Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for December 14th, 2006

Mencken for today

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I don’t think he’s talking about any particular president person. Minority Report, 261:

Any kind of handicap save one may be overcome by a resolute spirit—blindness, crippling, poverty. The history of humanity is a history of just such overcomings. But no spirit can ever overcome that handicap of stupidity. The person who believes what is palpably not true is hopeless.

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2006 at 5:19 pm

Washington Post deaf to ethics

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Read this report:

Departing Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich held a luncheon the other day at the State House in Annapolis where those invited, according to an account in the Washington Post, were “limited to reporters from newspapers that had endorsed his candidacy.”

The Post, being such a paper, had a reporter in attendance, there to note first-hand such gems as Ehrlich saying he may launch a political consulting firm because he and his staff have exhibited “a lot of talent, as everybody knows;” that he may go on tour because “there is a generally favorable view of our administration around the country” (albeit not among a sufficient number of Maryland voters to re-elect him), and that two potential Republican presidential candidates, Giuliani and Romney, have contacted him for help.

Halfway down the story was this paragraph: “He [Ehrlich] spoke yesterday at a luncheon in the State House that was limited to reporters from newspapers that had endorsed his candidacy. Aides suggested that other reporters might have an opportunity to participate in a similar ‘exit interview’ later.”

Anyone got a problem here? Like maybe the Post missed the story? Like maybe the story was, how dare a governor hold such a lunch in the statehouse, and why in the world did any newspapers take part? Why didn’t they boycott the event and blast it? That would have made for a lot better, more justified story.

As one person pointed out: Here’s the Post – and the other news organizations that attended – using editorial endorsements to gain entry despite always taking great pains to insist that there’s a church/state wall between editorial and news. So attendance was a terrible blow against that supposedly sanctified relationship.

A colleague, Morton Mintz, had this view: “The very moment I begin to think about where this could lead, about precedents that it could set, I feel nauseous. For example, by going along with this, the Post is hinting to other and future governors and public officials everywhere that they may want to emulate Ehrlich.” (Mintz and I both worked at the Post for many years.)

As far as I can tell at this point, only the Baltimore Sun wasn’t invited. I don’t know if any news organizations that were invited refused to take part.

The Associated Press filed a story on Ehrlich’s remarks, noting that “the Associated Press, which does make political endorsements, was not invited.”

The Hagerstown Herald-Mail also attended, and noted that “The (Baltimore) Sun, with whom Ehrlich feuded during his time as governor, was not invited to the press lunch. Greg Massoni, Ehrlich’s deputy director of communications, said only newspapers that endorsed Ehrlich were invited.”

The Baltimore Examiner wrote, “Rather than conduct a series of one-on-one interviews, Ehrlich’s press office invited reporters to dine on seafood stew over rice — but only print journalists from newspapers who had endorsed his re-election, which was just about all of them except for The Sun.”

The Washington Times filed a story and didn’t mention any conditions, surprise.

I looked at the Baltimore Sun online and found no mention of the event.

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2006 at 11:52 am

Wow! 100 lumens per watt

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Read and be amazed:

Seoul Semiconductor has created a light-emitting diode that emits roughly 240 lumens and claims the highest efficiency (amount of electricity to amount of light) of any light source. Fluorescents hit 70 lumens per watt, incandescents max out at 15, but this new LED emits roughly 100 lumens per watt. The results, if and when this technology gets cheap enough for the mass market, will be smaller, more efficient light sources, and lights that can exist in far different form factors than the current bulb or tube shapes. The devices also have applications in consumer electronics, specifically LCD back lights and projectors.

LEDs with similar efficiencies have been produced at universities, but this is the first time a corporation has begun creating these superefficient LEDs. Seoul Semiconductor says that, while this advancement is significant, they’re moving forward with even more efficient LEDs. They expect, for example, a 145 lumen per watt LED by 2008, which would double the efficiency of standard compact fluorescents. We just have to wait and see how expensive they are.

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2006 at 11:09 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Credit cards: be careful

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Chase raises guy’s Annual Percentage Rate to 148.14%.

UPDATE: Link fixed. Sorry.

