20.12.05

The Globe and Mail: Ottawa can eavesdrop on Canadians under law

Without a court order or warrant and with little to no oversight. Huh. Bastards. Why do the media is this country act like lapdogs? Why did I only hear about this after a similar disclosure was made in the US about a secret presidential directive? This is a Law for God's sake. Pathetic.

CBC News: Suspected CIA flight landed at Gander: report

Now this is something that Jim Harris (if he were allowed to attend) or Layton could make good mileage out of, if the debates weren't so crippling boring.

19.12.05

Portable stereo's creator got his due, eventually - Americas - International Herald Tribune

I did not know this.

The Chronic-What-cles of Narnia

The stories are good, the video is amusing, but more importantly, it appears that there are now stores that can provide large quantities of freshly baked cupcakes!

Happy Chrismahanukwanzakah!

That is all. Personally, I get more amusement out of saying "Christmahanzakwanukkah" but hey, I'm in a givin' kind of mood. Oh, and if you feel like watching a commercial, here you go. I have a vague recollection of seeing a different one that I liked more. I'll see if I can scare it up.

While you wait, I give you a Lion Documentary

Doonesbury on ID

Yesterday's Doonesbury give an excellent kick in the nards to anti-evolutionists.

$12,000 bill forgiven, Rogers will come to tea

The Globe and Mail is reporting on the story of a woman who's cell phone was stolen and whose next bill was more than $12,000. Her provider, Rogers, refused to do anything about the calls and started adding interest charges and other late fees. Money quote:

Ms. Drummond and Mr. Gefen also learned that Rogers has fraud-detection software that automatically alerts them to dramatic changes in calling patterns, but often "lets the meter run" instead of protecting customers by shutting down phones that have been misappropriated, as Ms. Drummond's was.
Mr. Gefen, a technology journalist, uncovered those secrets by attending a fraud forum in Toronto last September, where he tape-recorded a conversation with Cindy Hopper, a Rogers security official who was apparently unaware that she was speaking with an aggrieved customer.
Long story short, charges removed from bill, CEO will go and have tea with couple.
These are the batards that bought my cell company. How annoying.

18.12.05

Diebold CEO Wally O'Dell cleans out his desk

Dancing in the streets! Major kudos to Brad.

MEPs vote for mandatory data retention | The Register

This directive was pushed through in 3 months from start-to-finish of the process. It is a draconian, expensive, pointless, over-reaching, deeply-flawed, and sure to be abused piece of legislation. The blame can be laid squarely at Tony Blair's feet. Read 'em and weep.

Bush Authorized Domestic Spying

Bush grabbing power is no surprise. The money quote:

The Times said it held off on publishing its story about the NSA program for a year after administration officials said its disclosure would harm national security.

County says electronic voting machines can be hacked

Them votes can be all hacked up? That don't make no nevermind to me.

Sancho criticized the Florida Secretary of State's Office, which approves the voting systems used in the state, for not catching the alleged problems.
A spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office said any faults Sancho found were between him and Diebold.
'If Ion Sancho has security concerns with his system, he needs to discuss them with Diebold,' spokeswoman Jenny Nash said.

17.12.05

Congress Introduces "Don't Buy American" Law. China, Japan Applaud New Measure

Well, according to Public Knowledge, they atually introduced a law to try and close the analog hole, but I say potato, they say "Merry Chrismas! We're Turning Off Your Analog Outs"

11.12.05

A Proposal to American Labor

A good idea that might help combat the decline in organized labour: "During these periods another union formation was also widespread: 'minority' or 'members only' unions, which offered representation to workers without a demonstrated pro-union majority at their worksite."

CBC News: British police may face prosecution in Brazilian man's killing

Just thought you should know that there is a small chance that those responsible for a tragic mistake will be held to account.

10.12.05

IFC Original Documentary by Kirby Dick 'This Film is Not Yet Rated'

MPAA not fond of documentary film about it's rating system, rates documentary NC-17: "An NC-17 rating generally limits a film's avenues of exhibition: many theater chains will not show it, media outlets will not run its advertisements and video store chains will not stock it."

'It's just a goddamned piece of paper'

The trust rating on the source is not high, nor are any of the sources attributed, but it does make for a good sound bite. It seems that Bush doesn't think much of the constitution. Proof yet again that he and I hold diametrically opposed views - their constitution is probably the thing that I most admire about them.

personalworldmap.org

Just a cool flash app that maps the world in terms of travel time and dollars instead of or as well as geographical distance.

France's proposed copyright reforms are more draconian than the DMCA

When the FSF and the BSA both agree that a copyright law sucks, you know that there is something wrong.

Online Rights Canada

donate

planespotting!

Via IP.
The Guardian is reporting on how plane spotting hobbyists are invloved in exposing the CIA extraordinary rendition/secret prisons/torture gulag system. Further delving into the mysterious world of plane spotting brought up the story of the 12 British and 2 Dutch plane spotters arrested in Greece in 2001. Which brought me to this infuriating article vigourously defending the Greek authorities. The tone of the article to me is a typical example of those who believe that national security trumps all other rights and beliefs. Which, obviously, is not a view to which I subscribe. Distilled to a sound-bite, my thoughts on this matter would be If you have passed a PATRIOT ACT, then you have already lost. And make no mistake - there is an ongoing culture war here; it has been ongoing since the first authoritarian figure acted to insure that his genes stood a better chance of propagating by obtaining complete control over his environment, including his fellow cave men. It is hard to imagine a day when the struggle will be over.

9.12.05

The Practical Nomad blog: Appeals Court hearing on airline ID requirement

More on Gilmore's "Papers Please" case:

Second, none of the judges seemed to recognize the distinction between 'asking for ID' and 'requiring the showing of ID', despite the crucial role that distinction played in the Supreme Court's decision on ID demands earlier this year in Hiibel vs. Nevada .
Now as a programmer I would expect those two to be equivalent. Apparently not when you are talking about law.

vote for a bill, get an unrelated one free. GOP Immigration Bill Includes National ID Language

Riders and amendments to bills that have little or nothing to do with the original law are always amusing. As Gene Spafford pointed out on the IP list, the money quote comes at the end:

“Even setting aside concerns of intentional ‘blacklisting’ of innocent Americans, even a small error rate could mean millions of Americans forced out of work by computer mistakes,” said Liberty Coalition Policy Director James Plummer. “Homeland Security has a poor record of putting innocent Americans on secretive “no-fly” lists, and should not be entrusted with determining who is allowed is to make a living in this country.”

8.12.05

bitchcakes.

Ah Neil, look at what you've started. Thank the merciful deity, things could be much worse.

6.12.05

Ohio Republicans not too fond of that whole "democracy" thing

Following on from a wave of gerrymandering, your friends in the Ohio Republican party have set about removing any need for non-republicans to think of voting in the fair state of Ohio. An injunction was granted and upheld against a recent law in Georgia that was going to require a specific $50 piece of ID because both a federal judge and an appeals court judge thought it likely that the law would be ruled unconstitutional so that may help as a precedent to overturn the Ohio piece, but reading the article, it seems that any challenge will have to be flexible enough to argue against the fact that they aren't asking for a specific piece of ID that costs money to get. Not an insurmountable hurdle, but nevertheless one that will require some thought.

Anyway, go go fighting ACLUans!

4.12.05

Weebls Stuff - Magical Trevor

It occurs to me that I have been remiss in not providing you with a permanent searchable link to Weebls Stuff - Magical Trevor.

Beans, lots of beans, lots of beans, yeah yeah.

3.12.05

Illinois gaming law struck down, provides glimpse of FEPA future?

From the Ars Technica article, reading from the judgement, the money quote:

As Justice Kennedy stated for the Court in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 535 U.S. 234 (2002), “[t]he government may not prohibit speech because it increases the chance an unlawful act will be committed ‘at some indefinite future time.’” Id. at 253 (quoting Hess v. Indiana, 414 U.S. 105, 108 (1973) (per curiam)). Rather, under Brandenburg, the State may regulate protected expression based on the belief that it will cause violence only if the expression is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action, and is likely to incite or produce such action. Brandenburg, 395 U.S. at 447; see also, Free Speech Coalition, 535 U.S. at 253.

