Sean King

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Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sometimes I'm Right

I previously predicted that:

Obama's election will be subversive to traditional Democrat constituencies in a manner that few on the Left have yet contemplated. And, I don't expect these constituencies to easily forfeit their long-held notions about America, notions which now form a part of their very identity and by which they have gained power and influence, just because we have a "black" president.

So, not long after Obama is inaugurated (if he is inaugurated), I expect to be told by those who determine such things that Obama is not the first black president after all.



Well, he's not even been inaugurated yet, and it's already started.

Mumbai Victims Tortured Before Being Killed

Rediff: "Bombay has a long history of terror. I have seen bodies of riot victims, gang war and previous terror attacks like bomb blasts. But this was entirely different. It was shocking and disturbing," a doctor said.

Asked what was different about the victims of the incident, another doctor said: "It was very strange. I have seen so many dead bodies in my life, and was yet traumatised. A bomb blast victim's body might have been torn apart and could be a very disturbing sight. But the bodies of the victims in this attack bore such signs about the kind of violence of urban warfare that I am still unable to put my thoughts to words," he said.

Asked specifically if he was talking of torture marks, he said: "It was apparent that most of the dead were tortured. What shocked me were the telltale signs showing clearly how the hostages were executed in cold blood," one doctor said.

The other doctor, who had also conducted the post-mortem of the victims, said: "Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks. It was clear that they were killed on the 26th itself. It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed. It was so bad that I do not want to go over the details even in my head again," he said.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Didn't Know They Had Light-Haired, Blue-Eyed Caucasian People In China So Long Ago

thestar.com: Researchers say they have located the world's oldest stash of marijuana, in a tomb in a remote part of China.

The cache of cannabis is about 2,700 years old and was clearly ``cultivated for psychoactive purposes," rather than as fibre for clothing or as food, says a research paper in the Journal of Experimental Botany.

The 789 grams of dried cannabis was buried alongside a light-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian man, likely a shaman of the Gushi culture, near Turpan in northwestern China.

Megan McArdle Explains the Real Cause of GM's Problems:

$70 per hour: right or wrong?

Felix Salmon argues that this figure for GM's labor costs is deceptive. Sort of, but it's actually quite apt at showing the core problem with GM.

Felix says that "the average GM assembly-line worker makes about $28 per hour in wages, and I can assure you that GM is not paying $42 an hour in health insurance and pension plan contributions. Rather, the $70 per hour figure (or $73 an hour, or whatever) is a ridiculous number obtained by adding up GM's total labor, health, and pension costs, and then dividing by the total number of hours worked. In other words, it includes all the healthcare and retirement costs of retired workers."

This is not quite right. The reason that it is reasonable to include retirees in GM's labor costs is that the benefits paid to the retirees are still under negotiation by the union. In other words, the price for employing the people who are still working is giving a bunch of stuff to people who used to work for you.



Read the whole thing.

A Brilliant New App for the iPhone:

"Two mobile applications, NMobile and Trapster, are providing drivers with up-to-date maps of speed-enforcement zones with live police traps, speed cameras or red-light cameras. Each application pulls up a map pinpointing the locations of speed traps within driving distance and an audio alert will sound as vehicles approach an area tagged as harboring a speed trap. Both applications rely on the wisdom of the crowds for their data with users reporting camera-rigged stop lights and areas heavily populated with radar-toting police officers via the iPhone or their web-based application, creating the ultimate speed trap repository available to you when you need it most — while you're driving".


I may have to give one or both of these a try.

"Cooking With Balls"

Serbian chef Ljubomir Erovic offers us the Testicle Cookbook.