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2006 at 10:45 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Sometimes research confirms what you thought

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Sometimes it doesn’t—that’s why it’s important to do research. But in this case, it does:

The marathon working shifts expected of first-year medical residents, called interns, are putting patients in danger, according to the first study to identify mistakes that injured patients. After five 24-hour-plus shifts a month, the study found that interns were seven times more likely to harm a patient through error than if they had not worked any long shifts, and four times more likely to make a mistake that resulted in a patient’s death.

“These data suggest that fatigue contributes to tens of thousands of injuries to patients and thousands of deaths” annually, says Charles Czeisler of Harvard Medical School, who led the study. “Academic medicine is failing both doctors and patients.”

The new findings are based on responses from 2,737 interns nationwide who voluntarily submitted monthly reports on their work hours and fatigue-related errors. The questionnaires, crafted by Czeisler and his colleagues, asked interns if they had made any harmful or fatal errors that they felt were the result of fatigue or sleep deprivation as well as if they had erred due to other causes.

Based on a total of 17,003 reports, the researchers found that working even a few prolonged shifts led to significantly more errors. After one to four extended shifts, interns were 3.5 times more likely to report that they had made a fatal error and were 8.7 times more likely to report they had inadvertently harmed a patient. Marathon shifts also made the interns more likely to doze off during surgery, lectures and while examining patients alone or with other doctors, the monthly reports showed.

More stringent guidelines adopted three years ago still allow residents to work up to nine 30-hour shifts per month, but earlier this year Czeisler’s group found that interns routinely violated many of the new guidelines.

In absolute terms, 1 to 2 percent of the monthly reports included a harmful error, and 0.3 to 0.4 percent included a fatal error. Czeisler based his estimate of mistake-related deaths on the number of interns (at least 100,000) now practicing in the U.S. and the assumption that more experienced residents are erring at similar rates.

The study “exposes interns’ extended shifts as a weakness in the design of the residency system,” writes public health researcher Mariana Szklo-Coxe of the University of Wisconsin in an editorial that accompanies the new study, which was published online this week by PLoS Medicine.

To reduce medical errors, she recommends that hospitals or health officials require residents to take naps and work only 14-hour shifts, which studies have found to reduce errors and are closer to the limits imposed in European countries.

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2006 at 10:40 am

Posted in Health, Medical, Science

Media as the adversary to government

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Once again, an excellent post from Glenn Greenwald. He points to the NY Times‘s coverage of the Holocaust (deniers) conference in Iran as an (unfortunately rare) example of good reportage: the story not only explained what the conference attendees are saying, but also explains that those statements are false based on historical evidence.

Although the Times does this coverage well, it totally cops out when an American politician makes a demonstrably false statement: the Times (and the Post and most other media) will report the statement but not report the evidence against it, thus failing in journalistic duty and integrity.

The post is definitely worth reading, and Greenwald links to one of the comments on the post:

I wonder how the corporate media would react if Bush denied the Holocaust. Maybe something like:

The politically charged controversy over whether Nazi Germany engaged in the large-scale killing of European Jews during World War II, an alleged historical event referred to as the “Holocaust” by those who believe it occurred, became the subject of partisan bickering after a reporter asked President Bush for his view on the subject. Never afraid to take a stand, the president stated firmly that “If the Nazis were really killin’ all them Jews, my granddaddy wouldn’t have stood for it.”

Democrats eagerly pounced on Bush’s statement in an effort to score political points by claiming that the “Holocaust” did in fact occur and is well documented. But the president’s press secretary countered that some people also believe evolution is well documented, even though the jury is still out. Senator Joseph Lieberman, who is Jewish, said that he personally believes that the “Holocaust” may have occurred, but warned Democrats not to “play politics” with the issue by criticizing the Commander in Chief in a time of war. Lieberman also pointed to Bush’s support for Israel as evidence of the president’s high regard for Jews, notwithstanding the “honest difference of opinion” regarding the fate of some Jews many years ago.

Also disagreeing with Bush was Sophie Wasserman, 89, who claimed to have personally witnessed the murder of her husband and children in a Nazi “concentration camp” in the German city of Dachau. However, conservative humorist Ann Coulter disputed Wasserman’s account. Coulter, using her trademark tongue-in-cheek cleverness, described Wasserman as a “vicious, senile whore” whose husband and children “probably committed suicide to get away from her.”

