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A’Bombin’Nation:

The results of NY Times‘ op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof’s bid that readers Name That War:

“The five winners, each of whom gets a 250-dinar note left over from my last Iraq trip, are: Brad Corsello of New York for ‘Dubya Dubya III’; Richard Sanders for ‘Rolling Blunder’; John Fell of California for ‘Desert Slog,’ Will Hutchinson of Vermont for ‘Mess in Potamia’; and Willard Oriol of New York for ‘Blood, Baath and Beyond.’

More seriously, during this holiday weekend, I hope we’ll think often and appreciatively of those Americans who are in Iraq right now. Humor cannot erase their fear and loneliness in the face of Washington’s policy failures, or the heartbreak here in so many homes where bereaved parents, spouses and orphans are struggling in this season to remember why they should be giving thanks. ” [thanks, Jerry]

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Inventing al Qaeda

Pointed by a reader to this 11/30 post at the null device:

“Some believe that al-Qaeda doesn’t exist, and that the highly organised global terror network is a myth made up by Western officials…

In fact, I have been wondering whether or not, within a decade, ‘al-Qaeda’ will morph into an umbrella term for any resistance to neo-liberalism/globalisation/capitalism/The Man, with Latin American (non-Islamic) qaedistas waging guerilla war against US-installed authoritarian governments and right-wing death squads, whilst their French comrades torch McDonalds restaurants, and dreadlocked Nu Marxists all over McWorld replace their Che T-shirts with Osama ones.” [via walker]

dev.null takes off in part from this 11/28 sp!ked piece (“…it’s time we ‘defused the widespread image of al-Qaeda as a ubiquitous, super-organised terror network and call it as it is: a loose collection of groups and individuals that doesn’t even refer to itself as al-Qaeda…”) by Brendan O’Neill. FmH readers will know that I have, perhaps less succinctly, pointed to and espoused similar views in the past, e.g. here and especially here.

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A’Bombin’Nation:

The results of NY Times‘ op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof’s bid that readers Name That War:

“The five winners, each of whom gets a 250-dinar note left over from my last Iraq trip, are: Brad Corsello of New York for ‘Dubya Dubya III’; Richard Sanders for ‘Rolling Blunder’; John Fell of California for ‘Desert Slog,’ Will Hutchinson of Vermont for ‘Mess in Potamia’; and Willard Oriol of New York for ‘Blood, Baath and Beyond.’

More seriously, during this holiday weekend, I hope we’ll think often and appreciatively of those Americans who are in Iraq right now. Humor cannot erase their fear and loneliness in the face of Washington’s policy failures, or the heartbreak here in so many homes where bereaved parents, spouses and orphans are struggling in this season to remember why they should be giving thanks. ” [thanks, Jerry]

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Bush’s Iraq visit a pre-election PR stunt: analysis

International headlines: “Electoral raid on Baghdad”. “The turkey has landed”. “…(F)irst US president to visit Iraq in order to provide the television pictures required by his re-election campaign…” “…(O)ne of the most audacious publicity coups in White House history…”. “George W Bush does not attend the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq, but has dinner in Baghdad with those who dream of coming home alive”. “It is like playing the last $100 dollar bill at the casino…(O)nly one thing can ensure victory for Bush at the November 2004 polls: Saddam Hussein dead or chained up.” —abc.net.au

And: more to the point (and less unambiguous), the US Press reaction. — Howard Kurtz, Washington Post

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Heroism, Bush Style

Atrios, among others, feels “that Bush’s little trip is, on balance, a “good thing.” I mean, it’s better than him not doing it.” Count me as one who disagrees. The transparency of the PR ploy is contemptible, With any luck it will inspire the same disdain as the “Mission Accomplished” stunt. Atrios knows it too:

But, what’s with the press acting like… Bush grabbed a machine gun and personally stormed a building filled with armed insurgents?

He didn’t meet with any locals. He didn’t meet with the governing council. He flew into a heavily fortified military base and then flew out again.

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Who Gets to Validate Alternative Medicine?

Closer to Truth?: “The two sides argue fiercely about the efficacy and dangers of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Three of the guests can see both sides of the issue to various degrees. Only retired physician Wallace Sampson, Editor in Chief, Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine sees the field in black and white: “Delusion is delusion and what we’re talking about with alternative medicine, naturopathy in particular is self-delusion.”” —PBS

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A new cellular peril?

Why mobile phones may hurt backs: “Scientists at Australia’s University of Queensland say it’s all down to the way we breathe.


They say the human body is designed to exhale when our feet touch the ground. This helps to protect the spine from sudden jolts.


However, talking and walking at the same time disrupts this breathing pattern, leaving the spine exposed.” —BBC

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Fanatics, Fools and Alpha Males

Secret resignation letters of fed-up Bush officials: “In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m sending you a succulent slice from [my new book, Fanatics, Fools and Alpha Males, which will be published in March by Miramax Books] (you’ll have to provide your own stuffing). It’s a collection of resignation letters written by disaffected members of the Bush administration who so disagreed with administration policies that they preferred the uncertainty of the unemployment line to toeing the party line.


I’ve also taken the liberty of including excerpts from what I imagine the first drafts of these letters might have looked like.” —Arianna Huffington, Salon

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How the world is getting hungrier each year

… and why we lack the political will to do somethng about it. “Across the world an estimated 842 million people are today undernourished – and that figure is again climbing, with an additional 5 million hungry people every year. The figures, says the report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) ‘signal a setback in the war on hunger’. The prospect of cutting by half the number of people who go hungry – the target set by the world’s governments in 1996 – looks ‘increasingly remote’.

The shocking thing about this is that, in the world of the politics of aid, at any rate, nobody is shocked.” —Indelendent.UK

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New code first step in breaking Apple’s DRM

“The man responsible for writing software that allowed people to circumvent copyright technology on DVDs has posted software on the Internet that may allow Windows-using customers of Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes Music Store to break digital rights management (DRM) technology that protects files downloaded from that service.

A link to the file, called QTFairUse, was posted on a Web log that is maintained by Jon Lech Johansen, also known as ‘DVD Jon.’ When compiled and run, the program allows iTunes users to make raw copies of songs that use Apple’s MPEG-4 Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) standard.” —Yahoo! [thanks, abby]

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New Era in Warfare

U.S. Arrests Wife and Daughter of Hussein Aide: “The U.S. military on Wednesday arrested a wife and a daughter of a top Saddam Hussein deputy suspected of leading the anti-American insurgency. A top general said rebels are bringing in new leaders to help them bounce back from losses inflicted by an aggressive American campaign.” —NY Times This is, of course, a violation of the Geneva Conventions’ clause prohibiting the taking of hostages. I hope someone in a position to question someone in a position to be accountable goes on record asking the question, although probably there’ll be an Orwellian doublespeak pseudo-legalistic comeback.. .

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Stroke gives woman British accent

“An American woman has been left with a British accent after having a stroke.

This is despite the fact that Tiffany Roberts, 61, has never been to Britain. Her accent is a mixture of English cockney and West Country.

