The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

May 30, 2009


world iii

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particles among or fields anything else
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things are ephemeral of course but ephemerality is imminent
sweeping everything aside and starting over
new jewels in the metaverse

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: 31 May 2009 02:08:43 -0000
From: evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com
Reply-To: No Reply <notify-dg-evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com>
To: evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [evol-psych] Digest Number 6413

There are 25 messages in this issue.

Topics in this digest:

1.1. Re: The Plight of Women Soldiers
     From: Steve Moxon

2a. Re: Lifelong alimony
     From: Donald W. Zimmerman
2b. Re: Lifelong alimony
     From: Julienne

3. News: Your Body Is a Wonderland ... of Bacteria
     From: Robert Karl Stonjek

4. Half of your friends lost in seven years
     From: Orlando D����hring

5. Wikipedia blocks Scientology from altering entries
     From: Orlando D����hring

6. Better, faster... and no office politics: the company with the autis
     From: Orlando D����hring

7. It's academic: university women are beating men at almost everything
     From: Orlando D����hring

8. Longitude pioneer was not a 'lone genius'
     From: Orlando D����hring

9. Only in it for the biscuits
     From: Orlando D����hring

10. The Coming Superbrain
     From: Orlando D����hring

11. An Alternative History of China
     From: Orlando D����hring

12. For Teenagers, Hello Means �����How About a Hug?�����
     From: Orlando D����hring

13. Engineered DNA counts it out: Man-made gene network can tally a seri
     From: Orlando D����hring

14. Burying the Lead The New York Times runs a piece on Hispanic poverty
     From: Orlando D����hring

15. A Florida Epidemic: Female Teachers Sleeping with Their Students
     From: Orlando D����hring

16. Study: Videos Help Prepare for End-of-Life Care
     From: Orlando D����hring

17. Quacks, hacks and pressing problems with press releases
     From: Orlando D����hring

18. CO2 Warming Looks Real
     From: Orlando D����hring

19. Rebels to the Death: A definitive, updated history of West Germany��
     From: Orlando D����hring

20. What�����s Needed Next: A Culture of Candor
     From: Orlando D����hring

21. The Media, Islam, and Political Correctness
     From: Orlando D����hring

22. How to Be a Good Boss in a Bad Economy
     From: Orlando D����hring

23. Reason.tv: Red Eye's Greg Gutfeld on Media Bias, Intolerant Liberals
     From: Orlando D����hring

24. Should School Districts Drug-Test Teachers?
     From: Orlando D����hring


Messages
________________________________________________________________________
1.1. Re: The Plight of Women Soldiers
     Posted by: "Steve Moxon" stevemoxon3@talktalk.net spmox
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 6:09 pm ((PDT))

Julian is right: dishonesty it is by Mullette.
The distinction at issue is between drafting into armed services merely to be in support roles and drafting into sarmed services for actual combat in contact with the enemy.

For the deepest of biological reasons, here as always, women are treated as 'genetic celebrities' whereas men generically are treated as disposable.
No society claiming to be predicated on equality can sustain that claim in the face of this gross distinction betweeen the sexes, which is apparent at any interface between the sexes.
It is the very expression of this deepest of prejudices that is the political pretense that not men but women are disadvantaged,
And it is the yet further expression of this deepest of prejudices that there still remain ideo-dinosaur freaks who think that they can carry on wilfully not to see it.
They have invested so much over time in their deluded worldview that it's too late for them to deal with the cognitive dissonance of facing reality.

Steve Moxon (Author of The Woman Racket: The new science explaining how the sexes relate at work, at play and in society. Extracts/info at www.imprint-academic.com/moxon )

   ----- Original Message -----
   From: O'Dea
   To: evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com
   Sent: Saturday, May 30, 2009 4:58 AM
   Subject: RE: [evol-psych] The Plight of Women Soldiers






   Julienne, you made a claim and you can't back it up. No country drafts women into combat.  Please show a modicum of honesty.



   Julian



   From: evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com [mailto:evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Julienne
   Sent: Saturday, 30 May 2009 10:41 AM
   To: evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com
   Subject: RE: [evol-psych] The Plight of Women Soldiers








   At 06:04 PM 5/29/2009 +1000, O'Dea wrote:

   >Please tell me, Julienne, which country compulsorily drafts women into combat.

   Julian,

   Please do your own homework. I don't have time to do it for you. Further, I
   have already'
   sent some of this onformation to this List before.

   Currently, countries that draft women into military service are China,
   Cuba, Eritrea, Israel, Libya, Malaysia, North Korea, Peru, and Taiwan
   [14][15]. In 2002, Sweden's government asked its army to consider mandatory
   military service for women. During World War II, women were drafted into
   the armed forces of the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. The United
   States came close to drafting women into the Nurse Corps in preparation for
   a planned invasion of Japan.[16][17]

   In 1981 in the United States, several men filed lawsuit in the case Rostker
   v. Goldberg, alleging that the Military Selective Service Act violates the
   Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment by requiring that men only and
   not also women register with the SSS. The Supreme Court eventually upheld
   the Act, stating that "the argument for registering women was based on
   considerations of equity, but Congress was entitled, in the exercise of its
   constitutional powers, to focus on the question of military need, rather
   than 'equity.'"[18]

   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription

   Julienne

   Never underestimate an exponential - Carl Sagan
   Join us at Chaos-stars@yahoogroups.com for in depth discussion of world events
   Julienne's Blog: http://www.myspace.com/youandthecosmos
   Radio: "You and the Cosmos" Tuesdays, 4:30 pm EDST
   http://whrwfm.org/listenlive.php







Messages in this topic (46)
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
2a. Re: Lifelong alimony
     Posted by: "Donald W. Zimmerman" dwzimm@telus.net zimmerma2000
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 6:10 pm ((PDT))

--- In evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com, Edgar Owen <edgarowen@...> wrote:

> Basically the woman who
> stays at home as a housewife sends the kids to school  in the morning
> and lives a life of leisure with her friends while her husband
> supports her for very minimal housework. Generally she has the entire
> school day as free time in which she often spends the husband's money
> for personal items for herself. Not only that she is given free room
> and board and often pretty much control of the family as well!
>
> Essentially it's a life of pampered luxury in which she's assured a
> never ending salary for almost no work.

I find it hard to believe that that scenario applies in any large numbers to anyone other than the affluent and rich and even there only to a modest percentage. If it applied generally, the fact that so many women are eager for divorce and 50% of marriages break up would call for explanation. What about the poor where nobody has much leisure?  What about families where both spouses have to work to make ends meet? The scenario may happen in middle class families, I suppose, but even there I would guess that a lot of those women are not as fortunate as it looks and are prone to psychological maladies that make their lives miserable at home while their husbands are out in the rat race.

Best regards,

Donald W. Zimmerman
Vancouver, BC, Canada
dwzimm@telus.net
http://mypage.direct.ca/z/zimmerma/index.html










Messages in this topic (7)
________________________________________________________________________
2b. Re: Lifelong alimony
     Posted by: "Julienne" julienne@nep.net zjulienne
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 6:11 pm ((PDT))

At 08:01 AM 5/30/2009 +0100, Steve Moxon wrote:


>Absolutely false.
>1. The woman was being paid by her husband or partner: the breadwinner for
>the whole household.
>2. Home-making and childcare of own children by women do not constitute
>work by any definition used by economists.

Would those be male economists? It would have to be.

>It is consumption.
>3. No household requires even significant part-time let alone full-time
>housework in the wake of labour-saving devices and easy-clean materials.
>[Research shows that most housework performed by women is 'make-work';
>that is, not necessary activity that is indulged in for its own sake. IOW,
>it is not work but consumption.]
>
>If a case can be made for a woman to be allowed to extort payment from the
>man after the partnership has dissolved, then equally a case can be made
>for the man to be allowed to claim recompense for the money he paid to
>support the woman throughout the partnership.

You obciously paid no attention at all to what was forwarded to this List
recently stating that a full time wife's work was worth about $145.000.

It is the bitter, self-aggrandizing, privileged, attitude of men like
yourself which is making the rate of women divorcing men, and of women
refusing to get married, tank.

Who on earth would want to be married to a man with your attitudes?
Your value is all on a male - the woman in your mind is chucked
out like spittle. You have absolutely no respect or understanding
of women at all, and it is shameful that someone like you should
consider himself an expert of any kind on women.

"Labour-saving devices", my eye.

Someone should put you on an island with 50 children - or even 5,
including infants, by yourself, from which you could not emerge
for 15 years. Problem is, the kids would suffer.


Julienne






Never underestimate an exponential - Carl Sagan
Join us at Chaos-stars@yahoogroups.com for in depth discussion of world events
Julienne's Blog: http://www.myspace.com/youandthecosmos
Radio: "You and the Cosmos" Tuesdays, 4:30 pm EDST
http://whrwfm.org/listenlive.php




Messages in this topic (7)
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
3. News: Your Body Is a Wonderland ... of Bacteria
     Posted by: "Robert Karl Stonjek" stonjek@ozemail.com.au r_karl_s
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 6:19 pm ((PDT))

  [Picture of bacteria]
Microbial megalopolis. The underarm is home to a number of different
types of bacteria.
Credit: Veer; Inset image courtesy of Julie Segre  Your Body Is a
Wonderland ... of Bacteria
By Stephanie Pappas
ScienceNOW Daily News
28 May 2009
Where can you find your skin's most diverse community of bacteria? Not
in a sweaty armpit or linty belly button. According to a new survey of
the bacterial ecosystem that covers us, the diversity hot spot of the
body's exterior is the forearm. And the surprises don't end there.
Microbes that live in and on our bodies outnumber our own cells 10 to
one, but researchers have only recently begun to catalog the residents
on our skin. Traditionally, scientists identified human skin bacteria by
swabbing volunteers and culturing the samples, but those results skewed
toward microbes that grow well in the lab. Thanks to ever-evolving
gene-sequencing technology, scientists can now use microbial RNA to
identify organisms. With these techniques, researchers have found an
unexpectedly wide variety of bacteria on human skin (Science
<http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/320/5879/1001> , 23 May
2008, p. 1001). But no one had ever systematically compared bacterial
colonies from different areas on the human body.
To do so, scientists from the National Human Genome Research Institute
in Bethesda, Maryland, recruited 10 volunteers and asked them to wash
with mild soap for 1 week. Then, after 24 hours without bathing, the
volunteers arrived at the lab, where researchers swabbed and scraped
their skin in 20 places--everywhere from the nostril to the navel to
that bane of low-rise jeans aficionados, the gluteal crease. The team
analyzed ribosomal RNA from the samples and classified the microbes
based on their genomes.
The researchers found about 1000 species total, which were fairly
consistent from person to person; it turns out we all have similar
tenants in our noses and on our backs. The number suggests that our skin
is as variegated as our guts, which house anywhere from 500 to 1000
bacterial species. The team also found vast differences across the skin,
according to the study published in tomorrow's issue of Science
<http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/324/5931/1190> .
Contrary to what acne-prone teenagers might expect, oily areas such as
the forehead and scalp are actually less diverse than dry areas such as
the forearm (though one is enough for grief: Propionibacterium acnes
thrives in oily spots). The most barren region was behind the ear, with
a median diversity of 15 species. In comparison, the forearm teemed with
a median 44 species. A follow-up with five of the volunteers months
later found that bacterial makeup changed little over time.
Why some neighborhoods are more varied than others is unknown. It could
be because of skin properties such as hair or oil, exposure to bacteria,
or some combination. As for the forearm, geneticist and co-author Julia
Segre speculates that exposed arms make a good landing pad for bacteria.
Contrasted with how we clean our hands, we rarely lather up our
forearms. Whatever the reason, the research shows that location matters.
"This paper really highlights that the skin is an ecosystem and that the
bacteria that live on our skin are not homogenous," says Segre.
The research "could contribute to explaining why certain skin diseases
appear at certain sites of the body and not others," says dermatologist
Richard Gallo of the University of California, San Diego. "It's a
straightforward description of something that needed to be described."
The next step, Segre says, is to investigate the relationship between
microbial ecosystems and diseases such as eczema and psoriasis.

Source: Science
http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2009/528/1?etoc
<http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2009/528/1?etoc>

Posted by
Robert Karl Stonjek





Messages in this topic (1)
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
4. Half of your friends lost in seven years
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:06 pm ((PDT))

Half of your friends lost in seven years May 28th, 2009 in Other Sciences /
Social Sciences

*Had a good chat with someone recently? Has a good friend just helped you to
do up your home? Then you will be lucky if that person still does that in
seven years time. Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst investigated how the
context in which we meet people influences our social network. One of his
conclusions: you lose about half of your close network members every seven
years. *

You are stuck with your family but you can choose your
friends<http://www.physorg.com/tags/friends/>.
Really? For years sociologists have argued to what extent personal networks
are the result of your own preferences or the context in which you can meet
someone. Would your best friend have been your best friend if you had not
been in the same class for three years? And if you had not got to know your
wife via mutual friends but in a dodgy bar then would she still have become
and remained your wife?

In order to answer such questions, Mollenhorst conducted a survey under 1007
people aged between 18 and 65 years. Seven years later the respondents were
contacted once again and 604 people were reinterviewed. They answered
questions such as: Who do you talk with, regarding important personal
issues? Who helps you with DIY in your home? Who do you pop by to see? Where
did you get to know that person? And where do you meet that person now?

*Limited in your choices*

Mollenhorst investigated, for example, whether the social
context<http://www.physorg.com/tags/social+context/>in which contacts
are made influences the degree of similarity between
partners, friends and acquaintances. It was expected that the influence of
social contexts on similarity in relationships would be stronger for weak
relationships than for strong ones. After all, you are less fussy about your
choice of acquaintances than your choice of partner. In relationships with
partners, Mollenhorst indeed found more similarity than in relationships
with friends. Yet interestingly, the influence of the social context on
similarity did not differ between partners, friends and acquaintances. This
reveals how strongly opportunities to meet influence the social composition
of personal networks.

With his research Mollenhorst has confirmed that personal networks are not
formed solely on the basis of personal choices. These choices are limited by
opportunities to meet. Another strong indication for this came from the fact
that people often choose friends from a context in which they have
previously chosen a friend. Moreover, the extent to which our friends know
each other strongly depends on the context in which people meet each other.

*Individualism*

Many sociologists assume that our society is becoming increasingly
individualistic. For example, it is held that we strictly separate work,
clubs and friends. Mollenhorst established, however, that public contexts
such as work or the neighbourhood and private contexts frequently overlap
each other.

