Sean King

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San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I Wonder When Politicians Will Make Themselves a "Protected Class"?

John Whitehead: [H]ate-crime laws are shortsighted in that they favor a particular class of individuals for protection and seek to punish certain prejudices. As authors James B. Jacobs and Kimberly Potter ask in their book, Hate Crimes: Criminal Law & Identity Politics, “should all prejudices (ageism, anti-gay bias, bias against the physically and mentally disabled, etc.) be included in hate crime laws or only a select few (racism, ethnic bias, and religious bias)? Inevitably, if some groups are left out, they will resent the selective depreciation of their victimization.” For instance, the Hate Crimes Act singles gay people out for expanded protection from hate crimes, yet fails to address the thousands of crimes that occur each year against people who, while not gay, just don’t “fit in.” As one journalist asked, “Why not accord the same enhanced protection to kids who stutter, teenagers with bad acne, or adults who are overweight, homeless, or have unusually large ears?”

Of course, when politicians ban hate speech directed at themselves, they'll refer to themselves as "public servants" rather than politicians, and they will no doubt exempt themselves from their own laws, as they often do.

What Will Vegetarians Do Now?

Plants use a genetic memory to recognise when it is spring and can even count the number of cold days, Australian plant scientists have revealed.

So, I've been using these two Outlook add-ons...

for the better part of the day, and I have to say I'm very impressed. Both are huge time savers. Check them out:

Thanks to Larissa for recommending both of them!

I'd Rather Be Waterboarded:

ABCnews: Following an ABC News investigation last night that showed a Royal Sheikh from the United Arab Emirates mercilessly torturing a man with whips, electric cattle prods and wooden planks with protruding nails, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is being urged to initiate and carry out an investigation into the sadistic torture tape.

Here's the whole story, if you can bear it.

Who Knew Us Tn Rednecks Were So Progressive?

Women are in the majority on Tennessee's highest court. Tennessee is one of three such states.

Don't Worry, We'll Print More!

FoxNews: Government to 'Run Out' of Cash Sunday, Earliest Ever

Monday, April 27, 2009


General Electric Global Research says it has figured out a way to put up to 500GB of data on a regular-sized DVD disc under laboratory conditions.

Man v. Machine, Part Deux

The Register: While playing the Jeopardy game is not all that difficult for human beings, being good at such trivia is decidedly non-trivial. For a supercomputer - even one crammed full of data - being able to suss out the double-entendres and little nuances of the statements and come up with the question is a very tough challenge. According to researchers at IBM, playing Jeopardy is in fact one of the grand challenges of computing - which is why a BlueGene massively parallel supercomputer, nicknamed Watson, is being trained to play the game and to take on people live in the studio in 2010.

Drugs Effective in Treating ADHD

“Our study shows that there is a true, long-term learning effect that can be measured objectively,” lead researcher Richard Scheffler, PhD, of the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, tells WebMD.

Diluted Beach Baths A Cure for Eczema?

Over one to three months, the children who took the diluted bleach baths had a reduction in eczema severity that was five times greater than those in the placebo group. In fact, the children taking the baths showed such rapid improvement in eczema and infection symptoms that the researchers stopped the study early, so that children in the placebo group could get the same amount of relief.

If this pans out, it seems like an easy solution to a chronic problem.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

On the Present and Future Condition of Robots:

Robert S. Boyd: Nevertheless, robots guided by their own computer "brains" now can pick up and peel bananas, land jumbo jets, steer cars through city traffic, search human DNA for cancer genes, play soccer or the violin, find earthquake victims or explore craters on Mars.

At a "Robobusiness" conference in Boston last week, companies demonstrated a robot firefighter, gardener, receptionist, tour guide and security guard.

You name it, a high-tech wizard somewhere is trying to make a robot do it.

Google Introduces:

Google Profiles.

When Will They Begin to Ration Our Calories to Save Gaia?

Huffingtion Post: Get out your aerosol spray cans, they're not the problem after all!! Scientists now know the real cause of Global Warming.

Fat people.

Summer Johnson discusses...

...why nanotechnology is like the Wild West.

Although it's not her main point, Ms. Johnson does mention something that I often emphasize: Given the rapidity of chance, and anticipated exponential increases in the future rate of change, it will be increasingly difficult for governments to regulate. The result? Either a Wild West scenario, or increasingly totalitarian )and likely futile) governmental attempts to check the subversive effect of rapid technological expansion.

Those Amazing Stem Cells (cont.)

