Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Women talk three times as much as men, says study | the Daily Mail: "It is something one half of the population has long suspected - and the other half always vocally denied. Women really do talk more than men.
In fact, women talk almost three times as much as men, with the average woman chalking up 20,000 words in a day - 13,000 more than the average man.
Women also speak more quickly, devote more brainpower to chit-chat - and actually get a buzz out of hearing their own voices, a new book suggests.
The book - written by a female psychiatrist - says that inherent differences between the male and female brain explain why women are naturally more talkative than men."
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Independent Online Edition > Science & Technology: "Scientists have discovered a dramatic variation in the genetic make-up of humans that could lead to a fundamental reappraisal of what causes incurable diseases and could provide a greater understanding of mankind.
The discovery has astonished scientists studying the human genome - the genetic recipe of man. Until now it was believed the variation between people was due largely to differences in the sequences of the individual 'letters' of the genome.
It now appears much of the variation is explained instead by people having multiple copies of some key genes that make up the human genome.
Until now it was assumed that the human genome, or 'book of life', is largely the same for everyone, save for a few spelling differences in some of the words. Instead, the findings suggest that the book contains entire sentences, paragraphs or even whole pages that are repeated any number of times.
The findings mean that instead of humanity being 99.9 per cent identical, as previously believed, we are at least 10 times more different between one another than once thought - which could explain why some people are prone to serious diseases."
No word yet on how much more different humanity is from apes and dolphins.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Iraq is a 'disaster' admits Blair | the Daily Mail: "The Prime Minister went on: 'You see what I say to people is why is it difficult in Iraq? It's not difficult because of some accident in planning, it's difficult because there's a deliberate strategy - al Qaeda with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other - to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war.'
Despite the violence engulfing Baghdad and British-controlled Basra, Mr Blair insisted that British troops were not ready to pull out.
'We are not walking away from Iraq,' he said. 'We will stay for as long as the government needs us to stay.
'And the reason for that is that what is happening in Iraq, as in Afghanistan, as elsewhere in parts of the Middle East, is a struggle between the decent majority of people, who want to live in peace together, and those who have an extreme and perverted and warped view of Islam, who want to create war.
'In those circumstances, our task has got to be to stand up for the moderates and the democrats against the extremists and the sectarians. They are testing our will at the moment, and our will has not to be found wanting.'"
Many believe that all disasters, even natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, are purely the fault of George W. Bush. It will come as quite a shock to some that disasters, natural and human will still occur frequently long after Messrs. Blair and Bush have left office. On the contrary, it has been the leadership of Blair and Bush, with little serious alternative, that have contained the disaster of Militant Islamic Fundamentalism to a battlefield that is far from Britain and the US.
It has arrived in France. It is knocking on the door in Britain. Imagine what cut and run would accomplish.
Friday, November 17, 2006
The Volokh Conspiracy - -: "The student alleged -- and it appears that the university president called the allegations in the complaint 'pretty much accurate' -- that a professor had tried to require that students sign a letter to the legislature promoting equal treatment for homosexuals in foster parenting and adoption. I think that's a violation of the student's academic freedom rights and First Amendment rights.
But isn't it also dishonest?"
Actually, yes. Of course.
Edwards acknowledges staff asked Wal-Mart for Playstation 3 | TimesDaily.com | Times Daily | Florence, AL: "Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards acknowledged Thursday that amid his criticism of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., a volunteer member of his staff asked the world's largest retailer for help obtaining a hot new Sony Playstation 3 for Edwards' family."
Thursday, November 16, 2006
CNN.com: "NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Air pollution may be just the thing to fight global warming, some scientists say.
Prominent scientists, among them a Nobel laureate, said a layer of pollution deliberately spewed into the atmosphere could act as a 'shade' from the sun's rays and help cool the planet.
Reaction to the proposal here at the annual U.N. conference on climate change is a mix of caution, curiosity and some resignation to such 'massive and drastic' operations, as the chief U.N. climatologist describes them."
Friday, November 10, 2006
USATODAY.com: "Wal-Mart will put 'Christmas' back into the holidays this year, the retailer plans to announce Thursday.
A year after religious and other groups boycotted retailers, including Wal-Mart (WMT), for downplaying Christmas, the world's largest retail chain will have an in-your-face Christmas theme this year.
'We, quite frankly, have learned a lesson from last year,' says Wal-Mart spokeswoman Linda Blakley. 'We're not afraid to use the term 'Merry Christmas.' We'll use it early, and we'll use it often.'"