Furthermore, Mollenhorst's research reveals that networks are not shrinking,
whereas American research reveals such a decline. Over a period of seven
years the average size of personal networks was found to be strikingly
stable. However, during the course of seven years we replace many members of
our network with other people. Only thirty percent of the discussion
partners and practical helpers still held the same position seven years
later. Only 48 percent were still part of the network. Therefore value the
friends you have. As long as you have them that is.

Gerald Mollenhorst's research is part of the project Where friends are made.
Contexts, Contacts, Consequences, set up by Beate V����lker. She received a
Vidi grant from NWO in 2001 and used this to set up her project.

Source: Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research,
http://www.physorg.com/news162741216.html




Messages in this topic (1)
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
5. Wikipedia blocks Scientology from altering entries
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:06 pm ((PDT))

Wikipedia blocks Scientology from altering entries May 30th, 2009 in
Technology / Internet

* Wikipedia has blocked the Church of Scientology from editing entries at
the communally-crafted online encyclopedia due to an unrelenting battle over
the group's image.*

A "longstanding struggle" between admirers of Scientology and critics of the
group prompted Wikipedia <http://www.physorg.com/tags/wikipedia/> on
Thursday to bar online edits from computer addresses "owned or operated by
the Church of Scientology and its associates."

An array of editors believed to have taken sides in a Scientology
public-image war at Wikipedia have also been barred from tinkering with
topics related to the church.

"Each side wishes the articles within this topic to reflect their point of
view and have resorted to battlefield editing tactics," senior Wikipedia
editors said in arbitration committee findings backing the decision.

"The worst casualties have been biographies of living people, where attempts
have been repeatedly made to slant the article either towards or against the
subject, depending on the point of view of the contributing editor."

A church spokeswoman downplayed the development, saying the Wikipedia
arbitration committee is part of a routine process for handling conflicts at
the website.

"Do Scientologists care what has been posted on Wikipedia? Of course," said
Karin Pouw. "Some of it has been very hateful and erroneous. We hope all
this will result in more accurate and useful articles on Wikipedia."

The Wikipedia committee described the editing clash as "ongoing and
corrosive" with "persistent point-of-view pushing."

"The corrosive atmosphere has resulted in normally neutral editors adopting
polarized positions in countless minor sub-feuds," the committee said in
written findings. "Sockpuppetry is rife."

Sockpuppetry refers to creating alternative accounts to perpetrate mischief
or fraud at the website.

Listed among aggravating factors were coordinated Wikipedia edits made from
Scientology computers and critics of the church citing self-published
material to back entries.

"Many Scientology articles fail to reflect a neutral point of view and
instead are either disparaging or complimentary," the committee concluded.

"Neutral editors entering this topic are frequently attacked from both sides
and stand little chance of making progress until the key players disengage."

Wikipedia warns that Scientology-related entries are "a hostile editing
environment."

Wikipedia prides itself on allowing anyone with an Internet connection to
contribute or edit content. Wikipedia is one of the most-visited sites on
the Internet.

"What is really important is Wikipedia has stopped those involved in biased
editing for the purpose of antagonism instead of information," Pouw said.
"It's good from our perspective."

The Church of Scientology and six of its French leaders went on trial on
Monday in Paris on charges of organized fraud that could lead to an outright
ban on the organization in France.

Known for its Hollywood celebrity followers Tom Cruise and John Travolta,
the group is in the dock in Paris for the second time in six years.

The court is hearing a complaint from two women, one of whom alleges she was
manipulated into handing over 20,000 euros (28,000 dollars) for costly
Scientology products, such as an "electrometer" to measure mental energy.

The second complainant alleges she was forced by her Scientologist employer
to undergo testing and enroll in courses in 1998. When she resisted, she was
fired.

The plaintiffs' lawyers argue that Scientology resorts to harassment and
pressure to rein in victims who show signs of vulnerability.

The Scientology Celebrity Centre in Paris, its director Alain Rosenberg and
five other top officials are accused of preying on fragile followers "with
the goal of seizing their fortune by exerting a psychological hold."

The group's spokeswoman in France has rejected the accusations, insisting
that Scientology was a legitimate religion being "hounded" in French courts
because it advocated new ideas.

Founded in the United States in 1954 by science-fiction writer L. Ron
Hubbard, the Church of Scientology is officially recognized as a religion
here for tax purposes.

Politicians in some European countries including France, Germany, Greece and
Russia have accused the movement of exploiting its members financially.

The movement claims a worldwide membership of 12 million.
Source: http://www.physorg.com/news162885743.html




Messages in this topic (1)
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
6. Better, faster... and no office politics: the company with the autis
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:06 pm ((PDT))

Better, faster... and no office politics: the company with the autistic
specialists

A pioneering company in Denmark is giving people with autism the chance to
apply their skills to jobs from IT to product testing. The result is a huge
success that's about to be rolled out across Europe. Founder Thorkil Sonne
tells Michael Booth how his workforce's superhuman recall and unflinching
focus could teach the rest of us a thing or two

  *Sunday, 31 May 2009*

<http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/better-faster-and-no-office-politics-the-company-with-the-autistic-specialists-1693057.html?action=Popup>

*Anders Birch *

'We know we all have that twist': Thomas Jacobsen, 27, says that working at
Specialisterne has helped him learn how to deal with social situations

    -  [image: Photos] More pictures
    <http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/better-faster-and-no-office-politics-the-company-with-the-autistic-specialists-1693057.html?action=Popup>

   Thorkil Sonne and his wife already had two sons when their third, Lars,
arrived in 1997, so they had plenty of experience of the behavioural quirks
of growing youngsters. But as Lars entered kindergarten aged two-and-a-half,
the couple began to notice a more troubling change. Lars wouldn�����t play with
the other children, preferring to sit alone for hours on end. He began to
talk less and less, until he was virtually unable to engage in any kind of
dialogue at all. Something was clearly very wrong.

�����We were patient,����� says Sonne. �����Our older boys had taught us that each child
has their pace at which they climb the ladder, but Lars seemed to be stuck
on a step.����� The Sonnes are Danes and, fortunately, the Danish education
system is good at diagnosing childhood developmental problems. Unfortunately
in Lars�����s case, the diagnosis was childhood autism.

�����It was scary. The first phase was denial: �����I�����ve known my child for three
years, you�����ve only met him for two months. Don�����t come and tell me he has an
incurable, life-long disability!����� Then you have a bad conscience; you
remember the situations where you�����ve tried to use traditional means of
raising kids and they didn�����t work. But it didn�����t take long, reading the
literature, to realise it was describing Lars to the letter and, after time,
we realised that Lars was still our happy, caring boy; we just had to get to
learn about his world.�����

Most parents, upon learning their child has a condition like this, will read
up on it, learn about the treatments, therapies and consequences and start
planning for the future. Sonne went somewhat further. He became involved
with his local autistic society, ending up as vice-chairman of a housing
facility for people with Asperger�����s syndrome, a type of autism that affects
social imagination, interaction and communication. Through the housing
association, he got to know an 18-year-old Asperger�����s sufferer who was
especially gifted with computers. �����He had retired on a state pension,����� says
Sonne. �����But I thought that was so unfair as he had valuable IT skills that I
could see would be useful for software- testing, support monitoring,
programming and so on.�����

So, in 2004, Sonne left his job of 15 years at the Danish communications
company TDC, remortgaged his house, and founded a company, Specialisterne
(The Specialists), to find employment for adults with autism and Asperger�����s
as software and systems testers. The 18-year-old Sonne had met through the
housing association was his first employee.

Five years on, Specialisterne employs 60 people, has a turnover of almost
����2m, and works with Microsoft (it tested Windows XP Media Center) and CSC,
among other major international companies, helping them to check information
systems, databases and other highly demanding, often repetitive,
number-crunching tasks. Specialisterne has won numerous business and
industry awards, and now has two offices in Denmark. If current plans pan
out, a new branch will open in Glasgow later this year. It is a shining
model of how to turn a highly skilled yet misunderstood and underexploited
element of the population ����� around one per cent have a diagnosis of autism,
but other related �����invisible disabilities�����, such as ADHD
(attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) for instance, may account for as
much as 3.5 per cent of the population ����� into productive and integrated
members of the workforce.

I am sitting with Sonne, a quietly spoken, rather studious man in his late
forties, in his well-ordered office in a hi-tech industrial park on the
outskirts of Copenhagen. As we talk about his son�����s condition, he plucks a
piece of paper from a filing cabinet. It�����s a drawing his son made following
a family holiday in southern Europe. I peer at the curious pyramidal temple
of squares and numbers, trying to make sense of it. �����It�����s Europe!����� I realise
after a few moments. �����But what are the numbers?����� Sonne produces a photocopy
of the schematic contents page from his European road atlas, the atlas they
used on the journey south. His son had reproduced it entirely from memory.
�����I�����ve tried to find a single mistake, but I can�����t,����� Sonne says, still amazed
by his son�����s memory.

It�����s a powerful illustration of the incredible, verging on superhuman,
attention to detail, recall and unflinching ����� focus many autistic people
have, whether expressed in architectural terms (as in Stephen Wiltshire�����s
work ����� he can draw a landscape after seeing it once); linguistic (autistic
author Daniel Tammet is said to have learnt Icelandic in a week); or, as is
the case with many of Sonne�����s employees, numerical.

�����There are so many different types of phones and services to be tested,�����
Sonne explains. �����And the work is very repetitive but requires full attention
all the time. Most companies use students or outsource to India or wherever.
The first couple of tests they�����ll do will be fine, but by the sixth, their
attention wanes and it will always be the last test that�����s the most
important.����� Aspergerians, on the other hand, relish the repetition, their
focus doesn�����t waver and their numerical skills are superlative. �����My staff
are motivated all the time. Our fault rate was 0.5 per cent, compared with
five per cent from other testers. That�����s an improvement by a factor of 10,
which is why we can charge market rates. This is not cheap labour and it�����s
not occupational therapy. We simply do a better job.�����

From the start, Sonne was clear that the company would operate under market
conditions, and turn a profit, which made it virtually impossible to apply
for government or EU support (�����They just want people who will spend their
money�����). But, oblivious to the economic downturn, Specialisterne continues
to pick up new clients largely by word of mouth. Organisations in more than
50 countries have approached Sonne to explore the idea of starting similar
projects, with Norway and Switzerland likely to follow soon.

�����I knew that the autistic people I met had dreams and ambitions,
personalities and motivation,����� he continues. �����The trick was to create an
environment that supported them. If you think of a high wire, suspended
between two buildings, you aren�����t going to take a chance and walk across it,
even with a net. But if the wire was just a metre off the ground, you might
try. It�����s the same with our company. We created stable ground for autistic
people to walk on and I see them develop self confidence and open up to new
things as a result.�����

Leading UK software-testing consultant Stephen Allott of ElectroMind has
been acting as an unpaid adviser to Specialisterne as the company prepares
to enter the UK market where, currently, only about six per cent of people
with autism are in full-time employment. He is very clear on the advantages
of using them: �����Simply, they are better, faster and do higher-quality work
than the people we can currently get from the labour market in the UK or
India,����� he says. �����One of their guys can read a technical document the size
of a book and spot inconsistencies between something on page three and page
37, which is incredibly useful. I already have clients in the UK who are
interested in what they have to offer. The only thing we need to be careful
about is their working environment. I know lots of companies with noisy,
chaotic, open-plan offices, where the work is like fire-fighting most of the
time, and people from Specialisterne wouldn�����t be able to work there. That
said, the environment they need is the kind of environment we should all be
working in anyway.�����

Remarkably, about 70 per cent of Specialisterne�����s employees are stationed in
client premises. I asked Sonne how easy it is for them to fit in with other
working environments. �����We create virtual Specialisterne environments in our
clients����� offices. Everyone who will be in contact with our consultants is
briefed about the conditions they require. They have to be nice to our
people, avoid stressing them. In Denmark, we use a lot of irony and sarcasm,
but people with autism can�����t decode that. We make sure that the clients know
how important it is to be direct, to outline tasks precisely and to stick to
routines, particularly if any queries arise.�����

�����That�����s how you avoid an �����I only fly with Qantas����� freak-out?����� I blurt.
�����Yes,����� says Sonne. �����We�����ve never had a �����freak-out�����. In fact, saying what you
mean, meaning what you say, being nice, avoiding stress are all good things
in general for companies to take on board. Many have said to us that having
one of our consultants has softened the atmosphere.�����

It must actually be a relief to work with colleagues for whom office
politics, backbiting and bitchiness are anathema. �����Yes, they are a happy and
loyal group, no one ever talks badly about anyone else. It�����s nice to work
with people who are honest, without filters. In fact I am working on a new
management technique based on our experience with working conditions that
are more open and direct.�����

This doesn�����t mean there aren�����t misunderstandings from time to time. �����One of
our consultants was working in an office where they introduced a free fruit
basket. He went straight up and took a whole bunch of bananas back to his
desk. Someone had to explain that it was expected to take perhaps one or two
pieces of fruit a day, and then he got it.�����

It also doesn�����t mean that Specialisterne�����s workforce ����� 90 per cent of whom
are male ����� are somehow robotic and unfeeling. �����Oh no, in fact we have two
employees who met at the company and are now engaged. Many socialise at the
weekends and go out in Copenhagen together.�����

Sonne introduced me to one of his colleagues, Thomas Jacobsen, 27.
Jacobsen�����s autism wasn�����t diagnosed until he was in his twenties and, meeting
him, you can understand why. There is a slight social awkwardness (though
probably little more than you would experience with anyone confronted by an
inquisitive journalist), and nothing to alert you to the fact he has endured
lengthy periods of depression in his life.