CBC Canada Votes 2006 :: Vote By Issue Quiz

My man Jes point out this online quiz to see how your thinking aligns with the criminals in Ottawa.

Best Rejected Advertising Volume Three

Some of the best ads you've never seen.

MoJo Blog: Abused, Neglected, and Now Used for Testing?

Ummm, wha?:

If the IRB determines that the capability of some or all of the children is so limited that they cannot reasonably be consulted, the assent of the children is not a necessary condition for proceeding with the research.

CBC News: Iraq bars non-Iraqi Arabs from the country

There are two interesting tid-bits in this article. The first:

It's believed most enter illegally through Iraq's thinly-guarded desert borders.
and the second:
An Associated Press correspondent of Egyptian nationality was also barred from boarding a plane Friday for Baghdad. Iraqi officials say there will be no exceptions to the new rule.
The two taken together with this comment
An Interior Ministry official said it was "part of security procedures" reportedly implemented Nov. 29, with no formal announcement. No date for lifting the restriction has been set.
shows that they aren't serious about security and they are serious about reducing the chances of a free and fair election. I wonder if the Bush-Wants-To-Bomb-Al-Jazeera memo prompted any of this. Probably not, but it does make for a lovely paranoid fantasy doesn't it.

French Government Lobbied to Ban Free Software

I believe the title says it all. Article here.

Bad Reporter: Kansas votes 4-1 to allow intelligent design

Included are details of how they will change the lyrics to their famous song Dust In The Wind. I like this comic, I must pay closer attention to it. I wonder if there is an RSS feed. There is, at least, an archive.

Lawyers, Guns and Money: John Derbyshire: One Hell of a Creepy Guy

Luckily, I am not this creepy. The good thing is that quite often these days prospective mates are googling each other. Stuff like that should have helped to insure he stayed out of the gene pool, but apparently we are too late. I do find the poses his wife makes in the photographs intstructional. I wonder what someone trained in the field of relationships would make of the fact that they are never holding hands, in fact she is most often seen clutching her own. As a wild stab in the dark I would say mail-order bride or arranged marriage. Poor woman.

2.12.05

Will Ferrell: Earth to America

On the issue of the so-called global warmings.

Googlemaps

ad. Funny. Oh, and here is one for the X-Box 360

World's 10 Tallest Buildings - SkyscraperPage.com

No politics, no IP, just height.
World's 10 Tallest Buildings - SkyscraperPage.com

Science & Technology at Scientific American.com: Potential Taste Receptor for Fat Identified

So all I need to do is cut off my tongue? Science & Technology at Scientific American.com: Potential Taste Receptor for Fat Identified

Shyamalan: Day-and-date 'life or death to me'

Oh well, I guess M. Night can kill himslef.

Patent Baristas: USPTO Issues Double-Patenting Rejection on Genentech's 29-Year Patent

Patent Baristas: USPTO Issues Double-Patenting Rejection on Genentech's 29-Year Patent

Here is some background on the patent.

Mindless Link Propagation

Several things have recently caught my eye:
Copyfight: the politics of IP USC/Berkeley Report: over 30% of DMCA take-down notices are improper.
Bruce Schneier on Security: Australian Minister's Sensible Comments on Airline Security Sparks Outcry
More on habeus corpus Balkinization: Padilla and Hamdi
Boing Boing: Anti-game lawyer loses right to practice law in Alabama - all together now, "poor Jack Thompson!"
MercuryNews.com | 11/29/2005 | Supreme Court to hear eBay patent case plea
Cracking safes with thermal imaging
Well, they have asked. Think Progress » Bush Said He Would Withdraw U.S. Forces If The Iraqis Asked
Another one from Bruce Schneier on attempts by EU media corps to use anti-terrorism data retention to mine for IP infringement (which they want to make a criminal offence)
The Washington Post reports on US domestic military surveillance.
And finally, a little levity. Perhaps Case 3 (Wendy) could use Panexa to help her get over her accident.

Macleans.ca | Canada | You are exposed

Ooops. Turns out it is really easy to get other people's phone records. Even when that other person is the privacy commissioner of Canada.

SBC: ain't no way VoIP uses mah pipes!

A couple more links on the original net neutrality comment. On Ars Technica and Dave Farber's IP List

Executive Wants to Charge for Web Speed, Shoot Self In Foot

Do you remember last month when the CEO of SBC AT&T was showing his bulging manhood to anyone who would look? Well it seems that one of his lackies is continuing to test these waters and word on the street is Executive Wants to Charge for Web Speed. The money quote for me is:

his firm should be able, for example, to charge Yahoo Inc. for the opportunity to have its search site load faster than that of Google Inc.
Which is just asking for trouble. I can see Larry and Eric and Sergey sitting around the table, reviewing AT&T Satan's latest proposal:

Larry: "Says here that they think we should pay them 10 cents for every page."
Eric: "Interesting. I wonder what sort of results we should return ..."
Sergey: "First 10 links for your search for AT&Rape? AT&Nazi-abortion-paedophilia?"

ISPs are so cute when they think that we care who provides our bandwidth.

As an aside, I thought this quote from the article was interesting:
Legislating otherwise "would be the same thing as saying to Google, 'I think we ought to have regulation on Google that says when I enter a search term, the top search result is always a random event,' " Smith said, claiming that Google allows clients to pay to influence the ranking of search results. In fact, Google does not allow payments to influence general search results, although advertisers pay for top billing on the lists that run on the right side of Google's pages.
I don't remember seeing the memo about journalists having some backbone and actually pointing out lies, do you?

1.12.05

This, I believe...

(Just in case - my views are my own, and don’t blame Chris (or anyone else) for them, please).

Thank you Mr. Penn Jillette , for this near perfect elucidation of my own views on the subject of God (and religion, and All That Sort Of Thing), from his NPR “This I believe” contribution.

Believing there’s no God means I can’t really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That’s good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

29.11.05

Live action Aslan is "blasphemy"

OK, OK, sure it is against the express wishes of the author, but we are talking some serious Hollywood coin here.

22.11.05

Education and Copyright - Some Canadian Confusion

Compare as we dare, milk with aero. The Canadian Heritage Report of 2004 is still doing damage. From the WIPO report:

Many options are available to us at this time. Some content is online and there is no expectation for payment for its use. How can we take this into account? The following was suggested: If a technical protection measure is not imposed to lock users out of the content, then the education sector should be able to use such content. We would like for the education sector to assume that things on the Internet can be used freely unless it explicitly states that they are not. There are two schools of thought on this.
Emphasis added. The two schools of thought seem to be:
  • Education is important.
  • I am a corporate whore and think that unless a teacher has a copy of an explicit license for them to use some internet content with a specific group of students at a specific place on a specific date then they should assume that the content is protected and unusable even if the front page of the website says "Welcome all students and teachers to our free awesome learning tool. The. Best. Evar."

To which I, of course respond
  • Yay.
  • Where is my gun?

Bill C-74, the Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act,

[Update - I don't know why they are bothering with all of the hoopla and law-making when your privacy is for sale on teh interweb]

Otherwise known as the surveillance bill.

As you may have suspected, Michael Geist has a thing or two to say. As you may imagine my feelings on this are:


  • They cannot provide me with a rigourous analysis proving the need because they do not have one, instead they have a police and RCMP shopping list.
  • Our neighbours to the south are suffering from this and it has gained them nothing except an ongoing epidemic of invasion of privacy and expenses


The CBC report does nothing to address concerns and merely parrots the government line: "waah, the Americans, British, and Australians are doing it, why can't we?" The AP report uses the term "eavesdropping bill" which is less than flattering.

I expect to hear more about this in the days and weeks to come, right up to the point where an election is called and the bill dies a quiet death.

Boing Boing: Microsoft: Trusted Computing sucks!

