Later On

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

Archive for July 3rd, 2010

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Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 3:53 pm

Bill Keller’s weak defense of his abolition of the word "torture"

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In response to the Harvard study documenting how newspapers labeled waterboarding as “torture” for almost 100 years until the Bush administration told them not to, The New York Times issued a statement justifying this behavior on the ground that it did not want to take sides in the debate.  Andrew Sullivan, Greg Sargent and Adam Serwer all pointed out that “taking a side” is precisely what the NYT did:  by dutifully complying with the Bush script and ceasing to use the term (replacing it with cleansing euphemisms), it endorsed the demonstrably false proposition that waterboarding was something other than torture.  Yesterday, the NYT‘s own Brian Stelter examined this controversy and included a justifying quote from the paper’s Executive Editor, Bill Keller, that is one of the more demented and reprehensible statements I’ve seen from a high-level media executive in some time (h/t Jay Rosen):

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said the newspaper has written so much about the issue of water-boarding that “I think this Kennedy School study — by focusing on whether we have embraced the politically correct term of art in our news stories — is somewhat misleading and tendentious.”

Whether an interrogation technique constitutes “torture” is what determines whether it is prohibited by long-standing international treaties, subject to mandatory prosecution, criminalized under American law, and scorned by all civilized people as one of the few remaining absolute taboos.  But to The New York Times‘ Executive Editor, the demand that torture be so described, and the complaint that the NYT ceased using the term the minute the Bush administration commanded it to, is just tendentious political correctness: nothing more than trivial semantic fixations on a “term of art” by effete leftists.  So obviously, it is the NYT itself which is guilty of extreme “political correctness” by referring to torture not as “torture” but with cleansing, normalizing, obfuscating euphemisms such as “the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks” and “intense interrogations.”  Intense.  As Rosen puts it:  “So, Bill Keller, ‘the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks’ is plainspeak and ‘torture’ is PC?  Got it.

Worse, to justify his paper’s conduct, Keller adds …

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Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 1:45 pm

The administration defends its assassination program

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Glenn Greenwald:

In the wake of Leon Panetta’s public defense of the targeting of American citizens suspected (but never charged or convicted) of Terrorism, Obama officials are now apparently going around the country and, with chest-beating rhetoric, overtly defending their right to target Americans for assassination with no due process of any kind:

"If someone like Anwar al-Awlaki is responsible" for part of a plot "to kill more than 300 people over the city of Detroit," [director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael] Leiter said, "I think it would be wholly irresponsible for citizens like me, Leon Panetta, Defense Secretary (Robert) Gates, and ultimately the president, not to at least think about and potentially direct all the elements of national power to try to defend the American people" . . .

A woman in the crowd who identified herself as an American Civil Liberties Union member asked why there was no judicial review of such kill orders, citing the standard warrant requirements facing a policeman before entering a citizen’s home.

Leiter explained that while "a police officer does need a court order to go after a house," the lawman "has a right of self-defense if someone pulls out a gun."  The U.S. government, Leiter insisted, has the same right. He added that there is congressional oversight of such actions.

For several reasons, this is misleading in the extreme.  First, nobody disputes the military’s right (or the police’s) to use force if they seek to apprehend someone and that person begins shooting at them.  That situation has nothing whatsoever to do with the presidential assassination program, which authorizes targeted killings without any attempt at apprehension and no matter what the person is doing at the time:  i.e., sleeping, riding in a car, watching television with their children, etc. (indeed, the administration has already tried to kill Awlaki in exactly this fashion without trying to apprehend him).  If, as Leiter deceitfully suggests, this were only about the military or CIA’s use of force in the event that a suspect starts using violence during an attempted apprehension, then no presidential order would be needed because they already have that right, and there’d be no controversy.  That’s just obvious.  Instead, "[t]he Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing [] targeted killing" of Americans.  The police don’t have the right to put a bullet in the back of a suspect’s head while he sleeps or by sneaking up behind him while he walks on the street, which is the actual Police analogy to what the Obama administration is doing.

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Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 1:41 pm

G-20 Fail

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Tim Fernholz in The American Prospect:

In the depths of the financial crisis, the world’s 20 largest economies took an unprecedented step: At the April 2009 G-20 Summit in London, world leaders agreed to provide $5 trillion in spending in an effort to counteract the effects of the recession on jobs and growth. The U.S. had already complied via the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed two months prior. Other countries followed suit, helping bring about the stumbling global recovery we’re now experiencing.