�����I wouldn�����t say it was a relief, but it was nice to have a name for it, for
my problem,����� he told me of his diagnosis. �����Actually, I don�����t call it a
problem, I call it a twist. Before, I felt I was different because I wasn�����t
very social, I preferred being on my own and had lots of special interests:
earthquakes, tsunamis, geography, GNPs...����� GNPs? �����Yes, you know, the gross
national product of different countries. Since I started work here, I have
learnt to cope better with social interaction,

I haven�����t had a depression in two-and-a-half years. I am getting more
involved in bringing new ideas to the company and am part of shaping the
Specialisterne Foundation [responsible for rolling out the concept to other
countries]. You do have to have the right environment for people with
Asperger�����s to function ����� there needs to be an acceptance that I am special,
that I might not work regular hours, that I might have down periods ����� but if
you have that in place, we can do any job.�����

Most Specialisterne employees tend to work 20- to 25-hour weeks, but
Jacobsen has brought his hours up to 35. �����You really blossom here. I see it
with so many Aspergerians who join the company and get proper training. I
have a lot of friends at the company now, and we socialise and go out
together in town. We know we all have that twist.�����

I begin to wonder about all those other, less number-oriented skills that
about 30 per cent of higher-achieving Asperger�����s sufferers display (to the
extent that I rather wince to use the word �����sufferer�����). With a little
lateral thinking, where else might fulfilling, productive roles be found for
them in society? �����Well, I would be very confident to know there were
autistic people running air-traffic control towers,����� says Sonne. �����In any
company, at least one to five per cent of all tasks would fit well with the
skills of people with autism. This could apply to recognition patterns in
the medical industry, to accounting, to banks? Of course, some experts have
identified autistic traits in people such as Mozart, Da Vinci, Newton,
Einstein. If they were alive today, perhaps they would be recognised as
having Asperger�����s, and look at what they achieved. Unfortunately, there is
such an emphasis on being a team player and social skills in the workplace
that there is still this resistance. But why do we all have to be like that?
There should be room for other kinds of behaviour.

�����My company is a showcase, but my end game is to get one million specialist
people into meaningful work by providing a management model for large
corporations to become attractive to people with special needs, so they know
that they will be understood and supported. You know, in the UK you spend
����12bn a year on the half-a-million Brits with autism. Why not get them
earning that for the economy instead?�����

Sonne�����s hopes for his son must have changed radically from that first
diagnosis, nine years ago. �����Well, he can work here, but only if he wants to.
He�����s approaching some interesting times now as a teenager, but he is the
nicest, most gentle and caring child you could imagine. It�����s a pity to think
he might be bullied in society because of his way of being.�����

Source:
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/better-faster-and-no-office-politics-the-company-with-the-autistic-specialists-1693057.html




Messages in this topic (1)
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7. It's academic: university women are beating men at almost everything
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:06 pm ((PDT))

It's academic: university women are beating men at almost everything

There are more of them studying, they are less likely to drop out, and they
will probably end up with a better degree ����� but less money

By Richard Garner, Education Editor

*Sunday, 31 May 2009*

<http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/its-academic-university-women-are-beating-men-at-almost-everything-1693493.html?action=Popup>

*alamy*

Women outnumber men at every university bar Oxbridge and are more likely to
get a good degree, but are drawn to the less well paid professions

    -  [image: Photos]
enlarge<http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/its-academic-university-women-are-beating-men-at-almost-everything-1693493.html?action=Popup&gallery=no>

   Women outperform men in almost every single aspect of higher education,
according to research published today.

The number of women at university began to exceed the number of men for the
first time 16 years ago.

However, for years there were still academics claiming that men had "more
where it mattered", ie at elite Russell Group universities ����� the group which
represents 20 of the UK's leading research institutions including Oxford and
Cambridge.

One study published in 2005, Class Rifts Eclipsed by Sex Divide, said: "Many
women are studying in lower-status universities... the university continues
to be a space where class privilege is maintained and women's participation
is limited to the bottom of a hierarchical continuum."

Now a new study by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), the
independent university think-tank, debunks that finding as a myth.

It finds that not only do women outnumber men overall at university, they
also outnumber them at every type of university. They are also more likely
to get a good degree pass (a 2:1 or a first) and are less likely to drop
out.

For good measure, the Government's attempts to widen university
participation among disadvantaged groups also appear to have struck more of
a chord with women than men. There are more girls who were entitled to free
meals at school going on to higher education than boys.

In virtually every ethnic group, too, including Bangladeshi and Pakistani
communities, where religion or culture may have led to some families
downplaying the importance of education to women, more women than men go to
university.

Figures cited by HEPI show 49.2 per cent of women now opt for higher
education ����� compared with only 37.2 per cent of men.

Women are further ahead in representation at post-1992 universities (the
former polytechnics) ����� 23.8 per cent of women attend one, compared with 18
per cent of men.

However, the report goes on to find that eight per cent of women attending a
Russell Group university compared with 6.5 per cent of men. At older
established universities women generally outnumber men ����� 11.3 per cent of
them enrolling compared with 8.6 per cent of men. Only at Oxford and
Cambridge is there any equality of representation ����� 0.7 per cent of each sex
attend Oxbridge.

When it comes to degree passes, 63.9 per cent of women graduates obtain a
"good" degree (first or upper second) compared with 59.9 per cent of men.
The percentage of women obtaining a first (13 per cent) is lower than that
of men (13. 9per cent), but because their overall numbers are so much
greater, this still means that more women than men are now leaving
university with a first.

The report also shows that women outnumber men on most courses ����� including
law and medicine courses ����� which ultimately lead to high paid employment.
Only in technology, physical science, architecture, maths, computer
sciences, and engineering are women outnumbered by men.

Despite this, women are still likely to earn a lower wage than men on
leaving university. One of the reasons the report cites for this is their
greater number on courses leading to jobs in teaching or the creative arts.

Women were more altruistic and valued their job environment more, the report
found. They were less career driven or financially motivated.

Researchers asked whether the growing gender gap mattered, and cited
evidence from the Government to the Commons select committee monitoring
education which stated: "We are increasingly concerned about male
participation."

However, it added that while recognising "sex inequality is clearly an
issue" it did not want its remarks to imply a policy to reduce the number of
women enrolling for higher education courses.

Source:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/its-academic-university-women-are-beating-men-at-almost-everything-1693493.html




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8. Longitude pioneer was not a 'lone genius'
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:06 pm ((PDT))

Longitude pioneer was not a 'lone genius'

Experts believe that master clockmaker John Harrison must have had highly
skilled help in creating his revolutionary sea clock

By Andrew Johnson

*Sunday, 31 May 2009*

<http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/longitude-pioneer-was-not-a-lone-genius-1693503.html?action=Popup>

*Timothy Allen*

Jonathan Betts with the 1713 timepiece made by John Harrison

    -  [image: Photos]
enlarge<http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/longitude-pioneer-was-not-a-lone-genius-1693503.html?action=Popup&gallery=no>

   He was the lone genius who spent years locked away fiddling with tiny
springs and coils to create the world's first global positioning instrument,
and so revolutionised world travel. At least that's the official history of
longitude, made famous by Dava Sobel's best-selling story of the master
clockmaker John Harrison.

Now research from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich ����� the home of the
meridian line from which longitude is measured ����� has cast doubt on that
version of events.

The story of Harrison, as told by Sobel, captured the world's imagination
when it was published in 1995. The book became a science-history
best-seller, spawning a television adaptation in 2000 starring Michael
Gambon and Jeremy Irons.

It told how the world's sailing powers were hindered by their inability to
gauge how far east or west they were. In 1714 the British government put up
a reward of ����20,000 to whomever could solve the problem of how to accurately
work out longitude.

Harrison's solution was simple. If a sailor could tell when it was noon
where he was at sea by observing the sun, and also know the time in London,
the time difference would tell him how far east or west he was.

The only problem was that accurate watches did not exist, and pendulums did
not cope well with the swaying motion of a ship.

Harrison eventually came up with a watch-type device in the 1750s after
going through various prototypes which, it had been believed, he made
entirely on his own, even to the extent of learning how to work brass.

Those prototypes are now at the Royal Observatory, and the first, called H1,
made in 1735 and still working, was recently dismantled by senior horologist
Jonathan Betts to replace a broken part.

He said that after examining the intricate brass parts it became obvious
that Harrison could not have made them without the help of a master
brass-smith.

"I'm a dedicated Harrison fan," he said. "But the idea that he was a lone
genius needs re-examining. Dava Sobel's wonderful book has left some readers
with the impression that Harrison worked entirely alone. This is not the
case. He had helpers.

"It has always been thought that he taught himself how to work brass, and he
did to a degree. But he couldn't have obtained that level of skill without
help. The people or person who made those parts had to be extremely skilled
in their own right and it would have taken such a long time to complete.

"We're trying to revise the view that he worked alone by saying that's not
the whole story. We're not saying he wasn't a genius."

It is the first time the clock has been dismantled since 1961 when it was
refurbished after being neglected during the war. Then, however, it was
worked on by clockmakers, rather than historians.

Sobel said she welcomed Mr Betts's research, but it didn't alter her view
that Harrison was a "lone genius".

"It was Harrison who conceived the sea clocks," she said. "If he farmed out
parts of the timekeepers' construction, that takes nothing away from the
beauty of his conception, or the secretive style in which he worked."

Source:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/longitude-pioneer-was-not-a-lone-genius-1693503.html




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9. Only in it for the biscuits
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:06 pm ((PDT))

  Only in it for the biscuits

So cats weren't tamed by humans after all. We have to lower our expectations
when it comes to pets

    -
       - Paul MacInnes <http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/paulmacinnes>
       - guardian.co.uk <http://www.guardian.co.uk/>, Friday 29 May 2009
       18.30 BST
       - Article
history<http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/29/cats#history-byline>

Changes are afoot in the field of cat studies or, to use the technical term,
apaw. New research into quite how cats went from being wild to apparently
domesticated has shed greater light on the loving gaze shared each morning
by pet and owner over a bowl of reconstituted meat.

An article in the latest Scientific American looks again at the history of
feline domestication<http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-taming-of-the-cat>.
It has long been held that cats were first tamed in ancient Egypt some 3,600
years ago. Thanks, however, to the discovery of a cat-shaped corpse buried
some 9,500 years ago alongside their human associate in a shallow grave in
Cyprus, the game has been changed. The new thinking is that wildcats of the
type *Felis silvestris lybica* began to dwell alongside humans as farming
developed in the fertile crescent of the Levant. Wildcats were tempted into
human settlements by the prospects of scraps and, crucially, a ready supply
of *Mus musculus domesticus*, aka the house mouse, an ancient Jerry to their
pre-classical Tom.

In other words, we didn't domesticate cats, they domesticated themselves.
The animal was not tamed by the human, it looked the human up and down,
liked what it saw and decided it would put on its cutest expression and
pretend to be friends ����� a small price to pay for a high-mouse diet.

Cat owners reading, this, perhaps with Tango or Whiskey (or both) sitting
nonchalantly on top of their paper, may not be overly surprised to learn of
these zoological developments. Unlike obliging, loving, slavering dogs, cats
can often give the distinct impression of only being in it for the
tuna-flavoured biscuits. The fact that this might be a habit established
over millennia only proves the consistency of their interests.

That said, the postulations of the academics ought to give those same owners
pause for thought. For every moment of insistent miaowing for meat, there is
also the soft purring your cat emits while it submits willingly to your
caress, seemingly because it likes it. It is all too easy for humans to
imagine a sophisticated relationship between themselves and their familiar.
As opposed, say, to it being just an extended period of transactions
designed to guarantee the continued delivery of Whiskas.

Anthropomorphism is sometimes decried by ecologists who would prefer it if
attempts to preserve endangered species were more evenly spread, rather than
concentrated on creatures who look like they'd make nice company at a dinner
party. Polar bears are perceived as cute and friendly, despite their penchant
for bloody destruction<http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2009/apr/12/animals-germany?picture=345847068>\,
while snakes are devious and ruthless despite donating upwards of 30% of
their income to charity (or so I was told by a snake oil salesman). This
tendency applies tenfold to our domestic animals, despite the fact that we
have not even the slightest clue as to their actual thoughts and feelings.

It seems that now might be the time to revise downwards our expectations of
cats. To continue to imagine, as I have done myself, that a cat actually
loves you may only lead to heartbreak when the next study comes out
revealing that, far from having an emotional bond with his human host, Felix
has in fact conducted due diligence on his owner before deigning to move in.

The other extreme, of refusing to countenance any bond with your beast,
would also prove unproductive I suspect. Why take an animal into your home
if you're intent on spending half the time trying to get it to pay for its
dinner? Instead, I think, the model for our cats should be roughly the same
as for our MPs: acknowledge that we need them, but let our trust in them be
a wary one. And, as it seems to be the rage, make them subject to potential
recall, with their effectiveness judged at the ballot box under the AV-plus
system.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/29/cats




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10. The Coming Superbrain
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:07 pm ((PDT))

May 24, 2009
  The Coming Superbrain By JOHN
MARKOFF<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/m/john_markoff/index.html?inline=nyt-per>

Mountain View, Calif. ����� It�����s summertime and the Terminator is back. A sci-fi
movie thrill ride, �����Terminator
Salvation�����<http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/05/21/movies/21term.html>comes
complete with a malevolent artificial intelligence dubbed Skynet, a
military R.&D. project that gained self-awareness and concluded that humans
were an irritant ����� perhaps a bit like athlete�����s foot ����� to be dispatched
forthwith.

The notion that a self-aware computing system would emerge spontaneously
from the interconnections of billions of computers and computer networks
goes back in science fiction at least as far as Arthur C.
Clarke<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/arthur_c_clarke/index.html?inline=nyt-per>�����s
�����Dial F for Frankenstein.����� A prescient short story that appeared in 1961, it
foretold an ever-more-interconnected telephone network that spontaneously
acts like a newborn baby and leads to global chaos as it takes over
financial, transportation and military systems.

Today, artificial intelligence, once the preserve of science fiction writers
and eccentric computer prodigies, is back in fashion and getting serious
attention from NASA<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/n/national_aeronautics_and_space_administration/index.html?inline=nyt-org>and
from Silicon Valley companies like
Google<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/google_inc/index.html?inline=nyt-org>as
well as a new round of start-ups that are designing everything from
next-generation search engines to machines that listen or that are capable
of walking around in the world. A.I.�����s new respectability is turning the
spotlight back on the question of where the technology might be heading and,
more ominously, perhaps, whether computer intelligence will surpass our own,
and how quickly.

The concept of ultrasmart computers ����� machines with �����greater than human
intelligence����� ����� was dubbed �����The Singularity����� in a 1993
paper<http://mindstalk.net/vinge/vinge-sing.html>by the computer
scientist and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge. He argued
that the acceleration of technological progress had led to �����the edge of
change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth.����� This thesis has long
struck a chord here in Silicon Valley.

Artificial intelligence is already used to automate and replace some human
functions with computer-driven machines. These machines can see and hear,
respond to questions, learn, draw inferences and solve problems. But for the
Singulatarians, A.I. refers to machines that will be both self-aware and
superhuman in their intelligence, and capable of designing better computers
and robots faster than humans can today. Such a shift, they say, would lead
to a vast acceleration in technological improvements of all kinds.

