Thursday, August 21, 2003
"Coalition Troops Capture 'Conventional Ali'
(2003-08-21) -- The Iraqi general formerly known as 'Chemical Ali' was captured this morning by Coalition troops.
However, Ali Hassan al-Majid is now officially known as 'Conventional Ali,' since it is common knowledge that Iraq had no chemical weapons program.
"The thousands of Iraqis and Kurds who we thought were gassed on Al-Majid's orders, must have died from breathing the smoke of conventional weapons or perhaps sand dust," said an unnamed Pentagon spokesman. "But Conventional Ali will still be charged with misdemeanor violations of some environmental regulations about dust control at work sites."
The Pentagon had previously said that 'Conventional Ali' had died in an air strike in April.
Today an unnamed Pentagon spokesman said, "He'll wish he were dead when he gets done serving six-to-nine months in jail for his crimes.""
And because I love his stuff, I can't rip off this story:
"Arafat Orders Raids of Palestinian Terror Cells ... "I'm sick to death of these ruthless, gutless, murderous parasites scuttling every peace initiative," said a visibly agitated Mr. Arafat. "We will hunt down the evil cowards who plan these murders, and who often use brainwashed youth as weapons. We will put them in prisons or execute them"
Read the rest of that, then anything else there you haven't seen
story from the Beeb:
"Palestinian militants call off truce
The Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have called off their ceasefire after an Israeli missile strike killed a Hamas leader in Gaza City. "
Admittedly, it does mention in fairly early on that Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for yesterday's bombing.
But surely this is the ideal situation for the "BBC's" "selective" "quotation marks". Let us examine the Merriam-Webster definition of the word chosen for the article's title:
"Main Entry: 1truce
Etymology: Middle English trewes, plural of trewe agreement, from Old English trEow fidelity; akin to Old English trEowe faithful -- more at TRUE
Date: 13th century
1 : a suspension of fighting especially of considerable duration by agreement of opposing forces"
You know, that has a synonym:
Main Entry: cease-fire
1 : a military order to cease firing
2 : a suspension of active hostilities
But somehow, it takes to the end of the article for anyone to point out the obvious: there wasn't a ceasefire or truce, and it's deceitful to claim that there was:
"Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Gideon Meir derided Hamas' declaration that it was ending the truce.
"This announcement is ridiculous, coming from a movement which claimed responsibility for this horrific attack [in Jerusalem] and attempted a whole string of attacks over the last two weeks," he said."
Just in case anyone thinks yesterday could fit into "a suspension of active hostilities" or "a suspension of fighting":
"Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have said they carried out the bombing.
But a senior Hamas official reportedly said the bombing did not mean the end of a temporary ceasefire by the militants.
"I can't say the ceasefire is finished. We are still committed to a ceasefire as Palestinian organisations, national and Islamic, but all Palestinian organisations said clearly we will react for each aggression from the side of Israelis," Reuters quoted the official as saying.
Hamas distributed fliers in Hebron after the attack, saying the Jerusalem bombing was carried out by Raed Abdel-Hamed Mesk, 29, a mosque preacher from Hebron, the Associated Press reported.
The blast took place on Tuesday at about 2100 (1800GMT) in an ultra-Orthodox area - Shmuel Hanavi - near the old dividing line between east and west Jerusalem.
First Islamic Jihad said it was behind the attack. It had vowed revenge last week after Israeli troops killed one of its leaders in the West Bank town of Hebron.
But later, a videotape released in Hebron showed a man who identified himself as a member of Hamas, and announced he would carry out the suicide bombing."
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
"I'm sure you've seen a lot of tech-savvy people smugly showing off that new hunk of entertainment hardware, the iPod personal stereo. Well, I might not have the scratch to get one, but frankly, I don't want the white-corded wonder. I have my very own iPod—in my mind.
I hear those little things carry up to a month's worth of music. Well, so does my mind. I can call up any song I've ever heard, any time I want. And I never have to load software or charge batteries. There are no firewire cords or docks to mess with. I just put my hands behind my head, lean back, and select a tune from the extensive music-library folder inside my brain.
I can browse by artist, album, song, or music genre. Boom! I'm doing it right now! The "repeat" feature? Heck, songs from my iPod don't ever have to end. I swear, I had "Music Box Dancer" going through my head for three days straight last week.
You say those iPods have customizable playlists that allow you to line up songs of your choosing? Primitive! I can put together a playlist, say "Best-Ever Heavy Metal Anthems," while I'm sitting in traffic. My mind is light-years beyond that, though. Does your iPod have the "That Reminds Me Of Another Great Song" feature? Well, my mind does!"
Monday, August 18, 2003
There's been talk about compulsory testing for HIV and other diseases among immigrants. Looking at the numbers, it's not so obvious this is a good idea.