Los Angeles Times: "Hankwitz said that he is not bothered when people assume he is straight and that being gay is seldom an issue on the campaign trail. Of the hundreds of e-mails he has received, he said just four have been hate mail.
'The only ones who bring it up are gay Democrats who have a problem with the fact that I'm a Republican,' he said, adding that those writers have accused him of being the equivalent of a black KKK member or a Jewish Nazi.
Hankwitz said he likes to introduce himself to groups as a gay candidate.
'I want to make sure that there's never an appearance I'm hiding anything, so people know who they're dealing with,' he said. 'It's a matter of fact, and it's information of interest to some people.'
Outside the deli, Hankwitz approached a man who described himself as a communist and said President Bush and the Republican Party were 'butchers' for their roles in the Iraq war. 'I advise you to get out of the Republican Party,' the man told him. 'At least become a Democrat.'
Hankwitz nodded and thanked him for sharing. Then he turned and rolled his eyes.
In fact, Hankwitz used to be a Democrat but switched parties in the late 1990s after listening to conservative talk radio host Dennis Prager.
'It was something he said,' Hankwitz said. 'I don't remember exactly what it was, but for the first time I thought, 'Now I understand what Republicans really are about, that they care and they're inclusive.' I was so proud to have gotten it.'"
Students at Calif. College ban Pledge of Allegiance | US News | Reuters.com: "LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Student leaders at a California college have touched off a furor by banning the Pledge of Allegiance at their meetings, saying they see no reason to publicly swear loyalty to God and the U.S. government.
The move by Orange Coast College student trustees, the latest clash over patriotism and religion in American schools, has infuriated some of their classmates -- prompting one young woman to loudly recite the pledge in front of the board on Wednesday night in defiance of the rule.
'America is the one thing I'm passionate about and I can't let them take that away from me,' 18-year-old political science major Christine Zoldos told Reuters."
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Monday, November 06, 2006
Haggard bares his soul in note to congregation - Los Angeles Times: "A male prostitute in Denver came forward last week claiming that Haggard had visited his apartment almost monthly over the last three years for sex and drugs. Haggard at first denied it. Then he said he bought meth from the man, but threw it away. On Sunday, he said this: 'The accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true, but enough of them are true that I have been appropriately and lovingly removed from ministry.'
Having resigned the presidency of the National Assn. of Evangelicals and been dismissed as senior pastor of New Life, Haggard said he and his wife, Gayle, 'need to be gone for a while.' He pledged to put himself under the guidance of several pastors who will help him work toward restoration.
'Please forgive me,' he wrote. 'I am so embarrassed and ashamed…. I am a sinner. I have fallen.'
Then the Rev. Larry Stockstill, a Louisiana pastor, read aloud a short letter from Gayle Haggard. She said her heart was broken, but she promised to stand by her husband.
'For those of you who have been concerned that my marriage was so perfect I could not possibly relate to the women who are facing great difficulties, know that this will never again be the case,' she wrote, evoking a ripple of laughter. 'My test has begun; watch me. I will try to prove myself faithful.'
The congregation rose as one. For a long minute, they stood, applauding, sniffling. Interim senior pastor Ross Parsley bounded to the podium. 'Listen,' he said, 'we all feel worse than we did a week ago. But we were worse off a week ago. Today, we all are more obedient, more repentant, more transparent than we've been in a long time.'"
US university president poses with 'suicide bomber' | Jerusalem Post: "The president of one of the leading universities in the United States last week posed for photographs with a student dressed as a suicide bomber, The Jerusalem Post has learned.Click the link to see the picture!
In copies of photos obtained by the Post, University of Pennsylvania president Dr. Amy Gutmann is seen standing with engineering student Saad Saadi at the annual Halloween costume party held at the president's home.
Saadi is seen with a keffiyeh around his head, a toy Kalashnikov rifle in hand and six plastic sticks of dynamite strapped to his chest. Gutmann beams alongside him, dressed as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, a character from L. Frank Baum's novel The Wizard of Oz.
Gutmann, who is herself Jewish, was inaugurated as university president in 2004. Her father, Kurt, fled Nazi Germany with his family in 1934.
In other photos taken at Gutmann's party that evening, Saadi can be seen carrying out a series of mock hostage executions, evoking images reminiscent of the series of abductions and murders of Westerners in Iraq in 2004.