The idea is not just the province of science fiction authors; a generation
of computer hackers, engineers and programmers have come to believe deeply
in the idea of exponential technological change as explained by Gordon
Moore, a co-founder of the chip maker
Intel<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/intel_corporation/index.html?inline=nyt-org>.


In 1965, Dr. Moore first described the repeated doubling of the number
transistors on silicon chips with each new technology generation, which led
to an acceleration in the power of computing. Since then �����Moore�����s Law����� �����
which is not a law of physics, but rather a description of the rate of
industrial change ����� has come to personify an industry that lives on Internet
time, where the Next Big Thing is always just around the corner.

Several years ago the artificial-intelligence pioneer Raymond Kurzweil took
the idea one step further in his 2005 book, �����The Singularity Is Near: When
Humans Transcend
Biology.�����<http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/03/books/03masl.html>He
sought to expand Moore�����s Law to encompass more than just processing
power
and to simultaneously predict with great precision the arrival of post-human
evolution, which he said would occur in 2045.

In Dr. Kurzweil�����s telling, rapidly increasing computing power in concert
with cyborg humans would then reach a point when machine intelligence not
only surpassed human intelligence but took over the process of technological
invention, with unpredictable consequences.

Profiled in the documentary �����Transcendent
Man,�����<http://transcendentman.com/>which had its premier last month at
the TriBeCa Film Festival, and with his
own Singularity movie due later this year, Dr. Kurzweil has become a one-man
marketing machine for the concept of post-humanism. He is the
co-founder of Singularity
University <http://singularityu.org/>, a school supported by Google that
will open in June with a grand goal ����� to �����assemble, educate and inspire a
cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of
exponentially advancing technologies and apply, focus and guide these tools
to address humanity�����s grand challenges.�����

Not content with the development of superhuman machines, Dr. Kurzweil
envisions �����uploading,����� or the idea that the contents of our brain and
thought processes can somehow be translated into a computing environment,
making a form of immortality possible ����� within his lifetime.

That has led to no shortage of raised eyebrows among hard-nosed
technologists in the engineering culture here, some of whom describe the
Kurzweilian romance with supermachines as a new form of religion.

The science fiction author Ken MacLeod described the idea of the singularity
as �����the Rapture of the nerds.����� Kevin Kelly, an editor at Wired magazine,
notes, �����People who predict a very utopian future always predict that it is
going to happen before they die.�����

However, Mr. Kelly himself has not refrained from speculating on where
communications and computing technology is heading. He is at work on his own
book, �����The Technium,����� forecasting the emergence of a global brain ����� the idea
that the planet�����s interconnected computers might someday act in a
coordinated fashion and perhaps exhibit intelligence. He just isn�����t certain
about how soon an intelligent global brain will arrive.

Others who have observed the increasing power of computing technology are
even less sanguine about the future outcome. The computer designer and
venture capitalist William Joy, for example, wrote a pessimistic essay in
Wired <http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy_pr.html> in 2000 that
argued that humans are more likely to destroy themselves with their
technology than create a utopia assisted by superintelligent machines.

Mr. Joy, a co-founder of Sun
Microsystems<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/sun_microsystems_inc/index.html?inline=nyt-org>,
still believes that. �����I wasn�����t saying we would be supplanted by something,�����
he said. �����I think a catastrophe is more likely.�����

Moreover, there is a hot debate here over whether such machines might be the
�����machines of loving grace,����� of the Richard Brautigan poem, or something far
darker, of the �����Terminator����� ilk.

�����I see the debate over whether we should build these artificial intellects
as becoming the dominant political question of the century,����� said Hugo de
Garis, an Australian artificial-intelligence researcher, who has written a
book, �����The Artilect War,����� that argues that the debate is likely to end in
global war.

Concerned about the same potential outcome, the A.I. researcher Eliezer S.
Yudkowsky, an employee of the Singularity Institute, has proposed the idea
of �����friendly artificial intelligence,����� an engineering discipline that would
seek to ensure that future machines would remain our servants or equals
rather than our masters.

Nevertheless, this generation of humans, at least, is perhaps unlikely to
need to rush to the barricades. The artificial-intelligence industry has
advanced in fits and starts over the past half-century, since the term
�����artificial intelligence����� was coined by the Stanford
University<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/s/stanford_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org>computer
scientist John McCarthy in 1956. In 1964, when Mr. McCarthy
established the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the researchers
informed their Pentagon backers that the construction of an artificially
intelligent machine would take about a decade. Two decades later, in 1984,
that original optimism hit a rough patch, leading to the collapse of a crop
of A.I. start-up companies in Silicon Valley, a time known as �����the A.I.
winter.�����

Such reversals have led the veteran Silicon Valley technology forecaster
Paul Saffo to proclaim: �����never mistake a clear view for a short distance.�����

Indeed, despite this high-technology heartland�����s deeply held consensus about
exponential progress, the worst fate of all for the Valley�����s digerati would
be to be the generation before the generation that lives to see the
singularity.
�����Kurzweil will probably die, along with the rest of us not too long before
the �����great dawn,����� ����� said Gary Bradski, a Silicon Valley roboticist. �����Life�����s
not fair.�����

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/weekinreview/24markoff.html?_r=1




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11. An Alternative History of China
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:07 pm ((PDT))

*An Alternative History of China*

By Jianli Yang

Posted May 2009
  The memoirs of Zhao Ziyang provide insight into what China would be like
today if the 1989 democracy movement had prevailed.







W*e must establish that [the] final goal of political reform is the
realization of this advanced political system. If we don't move towards this
goal, it will be impossible to resolve the abnormal conditions in China's
market economy."
*

*
*

**One of the most sincere advocates for an "advanced political system" in
China -- a system that included an independent judiciary, freedom of the
press, and the right of citizens to organize (in a word, democracy) -- was
not a disenchanted dissident or an armchair academic. Writing at the most
unlikely of times, the man was Zhao Ziyang, secretary general of the Chinese
Communist Party (CCP). Zhao was toppled in 1989 after trying to peacefully
negotiate with student demonstrators -- like myself -- in Tiananmen Square.
His fall paved the way for hard-liners, under the leadership of CCP official
Deng Xiaoping, to crush the demonstrations with soldiers and tanks on the
morning of June 4, 1989. In one bold, violent stroke, the one-party regime,
teetering on the verge of collapse, found reprieve. Zhao's vision of a more
moderate democratic future, one meticulously documented in his recently
released memoirs, vanished from the scene, its author put under house
arrest.

There could hardly be a better time for *Prisoner of the State: The Secret
Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang* to be published, as the memoirs will be in
both English and Chinese this week. Early June marks the 20th anniversary of
Tiananmen Square -- a memory that will certainly remind China of the
democratic ideals left behind in tragedy. Reading Zhao's account, I -- and
no doubt other readers -- cannot help but imagine what China would be like
today if Zhao had prevailed in June 1989. What if the dissenters who stood
firmly before the government in Tiananmen Square had gained Zhao has a
powerful ally to their cause? Would China have devolved into political
chaos? Or would it be a robust democracy, steeped in cultural freedoms,
social justice, and economic vibrancy? In seeking to answer that question
about the past, we can learn much about the present: a China that in terms
of its political system and tendency toward authoritarianism has evolved
little since 1989, and yet has become both the United States' second-largest
trading partner and its most significant competitor.

Looking back at the crucial moment in 1989, it is first important to keep in
mind how easily things might have turned in a different direction. China's
movement toward democracy in 1989 was not as far-fetched as it might seem
today. In fact, support for the democratic movement was so great that it
caused an unprecedented split within the CCP leadership. A quarter or even a
third of the officials in Beijing joined the protesters. Most of the rest
were sympathetic toward the students. The degree of dissatisfaction within
the party was very high, and many agreed with the protesters that the CCP
had lost any pretense of being a "people's" party and had become a
self-serving elite.

That disillusionment came from a series of market-oriented reforms begun a
decade earlier, in 1978. Although the changes produced rapid economic
growth, they also led to contradictions: opening the economy negated the
moral authority of the Communist revolution and unleashed unbridled
corruption in its place. The 1989 democracy movement had two slogans. One
was "Freedom and democracy," and the other was "No official business
dealings, no corruption." After Tiananmen Square protesters were quashed and
their government sympathizers, like Zhao, sidelined, corruption blossomed
just as much as China's GDP (the fastest-growing among developed states over
the last 25 years) has.

It didn't have to be this way. If the democracy movement had succeeded, the
CCP would likely still be the ruling party. But its policies and goals would
have evolved more democratically under Zhao's leadership. In the last
chapter of his memoirs, the former general-secretary of CCP praises the
Western system of parliamentary democracy and says it is the only way for
China to address corruption and inequality. He would no doubt have led the
country down this path.

Zhao's reforms, one might imagine, would have proceeded at a purposeful but
amenable pace, beginning with an opening of partial freedoms of assembly and
demonstration. Student organizations would have become lawful,
eventually precipitating a lift on the ban on political parties. The press
would likewise feel a weight lifted, and the country's National People's
Congress would have become more than a rubber-stamp assembly. Public
participation would have followed, with public debate emerging on difficult
questions from ethnic relations, to foreign affairs, to government
corruption, to HIV/AIDS and the environment. In other words, China would
have embarked on a peaceful transition to democracy. A democratic China --
one that followed Zhao's model -- would have prospered economically, too.

Instead, today China feels the consequences of rejecting this path of
reform. The same corruption that motivated the opposition 20 years ago is
today an open sore on the face of Chinese society. Eighty percent of China's
wealth is thought to be controlled by the top 10 percent of party
officials. And it's visible. Corruption distorts every aspect of Chinese
society, from the shoddy workmanship of the elementary schools that
collapsed during last year's earthquake (while the homes of party officials
stood firm) to the summary displacement of more than 300,000 Beijing
citizens in the name of "beautification" to prepare for the 2008 Olympics.
No wonder, then, that corruption is still the largest source of alienation
between the CCP and the population. Endemic corruption is the grievance
cited in an estimated 100,000 major protests each year in China.

To the outside world, Chinese society has prospered. But internally, it has
atrophied morally and socially. China maintains its competitive edge through
a base exploitation of its workers, who labor without rights or avenues of
recourse. Even the most advanced free market economies find it hard to
compete. The Chinese government becomes rich, but ordinary people do not.
The average Chinese citizen contributes less to the country's GDP today than
he or she did in 1988.

One of the most famous slogans for China's reforms has been to "cross the
river by feeling stones." Surely, Deng Xiaoping meant to infer a gradual
notion of change. Instead, the metaphor today mockingly describes a society
at odds with itself, lacking direction to support its ever-looming one party
structure. The contradiction will not easily go away -- and will likely
flare again, just as it did two decades ago. Zhao Ziyang foresaw this
perpetual confrontation years ago, arguing that unless the Chinese
government moved toward real democratic reform "it will be impossible to
resolve the abnormal conditions in China's market economy."

They were prophetic words, indeed. Today, even as China's leadership has
moved further from Zhao's vision, the Tiananmen ideals never left the
political dialogue. More than at any time in the last two decades, people
might just be willing to protest to bring those ideals back again. Until
then, we are left to confront the equally predictive words of the Soviet-era
dissident, Andrei Sakharov: "The world community cannot rely on a government
that does not rely on its own people."
Source: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4951




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12. For Teenagers, Hello Means �����How About a Hug?�����
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:07 pm ((PDT))

May 28, 2009
  For Teenagers, Hello Means �����How About a Hug?����� By SARAH
KERSHAW<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/k/sarah_kershaw/index.html?inline=nyt-per>

There is so much hugging at Pascack Hills High School in Montvale, N.J.,
that students have broken down the hugs by type:

There is the basic friend hug, probably the most popular, and the bear hug,
of course. But now there is also the bear claw, when a boy embraces a girl
awkwardly with his elbows poking out.

There is the hug that starts with a high-five, then moves into a fist bump,
followed by a slap on the back and an embrace.

There�����s the shake and lean; the hug from behind; and, the newest addition,
the triple ����� any combination of three girls and boys hugging at once.

�����We�����re not afraid, we just get in and hug,����� said Danny Schneider, a junior
at the school, where hallway hugging began shortly after 7 a.m. on a recent
morning as students arrived. �����The guy friends, we don�����t care. You just get
right in there and jump in.�����

There are romantic hugs, too, but that is not what these teenagers are
talking about.

Girls embracing girls, girls embracing boys, boys embracing each other ����� the
hug has become the favorite social greeting when teenagers meet or part
these days. Teachers joke about �����one hour����� and �����six hour����� hugs, saying that
students hug one another all day as if they were separated for the entire
summer.

A measure of how rapidly the ritual is spreading is that some students
complain of peer pressure to hug to fit in. And schools from Hillsdale,
N.J., to Bend, Ore., wary in a litigious era about sexual harassment or
improper touching ����� or citing hallway clogging and late arrivals to class �����
have banned hugging or imposed a three-second rule.

Parents, who grew up in a generation more likely to use the handshake, the
low-five or the high-five, are often baffled by the close physical contact.
�����It�����s a wordless custom, from what I�����ve observed,����� wrote Beth J. Harpaz, the
mother of two boys, 11 and 16, and a parenting columnist for The Associated
Press, in a new book, �����13 Is the New 18.�����

�����And there doesn�����t seem to be any other overt way in which they acknowledge
knowing each other,����� she continued, describing the scene at her older son�����s
school in Manhattan. �����No hi, no smile, no wave, no high-five ����� just the hug.
Witnessing this interaction always makes me feel like I am a tourist in a
country where I do not know the customs and cannot speak the language.�����

For teenagers, though, hugging is hip. And not hugging?

�����If somebody were to not hug someone, to never hug anybody, people might be
just a little wary of them and think they are weird or peculiar,����� said
Gabrielle Brown, a freshman at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in
Manhattan.

Comforting as the hug may be, principals across the country have clamped
down. �����Touching and physical contact is very dangerous territory,����� said
Noreen Hajinlian, the principal of George G. White School, a junior high
school in Hillsdale, N.J., who banned hugging two years ago. �����It was
needless hugging ����� they are in the hallways before they go to class. It
wasn�����t a greeting. It was happening all day.�����

Schools that have limited hugging invoked longstanding rules against public
displays of affection, meant to maintain an atmosphere of academic
seriousness and prevent unwanted touching, or even groping.

But pro-hugging students say it is not a romantic or sexual gesture, simply
the �����hello����� of their generation. �����We like to get cozy,����� said Katie Dea, an
eighth grader at Claire Lilienthal Alternative School in San Francisco. �����The
high-five is, like, boring.�����

Some sociologists said that teenagers who grew up in an era of organized
play dates and close parental supervision are more cooperative with one
another than previous generations ����� less cynical and individualistic and
more loyal to the group.