Doctors say Mrs Roberts, who was born and bred in Indiana, has a condition called foreign accent syndrome.

This rare condition occurs when part of the brain becomes damaged. This can follow a stroke or head injury. There have only been a few documented cases.” —BBC

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Strange Attractor:

Bizarrely, this FmH post from 2001 about Simon Kelly’s internet-assisted suicide has suddenly started to attract comments. Some viewers of a recent BBC television documentary on the issue were apparently prompted to search the web for references to Kelly and found my entry on the issues surrounding his death. (A search on “Simon Kelly and suicide” in Google does not point to FmH, but some search engine must.) They have started a chat about the issues in my comments section. I don’t think I had comments enabled in July, 2001, but my subsequent changes to the FmH template have migrated back to the archived pages, so the ‘chatroom’ was there waiting to happen.

Here is more recent Wired coverage of the issue, here is an August, 2001 Network Computing column on his death, and here is a letter to Network Computing from Simon Kelly’s mother (scroll about halfway down the page), which I found via the aforementioned Google search.

I was only alerted to this happening because I get emails of every comment entered on FmH, and I was puzzled by the context of these comments until I dug up the post to which they referred. I’m curious about whether this happens with any regularity — it might not be so infrequent an occurrence that websearches on a resurrected topic point to old weblog posts and inspire comments long after the fact. I may have missed the email notification of the odd commment here and there if a conversation on a topic did not develop, and despite my curiosity I do not have the patience to go back through all the archived pages to see if any comments have been entered recently on old posts (even though it would be a little easier to spot with FmH than it would on some other weblogs since, as I mentioned, I did not have comments enabled back then). It is possible that new, unnoticed comments are being entered on old posts all over the weblog universe. In some fundamental way, people doing so do not understand the impermanent nature of a weblog, where contents go ‘off the scroll’ and into the bit bucket and it is only by chance that they will be noticed. Fascinating sidelight to history…

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The Delicate Balance of Pain and Addiction

“The reassessment of narcotic risk comes at a time of skyrocketing rates of misuse and abuse of such drugs. Medical experts agree that most pain patients can successfully use narcotics without consequences. But the same experts also say that much remains unknown about the number or types of chronic pain sufferers who will become addicted as a result of medical care, or ‘iatrogenically’ addicted. The biggest risk appears to be to patients who have abused drugs or to those who have an underlying, undiagnosed vulnerability to abuse substances, a condition that may affect an estimated 3 to 14 percent of the population.” —New York Times

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Does this give us the creeps?

Taking Stephen King Seriously: “Critics have rarely embraced Stephen King as a serious writer. But the prolific novelist, best known for his horror stories, is about to enter some serious company. The National Book Foundation is honoring the best-selling author with a lifetime achievement award whose previous recipients have included Arthur Miller, Eudora Welty and John Updike.” —NPR One of the interesting facets of this interview is to hear King avow that his writer’s block has become permanent; he refers to himself the novelist in the past tense.

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Regrow Your Own

The road to regeneration starts here:

“By academic standards, shifting from cardiology to developmental biology is a bizarre career move. Regeneration studies is a backwater even among biologists, who have been chopping the legs off salamanders for more than 200 years without ever discovering why some of them manage to grow back. And while clues to regeneration have emerged – retinoic acid will induce some frogs to grow three new legs in place of one – the field has a history of derailing respectable scientists.


As to whether humans could ever develop similar capacities of self-repair, most biologists have concluded, albeit reluctantly, that the answer is no. There seems to be something inherently different about amphibian cells: a swamp-animal mutability that mammals – including people – simply don’t possess.


But Keating remains convinced that newts hold the key to human healing. Our bodies, he points out, can already regenerate to a degree, repairing broken bones and regularly trading dead cells for new ones. Skin cells, for instance, last about two weeks, and our stomach lining molts once a month. This constant replenishment is what enables our 70-year lifespan, but cell growth is calibrated to run at a trickle: too slow to fix major damage. Lose an arm or a kidney and that’s it; we can’t generate the lost part any more than a car can sprout a new transmission.


Why? It’s an evolutionary mystery. The ability to regrow legs and eyes seems like a clear Darwinian advantage – one that surviving generations would have retained. But a paradox of regeneration is that the higher you move up the evolutionary chain, the less likely you’ll have the ability to regrow limbs or organs. Keating’s mission: figure out the cause of this paradox – and reverse it.” —Wired

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Sartre Redux

“It is the stuff of legend. And the hunger for that legend today is unmistakable. It has been a long time since any thinker left so large a mark on an age as did Sartre. The first sign of a revival came three years ago, on the 20th anniversary of his death, when the mediagenic French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy published a best-selling book, recently translated into English as Sartre: The Philosopher of the Twentieth Century (Polity Press). A team of scholars, including several American professors, is now finishing the Dictionnaire Sartrean, with entries on the thinker’s concepts, influences, and political alliances — as well as a directory of his sizable entourage, mistresses included. It is scheduled for publication in 2005, as part of the centenary of the thinker’s birth. That anniversary will also be celebrated with an international conference in Paris.” —The Chronicle of Higher Education

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Wittgenstein’s music — all four bars of it —

offers a new window onto his work and influence: “Ludwig Wittgenstein’s only known musical work had its world premiere last week in Cambridge. It is called, according to the title that he had pencilled above his two-line score, Leidenschaftlich (in English, ‘Passionate’). At four bars, it lasts less than 30 seconds and is little more than a powerful, fiery flourish.

Yet it brought an invited audience of 150 curious Wittgenstein enthusiasts, unaware of his musical pretensions, to Emmanuel College’s acoustically refined new Queen’s Hall auditorium…” —Andante

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Welcome back, J. Edgar:

FBI scrutinizing anti-war protesters. “The FBI has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum.” —SF Chronicle

Related: Environmentalists = Terrorists? “Bill would define New York eco- and animal-rights activists as terrorsts.” —The Village Voice

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Crimes Against Nature

“George W. Bush will go down in history as America’s worst environmental president. In a ferocious three-year attack, the Bush administration has initiated more than 200 major rollbacks of America’s environmental laws, weakening the protection of our country’s air, water, public lands and wildlife. Cloaked in meticulously crafted language designed to deceive the public, the administration intends to eliminate the nation’s most important environmental laws by the end of the year. Under the guidance of Republican pollster Frank Luntz, the Bush White House has actively hidden its anti-environmental program behind deceptive rhetoric, telegenic spokespeople, secrecy and the intimidation of scientists and bureaucrats. The Bush attack was not entirely unexpected. George W. Bush had the grimmest environmental record of any governor during his tenure in Texas. Texas became number one in air and water pollution and in the release of toxic chemicals. In his six years in Austin, he championed a short-term pollution-based prosperity, which enriched his political contributors and corporate cronies by lowering the quality of life for everyone else. Now President Bush is set to do the same to America. After three years, his policies are already bearing fruit, diminishing standards of living for millions of Americans.” — Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper and the senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, tompaine.com

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Why Physical Immortality?