Stem cells taken from the fat tissue of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) may help treat the disease, suggests a preliminary study that included three patients.

"We're with the government, and we're here to help... the Internet."

Because, you know, we regulate everything else so well.

I'm Guessing She Can Go To School Anywhere She Wants:

Willa Chen, a 17-year-old Canton High School senior in suburban Detroit, did what many believe is nearly impossible, she got perfect scores on the ACT, SAT and PSAT.

A perfect score on any one of these exams would be remarkable, but to get it on all three is...inconceivable.

From Land To Sea

FoxNews: A fossil of a primitive "walking seal" with four legs and webbed feet has been found in the Canadian Arctic and dated to be at least 20 million years old.

The newfound species, dubbed Puijila darwini, might be the long-sought missing link in the evolution of pinnipeds — a group that includes modern seals, sea lions and walruses — explaining how the animal group moved from land-dwellers with legs to the semi-aquatic, flippered swimmers around today.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I Would Have Thought That We'd Done This Long Ago:

Scientists have finished the genome sequence of cows, which could contribute to better disease resistance and higher quality meat for consumers, according to reports to be published Friday in journal Science.

Scientists discovered the cattle genome contains at least 22,000 genes, 80 percent of which are shared with human beings. They also found that cattle have far more in common genetically with humans than mice or rats, and might make better subjects for studying human health.

Those Amazing Stem Cells (cont.)

WSJ: Scientists have reprogrammed mature skin cells into an embryonic-like state by using proteins instead of genes, a key advance aimed at overcoming safety concerns in one of the hottest areas of biological research.

Paint the mother...

pink white.

(via Instapundit)

Friday, April 17, 2009

DNA and Darwin

A marriage made in heaven.

If You Need a Smile

Then go here.

It's a video of the rather unassuming Susan Boyle competing on Britain's version of American Idol.

Remarkable! She more than does justice to one of my favorite songs ever. Good for her.

It's In The Genes So to suggest that humans have undergone an evolutionary makeover from Stone Age times to the present is nothing short of blasphemous. Yet a team of researchers has done just that. They find an abundance of recent adaptive mutations etched in the human genome; even more shocking, these mutations seem to be piling up faster and ever faster, like an avalanche. Over the past 10,000 years, their data show, human evolution has occurred a hundred times more quickly than in any other period in our species’ history.

The new genetic adaptations, some 2,000 in total, are not limited to the well-recognized differences among ethnic groups in superficial traits such as skin and eye color. The mutations relate to the brain, the digestive system, life span, immunity to pathogens, sperm production, and bones—in short, virtually every aspect of our functioning.

Many of these DNA variants are unique to their continent of origin, with provocative implications. “It is likely that human races are evolving away from each other,” says University of Utah anthropologist Henry Harpending, who coauthored a major paper on recent human evolution. “We are getting less alike, not merging into a single mixed humanity.”

Harpending theorizes that the attitudes and customs that distinguish today’s humans from those of the past may be more than just cultural, as historians have widely assumed. “We aren’t the same as people even a thousand or two thousand years ago,” he says. “Almost every trait you look at is under strong genetic influence.”

Read the whole thing. It's truly amazing.

The Making of Nanoribbons

Two groups of researchers have found ways to “unzip” carbon nanotubes to make nanoribbons of graphene, and experts say the development could point the way towards a new generation of electronics, including computer chips that are faster and tinier than the silicon-based chips used today.

A Not-So-Bold Prediction

Megan McArdle: It's worth noting that, at least anecdotally, the internet means we're increasingly exporting our [health care] cost inflation to other countries. In the 1990s, [foreign] breast cancer patients wouldn't even have found out about a treatment like Herceptin. Now they fight (and win) public relations battles with their governments to get their treatments covered, even when the treatment is not deemed cost-effective by the health care regulator. And the woman who fought that famous and "inspirational" battle in Britain recently died; the drug didn't buy her that much extra time, perhaps because she had to fight so long to get it.

If your mother or your daughter or your sister or your wife is dying of breast cancer, it doesn't matter to you how much the treatment costs relative to the benefit. And indeed, the political battle over health care is infused with the belief that you shouldn't have to think about cost--that it is immoral to deny anyone a treatment that might help them.

Unless we're willing to let health care expenses grow unchecked, someone is going to have to think about costs. But so far in America, I see no means to develop a culture which will allow bureaucrats to deny potentially life-saving treatments simply because they're costly--either in the free market or in a single payer system. Thus, I predict, costs will continue to grow.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Professor: US Behaving Like a Third World Nation

Financial Times: “In its depth and suddenness,” argues Prof Johnson, “the US economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets.” The similarity is evident: large inflows of foreign capital; torrid credit growth; excessive leverage; bubbles in asset prices, particularly property; and, finally, asset-price collapses and financial catastrophe.