But Amy L. Best, a sociologist at George Mason University, said the teenage
embrace is more a reflection of the overall evolution of the American
greeting, which has become less formal since the 1970s. �����Without question,
the boundaries of touch have changed in American culture,����� she said. �����We
display bodies more readily, there are fewer rules governing body touch and
a lot more permissible access to other people�����s bodies.�����

Hugging appears to be a grass-roots phenomenon and not an imitation of a
character or custom on TV or in movies. The prevalence of boys����� nonromantic
hugging (especially of other boys) is most striking to adults. Experts say
that over the last generation, boys have become more comfortable expressing
emotion, as embodied by the
MTV<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/mtv_networks/index.html?inline=nyt-org>show
�����Bromance,����� which is now a widely used term for affection between
straight male friends.

But some sociologists pointed out that African-American boys and men have
been hugging as part of their greeting for decades, using the word �����dap����� to
describe a ritual involving handshakes, slaps on the shoulders and, more
recently, a hug, also sometimes called the gangsta hug among urban youth.

�����It�����s something you grow up doing,����� said Mazi Chiles, a junior at South
Gwinnett High School in Snellville, Ga., who is black. �����But you don�����t come
up to a dude and hug, you start out with a handshake.�����

Some parents find it paradoxical that a generation so steeped in hands-off
virtual communication would be so eager to hug.

�����Maybe it�����s because all these kids do is text and go on
Facebook<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/facebook_inc/index.html?inline=nyt-org>so
they don�����t even have human contact anymore,����� said Dona Eichner, the
mother of freshman and junior girls at the high school in Montvale.

She added: �����I hug people I�����m close to. But now you�����re hugging people you
don�����t even know. Hugging used to mean something.�����

There are, too, some young critics of hugging.

Amy Heaton, a freshman at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, Md.,
said casual social hugging seemed disingenuous to her. �����Hugging is more
common in my opinion in people who act like friends,����� she said. �����It�����s like
air-kissing. It�����s really superficial.�����

But Carrie Osbourne, a sixth-grade teacher at Claire Lilienthal Alternative
School, said hugging was a powerful and positive sign that children are
inclined to nurture one another, breaking down barriers. �����And it gets to
that core that every person wants to feel cared for, regardless of your age
or how cool you are or how cool you think you are,����� she said.
As much as hugging is a physical gesture, it has migrated online as well.
Facebook applications allowing friends to send hugs have tens of thousands
of fans. Katie Dea, the San Francisco eighth grader, as well as Olivia
Brown, 11, who lives in Manhattan and is the younger sister of Gabrielle,
the LaGuardia High freshman, have a new sign-off for their text and e-mail
messages: *hug.*

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/style/28hugs.html




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13. Engineered DNA counts it out: Man-made gene network can tally a seri
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:07 pm ((PDT))

*Engineered DNA counts it out *
  *Man-made gene network can tally a series of three*
* *By Laura Sanders<http://www.sciencenews.org/view/authored/id/98/name/Laura_Sanders>
  Web edition : Thursday, May 28th, 2009
  [image: font_down] <http://www.sciencenews.org/index/generic> [image:
font_up] <http://www.sciencenews.org/index/generic> Text Size
  Graceful waltzers can count to three, and now stretches of man-made DNA can
do it too. Researchers have built a series of genes and put them into
bacterial cells, enabling the cells to tally events. The new counters may
endow engineered cells with previously impossible functions, the team
reports in the May 29 *Science.*

The engineered counters may be used to monitor toxins in the environment or
keep track of the number of times a cell divides. The system can even be
programmed to destroy the cell that holds it after a certain number of
events.

�����This is the first example of a synthetic counter in the field,����� says
Christina Smolke, a bioengineer at Stanford University and the author of a
commentary published in the same issue of *Science*. Although these new
counters are simple, �����the first step is building the framework. The next
step is, how do we start tailoring these to respond to something relevant?
There are a lot of places to take this.�����

The new research adds a tool to the burgeoning field of synthetic biology,
in which scientists engineer biological systems such as DNA to create new
capabilities. DNA molecules are designed to direct certain activities in a
cell, and so can respond to specific signals and start and terminate protein
production. Since the field emerged in the late 1970s, scientists have been
creating artificial cellular �����parts����� that could be used to modify a living
organism or even build a synthetic simple one from scratch. Assembling the
right parts in the right order could, for example, allow engineered bacteria
to produce biofuels or eat toxins in polluted areas in the environment.

A strong motivator for developing a system that can count, says study
coauthor James Collins, was worry over the presence of genetically modified
organisms in the environment.

�����This came from growing concern that programmed cells could pose a danger to
the environment or human bodies. You�����d be worried about how long these
things were going to stick around,����� says Collins, of Boston University.
Organisms endowed with counting abilities could be programmed to commit
suicide after a certain number of cell divisions or day-and-night cycles, he
says. This built-in kill switch may offer a greater level of control over
the spread of introduced genes into wild organisms.

These counters rely on the novel assembly of simpler genetic tools. Collins
and his team created �����multiple numbers of switches cascaded behind one
another to create more complex circuits,����� says Kaustubh Bhalerao, a
biological engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Collins and his colleagues built two systems that count in different ways
but are both based on the same basic idea. �����Each of the counters is what you
call daisy chain cascades: You have to do the first event before you do the
next event,����� Collins says. This is what endows the systems with the counting
ability.

One of the team�����s systems counts by starting and stopping the production of
certain proteins. In the experiments, the first bit of a strip of modified
DNA acts as a detector. When it detects a pulse of the sugar arabinose, it
responds by triggering the production of a specific protein. When the DNA
detects a second pulse of the sugar, the first protein helps produce a
second protein. After a final pulse of the sugar, the second protein helps
make green fluorescent protein as an output. When the cells glow green under
ultraviolet light, the researchers know that the cells have counted exactly
three pulses of sugar. The team could easily make the counting region of the
modified DNA longer, allowing for higher counting.

The second counting system relies on enzymes that chop out and invert
specific pieces of DNA. When the DNA strip detects the first signal, it
causes one of these enzymes to be made. The enzyme then chops its own DNA
sequence out of the modified strand of DNA, flips it and reinserts it
backward, rendering it unreadable and useless. A second signal leads to the
production of another enzyme, which chops another bit of DNA further along
on the strand. At the end of the process, an output protein is produced.

The second system can be programmed to respond to different signals at each
step of the process. By putting outputs between counts, researchers could
track exactly when each step in a series happens.

The first system is better for counting relatively quick events, those that
happen every 30 minutes or so. The second system is more useful for counting
longer events that unfold over days, because the enzymes need more time to
do their cutting and flipping.

Tinkering with the detector and the output, and leaving the basic process
intact, may make for innumerable functions, Bhalerao says. Already, some
bacteria have DNA that respond to light, arsenic, temperature, nutrients and
some metals. In the new counting system, swapping out the signal, such as
sugar, to be detected is trivial, says Bhalerao. �����It�����s like switching brands
of mouse on your computer����� but leaving the processor alone.

At the other end of the process, the proteins produced after counting can
accomplish a wide variety of functions, Collins says. Proteins could
�����explode the cell, make the cell long, short, fat.����� Researchers could even
tailor the artificial network to produce different signals ����� like
fluorescent proteins ����� at different counts. Cells could glow yellow after
the first event, red after the second, green after the third and so on. This
would allow researchers to monitor every step of complex processes, such as
the development and growth of a cell.

The mix-and-match capabilities offer many possibilities, Bhalerao says, but
�����there is still a long way to go. These things don�����t work all the time, and
that�����s because you�����re making the cells do things they don�����t want to do.�����

Source:
http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/44251/title/Engineered_DNA_counts_it_out




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14. Burying the Lead The New York Times runs a piece on Hispanic poverty
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:07 pm ((PDT))

Kay S. Hymowitz
*Burying the Lead*
*The New York Times runs a piece on Hispanic poverty dressed up in happy
talk.*
29 May 2009

Like most people I know, I am an avid reader of the *New York Times*. But I
do follow several cautionary rules when I gulp down my morning paper of
record. One is what I call the two-thirds rule: the most important news,
assuming the *Times* prints it at all, comes about two-thirds of the way
through an article.

Today�����s piece <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/29/us/29hispanic.html> by Sam
Roberts offers a stunning example. His article concerns a new Pew Center
study on Hispanic immigration over the past generation, and it leads with
the announcement that the name Jose is declining in popularity. This
�����profound change,����� we�����re told, reflects the fact that more�����52 percent of the
nation�����s 16 million Hispanic children�����are American-born. Yes, many are the
children of illegal immigrants (as are two out of three of the country�����s
foreign-born Hispanic kids.) But they�����re born in the U.S. and, Roberts
continues, are learning English at the same rate as Asian immigrant
children. The subtext is clear: Hispanics are assimilating to American life
much like previous generations of newcomers and as successfully as the
so-called �����model����� Asian immigrants. Hence, Hispanics����� growing preference for
American-sounding names. This is excellent news.

Just make sure you don�����t read what comes next. Most immigrants start off
rather poor and over generations move up the socioeconomic ladder. Hispanics
fit that pattern at first. Forty-seven percent of first-generation Latino
children are poor; that rate falls to 26 percent by the second generation.
So far, so good. But the third generation shows a disturbing lack of
progress. Its poverty rate has barely budged, with 24 percent of its kids
poor. Though the article doesn�����t make the connection, one cause is clear:
the large proportion of Latino children being raised by a single parent.
According to the Pew study�����noted by Roberts somewhere in the forgotten
mid-section of his article�����the proportion of such children rises over time
and is actually higher in the third generation than in the first and second.
This is very bad news.

To be fair, Roberts�����s article is not a perfect application of the two-thirds
rule�����he actually reaches the news about child poverty and family breakdown
at the halfway point of his article. But he does hold important data about
his subject for the end: it seems that the name Jose is now the tenth most
popular name in California, compared with second a decade ago, while in Los
Angeles County it is now thirteenth as compared with number one in 1998. If
I had a more suspicious nature, I would guess that *Times* editors and
writers have research showing that harried New Yorkers tend to read the
first paragraphs of an article, skim the middle, and read the last.

This is what the headline for an article on the Pew study should have been:
�����A Generational Shift: More Single-Mother Homes, More Poor Kids?����� Thanks to
the Times, at least we know a lot of those kids will go by the name Dave.

*Kay S. Hymowitz is a contributing editor of City Journal and the William E.
Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Her latest book is *Marriage and
Caste in America <http://www.manhattan-institute.org/marriage_and_caste/>.

Source: http://www.city-journal.org/2009/eon0529kh.html




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15. A Florida Epidemic: Female Teachers Sleeping with Their Students
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:07 pm ((PDT))

Saturday, May. 30, 2009
A Florida Epidemic: Female Teachers Sleeping with Their Students By Tim
Padgett / Miami

If you're the parent of a teen-aged boy in Florida, you probably muttered
"not again" while reading your morning newspaper this week. There on the
front page was yet another case of an adult female teacher being arrested
for admitting to having had sex with an underage male student. This time the
alleged perp was Maria Guzman Hernandez, a 32-year-old instructor at the
private Our Lady of Charity school in Hialeah; her victim was 15. But she
just as well could have been the 34-year-old Jacksonville public-school
science teacher arrested last month for allegedly having sex with a
14-year-old student, once in her SUV; or the 32-year-old St. Petersburg
teacher collared in March for allegedly "sexting" nude pictures of herself
to an 8th-grade boy; or the 45-year-old teacher at a private Christian
academy in South Daytona arrested days before for allegedly having sex with
a boy from her class in various Daytona Beach hotels.

Other female teachers in Florida have been booked for the same crime this
year ����� and scores of others have also been arrested or disciplined in the
past few years for sexual misconduct with students, according to a recent
investigation by the Orlando *Sentinel*, which noted the problem is rising
in the state "among female educators in particular." Florida, of course, is
hardly the only state where female teachers have been nabbed for preying on
boys <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1179374,00.html>. And
nationwide, male teachers still commit far more sexual misconduct than
females. A 2004 Education Department study found that about 10% of the
nation's 50 million public-school students had experienced some kind of
improper sexual attention from teachers and other school employees; and a
2007 Associated Press report indicated that men were involved almost 90% of
the time. What's more, even in Florida those offenders are a small fraction
of the state's more than 200,000 public and private school teachers. (View
the Top 10 Crime Stories of
2008<http://www.time.com/time/specials/2008/top10/article/0,30583,1855948_1862222,00.html>.)


But parents and prosecutors alike are nonetheless asking why the female
version of pedagogue perversion seems more common on their peninsula
compared to other places. "It certainly seems more prevalent, although we
can't say for sure if it's worse than other large states," says Michael
Sinacore, the Hillsborough County assistant state attorney who, in 2005,
prosecuted one of Florida's most high-profile cases, that of Tampa
middle-school teacher Debra Lafave, a blond siren who pleaded guilty to lewd
and lascivious behavior after being charged with having sex with a
14-year-old boy. (In a controversial decision, a judge did not make her
serve prison time.) "None of us can really say why at this point."

Whatever the reason, the crime appears to be getting more cavalier in the
Sunshine State. According to police in Hialeah, a mostly Cuban-American
enclave adjoining Miami, Hernandez had been having sex with the 15-year-old
boy since March, often right in the apartment he shared with his mother (who
herself is now under investigation for allowing the abuse to occur).

After the principal at Our Lady of Charity (a private Catholic school that
is not formally affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church) began hearing of
the illicit relationship last week, she reported it to the state's
Department of Children and Family Services. Police questioned Hernandez last
weekend ����� after she returned from a trip to Disney World with the boy ����� and
she made a taped confession, they say. She was charged with sexual battery
on a minor, akin to statutory rape, but has not yet been arraigned.

One theory for the growing number of cases like these, says Sinacore, is
what he calls "the more relaxed if not blurred boundary lines between
teachers and students as teachers try to communicate with kids in this day
and age." Those kids, as the media have often reported recently, are far
less shy about innocent physical contact, like hugging, than their parents
were as teens. That can be exploited by any male pervert overseeing a
classroom. But it can also embolden predatory female teachers, who experts
say are often in emotionally needy states. "The trend with female offenders,
more than males, is that they have emotional turmoil going on in their
lives," says Sinacore.