I wonder how these recipes stack up against Alec Baldwin's (aka, Pete Schweaty's) now famous "Schweaty Balls." LOL

The Economics of Green:

Junk Science: The issue [of New Scientist magazine] features eight articles that New Scientist editors believe justify their editorial entitled, “Why economic growth is killing the planet and what we can do about it.” Presented below the editorial is an ominously drawn graph purporting to show how global temperatures, population, carbon dioxide concentrations, GDP, and loss of tropical rainforest and woodland have dramatically spiked upward since 1750, and how species extinctions, water use, motor vehicle use, paper consumption, fisheries exploitation, ozone depletion, and foreign investment spiked during the 20th century. The editorial concludes that “the science tells us that if we are serious about saving the Earth,” economic growth must be limited.


Oh geez. It's economic progress and technological advance that will preserve the planet. By contrast, governmental regulation always results in unintended consequences and creates perverse incentives which insure that, as with most cases of central planning, the totalitarian, Luddite policies proposed by the editors of New Scientist would have precisely the opposite effect.

Glenn Reynolds on Thanksgiving:

I like Thanksgiving; when I was a kid it seemed like a pale imitation of Christmas, without all the presents. Now it seems like a purer version of Christmas, where the focus is on family instead of . . . all the presents.


Indeed. I appreciate Thanksgiving more and more with each passing year. Here's a brief article reminding us all of its origins.

Be Careful Who/What You Blog About

TechCrunch: There’s a lot of buzz here in the Belgian blogosphere and mainstream media about an incident involving a New York-based blogger, who was fired from her job as a bartender after publishing a post on the bar visit of a Belgian politician.

Current Belgian Minister of Defense Pieter De Crem apparently stumbled into a Belgian bar in New York City on Monday evening with his entourage. Following his visit, bartender Nathalie Lubbe Bakker blogged about their visit (in Dutch), talking about how disgusted she was of how drunk De Crem was and how embarrassed she was about his behavior. Worst part, she wrote, was the fact that one of the politician’s advisors admitted to her that the meetings they were there for on taxpayer’s money were in fact canceled because the UN was meeting in Geneva (which is about 330 miles from Brussels). He reportedly told her they had decided to come to NY anyway despite being aware of the cancellation because the policital [sic] situation here was ‘calm’ and that he’d ‘never visited the city anyway’.

A couple of days later, someone from De Crem’s office had a telephone call with Nathalie’s boss, after which she was promptly fired.



It's important to remember that the right to free speech protects us from governmental retribution, but your private sector boss is not so limited.

Will China Eventually Wage War for Women?

Strategy Page: China's "one child" policy (to halt population growth), and the unanticipated appearance of cheap sonograms (enabling parents to determine the gender of their child while there was still time for an abortion) has caused an imbalance in the gender ratio. There are now 115 boys for every 100 girls. Young men are having a problem finding wives. Wealthier urban males attract more women from the rural areas (where 70 percent of Chinese still live), leaving a lot of lonely, poor and angry young men in the countryside.

Lonely, poor, and angry young men won't sit around in the countryside forever.

Hurrican Activity

Hurricane activity lowest in 30 years.

Glaciers Reverse Trend, Now Growing in Norway

After years of decline, glaciers in Norway are again growing, reports the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE).

You Don't Say...

Canada.com: There is both growing public reluctance to make personal sacrifices and a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the major international efforts now underway to battle climate change, according to findings of a poll of 12,000 citizens in 11 countries, including Canada.

Maybe that's because...you know...we haven't actually had any WARMING over the last 10 years.

Longevity Drugs Available Soon

ABC News: "It's going to revolutionize western medicine," said Doug Wallace, a pioneer of mitochondrial medicine at the University of California at Irvine. "All the things that are common for an aging society, and nobody worried about when they died of infectious disease," he said, could be treated.

And some of them will be available in as soon as four years.

More on this subject here: Harvard Scientists Unravel The Secret Of Aging

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What is the Nation's Sickest City?

Huntington, West Virginia.

Nearly half the adults in Huntington's five-county metropolitan area are obese - an astounding percentage, far bigger than the national average in a country with a well-known weight problem.

