Britney, S Club et al:

Emma Jones: Inflaming Child Sex Sickos:

Like everyone else in Britain today, I feel an increasing sense of despair as the search for Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman continues.

But I can’t help thinking that, in a small way, we all share some responsibility for their plight.


Why? Because we live in a society where paedophilia has been allowed to infiltrate our mainstream culture.

Sexy images of children in pop videos, magazines and adverts now appear perfectly normal, even fashionable.

Confusing messages are being beamed into the warped minds of Britain’s 18,500 registered sex offenders, including the 266 in Holly and Jessica’s home county.

In fashion, pop music and TV, our children are being exploited as sex objects.The Sun [via bloggerheads]

Gnutella bandwidth bandits

“The file-trading network’s developers are discovering that even their wide-open, free-for-all technology might need a little policing“:

Last September, the loose affiliation of programmers who monitor the Gnutella file-trading network noticed something strange. The network, a popular hub for MP3 traders, seemed to be suffering a kind of denial-of-service attack, with some people reporting that their machines were inundated with requests for content. Though the attack seemed small, the particular design of Gnutella — a “decentralized peer-to-peer network,” in which each computer routes network traffic — amplified its effects, causing the whole network to clog.

But when the developers got to the bottom of the problem, it turned out that there was no malicious attack — it was just selfish code. A new Gnutella client called Xolox

had recently come onto the network, and in an effort to give Xolox users faster downloads, its programmers had configured the program to frequently “re-query” the network to check for desired files. Such automated requests aren’t unusual — many programmers use the technique to improve their software’s performance on Gnutella; but Xolox re-queried at dizzying speeds, causing headaches for everyone else, while possibly improving downloads for its own users. Salon

Gene Mutations Linked to Language Development

Two critical mutations appeared roughly 200,000 years ago in a gene linked to language, then swept through the population at roughly the same time anatomically modern humans began to dominate the planet, according to new research.


The findings, released online yesterday and due for publication soon in the journal Nature, provide the most compelling evidence to date that the gene, which researchers described in detail only last year, may have played a central role in the development of modern humans’ ability to speak. Researchers said that could have given them a critical advantage that allowed them to supplant more primitive rivals…


The research indicates the genetic mutations may at least partly explain why humans can speak and animals cannot. Researchers are likely to try to introduce the genetic mutations into mice as part of their work, but they said many other genetic changes would likely be necessary to produce a talking animal, and several said they doubted anything of the sort would ever be possible, let alone desirable.

The new research was led by Svante Paabo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. He and his colleagues were careful not to claim in their paper that they had identified the key molecular event in the birth of human culture. But the paper added fresh evidence to the notion that they have identified at least one of the keys. Washington Post

UFOs to IFOs?

Investigation Casts Light on the Mysterious Flying Black Triangle:

They are big, black, and triangular. In UFO folklore they are proof-positive that planet Earth is a rest stop for joyriding, but road-weary, extraterrestrials.

A just released study by the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS), based in Las Vegas, Nevada, sheds new light on the dark and mysterious craft. They offer a more down-to-earth hypothesis.

NIDS researchers contend that these type vehicles are lighter-than-air, blimp-style craft of the U.S. military’s making. Likely powered by “electrokinetic” drive, the lifting body-shaped airships have been skirting the skies from perhaps the early to mid 1980s. space.com

Unequivocal Rejection

Execution pits Mexico against U.S.:

The unexpected cancellation by the president of Mexico of his visit to President George W. Bush’s Texas ranch – in a blunt objection to the execution of a Mexican national – has given Bush his highest-level indication yet of the breadth and depth of near-global opposition to the death penalty in America.


.

Over strenuous objections from Mexico and the European Union, Javier Suarez Medina was put to death Wednesday in Texas for the murder of an undercover policeman in Dallas in 1988. A few hours after the execution, a spokesman for President Vicente Fox of Mexico said, “It would be inappropriate, in these lamentable circumstances, to go ahead with the visit to Texas.” The cancellation “is an unequivocal signal of rejection of the execution,” said the spokesman, Rodolfo Elizondo. International Herald Tribune

Antarcticles

70 South is a weblog from Antarctica:

70South is a (if not the) leading independent news and information resource on Antarctica and other polar related topics. Besides being Interactive and updated daily with the latest news and information on and about Antarctica, the site has an ever increasing amount of reference and educational information. In addition the site contains a dynamic events calendar with exhibit information and links, famous quotations, hundreds of links, art, games, pc wallpapers and graphics.

The eatonweb portal has been beefed up: “(W)ith the new additions, i’m keeping track of weblog name, url, description, country, state, region, language, category(s), keywords, birthdates, parent/children/sibling weblogs, author’s sex, author’s birthdate, ratings and reviews.” The 6000 weblogs listed are asked to update their database entries with the new categories of information; mine’s done. I especially like the blogtree-like genealogy concept; if you are a weblogger who was inspired to blog by reading FmH, please build the net of data by entering me as a ‘parent blog’. You can also rate or review me:

Rate Me on Eatonweb Portal

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Functional MRI and the study of human consciousness:

J. Cogn. Neurosci. — Abstracts: Lloyd 14 (6): 818

Functional brain imaging offers new opportunities for the study of that most pervasive of cognitive conditions, human consciousness. Since consciousness is attendant to so much of human cognitive life, its study requires secondary analysis of multiple experimental datasets. Here, four preprocessed datasets from the National fMRI Data Center are considered…

This exploratory study thus concludes that the proposed methods for “neurophenomenology” warrant further application, including the exploration of individual differences, multivariate differences between cognitive task conditions, and exploration of specific brain regions possibly contributing to the observations. All of these attractive questions, however, must be reserved for future research. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

The Naked Face

Malcolm Gladwell: “Can you read people’s thoughts just by looking at them?”