Lafave's pregnant sister, for example, had been killed by a drunk driver
before she began hitting on a student; Hernandez is estranged from her
husband. Such problems certainly aren't excuses for pedophilia; but they can
compel women like Lafave to seek out emotional comfort ����� or a feeling of
control that they might not experience in relationships with adult men. (Read
about the notorious Mary K. Letourneau teacher-student affair
case<http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,988276,00.html>.)


It doesn't help that society already brings a double standard to these
cases, the notion that somehow it isn't as harmful for a boy to be seduced
by a woman as it is for a girl to have sex with a man. In fact, it's not
uncommon in the wake of news like Hernandez's arrest to hear morning radio
jocks in Florida declare congratulatory high-fives for the boys.

"This isn't an 'affair,' it's abuse, and we have to shift that paradigm,"
says Terri Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and
Exploitation (SESAME) in Nevada. "We say, 'Bully for the boy and his
conquest of the geometry teacher,' but that makes it harder for boys to
vocalize their victimization." Indeed, studies by psychologists like Julie
Hislop, author of the 2001 book *Female Sex Offenders: What Therapists, Law
Enforcement and Child Protective Services Need to Know*, note that boys who
are sexually abused by women often develop alcoholism, depression and their
own sexual dysfunctions, including rape, as men.

But why should Florida seem to be experiencing an especially high number of
such cases? Are those women, and for that matter the hormonally charged boys
they target, somehow egged on by the state's more sexually relaxed
atmosphere, with its sultry climate and scantily clad beach culture?
(California also has a high rate of teacher sexual misconduct.) Or are
Floridians simply reporting more cases like Hernandez's? It is a crime in
Florida, as in most states, not to; but perhaps the tabloid publicity of the
Lafave case has prodded Sunshine State denizens to be more vigilant, to no
longer be in denial about cases like these or take them so lightly.

And yet paradoxically, says Sinacore, it might also be engendering more
cases. As potential female predators see more and more headlines about
teachers like themselves bedding boys, it can seem more acceptable behavior
in their eyes ����� especially when they see that offenders like Lafave get
relatively light sentences. (That might be changing, however: a Florida
judge recently slapped a two-year prison term on a 28-year-old female
teacher in Pensacola convicted of unlawful sexual activity with a
15-year-old male student.)

Activists like Miller are calling for stricter hiring processes for teachers
����� the kind of psychological and polygraph testing, for example, that police
are subject to ����� and they complain that school boards and teachers unions
have blocked legislative efforts to more effectively ferret out potential or
actual abusers. But Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Teachers
Association, the state's major teachers union, insists the group is doing
its part to attack the problem and raise teacher awareness. At the same
time, he points out, unions also have an obligation to help teachers who are
themselves victims of bogus accusations, also a problem. "There needs to be
an understanding," says Pudlow, "that even when a false accusation hits the
newspapers, it can ruin a teaching career."

True enough. But for the moment, Florida seems more concerned with the
growing number of valid complaints. (Jacksonville alone saw two female
teachers arrested last month.) So it's no surprise that a Florida
congressman, U.S. Representative Adam Putnam, recently co-introduced a bill,
the Student Protection Act, to set up a scholastic version of the national
sex offender database and prevent teachers like Lafave from getting
classroom jobs in other districts or states. Whether or not the legislation
passes, it's a sign of the emotional turmoil that women like her have
wrought in their communities.
Source: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1901762,00.html




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16. Study: Videos Help Prepare for End-of-Life Care
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:07 pm ((PDT))

Friday, May. 29, 2009
Study: Videos Help Prepare for End-of-Life Care By Eben Harrell

The debilitating effects of advanced dementia ����� how it destroys
communication, basic muscle control, even the ability to swallow ����� are
difficult to describe in words. Often, it's not until the condition is
witnessed up close that it can really be understood.

That is the theory behind a new study by researchers from Harvard Medical
School, Boston University and Massachusetts General Hospital and other
institutions in which aging participants were asked to decide what kind of
end-of-life care they would choose should they develop advanced dementia.

The study, published Thursday in the *British Medical Journal,* involved 200
healthy 65-year-olds, who were divided into two groups: one was given a
verbal description of the symptoms of advanced dementia; the other listened
to the same description but also watched a two-minute video of an elderly
woman with the condition being cared for in a nursing home by her two
daughters. "Tell us, Ma, how many daughters do you have?" the children ask.
"One? Two? You don't know?" (The entire video can be seen
here<http://www.bmj.com/video/care_preferences_dementia.dtl>
.)

The patients were given three options for the type of care they would prefer
if they were to develop advanced dementia ����� a progressive, fatal,
neurological condition that often follows years of Alzheimer's disease or a
series of strokes, and kills patients three to six years on average after
the onset of symptoms. Typical options for end-of-life care include
prolonging life at all cost, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
and mechanical ventilation; limited care, including admission into the
hospital and the use of antibiotics, but not resuscitation; and comfort
care, including treatment only to relieve symptoms, but not prolong life.

Among the patients who received only the verbal narrative, 64% chose comfort
care, 19% chose limited care and 14% chose life prolonging care (3% were
uncertain). Among the patients who also saw the video, 86% chose comfort
care, 9% chose limited care, 4% chose life prolonging care, and 1% was
uncertain.

Perhaps more crucially, says the study's lead author Angelo Volandes of
Massachusetts General Hospital, when participants were contacted six weeks
later, only 6% of patients who saw the video had changed their preference
for care, compared with 29% of those who did not see the video. People who
saw the video also scored higher on health literacy tests, given by the
researchers to judge knowledge of advanced dementia. "The results suggest
that patients who watched the video had a better understanding of the
disease and felt more secure in their decision. We felt those results were
promising, as the goal for end-of-life decisions is to make sure [the
patients] are informed," Volandes says.

Volandes believes that using images and videos of advanced dementia could be
particularly helpful for educating populations that have traditionally low
levels of health literacy in the U.S., including African Americans and the
elderly. Previous studies have suggested that minorities typically opt for
more aggressive end-of-life care than their Caucasian counterparts ����� "but
what we've found in this study is that health literacy is the driving force
in this discrepancy, not culture," says Volandes.

Projections indicate that more than 13 million patients in the U.S. will
develop dementia by 2050. Elizabeth Gould, director of quality care programs
at the Alzheimer's Association said that early detection of mental decline
and advance planning for end-of-life care is crucial for dementia patients
because of the disease's degenerative nature. The organization, which
provided funding for the new study, "finds the results of the study
interesting and hopes to learn more about the role multimedia can play
through future studies," she said.

Volandes points out that even though many people have seen portrayals of
dementia in movies and TV shows, those images tend to be airbrushed versions
of the truth. The video used in the study ����� which shows two daughters
talking to and then feeding their mother ����� was meant to provide a reality
check. Even so, he says, the full "clinical reality" of the condition ����� such
as bladder and bowel incontinence ����� was withheld. "We wanted it to be honest
but not overly emotive or visceral," he says.

Volandes's team has also prepared videos of patients suffering from heart
failure, late-stage cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease �����
other leading causes of death in America. These will be used in a series of
future studies: "We want to show what real disease looks like. We want to
make sure we are on the same page when we use words like "CPR" and
"dementia" with patients. End-of-life conversations are important, but so is
making sure they are communicated in a clear and meaningful way."

Source: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1901734,00.html




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17. Quacks, hacks and pressing problems with press releases
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:07 pm ((PDT))

Quacks, hacks and pressing problems with press releases


    - The Guardian <http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian>, Saturday 30 May
    2009
    - Article history<http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/30/bad-science-goldacre-medical-research#history-byline>

  Obviously we distrust the media on science: they rewrite commercial press
releases from dodgy organisations as if they were health news, they lionise
mavericks with poor evidence. But journalists will often say: what about
those scientists with their press releases? Surely we should do something
about them confusing us with their wild ideas?

Now you may be inclined to think that a journalist should be capable of
doing more than simply reading, and then rewriting, a press release; but we
must accept that these are troubled times.

Through our purchasing behaviour, we have communicated to newspapers that we
want them to be large and cheap more than we want them to be adequately
researched. So in this imperfect world it would be useful to know what's in
academic press releases, since these are the people of whom we are entitled
to have the highest expectations. A paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine
this month shows we have been failed.

Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire took one year's
worth of press releases from 10 medical
research<http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/medical-research>centres, a
mixture of the most eminent universities and the most humble, as
measured by their US News & World Report ranking. These centres each put out
around one press release a week, so 200 were selected at random and analysed
in detail.

Half of them covered research done in humans, and as an early clue to their
quality, 23% didn't bother to mention the number of participants ����� it's hard
to imagine anything more basic - and 34% failed to quantify their results.
But what kinds of study were covered? In medical research we talk about the
"hierarchies of evidence", ranked by quality and type. Systematic reviews of
randomised trials are the most reliable: because they ensure that
conclusions are based on all of the information, rather than just some of
it; and because ����� when conducted properly ����� they are the least vulnerable to
bias.

After these, there are observational studies ("people who choose to eat
vegetables live longer") which are more prone to bias, but may be easier to
do. Then there are individual case reports. And finally, there is "expert
opinion".

In the Dartmouth study, among the press releases covering human research,
only 17% involved randomised trials while 40% were on the most limited
studies: ones without a control group, small samples of fewer than 30
participants. That's not necessarily a problem. Research is always a matter
of compromise: to randomise every single patient would be quite a piece of
work.

So people conduct imperfect research, knowing that it is the best we can do
with the resources available, knowing that the results must be interpreted
with caution and caveats. This isn't "bad science" ����� the errors come at the
level of interpretation, where people fail to acknowledge the limitations of
the evidence.

That failure is a crime, but is it limited to quacks and hacks? No, and that
is the key finding of this new paper, which found 58% of all press releases
from its sample of academic institutions lacked relevant cautions and
caveats about the methods used and the results reported.

Source:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/30/bad-science-goldacre-medical-research




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18. CO2 Warming Looks Real
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:07 pm ((PDT))

CO2 Warming Looks
Real<http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/05/co2-warming-looks-real.html>
By
Robin Hanson <http://www.overcomingbias.com/author/robin-hanson/> ���� May 30,
2009 6:00 pm ���� Comments
(8)<http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/05/co2-warming-looks-real.html#comments>

Many have bent my ear over the last few months about global warming
skepticism.   So I�����ve just done some moderate digging, and conclude:

    1. In the last half billion years, CO2 has at
times<http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/05/25/global-warming-of-7c-could-kill-billions-this-century/>been
15 times denser, but not more than 10C warmer.  So that is about as
bad
    as warming could get.
    2. In the last million years, CO2 usually
rises<http://backseatdriving.blogspot.com/2007/04/climate-skeptics-guest-post-why-david.html>after
warming; clearly warming often causes CO2 increases.
    3. CO2 is clearly way up (~30%) over 150 years, and rising fast, mainly
    due to human emissions.  CO2 is
denser<http://news.mongabay.com/2005/1124-climate.html>than its been
for a half million years.
    4. The direct warming effect of CO2 on warming is mild and saturating;
    the effects of concern are indirect, e.g., water vapor and clouds, but the
    magnitude and sign of these indirect effects are far from clear.
    5. Climate model builders make indirect effect assumptions, but most
    observers are skeptical they�����ve got them right.
    6. This uncertainty alone justifies substantial CO2 mitigation (emission
    cuts or geoengineering), *if* we are risk-averse enough *and* if
    mitigation risks are weaker.
    7. Standard warming records show a real and accelerating rise, roughly
    matching the CO2 rise.
    8. Such warming episodes
seem<http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/05/22/limitations-on-anthropogenic-global-warming/>common
in recent history.
    9. The match between recent warming and CO2 rise details is surprisingly
    close, substantially raising confidence that CO2 is the main cause of recent
    warming.  (See
this<http://www.ifir.edu.ar/%7Eredes/ps/PhysRevLett_99_048501.pdf>great
analysis by Pablo Verdes.)  This adds support for mitigation.
    10. Among the few
bets<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_controversy#Betting>on
global warming, the consensus is for more warming.
    11. Geoengineering
looks<http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/07/artificial-volc.html>far
more likely to be feasible and acceptable mitigation than emissions
    cuts.
    12. Some doubt standard
warming<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumental_temperature_record>
    records <http://www.junkscience.com/MSU_Temps/Warming_Look.html>, saying
    they are biased by urban measuring sites and arbitrary satellite record
    corrections.   Temperature proxies like tree rings
diverge<http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/04/11/making-holocene-spaghetti-sauce-by-proxy/>from
standard records in the last fifty years. I don�����t have time to dig
into
    these disputes, so for now I defer to the usual authorities.

It was mostly skeptics bending my ear, and skeptical arguments are easier to
find on the web.  But for now, the other side has convinced me.

Source: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/05/co2-warming-looks-real.html




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19. Rebels to the Death: A definitive, updated history of West Germany��
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:07 pm ((PDT))

If you want to watch a movie instead:

*Rebels to the Death A definitive, updated history of West Germany�����s
depraved Baader-Meinhof terrorists*: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0765432/


Jacob Laksin
*Rebels to the Death*
*A definitive, updated history of West Germany�����s depraved Baader-Meinhof
terrorists*
29 May 2009

*Baader-Meinhof: The Inside Story of the
R.A.F.*<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0195372751/manhattaninstitu/>,
by Stefan Aust (Oxford University Press, 480 pp., $29.95)

The Weather Underground, a leftist terrorist group from the 1970s, played a
bit role in last fall�����s presidential election through the association of
unrepentant former Weatherman Bill Ayers with his fellow Chicagoan, Barack
Obama. That kind of connection would have come as no surprise in Germany,
where the Weather Underground�����s far more deadly counterpart, the Red Army
Faction (RAF), also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang, continues to cast a
shadow over the country�����s politics.

In 1985, German journalist Stefan Aust published the definitive book on the
RAF, *The Baader-Meinhof Complex*. His book has since been turned into a
successful feature film of the same name, which was nominated last year for
a foreign-language Oscar and is slated for U.S. release this summer. Aust, a
former editor of *Der Spiegel*, has now reissued his earlier work, changing
the title to *Baader-Meinhof* and updating it with information that has come
to light since the end of the RAF�����s reign of terror in West Germany 30 years
ago. The new edition deserves attention, and not just because Anthea Bell�����s
deft translation preserves the dynamic, detail-rich prose that made Aust�����s
original read like a real-life thriller. Dense with insights into the
psychology of terrorism, this history of West Germany�����s struggle against RAF
radicals also serves as a cautionary tale for the West in its war against
the modern threat of jihadist terror.