In which Microsoft are full of it, part the 8,003rd

Light Field Photography with a Hand-Held Plenoptic Camera

So I am browsing /. and I come across a post linking to a Wired article about a Stanford research project - and I check out the research paper website and download some of the example movies and think to myself holy shit, that's really fucking cool! Honestly, the exclamation mark was there and all.
Here is what is happening:

Traditionally, light rays filter through a camera's lens and converge at one point on film or a digital sensor, then the camera summarizes incoming light without capturing much information about where it came from. Ng's camera pits about 90,000 micro lenses between the main lens and sensor. The mini lenses measure all the rays of incoming light and their directions of origin. The software later adds up the rays, according to how the picture is being refocused.
The result is that you can, after the fact, alter the plane of focus throughout the entire possible range using software.

For any Shadowrun GMs who may happen to be reading this - it was this kind of thing that I had in mind with my surveillance field in the forest outside the Proteus AG base - many small lenses > one big one.

21.11.05

New Scientist Breaking News - GM pea causes allergic damage in mice

Finally! Some actual hard proof that we need to be cautious about GM crops. In this case, a protein that has been transplanted from a been into a GM pea causes allergic damage in mice. I have no particular sympathy for luddite-all-GM-is-bad-m'kay types but at the same time the cavalier-trust-us-we-are-scientists-working-for-international-agri-business attitude on the other side is just as irritating.

One of the interesting things about this particular experiment is that the source species and the target are both legumes - probably as similar to each other as we are to other primates.

< ducks head as botanists throw bricks in response to wild stabbing guess />

14.11.05

Habeas Corpus

Read the links here for a review on an attempt by neocon senate lapdogs to roll back the Magna Carta. Some ex-grunts disagree with the idea.

The principle of habeas corpus (lit. have the body) is generally concerned with the right of a prisoner to appear before a court.

I cannot see how any law that intends to apply a suspension of habeas corpus only to "Enemy Combatants" can get around US Const. Amendment 14, § 1:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Note that the emphasised section says "person", not "citizen."

Perhaps there are judicial precedents ruling that secretly the amenders only meant "people we like."

Bill of Rights - Security Edition

What a brilliant idea! The first 10 amendments to the US constitution (otherwise known as the Bill of Rights) engraved on a metal plate - so you have to surreneder it to the examiner when you go through a security checkpoint. Sweet, sweet, irony.

12.11.05

The Panda's Thumb: An Experimental Test of ID? Really?

An entry at The Panda's Thumb rebuts Michael Behe's proposed falsifiability test for ID. During the Dover trial, he testified that

In fact, intelligent design is open to direct experimental rebuttal. Here is a thought experiment that makes the point clear. In Darwin’s Black Box, I claimed that the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex and so required deliberate intelligent design. The flip side of this claim is that the flagellum can’t be produced by natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process.
To falsify such a claim, a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure, for mobility, say, grow it for 10,000 generations, and see if a flagellum, or any equally complex system, was produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven.

This, of course, is untrue. Since the purported designer is unknown not necessarily knowable neither of the two outcomes "prove" anything.
  • If the bacteria develop flagella then by their own claims it proves that it must have been designed
  • If the bacteria to not develop flagella then we can assume that the designer chose not to create them


The important point to remember when talking about Intelligent Design as a science is that the Designer acts at their own whim and can not be forced into acting, either through experiment or in the world at large.

The shocking use of police stun guns

"To serve and protect." The innocent have nothing to fear. Perhaps that is why the Taser corporation is thinking of adding cameras to their guns.

From the subscription protected portion of the article, a selection of tools to look forward to:

Less-lethal weapons in development include microwave beams, acoustic blasts and knockout drugs, but there is no independent, peer-reviewed research on their health effects.
The Pentagon has designed the microwave and acoustic weapons, which it plans to use to disperse crowds. The Area Denial System shines a broad microwave beam into a crowd, painfully heating people's skin and making them flee (New Scientist, 23 July, p 26). But calculations by physicist Jurgen Altmann at the University of Dortmund in Germany suggest the system will have a beam width of up to 5 metres. "In an invisible beam that wide, which way will you flee?" he asks. A Pentagon source says it has researched the health effects, but its results are classified.
The Long Range Acoustic Device is an ear-jarring noise generator. It produces a highly directional sound beam far more intense than the loudest noise permitted by US workplace safety laws. At 1 metre from the device, the intensity can be 151 decibels. "This is enough to produce ear pain and endanger hearing," Altmann told the conference.
Knockout drug pellets, delivered by weapons not unlike a paintball gun, are also on the way. Anaesthetist Jitka Schreiberova of Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, is experimenting with different mixtures of surgical anaesthetics to make a fast-acting immobiliser. Based on benzodiazepines, ketamine and alpha-2 agonists - substances that activate alpha-2 receptors within the central nervous system, causing sedation - Schreiberova says she has so far immobilised macaque monkeys and human volunteers in 2 to 4 minutes.
"Some people might say this also contravenes the Chemical Weapons Treaty," says Andrew Mazzara of the Institute for Non-Lethal Defense Technologies at Penn State University.

Ahh! Put on your tin foil hat.

Or, apparently, take it off. A new study shows that tin-foil helmets can actually amplify certainly commonly used radio frequencies.

Oops.

11.11.05

Panexa (Acidachrome Promanganate)

Do you suffer from metabolism, binocular vision, digestion (solid and liquid), circulation, menstruation, cognition, osculation or extremes of emotion. Maybe you should consult your docotr and get them to prescribe Panexa™
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR SQUIRRELS

PANEXA has been known in a few cases (0.0087%) to cause Excessively Floppy Tail Syndrome (EFTS). If you are a squirrel, and suspect you may be suffering from EFTS, immediately call the Hotline at 1-800-867-5309.

Greatest Internet Moments

100 cool things on teh interweb.

Rainbow warriors crack password hashes | The Register

Oh dear. It seems that some folks have spent the last few years creating hashes of short passwords, even ones with non-alphanumeric characters, assumedly using the common password hashing algorithms. They now have 500 gigs of indexed reverse lookup tables.

Newsday.com: Writers jailed in 2002 for political satire

Say it ain't so Bill, you ain't got a sense of humour?

* For my context-demanding reader - the article relates the story of 2 Afghan brother who were interrogated over a 1998 article:

For months, grim interrogators grilled them over a satirical article Dost had written in 1998, when the Clinton administration offered a $5-million reward for Osama bin Laden. Dost responded that Afghans put up 5 million Afghanis -- equivalent to $113 -- for the arrest of President Bill Clinton.
"It was a lampoon ... of the poor Afghan economy" under the Taliban, Badr recalled. The article carefully instructed Afghans how to identify Clinton if they stumbled upon him. "It said he was clean-shaven, had light-colored eyes and he had been seen involved in a scandal with Monica Lewinsky," Badr said.

10.11.05

Risk via Google Maps v0.9.5

The title says it all, now go inside and play.

Emergent Chaos: Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to Hire Angelina Jolie

I know that I feel more secure about security since I discovered that they measure their success based on how secure respondants to a poll feel. And then fire whistle blowers.

Cool for cats

Happy Birthday Neil. Note that we are on a first name basis.

A lot of dead people

A quick link to a blog post about Christopher Hitchens that mentions two Lancet studies on estimated deaths in Iraq and Darfur.

Apple tries to patent 'tamper-resistant software' | CNET News.com

In a futile attempt to prevent people from running the upcoming OS/X-x86 release, they have tried to patent 'tamper-resistant software' whilst strangely ignoring all the prior art surrounding the hardware they are hoping to use to attempt their futile efforts.

First Trojan using Sony DRM spotted | The Register

Oooops, a virus is in the wild exploiting the Sony DRM rootkit. You had best hurry over here and download a new version of AnyDVD - a lovery piece of software that allows you to backup your DVDs and also disables the rootkit.

The Parking Lot is Full Archives

I always loved this comic.

www.zoomquilt.org

This is a cool flash infinite zoom movie that I saw last year and recently refound.

7.11.05

The FBI's Secret Scrutiny

Further clarification of the info on that last article. The FBI's Secret Scrutiny More than 30,000 NLS requests per year compared to 14,000 between 1978 and 2001. Nah, no abuse going on there.

Capitol Hill Blue: An Enemy of The State

Because nobody's life, liberty or property are safe while Congress is in session or the White House is occupied
Capitol Hill Blue: An Enemy of The State

4.11.05

Forbes Fumbles the Blogosphere

In response the Forbes attack on blogs, an ex-reporter for Forbes Tech responds.

