Segway gets okay for sidewalks: “The high-tech Segway scooter is still months away from being available to the public, and already half the states have speedily cleared a path by changing their laws to allow the electric-powered vehicle on sidewalks.” MSNBC [“Scooter”?!?! –FmH]

Does Poverty Cause Terrorism?

An understanding of the causes of terrorism is essential if an effective strategy is to be crafted to combat it. Drawing a false and unjustified connection between poverty and terrorism is potentially quite dangerous, as the international aid community may lose interest in providing support to developing nations when the imminent threat of terrorism recedes, much as support for development waned in the aftermath of the Cold War; and connecting foreign aid with terrorism risks the possibility of humiliating many people in less developed countries, who are implicitly told that they receive aid only to prevent them from committing acts of terror. Moreover, premising foreign aid on the threat of terrorism could create perverse incentives in which some groups are induced to engage in terrorism to increase their prospects of receiving aid. In our view, alleviating poverty is reason enough to pressure economically advanced countries to provide more aid than they are currently giving. Falsely connecting terrorism to poverty serves only to deflect attention from the real roots of terrorism. ( — Alan B. Krueger, Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University; and Jitka Malecková, associate professor at the Institute for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Charles University in Prague) The New Republic

[via Walker, thanks]: Telemarketing Tidbit

I just got off the phone with a telemarketer in record time. I used a new technique – it just occurred to me on the fly – and it not only gets them off really quickly (so to speak) but it also screws up their computer files.

My old technique was a bit more interpersonally brutal. As soon as I could tell it was a telemarketer, I’d simply shout “I’m bleeding!” and then hang up the phone. It guaranteed they would free up the line.

This new one, well, I don’t know why I did it, exactly. The guy called said he was from Verizon online, and congratulated me on the fact that my phone now qualified for broadband/DSL. So I told him I already have verizon dsl. He said, “really?” I said ‘yeah. For a year, now. Great stuff!” He got off right away, and – I assume – entered me in the computer (incorrectly) as someone who already has Verizon DSL.

This should work for everyone. Worst case, tell them that you just signed up for whatever it is ten minutes ago. Then they’ll mark you in the books as someone who already has whatever it is, and not call you again.

Of course the whole thing may backfire. I’ll keep you posted.

And I’ll post something of greater value to the world, here, later today or tomorrow.

[I like the ‘bleeding’ line… -FmH]

Everything you know is wrong (cont’d.):

There’s a revolution afoot in understanding how antidepressant medications work. Since the brain is largely a black box and an important source of evidence for what’s going on inside the box is what we know about how medications work when they’re fixing dysfunctions, this new and fundamentally different understanding may largely invalidate the “monoamine theory” of depression that has held sway for a half decade and which you certainly learned in school if you took any courses on the biological basis of psychopathology. This paper reviews the new emerging consensus “that depression maybe associated with a disruption of mechanisms that govern cell survival and neural plasticity in the brain. Antidepressants could mediate their effects by increasing neurogenesis and modulating the signaling pathways involved in plasticity and survival.”

I Will Survive — How do ex-presidents continue to thrive and exert political influence? First, they are survivors:

Eliminating presidents who died in office, the first 28 ex-presidents — from George Washington through Lyndon Johnson — lived an average of just 11.6 years after leaving the White House. As of July, however, the Nixon-to-Clinton cohort already averages 15.2 years, a figure growing daily because only Nixon is dead. With Clinton’s brief post-presidency excluded, the mean increases to 17.9 years, and the 54-year-old Clinton may eventually raise the group’s mean post-presidential tenure to twice that of its 28 predecessors. Ford and Carter already rank second and fourth, respectively, in post-presidential longevity. Ford will soon pass legendary ex-president John Adams into third place, and both Ford and Carter may pass Herbert Hoover’s 31-year standard.