Last weekend, President Barack Obama traveled to Toronto, Canada, for another G-20 summit. He had a simple agenda, according to a recent op-ed by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and top White House economic hand Larry Summers: "ensure that global demand is both strong and balanced." The two note correctly that "we must demonstrate a commitment to reducing long-term deficits, but not at the price of short-term growth. Without growth now, deficits will rise further and undermine future growth."

All of that means that the U.S. wants more government spending and efforts to stimulate demand — especially from those countries, like China and Germany, that export more than they buy. Unfortunately, Obama came away from the conference empty-handed. A bloc of European countries, led by German and British Prime Ministers Angela Merkel and David Cameron, rebuffed the president. The final G-20 declaration encourages governments to finish existing stimulus plans but mainly focuses on exhortations for "sustainability" and "consolidation" — cutting budgets to limit risk to government debt.

Unfortunately, with the economic recovery slow and not all that steady, this is not the best policy prescription. Growth, as commentators from Paul Krugman to Matthew Yglesias have noted, is key to both future success and continued borrowing. Austerity during a recession, on the other hand, tends to kill growth. This has led sovereign debt markets to keep countries that have steeply cut public spending, like Greece and Ireland, at arm’s length. They are unable to borrow cheaply and are facing enormous unemployment and political strife. Yet these are the policies being recommended by world leaders.

How did Obama fail to sell his fellow world leaders on a renewed stimulus effort? "He would be a lot more convincing if he did it himself," Mark Weisbrot, the co-director of the Center on Economic Policy Research, told me. "The U.S. is making a negative contribution to the economy right now — we don’t have a stimulus here," he said, explaining that state and local government cuts are undermining already limited federal efforts to push the economy toward growth. Even a pared-down bill to fight unemployment has been defeated several times in the Senate.

Moreover, Obama’s domestic rhetoric has been attuned to political concerns. Much of the substance of Obama’s second budget, unveiled last winter, was designed to counter the recession — even if it did not go as far as many economists would have liked — but the administration publicly emphasized a "spending freeze" and deficit reduction. These gestures disguise the fact that our deficit doesn’t come from an increase in discretionary spending but from lost revenue due to the recession, tax cuts, and wars that were not paid for during the Bush administration, and long-term costs of health care. It seems world leaders took Obama’s rhetoric at face value…

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Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 1:38 pm

Dave Weigel’s greatest hits at the Washington Independent

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He’s good, no doubt about it. Take a look:

Now that the ethically dubious publication of some of his private emails has derailed Dave Weigel’s tenure at The Washington Post by raising questions about his ability to report effectively on the conservative movement, we thought it would be a good time to highlight just how effective Weigel can be. Here’s a look back at some of the best pieces of reporting from Weigel’s illustrious time at TWI — a time in which he helped define the birther and Tea Party movements and set a new standard for coverage of conservatives in America:

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Media

Matt Taibbi takes Lara Logan to task

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And Taibbi’s right: Logan doesn’t seem to be a journalist at all.

Lara Logan, come on down! You’re the next guest on Hysterical Backstabbing Jealous Hackfest 2010!

I thought I’d seen everything when I read David Brooks saying out loud in a New York Times column that reporters should sit on damaging comments to save their sources from their own idiocy. But now we get CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan slamming our own Michael Hastings on CNN’s "Reliable Sources" program, agreeing that the Rolling Stone reporter violated an "unspoken agreement" that journalists are not supposed to "embarrass [the troops] by reporting insults and banter."

Anyone who wants to know why network television news hasn’t mattered since the seventies just needs to check out this appearance by Logan. Here’s CBS’s chief foreign correspondent saying out loud on TV that when the man running a war that’s killing thousands of young men and women every year steps on his own dick in front of a journalist, that journalist is supposed to eat the story so as not to embarrass the flag. And the part that really gets me is Logan bitching about how Hastings was dishonest to use human warmth and charm to build up enough of a rapport with his sources that they felt comfortable running their mouths off in front of him. According to Logan, that’s sneaky — and journalists aren’t supposed to be sneaky:

"What I find is the most telling thing about what Michael Hastings said in your interview is that he talked about his manner as pretending to build an illusion of trust and, you know, he’s laid out there what his game is… That is exactly the kind of damaging type of attitude that makes it difficult for reporters who are genuine about what they do, who don’t — I don’t go around in my personal life pretending to be one thing and then being something else. I mean, I find it egregious that anyone would do that in their professional life."

