May 30th, 2006 by ravi
Democrats protest E-voting supplier

Business Week reports that Democrats are protesting the use of a particular company for supplying voting machines for U.S elections. Before you get all excited that the Dems have grown a spine… no, they are not talking about Diebold and their CEOs promise to deliver Ohio to Bush, but about a Venezuelan company, no doubt under the control of that leftist rogue Hugo Chavez!

One Man, One Vote, One Conspiracy Theory
Critics of electronic balloting are raising questions about a voting machine supplier

After the controversial 2000 Presidential election, the U.S. embarked on a campaign to replace paper ballots and their infamous hanging chads with electronic voting. But the new systems, many based on touch screens similar to bank ATMs, have become the bane of computer experts and some political activists on the Left.

[…] 

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May 30th, 2006 by ravi
Bush Tracker Update
  • Forbes: Rep. Lewis (R) Subject of Federal Probe

  • The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles has opened an investigation into House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis and his dealings with a lobbyist with connections to disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham.
    Corruption
  • NYT: C.I.A. Aide's House and Office Searched

  • Federal agents conducted searches on Friday at the office and home of Kyle Foggo, who stepped down this week as the Central Intelligence Agency's third-ranking official. The searches were part of a widening criminal investigation of possible contracting fraud that has also focused on lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee.
    Corruption
  • InfoClearing: 105 Killed In Afghanistan

  • The Taliban death toll from fighting Wednesday night and Thursday ranged up to 87, U.S. and Afghan officials said. Also, 14 Afghan police officers, one American civilian, a Canadian soldier and an Afghan civilian also were killed in the fighting, officials said.
    AfghanWar
  • InfoClearing: Iraq is Disintegrating

  • Across central Iraq, there is an exodus of people fleeing for their lives as sectarian assassins and death squads hunt them down. At ground level, Iraq is disintegrating as ethnic cleansing takes hold on a massive scale.
    Iraq
  • BBC: US 'must end secret detentions'

  • The US should close any secret "war on terror" detention facilities abroad and the Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba, a United Nations report has said.
    Guantanamo
  • TP: Hastert hearts Abramoff too

  • Dennis Hastert, is under investigation by the FBI, which is seeking to determine his role in an ongoing public corruption probe into members of Congress, ABC News has learned from high level official sources.
    Abramoff
    Corruption
  • Marines massacre in Haditha

  • A group of enraged Marines entered homes in the Iraqi town of Haditha and murdered their occupants, including children, in cold blood. And it's not an isolated incident.
    Iraq
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    May 30th, 2006 by ravi
    Mandelian evolution

    Over at Business Week, wunderkind gets all radical and suggests we throw open the border. Funny thing with liberal ideas that sit around long enough… they get picked up by conservatives and neo-liberals ;-). We have been calling for action against Saddam for a few decades. Bush thinks of the same thing, for the first time ever, and decimates the country. We have been talking about the environment for ages. Now the evangelicals adopting the platform but from the funny perspective of stewardship. And now we have Mandel:

    BW: Bordering on Absurdity

    Cars can move more easily from country to country than people, and that is crimping both human potential and economic growth

    What's the best long-term immigration policy for the global economy? Right now we have an international system where goods and services move easily across national borders, but flows of people are strictly regulated. The 149 countries that belong to the World Trade Organization are committed, by treaty, to a "substantial reduction of tariffs and other barriers to trade." No such organization or commitment exists for global immigration reform.
    I think that's wrong. It should not be the case that toys and cars can move from country to country more easily than people do. Instead, pulling down the barriers that impede immigration should be our long-term goal. Immigration policy should facilitate the movement of people, just as trade policy facilitates the movement of goods.

    From an economic perspective, this is a no-brainer.

    […]

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    May 30th, 2006 by ravi
    Geek fight clubs

    CNN reports that geeks are now joining fight clubs to liberate their inner macho child:

    CNN.com – Computer techs turn to fisticuffs for fun

    MENLO PARK, California (AP) — They may sport love handles and Ivy League degrees, but every two weeks, some Silicon Valley techies turn into vicious street brawlers in a real-life, underground fight club.

    […]

    I wonder what would happen to these dudes if some real men showed up to the fight?

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    May 26th, 2006 by ravi
    Values confusion!

    Below is a snippet of a Gallup poll on values, via PollingReport. Read the whole thing. There's plenty of bad news: if you are an animal rights proponent, like me, then there is the disappointing bit that 60+% approve of animal testing and even wearing fur. Then we have the righteous disapproval of homosexuality. And more. Read on.