“But,” adds Prof Johnson, “there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests – financiers, in the case of the US – played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse.” Moreover, “the great wealth that the financial sector created and concentrated gave bankers enormous political weight.”

Now, argues Prof Johnson, the weight of the financial sector is preventing resolution of the crisis. Banks “do not want to recognise the full extent of their losses, because that would likely expose them as insolvent ... This behaviour is corrosive: unhealthy banks either do not lend (hoarding money to shore up reserves) or they make desperate gambles on high-risk loans and investments that could pay off big, but probably won’t pay off at all. In either case, the economy suffers further, and, as it does, bank assets themselves continue to deteriorate – creating a highly destructive cycle.”

I think he hits the nail on the head.

Still a Long Ways to Go:

Saudi Arabia says it plans to start regulating the marriage of young girls, amid controversy over a union between a 60-year-old man and a girl of eight.

A court in Unaiza upheld the marriage on condition the groom does not have sex with her until she reaches puberty.

Justice Minister Muhammad Issa said his ministry wanted to put an end to the "arbitrary" way in which parents and guardians can marry off underage girls.
But he did not suggest the practice would be abolished.

Human-rights groups oppose such marriages, which they say are often motivated by poverty.

Saudi Arabia implements an austere form of Sunni Islam that bans free association between the sexes and gives fathers the right to wed their children to whomever they deem fit.

The French Understand Obama...

even if we don't:

Mr Sarkozy is pouring cold water on President Obama's efforts to recast American leadership on the world stage, depicting them as unoriginal, unsubstantial and overrated. Behind leaks and briefings from the Elysée Palace lies Mr Sarkozy's irritation at the rock-star welcome that Europe gave Mr Obama on his Europan tour earlier this month.

The American President's call "to free the world of the menace of a nuclear nightmare" was hot air, Mr Sarkozy's diplomatic staff told him in a report. "It was rhetoric – not a speech on American security policy but an export model aimed at improving the image of the United States," they said. Most of Mr Obama's proposals had already been made by the Bush administration and Washington was dragging its feet on disarmament and treaties against nuclear proliferation, the leaked report said.

It's In The Genes Scientists have assured me that one serving of halibut contains nowhere near a dosage that might cause harm. These are the same scientists, though, who admit that no one knows for sure what the threshold dose is that causes mercury to subtly poison cells in the brain and the liver, two organs where it tends to accumulate.
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As frightening as that sounds, most of us were born with a defense against exposure to mercury, initiated by specific sequences of genetic code that cause most people to expel the metal in 30 to 40 days. Not everyone carries this natural resistance, however. A small minority of people carry a genetic mutation that apparently causes their cells to retain mercury for far longer—in rare cases up to 190 days—greatly increasing the chance for cellular damage.

Tough Questions from John Feehery:

Cut government spending, but don't touch my piece of the pie, the many cry out as one.

As federal policy makers grapple with the budget next week when Congress reconvenes, I challenge them to answer four uncomfortable questions that could bankrupt the country if unanswered.

They really are excellent questions, and they go right to the heart of our problems.


"I laughed when Steven Spielberg said that cloning extinct animals was inevitable," says Hendrik Poinar of McMaster University, an authority on ancient DNA who served as a scientific consultant for a film about the making of Jurassic Park. "But I'm not laughing anymore, at least about mammoths. This is going to happen. It's just a matter of working out the details."


One Pissed Off Preacher

Forcibly Searched and Tazed by the Border Patrol

I'd be pissed off too.

Those Amazing Stem Cells

An experimental stem cell treatment has enabled patients with type 1 diabetes to go for as long as four years without insulin injections, researchers say.

World' First Cloned Camel

Scientists in Dubai say they have created the world's first cloned camel.

I didn't realize that it's been 13 years since Dolly the sheep was cloned.

You Mean Our Air is Getting Cleaner?!

The project tracked the change of air quality in 51 American cities since the 1980s.

During that time general life expectancy increased by more than two and half years, much due to improved lifestyles, diet and healthcare.

But the researchers calculated more than 15% of that extra time was due to cleaner air.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Healing Broken Bones

A 'miracle' jab that spurs adults' bone into healing as quickly as children's stands to transform the treatment of fractures, doctors believe.

