Sep 11th, 2009 by ravi
ACORN renegade employees helping Republicans

ACORN workers caught on tape allegedly advising on prostitution

You are familiar with the endless parade of sanctimonious Republicans caught “romancing” on the side. Now comes news that some employees of ACORN attempted an outreach to these poor Johns, addressing the problem, fittingly, on the supply side!

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Sep 10th, 2009 by ravi
The evolution of Evolution
We often think of scientific ideas, such as Darwin’s theory of evolution, as fixed notions that are accepted as finished. In fact, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species evolved over the course of several editions he wrote, edited, and updated during his lifetime. The first English edition was approximately 150,000 words and the sixth is a much larger 190,000 words. In the changes are refinements and shifts in ideas — whether increasing the weight of a statement, adding details, or even a change in the idea itself.

(via Seed) A visualisation of the progress of Charles Darwin’s book.

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Sep 10th, 2009 by ravi
Untimely musings on the Boomers’ Back Street Boys

“They did a few things that lots of people liked,” says Elms. “Everybody can like them, from grandma singing along to When I’m Sixty-Four to the little girl singing Yellow Submarine.”

But he adds: “I just think they are either childlike and simple or rather leaden and pompous – one or the other all the time.”

Theirs is a sanitised and anaemic version of American blues-inspired rock and roll, he complains.

“For me they turned something that was once sexy and raw and had roots, into something that was totally soulless, playground sing-along music.”

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Sep 10th, 2009 by ravi
The state of broadband in South Africa

Winston the pigeon

Winston the pigeon was allowed no “performance-enhancing seeds”

Broadband promised to unite the world with super-fast data delivery – but in South Africa it seems the web is still no faster than a humble pigeon.

A Durban IT company pitted an 11-month-old bird armed with a 4GB memory stick against the ADSL service from the country’s biggest web firm, Telkom.

Winston the pigeon took two hours to carry the data 60 miles – in the same time the ADSL had sent 4% of the data.

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Sep 8th, 2009 by ravi
Back to bundle bungling

After the mortgage business imploded last year, Wall Street investment banks began searching for another big idea to make money. They think they may have found one.

The bankers plan to buy “life settlements,” life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell for cash — $400,000 for a $1 million policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person. Then they plan to “securitize” these policies, in Wall Street jargon, by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds

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Sep 8th, 2009 by ravi
No 1!!! But in arms, not alms

Despite a recession that knocked down global arms sales last year, the United States expanded its role as the world’s leading weapons supplier, increasing its share to more than two-thirds of all foreign armaments deals, according to a new Congressional study.

The United States signed weapons agreements valued at $37.8 billion in 2008, or 68.4 percent of all business in the global arms bazaar, up significantly from American sales of $25.4 billion the year before.


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Sep 8th, 2009 by ravi
BBC | Indians ‘killed in staged clash’

A female student and three others were killed by police in a “staged” encounter in the Indian state of Gujarat, a judicial probe has found.

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Sep 7th, 2009 by ravi
Stiglitz declines Kool Aid

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has cast doubt on the strength of any US economic recovery, warning it may be hit by a “double-dip” recession.

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Sep 7th, 2009 by ravi
Grant work

Hardly isolated from commercial ties, researchers in the ivory towers—and labs—of U.S. universities receive an average of $33,417 of funding a year from medical device, pharmaceutical and other medical industry companies, according to a study published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study analyzed data from a 2006-2007 survey of 1,663 academic researchers, and also found that those faculty who led clinical trials of medicines or devices (principal investigators) did even better—receiving upward of $110,000 a year from industry sources—more than a quarter of their average research funding.

“Highly educated people may be more likely to feel they aren’t susceptible to influence,” Eric Campbell, a study author and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told Bloomberg News, “but there’s a huge literature to suggest it happens.”

And the study found accordingly: among researchers with ties to the industry—whether they were financial or informational—”a substantially greater proportion documented positive outcomes” in their studies, write the authors, Campbell and Darren Zinner of the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy and Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.

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Sep 2nd, 2009 by ravi
More justice, Texas style

A renowned scientist and arson investigator, Gerald Hurst, educated at Cambridge and widely recognized as a brilliant chemist, reviewed the evidence in the Willingham case and began systematically knocking down every indication of arson.

The authorities were unmoved. Willingham was executed by lethal injection on Feb. 17, 2004.

Now comes a report on the case from another noted scientist, Craig Beyler, who was hired by a special commission, established by the state of Texas to investigate errors and misconduct in the handling of forensic evidence.

The report is devastating, the kind of disclosure that should send a tremor through one’s conscience. There was absolutely no scientific basis for determining that the fire was arson, said Beyler. No basis at all. He added that the state fire marshal who investigated the case and testified against Willingham “seems to be wholly without any realistic understanding of fires.” He said the marshal’s approach seemed to lack “rational reasoning” and he likened it to the practices “of mystics or psychics.”

Also from the above op-ed: “Cameron Todd Willingham, who refused to accept a guilty plea that would have spared his life, and who insisted until his last painful breath that he was innocent, had in fact been telling the truth all along.”

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