“…(A) growing band of intellectuals, calling themselves immortalist, see physical immortality as no laughing matter. To them, the possibility of living forever — without relying on supernatural beliefs or interventions — is as real as the nose on your face.

This begs the question: Why physical immortality? Ask immortalists and you’ll likely hear something like this: Nature need not be the final arbiter of life and death.

That’s the short answer. The longer one’s more nuanced.” —betterhumans

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Why Physical Immortality?

“…(A) growing band of intellectuals, calling themselves immortalist, see physical immortality as no laughing matter. To them, the possibility of living forever — without relying on supernatural beliefs or interventions — is as real as the nose on your face.

This begs the question: Why physical immortality? Ask immortalists and you’ll likely hear something like this: Nature need not be the final arbiter of life and death.

That’s the short answer. The longer one’s more nuanced.” —betterhumans

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U.S. Detonates ‘Mother of All Bombs’ in Florida Test

“The most powerful conventional bomb in the U.S. arsenal exploded in a huge, fiery cloud on a Florida test range on Friday after being dropped by an Air Force cargo plane in the last developmental step for the nearly 11-ton”mother of all bombs.”

An MC-130E Combat Talon I dropped the 21,700-pound satellite-guided GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb, or MOAB, over the test range at Eglin Air Force Base in northwestern Florida, said base spokesman Jake Swinson.” —New York Times

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Being No One:

Marcello Ghin reviews Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity by Thomas Metzinger: “The notion of consciousness has been suspected of being too vague for being a topic of scientific investigation. Recently, consciousness has become more interesting in the light of new neuroscientific imaging studies. Scientists from all over the world are searching for neural correlates of consciousness. However, finding the neural basis is not enough for a scientific explanation of conscious experience. After all, we are still facing the ‘hard problem’, as David Chalmers dubbed it: why are those neural processes accompanied by conscious experience at all? Maybe we can reformulate the question in this way: Which constraints does a system have to satisfy in order to generate conscious experience? Being No One is an attempt to give an answer to the latter question. To be more precise: it is an attempt to give an answer to the question of how information processing systems generate the conscious experience of being someone.” —human-nature.com

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The Man with a Plan to Convert a Galaxy into Beer Cans

Few people stretch the imagination as much as controversial theorist and activist Keith Henson:

“In 1987, he founded the Far Edge Committee to plan the Far Edge Party. Henson’s thinking was that the only way to see our entire galaxy before it died was to create multiple copies of himself, using such undefined technologies as mind uploading. The copies would go and experience the galaxy and then return to share their memories. And they would meet in the distant future at the other side of the Milky Way for a party.


About a thousand people were initially planning to attend this Far Edge Party, meaning that it would involve trillions of copies. Organizing the party therefore became a logistical challenge. The bean dip alone, organizers noted humorously, would weigh enough to form a black hole—a problem called “The Bean Dip Catastrophe.” ” —betterhumans

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Interracial interactions are cognitively demanding

“A new Dartmouth study reveals that interracial contact has a profound impact on a person’s attention and performance. The researchers found new evidence using brain imaging that white individuals attempt to control racial bias when exposed to black individuals, and that this act of suppressing bias exhausts mental resources.

Published in the online edition of Nature Neuroscience on Nov. 16, the study combines the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures brain activity, with other behavioral tests common to research in social and cognitive psychology to determine how white individuals respond to black individuals.” —EurekAlert!

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The Future in 30 Seconds:

Listening to iTunes for Free:

“Nothing puts the stamp on our shrinking musical attention span as much as Apple’s new online song catalog, iTunes Music Store. The store is essentially Napster, with the minor caveat that you have to pay 99 cents for each song you download. But my sources in the preteen world have uncovered an interesting development: The kids aren’t actually paying for the songs. After all, how many kids have a credit card? And even if they did, a buck a song is steep, especially when you can get them for free on LimeWire and Kazaa.


No, instead of buying, they’re listening to the free 30-second previews that are available on the Web site. And they’re listening to them over and over again.


These previews get right to the essence of the songs. They’re usually cut from somewhere in the middle and contain a bit of the verse and a bit of the chorus, or the hook, which is the part that everyone recognizes.


You might ask how anyone could possibly find enjoyment in just 30 seconds of a song? But there’s a lot to suggest that 30 seconds of a song is just about all we need these days. In fact, everything from TV commercials to children’s toys, from radio jingles to cell-phone ringers, from song-form changes to the rise of sampling, has been subtly training us to read and receive our music in increasingly smaller chunks.” —NY Observer [via digitalphono]

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Neocons Leak Bad Intelligence

“The leak of a secret memorandum written by a senior Pentagon official reveals less about the connection between Saddam and al Qaeda than the growing desperation of neo-conservative hawks in the Bush administration


The leak, whatever its sources, appears to have worked against the administration. Not only does the intelligence contained in the article fall embarrassingly short of “closing the case” on the Iraq-al Qaeda connection, but by revealing highly classified material, the neo-conservatives, if they were indeed the source, appear willing to sacrifice the country’s secrets to retain power. “It’s obvious that if you cared about the real national security interests of this country, you wouldn’t reveal an asset,” said Goodman. “That shows this is a venal and desperate group who are not considering the real national-security interests of this country.” ” —Jim Lobe, AlterNet

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Gore Vidal: the last patriot?

The take-no-prisoners social critic skewers Bush, Ashcroft and the whole damn lot of us for letting despots rule:

“But getting back to Bush. If we use old-fashioned paper ballots and have them counted in the precinct where they are cast, he will be swept from office. He’s made every error you can. He’s wrecked the economy. Unemployment is up. People can’t find jobs. Poverty is up. It’s a total mess. How does he make such a mess? Well, he is plainly very stupid. But the people around him are not. They want to stay in power.


You paint a very dark picture of the current administration and of the American political system in general. But at a deeper, more societal level, isn’t there still a democratic underpinning?


No. There are some memories of what we once were. There are still a few old people around who remember the New Deal, which was the last time we had a government that showed some interest in the welfare of the American people. Now we have governments, in the last 20 to 30 years, that care only about the welfare of the rich.


Is Bush the worst president we’ve ever had?


Well, nobody has ever wrecked the Bill of Rights as he has. Other presidents have dodged around it, but no president before this one has so put the Bill of Rights at risk. No one has proposed preemptive war before. And two countries in a row that have done no harm to us have been bombed.


How do you think the current war in Iraq is going to play out?


I think we will go down the tubes right with it. With each action Bush ever more enrages the Muslims. And there are a billion of them. And sooner or later they will have a Saladin who will pull them together, and they will come after us. And it won’t be pretty. —LAWeekly [via walker]

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“Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

— Hermann Goering (1946) [props to tingilinde]
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Radiohead Frontman Protests Bush Visit To London

“When asked why he chose to speak out, Yorke said, ‘To make Blair squirm over his decision to take us into a illegitimate war (in Iraq) and follow this religious lunatic (Bush) toward a dangerous future for the whole planet…both of these men are liars. We have the right to call them such, they are putting our children’s future in jeopardy. They are not controlling the terrorist threat, they are escalating it..’


