May 26, 2005
American Gothic, reinterpreted
This is how we are now portrayed in the minds of some in this world.
May 23, 2005
Korean Dexterity Key to Cloning Advance?
From an AP story by Ji-Soo Kim:
"This work can be done much better in Oriental hands," cloning master Hwang Woo-suk recently told the journal Nature Medicine.
"We can pick up very slippery corn or rice with the steel chopsticks."
Last year, Hwang, a professor at Seoul National University, and his colleagues became the first scientists to extract stem cells from a cloned human embryo.
This week they announced a startling advance: They dramatically improved their efficiency in producing human stem cells, growing 11 new batches that for the first time genetically matched injured or sick patients.
NY Times Cannot Spell Mahatma Gandhi's Name
I confess to being surprised that the Times editorial that I read (in the national edition in paper form) this morning misspelled Gandhi's name. I'm shocked that even at the end of the day, the Times website still has the name wrong.
What does this reveal about how much the Times senior-most editors know about the world? When the most important figure in the last century--who led the world to freedom long before Bush embraced it for "brown people"--has his name misspelled by the supposed American newspaper of record, what does it say about how much we care about the world?
From the Times website at 5 p.m., Pacific Time:
So far, organizers of the [International Freedom Center] have said they want to focus on the idea of freedom as a global phenomenon - with heroes like Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. There will be pressure to narrow the scope of the museum down to a paean to this White House and its stated values.
May 21, 2005
"Animal House on the Night Shift"
The photo shows a young man, a taxi driver in Afghanistan, who, according to reports, was brutally killed by American soldiers at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. Here is the opening of the NY Times story by Tim Golden, based on government documentation:
Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.
The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.
Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.
"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"
At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.
"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.
Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.
The story of Mr. Dilawar's brutal death at the Bagram Collection Point - and that of another detainee, Habibullah, who died there six days earlier in December 2002 - emerge from a nearly 2,000-page confidential file of the Army's criminal investigation into the case, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.
I title this "Animal House on the Night Shift" ironically. That was the description that James Schlesinger, chairman of the four-member advisory panel appointed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in early May to investigate abuse allegations at Abu Ghraib, offered to characterize activities there. Mr. Schlesinger perhaps saw the horror version of Animal House, not the funny one.
May 19, 2005
Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi Promotes Democracy Through Women's Rights
Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting with Dr. Shirin Ebadi along with a few other faculty members here at UC Davis. The previous night she had given a public lecture in which she declared that the West should promote democracy in the Middle East by supporting women's rights.
She talked about the diversity of women's experience in the Islamic world--from Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, which have all had (or currently have) women leaders, to Saudi Arabia, where women aren't even allowed to vote. In Iran, she said, women are powerful, and despite unequal conditions are asserting themselves broadly. She noted that women make up 63% of the student body in universities; in law schools, 70%. She said that a woman who has a university education or a job "will not be oppressed."
She showed tremendous pride in Iran's long civilization, and encouraged universities here to establish Iranian studies departments and scholarships to permit Iranian students to study here.
She paid tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi, who still languishes under arrest in Myanmar/Burma.
Dr. Ebadi is a very powerful person, eloquent even in translation. Near the tail end of her speech, every sentence was a manifesto, drawing loud applause in the hall. It was amusing that the applause would come twice, first from those who understood Farsi original and then from those who understood the English translation.
When Kofi Annan retires from his current position, the UN could have no better leader than Dr. Ebadi.
In personal discussions, she was funny, warm and generous, discussing her role as a mother and an educator.
Here, as a reminder, are the Peace Laureates since 1990:
2004 Wangari Maathai
2003 Shirin Ebadi
2002 Jimmy Carter
2001 United Nations, Kofi Annan
2000 Kim Dae-jung
1999 Medecins Sans Frontieres
1998 John Hume, David Trimble
1997 International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Jody Williams
1996 Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, Jose Ramos-Horta
1995 Joseph Rotblat, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
1994 Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin
1993 Nelson Mandela, F.W. de Klerk
1992 Rigoberta Menchu Tum
1991 Aung San Suu Kyi
1990 Mikhail Gorbachev
May 18, 2005
Toilets and People, Not Scripture
As a BBC report from April indicates, there are allegations that guards at Guantanamo put an inmate's face in the toilet and flushed repeatedly. What if it turns out that the guards were very cautious about respecting scripture, but not people?
Six Guantanamo Bay detainees are challenging US federal authorities to reveal evidence of abuse at the camp.
The six - all of Algerian origin and extradited from Bosnia - are suing the Bush administration as part of their effort to contest their detention.
They want the government to release documents which they say would prove that prisoners were tortured.
In their legal action, they say one of the six was beaten so badly by jailers that he suffered facial paralysis.
The detainee, Mustafa Ait Idir, alleges that his hands were tied behind his back while the beating took place.
"The guards picked him up and slammed his body and his head into the steel bunk in his cell," according to legal papers filed on Wednesday at a court in Boston.
The guards then pushed his face into a toilet and "repeatedly pressed the flush button", the account continued.
It said the detainee suffered a stroke after the beating, leaving half of his face paralysed.
May 17, 2005
Rioting in Islam's Defense
Irshad Manji speaks out against "the bloody, fiery riots that, in the name of honoring Islam, are killing an increasing number of Muslims and non-Muslims."