The drug teriparatide more than doubles the speed at which broken bones mend - and slashes pain, a study found.

Researchers described some of the recoveries as 'miraculous', with patients confined to wheelchairs by long-standing fractures able to walk again.

Valuing Them As I Do, I Simply Can't Conceive of a Culture that Depreciates Women

William Saletan: A study published last week in the British Medical Journal, based on a survey of nearly 5 million Chinese children and teenagers, bares the gruesome numbers. Worldwide, the number of boys born per 100 girls ranges from 103 to 107. (The numbers later equalize due to higher male mortality.) Among Chinese children born from 1985 to 1989, the number of boys per 100 girls was 108, close to normal. But among those born from 2000 to 2004, the number rose to 124. The authors conclude that as of 2005, "males under the age of 20 exceeded females by more than 32 million."

32 MILLION young men without access to women, and no hope of every gaining such access (except maybe through pillaging neighbors)?! God help us!

Apparently the Chinese are learning this the hard way. Saletan continues:

Without enough girls, the boys become unruly. So the government, following the same collective logic that inspired the one-child policy, has become the world's biggest promoter of sexual equality.

Part of me wishes this turnaround were being driven by a better motive. But perhaps we should be especially relieved that pure self-interest is behind it. If the devaluation of women, and the expression of that devaluation through sex-selective abortion, becomes a broadly understood threat to regimes worldwide, women won't need to persuade men to value and treat girls more fairly. The population numbers will do the talking.

Man Bites Snake!

A Kenyan man bit a python which wrapped him in its coils and dragged him up a tree during a fierce three-hour struggle, police have told the BBC.

Musta been some snake! Now that's a news story.

Way Cool Twin satellites have captured the first 3-D pictures of solar storms, NASA announced today.

The new technology will allow for earlier warnings about solar storms that can disrupt GPS signals and power grids, damage satellites, and bombard astronauts with solar radiation, experts said.

There's No Such Thing As a Free Lunch, Or Free Sex

By stealthily following a group of about 20 adult chimpanzees in Côte d’Ivoire's Taï National Park, behavioral ecologists Cristina Gomes and Christophe Boesch of Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany carefully noted which male chimpanzees copulated with which females. The researchers found that she-chimps put out more often for males that shared food with them at least once, compared to stingy males who never offered meat.

Technology is Subversive

Glenn Reynolds in today's WSJ: Today American taxpayers in more than 300 locations in all 50 states will hold rallies -- dubbed "tea parties" -- to protest higher taxes and out-of-control government spending. There is no political party behind these rallies, no grand right-wing conspiracy, not even a 501(c) group like

So who's behind the Tax Day tea parties? Ordinary folks who are using the power of the Internet to organize.

The Internet As Therapy?

Mail Online: An agoraphobic mother has told how she was able to leave the house for the first time in 20 years.

Sue Curtis, 40, has spent half her life inside her home, but thanks to self-help classes on the internet, and the prospect of seeing streets on Google Maps, she has managed to step outside.

Here's a Google Map with All of Today's Tea Party Tax Protests:

View 2009 Tea Parties in a larger map

UPDATE:> And here's all the details on the Knoxville Tea Party at World's Fair Park.

The Long Promised "Day of the Annuity" Seems to Have Arrived

Sales of so-called immediate annuities are climbing as retirees are drawn to lifetime payments guaranteed by U.S. insurance companies.

Immediate annuities pay a periodic fixed amount of money for life in exchange for a lump-sum payment. New York Life Insurance Co., the largest policyholder-owned U.S. life insurer, reported an 80 percent increase in sales of the contracts during the first quarter from a year earlier.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Chris Blunt, executive vice president of retirement income security at New York Life.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's In The Genes

Pap smears are so 2008. It's all about genetic testing now.

Real Hunger

The Times of India: Citing estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO), it said about 49 percent of the world's underweight children, 34 percent of the world's stunted children and 46 percent of the world's wasted children, live in India.

Wow. Color Me a Rightwing Extremist, I Suppose

The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement officials about a rise in "rightwing extremist activity," saying the economic recession, the election of America's first black president and the return of a few disgruntled war veterans could swell the ranks of white-power militias.

A footnote attached to the report by the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis defines "rightwing extremism in the United States" as including not just racist or hate groups, but also groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority.

Well, in light of today's announcement, I suppose Texas Governor Perry qualifies as an extremist as well.

UPDATE:> Charles Johnson argues that the report is actually targeted more toward "real" extremists than the quote above would suggest.

