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Crimes of War Project:

The Crimes of War Project is a collaboration of journalists, lawyers and scholars dedicated to raising public awareness of the laws of war and their application to situations of conflict. Our goal is to promote understanding of international humanitarian law among journalists, policymakers, and the general public, in the belief that a wider knowledge of the legal framework governing armed conflict will lead to greater pressure to prevent breaches of the law, and to punish those who commit them.”

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Froogle:

a new service from Google that makes it easy to find information about products for sale online. By focusing entirely on product search, Froogle applies the power of Google’s search technology to a very specific task: locating stores that sell the item you want to find and pointing you directly to the place where you can make a purchase.”

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Black People Love Us!

Welcome to Our Website: “We are well-liked by Black people so we’re psyched (since lots of Black people don’t like lots of White people)!! We thought it’d be cool to honor our exceptional status with a ROCKIN’ domain name and a killer website!!”


Whoops! Johnny’s totally stumped!

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A ‘Sorry’ Spectacle

In general, politicians apologize because they get caught. They don’t come forward, unprompted, with sudden pangs of conscience. They don’t go before the cameras, bleary-eyed and haunted, to acknowledge sleepless nights and uneasy dreams for some past wrong. They may have a Hamlet complex (indecisiveness) or a Lear complex (insecurity) but they almost never have a Macbeth complex (guilt).


This is, in part, what makes the public political apology, such as incoming Senate majority leader Trent Lott has been issuing like scrip for the past few days, such compelling spectacle. Because everyone knows that apologies are almost always wrung out reluctantly — or qualified with excuses or patently insincere — the public, for a brief moment, has the upper hand. The public makes the man dance, not for his soul but his future. Washington Post op-ed

President Decries Lott’s Comments:

Speaking to a largely black audience here at an event meant to highlight Bush’s “compassionate conservative” agenda, Bush surprised listeners with the rare condemnation of a congressional leader from his own party. The remarks, part of a call for racial fairness, drew loud applause. Washington Post

Howard Kurtz: Not a Whole Lotta Love:

George Bush had the chance to throw Trent Lott a lifeline. Instead, with a strong condemnation of Lott’s “offensive” remarks, Bush squirted grease under the senator’s shaky footing.


(…) What Bush did, in publicly rapping Lott’s knuckles, was morally sound and politically smart, both for himself and his party. He could have just had Ari keep on making bland statements. But in the chemical chain reaction in which Washington’s wise men divined just a day or two ago that Lott’s job wasn’t in serious jeopardy, a few electrons shifted, and the new equation was that his fate might be spinning out of control. Washington Post

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Hunting Where the Ducks Are:

The Ways Republicans Talk About Race: ‘The scandal surrounding Trent Lott is not about a poor choice of words at a birthday party for Strom Thurmond. It’s about the political choices Republicans made in the 1960’s to “go hunting where the ducks are”— code language for winning over white segregationists who abandoned the Democratic Party in the South. It’s about continuing to benefit from racial prejudice through subtle and not-so-subtle sound bites that play to the Republican Party’s far-right base. It’s about the choice today to deny that the party is as much the party of Thurmond as it is the party of Lincoln.’ NY Times op-ed

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High-tech ways to yield your money faster:

“MasterCard is testing a new credit-card system designed to speed the payment process at check-out counters and replace cash transactions at places such as movie theaters and fast food restaurants.

The system, called MasterCard PayPass, allows consumers with specially equipped credit cards to simply tap or wave their cards against a reader to make a payment, rather than having to swipe the card. If the value of the purchase is under a certain amount, the cardholder needn’t sign a receipt.” CNET

Visa readies wireless smart cards: “Visa International is making a push with a new smart-card payment system that would allow hands-free transactions.

The credit card company said Thursday that it plans to set up a new system that uses smart cards fitted with radio-frequency chips (sometimes called RF identification, or RFID, tags) that will allow people to conduct a transaction, such as paying a subway fare or buying a soda, without having to fish for change or swipe a credit card.” CNET

Sun, Compaq support smart-card push: “Facing declining profits from traditional credit cards, financial institutions are once again pushing microchip-equipped credit cards. But now they have new allies: Sun Microsystems and Compaq Computer.

Financial companies have failed to popularize so-called smart cards in the United States, but the new effort is different in several ways, which could mean success this time. With the backing of American Express and Visa International in combination with three major card issuers, millions of the cards are expected to enter circulation this year.

And with each card that’s issued, Sun Microsystems makes a little bit of money as a royalty for its Java software, used to run the software on the tiny computer inside the card. ” CNET

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Reading the Minds of the Dead?

Afterlife Beliefs May Have Biological Basis:

‘A new study by a University of Arkansas psychologist proposes that beliefs about the afterlife may amount to more than a cultural construct. They may in fact have a biological basis – arising from the human brain’s unique ability to comprehend the mental states of other people.


In an article published in the November issue of The Journal of Cognition and Culture, assistant professor of psychology Jesse Bering outlines a study in which he demonstrated that even individuals who claim to believe that all consciousness ceases at death were inclined to say that certain psychological states persist. He calls this contradiction the Simulation Constraint Hypothesis of Death Representation.


“It comes down to the fact that we’re unable to imagine the absence of certain psychological states,” Bering said. “People make biological inferences about death – they know that once you’re dead, you don’t need to eat anymore. They also know that once you’re dead, your brain stops working. But because they’ve never experienced a complete lack of thought, they find it difficult to make that inferential leap – that once the brain stops, thought stops too.” ‘

I think that what relates to the inability to imagine the cessation of thought and consciousness is the fear of dying oneself. It is less related to the capacity for ‘theory of mind’ or empathy than one’s own narcissism.

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R.I.P. Orlando Villas Boas

It seems like a week when the candidates for canonization in my church are leaving us. First Fr. Berrigan, and now the last of the Villas Boas brothers.

Orlando Villas Boas, a leading advocate of indigenous rights who never shied away from recounting his adventures in Brazil’s vast Amazon rain forest, died yesterday. He was 88.


The fun-loving, gregarious Mr. Villas Boas was the last surviving of four brothers who dedicated their lives to protecting Brazil’s Indian tribes. Boston Globe

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Hubble Watches Galaxies Engage in Dance of Destruction



“NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is witnessing a grouping of galaxies engaging in a slow dance of destruction that will last for billions of years. The galaxies are so tightly packed together that gravitational forces are beginning to rip stars from them and distort their shapes. Those same gravitational forces eventually could bring the galaxies together to form one large galaxy. The name of this grouping, Seyfert’s Sextet, implies that six galaxies are participating in the action. But only four galaxies are on the dance card. The small face-on spiral with the prominent arms [center] of gas and stars is a background galaxy almost five times farther away than the other four. Only a chance alignment makes it appear as if it is part of the group. The sixth member of the sextet isn’t a galaxy at all but a long “tidal tail” of stars [below, right] torn from one of the galaxies.” STScI

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General Sees Scant Evidence of Threat Near in U.S.

The nation’s top general for domestic security says he has seen little evidence to suggest an imminent terrorism threat inside the United States by members of Al Qaeda’s network, and warns against using “McCarthyism” in combating terror.


“I am not aware of a significant threat to this nation” from so-called sleeper cells, said the officer, Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart.


General Eberhart, who as head of the military’s newly created Northern Command oversees the Pentagon’s contribution to domestic counterterrorism efforts, expressed concern that undetected terrorist cells could be operating in the United States and plotting new attacks. NY Times