There are a few issues involved:
1) We might stop people coming in who are HIV positive, say. If we do, we save the treatment costs in return for the costs of the testing. And send people home to die.
2) We migh let people in after testing, in which case we increase treatment and testing costs, but presumably cut back on the number of genuinely new infections in the UK caused by people sleeping with people from high infection countries who haven't been tested.
3) Or, um, we may be able to think of a third option - send them back but pay for treatment there?
Now, per the story:
"Almost all the increase [in the rate of infection] among heterosexuals is a result of immigration from Africa, and the sharp rise is expected to fuel calls for the Government to adopt Australian-style health tests for immigrants. ...
In the first six months of this year there were 1,094 newly diagnosed cases of HIV among heterosexuals, up from 761 cases at the same time last year — a rise of 44 per cent. The number of new cases among homosexuals was 528, up from 498. Both figures are expected to rise as late-reported cases are officially notified.
Nine out of ten heterosexual cases had been acquired overseas, and of those nine out of ten had been acquired in Africa — almost all by immigrants to Britain as opposed to British people acquiring infection on a foreign trip.
The number of cases arriving from Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia is also rising, the agency said, but almost all the growth was from Africa, with about 2,500 cases imported last year. “This disparity is due to the very high HIV prevalences in many African countries, (and) the historic links between the UK and Africa,” the agency said in its Communicable Disease Report."
Assuming we're looking at pro-rata numbers, then we may be expecting around 3500 cases "imported" this year. The treatment costs are, say, £10,000 a head a year (this may be a touch low - I don't know the latest treatment costs). So, you can save costs of 10k x 3,500 = cumulative £35m a year. Hands up anyone who believes the government can implement a comprehensive testing plan for less than £35m a year?
Now, that's comparing apples and oranges, as testing is a one-off event for each immigrant, but the costs ratchet up: year one, if you boot people out, you save and spend £35m (say). Year two, you spend £35m and save £70m or so. Etc.
However, if the plan is to test, then let people in, then a) it's probably got minor benefits for the people infected by sexual contact with migrants, as there may be more precautions taken, but b) you're rapidly building up costs for treatment. On the other hand, if they're treated early, they're more likely to remain able to work, etc, paying off costs in taxes. So the idea may not lack all merit.
I suppose the real advantage would come if you "priced in" some quality of life measure for people infected who would otherwise not be:
"Britain has until recently avoided a heterosexual HIV epidemic, with only about 50 cases of HIV being caught each year through heterosexual sex. But the Health Protection Agency said that the number in Britain infected by African immigrants had risen from 17 in 1993 to 153 in 2002"
At a conservative £100k benefit for each infection avoided, this is a cumulative £15m a year IF you can avoid these infections by testing. If you don't have a plan that stops them, it's just meddling on the edges of the problem.
After all, with most immigrants from the better off sections of society, low cost improvements in health care in Africa could lead to large reductions in risk among migrant populations...
"For the average black or Latino American, life is better than it was; but the gap between minority households and whites continues to grow every year, in terms of employment, education and health."
Could the major factor be the high levels of Latino immigration the author mentions? If you pour in the poor at the bottom, there are going to be massive, on-going disparities. Absolutely nothing to do with blacks, but shows there are multiple trends to look at....
"Those who do succeed outside of entertainment and sport do so only and exclusively through two routes, both of which are widely regarded with distaste by Europeans. One is contract compliance, in which both the government and big private sector companies are, in effect, compelled to give a proportion of their work to minority entrepreneurs. I have yet to learn of a black millionaire who has not benefited from this provision"
Could this be anything, ANYTHING, to do with the fact that, um, the firms most likely to win these contracts are the ones that are best run, and probably well on course to a million or two anyway? If you make a scheme pretty universal, it's going to be hard to get rich without benefiting from it, or at least appearing to....
"The truth is that even in liberal California, racial mixing is still a rarity. More than 30% of the US population is either black, Asian or Latino. Statistically, if Americans chose their partners at random, more than a third of American births should be of mixed race. The figure is, in fact, just 1.6%. Here, it's about 1.1%"
You'd think, as a member of "the black community", Trevor Philips might be aware of pressures that aren't only about white racism. For example, the well established phenomenon of pressure to marry black women on successful black men. But no, back to the slating of America's "racial nightmare"...
I like the example questions produced for the medical and related test. For example, these half-hour questions seem a slightly shorter, and slightly better developed, version of the tests I sat way back when, and would be a great jumping off point for interviews:
"4. Science teaches us to question established knowledge.
What does the statement above imply? Can you suggest examples where science might not encourage us to question established knowledge? If so, what determines when science teaches us to question established knowledge and when it does not?