Huntington leads in a half-dozen other illness measures, too, including heart disease and diabetes. It's even tops in the percentage of elderly people who have lost all their teeth (half of them have).



My father went to college in Huntington--at Marshall University to be precise. Plus, I have many relatives in the area. So, I feel some connection to the city, which makes this story all the more sad for me.

The Fascist Way of Fighting Global Warming

GreenLeft: Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) is an example of an environmental group that couches its population reduction arguments in the framework of a professed humanitarian response to the perils of climate change.

A “key document” published in 2007 by SPA and available on its website predicts a depressingly dire future for humanity. According to SPA: “Without a planned humane contraction, this century will see social chaos and human suffering on an unprecedented scale.” If population reduction schemes are not implemented, they warn, then population reduction will be inflicted on us anyway — in the form of famine, war and disease.
***
Hardin (himself a father of four) argued against providing food and medical aid to countries in the Third World facing famine. Such humanitarian aid only encourage more babies to survive, driving up “overpopulation” and resulting, he said, in further environmental destruction.



Oh, geez!

Does 2008 Represent the End of the AGW Consensus?

Dr. Thomas Sheahen thinks so: One day back in February on a ski-lift, I commented to the others that 2008 would be the year when the “Anthropic Global Warming” (AGW) bubble would burst. My prediction seems to be coming true.
Owing to bad economic conditions, most of the countries in Europe are fleeing from the commitments they once made to the “Kyoto treaty” to reduce emissions of CO2. Scientists all over the world are speaking up against the notion of a “consensus”, the presumption that “everybody agrees” that global warming is caused by mankind (the AGW hypothesis). Nobody has any confidence any more in long-range computer calculations that are unable to predict the past, let alone the future. And most of all, people are beginning to remember that CO2 is plant food.
***
The whole “sure thing” AGW tapestry began to unravel about 5 years ago when a widely-publicized historical temperature graph known as the “hockey stick” was completely discredited based on statistical analysis. That began a slow trickle of scientists saying “Oh yeah ... and another thing ...” Gradually the number of scientists willing to speak out (against the presumption that mankind causes global warming) has increased, and by now you can read of controversy every day.

Insurer Promotes Much Needed Competition in Healthcare:

The nation's second largest insurer, Indianapolis' Wellpoint, is looking everywhere to save some cash for it's clients. Now they're outsourcing medicine to india.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Wellpoint is willing to drop their deductiible and co-pay and to pick up travel expenses to India for a small set of its beneficiaries who are willing to travel for health care.
***
Joint replacement surgery costs $50,000 to $60,000 less in Bangalore, India than it does in Bangor, Maine, and health insurers want a piece of that discount.



As I understand it, many hospitals in India are accredited to US standards, so this seems like a reasonable way of managing costs.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Big Controversy on the Global Warming Front

Telegraph.co.uk: A surreal scientific blunder last week raised a huge question mark about the temperature records that underpin the worldwide alarm over global warming. On Monday, Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which is run by Al Gore's chief scientific ally, Dr James Hansen, and is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures, announced that last month was the hottest October on record.

This was startling. Across the world there were reports of unseasonal snow and plummeting temperatures last month, from the American Great Plains to China, and from the Alps to New Zealand. China's official news agency reported that Tibet had suffered its "worst snowstorm ever". In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration registered 63 local snowfall records and 115 lowest-ever temperatures for the month, and ranked it as only the 70th-warmest October in 114 years.

So what explained the anomaly? GISS's computerised temperature maps seemed to show readings across a large part of Russia had been up to 10 degrees higher than normal. But when expert readers of the two leading warming-sceptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery.


Read the whole thing to be astonished yourself.

This is the third or fourth major error that has been found with these data sets in the last few years alone, and curiously every one of them was discovered and publicized by bloggers rather than by the actual keepers of the data. It's enough to make one question whether there are any real internal controls governing the compilation, manipulation and publication of this information.