Then there’s money, the bully pulpit, bipartisanship, institutional memory… The American Prospect

Microsoft to reinstate Java in Windows:

“In an about-face, Microsoft said Tuesday that it will reinstate the ability to run Java programs in Windows XP.

Microsoft said it would include its own Java software in the Service Pack 1 update to Windows XP due late this summer. In the long term, though, the company plans to remove Java from Windows altogether.

The reinstatement is a partial victory for Java inventor and Microsoft rival Sun Microsystems, which in the 1990s had hoped people would use the cross-platform language to write programs capable of running on any computer, regardless of the operating system used by the machine.” CNET

The Power of Love Leaps the Great Divide of Death:

“At first it sounds like a high-concept movie, one of those supernatural heart-tuggers like Ghost or The Sixth Sense: the story of a teenage girl’s rape and murder, and the fallout those events have on her family, as narrated from heaven by the dead girl herself.

As it turns out, however, Alice Sebold’s first novel, The Lovely Bones, is anything but a hokey, Ouija-board mystery. What might play as a sentimental melodrama in the hands of a lesser writer becomes in this volume a keenly observed portrait of familial love and how it endures and changes over time. The novel is an elegy, much like Alice McDermott’s That Night, about a vanished place and time and the loss of childhood innocence. And it is also a deeply affecting meditation on the ways in which terrible pain and loss can be redeemed — slowly, grudgingly and in fragments — through love and acceptance.” NY Times book review

Journal Takes on Medical Mistakes: the first of a projected series of eight articles in which grave medical errors are reviewed and analyzed, with the doctors who committed them protected by anonymity, appears in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The series was inspired in part by a 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine, which found that mistakes in hospitals killed 44,000 to 98,000 patients a year. Departments within hospitals try to analyze their own errors, at regular “morbidity and mortality” conferences, but those sessions are private and are not written up in medical journals. Generally, the conferences are not discussed with patients. In an editorial about the new series, Dr. Wachter and his colleagues wrote that the medical profession — “for reasons that include liability issues and a medical culture that has discouraged open discussion of mistakes” — was not harnessing the full power of errors to teach. NY Times

Conflict of Interest?
However, is the concept of an independent, scholarly analysis of an aspect of medical practice, inspired simply by the lofty ideal of learning as much as we can from it for the betterment of patient care, an endangered species? Consider: Medical Journal Changes Independent Policy:

Is it a case of, ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?’ The New England Journal of Medicine will announce Thursday that it has given up finding truly independent doctors to write and review articles and editorials for it, as a result of the financial ties physicians have with so many drug companies in the United States The Journal says the drug companies’ reach is just too deep. ABC News

This is truly bad news for the integrity of medical literature. Over the past two decades, as federal funding for medical research has dwindled dramatically, research has been increasingly ‘bought’ by pharmaceutical industry backing. Now the review and commentary end is getting bought too, it’s little stretch to say.

Americans Seized at Afghan Border, Pakistan Asserts: More U.S. passport bearers allied with al Qaeda? “The detentions of Americans would raise troubling questions for the Bush administration, which has already drawn criticism for not granting prisoner-of-war status to suspected Qaeda and Taliban fighters captured in Afghanistan.” NY Times

Court Strikes Down Curb on Visits by Jehovah’s Witnesses: Nothing surprising about this 8-1 verdict against an idiotic ordinance by an Ohio town requiring a permit to go door-to-door. Oh yes, one surprising thing — that Clarence Thomas didn’t join William Rehnquist in an idiotic dissent to the majority opinion in which he found the law a valid approach to crime prevention.

The Soviet Smallpox Accident: “New information about an apparent accident in the former Soviet biological weapons testing program three decades ago has raised some troubling questions about our own nation’s ability to protect its citizens against a potential terrorist attack. The open-air test of a Soviet smallpox weapon in 1971 caused a small outbreak of the disease in a port on the Aral Sea, in what is now Kazakhstan, even among people who had been vaccinated.” NY Times editorial