No comment

They report, you deride.

OK, I admit it. My clever pun is, in fact, a comment. Here is another one:

Remember when Amnesty International referred to Guantanamo as a gulag and the Republicans and their lap-dogs where offended? Well I guess AI was wrong, a gulag is a penal system - and now we have found it.

what's in a name?

best don't-give-away-the-details name, ever

US man seeks movie plotline patent

In more patent foolishness, a man has applied for a patent on a movie plot.

2.11.05

Plugging the A hole

The **AA liquor up congress before taking you for a ride.

1.11.05

Grid game

Minutes and minutes of flash-based mindless amusement.

30.10.05

Eric Kobet

I don't know if you have seen Eric's Tainted Donuts anime mash-up of Trigun vs the gentlemen from Cowboy Bebop, but if you like either of them or (better) both, you owe yourself the download.

29.10.05

Of Blogs & Printing Presses.

So an idiot at Forbes magazine writes a spurious and legally incorrect article on the evils of blogs. At which point a kind gentleman from the EFF stepped up and keyed in this missive. via BoingBoing.

Biomimicry For Green Design (A How-To)

Yes, yet another link to an interesting article at Worldchanging. In this one they present an excellent introduction to Biomimicry For Green Design (A How-To).

Copyfight vs beating on ID. Tough choice.

Argh! Cory, is right. Science shouldn't use copyright to silence CreationistsIntelligent Design, especially when they do such a good job themselves.

Republicans, your friends and mine! Oh, wait, you wanted to vote? Sorry, gotta go.

Bitch Ph.D. points out a display of brotherly love: "The House of Representatives is/was supposed to vote today on H.R. 1461, the Housing Finance Reform Act. It supports creation of affordable housing. Good, right? Well, there's a little provision that's been tacked on by the Republican Study Committee to disqualify non-profits from applying for that money if they've engaged in any voter participation activities in the previous year--including non-partisan registering of voters. In other words, this provision ties funding low-income housing to suppressing low-income voting. "

I'm not a fan of Rubert Murdoch, but his lackeys have some cool tech.

So I was browsing one of Declan's posts over at news.com.com.com (no cookies! no cookies! aagh!) and I saw something pretty cool. To the right of the post (if you have javascript enabled) there is a little embedded flash app that shows a web of related stories. It's developed by a company called Liveplasma and I like it. Much like I like other innovative UI/information tools. And speaking of Newsmap (you did click on that last link there didn't you?), we come back full circle to c|Net.

Seed Magazine: Leonardos and the Science Renaissance

Seed Magazine is back, and pior to their site launch, they have a taste up at their corporate site. They have posted the results of survey on american attitudes towards science that they have called Leonardos and the Science Renaissance. In addition to Seed being an excellent magazine, another interesting note is that their new logo in the upper right corner was designed by one of my dream-boats, Jonathan Harris. No, not Colin "Bomber" Harris.

28.10.05

Monkey-cam

In the spirit of the National Geographic African Waterhole cam, we proudly present: Monkey! thanks to Majikthese.

So the mechanic says to the penguin

I think you've blown a seal. And the penguin says "no, no, it's just ice cream!"
Anyway, because you don't all read the same things as I do:
The Presidential Ice Cream

Design Council | RED - Future Currents - Home

Worldchanging reports on a UK council's green design efforts. In this case, they are talking about how to renovate a Victorian terrace house to make it eco-friendly.

WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: T.R.E.E.S. in LA

The kids at Worldchanging talk about an L.A. effort to drastically eliminate the risk of flooding and also reduce water use.

26.10.05

CBC News: Flyers passing through U.S. have few rights, Arar judge told

It occurs to me that when a senior US governement lawyer says:

foreign citizens passing through American airports have almost no rights. At most, Mary Mason told a hearing in Brooklyn, N.Y., passengers would have the right not to be subjected to "gross physical abuse."
that they are in direct contradiction to the US Constitution 14th Amendment Section 1:
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The key here is that is says "nor shall any State deprive any person", rather than saying "nor shall any State deprive any citizen". Note also the use of the word "jurisdiction" - essentially, any place that you can legally act, you have to treat every person equally before the law and provide them with due process regardless of if they are a citizen or not.
I think it is fair to say that Mary Mason's comment is in contradiction to that.

25.10.05

In which out dear readers are exposed to 2 ethical issues concerning health care.

Concurring Opinions: Genetic Testing: Further Debate with Richard Epstein and Lawyers, Guns, & Money have put up a few posts recently concerning health care.

Concerning the last LG&M link, it seems that the Target corporation (a large US discount retailer along the lines of Walmart and K-mart) is hiding behind the Civil Rights Act in a controversy over the filing of a contraceptive prescription. If you follow the link you will find that the "Lawyers" part of LG&M is true and that Target has got some 'splainin to do.

The first three links concern employer-employee relations and health insurance. Walmart wants to hire only healthy people to bring their health insurance costs down. Advancements in genetic analysis are making it easier for health professionals to predict an individual's risk for disease based on their genetics, and IBM has said that they will not gather this information - others may disagree.

I think we can distill the issue down to this:

  1. Current US corporate policy is directed towards maximum short-term shareholder value
  2. Health insurance is a major cost to US corporations
So anything that can bring down the cost of health insurance can be seen as a requirement. Hiring only healthy people (including predictions of possible future risks) is an easy and obvious way of reducing cost. The wonder is not that corporations are beginning to think about this, the wonder is that it has taken so long. If you think that these policies are unfair, then I submit that the only solution is to make health care costs revenue neutral to corporations. The most tried, true, and global solution is universal healthcare. The randite fixation on individual responsibility in the US is blinding them to the fact that it is costing them money without providing results.

24.10.05

Amazon.ca: My Wish List

I am so happy, they have finally added a "Like-to-have" priority for items on your Amazon wish list.

22.10.05

Behe Disproves Irreducible Complexity

Ed at Dispatches from the Culture Wars details Behe's testimony at the Dover trial where, under cross-examination, the star "scientific" witness for the defense reviews his own work and establishes grounds for disproving the irreducible complexity theory that is one of the pillars of the supposed ID "theory". It is quite amusing. Major kudoes to the prosecuting attorney.

Another Constantine

If what Neil Gaiman says in this journal entry is true and if he is referring to The Books of Magic, then I guess Hollywood is 0-4 in non-superhero comic adaptations. I include the last one because it was good, but it wasn't Hollywood. OK, OK, The Crow & Men In Black were good too. Am I missing any decent non-super hero, non-BD1 comic adaptations?

PS - Is it just me or is it really stupid of Comic Book Movies to not list the original comic authors/inkers/painters in their credits at the top?2

(1) Bande Dessinée
(2) It is not just me, that was a rhetorical question, it is undeniably stupid.

20.10.05

Value-added school testing

Kevin Drum talks about the US No Child Left Behind act. Sandy Kress, a Texas school reformer who was involved with the act's creation, says that the original approach of universal standards and absolute results is leading to problems in schools in affluent communities as well as disadvantaged ones. She suggests an alternative:

…The “value added” school-rating metric provides a more accurate picture of which schools are actually educating their students well. It is also fairer to schools and teachers working with the most disadvantaged kids. It pressures them to perform without penalizing them for taking on the hardest assignments in education. Conversely, the system doesn't reward rich schools with privileged students merely for standing still. Passing the state test, an easy task for many of their students, is not good enough.

Boing Boing: WSJ tech writer damns DRM

OK, world+dog are mentioning that Walt Mossberg is an influential tech columnist for the Wall Street Journal and he doesn't like DRM. Now you know too. Whenever I see something mentioned in 5 or 6 blogs I make the assumption everyone else knows about it to. And we all know what that does to u and mption.

The Abstract Factory: The only debate on Intelligent Design that is worthy of its subject

Now don't for an instant imagine that I am in any way condoning violence against the logically impaired. I have many problems with the post - why is the scientist using a baseball bat instead of an axe or chainsaw; why did he choose to hit the ID advocate in the knee rather than the elbow, the hip, or the collar bone?