GayPatriot:

The gay movement needs some adult supervision right now.

Indeed. I regret that California voted the way that it did, but we DO live in a democracy, and the majority has spoken. Deal with it.

Is Lady Liberty Dying a Slow Death?

Peter Robinson thinks so.

And I think he's right to be concerned.

It's Only Fascist When Republicans Do It

Six Agencies Illegally Scoured Joe the Plumber's Records for Dirt, Including Office of the Attorney General, So That Information Could Be Turned Over to National Media

World's Fastest Computer For Science Research Now in Oak Ridge

knoxnews.com: Oak Ridge National Laboratory had promised a breakthrough performance from its newly arrived Cray XT5 supercomputer, but Monday's announcement was still a stunner.

The "Jaguar" system is now the world's fastest computer for science research, capable of 1.64 petaflops - or 1.64 quadrillion mathematical calculations per second. A quadrillion is equivalent to 1,000 trillion.

Can Stem Cells Now Cure AIDS?

Seems so, but at a major cost.

Tough Times in South Africa

According to a friend of mine who has family living there, things in South Africa have become nearly unbearable, with many who can afford to do so seeking to immigrate elsewhere. Crime, especially rape, is apparently out of control. This has all lead to a dramatic decrease in life expectancy: South African males are only expected to live to age 49. That's worse even than in war-torn Iraq. Far worse.

I wonder why this subject doesn't get more press here in the US?

UPDATE:> It looks like AIDS is at least partially to blame.

An Apple a Day Makes for More Days?

The Times of India: According to boffins, the miracle ingredient – discovered in an old variety of apple – plays a powerful role in boosting heart health and circulation and could even extend life span. The compound, an epicatechin polyphenol, is found in bitter English apples that were originally grown hundreds of years ago but are now no longer eaten.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Love Handles

BBC: Carrying extra fat around your middle dramatically increases your risk of early death, even if your overall weight is normal, say researchers.

A study of almost 360,000 people from nine European countries found waist size a "powerful indicator" of risk.

Each extra 2ins (5cm) raised the chance of early death by between 13% and 17%.


Read the whole thing.


UPDATE:> The Telegraph notes how this latest study tends to discredit the more traditional Body Mass Index as a measure of health since many people with normal BMI's were still at high risk due simply to their waist measurement.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sad

WebMD: At a time when obesity among children has reached epidemic levels, researchers report that the neck arteries of obese children and teens may have as much plaque buildup as 40-somethings.

Quantifying Longevity Risk

David Brindle: [$40 trillion] is the estimated amount in pension funds and life insurance policies that is vulnerable if actuaries have got their sums wrong and people live significantly longer than anticipated. Given the quite astounding things that are happening with life expectancy, it's almost certain that they will.

Until about 1975, life expectancy of men in their 70s in the UK was improving at a steady rate of about 0.5% a year. Since then, it has rocketed to an annual rate of more than 4%. According to Richard Willets, longevity director of insurer Paternoster, actuaries' estimates of male life expectancy at retirement have "probably changed more in the past 10 years than in the previous 100".

Is Apple's iPhone the Best Phone Ever:

PCWorld: The iPhone is having a stellar year. First, it blasts past RIM's Blackberry in sales. Then it ousts Motorola's RAZR as the top-selling handset of all time. And, now a report from mobile phone warranty firm SquareTrade says that Apple's iPhone is the most reliable smartphone on the market, surpassing both Blackberrys and Palm Treos.

For my money, the iPhone is the best mobile phone ever made, which is all the more remarkable because there are so many ways that it can be easily improved.

Using Google To Track Disease (cont.)

I previously noted how doctors were contemplating using Google searches to track disease outbreaks. Well, thanks to Google Flu Trends, it seems this concept is now a reality, and it is apparently able to detect flu outbreaks a full two weeks earlier than previous methods.

Pretty cool, if we can trust Google when it says that it only collect anonymous data.