Yorke said he was enraged that authorities were using ‘the threat of terrorism to suppress whatever they choose, intimidate and arrest whoever they wish.'” —Yahoo! News

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What, you don’t know how to fry pork rinds properly?

“George W. Bush has allegedly offended Queen Elizabeth II by bringing no fewer than five of his personal chefs to Buckingham Palace.

‘Her Majesty greeted the news that Bush was coming with his own chefs in absolute silence,’ a snitch tells London’s Daily Telegraph.

‘That’s her general way of expressing disapproval. She’s not thought to be [thrilled] about the whole visit anyway, but when you consider that she has excellent cooks herself, you can see why this would be taken as a bit of an insult.'” NY Daily News

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Experts See Major Shift in Al Qaeda’s Strategy

In the aftermath of the Istanbul bombings, This LA Times piece suggests that since the destruction of its base of operations in Afghanistan al Qaeda has, of necessity and with success, “(mutated) into a more decentralized network relying on local allies to launch more frequent attacks on varied targets.” In a sense, the al Qaeda name has become a brand name indicating a franchise operation seeding violence by perhaps providing training, financing and ideological inspiration to loosely affiliated semiautonomous local “terrorist cells”.

The idea that al Qaeda has become more decentralized, however, is based on a possibly unjustified assumption that there was a central al Qaeda organization to decapitate in the first place, and that this was successfully done by the US-led WoT®. The transparent, pitiful efforts to link al Qaeda to Baghdad in the leadup to the invasion of Iraq were just the most dramatic example of the need to imagine a unified enemy and attribute to it all the malice we find in the anti-American world. (I used to say the same thing about the ‘global Communist conspiracy’ trope during the Cold War.) In a sense, by insisting al Qaeda was behind every hostile act, it may be us who have created al Qaeda as an ideology and a brand name. It may never have been much else, although I will grant you the premise that the Afghani training camps and the command-and-control structure, supposedly under Osama bin Laden, imposed some uniformity before 9-11. We continue to be surprised by the breadth and reach of an organization that is little more than a meme, a name given to and invoked by anyone sharing an increasingly ubiquitous common purpose. As the article notes:

A top French counter-terrorism official cautioned against blaming Al Qaeda for every act of Islamic terrorism. “We have to be prudent,” said Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, the dean of France’s anti-terrorism magistrates. “These attacks are part of a climate, a planetary offensive. Al Qaeda is important. But there is too much of a tendency, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, to personalize the threat. It is not all [Osama] bin Laden, it is not all Al Qaeda.”

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Bush pulls out of speech to Parliament

“George Bush was last night branded chicken for scrapping his speech to Parliament because he feared being heckled by anti-war MPs.


The US president planned to give a joint address to the Commons and Lords during his state visit to Britain.


But senior White House adviser Dr Harlan Ullman said: ‘They would have loved to do it because it would have been a great photo-opportunity.


‘But they were fearful it would to turn into a spectacle with Labour backbenchers walking out.'” —mirror.co.uk

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<a href=” http://pro.enetation.co.uk/comments.php?user=egelwan&commentid=106728380501077470

” title=””>Peggy La Cerra commented on my item on her ‘energetic evolutionary model’ of the mind:

Thanks for your comments. Maybe I can clarify your understanding of my paper’s content (I also wrote a book on these ideas, with Roger Bingham, called The Origin of Minds, Harmony 2002).

The challenge these ideas about the evolution of the human brain/mind poses to ‘Evolutionary Psychology’ is that they lead to a very different evolutionary model of our inherited neurocognitive architecture. Mine suggests that we inherit a complex set of adaptations that construct the neural information processing networks that give rise to the mind, theirs suggests that we inherit programs that solve specific problems (so-called ‘domain-specific/content dependent mechanisms’ as well as ‘a few or more ‘general processors’ and ‘some sort of integrative circuitry’. The ‘energetic model of the mind’ I propose is integrated and designed to assess the costs and benefits — TO AN INDIVIDUAL, based on his or her personal history of experience in the physical

and social environment over time — of one course of action versus another. There are many other implications of this model that differ greatly from those that fall out of the EP model that are expressed in detail in The Origin of Minds.

Best regards,

Peggy La Cerra

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Another World Is Here

“WorldChanging.com works from a simple premise: that the tools, models and ideas for building a better future lie all around us. That plenty of people are working on tools for change, but the fields in which they work remain unconnected. That the motive, means and opportunity for profound positive change are already present. That another world is not just possible, it’s here. We only need to put the pieces together.” This new weblog is deep and rich with the sort of things that interest me. I have only begun to explore it. In a way, it seems to be the latest morph and inheritor of the Whole Earth/CoEvolution ethos.

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Watching Howard Run:

Gary Wolf, who covers the Dean campaign for Wired: “Here, I’ve offered a Retroactive Manifesto of the Dean Campaign. These are the rules that might have been posted on the wall of campaign manager Joe Trippi’s office, if there were such a list of rules. I am looking for examples and counter-examples – confirmation and correction. Are these really the principles that underlay the architecture of the campaign? Are there concrete examples you can suggest? Is something here plainly wrong? Hack away.

(Each of these rules is taken from the work of the writer whose name is parentheses. )

  • ALLOW THE ENDS TO CONNECT (David Weinberger)
  • DON’T BUILD THE SYSTEM – GROW IT (Kevin Kelly)
  • SWARM AND SELF-ORGANIZE (Steven Johnson)
  • UNTETHER (Howard Rheingold)
  • YOU’RE NOT A LEADER – YOU’RE A PLACE (Joi Ito)
  • MAKE THE NETWORK STUPID (David Isenberg)”

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Witness

Using technology and video to fight for human rights: this organization, founded in 1992 by Peter Gabriel, the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights and the Reebok Foundation, consists of more than 150 ‘partner groups’ in over 50 countries around the world investigating and exposing a wide range of injustices and violations of human rights that otherwise go unnoticed and unreported, often in societies without basic protections and at great risk to themselves. The organization’s fundraising efforts make video and other technology tools available to grassroots human rights groups around the world. Witness’ annual report is online here. Click here to make a donation.

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Jazz Master in a Low Key

The NEA honors Jim Hall:

“Jim Hall, the greatest living jazz guitarist, has been making records for close to a half-century. He’s worked with everybody from Sonny Rollins to Pat Metheny and played everywhere from the Village Vanguard to the White House. His colleagues view him with something approaching outright awe. But Mr. Hall, like most jazz musicians, is unknown to the public at large–a fact that doesn’t seem to bother him in the least…


To be sure, Mr. Hall, who turns 73 next month, is nobody’s idea of a natural celebrity. Bald, bespectacled and soft-spoken to a fault, he looks less hip than shyly professorial. (A well-read art lover, he has written a thoughtful book called ‘Exploring Jazz Guitar’ in which he suggests that jazz musicians could learn from looking at the seascapes of J.M.W. Turner.) His intensely intimate music gets under your skin rather than grabbing you by the lapels.