From the day of its founding in 1970, the Baader-Meinhof gang wasn�����t what it
appeared to be. Though Andreas Baader was the group�����s leader (along with his
lover-cum-comrade Gudrun Ensslin), the leftist journalist Ulrike Meinhof was
always a secondary figure. Indeed, the RAF was something of a personality
cult built around the volatile Baader. More sociopath than socialist, the
speed- and LSD-addled Baader parlayed a troubled youth as a car thief and
street hooligan into a career as the RAF�����s �����general,����� leading the guerilla
group on everything from combat training missions in Jordan under the
tutelage of Palestinian terrorists to bombing raids on German department
stores and police stations and U.S. military bases in Frankfurt and
Heidelberg. An RAF slogan�������Madmen to arms!�������was as apt a description as any
of Baader�����s modus operandi.

The contrast with Meinhof was striking. Ten years Baader�����s senior, the
cerebral Meinhof hailed from a respectable middle-class family famous for
producing Protestant theologians. She joined the RAF after her increasingly
militant writings in the left-wing journal *konkret* led her to practice
what she preached. But Meinhof was never fully accepted into the RAF�����s
senior command; Baader especially tormented her with accusations that she
was a would-be class enemy and a �����knife in the back����� of the RAF. The abuse
had its effect. In one of the RAF�����s routine exercises in �����self-criticism�������a
Maoist practice in which members were expected to engage�����Meinhof denounced
herself as a �����hypocritical bourgeois bitch.����� Meinhof remained the RAF�����s main
ideologist, producing most of its political writings, but there was never
any doubt about who was in charge.

Like its supposed dual leadership, the RAF�����s revolutionary political agenda
was something of a chimera. In theory at least, the group had come together
to oppose the Vietnam War abroad and what it decried as the nascent
police-state of West Germany at home. (This as opposed to the actual police
state of communist East Germany, whose much-feared Stasi secret police aided
and abetted the RAF.) The RAF�����s solution was communist revolution, and the
group peppered its aggressively unintelligible political manifestos with
Marxist clich����s about the evils of capitalism, �����American imperialism,����� and
the �����state oppression����� of West Germany.

Yet, as Aust clearly shows, for Baader in particular and for the RAF
generally, revolutionary politics were soon subordinated to the thrill of
direct action. Whether it was stealing cars, committing countless bank
robberies, or merely the adrenaline rush of being on the lam, the RAF found
liberation in lawlessness. Even the group�����s favored euphemisms�����a bank heist
became an �����expropriation action�������could not disguise its criminality, which
became an end in itself. It was no oversight that the RAF�����s chief political
manifesto, *The Urban Guerilla Concept*, had more to say about the urgency
of fighting one�����s enemies than what one should be fighting for. The RAF were
rebels without a cause.

For many on the Left, that did not seem to matter. Thus the Nobel
Prize-winning author Heinrich B����ll defended the group as �����desperate
theoreticians����� driven into a �����corner����� by the German authorities, and
famously romanticized what he called the war of �����six against 60 million�����
West Germans. Absurd on its face�����it was the RAF that was terrorizing the
West German state, not the other way around�����this David-vs.-Goliath storyline
was enthusiastically embraced by the young and politically na����ve. In a
famous 1971 poll, one in four West Germans under 30 admitted to �����a certain
sympathy����� for the RAF. Germans of an older generation had fewer illusions.
Nevertheless, guilt-ridden about Germany�����s Nazi past, they were reluctant to
condemn a group that styled itself, however improbably, as a resistance
movement fighting the Third Reich�����s political heir.

Ironically, the RAF had its most devastating impact only after it had been
defeated. In 1972, the core leadership�����including Baader, Ensslin, and
Meinhof�����was arrested in rapid succession. Imprisoned in Stuttgart�����s
Stammheim prison, they became instant symbols of resistance, inspiring
followers in a way that their reader-proof political tracts never could. At
the time of their arrest, the group reportedly had a few dozen members. By
1974, when the RAF existed only in prison, police were searching for some
10,000 RAF sympathizers.

It was this �����second generation����� of the RAF that was responsible for the
worst period of violence in Germany�����s postwar history: the so-called �����German
Autumn����� of 1977, a 44-day terror spree that saw the kidnapping and
subsequent murder of German Employers Association president Hans Martin
Schleyer and the hijacking of a 91-passenger Lufthansa airliner by
RAF-linked Palestinian terrorists. Aust reconstructs the events in vivid
detail. For Germany, he writes, the fall of 1977 was the equivalent of the
September 11 attacks.

In these parallels to today�����s terrorism, Aust�����s book seems as timely as when
it was fist published. Over 30 years ago, West Germany anticipated many of
the challenges facing democratic states as they confront terrorists who
spurn the rules of war and exploit legal restraint for lethal ends. Long
before American policymakers debated the merits of wireless wiretapping and
coercive interrogations, German politicians deliberated whether it was going
too far to bug the RAF in their prison cells and whether solitary
confinement was a form of torture. West Germany�����s experience offers some
valuable lessons.

One is that, too often, excessive caution proved counterproductive. Kidnap
victim Schleyer, for instance, might have been saved had police been allowed
to search the Cologne apartment where he was being kept. For 11 days, police
had suspected Apartment 104 as Schleyer�����s likely location; one investigator
even rang the doorbell. Bureaucratic timidity prevailed, however, and the
required search warrant was never issued. Several weeks later, Schleyer�����s
lifeless body would turn up in France in the trunk of an abandoned Audi.

More assertive measures yielded results, especially the counter-terror
program devised by Horst Herold, the unacknowledged hero of Aust�����s book.
Herold was a former public prosecutor from Nuremberg who became the chief of
the Bundeskriminalamt, the German equivalent of the FBI, and almost
singlehandedly brought down the RAF. His major contribution was to design a
COMPSTAT-like computer program that recorded data on all aspects of RAF
terrorism�����names, dates, targets, escape routes, methods, car registrations,
residences�����and distributed it to regional police departments, ultimately
allowing them to close in on the group.

Alas, Herold received little thanks for his efforts. Derided for creating a
�����Big Brother����� monitoring system, he was forced into early retirement in
1981. Allegations that he presided over the creation of a �����surveillance
state����� were overwrought even then, but they continue to be repeated today.
Aust himself, in an unfortunate departure from his carefully objective
approach, echoes the repellent claim that there was some moral equivalence
between the RAF�����s indiscriminate terrorism and the security services�����
precisely targeted response to it. This is a rare lapse, however. Aust is
anything but an admirer of the RAF�����not least because the group targeted him
for assassination after he helped return Meinhof�����s children to her estranged
husband. She had previously arranged for them to be raised in a Palestinian
refugee camp.

The RAF died as violently as it began. On October 18, 1977, an elite German
counter-terrorism unit stormed the hijacked Lufthansa airliner, freeing the
passengers and ending any chance that Baader and his cohorts may have had of
being released in exchange for the hostages. Later that day, what remained
of the RAF leadership (Meinhof had earlier hanged herself in her cell)
killed themselves in a prearranged suicide pact. It was a grimly fitting
conclusion: a senseless act of destruction that foretold the tactics of the
RAF�����s Islamist successors. Three decades hence, no one has told that story
better than Stefan Aust.

*Jacob Laksin is a senior editor at Front Page Magazine. He is co-author,
with David Horowitz, of *One-Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at
America�����s Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine Our
Democracy<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0307452557/manhattaninstitu/>
.

Source: http://www.city-journal.org/2009/bc0529jl.html




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20. What�����s Needed Next: A Culture of Candor
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:07 pm ((PDT))

What�����s Needed Next: A Culture of Candorby James
O�����Toole<http://hbr.harvardbusiness.org/search/James+O%E2%80%99Toole/0/author>and
Warren
Bennis <http://hbr.harvardbusiness.org/search/Warren+Bennis/0/author>
We won�����t be able to rebuild trust in institutions until leaders learn how to
communicate honestly�����and create organizations where that�����s the norm.


Until recently, the yardstick used to evaluate the performance of American
corporate leaders was relatively simple: *the extent to which they created
wealth for investors*. But that was then. Now the forces of globalization
and technology have conspired to complicate the competitive arena, creating
a need for leaders who can manage rapid innovation. Expectations about the
corporation�����s role in social issues such as environmental degradation,
domestic job creation, and even poverty in the developing world have risen
sharply as well. And the expedient, short-term thinking that Wall Street
rewarded only yesterday has fallen out of fashion in the wake of the latest
round of business busts and scandals.

It�����s clear we need a better way to evaluate business leaders. Moving
forward, it appears that the new metric of corporate leadership will be
closer to this: *the extent to which executives create organizations that
are economically, ethically, and socially sustainable*.

How can leaders accomplish such an ambitious task? Their action plans will
vary, of course, depending on the nature of their industries, the
peculiarities of their companies, and the unique challenges they face. But
whatever their strategies and tactics, we believe prudent leaders will see
that increased transparency is a fundamental first step.

When we speak of �����transparency,����� we mean much more than the standard
business definition<http://dictionary.bnet.com/definition/transparency.html>of
the term�����full disclosure of financial information to investors. While
such honesty is obviously necessary, that narrow interpretation produces an
unhealthy focus on legal compliance to the exclusion of equally important
ethical concerns, and on the needs of shareholders to the exclusion of the
needs of other constituencies. Worse, it�����s predicated on the blinkered
assumption that a company can be transparent to shareholders without first
being transparent to the people who work inside it. Because no organization
can be honest with the public if it�����s not honest with itself, we define
transparency broadly, as the degree to which information flows freely within
an organization, among managers and employees, and outward to stakeholders.

Companies can�����t innovate, respond to changing stakeholder needs, or function
efficiently unless people have access to relevant, timely, and valid
information. It�����s thus the leader�����s job to create systems and norms that
lead to a culture of candor.
How Candor Improves Performance

Admittedly, the relationship between organizational candor and performance
is complex, but it�����s worth examining from a number of angles: whether people
who need to communicate upward are able to do so honestly; whether teams are
able to challenge their own assumptions openly; and whether boards of
directors are able to communicate important messages to the company�����s
leadership.

We�����ll tackle upward communication first. Consider the results of an
intriguing, relatively obscure study from the 1980s, in which organizational
theorists Robert Blake and Jane Mouton examined NASA�����s findings on the human
factors involved in airline accidents. NASA researchers had placed existing
cockpit crews�����pilot, copilot, navigator�����in flight simulators and tested them
to see how they would respond during the crucial 30 to 45 seconds between
the first sign of a potential accident and the moment it would occur. The
stereotypical take-charge �����flyboy����� pilots, who acted immediately on their
gut instincts, made the wrong decisions far more often than the more open,
inclusive pilots who said to their crews, in effect, �����We�����ve got a problem.
How do you read it?����� before choosing a course of action.

At one level, the lesson of the NASA findings is simple: Leaders are far
likelier to make mistakes when they act on too little information than when
they wait to learn more. But Blake and Mouton went deeper, demonstrating
that the pilots����� habitual style of interacting with their crews determined
whether crew members would provide them with essential information during an
in-air crisis. The pilots who�����d made the right choices routinely had open
exchanges with their crew members. The study also showed that crew members
who had regularly worked with the �����decisive����� pilots were unwilling to
intervene�����even when they had information that might save the plane.
Source: http://hbr.harvardbusiness.org/2009/06/a-culture-of-candor/ar/1




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21. The Media, Islam, and Political Correctness
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:08 pm ((PDT))

The Media, Islam, and Political CorrectnessIs it a right-wing scare tactic
to use the phrase Islamic extremism?

Cathy Young <http://reason.com/contrib/show/140.html> | May 29, 2009

Last week's arrest of four men in the Bronx, New York on charges of plotting
to bomb two synagogues and shoot down a military aircraft with a missile has
revived an ongoing debate about the connection between Islam and terrorism
and the twin pitfalls of religious bigotry and willfully blind political
correctness.

*The New York Times* has been assailed by conservative critics such as *Dallas
Morning News* columnist and blogger Rod
Dreher<http://blog.beliefnet.com/crunchycon/2009/05/bronx-synagogue-bombers-and-po.html>for
downplaying a troubling aspect of the case: all the suspects are
Muslims. (They had converted to Islam while in prison for drug offenses,
theft, and other crimes.) The first *Times*
report<http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/21/nyregion/21arrests.html?hp>on
May 20 mentioned this fact only in passing�����despite a
statement<http://www.nypost.com/seven/05212009/news/regionalnews/chilling_terror_plot_thwarted_170280.htm?page=0>by
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly at a press conference that
the
four had talked frankly about wanting to "commit jihad."

The next day, the *Times* ran a
story<http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/22/nyregion/22plot.html?sq=synagogue%20bomb%20muslim&st=cse&scp=5&pagewanted=all>on
the secret FBI recordings in which the men discussed their hatred of
Jews
and their intent to kill U.S. soldiers in retaliation for killings of
"Muslim brothers and sisters in Muslim countries." The article's lead
paragraph focused on the men's criminal backgrounds; not until the fourth
paragraph was there a reference to their jihadist motivation (they shouted
"Allah Akbar!" as they brought their newly acquired stash of weapons to
their warehouse).

In a particularly odd passage, the article noted that "law enforcement
officials initially said the four men were Muslims, but their religious
backgrounds remained uncertain Thursday" and that three had previously
identified as Christian in prison records. This, despite ample evidence in
the same article that the plot, set in motion with the help of an FBI
informant, was motivated by Islamic fanaticism.

By contrast, the opening line of the *New York Post* story on the
arrests<http://www.nypost.com/seven/05212009/news/regionalnews/chilling_terror_plot_thwarted_170280.htm?page=0>referred
to "four homegrown Muslim terrorists on a mission from
hell"�����inflammatory, to be sure, but arguably far more accurate.

Is the suspects' religion relevant? Given that they were driven by
religion-based extremism and hate, common sense certainly suggests that it
is.

To some on the left, any mention of Islamic extremism is a bigoted
right-wing scare tactic. On his blog, *Nation* magazine columnist Robert
Dreyfuss<http://www.alternet.org/world/140209/fbi_blows_it:_supposed_terror_plot_against_ny_synagogues_is_bogus>dismisses
the New York terror plot as "bogus" and asserts that every alleged
plot by Muslim terrorists on U.S. soil after the World Trade Center attack
has been "nonsense" cooked up by the FBI: "Since 9/11 not a single American
has even been punched in the nose by an angry Muslim, as far as I can tell."
(Tell that to the victims of Mohammed Taheri-azar, who plowed a Jeep into a
crowd of students at the University of North Carolina in 2006 and later told
authorities that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of September 11
hijacker Mohammed Atta and "avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world.")
And while most of the plots uncovered by the authorities seem to have been
the work of inept losers, one does not have to be a genius to inflict a lot
of damage. If the September 11 hijackers had been caught, how many people
would have scoffed at the plot to fly hijacked planes into buildings as
absurdly improbable?