18.10.05

Super Doomed Planet » Journalism is Doomed

So the blog Super Doomed Planet (It’s better than doomed… it’s super doomed.) takes a scalpel to a whiny little op-ed piece in the University of Iowa daily newspaper written by a Journalism major :

I loved high school. I loved the memories I have of parties, football games, and hanging out with my friends. These are the things I have taken with me, not the useless information acquired in the classroom.

That’s the lede of an astonishing little op-ed piece called “On Schooling’s Useless Lessons,” by a vapid half-formed protojournalist attending the University of Iowa. Previous experience with op-ed pages might lead think this is the ironic setup to some moral fable about appreciating your education. You would be profoundly and entirely wrong. It gets worse.
A problem exists within the high-school education system: It doesn’t prepare students for their careers.

A world of insight into Idiot America is contained within that sentence. Idiot America doesn’t want education, it wants training. It dreams of rote skills allowing it to sleepwalk through a lucrative career with a minimum of thought. Education as preparation for life is a foreign concept.
When I decided in high school that my major was going to be journalism, I took the only class offered by my school in hopes of learning the journalistic writing style. I didn’t learn anything from that class. My teacher was not a journalism teacher; she was an English teacher. We spent every class silent reading instead of learning about the inverted pyramid.

You can learn a lot about good writing by reading, if you’re not too blinkered by single-minded career goals to pay attention. The kind of things good journalists learn long before they master the inverted pyramid. Things our columnist must not have learned, since she writes with the style and insight of a petulant junior high student.
The school system needs a reality check; most students aren’t going to be mathematicians, historians, or chemists. So why do we have to take these classes?

Because our knowledge of history grants us insight into the present. Because an understanding of science grants increased understanding of the physical world. Because we, as individuals and as a society, are faced with countless problems every day, political, technical, and moral; and knowledge of science and history helps us to make wiser and more informed decisions about those problems.
All of which means nothing to Idiot America. Idiot America doesn’t think. It prefers to act on instinct.

Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible

The Times is reporting on the release by the British Catholic church of a document called The Gift of Scripture:

The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect “total accuracy” from the Bible.
“We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture.
The document is timely, coming as it does amid the rise of the religious Right, in particular in the US.

"In particular the US" indeed. It's not as if the evangelicals don't already think that the catholics are a bunch of heathen/pagan/heretical scum already.

James Boyle: A natural experiment (Economics of Copyright)

I included a link to this article in the bottom paragraph of my previous post but, on the odd chance that you didn't click on it, I thought I would give it its own post.

Some months ago I pointed you to a James Boyle commentary piece in The Financial Times which mentioned the following tidbit:

Professor James Bessen and Robert Hunt of the Federal Reserve Bank found that the increase in the level of software patenting in the US was associated with a significant decline in investment in research and development by software companies. As more and more patents were granted, companies spent less on R&D.

The Economist is also concerned about excessive patenting & copyrights.

Anyway, I failed to point you to this one where Prof. Boyle provides us with this money quote:
Imagine a process of reviewing prescription drugs which goes like this: representatives from the drug company come to the regulators and argue that their drug works well and should be approved. They have no evidence of this beyond a few anecdotes about people who want to take it and perhaps some very simple models of how the drug might affect the human body. The drug is approved. No trials, no empirical evidence of any kind, no follow-up. Or imagine a process of making environmental regulations in which there were no data, and no attempts to gather data, about the effects of the particular pollutants being studied. Even the harshest critics of drug regulation or environmental regulation would admit we generally do better than this. But this is often the way we make intellectual property policy.


Disclosure - James Boyle, in addition to editing an edition of the Duke University journal : Law & Contemporary Problems called "The Public Domain" is William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law at Duke Law School, a board member of Creative Commons and the co-founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

EFF: Critique of "NAVSHP (FP6) DRM Requirements Report."

Cory Doctorow has written a critique of the EU "NAVSHP (FP6) DRM Requirements Report." for EFF. As usual he does a fairly decent job of presenting a point-by-point list of problems with the Report (which is an EU version of the Broadcast Flag concept but expanded and more powerful).


  • The requirements fail to accommodate rights reserved to public under national copyright regimes.

  • The requirements are flawed because they are based on an analogy with contract law. This is factually erroneous and legally misleading because it implies that consumers have voluntarily and consciously assented to changes in their rights and customary expected uses of digital media.

  • The chief characterisitc of many DRM systems is that consumers are not advised of, nor able to learn in advance of, the restriction of uses of purchased digital media content or limitations in device use.

  • The requirements are not neutral as between different business models for distribution of content- for instance, the requirements would preclude development and use of free and open source devices and would not permit use of works released by authors under Creative Commons licences.



Which is all fine and dandy, but as far as I am concerned, a major un-addressed problem with this Report and with most recent copyright expansion/extension proposals is:

17.10.05

90 Million Malaria Deaths Preventable By Liberal Application Of DDT? Ummm, no.

Michael "I Am A Science Fiction Writer So My Scientific Credentials Are Unimpeachable" Crichton apparently has more to say in his book "State of Fear" than lies about global warming. He also has lies about DDT and malaria.

The Myth of the Drift - Do Judges Turn Left?

David Strauss ponders the MSM (oh come on, he might as well be) view that conservative US supreme court appointees drift left after their appointment. He makes some fairly interesting arguments that it is the times and issues that are changing, not the judges.

BuffaloWings&Vodka: As Promised... Harriet Myers jokes

Some very funny Harriet Myers jokes. Example:
Knock-Knock. Who's there? Harriet Miers. Harriet Miers who? Exactly.
Bwahaha.

16.10.05

Boing Boing: JibJab's legal threats over the use of 9 seconds of their video

You remember Jibjab don't you? The guys who claimed that their appropriation of the Woody Guthrie song This Land Is Our Land was Fair Use because it was parody? And the copyright owners sude them? Until EFF found out that there wasn't actually any copyright and the song was public domain? And then one year later someone includes 9 discontiguous seconds of their video in another parody? And they decide to sue?

What a bunch of hypocritical dickheads. I encourage all both of my readers to link with the same words, we shall create a Google Wetsquib attack on their non-existant virtue.

15.10.05

Emergent Chaos: Daniel Cuthbert's Chewbacca Defense

It seems hard to believe that I didn't post about the guy who got arrested for using the lynx browser to check out a Tsunami Aid website back when it happened. Or maybe I did - in any case I can't find it. Well, then criminal case if over, he was found guilty, and golly gee, he did more than just use lynx.

Schneier on Security: Blizzard Entertainment Uses Spyware to Verify EULA Compliance

See also :

According to the World of Warcraft terms of service, when you install the latest version of the game, an anticheat program called Warden snoops through your entire computer looking for "unauthorized third-party programs" that allow users to "hack" or "modify" the online game environment or "cheating of any kind."


You signed up for it, you agreed to it, and it isn't sending anything bad yet.

However, they are owned by Vivendi Universal, not a company that I have the greatest respect for. And I do think that their efforts to use the DMCA to prevent reverse engineering of the Battle.net protocols to stop people from running their own b.net servers is yet another bad example of inappropriate copyright enforcement that denies me the right to analyse traffic flowing over my own network.

14.10.05

Lawyers, Guns and Money: The Presidency of George W. Bush

The man is right, I can't deny it - Republican governments are strongly correlated with victories in the age old battle of good vs. evil. In particular, Bush is clearly ahead of Clinton on this critical issue.

Dutch court won't extradite terror suspect

Apparently they think that the nation which is asking for the extradition will deny him fundamental rights such as unlimited access to a defense lawyer and immediate access to a judge. The nation in question scoffed at the request, replying that they viewed it as "unwarranted and unncessary".

<sings>Irony!</sings>

GamesIndustry.biz - Jack Thompson is blasted by pro-family group

Jack Thompson (charitable-donour extraordinaire) has apparently been ruffling feathers on both sides of the gaming fence. Assuming that there are only 2 sides, that is.

New Scientist Archive - News - Ancient noodle rewrites history

I like my pasta. No, really, it's true. I also like history and science. I must therefore like an article in New Scientist called Ancient noodle rewrites history.