Given sufficient time, though, such artists have a way of evening the odds. Today, the National Endowment for the Arts names Mr. Hall an NEA Jazz Master, an honor accompanied by a check for $25,000.” —WSJ Opinion Journal

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Nuts to Whom?

Dirk Olin, national editor of American Lawyer magazine: The insanity defense is crazy: “The very notion of a teenager crouched in the trunk of a car assassinating people willy-nilly does seem crazed on its face. But Malvo’s courtroom tack has provoked the predictable outrage engendered by every attempt at the insanity plea (with Dennis Miller’s adolescent blather leading the pack.)

Invocations of the insanity defense often pique the public because of a widespread misperception that the plea offers an opportunity to get away with murder. Such fears are almost completely groundless. Yet they’ve already led to the intellectually dishonest construct of ‘guilty but insane’ pleas passed by legislatures in a number of states. These hybrid pleas promote a beguiling oversimplification of how society should apportion blame. Bright lines are often unavoidable in the law, but the precision of modern psychiatry demands that we stop asking juries to make medical determinations of insanity once and for all.” —Slate

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"No matter what, life is bigger than death"

“Alejandro González Iñárritu’s new film, ’21 Grams,’ takes its name from the inexplicable loss of weight a body undergoes at the moment of death and focuses on the events leading up to and away from an accident in which several people lose their lives. But don’t suggest to Iñárritu that his film is about death.

‘I think it’s about hope,’ he says — the struggle to find hope in the face of loss.

Stretched taut between those extremes, the film — starring Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro and featuring cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto’s unsettling hand-held-camera work — strikes an edgy, unrelenting chord. Its confrontation with death throws life into sharp relief.” — Amy Reiter, Salon

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Play to be restaged after script found in mummy

“An ancient play is to be staged for the first time in more than 2050 years after fragments of the text were found stuffed in an Egyptian mummy.


Cyprus’s national theatre company, Thoc, plans a modern-day world premiere of Aeschylus’s Trojan War story Achilles in Cyprus next summer. The play will then be performed in Cyprus and Greece.


Scholars had believed the trilogy to be lost forever when the Library of Alexandria burnt to ashes in 48 BC.


‘But in the last decades archaeologists found mummies in Egypt which were stuffed with papyrus, containing excerpts of the original plays of Aeschylus,’ Thoc director Andy Bargilly told Reuters.


Drawing on references to the trilogy by other ancient playwrights and the recently discovered papyrus texts, Thoc and researchers believe they have the closest possible adaptation of Aeschylus’s masterpiece.” —Sydney Morning Herald

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New particle is double trouble for physicists

“A mysterious sub-atomic particle has been revealed that does not to fit any of the models currently used by physicists.

The discovery either suggests that a new family of molecule-like sub-atomic particles exists, or that theorists must substantially re-think their theory of the masses of sub-atomic particles.

‘If the molecular interpretation is correct, then it would be one of the first compelling cases for a new type of matter – it opens up a whole new realm of study,’ says …one of the team involved in confirming the existence of the new particle. There would also probably be more molecule-like particles to find, he adds.” —New Scientist

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Same-Sex Marriage Affirmed in Massachusetts!

“The question before us is whether, consistent with the Massachusetts Constitution, the commonwealth may deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry. We conclude that it may not. The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens.”

It certainly is a day for heteroxexuals and gays alike to be proud to live in Massachusetts, after the 4-3 Supreme Judicial Court ruling that it is a deprivation of equal protection under the law to deny gay couples the rights and obligations of the institution of marriage. It would have been even nicer if the Court had not imposed a six-month implementation process on the state, of course. That does make it much more likely that the issue will remain alive in the months leading up to the Presidential election, as this New York Times news analysis details. Certainly, if the domestic ‘culture wars’ become as inescapable a part of the national debate as the foreign policy issues, it will further polarize the electorate and spare us from an insipid campaign between ‘Bush and Bush-lite’, as some claim we endured in 2000. As pointed out in this Salon analysis, conservatives have their backs against the wall already with the Vermont same-sex union bill signed into law by then-governor Howard Dean; last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the Texas sodomy case decriminalizing consenting homosexual sex; the recent affirmation of same-sex marriages by an Ontario, Canada, court; and the appointment of an openly gay Episcopal bishop.

Republican strategists who think it will ignite conservative support for Bush and overcome a segment of the population’s misgivings about the invasion of Iraq may try to make gay marriage a hotbutton issue. We can hope that as a result they lose moderate voters who see Bush’s ties to the rabid Right unveiled, and the “compassionate conservative” lie exposed, in the process. On the other hand, pundits predict that if Christian Coalition types become unhappy with a certain reticence on Dubya’s part on the issue, “it will be very dangerous for him…” The delicious irony of one of Bush’s major handlers, VP Cheney, having an openly gay daughter, will be one to savor as the issue heats up.

The Right is certainly scurrying for the so-called ‘marriage amendment’ to the US Constitution, which would define a marital union as being between a man and a woman. Considering that 37 of the 50 states already have laws defining marriage as a union only between a man and a woman on their books, this might win, even based as it is on the inane claim that extending these rights to same-sex couples somehow “redefin(es) marriage to the point of extinction,” in the words of Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, or “(violates) the sanctity of marriage”, to use Bush’s more hackneyed and insipid phrasing. Expect an interesting legal battle about whether a federal constitutional amendment would trump the Massachusetts precedent, especially given Republican lip service to states’ rights and devolution of federal authority in other areas.

Given the closeness of the Supreme Court ruling, is there room for a compromise in which the legislature creates a same-sex union entity that is not called marriage but extends legal rights in areas including property, insurance, child custody and next-of-kin benefits to the partners? Opinion is divided among legal experts about whether the ruling, which has extensive explicit discussion of marriage, leaves room for anything less. It sounds unlikely to my reading.

The Massachusetts ruling cannot be challenged on the federal court level or overturned by the Massachusetts legislature, but since it is based on the Court’s interpretations of the rights afforded under the state constitution, there is a simple solution for its fundamentalist and homophobic opponents — change the constitution. (One of the three dissenting justices in the Massachusetts decision, parenthetically, said that gays are already as free to marry in this state as anyone else — as long as it is someone of the opposite sex! “Whether an individual chooses not to marry because of sexual orientation or any other reason should be of no concern to the court.”) There could be a move for a Massachusetts constitutional amendment , as well as the federal one, to ban gay marriage; our Mormon Republican governor Mitt Romney is on record as favoring such a maneuver. This would take at least three years, though. The nuances of Massachusetts politics make this an interesting battle to watch.

The legislature is majority Democratic, but also largely Catholic, and the Roman Catholic Church is strenuously opposed to gay marriage. On the other hand, the Democrats are rarely aligned with Governor Romney… —New York Times

Apparently, after courts affirmed same-sex marital rights in those states, the constitutions of Alaska and Hawaii were changed in similar fashion.