Yet anti-Muslim hysteria on the right is no myth, either. In February 2007,
when a teenager named Sulejmen Talovic went on a shooting rampage at a Salt
Lake City, Utah shopping mall, killing five people, some
right-wing<http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/2721>
websites <http://newsbusters.org/node/10842> excoriated the
media<http://www.wnd.com/index.php?pageId=40215>for ignoring the
"Muslim connection"�����the shooter's background as a Bosnian
Muslim immigrant. Never mind that there was nothing to suggest that Talovic
was a Muslim zealot or that religion had anything to do with his actions.
(Shooting sprees by troubled young men of other religious backgrounds are
not exactly unknown.)

And in 2005, a posse of conservative bloggers led by columnist Michelle
Malkin relentlessly flogged the
notion<http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2005/10/24/when_blog_hysteria_does_real_harm/>that
the suicide of a disturbed young man who blew himself up with a
homemade bomb on the Oklahoma University campus was actually a botched
terrorist act by a Muslim convert. Their "evidence" included the fact that
he had a Pakistani roommate and lived close to a mosque.

The "Muslims under the bed" rhetoric promotes hatred and paranoia. The vast
majority of American Muslims are not radicals. But, leaving aside debates
about whether there is something in the Muslim religion that inherently and
uniquely lends itself to a violent, extremist interpretation, the reality is
that an extremist and violent strain is present in modern-day Islam to a far
greater extent than in other major religions.

A poll conducted by the Pew Research
Center<http://people-press.org/report/?reportid=329>two years ago
found that about 13% of American Muslims�����and a quarter of
those under 30�����felt that suicide bombings in defense of Islam were justified
in at least some cases. The poll also found that in some ways, native-born
African-American Muslims are more radicalized than immigrants. Radical
Islamism may be an attractive ideology for those who feel disenfranchised.

To ignore or downplay these alarming facts is myopic. If the mainstream
media continue to do so out of misguided sensitivity, it will only undermine
their credibility when it comes to battling real bigotry.

*Cathy Young is a contributing editor at *Reason* magazine. This
article originally
appeared<http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/05/28/the_media_islam__political_correctness_96711.html>at
RealClearPolitics.com.
*
Source: http://reason.com/news/show/133771.html




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22. How to Be a Good Boss in a Bad Economy
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:08 pm ((PDT))

How to Be a Good Boss in a Bad Economyby Robert I.
Sutton<http://hbr.harvardbusiness.org/search/Robert+I.+Sutton/0/author>


*Watch video with Bob
Sutton<http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Organization/Talent/Good_boss_bad_times_2365>talking
about being a good boss in a bad economy at McKinseyQuarterly.com.
*

These are tough times for every boss I know. Fear and paranoia are running
wild, not just in financial markets but in workplaces, too. A few weeks back
a weary executive at a professional services firm told me how painful it had
been to lay off 10% of his people and how he was struggling to comfort and
inspire those who remained. When I asked a mutual friend, the CEO of a
manufacturing firm, to �����show some love����� to this distressed executive, he
jumped in to help�����but admitted that he was wrestling with his own demons,
having just implemented a 20% workforce reduction.

It was not a coincidence to find two friends in such similar straits; few
organizations seem to have avoided them. Even in businesses renowned for
having heart, bosses have been forced to wield the ax. NetApp, declared
number one in *Fortune*�����s �����100 Best Companies to Work
For<http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/bestcompanies/2009/>�����
for 2009, announced it was cutting loose 6% of its employees less than a
month after the ranking appeared. Google, top-rated by *Fortune* in 2008,
has shed hundreds of full-time employees. And layoffs aren�����t the only reason
it�����s a miserable time to be the boss. Where cuts haven�����t occurred, people
suspect they will, and the lingering dread creates its own challenges. One
technology sector CEO I�����ve worked with for years felt compelled to inform
his people in writing that not only were no layoffs planned but the company
would be hiring a lot more people in the coming year. Yet, he said, �����no
matter how much I share about how safe we are, people still ask, When are
the layoffs coming?����� Even where jobs are demonstrably safe, lesser but real
disappointments occur: Salaries are cut, budgets are pared, projects are
back-burnered.

As a result, most bosses�����like you, perhaps�����are operating in difficult and
sometimes unfamiliar territory. Equipped with skills and approaches honed
over long years of business growth, they now find their roles defined by an
unexpected question: How should people be managed when fear is in the air,
confidence is slipping, and it looks as if the road ahead will remain rough
for many miles? This isn�����t the job most executives and managers signed on
for, and not everyone will rise to the occasion. This article is designed to
help those who want to do so�����first by clarifying why it�����s so hard to be a
good boss, and then by sharing the essence of what the best bosses do during
tough times.
The Toxic Tandem

Let�����s be clear: It�����s never easy to be a great boss, even in good economic
times. It�����s challenging in part because of an unfortunate dynamic that
naturally arises in relationships of unequal power. Research confirms what
many of us have long suspected: People who gain authority over others tend
to become more self-centered and less mindful of what others need, do, and
say. That would be bad enough, but the problem is compounded because a
boss�����s self-absorbed words and deeds are scrutinized so closely by his or
her followers. Combined, these tendencies make for a toxic tandem that
deserves closer study.

To appreciate the first half of the dynamic�����that bosses tend to be oblivious
to their followers����� perspectives�����consider the �����cookie
experiment<http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/rev/110/2/265/>�����
reported by the psychologists Dacher Keltner, Deborah H. Gruenfeld, and
Cameron Anderson in 2003. In this study, teams of three students each were
instructed to produce a short policy paper. Two members of each team were
randomly assigned to write the paper. The third member evaluated it and
determined how much the other two would be paid, in effect making them
subordinates. About 30 minutes into the meeting, the experimenter brought in
a plate of five cookies�����a welcome break that was in fact the focus of the
experiment. No one was expected to reach for the last cookie on the plate,
and no one did. Basic manners dictate such restraint. But what of the fourth
cookie�����the extra one that could be taken without negotiation or an awkward
moment? It turns out that a little taste of power has a substantial effect.
The �����bosses����� not only tended to take the fourth cookie but also displayed
signs of �����disinhibited����� eating, chewing with their mouths open and
scattering crumbs widely.

It�����s a cute little experiment, but it beautifully illustrates a finding
consistent across many studies. When people�����independent of personality�����wield
power, their ability to lord it over others causes them to (1) become more
focused on their own needs and wants; (2) become less focused on others�����
needs, wants, and actions; and (3) act as if written and unwritten rules
that others are expected to follow don�����t apply to them. To make matters
worse, many bosses suffer a related form of power poisoning: They believe
that they are aware of every important development in the organization (even
when they are remarkably ignorant of key facts). This affliction is called
�����the fallacy of centrality�������the assumption that because one holds a central
position, one automatically knows everything necessary to exercise effective
leadership.

Now let�����s look at the other half of the dynamic�����that followers devote
immense energy to watching, interpreting, and worrying about even the
smallest and most innocent moves their superiors make. This is something
we�����ve long known about animals; studies of baboon troops show that the
typical member glances at the alpha male every 20 or 30 seconds to see what
he is doing. And although people don�����t check what their boss is doing two or
three times a minute, this tendency is well documented in human groups, too.
As the psychologist Susan Fiske puts it, �����Attention is directed up the
hierarchy. Secretaries know more about their bosses than vice versa;
graduate students know more about their advisors than vice versa.����� Fiske
explains: �����People pay attention to those who control their outcomes. In an
effort to predict and possibly influence what is going to happen to them,
people gather information about those with power.����� Further, people tend to
interpret what they see the boss do in a negative light. Keltner and his
colleagues report that when the top dog makes an ambiguous move (one that
isn�����t clearly good or bad for followers), followers are most likely to
construe it as a sign that something bad is going to happen to them. Related
studies also show that when people down the pecking order feel threatened by
their superiors, they become distracted from their work. They redirect their
efforts to trying to figure out what is going on and to coping with their
fear and anxiety�����perhaps searching the web for insight or huddling with
their peers to gossip, complain, and exchange emotional support. As a
result, performance suffers.
Source:
http://hbr.harvardbusiness.org/2009/06/how-to-be-a-good-boss-in-a-bad-economy/ar/1




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23. Reason.tv: Red Eye's Greg Gutfeld on Media Bias, Intolerant Liberals
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:08 pm ((PDT))

Reason.tv: Red Eye's Greg Gutfeld on Media Bias, Intolerant Liberals, The
Stupidity of Bill Maher, And Why Drugs Really, Really, Really Need to Be
Legal

May 18, 2009, 3:00pm

Before he became the host of Fox News Channel's rollicking late-night show
Red Eye <http://www.foxnews.com/redeye/> in January 2007, Greg Gutfeld had
worked at magazines as varied as *The American Spectator*, *Prevention*, *Men's
Health*, *Stuff*, and *Maxim UK*. And, as the fortysomething California
native once told Reason.tv <http://reason.tv/video/show/281.html>, he
applied for-and was rejected with extreme indifference-a job at *Reason*.

Gutfeld appeared recently at Reason
Weekend<http://reason.org/events/show/5.html>,
the annual event held by the nonprofit <http://reason.org/> that publishes
this website, where he was interviewed by *Reason* Associate Editor
Katherine Mangu-Ward on topics ranging from media bias to intolerant
liberals to the health benefits of smoking to the reason why the drug war is
the dumbest thing imaginable. Next to Bill Maher, that is.

Approximately 30 minutes. Warning for viewers prone to high-blood pressure,
heart palpitations, and sour-puss syndrome: Gutfeld mixes humor, outrage and
language salty enough to cure a side of bacon. Proceed at your own caution.

Source: http://reason.com/blog/show/133554.html




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24. Should School Districts Drug-Test Teachers?
     Posted by: "Orlando D����hring" odoehring@googlemail.com orl_potsdam
     Date: Sat May 30, 2009 7:08 pm ((PDT))

Should School Districts Drug-Test Teachers? By John Cloud

One could argue that some jobs ����� painting, writing, being a rock star ����� are
better performed under the influence. But other jobs should clearly be given
only to the perpetually sober: we don't want our railroad operators or
nuclear-plant employees to be smoking up on the job. So it seems appropriate
that U.S. employees in those high-risk positions are routinely subjected to
random drug-testing.

But what about people who work in less perilous, if equally unpredictable,
environments ����� say, with children in public schools? Should teachers be
randomly drug-tested too? Yes, says Linda Lingle, the Republican governor of
Hawaii, where the teachers' union agreed in 2007 to negotiate terms of a new
drug-testing program in exchange for higher wages. Now some Hawaii teachers
are resisting<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/20/AR2008122001864.html>.
(So far, no drug tests have been administered.) The contentious issue of
teacher testing has also become the subject of recent court cases in North
Carolina and West
Virginia<http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-01-18-randomteachertests_N.htm>,
where educators argue that the cost and time taken by random tests would be
better spent in the classroom. (See pictures of the college dorm's
evolution.<http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1838306_1759869,00.html>
)

But one important question hasn't been addressed so far in the legal
proceedings: Does random drug-testing actually reduce drug use?

Probably not. No studies I found have looked at the specific issue of
whether random drug tests affect substance use among teachers. But several
studies have examined the impact of random testing in another school
population ����� students. In the most comprehensive study on the subject to
date, a 2003 University of Michigan
study<http://www.rwjf.org/pr/product.jsp?id=14273>involving 894 middle
and high schools found that random student drug-testing
tends to reduce marijuana use slightly (about 5%) but actually
*increase*the use of other drugs (about 3%). The authors theorize that
drug-using kids
may think that prescription and other drugs are harder to detect by
urinalysis, so they switch from pot to something else. (This assumption is
usually incorrect ����� most drug tests capture everything from heroin to Valium
����� although certain lesser-used drugs like the anesthetic ketamine aren't
detected by the usual tests.)

Even after the University of Michigan authors controlled for socioeconomic
differences among students and schools, they found no statistically
meaningful difference in drug-use rates among students who attended schools
that randomly drug-tested and those who didn't. In short, kids weren't
deterred from using drugs even when they knew they might be surprised one
day with an order to pee into a cup.

Still, the behavior of high school kids doesn't neatly correspond to that of
their teachers ����� they may well change their behavior in response to random
tests. Which leads to a more fundamental question: If we are serious about
drug enforcement, why not require every American, or at least every American
who comes into contact with children, to be tested randomly? (See pictures
of a diverse group of American
teens.<http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1698621,00.html>
)

One answer is cost. In the West Virginia drug-testing case, which is
currently working its way through the federal court system, Judge Joseph
Goodwin of the U.S. District Court noted that it costs about $44 a pop to do
urine tests, which would cost the West Virginia school district in question
about $37,000 a year. (Here's a PDF of Goodwin's preliminary injunction
against drug-testing<http://www.wvsd.uscourts.gov/district/opinions/pdf/PUBLISH%20MEM%20OPINION-%20grant%20prelim%20injunction.pdf>.)
That same $37,000 could easily pay for a full-time teacher, meaning that
drug-testing would have to be sufficiently valuable to displace an entire
teaching position.

But the evidence suggests that drug use among teachers is not exactly a
pressing problem. In 2007, the Department of Health and Human Services
published a major study <http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/work2k7/work.pdf> showing
that people who work in education rank 18th out of 19 listed professions in
the use of illicit drugs. (Those who work in food service, arts, retail and
"information" services ����� like, um, journalists ����� were among the major
offenders.) Only 4% of educators reported use of illegal drugs in the
previous month, compared with 14% of construction workers, who work in a
much more dangerous environment. The 4% figure for teachers is still too
many, but it doesn't indicate an epidemic of intoxicated teachers that would
justify a huge expenditure to curb.

What no one argues against ����� even attorney Michael Simpson of the National
Education Association ����� is that teachers who are behaving erratically should
be tested when their bosses suspect drug use. "If an administrator has a
reason to believe a person is under the influence, the school should have
the right to test," says Simpson. "But our members feel it's demeaning and
unprofessional to make a teacher without suspicion go into a bathroom."

The matter won't be resolved without further studies on whether random
drug-testing actually reduces drug use, and we may get them under an
Administration less ideologically opposed to drug reform than President
Bush's <http://www.slate.com/id/2138399/>. But the data so far suggest that
random drug-testing is a costly, ineffective solution to a non-problem.
Source: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1876840,00.html




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