    Next, I'm going to read you a list of issues. Regardless of whether or not you think it should be legal, for each one, please tell me whether you personally believe that in general it is morally acceptable or morally wrong. How about …

      Morally
    Acceptable
    Morally
    Wrong
      % %
    The death penalty
    5/8-11/06 71 22
    5/5-7/03 64 31
    Buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur
    5/8-11/06 62 32
    5/5-7/03 60 36
    Medical testing on animals
    5/8-11/06 61 32      
    5/5-7/03 63 33      
    Gambling
    5/8-11/06 60 34
    5/5-7/03 63 34
    Homosexual relations
    5/8-11/06 44 51
    Abortion
    5/8-11/06 43 44
    5/5-7/03 37 53
    Suicide
    5/8-11/06 15 78
    5/5-7/03 14 81

    So, if get this right: the public does not approve of suicide, but they approve of the death penalty. In other words, they want do kill you rather than let you kill yourself. So if you want to commit suicide, your best bet is to kill someone else, including (as the above indicates) the not yet human foetus inside a woman — then turn yourself in, and they will kill you. But make sure you don't kill a homo since the public doesn't care much for that sort of people.

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    May 26th, 2006 by ravi
    Net neutrality moves forward in Congress

    CW: House panel approves Net neutrality bill
    May 25, 2006 (IDG News Service) — A U.S. House of Representatives committee has approved a bill that would prohibit broadband providers from blocking or impairing their customers' access to Web content offered by competitors.

    […]

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    May 24th, 2006 by ravi
    Opera 9 Beta

    You can now download a Beta of the Opera browser 9. If you have never used Opera, give it a whirl. Its wicked fast, provides easy keyboard navigation, did tab-like stuff before Mozilla, and now, again beating Mozilla to it, does the latest fad: widgets! Sweet!

    Download Opera Web Browser

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    May 24th, 2006 by ravi
    Genetic inheritence through RNA

    Next time you meet a reductionist, you can wave this bit of news at him! 

    BBC | Spotty mice flout genetics laws

    […] 

    The scientists, based at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) and the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis, used mice which carry one normal version of Kit and one mutant version, giving them spotted tails.

    They bred these mice together, producing offspring with a range of Kit gene combinations:

    * two mutant genes (these are shown to die shortly after birth)
    * one mutant and one normal gene (these should be "spotty" like their parents)
    * two normal genes (these should not be spotty).

    However, the researchers found that mice born with two normal versions of Kit also had a spotted appendage.

    "We were very surprised to see this," said Professor Minoo Rassoulzadegan, a geneticist at the University of Nice and lead author on the paper.

    After further investigation, the scientists suggested the transfer of RNA molecules as the cause.

    […]

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    May 24th, 2006 by ravi
    Apropos to the Kaavya Affair

    [A question to English usage types: is "Apropos of" or "Apropos to" the right usage in this title? My initial urge was "of" but on further thought I felt "to" is more apropos!]

    I have already posted on the Kaavya Viswanathan affair (plagiarization by the young Indian-American author), though I did not quite articulate what it is that bothered me about her. Below is an article from the Guardian that describes the difficulty that minorities have in getting published. A comment towards the qend of the quoted text describes my uneasiness: that minority writers are further disadvantaged by those (otherwise privileged) who play upon their minority status to open doors. 

    Guardian | Monica Ali and Zadie Smith are in the minority, finds survey
    Michelle Pauli

    Wednesday May 10, 2006

    The book trade is missing a trick by ignoring the potential of the black and ethnic minority (BME) market, says a new report by the Bookseller and the Arts Council.

    The Books for All survey of publishers, booksellers, agents and librarians found that a "fear factor" was holding back the book trade from pursuing a growing market and a huge potential source of writing talent.

    […]
    While 7.9% of the UK's population is of ethnic minority origin, only 50 (1%) of this year's top 5,000 bestsellers are by BME writers, despite the high profile of award-winners Zadie Smith, Andrea Levy and Monica Ali.

    […]

    The report is critical of the lack of monitoring that takes place in the publishing process, with 58% of publishers unsure whether the number of submissions received from BME authors has risen, fallen or stayed the same during the past year, but acknowledges that accusations of tokenism can also be damaging.

    "There is obviously a wealth of excellent Asian writers out there," said Poorna Shetty, editor of Asiana magazine, "but, inevitably, there are some books that get published because of the ethnic tag, rather than because they're actually great books."

    […]

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    May 23rd, 2006 by ravi
    AlterNet reviews Singer’s latest

    AlterNet: It's Not Enough to Be a Vegetarian

    There wasn't much wiggle room left for the casual carnivore when über-ethicist Peter Singer got finished with us in 1973. That's when his uncompromising assault on trans-species suffering, Animal Liberation, had millions of readers trading in their T-bones for tofu.

    But now even the moral high ground of a vegetarian lifestyle isn't good enough. Singer's new book, The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter argues that, all things considered, only a vegan lifestyle will do. The reasons go far beyond Singer's past exposés of animal abuse and factory farming. Tracking the source of food served at three very different American tables, Singer and his co-author Jim Mason uncover more than they could swallow.

    How we eat can influence the very health of the planet even more than switching to hybrid cars or solar heating. The hidden costs of even the most prudent food choices — costs in terms of social injustice, poverty, waste and pollution, as well as animal cruelty make us all collaborators in environmental destruction. Especially Americans, who consume one quarter of the world's fossil fuels, and whose food industry "seeks to keep Americans in the dark."

    […]

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