When I first heard her say that, I thought to myself, "That has to be a joke. It’s sarcasm, right?" But then I went back and replayed the clip – no sarcasm! She meant it! If I’m hearing Logan correctly, what Hastings is supposed to have done in that situation is interrupt these drunken assholes and say, "Excuse me, fellas, I know we’re all having fun and all, but you’re saying things that may not be in your best interest! As a reporter, it is my duty to inform you that you may end up looking like insubordinate douche bags in front of two million Rolling Stone readers if you don’t shut your mouths this very instant!" I mean, where did Logan go to journalism school – the Burson-Marsteller agency?

But Logan goes even further that that. See, according to Logan, not only are reporters not supposed to disclose their agendas to sources at all times, but in the case of covering the military, one isn’t even supposed to have …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Daily life, Media, Military

Good advice re: kettlebells

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Not a very good video—particularly the sound—but some very good advice. His emphasis on gaining flexibility before getting too much involved in kettlebells.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 1:28 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Video

Germany’s approach to hard times

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I wonder whether their approach is due to Germany having unions that are stronger and more active than in the US. It’s hard to believe that management would come up with this. From Beat the Press:

Harold Meyerson touts Germany as one of the winners in this downturn noting that its unemployment rate remained below that of the United States. While he attributes this fact to its strong manufacturing sector, Germany has actually suffered a steeper downturn than the United States.

The reason that Germany’s unemployment rate is more than 2 percentage points lower than the rate in the United States is that it has a policy of work-sharing to deal with inadequate demand. Instead of paying out benefits to unemployed workers, it pays companies to reduce workers’ hours.

In a typical arrangement workers would see their hours cut by 20 percent. The government makes up 60 percent of the lost wages or 12 percent of total wages. The company makes up 20 percent of the lost wages or 4 percent of total wages. The worker then ends up with a pay cut of 4 percent while working 20 percent fewer hours. This loss of pay is likely to be largely offset by fewer work-related expenses, for example lower commuting costs as a result of working a 4-day week instead of a 5-day week.

As a result of work sharing Germans are experiencing this downturn in the form of shorter workweeks and longer vacations. By contrast, in the United States workers are experiencing the downturn as near double-digit unemployment.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 12:17 pm

Intelligence Averages Linked to Regional Infectious Disease Burden

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interesting podcast by Karen Hopkins at Scientific American, in which she says:

Over the years, people have put forth a lot of theories to explain why intelligence differs, from person to person and even around the world. Health, wealth, schooling, nutrition, and even climate have all come up. Now, researchers at the University of New Mexico suggest that parasites might play a role. They find that the prevalence of infectious diseases can be a powerful predictor of regional smarts. Their work appears in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. [Christopher Eppig, Corey Fincher and Randy Thornhill,]

It takes a lot of energy to build and operate a human brain. This needy organ commands 87 percent of the body’s metabolic budget in infants, and about 25 percent in adults. So things that sap our energy are likely to hinder our intellectual growth. That’s why malnourishment’s not good for the mind.

But what about parasites? Fighting off nasty bugs can take a lot out of you. So the scientists got to wondering whether excessive infections might correlate with impaired cognitive development. Looking at IQs from around the world, they found that high levels of infectious disease go hand in hand with lower average national intelligence.

Although the authors have not demonstrated cause-and-effect, it’s nice to think that taking down parasites could bring up our IQs.

We all know (say it together): "Correlation does not equal causation," and it’s equally likely that the less intelligent are more attractive to parasites. Well, maybe not.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 12:14 pm

Cat cafés

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The Wife probably hopes that they have these in Paris.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Business, Cats, Daily life

Do traditional economic models apply to the poor?

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Maybe not. Vaughn at Mind Hacks:

I’ve just picked up on this thought-provoking 2008 article from the Boston Globe on a psychological theory of poverty that suggests that traditional economic models just don’t apply to the poor.

The article riffs on an apparently under-recognised book by philosopher Charles Karelis called The Persistence of Poverty: Why the Economics of the Well-off Can’t Help the Poor.

Compared with the middle class or the wealthy, the poor are disproportionately likely to drop out of school, to have children while in their teens, to abuse drugs, to commit crimes, to not save when extra money comes their way, to not work.