Another front on which the battle will undoubtedly be fought, if it withstands the backlash in Massachusetts, is whether same-sex marriages from this state would be considered valid by the federal government and other states. Will gay couples come to Massachusetts to marry and then return to other states to challenge the resulting discrimination against them in the courts, state by state? The likelihood is that the uphill battle will in some senses continue — if luck would have it, only in forty-nine of the fifty states. In the meantime, I am raising a toast to at least several couples I know here in Massachusetts who, in the aftermath of this ruling, will be renewing their marriage vows with the recognition and blessing of the state.

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Send Them Back!!

b0ing b0ing pointed me to this page, describing it as suggesting you email all your stolen .mp3’s back to the RIAA:

Stealing is never OK. But, it was just too easy. So we told ourselves we were just “sharing” the music, because everyone knows that sharing is a good thing.


But then we learned what we were really doing. We heard our favorite recording artists telling us that our “sharing” is really shoplifting and piracy. We were stealing from the musicians and singers we love!


That was when we looked at each other and said: “No more! It’s time to make it right by giving back what we stole!” And that’s just what we did! We sent back all the MP3’s we’d illegally downloaded. Everyone one of them!

Won’t you join us in sending them back?


Send them back! Right back to the Recording Industry of America Association, the industry association that helps our favorite artists keep on making the music we love.

But you don’t have to be content with merely emailing them the .mp3 files. As the site suggests, you can snail mail or fax them a printout of a hex dump of your files instead. The site was created by Parents and Their Kids against Stealing™, a group “dedicated to helping kids feel better about themselves through File Sharing Abstinence.” And, don’t forget, they remind you that

“Unauthorized use of this page, its contents or the concept of sending back MP3s is forbidden without express written permission from Parents and Their Kids against Stealing™”

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Mobile users told to ‘chase Bush’

Now here’s a version of ‘smart-mobbing’, the fad which FmH readers will know I have considered frivolous, that I can get behind. The Chasing Bush campaign, angry about the stage-managing of Bush’s London visit, are encouraging people to send location reports about the Bush entourage, make protests more visible, and spoil the PR effect the Bushies are trying to create with a “security bubble” around the President. —BBC [via b0ing b0ing] Camera phone images from protesters are being posted at the Chasing Bush website. There are unsubstantiated reports, however, that Bush security people have prevailed on Scotland Yard to have cellular antennas in the vicinity of the President’s perambulations shut down on the pretext that they could be used to trigger remote-control bombs.

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Here is a sort of umbrella site linking to various “Bush not welcome” efforts. (“The author of this website does not advocate violence and is not responsible for the actions of individual protesters.”)

Related:

US President George Bush will tonight (Tues 18 Nov) be branded ‘one of the world’s arch environmental villains’ by Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director, Tony Juniper, when he addresses hundreds of environmentalists at the Burning Planet rally in Grosvenor Square, London.

And:

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit yesterday accusing the Secret Service of violating the constitutional rights of protesters at events featuring President Bush and other senior administration officials.

The suit contends that protesters have been forced into designated “free-speech zones” far from TV cameras and the national media, sometimes behind fences or other barriers.

Sign holders sympathetic to the administration and other members of the public are allowed much closer. —SeattlePI

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More on remobilization of the Selective Service:

$28 Million to get draft ready by June 15, 2005!!: “Read this official budget carefully and you will see that Bush is gearing up the draft–there is no longer any doubt about it. Selective Service must report to Bush on March 31, 2005, that the system is ready for activation within 75 days. So on June 15, 2005, expect the announcement that the first draft lottery since Vietnam will be held for 20 year-olds.” —Democratic Underground

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Lord of the Gold Ring

Tolkien’s reputation founders in a sea of commercialism: “Before 2000, few if any marketing executives were likely to have discussed Rings in Harry Potter terms: as a ‘literary property’ with a ‘market share’ and a ‘saturation point.’ For nearly five decades, Tolkien was untouched by that morass of Rowling-sized sales hysteria of Happy Meals and bubble bath.


Everything has changed since the release of the first two films in director Peter Jackson’s chart-busting Rings film trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001 and The Two Towers in 2002. As Tolkien’s fame and fortune have swollen to unprecedented levels, ranks of movie-driven enthusiasts have multiplied like Saruman’s orcs, trampling any vestiges of that deep-rooted if naive grass-roots movement that once prevented Tolkien’s corporate-driven mass exploitation.” —Boston Globe [via walker]

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Leonid meteor shower peaks tonight

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Great viewing conditions expected on North American east coast: “The 2003 Leonid meteor shower is set to peak on Wednesday morning, Nov. 19th. Sky watchers on the Atlantic side of North America are favored; they could see as many as 80 meteors per hour between 1:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. local time. Pacific observers (e.g., in Alaska, Hawaii, Japan) will count nearly half that number–still a nice shower–just before local sunrise.”

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Why We Fight:

Ted Rall shows us Iraq from the other side:

“Dear Recruit:


Thank you for joining the Iraqi resistance forces. You have been issued an AK-47 rifle, rocket-propelled grenade launcher and an address where you can pick up supplies of bombs and remote-controlled mines. Please let your cell leader know if you require additional materiel for use against the Americans.


You are joining a broad and diverse coalition dedicated to one principle: Iraq for Iraqis. Our leaders include generals of President Saddam Hussein’s secular government as well as fundamentalist Islamists. We are Sunni and Shia, Iraqi and foreign, Arab and Kurdish. Though we differ on what kind of future our country should have after liberation and many of us suffered under Saddam, we are fighting side by side because there is no dignity under the brutal and oppressive jackboot of the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority or their Vichyite lapdogs on the Governing Council, headed by embezzler Ahmed Chalabi.” [more] —[thanks, steve]

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Frogs, fish and pharmaceuticals a troubling brew

The article details the staggering extent to which a cocktail of “drugs, hormones, steroids and personal care products such as soaps and perfumes” is found in almost all ponds, creeks and streams sampled. (CNN) The effects of traces of antidepressants on aquatic and amphibious species, in particular, must be assessed both because of the enormous volume of prescriptions issued for this class of drugs and the wide range of their biological effects on body systems. Laboratory studies of amphibians exposed to fluoxetine (Prozac) confirm cause for concern, although what relationship the experimental conditions bear to either extent of exposure in the wild or what implications it has for unanticipated human effects is unclear.


Some, commenting on this article, have suggested that expectant mothers be careful about taking the drugs for fear of birth defects etc. This is not really the most important thing to worry about, though, since rates of birth defects after in utero exposure to various classes of drugs are well-studied and publicly available — if you are concerned with the obvious, gross defects such as spina bifida, cleft lip and palate, cardiac defects etc. What is more worrisome and more difficult to assess, however, are the longterm, more subtle effects of either in utero or childhood exposure. In my own field of psychiatry, for example, we are beginning to appreciate how subtle, poorly-characterizable early abnormalities in the organization of brain regions and the rates of migration, growth and die-off of neurons are implicated in devastating cognitive-behavioral disturbances such as schizophrenia. In my opinion, also, we need to be concerned not only with in utero exposure but the growing use of psychotherapeutic drugs to treat children and adolescents, often on dubious grounds.

Addendum: Garret Vreeland‘s comment to this post deserves to be brought up front here. He has been concerned about antidepressant use in children for a long time; here is a Google search of links.