In one instance, Saadi stands over a fellow student crouched on the ground, and points a gun at her head while reciting verses from the Koran.
In another image, Saadi poses with an unidentified child as he points Saadi's toy gun at the camera.
The day after the party, Saadi was quoted in the Daily Pennsylvanian, the campus newspaper, as saying that he attended Gutmann's affair dressed as a 'freedom martyr.'"
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Works and Days: War, Punditry, and Farming: "Watching and reading the recent Washington punditry, whether in print or on television, is a depressing spectacle. Almost all—Charles Krauthammer is the most notable exception—have somehow triangulated on the war, not mentioning why and how in the B.C. days they sort of, kinda, not really called for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. For some the Road to Damascus was the looting or Abu Ghraib, for others the increasing violence. Still more now say the absence of WMD did the trick.
But almost none of the firebrands of 2003 speaks the truth behind the facade: They supported the war when it looked like few casualties and a quick reconstruction and thus confirmation of their own muscular humanitarianism—and then bailed along the way when they realized that wasn’t going to happen and the unpopular war might instead brand them as “war mongers”, “chicken-hawks” or just fools.
Instead of that honest admission, we get instead either cardboard cut-out villains of the “my perfect three-week war, your screwed-up three-year occupation” type—a Douglas Feith, Gen. Sanchez, or Paul Bremmer—or all sorts of unappreciated and untapped brilliance: from trisecting the country to “redeploying” to Kurdistan, or Kuwait, or Okinawa?
Apparently pundits think that the entire country has gone crazy and lost its memory that almost every cable news talking head, Time magazine pundit, Washington Post insider, and syndicated columnist—other than those at the Nation and the American Conservative—at the beginning supported the present war."
Saturday, November 04, 2006
OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today: "This is from an American there who asks not to be named:I have not posted much criticism of the war in Iraq. So why start now? The criticism above is very unique in this sense: it offers a concrete suggestion of how to improve the current strategy. What really bothers me about most Iraq criticism is that it offers no alternative choice other than leaving Iraq which is far worse than the current situation.
There's been a lot of discussion back home about the course of the war, the righteousness of our involvement, the clarity of our execution, and what to do about the predicament in which we currently find ourselves. I just wanted to send you my firsthand account of what's happening here.
First, a little bit about me: I'm stationed slightly northwest of Baghdad in a mixed Sunni/Shia area. I'm a sergeant in the U.S. Army on a human intelligence collection team. I interact with Iraqis on a daily basis and I help put together the intel picture for our area of operations. I have contacts with friends, who are also in my job, in every area of operations in the Fourth Infantry Division footprint, and through our crosstalk I'd say I have a pretty damn good idea of what's going on in and around Baghdad on a micro and intermediary level.
I wrote heavily in favor of this war before I enlisted myself, and I still maintain that going into Iraq was not only the necessary thing to do, but the right thing to do as well.
There have been distinct failures of policy in Iraq. The vast majority of them fall under the category "failure to adapt." Basically U.S. policies have been several steps behind the changing conditions ever since we came into the country. I believe this is (in part) due to our plainly obvious desire to extricate ourselves from Iraq. I know President Bush is preaching "stay the course," but we came over here with a goal of handing over our battlespace to the Iraqis by the end of our tour here.
This breakneck pace with which we're trying to push the responsibility for governing and securing Iraq is irresponsible and suicidal. It's like throwing a brick on a house of cards and hoping it holds up. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)--a joint term referring to Iraqi army and Iraqi police--are so rife with corruption, insurgent sympathies and Shia militia members that they have zero effectiveness. Two Iraqi police brigades in Baghdad have been disbanded recently, and the general sentiment in our field is "Why stop there?" I can't tell you how many roadside bombs have been detonated against American forces within sight of ISF checkpoints. Faith in the Iraqi army is only slightly more justified than faith in the police--but even there, the problems of tribal loyalties, desertion, insufficient training, low morale and a failure to properly indoctrinate their soldiers results in a substandard, ineffective military. A lot of the problems are directly related to Arab culture, which traditionally doesn't see nepotism and graft as serious sins. Changing that is going to require a lot more than "benchmarks."
In Shia areas, the militias hold the real control of the city. They have infiltrated, co-opted or intimidated into submission the local police. They are expanding their territories, restricting freedom of movement for Sunnis, forcing mass migrations, spiking ethnic tensions, not to mention the murderous checkpoints, all while U.S. forces do . . . nothing.