To an economist, this is irrational behavior. It might make sense for a wealthy person to quit his job, or to eschew education or develop a costly drug habit. But a poor person, having little money, would seem to have the strongest incentive to subscribe to the Puritan work ethic, since each dollar earned would be worth more to him than to someone higher on the income scale. Social conservatives have tended to argue that poor people lack the smarts or willpower to make the right choices. Social liberals have countered by blaming racial prejudice and the crippling conditions of the ghetto for denying the poor any choice in their fate. Neoconservatives have argued that antipoverty programs themselves are to blame for essentially bribing people to stay poor.

Karelis, a professor at George Washington University, has a simpler but far more radical argument to make: traditional economics just doesn’t apply to the poor. When we’re poor, Karelis argues, our economic worldview is shaped by deprivation, and we see the world around us not in terms of goods to be consumed but as problems to be alleviated. This is where the bee stings come in: A person with one bee sting is highly motivated to get it treated. But a person with multiple bee stings does not have much incentive to get one sting treated, because the others will still throb. The more of a painful or undesirable thing one has (i.e. the poorer one is) the less likely one is to do anything about any one problem. Poverty is less a matter of having few goods than having lots of problems.

I also a found a short piece on NPR where Karelis discusses the idea further and I was thinking that as an essentially psychological theory, the general idea must have been tested before.

However, I’m having trouble finding anything directly relevant, although I’m certainly not an expert in the area so maybe I’m looking in the wrong places.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 11:11 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Data at rest vs. Data in motion

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Very different security requirements. Read about it.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 11:01 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Cutting the deficit: What’s off limits?

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Interesting column in Foreign Policy by Josh Rogin:

Sarah Palin is waging a battle inside the Tea Party movement to exempt defense spending from the group’s small-government, anti-deficit fervor.

There’s growing concern among Republicans — and especially among the pro-defense neoconservative wing of the party — that national-security spending, which is under a level of scrutiny and pressure not seen since the end of the Cold War, could fall victim to the anti-establishment, anti-spending agenda of the Tea Party movement. Palin, as the unofficial leader of that movement and its most prominent celebrity, is moving to carve out such funding from any drives to cut overall government expenditures.

There’s a sense among GOP insiders that she is not only the perfect figure to make the case, but she’s also the only one who can pull it off.

"In the conservative ranks and within the party, she’s really quite a crucial piece in this puzzle," said Tom Donnelly, defense fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. "She’s got both political and Tea Party/small government bona fides, but she also has a lot of credibility in advocating for military strength."

Although the Tea Party lacks strict organization or the traditional policy discipline found elsewhere on the American right, Palin’s presence looms large over the movement. Her endorsements are prized by candidates, and even the most far-right lawmakers oppose her positions at their own risk.

"The Tea Party movement is not something that’s set in stone. She can have a bridging effect but she can also have a profound influence on the direction that the Tea Party goes," said Donnelly.

Defense spending could also be a theme of Palin’s much-mooted return to the campaign trial in 2012.

"Sarah Palin is uniquely positioned to have an effect and it could also redound in her favor," Donnelly said. "She can lay claim to this issue in ways that give her legitimacy and credibility for her next political move as well."

Palin’s drive to lead the charge against defense cuts on the right was on display in a June 27 speech at "Freedom Fest," a conservative gathering in Norfolk, VA, where she sent a clear message to Republicans that deficit reduction can’t come at the expense of the military…

Continue reading. And see this post to understand why Defense spending is low-hanging fruit so far as cutting the deficit.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 11:00 am

Language as a window to the world

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Vaughn writes at Mind Hacks:

Stanford Magazine has a fascinating article on how speakers of different languages think differently about the world.

The piece focuses on the work of psychologist Lera Boroditsky and covers many of her completely intriguing studies about how the conceptual tools embedded within languages shape how we think.

"In English," she says, moving her hand toward the cup, "if I knock this cup off the table, even accidentally, you would likely say, ‘She broke the cup.’" However, in Japanese or Spanish, she explains, intent matters.

