties, was well on its way to being considered good.” Independent UK

Indonesian Assembly Defies Wahid, Plans Ouster. The fourth most populous nation in the world heads for conflagration as the President dissolves the legislature and the legislature demands his appearance for an impeachment hearing. Where will the military throw its support, as Jakarta protesters assemble in the streets? Reuters via Yahoo!

Nuclear Event Detectors: ‘MCE and Matra BAe Dynamics

are collaborating in the

promotion of a family of

Nuclear Event Detectors that

can not only detect low level

nuclear events, but also

provide switching to remove

power from the electronics and

a “fail safe” mechanism to avoid

drop out during normal

operation.’ Be the first on your block to know when to ‘duck and cover’.

Debt to Society: MotherJones‘ special report on the real costs of our incarceration society. How did the ‘Land of the Free’ become the world’s leading jailer? Are we, ironically, making the streets less safe by locking people up? What are the social costs of the loss to hundreds of thousands of American children with a parent behind bars? What are the moral costs to society and our souls? What are the alternatives?

Amelia Earhart Plane Possibly Spotted By Satellite ‘ “There does appear to be an object on the edge of the reef, off

the western end of the island. It’s in a particularly suspicious

location…” There is a rust-colored

tint in satellite imagery pixels at nearly the spot where

fishermen visiting that area long ago reported seeing a

wrecked airplane.

…(A) 12-year investigation, dubbed The Earhart Project,

offers compelling new evidence which suggests that the

ill-fated flight reached Nikumaroro, formerly Gardner Island.

This uninhabited coral atoll is in the Phoenix Group, now part

of the Republic of Kiribati. Islands of Kiribati are low-lying

coral atolls built on a submerged volcanic chain and encircled

by reefs.

Five earlier expeditions to the remote island have recovered

artifacts, suspected of being from the lost flight…’ closes down, which operated Web sites to fight world

hunger and rain-forest destruction, reportedly shut down this week.

The company closed Tuesday after its board of directors decided not to invest more money, the Seattle

reported Saturday.’s most popular sites included The Hunger Site and The Rain Forest Site. Nando Times

God’s Many Unique Visitors ‘… the online masses are flocking to a homespun site run by Reata Strickland, a Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Sunday

school teacher who took a short, inspirational, anonymously written “Interview with God,” and set it to Shockwave

animation.’ Wired

Study: Abe Lincoln’s Anti-Depressant Made Him Mad.

‘A few months into

his presidency, Abraham Lincoln stopped

taking the little blue pills used to treat his

melancholia because they made him

“cross,” and scientists said on Tuesday it

was good that he did.

Those pills contained enough mercury to

kill him, said retired physician and

medical historian Norbert Hirschhorn,

who authored a study on the subject.

“If Lincoln hadn’t recognized that the little blue pill he took made

him ‘cross,’ and stopped the medication, his steady hand at the helm

through the Civil War might have been considerably less steady,” he

wrote in the summer issue of the journal Perspectives in Biology and

.’ [thanks, Abby]

Recall that to be ‘mad as a hatter’ refers to mercury and arsenic poisoning as well, which hatters contracted because of the pesticides used to prevent insect damage in the wool and cotton they handled. Interestingly, a Google search on (arsenic AND “mad hatter”) comes up with as many hits about Arsenic and Old Lace as it does to environmental toxicology; it seems my favorite screwball comedy is often mentioned in the same breath as the “mad hatter”. Recall, also, that concerns about arsenic poisoning are back in the news because, as I’ve previously blinked, chromated copper arsenate leaches into playground soil from the pressure-treated lumber used to build kids’ climbing structures.

I’m treating a man with a psychiatric disturbance and arachnodactyly (Marfan’s Syndrome) right now (although, of course, not with mercurics!); Lincoln had Marfan’s. I could only find eleven citations in the medical literature discussing the question of whether there is an association between Marfan’s syndrome and mental health symptoms. (Because Marfan’s is associated with cardiac anomalies, there may sometimes be CNS insults due to circulatory problems that might be mistaken for a primary psychiatric problem.)

For only the most rabid ‘Followers’: added items at the FmH store, courtesy of Now including baseball caps! As with all the other merchandise, these feature the discreet little FmH logo and signify your membership in an elite little secret cabal… I don’t make any profit on these, BTW. They’re sold at cost, just to get the word (actually, it’s a wordless logo) out there. So far, I’m the only one who’s ever purchased any FmH swag; I’m very pleased with my coffee mug (I recommend the larger size), my teeshirt (grey) and, not least, my baldhead mousepad. Gonna rush right out and order myself a baseball cap when I next deserve a present… The rumor around cafepress is that they’re going to start offering the teeshirts etc. in colors