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2006 at 10:35 am

Posted in Media

Cutest kitten fighting sleep

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Just like a little kid. I watch this little guy a couple of times a day.

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2006 at 9:56 am

Posted in Cats, Video

Lack of ethics and good sense

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Not to mention totally tasteless. Who? Michael Crichton, the novelist who is sure that global warming is a hoax and is James Inhofe’s favorite expert on the subject. Read it here.

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2006 at 9:31 am

Posted in Books, Environment

Skype 3.0 now officially released

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I’m downloading it as I write. If you use the “Check for Updates” under “Help,” it doesn’t find 3.0, but if you go to the link you can download and install. Windows only. If you use Skype, might as well update now. If you don’t, you might as well give it a try.

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2006 at 9:12 am

Posted in Skype, Software

The mess the GOP made—the financial one, for starters

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It looks ugly:

Democrats, who will shape fiscal policies in the new Congress, issued a scathing report Wednesday on the “financial mess” they’ll inherit from their Republican counterparts next month.

The Democrats called the budget “the fiscal disaster the Republican Congress is leaving behind,” and Republicans sharply rejected their claims — signals that post-election pledges of bipartisan cooperation by leaders of both parties might have been hollow talk.

“Unlike the Bush administration, which inherited historic budget surpluses when it took office in 2001, the Democratic 110th Congress will inherit a Republican budget legacy that will not be easy to reverse,” said Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., who’ll chair the House Budget Committee.

“Over the last six years, Republicans have created historic budget deficits and a mountain of debt,” he said.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., who will head the House Appropriations Committee, said there’ll be no quick fix. “Republicans have spent years handing out billions upon billions of dollars in tax cuts to millionaires while shortchanging our national policies,” Obey said. “It is going to take us years to get back on track.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2006 at 3:00 am

They knew it was wrong at the time

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But they did it anyway:

A previously undisclosed Pentagon report concluded that the three terrorism suspects held at a brig in South Carolina were subjected to months of isolation, and it warned that their “unique” solitary confinement could be viewed as violating U.S. detention standards.

According to a summary of the 2004 report obtained by The Washington Post, interrogators attempted to deprive one detainee, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a Qatari citizen and former student in Peoria, Ill., of sleep and religious comfort by taking away his Koran, warm food, mattresses and pillow as part of an interrogation plan approved by the high-level Joint Forces Command.

Interrogators also prevented the International Committee of the Red Cross from visiting at least one detainee, according to the report, which noted evidence of other unspecified, unauthorized interrogation techniques.

The report by the Navy’s inspector general was presented to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in May 2004 and was declassified in 2005. It was the first to raise the question of mistreatment of alleged enemy combatants inside the United States.

Its details about conditions at the Navy brig in 2004 could prove critical to the fate of two of the “enemy combatant” detainees who spent years in the prison: Marri, the only one of the three who remains there and is facing the prospect of a special military trial, and Jose Padilla, a Brooklyn-born U.S. citizen now facing criminal charges in Miami.

Attorneys for Padilla have argued in recent court filings that any abusive interrogation methods used on their client may mean that his statements to government agents were coerced and, therefore, inadmissible in his trial. He is accused of engaging in a conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and provide material support to terrorists abroad.

The attorneys told a federal judge in Florida yesterday that they have a right to learn about those interrogation methods, and they recently sought to subpoena Brig. Gen. Daryl D. Thiessen, the deputy inspector general who made the findings after inspecting the brig, and other senior military officers who worked at the prison. The attorneys said Padilla spent 1,307 days in a 9-by-7-foot cell in an isolated unit, was often chained to the ground for hours by his wrists and torso, and was kept awake at night by guards using bright lights and loud noises.

Prosecutors asked the judge to quash the subpoenas, arguing that Padilla’s attorneys are making “meritless” and “sensationalist” claims to turn the court’s attention away from his alleged misconduct. In previous filings, the government decried the “absurdity of Padilla’s assertion” that he was abused, noting that the government was “conscientious enough to tend to his toothache.”

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Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2006 at 2:55 am

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