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Crisis Of Feith

‘What’s Going to Happen with Feith?’ “If the administration is looking for a scapegoat for the situation it faces in Iraq, Feith is the most likely candidate both because of his relative obscurity compared to other administration hawks and the fact that, of virtually all of them, his ideas—particularly on the Middle East—may be the most radical.” — Jim Lobe (who writes for Inter Press Service, an international newswire, and for Foreign Policy in Focus), tompaine.com

No Exit:

While President George W. Bush insists that “America will never run,” a fierce debate is raging just below the surface of his administration over when and how America should exit from Iraq. The debate pits those who favor a massive effort to turn Iraq into a beacon of democracy for the Middle East against those who want to concentrate the U.S. mission on defeating insurgents so American troops can return home. The wisdom of a war against Iraq had few doubters within the Bush administration. Yet this consensus obscured a deep division over the war’s purpose. We could characterize this as a split between “democratic imperialists” and “assertive nationalists.” — Ivo H. Daalder (Special Adviser on National Security at the Center for American Progress and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy (Brookings Press, 2003), tompaine.com.

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More than meets the eye:

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“It is time to set the record straight – Keanu Reeves is more intelligent than he lets on. While most of us were (or still are) scratching our heads over The Architect’s speech at the end of The Matrix Reloaded, Reeves thought it a challenging concept. Ergo, he knew then, it was a crucial scene in the trilogy.

During a 15-minute interview with Reeves in Sydney he tells how he found the three books – Simulcra and Simulation, Out of Control and Evolutionary Psychology (which he was asked to read by the Wachowski brothers before playing Thomas Anderson a.k.a. Neo a.k.a. The One in The Matrix trilogy) to be helpful in different ways.” —The Star (Malaysia)

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Hope Dies Last

Studs Terkel: “Hope has never trickled down. It has always sprung up. That’s what Jessie de la Cruz meant when she said, ‘I feel there’s gonna be a change, but we’re the ones gonna do it, not the government. With us, there’s a saying, ‘La esperanza muere última. Hope dies last.’ You can’t lose hope. If you lose hope, you lose everything…”

As we enter the new millennium, hope appears to be an American attribute that has vanished for many, no matter what their class or condition in life. The official word has never been more arrogantly imposed. Passivity, in the face of such a bold, unabashed show of power from above, appears to be the order of the day. But it ain’t necessarily so.

Letters to the editors of even our more conservative papers indicate something else, something that does not make the six o’clock news: a stirring show of discontent in the fields, a growing disbelief in the official word. ” —tompaine.com

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Happiness is…

… being sad? “From Adam Ant to Nick Hornby, everyone seems to be opening up about depression. But is the therapy culture actually making us ill? ” A thoughtful essay drawing on a number of critics of ‘therapy culture’, ‘treating angst as if it were anxiety’, and the expectation that we have a right to feel ‘better than good’.

We have gone from being a society that expects life to be a set of struggles and challenges to which we must respond and over which we have a personal sort of challenge to achieve some good, and evolved in to a world where we are born with an entitlement to an unfettered, uncomplicated life, free of angst and anxiety.’ There is, he says, an expectation now ‘that we ought to be able to fix everything’. Gist is particularly well-placed to know how impossible that expectation is to meet. ‘If there’s one thing that the incredible calamities in my work have taught me,’ he says, ‘it’s that we have to start out with a simple understanding in life – not everything can be fixed.’ —Guardian.UK

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Ten Things You Need to Know About Number Portability:

“On November 24, the FCC is mandating that consumers be allowed the option to retain their phone numbers when switching service providers. For anybody who’s stuck with one carrier solely because they wanted to hang on to their number, this is a big deal–the chains have come off. But unfortunately, you can’t simply take your number and run. There are a lot of unanswered questions and potential pitfalls ahead. So before making the switch, arm yourself with the facts, and be wary of hidden costs.” —CNET

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Remote Possibilities

“These days, merely talking on a phone seems almost quaint, kind of like using a party line. No, today’s phones are about having a cyborglike connection to every aspect of your network. It’s like having an extra limb. Your phone collects your e-mail from work; it zaps tiny text messages to friends far or near. It captures exquisitely embarrassing pictures from drunken office parties. It feeds your cat. The mobile phone has become, in essence, a remote control for life. ”We call it ‘the device formerly known as the cellphone,”’ says Geoffrey Frost, the chief brand officer for Motorola, which makes cellphones. ”Now it’s like having E.S.P.” And along the way, the phone is changing the way we relate to one another — in often surprising and subtle ways.” —New York Times Magazine

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The Scalping Party

“Six weeks ago, a courageous hometown paper in rustbelt Ohio – the Toledo Blade – tore the wraps off an officially suppressed story of Vietnam-era exterminism that recapitulates Blood Meridian in the most ghastly and unbearable detail. The reincarnation of Glanton’s scalping party was an elite 45-man unit of the 101 Airborne Division known as “Tiger Force.” The Blade‘s intricate reconstruction of its murderous march through the Central Highlands of Vietnam in summer and fall 1967 needs to be read in full, horrifying detail. Blade reporters interviewed more than 100 American veterans and Vietnamese survivors.

Tiger Force atrocities began with the torture and execution of prisoners in the field, then escalated to the routine slaughter of unarmed farmers, elderly people, and even small children. As one former sergeant told the Blade, “It didn’t matter if they were civilians. If they weren’t supposed to be in an area, we shot them. If they didn’t understand fear, I taught it to them.” “

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Bush visit labelled a ‘selfish stunt’

“George Bush’s meeting with families of British soldiers killed in Iraq was dismissed as a selfish stunt by two angry fathers.


The United States President wants to meet relatives during his visit to the UK to tell them their loved ones died in a ‘noble cause’… Mr Bush said he will offer the families the sympathy ‘of the American people and the prayers of the president’.


…But grieving fathers Robert Kelly and Reg Keys said the meeting would only benefit Mr Bush.


…Mr Keys, 51, said he opposed Mr Bush’s visit, but wanted to meet him to tell him he was responsible for his son’s death.”

Related: US seeks ‘shoot-to-kill’ authorization for snipers in Bush entourage during next week’s visit to the UK: British Home Office demurs.

The issue of immunity is one of a series of extraordinary US demands turned down by Ministers and Downing Street during preparations for the Bush visit.

These included the closure of the Tube network, the use of US air force planes and helicopters and the shipping in of battlefield weaponry to use against rioters. —Guardian.UK

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‘Vietnam Redux’ Dept. (cont’d.):

US War Dead in Iraq Exceeds Early Vietnam Years: “A Reuters analysis of Defense Department statistics showed on Thursday that the Vietnam War, which the Army says officially began on Dec. 11, 1961, produced a combined 392 fatal casualties from 1962 through 1964, when American troop levels in Indochina stood at just over 17,000.in Baghdad on Wednesday brought to 397 the tally of American dead in Iraq, where U.S. forces number about 130,000 troops — the same number reached in Vietnam by October 1965.” —Reuters

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First flush of love not ’emotional’

“When you first fall in love, you are not experiencing an emotion, but a motivation or drive, new brain scanning studies have shown.