Boing Boing: Xeni's LAT op-ed: war, blogs, news, and profit.

Executive Summary: Any company that indulges in acts that appear to our blinkered western eyes as being contrary to human rights and that claims that "they had no choice, they were only obeying local law" is lying. The choice they made was to choose the profits available by entering into that local market.

Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin has an LA Times op-ed on war, blogs, news, and profit. She doesn't think too much of Yahoo:
Their new venture:

Yahoo launched "Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone," pledging to send the former television reporter to "every armed conflict in the world within one year" and dispatch blog-sized "bites" of war.
Their recent behaviour:
[A]s the 37-year-old married reporter behind the numeric pseudonym '198964' learned, he shouldn't have assumed that Yahoo defends press freedom. When Chinese security agents asked executives at Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) to identify the man, they did so. Police grabbed him on a street, searched his house and seized his computer and other belongings, according to documents filed in his defense.

Mr. '198964,' whose real name is Shi Tao, is serving a 10-year jail sentence for 'divulging state secrets abroad.' Bloggers, human rights groups and journalism organizations, including PEN and Reporters Without Borders, condemned the action.

Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang brushed off responsibility. At an Internet conference Sept. 10 in Hangzhou, China, Yang said Yahoo and other U.S.-based multinationals 'have to comply with local law.'

Or else what? They lose access, that's what, which means losing profits.

Shi Tao's attorney, Guo Guoting — who was detained, placed under house arrest and shut out of his office before his client's trial — argues that the company has a greater obligation to international law than to local law. 'China is a signatory of the [U.N.] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,' Guo told the Hong Kong independent daily Epoch Times. 'Shi Tao … was legitimately practicing his profession, not committing a crime. The legal entity of Yahoo Holdings [Hong Kong] is not in China, so it is not obligated to operate within the laws of China or to cooperate with Chinese police.'
She doesn't think much of either:
Yahoo's latest experiment reveals that it considers war news just another form of entertainment. This from an online giant that has already shown it is cavalier about press freedom and a friend of oppression.

real life vs internet

Our intrepid friends at Red vs Blue have devoted some time to discussing one of the great philosphical questions of the age - what is the difference between real life vs internet. Some opinions are also ventured on Angelina Jolie. In case you were wondering, it is very funny. I was reminded of this by your friend, and mine, Steenblogger.

13.10.05

2000

What does 2000 look like? With a sound-track. As I write this, 2000 also looks like 27000.

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Does Religion Cause Social Problems?

My thanks to Lucky for reminding me about this article that I first saw over at Ed's place.

12.10.05

Centaurs appeared after copulation between humans and animals - PRAVDA.Ru

PRAVDA.Ru seems to think that hybrid man-beasts in many different mythos and cultures may stem from reality.

From the genetics point of view, the difference between humans and animals makes just several per cent. It is not ruled out that spontaneous mutations may take place in rare instances, and natural interbreeding is quite possible in this case. May it be so that humans with such mutations lived in all epochs?

Seems that Pravda is straying from reality. Perhaps they are trying to rehabiliate Lysenko.

11.10.05

Concurring Opinions: The Airline Screening Playset: Hours of Fun!

Now you, too, can implement your own arbitrary and capricious reasons for harrassing air travellers. Two fun places to start are profanity and royalty.

9.10.05

'Streamlined Procedures Act' Increases Threat of Wrongful Convictions

Or, in other words, US Congress Considers Legislation to Gut Habeas Corpus.

I would file this one under "Land of the Free" but blogger still doesn't rackin-frackin have categories.

Optical Illusions and Visual Phenomena

59 of them. Cool.

Unicef bombs the Smurfs in fund-raising campaign for ex-child soldiers

War is very, very smurfy

3.10.05

Tuvan throat singing

Yat-kha do a cover of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart".

30.9.05

National Geographic Magazine - WildCam AFRICA

Video feed of an African watering hole. Very cool.

frontline: a class divided | PBS

frontline: a class divided | PBSOne day in 1968, Jane Elliott, a teacher in a small, all-white Iowa town, divided her third-grade class into blue-eyed and brown-eyed groups and gave them a daring lesson in discrimination. This is the story of that lesson, its lasting impact on the children, and its enduring power thirty years later.
The day in question was the day after the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Trademark Blog

The Trademark Blog - links to interesting trademark issues and dsiputes.

24.9.05

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Mind-Boggling Stupidity

Mary Hudak, I would ask that you revisit your commitment to sentience and, for that matter, Sparkle Motion.

Lance Mannion: How to be morally superior to a Liberal

Lance Mannion: How to be morally superior to a Liberal. I wish I lived in the safe suburbs.

23.9.05

19.9.05

Some links

  • A list of interesting US Supreme Court rulings with a summary of the case.
  • Find the Landmark - a game using Google Maps.
  • The filthiest version of The Aristocrats that you have ever heard.
  • Colorcode - a map of english based on the colour of images found when searching for that word.
  • Hey Brad! - printers and guns.
  • This guy writes to 100 US Senators and askes them to tell him their favourite joke.

International Talk Like a Pirate day, arrr...

Ahoy, mateys!

It be International Pirate Day, so ye'd best learn t' swear like a seafarin' hearty , translate yer mutterings into Sea-dog-ese, find yer true Buccaneer Name, or jus' get yersef a dandy lookin' 'iPatch'.

What'ere ye do, keep yer scurvy mitts off me grog and get on wi' confoundin' yer friends and loved ones. Or make 'em walk th' plank - yer choice.

16.9.05

Tragic... the gathering

as one commentor said: "My panda was sad until he saw this. Then he ate my neighboor. "

Katrina: The Gathering

(personal favorite: "Serendipitous News Crawl - do 3 damage to target creature " (red card...)

5.9.05

MoJo Blog: The Other Abu Ghraib

Thank God™ that the poor suffering US corporations will able to make a little money from Iraqi farmers. Wouldn't want to encourage indiginous recovery and self-sufficiency now would we? You don't build client states that way.

Philips unveils e-Reader with rollable display

The Inq reports progress.

WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: Dreaming A New New Orleans, Version 1

Dreaming A New New Orleans, Version 1. I hope some of these people are consulted before Halliburton is awarded the contract to rebuild the place.

Although that is probably what will happen. They will be consulted. Then Halliburton will rebuild, completely ignoring anything they have to say.

4.9.05

Unfogged

[Edited] A self-identified white guy blogger comments on the looting and the shooting and raises some very salient points - as a gamer I have to agree with him them.

Seriously, stipulate that you have guns and ammo at home, but you're worried supplies will run low, and you know from personal experience watching TV this whole fucking week that you are totally on your own. Are you telling me you'd wait there like a putz? 'Oh the government will come soon.' With your children? You wouldn't go down to crowbar the front off the CVS? You're lying. All these 'shoot-to-kill' warbloggers can kiss my ass. They would be the first ones out there, if they had the guts to go outside. More likely they'd die with cheeto dust on their hands in the basement, having just won convincingly at Risk.

Come the rapture and I claim Place Alexis Nihon - Pharmaprix, IGA, Canadian Tire, Sports Experts and Radio Shack all-in-one. A lot of entrances though. Any better suggestions?
Reached via Making Light

Being Poor

John Scalzi reminds us that not being able to buy whatever we want whenever we want it doesn't make us poor.

1.9.05

New Orleans web coverage: Looting or finding?

Links to the Yahoo! news images. New Orleans web coverage: Looting or finding? Yahoo has apologized for any appearance of racism. They still haven't changed the captions yet though. I'm archiving them for posterity.

For the record

I have no problem with teaching Creationism/ID in public schools. Provided that it is taught in the context of religious studies ( Comparative Themes In Creation Myths would be an interesting class, for example) or in terms of historical thought/philosophy. (The Edgware Road: Protestant vs Catholic Propaganda In The Previous Millenium)

One side can be wrong

Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene, and Jerry Coyne have written an article in The Guardian about the "teach both sides" argument for ID.
One side can be wrong. The money quote:

If complex organisms demand an explanation, so does a complex designer. And it's no solution to raise the theologian's plea that God (or the Intelligent Designer) is simply immune to the normal demands of scientific explanation. To do so would be to shoot yourself in the foot. You cannot have it both ways. Either ID belongs in the science classroom, in which case it must submit to the discipline required of a scientific hypothesis. Or it does not, in which case get it out of the science classroom and send it back into the church, where it belongs.