5. Plants do not have brains because they cannot walk.
Summarise the argument by which this statement might be justified. How might one argue against it? Can any such arguments be verified by experiment?"
The latter can double up in the philosophy test, and resembles my favourite interview question (following up discussion): "what do you mean when you say the brain thinks?"
Anyway, expect a denunciation in the Guardian later this week.
"SINN FEIN has asked for criminal records of the 15,000 IRA members convicted during the Troubles to be removed from government records.
It said that the move would help terrorists released under the Good Friday agreement to reintegrate into society. Many have problems finding employment because of their criminal records.
IRA members who would benefit include Patrick Magee, who tried to assassinate Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet at the Conservative Party conference in Brighton in 1984.
The concession is the latest in a long list of requests coming from the political wing of the IRA. Other demands have been met in the past but it was not clear whether the British and Irish Governments would be prepared to let so many crimes be set aside. "
"We'd like to thank all the members who helped make Birmingham's
first flash mob happen. As you've probably seen at the web site, we
won't be organising any more mob events.
This is not a reaction to the way Saturday's events unfolded. We
were pleased with the result; even if you did stop singing far too
quickly!. It was always our intention to let go after one event.
A few days ago we got an e-mail from a member that said:
"Hi, I was there today at the Birmingham mob. I am dissapointed to
here it will all come to an end now. Personally I don't feel that
excessive media attention is a reason to stop but this is your party
This is categorically not the case. It is NOT our party, it's
yours. That's why you don't know who we are. That's why the guys
who helped issue the instructions don't even know who we are.
We felt (even before our event had occurred) that flash mobs, in
their current guise, had come to the end of their life. That's why
we tried to do something a little different. Here's a few quotes,
taken from the global mob Yahoo group and cheesebikini.com over the
last few days, that give some idea of why the movement has changed.
"There was a Yahoo group called phillymob, but it seems to have
disbanded in the last week. There was some contention between two
people as to who was the organizer."
"You may/may not have heard about a recent FlashMob at the London
Eye, London, UK. Turns out 120 people turned up to eat bananas and
wave their hands at the huge wheel. It turns out whole thing had
been setup by the Daily Mail (a popular national UK newspaper for
the misguided middle classes) just for the sake of a story, and
making the flashmobbers look pretty stupid. "
"A group of flash mob organizers in Boston reports that Yahoo!
Groups suddenly and unexpectedly removed the Bostoncitymob Web site,
where Boston flash mobbers were organizing. Along with the site, the
organizers lost a list of more than 1,000 people who signed up to
receive announcements about the next Boston flash mob. They lost
their Yahoo! e-mail account as well."
Anyway, what puzzles me is that it's being reported, elsewhere at least, they've brought in a new law, effectively in a week, banning "bar crawls". I don't see how that's practical unless it's a local bye-law sort of thing, with limited penalties. Would be interesting to know more:
"TWO British holiday reps were arrested on the Greek island of Rhodes yesterday in a police campaign to curb drunken and violent behaviour.
A 31-year-old man from First Choice 2wentys and a 34-year-old woman from Olympic Holidays face charges of “guided, illegal trade”, which relate to them allegedly being paid to direct tourists to specific clubs or bars.
More British travel reps were likely to be arrested, police said. They allege that the two reps also organised pub crawls that could lead to “violence or sexual excesses”. "
"Parents who have not been taught to be responsible for the State have grown up,” he said. “It is a matter of course that children brought up by them become bad.”
One of the main issues concerns patriotism and the renewed efforts to foster “proactive participation” in Japanese society.
After calls earlier this year by an Education Ministry panel for the first revision of 1947 Fundamental Law of Education, the bureaucracy is taking a more hands-on role in dictating the way in which schools are run. The ministry justified this by pointing out a “siege mentality” in schools. Teachers are strongly resisting the intervention and many have taken a stand.
Teachers in Fukuoka have refused to fill in the section of the report card where children are graded on their patriotism. "
Now, you don't have to be as concerned about resurgant Japanese nationalism as Gary Faber* to find that last sentence a little disturbing. Kids "graded on their patriotism"? Surely there's potential for disaster here?
Fortunately, I suspect grade inflation will rapidly set in, and all will win patriotic prizes. The rest of the reported plans, such as a daily flag raising ceremony, etc, aren't totally unknown elsewhere, and will probably just be mocked as passe by hip young Japanese kids....
*who'd probably mention things like Japanese Prime Ministers visiting shrines that represent executed war criminals, or the potential for the Korean situation to give us a rich, but resource poor, nuclear nation with a bad history with its neighbours, or its continuing inability to apologise to said neighbours - as opposed to their institutionalised pacificism, the massive resistance to even minor uses of military force, or the presence of natural counter-balances in the region