Many years later, Yarbrough met with a team of psychologists who were conducting training sessions for law enforcement. They sat beside him in a darkened room and showed him a series of videotapes of people who were either lying or telling the truth. He had to say who was doing what. One tape showed people talking about their views on the death penalty and on smoking in public. Another featured a series of nurses who were all talking about a nature film they were supposedly watching, even though some of them were actually watching grisly documentary footage about burn victims and amputees. It may sound as if the tests should have been easy, because we all think we can tell whether someone is lying. But these were not the obvious fibs of a child, or the prevarications of people whose habits and tendencies we know well. These were strangers who were motivated to deceive, and the task of spotting the liars turns out to be fantastically difficult. There is just too much information—words, intonation, gestures, eyes, mouth—and it is impossible to know how the various cues should be weighted, or how to put them all together, and in any case it’s all happening so quickly that you can’t even follow what you think you ought to follow. The tests have been given to policemen, customs officers, judges, trial lawyers, and psychotherapists, as well as to officers from the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the D.E.A., and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms— people one would have thought would be good at spotting lies. On average, they score fifty per cent, which is to say that they would have done just as well if they hadn’t watched the tapes at all and just guessed. But every now and again— roughly one time in a thousand—someone scores off the charts. A Texas Ranger named David Maxwell did extremely well, for example, as did an ex-A.T.F. agent named J.J. Newberry, a few therapists, an arbitrator, a vice cop— and John Yarbrough, which suggests that what happened in Willowbrook may have been more than a fluke or a lucky guess. Something in our faces signals whether we’re going to shoot, say, or whether we’re lying about the film we just saw. Most of us aren’t very good at spotting it. But a handful of people are virtuosos. What do they see that we miss?

[…]

Friesen and Ekman then combed through medical textbooks that outlined each of the facial muscles, and identified every distinct muscular movement that the face could make. There were forty-three such movements. Ekman and Friesen called them “action units.” Then they sat across from each other again, and began manipulating each action unit in turn, first locating the muscle in their mind and then concentrating on isolating it, watching each other closely as they did, checking their movements in a mirror, making notes of how the wrinkle patterns on their faces would change with each muscle movement, and videotaping the movement for their records. On the few occasions when they couldn’t make a particular movement, they went next door to the U.C.S.F. anatomy department, where a surgeon they knew would stick them with a needle and electrically stimulate the recalcitrant muscle. “That wasn’t pleasant at all,” Ekman recalls. When each of those action units had been mastered, Ekman and Friesen began working action units in combination, layering one movement on top of another. The entire process took seven years. “There are three hundred combinations of two muscles,” Ekman says. “If you add in a third, you get over four thousand. We took it up to five muscles, which is over ten thousand visible facial configurations.” Most of those ten thousand facial expressions don’t mean anything, of course. They are the kind of nonsense faces that children make. But, by working through each action-unit combination, Ekman and Friesen identified about three thousand that did seem to mean something, until they had catalogued the essential repertoire of human emotion.[via David Walker]

Global Warmth for U.S. After 9/11 Turns to Frost

:

What happened, many Americans are wondering, to that wave of sympathy and stockpile of global goodwill they encountered after Sept. 11?

“It was squandered,” says Meghnad Desai, director of the Institute for Global Governance at the London School of Economics and Political Science and a member of the House of Lords.

“America dissipated the goodwill out of its arrogance and incompetence. A lot of people who would never ever have considered themselves anti-American are now very distressed with the United States,” he says.

Desai and others blame what seems to be a wave of new U.S. policies that they regard as selfish and unilateral, stretching back to President Bush’s refusal last year to support the international treaty on global warming. USA Today

Rare Public Appearance :

Michelangelo Signorile: The Gist:

It was pretty perverse to pick up The New York Times last week and read that the Vice President of the United States of America, a still free and open democracy (despite John Ashcroft’s best efforts), had surfaced in “a rare public appearance,” in which he defended his administration’s economic policies and spoke out against corporate misconduct.

A rare public appearance. This is a term that, I recall, was used often when the media would discuss the late film star Greta Garbo and the weird recluse Howard Hughes. But a vice president? With regard to world leaders–and let’s face it, Dick Cheney, who everyone agrees is one of the most powerful vice presidents we’ve had, is a world leader–”rare public appearance” has been applied in the past to, oh, say, the devious, mysterious autocrats who run the People’s Republic of China. More recently it’s been applied to none other than Saddam Hussein. The point is not that Cheney is a communist or a lunatic, but this: Leaders who are afraid of what lies out there in people’s minds live underground. NY Press