Sony Continues Lead in Game Race
Sony unveiled its new game machine a few days after Microsoft unveils its machine. The Sony machine seems amazingly powerful, with microprocessors far speedier than those in most personal computers.
The Chronicle suggests that the Sony microprocessor is more powerful, using some crude benchmarks:
Under the hood of PS3 is Sony's Cell microprocessor, which has nine cores. The main core, which is based on IBM's PowerPC chip, will run at 3.2 GHz, the same speed as Xbox 360's central processing unit. Xbox 360, however, has only three cores. Eight of the Cell cores will run at 3.2 GHz, Kutaragi said.
PlayStation 3 will have six USB 2.0 ports, slots for Memory Stick and compact flash memory cards, digital audio output, and 3 gigabit Ethernet ports. The console will also have built-in Wi-Fi for wireless networking and connecting to the Internet and an ability to wirelessly connect to seven game controllers using Bluetooth technology.
While PlayStation 3 will employ the new Blue-ray Disc format, which can hold nearly 50 GB of data, the console will also play CDs and DVDs. That also means the original PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games can be played on the new system.
The Sony machine offers a tremendous array of connectivity and multimedia possibilities. It runs Bluetooth to its game controllers, it offers an Ethernet hub so you can connect other computers, it has a wireless card built in, and, most importantly, it supports the next generation of high-def DVD movies. Hard for Microsoft to compete on the hardware; Microsoft will just have to do well on the marketing and the games.
The newspapers report that Microsoft might gain ground on Sony because it will release pre-Christmas. But I'm not so sure. Avid gaming fans will wait, not wanting to be left technologically behind when Sony's new machine becomes available in the Spring.
Bush to Oppose Veto for New Permanent Members
According to Joel Brinkley of the NY Times: The United States has warned four nations campaigning jointly for permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council that it will not support their cause unless they agree not to ask for the veto power that the five current permanent Council members hold, senior diplomats and administration officials said.
The four nations - Brazil, India, Germany and Japan - are unhappy about that position. "The Security Council is not like an aircraft, with first class, business and economy seats," said Ryozo Kato, Japan's ambassador to the United States.
Of course, Africa is sorely missing from the list of expansion nations that the US has appeared to accept. Here, more from the Times:
Besides the four countries pooling their efforts, three African nations - Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa - are conducting vigorous individual campaigns for some of the six new permanent seats proposed in March by Secretary General Kofi Annan. The purpose of the change is to have the Council reflect the current balance of global power better than is the case with the original five permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - and 10 members elected to two-year terms.
The proposal Mr. Annan offered would expand the 15-member Council to 24 members, with the six new permanent members without vetoes, and three new two-year spots for rotating members.
My own view is that extending the veto power may well work to improve the ability of the Security Council to get things done--by virtue of the tit-for-tat retaliation available against anyone who deploys the veto too readily.
That probably is the reason that the US is against extending the veto power.
May 16, 2005
Granholm v Heald: Is the Supreme Court Encouraging Underage Drinking?
Fred Barbash of the Washington Post incorrectly reported on Day-to-Day on NPR today that the decision did not address whether online sales of wine might encourage underage drinking. The Court did indeed discuss that issue:
The States, aided by several amici, claim that allowing direct shipment from out-of-state wineries undermines their ability to police underage drinking. Minors, the States argue, have easy access to credit cards and the Internet and are likely to take advantage of direct wineshipments as a means of obtaining alcohol illegally.
The States provide little evidence that the purchase of wine over the Internet by minors is a problem. Indeed, there is some evidence to the contrary. A recent study by the staff of the FTC found that the 26 States currently allowing direct shipments report no problems with minors’ increased access to wine. FTC Report 34. This is not surprising for several reasons. First, minors are less likely to consume wine, as opposed to beer, wine coolers, and hard liquor. Id., at 12. Second, minors who decide to disobey the law have more direct means of doing so. Third, direct shipping is an imperfect avenue of obtaining alcohol for minors who, in the words of the past president of the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators, "'want instant gratification.'" Id., at 33, and n. 137 (explaining why minors rarely buy alcohol via the mail or the Internet). Without concrete evidence that direct shipping of wine is likely to increase alcohol consumption by minors, we are left with the States' unsupported assertions. Under our precedents, which require the "clearest showing" to justify discriminatory state regulation, C & A Carbone, Inc., 511 U. S., at 393, this is not enough.
Even were we to credit the States’ largely unsupported claim that direct shipping of wine increases the risk of underage drinking, this would not justify regulationslimiting only out-of-state direct shipments. As the wineries point out, minors are just as likely to order wine from in-state producers as from out-of-state ones. Michigan, forexample, already allows its licensed retailers (over 7,000of them) to deliver alcohol directly to consumers. Michigan counters that it has greater regulatory control over instate producers than over out-of-state wineries. This does not justify Michigan’s discriminatory ban on direct shipping. Out-of-state wineries face the loss of state and federal licenses if they fail to comply with state law. This provides strong incentives not to sell alcohol to minors. In addition, the States can take less restrictive steps to minimize the risk that minors will order wine by mail. For example, the Model Direct Shipping Bill developed by the National Conference of State Legislatures requires an adult signature on delivery and a label so instructing on each package.
Update: To make the answer to the question in the post's title clear: No.