23.8.05

Ribbons, Sheets and the Nanofuture

WorldChanging mentions the news that UT Dallas & the Australian CSIRO have invented a process to manufacture strong, stable macroscale sheets and ribbons of multiwall nanotubes at a rate of seven meters per minute. They lead of the article with

This is likely the biggest technological breakthrough of the year, arguably even of the decade.It may not be hyperbole, this may well rank up there with the transistor or the laser.

Brazil Doesn't Believe in British Cover-Up

The Naurgiad has more on the Menendez affair. Key points:

  • The Independent Police Complaints Commission said thatthe officers involved in Menezes's death could face criminal or disciplinary proceedings, and that the commission would not publish its report until any such proceedings were complete.
  • When asked about the possibilities of a police cover-up, Brazilian Ambassador Manoel Gomes Pereira told reporters: "No, at this point, no. ... At the moment, we don't have any reason whatsoever to assume that.'"
  • Police also face criticism that they initially resisted an independent investigation, something the force denies.

22.8.05

340 meters per second: Running scared.

I normally make fun of people who use the phrase "referent collection" in casual blogversation but the second half of the post about what happened to Menendez says most of what I wanted to say about it so ... take it away, 340 mps. Oh. You already did. Well. Thanks for that then.

PS - I normally mock people who use made up words like blogversation too. I am an equal opportunity mocker. Step right up. :)

Michael Geist - Canada's Big Brother Plan to Reshape the Internet

The gubmint has some ideas about the way the internet should work in Canada: "Before supporting this initiative, however, Canadians ought to ask some tough questions."
Well, d'uh. He then asks:

  • Are all these new powers necessary? Given the high price, it should fall to law enforcement to make the case that their existing powers are inadequate. They have thus far failed to do so, neglecting to point to a single case where current Canadian law ultimately resulted in a botched investigation or failed prosecution.
  • Do the new powers contain sufficient judicial oversight? The answer to this question appears to be an obvious no. In order to preserve the privacy and security balance, greater safeguards should accompany the increase in network surveillance. Instead, the proposal contemplates the opposite approach with greater surveillance and fewer safeguards.
  • Are the lawful access provisions constitutional? There is considerable uncertainty on this issue since the lack of judicial oversight and the potential for access to information without judicial warrants suggest that the provisions will, at a minimum, face constitutional challenge and tough scrutiny from the Canadian courts. A less usefull question as it can be addressed by the courts. &emdash; me.
  • Is lawful access strictly designed to address the threat of terrorism? Once again, the answer appears to be no. While the genesis of the initiative dates back to the post 9/11 environment and the desire to address terror concerns, lawful access is now envisioned as a catch-all for Internet-related issues including child pornography, identity theft, phishing, and spam. It is certainly important to address these issues, yet many would question why we must sacrifice our privacy in order to protect it.
  • Will lawful access actually prove successful in battling Canadian terror? While no one knows the answer to that question, there is reason to doubt it will. Encryption technologies are left largely untouched by this proposal, which may allow some groups to communicate without fear of surveillance. Moreover, with smaller ISPs exempt from the new surveillance requirements due to cost considerations, evading the surveillance may require little more than subscribing to exempt providers.


It is important that new legislation should be shown beforehand to help solve the problem that it was created to address. How and where exactly this requirement is to be codified is an excercise that I leave to the reader.

18.8.05

WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: Re-Introducing the Wild

What a cool idea, re-introducing species into places that we have made them extinct. Lions and tigers and elephants roaming the wild west, mammoths up in Siberia. Our friends at WorldChanging note that the article is behind a subscriber only wall at Nature. But guess what? I am a l33t hax0r! Or an institutional subscriber at any rate. So here ya go:

Full Text

Commentary

Nature 436, 913-914 (18 August 2005) | doi: 10.1038/436913a

Re-wilding North America

Josh Donlan1 a

  • 1. Josh Donlan is in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University Ithaca, New York, New York 14853, USA.
  • a. Co-authors are Harry W. Greene of Cornell University; Joel Berger who is at the Teton Field Office, Wildlife Conservation Society; Carl E. Bock and Jane H. Bock of the University of Colorado, Boulder; David A. Burney of Fordham University, New York; James A. Estes of the US Geological Survey, University of California, Santa Cruz; Dave Foreman of the Re-wilding Institute, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Paul S. Martin of the Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson; Gary W. Roemer of the Department of Fishery and Wildlife Sciences, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico; Felisa A. Smith of theUniversity of New Mexico, Albuquerque; and Michael E. SoulĂ© who is based at Hotchkiss, Colorado.

Abstract

A plan to restore animals that disappeared 13,000 years ago from Pleistocene North America offers an alternative conservation strategyfor the twenty-first century, argue Josh Donlan and colleagues.

North America lost most of its large vertebrate species — its megafauna — some 13,000 years ago at the end of the Pleistocene. And now Africa's large mammals are dying, stranded on a continent where wars are waging over scarce resources. However much we would wish otherwise, humans will continue to cause extinctions, change ecosystems and alter the course of evolution. Here, we outline a bold plan for preserving some of our global megafaunal heritage — one that aims to restore some of the evolutionary and ecological potential that was lost 13,000 years ago, and which offers an alternative vision for twenty-first century conservation biology.

Our vision begins immediately, spans the coming century, and is justified on ecological, evolutionary, economic, aesthetic and ethical grounds. The idea is to actively promote the restoration of large wild vertebrates into North America in preference to the 'pests and weeds' (rats and dandelions) that will otherwise come to dominate the landscape. This 'Pleistocene re-wilding' would be achieved through a series of carefully managed ecosystem manipulations using closely related species as proxies for extinct large vertebrates, and would change the underlying premise of conservation biology from managing extinction to actively restoringnatural processes.

Historic vision

Our proposal is based on several observations. First, Earth is nowhere pristine; our economics, politics, demographics and technology pervade every ecosystem. Such human influences are unprecedented and show alarming signs of worsening. Second, environmentalists are easily caricatured as purveyors of doom and gloom, to the detriment of conservation. Third, although human land-use patterns are dynamic anduncertain, in some areas, such as parts of the Great Plains in theUnited States, human populations are declining1 — which may offer future conservation opportunities. Fourth, humans were probably at least partly responsible for the Late Pleistocene extinctions in North America, and our subsequent activities have curtailed the evolutionary potential of most remaining large vertebrates. We therefore bear an ethical responsibility to redressthese problems.

North American conservationists routinely turn to the arrival of Columbus in 1492 as a restoration benchmark. But the arrival of the first Americans from Eurasia roughly 13,000 years ago constitutes a less arbitrary baseline. Mammal body-size distributions were similar across all continents before the Late Pleistocene, but subsequent extinction of most large speciesdrastically altered those distributions in favour of smaller species.

In the Americas, where large-vertebrate losses were greatest, the subsequent changes were undoubtedly ecologically and evolutionarily significant. Large carnivores and herbivores often play important roles in the maintenance of biodiversity, and thus many extinct mammals must have shaped the evolution of the species we know today2. For example, the pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) evolved over four million years in North American grasslands that changed abruptly in the Late Pleistocene; the now-extinct Americancheetah ( Acinonyx trumani), a key predator, almost certainly shaped the pronghorn's astonishing speed3.

Beasts of old

Although historical perspectives have influenced modern conservation planning, existing programmes do not adequately address the evolutionary potential and long-term processes involved in restoring large-mammal diversity. Africa and parts of Asia are now the only places where megafauna are relatively intact, and the loss of many of these species within this century seems likely. Given this risk of further extinction, re-wilding of North American sites carries globalconservation implications.