The early stages of a romantic relationship spark activity in dopamine-rich brain regions associated with motivation and reward. The more intense the relationship is, the greater the activity.


The regions associated with emotion, such as the insular cortex and parts of the anterior cingulate cortex, are not activated until the more mature phases of a relationship, says Helen Fisher, an anthropologist from Rutgers University in New Jersey.” —New Scientist This is an absurd finding, only meaningful to those who believe there is a hard-and-fast distinction between ‘motivation and reward’ and ’emotion’ and that these global aspects of experience are localized to small specific brain regions.

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College Holding First Dance in 143 Years

“As many as 1,200 students at Wheaton College will gather in the gym Friday night for the first real dance in the Christian school’s 143-year history.

Which explains why students in recent days have been seeking out classmates who know this stuff and looking for places where they can practice. And it explains why on Monday night and Tuesday night, dozens of students packed a room on campus for a quick dance lesson.” —Yahoo! News The college’s most famous graduate is Billy Graham. Many who have matriculated at the school thought they were safe from such secular embarrassments. Now, although they may dance, whether they can is another matter, as one puts it. Now, what about the kissing lessons?

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Remote Control Donkeys

Tragic end for smuggling donkeys: “Smugglers in Algeria have reportedly come up with a novel way to get their contraband into Morocco – donkeys, with tape recorders on their backs.

A taped message is repeated, saying ‘Err’, Arabic for ‘walk’, so that the donkeys do not stop as they follow the smugglers’ tracks unaccompanied.

However, the customs service learnt of the ruse and has killed 200 of the donkeys, says the El Khabar newspaper.” —BBC

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Why the antiwar left must confront terrorism

“In his new book, ‘Tainted Legacy: 9/11 and the Ruin of Human Rights,’ (executive diroeector of Amnesty International USA William) Schulz argues that rising global terrorism requires the left ‘to rethink some of our most sacred assumptions.’ A vigorous defense of human and civil liberties, while essential to spreading democracy worldwide, is not enough to stop terrorists from blowing up airplanes or shopping malls, he says. And that presents the left with a problem, because some of the tools needed to fight terror, such as stricter border controls or beefed up intelligence work — and, perhaps, war against states that support terrorists — chafe against traditional leftist values.” —Salon

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Frogs, fish and pharmaceuticals a troubling brew

The article details the staggering extent to which a cocktail of “drugs, hormones, steroids and personal care products such as soaps and perfumes” is found in almost all ponds, creeks and streams sampled. (CNN) The effects of traces of antidepressants on aquatic and amphibious species, in particular, must be assessed both because of the enormous volume of prescriptions issued for this class of drugs and the wide range of their biological effects on body systems. Laboratory studies of amphibians exposed to fluoxetine (Prozac) confirm cause for concern, although what relationship the experimental conditions bear to either extent of exposure in the wild or what implications it has for unanticipated human effects is unclear.


Some, commenting on this article, have suggested that expectant mothers be careful about taking the drugs for fear of birth defects etc. This is not really the most important thing to worry about, though, since rates of birth defects after in utero exposure to various classes of drugs are well-studied and publicly available — if you are concerned with the obvious, gross defects such as spina bifida, cleft lip and palate, cardiac defects etc. What is more worrisome and more difficult to assess, however, are the longterm, more subtle effects of either in utero or childhood exposure. In my own field of psychiatry, for example, we are beginning to appreciate how subtle, poorly-characterizable early abnormalities in the organization of brain regions and the rates of migration, growth and die-off of neurons are implicated in devastating cognitive-behavioral disturbances such as schizophrenia. In my opinion, also, we need to be concerned not only with in utero exposure but the growing use of psychotherapeutic drugs to treat children and adolescents, often on dubious grounds.

Addendum: Garret Vreeland‘s comment to this post deserves to be brought up front here. He has been concerned about antidepressant use in children for a long time; here is a Google search of links.

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Brand New Parents??

US babies geting corporate names: “Children have been named after big brands as diverse as beauty company L’Oreal, car firm Chevrolet and designer clothes company Armani.


There are even two little boys, one in Michigan and one in Texas, called ESPN after the sports channel.


Psychology professor Cleveland Evans discovered the trend after surveying US social security records for 2000.” —BBC

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"You say it’s your birthday…"

Follow Me Here is four today… Thank you for all your affirmation over the past four years. I hope you will be pleased to be able to look forward to more of the same. (It is me who has to say to you, “Many happy returns…”). What would you like to see more of? less of? as FmH moves forward.

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Peace Officers?

Is Mindfulness a Religion? “It is easy to imagine the benefits of a Buddhist police force: wiser, cooler heads to

keep the peace in America’s embattled streets, or perhaps a kinder, gentler traffic

cop. But in Madison, Wisconsin, police captain Cheri Maples argues that the most

compelling reason to teach police officers the Buddhist practice of mindfulness is

to better equip them to deal with the emotional and mental stress that comes with

the job. A nineteen-year police veteran who has participated in several retreats with

famed Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, Maples has experienced for herself the

benefits of mindfulness practice. Determined to bring the practice to her

colleagues, she organized a visit by Thich Nhat Hanh, who led a five-day

nonsectarian retreat for civil servants and their families at Green Lake Conference

Center outside of Madison.

But not all are so pleased with the idea of police officers and other civil servants

attending retreats. Americans United for the Separation Between Church and State

(AU) has expressed its view that offering such a retreat is a violation of the First

Amendment’s proscription against state-sponsored religion. AU claims that it is

unconstitutional for the government to encourage its employees to attend a

religious retreat, and notes that eyebrows would be raised if officers were

encouraged to attend Bible study groups or an Islamic retreat. AU demanded the

retreat’s cancellation.” —Tricycle

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War Declared, Again

Fred Kaplan: “We’re not pulling out of Iraq, so it’s logical that we’re pushing in deeper. And so it’s official: ‘Postwar Iraq’ is just another term for ‘Iraq War—Phase II.’

In a heavily guarded news conference in Baghdad today, Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, called the state of conflict there a ‘war.’ John Burns, the New York Times correspondent covering the event, quotes Sanchez’s aides noting that the general’s choice of words was deliberate—his way of injecting realism into the debate back in Washington. ‘We are taking the fight into the safe havens of the enemy in the heartland of the country,’ Sanchez stated. That sounds like war, all right.” —Slate

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Booster Shots Against Cancer?

“Today, armed with a growing understanding of how to manipulate the immune system, researchers are offering the glimmer of a hope that cancer vaccines could soon become part of the cancer-fighting arsenal. More than 50 cancer vaccines are being tested in the United States, Canada, and Europe against several types of cancers, including melanoma and kidney, lung, breast, and prostate cancers. Several are in the final stages of human trials, at least two of which are expected to conclude within a year. In some of the trials, a few patients have seen their cancers go into remission, while in other patients, the vaccine slowed the spread of the disease. If all goes well, the first cancer vaccine could be ready for general use in three to five years.” MIT Technology Review