For the first six months I was in country, sectarian violence was classified as an "Iraqi on Iraqi" crime. Division didn't want to hear about it. And, in a sense I can understand why. Because division realized that which the Iraqi people have come to realize: The American forces cannot protect them. We are too few in number and our mission is "stability and support." The problem is that there's nothing to give stability and support to. We hollowed out the Baathist regime, and we hastily set up this provisional government, thrusting political responsibility on a host of unknowns, each with his own political agenda, most funded by Iran, and we're seeing the results.
In Germany after World War II, we controlled our sector with approximately 500,000 troops, directly administering the area for 10 years while we rebuilt the country and rebuilt the social and political infrastructure needed to run it. In Iraq, we've got one-third that number of troops dealing with three times the population on a much faster timetable, and we're attempting to unify three distinct ethnic groups with no national interest and at least three outside influences (Saudi Arabian Wahhabists, Iranian mullahs and Syrian Baathists) each eagerly funding various groups in an attempt to see us fail. And we are.
If we continue on as is in Iraq, we will leave here (sooner or later) with a fractured state, a Rwanda-waiting-to-happen. "Stay the course" and refusing to admit that we're screwing things up is already killing a lot of people needlessly. Following through with such inane nonstrategy is going to be the death knell for hundreds of thousands of Sunnis.
We need to backtrack. We need to publicly admit we're backtracking. This is the opening battle of the ideological struggle of the 21st century. We cannot afford to lose it because of political inconveniences. Reassert direct administration, put 400,000 to 500,000 American troops on the ground, disband most of the current Iraqi police and retrain and reindoctrinate the Iraqi army until it becomes a military that's fighting for a nation, not simply some sect or faction. Reassure the Iraqi people that we're going to provide them security and then follow through. Disarm the nation: Sunnis, Shias, militia groups, everyone. Issue national ID cards to everyone and control the movement of the population.
If these three things are done, you can actually start the Iraqi economy again. Once people have a sense of security, they'll be able to leave their houses to go to work. Tell your American commanders that it's OK to pass up bad news--because part of the problem is that these issues are not reaching above the battalion or brigade level due to the can-do, make-it-happen culture indoctrinated into our U.S. officers. While the attitude is admirable, it also creates barriers to recognizing and dealing with on-the-ground realities.
James, there's a lot more to this than I've written here. The short of it is, the situation is salvageable, but not with "stay the course" and certainly not with cut and run. However, the commitment required to save it is something I doubt the American public is willing to swallow. I just don't see the current administration with the political capital remaining in order to properly motivate and convince the American public (or the West in general) of the necessity of these actions.
At the same time, failure in Iraq would be worse than a dozen Somalias, and would render us as impotent and emasculated as we were in the days after Vietnam. There is a global cultural-ideological struggle being waged, and abdication from Iraq is tantamount to concession."
Any idea can be ridiculed if it is done in isolation. When ideas are compared with possible alternatives, what seemed foolish can often appear to be the best option among the alternatives. If you don't believe me ask yourself why a doctor would ever willingly amputate a human limb, and not be guilty of mutilation.
Episcopal 'U2-charist' uses songs in service - USATODAY.com: "It may not qualify as a mini-Reformation, but a Communion service driven by the music of singer Bono and his U2 bandmates is catching on at Episcopal churches across the country.I'm not buggin ya am I. I don't mean ta bug ya.
The U2 Eucharist is not some kind of youth service held in the church basement but is a traditional Episcopal liturgy that uses U2's best-selling songs as hymns.
'It makes you, like, warm inside,' says Bridgette Roberts, 15, who is a Roman Catholic and attended a recent U2 Eucharist at All Saints' Episcopal Church in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. 'Usually at church, you love Jesus and everything. But this way you can express how you feel.'
Says her friend, Natalie Williams, 17: 'I love Bono, and you can rock out to the music. But in church, you hear it in a different way. It's like new.'"
Friday, November 03, 2006
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
BREITBART.COM: "A human rights group campaigning for gypsies has filed a complaint against British comic Sacha Baron Cohen over his 'Borat' film featuring a spoof Kazakh journalist who calls himself a former 'gypsy catcher,' German prosecutors said.
The state prosecutor's office in the northern city of Hamburg said the European Center for Antiziganism Research had brought the complaint accusing Cohen of slander, inciting violence against the Sinti and Roma gypsy groups and violating Germany's anti-discrimination law."