If one deliberately knocks the cup, there is a verb form to indicate as much. But if the act were an accident, Boroditsky explains, a smile dancing across her lips as she translates from Spanish, the speaker would essentially say, "The cup broke itself."…

She has shown that speakers of languages that use "non-agentive" verb forms—those that don’t indicate an animate actor—are less likely to remember who was involved in an incident. In one experiment [pdf], native Spanish speakers are shown videos of several kinds of acts that can be classified as either accidental or intentional, such as an egg breaking or paper tearing. In one, for example, a man sitting at a table clearly and deliberately sticks a pin into the balloon. In another variation, the same man moves his hand toward the balloon and appears surprised when it pops.

The Spanish speakers tend to remember the person who deliberately punctured the balloon, but they do not as easily recall the person who witnesses the pop but did not deliberately cause it. English speakers tend to remember the individual in both the videos equally; they don’t pay more or less attention based on the intention of the person in the video.

The article has an element of Stanford University blowing their own trumpet, but it is also full of delightful examples of how language and understanding interact.

The piece discusses the work in terms of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, which originally claimed that language categories reflected or constrained the categories of the mind but is generally used more widely to suggest that people think differently about concepts in different languages.

Not being a linguist, I never understood why this idea was controversial in the first place, as it seems obvious to me that people are limited or enabled by the conceptual tools available to them through language.

The irony that psychology itself seems limited by the conceptual language of computation seems to have been widely missed by all concerned.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 10:55 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Is BP rejecting skimmers to save money on Gulf oil cleanup?

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BP exists to maximize profits, and one traditional way is to externalize as many expenses as possible—that is, let other people pay for the expenses if you can. A relatively benign example is that the telephone company long ago outsourced to its customers as much as possible the work that it previously paid its operators to do—and, of course, we do the work (looking up and dialing the numbers, including long distance) for free. A less benign example is the way that companies attempt to trash the environment and leave to others the cost of clean-up or the cost of a destroyed ecosystem.

So the question in the title may well have a positive answer. Anita Lee for McClatchy:

From Washington to the Gulf, politicians and residents wonder why so few skimming vessels have been put to work soaking up oil from the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.

Investment banker Fred D. McCallister of Dallas believes he has the answer. McCallister, vice president of Allegiance Capital Corp. in Dallas, has been trying since June 5 to offer a dozen Greek skimming vessels from a client for the cleanup.

“By sinking and dispersing the oil, BP can amortize the cost of the cleanup over the next 15 years or so, as tar balls continue to roll up on the beaches, rather than dealing with the issue now by removing the oil from the water with the proper equipment,” McCallister testified earlier this week before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “As a financial adviser, I understand financial engineering and BP’s desire to stretch out its costs of remediating the oil spill in the Gulf. By managing the cleanup over a period of many years, BP is able to minimize the financial damage as opposed to a huge expenditure in a period of a few years.”

A BP spokesman from Houston, Daren Beaudo, denied the allegation emphatically. He said, “Our goal throughout has been to minimize the amount of oil entering the environment and impacting the shoreline.”

A report released Thursday by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform included a photo depicting “a massive swath of oil” in the Gulf with no skimming equipment in sight. The report concluded: “The lack of equipment at the scene of the spill is shocking, and appears to reflect what some describe as a strategy of cleaning up oil once it comes ashore versus containing the spill and cleaning it up in the ocean.”

McCallister’s experience in trying to win approval for the Greek vessels, along with the frustrations others have expressed in offering specialized equipment, contradicts the official pronouncements from BP and the federal government about the approval process. For foreign vessels, that process is complicated by a 1920 maritime law known as the Jones Act.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. James Watson, who oversees the Unified Command catastrophe response in New Orleans, determined in mid-June an insufficient number of U.S. skimming vessels is available to clean up oil, essentially exempting from the federal Jones Act foreign vessels that could be used in the response, said Capt. Ron LaBrec, a spokesman at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington.

The Jones Act allows only vessels that are U.S. flagged and owned to carry goods between U.S. ports.

To further clarify, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander, promised expedited Jones Act waivers for any essential spill-response activities. “Should any waivers be needed,” Allen said at the time, “we are prepared to process them as quickly as possible to allow vital spill response activities being undertaken by foreign-flagged vessels to continue without delay.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 10:49 am

The Plato code, discovered and cracked

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I love this sort of thing. A guy claims to have found previously unnoticed patterns in Plato’s work—and I wouldn’t be surprised. Plato was an extraordinary writer, and he plays many sly games on the reader. One famous example is the beginning of the Timaeus, the only work of Plato’s that was known in the early middle ages. It’s a cosmology, and ends up saying (more or less) that the universe is, at bottom mathematical, which is still a position that can be maintained today. The dialogue begins, appropriately enough: “One, two, three…” as Socrates counts the persons present—and also presents us with the theme of mathematics.