Moreover, humans have emotional relationships with large vertebrates that reflect our own Pleistocene heritage. More than 1.5 million people annually visit San Diego's Wild Animal Park to catch a glimpse of large mammals — more than the number of visitors to most US National Parks. So an understanding of ecological and evolutionary history, inspired by visits to private or public reserves containing free-roaming megafauna, could strengthen support for conservation. Pleistocene re-wilding would probably increase the appeal and economic value of both private and public reserves, as evidenced by the restoration of wolves toYellowstone National Park 4.

We foresee several phases to Pleistocene rewilding, some of which are already under way. The 50-kg Bolson tortoise (Gopherus flavomarginatus) was widely distributed across the Chihuahuan desert until the Late Pleistocene. Today it survives only in a small part of northern Mexico and is critically endangered. A number of appropriate sites exist for reintroduction, including Big Bend National Park, Texas. And repatriation of captive Bolson tortoises to a private ranch in New Mexico is currently under study. Restoring North America's largest surviving temperate terrestrial reptile to its prehistoric range could bring ecological, evolutionary, economic and cultural benefits, with no apparent costs (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: Pleistocene re-wilding in North America.

Figure 1 : Pleistocene re-wilding in North America

Symbols represent horses (Equus caballus and E. asinus in black; E. przewalskii and E. hemionus in grey), Bolson tortoises, camelids, cheetahs, Asian (grey) and African (black) elephants, and lions. a, The likely timescale and area required to restore proxies for extinct large vertebrates. b, Conservation value and ecological role (interactivity with other species) on the landscape. c, Potential economic/cultural value versus potential conflict.

High resolution image and legend (42K)

Likewise, horses and camels originated in North America, and many species were present in the Late Pleistocene. Feral horses (Equus caballus) and asses (E. asinus), widely viewed as pests in the United States, are plausible proxies for extinct American species. Also, given that most of the surviving Eurasian and African species are now critically endangered, establishing Asian asses (E. hemionus) and Przewalski's horse (E. przewalskii) in North America might help prevent the extinction of these endangered species and would restore equid species to their evolutionary homeland.

Similarly, Bactrian camels (Camelus bactrianus) in North America could provide a modern proxy for Camelops, a late Pleistocene camelid. Wild Bactrian camels are on the verge of extinction, currently restricted to the Gobi desert. Domesticated or captive camels might benefit arid North American ecosystems by browsing on woody plants that today often dominate southwestern US landscapes. With proper management, camels could provide economic benefits as well5. The overall benefits and disadvantages of horses and camels as proxies will depend on local contexts, and possibly on the presence ofappropriate predators.

Free to roam

The second, more controversial phase of Pleistocene re-wilding could also begin immediately, with the maintenance of small numbers of African cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), Asian (Elephas maximus) and African (Loxodonta africana) elephants, and lions (Panthera leo) on private property. Many of these animals are already in captivity in the United States, and the primary challenge will be to provide them with naturalistic settings, including large protected areas of appropriate habitat and, in the case of carnivores, live prey.

The African cheetah, a close relative of the American cheetah, has only a modest chance of persisting in the wild in the next century. Breeding programmes are not self-sustaining, but some of the 1,000 captive animals could be used in re-wilding. Free-roaming, managed cheetahs in the southwestern United States could save the fastest carnivore from extinction, restore what must have been strong interactions with pronghorn, and facilitate ecotourism as an economic alternative forranchers ( Fig. 1).

Managed elephant populations could similarly benefit ranchers through grassland maintenance and ecotourism (Fig. 1). Five species of proboscidians (mammoths, mastadons and gomphotheres) once roamed North America in the Late Pleistocene; today many of the remaining African and Asian elephants are in grave danger. Elephants inhibit woodland regeneration and promote grasslands, as Pleistocene proboscidians probably once did. With appropriate resources, captive US stock and some of the 16,000 domesticated elephants in Asia could be introduced to North America, where they might suppress the woody plants that threaten western grasslands. Fencing, which can be effective in reducing human−elephant conflict in Africa, would be the main economiccost.

Lions, which play a pivotal ecological role in the Serengeti, represent the ultimate in Pleistocene re-wilding for North America. They are increasingly threatened, with populations in Asia and some parts of Africa critically endangered. Replacing theextinct American lion ( Panthera leo atrox), although challenging, has clear aesthetic and economic benefits (Fig. 1).

Among the objections to Pleistocene re-wilding is that the proposed proxies are not genetically identical to the animals that formerly existed in North America. And our vision might strike some as 'playing God'. Existing lions and cheetahs are somewhat smaller than their extinct counterparts, for example, and Camelus is different from Camelops. 'Same' is relative, however, as illustrated by the highly successful reintroduction of peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) in North America. Captive-bred birds from seven subspecies on four continents were used, yet there were no differences among the birds insubsequent breeding success 6, and the subspecies now serve as a collective proxy for the extinct midwestern peregrine falcon.

More challenging objections to Pleistocene re-wilding include the possibility of disease transmission, the fact that habitats have not remained static over millennia, and the likelihood of unexpected ecological and social consequences of reintroductions. These issues must be addressed by sound research, prescient management plans and unbiased public discourse on a case-by-case and locality-by-locality basis. Well-designed, hypothesis-driven experiments will be needed to assess the impacts of potential introductions before releases take place. Large tracts of private land probably hold the best immediate potential for such studies, with the fossil record and research providing guideposts and safeguards. For example, 77,000 large mammals (most of them Asian and African ungulates, but also cheetahs, camelsand kangaroos) roam free on Texas ranches 7, although their significance for conservation remains largely unevaluated.

The third stage in our vision for Pleistocene re-wilding would entail one or more 'ecological history parks', covering vast areas of economically depressed parts of the Great Plains. As is the case today in Africa, perimeter fencing would limit the movements of otherwise freeliving ungulates, elephants and large carnivores, while surrounding towns would benefit economically from management and tourismrelated jobs. A system of similar reserves across several continents offers the besthope for longterm survival of large mammals.

Meeting the challenge

In the coming century, by default or design, we will constrain the breadth and future evolutionary complexity of life on Earth. The default scenario will surely include ever more pest-and-weed dominated landscapes, the extinction of most, if not all, large vertebrates, anda continuing struggle to slow the loss of biodiversity.

Pleistocene re-wilding is an optimistic alternative. We ask of those who find the objections compelling, are you content with the negative slant of current conservation philosophy? Will you settle for an American wilderness emptier than it was just 100 centuries ago? Will you risk the extinction of the world's megafauna should economic, political and climate change prove catastrophic for those populations remaining in Asia and Africa? The obstacles are substantial and the risks are not trivial, but we can no longer accept a hands-off approach to wilderness preservation. Instead, we want to reinvigorate wild places, as widelyand rapidly as is prudently possible.

Acknowledgments

We thank the Environmental Leadership Program, Lichen Foundation, Turner Endangered Species Fund, New Mexico Agricultural Station, Ladder Ranch, C. Buell., S. Dobrott, T. Gorton, M. K. Phillips andJ. C. Truett for support and encouragement.

References


  1. Lonsdale, R. E. & Archer, J. C. J. Geogr. 97, 108−122 (1998).
  2. Janzen, D. H. & Martin, P. S. Science 215, 19−27 (1982). | ISI |
  3. Byers, J. A. American Pronghorn: Social Adaptations and the Ghosts of Predators Past (Chicago Univ., Chicago, 1997).
  4. Duffield, W. J. & Neher, C. J. Economics of Wolf Recovery in Yellowstone National Park. Transactions of the 61st North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference 285−292 (Wild Mgmt. Inst., Washington DC, 1996).
  5. Phillips, A., Heucke, J., Dorgers, B. & O'Reilly, G. Co-grazing Cattle and Camels. A report for the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Kingston, 2001).
  6. Tordoff, H. B. & Redig, P. T. Conserv. Biol. 15, 528−532 (2001). | Article |
  7. Schmidly, D. J. Texas Natural History: A Century of Change (Texas Tech Univ. Press, Lubbock, 2002).

WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: Never Smile At A Crocodile -- Unless It's Healing Your Infection

Remember that bit about Komodo dragons and how their mouths and saliva are chock full of really virulent bacteria? And how they wanted to find out how the Komodo wasn't infected? Well, apprently they has a similar idea about crocodiles with some interesting results.