At any rate, the code is discussed in terms of the Republic (which, in the Dialogues, occurred the day before the day in which Timaeus is set). Here’s the report by the news staff at Scientific Blogging:

A science historian at The University of Manchester says he has cracked ‘The Plato Code’, secret messages purported to be hidden in the writings of history’s most famous philosopher.

Plato likely needs no introduction here but, in brief, he was one of the most influential authors in history; philosopher, mathematician and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the West, which laid the foundations of both Western philosophy and science.

Dr. Jay Kennedy is publishing his findings in the journal Apeiron and says that Plato used a regular pattern of symbols, inherited from the ancient followers of Pythagoras, to give his books a musical structure.  Pythagoras, scientist and religious teacher when such a thing was possible without a lot of drama, had declared that the planets and stars made an inaudible music, a ‘harmony of the spheres’ and Kennedy says Plato imitated this hidden music in his books…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 10:42 am

Posted in Daily life

US may get broadband soon

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Reid Davenport for McClatchy:

More than a year after Congress passed the economic stimulus package, President Barack Obama announced that $795 million of that money will go toward expanding Internet access across the country to provide jobs and improve communication.

Obama’s plan, announced Friday, will allocate more than $1 billion for installing broadband Internet across the country.

About $800 million of that will come from the tax-sponsored stimulus package, while the rest comes from outside investment.

"We’re competing aggressively to make sure the jobs and industries and the markets of tomorrow take root right here in the United States," the president said. "We’re moving forward. And to every American who is looking for work, I promise you, we are going to keep on doing everything that we can."

The plan will create 66 infrastructure projects across the country and more than 5,000 temporary jobs, Obama said. It also will benefit more than 685,000 businesses, 900 health care facilities and 2,400 schools.

The money is part of $7.2 billion in the stimulus that was set aside to expand broadband Internet access.

While the president emphasized job creation Friday in his Internet proposal, he also described new statistics on employment for June as the sixth straight month of job growth despite the phasing out of census jobs…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 10:33 am

Logos with hidden symbols

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Very cute.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 10:28 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

15 manly iPhone apps

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Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 10:26 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Cancer favors the left side in some cultures (ours, for example)

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Extremely interesting detective work, here reported by Douglas Fields at Scientific American:

Curiously, the cancer rate is 10 percent higher in the left breast than in the right. This left-side bias holds true for both men and women and it also applies to the skin cancer melanoma. Researchers Örjan Hallberg of Hallberg Independent Research in Sweden and Ollie Johansson of The Karolinska Institute in Sweden, writing in the June issue of the journal Pathophysiology, suggest a surprising explanation that not only points to a common cause for both cancers, it may change your sleeping habits.

For unknown reasons the rates of breast cancer and melanoma have both increased steadily in the last 30 years. Exposure to the sun elevates the risk of melanoma, but the sun’s intensity has not changed in the last three decades. Stranger still, melanoma most commonly affects the hip, thighs and trunk, which are areas of the body protected from the sun. What is responsible for the left-side dominance and increasing incidence of these cancers?

An intriguing clue comes from the Far East. In Japan there is no correlation between the rates of melanoma and breast cancer as there is in the West, and there is no left-side prevalence for either disease. Moreover, the rate of breast cancer in Japan is significantly lower than in the West; only 3 percent of what is seen in Sweden, for example. The rate of prostate cancer in Japan is only 10 percent of that in the U.K. and U.S.

The researchers suggest an explanation based on differences in sleeping habits in Japan and Western countries. Previous research has shown that both men and women prefer to sleep on their right sides. The reasons for this general preference are unclear, but sleeping on the right side may reduce the weight stress on the heart, and the heartbeat is not as loud as when sleeping on the left. Still, there is no reason to suspect that people in Japan sleep in positions that are any different from those in the West. The beds in Japan, however, are different. The futons used for sleeping in Japan are mattresses placed directly on the bedroom floor, in contrast to the elevated box springs and mattress of beds used in the West. A link between bedroom furniture and cancer seems absurd, but this, the researchers conclude, is the answer.

The first line of evidence they cite comes from a 2007 study in Sweden conducted between 1989 and 1993 that revealed a strong link between …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2010 at 10:23 am

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