"We're with the government, and we're here to make sure that you...

...enjoy your cab ride":

Chatty cabbies could soon be disconnected from their cell-phones in New York City.

The city is considering adding cell-phone blockers in the front of cabs.

Taxi and Limousine Commissioner Matthew Daus says passengers would still be able to use their phones.

iPhone Looks More and More Like the Next Gaming Platform Trip Hawkins (founder of Electronic Arts) admits that his mobile game company, Digital Chocolate, was late to the iPhone. The San Mateo, Calif.-based company has 350 employees making games for all sorts of cell phones, but the iPhone’s popularity caught it by surprise. Now Hawkins has come back with a vengeance. His company has launched five iPhone games since December and four of them have hit No. 1. That’s no easy feat, considering there are 7,931 games on the iPhone, according to Mobclix.

The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution for the United States of America

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.


A southern Governor will call for succession from the Union before Obama's second term is up. Texas may lead the way:

Gov. Rick Perry joined state Rep. Brandon Creighton and sponsors of House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 50 in support of states’ rights under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state,” Gov. Perry said. “That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm the states’ rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union.”

Perry continued: "Millions of Texans are tired of Washington, DC trying to come down here to tell us how to run Texas."

Don't mess with Texas.

UPDATE:> Here's the video of Governor Perry's news conference on this subject:

Will Texas "go John Galt"?

It's no microwave, but...

The Kyoto Box, a $6 solar cooker made from cardboard, has won the Financial Times-sponsored Climate Change Challenge contest for innovative ways to decrease the human impact on the environment. Its capacity to not only cook food but also sterilize water could help three billion people reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

My question is how quickly it cooks food and boils water. If it can do so faster than gathering firewood, starting a fire and cooking over an open flame, then they just may have something.

Clearly the Financial Times thinks so.

But...what about that "flame-broiled" flavor? I think craving it is virtually genetic at this point.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Truth Will Out

Put aside Simone de Beauvoir's famous dictum, "One is not born a woman but rather becomes one." Science suggests otherwise, and it's driving a whole new view of who and what we are. Males and females, it turns out, are different from the moment of conception, and the difference shows itself in every system of body and brain.

It's safe to talk about sex differences again. Of course, it's the oldest story in the world. And the newest. But for a while it was also the most treacherous. Now it may be the most urgent. The next stage of progress against disorders as disabling as depression and heart disease rests on cracking the binary code of biology. Most common conditions are marked by pronounced gender differences in incidence or appearance.

That's the thing about science: Given time, it wins out over political correctness.

(Global warming extremists, take note)

Absolutely Amazing

In just over a day, a powerful computer program accomplished a feat that took physicists centuries to complete: extrapolating the laws of motion from a pendulum's swings.

Developed by Cornell researchers, the program deduced the natural laws without a shred of knowledge about physics or geometry.

The research is being heralded as a potential breakthrough for science in the Petabyte Age, where computers try to find regularities in massive datasets that are too big and complex for the human mind.
The program started with near-random combinations of basic mathematical processes — addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and a few algebraic operators.
Initially, the equations generated by the program failed to explain the data, but some failures were slightly less wrong than others. Using a genetic algorithm, the program modified the most promising failures, tested them again, chose the best, and repeated the process until a set of equations evolved to describe the systems. Turns out, some of these equations were very familiar: the law of conservation of momentum, and Newton's second law of motion.

"It's a powerful approach," said University of Michigan computer scientist Martha Pollack, with "the potential to apply to any type of dynamical system." As possible fields of application, Pollack named environmental systems, weather patterns, population genetics, cosmology and oceanography. "Just about any natural science has the type of structure that would be amenable," she said.

Remember When We Used To Dial By Number?

Goodbye, numeric cellphone keypads. You're going the way of the rotary dial. Touch screens and QWERTY keyboards will take over from here, thank you.

At North America's largest cellphone trade show, running this week in Las Vegas, there were few new phones for the U.S. market that had a numerical keypad instead of an alphabetic keyboard. Touch screens also were out in force.

Yah, but just think how good this is for the environment:

Steel is on edge and the global industry is cutting back hard, hanging on for either a budget blast from China, new credit for vast Middle Eastern building schemes or resurrection of the US auto industry.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Mystery of the Shrinking Kilogram

Over the course of its century-plus lifetime, the IPK has emerged only three times to serve “campaigns” of active duty, most recently in 1988–1992, when it participated in a formal verification of all kilogram prototypes belonging to the 51 Meter Convention member states. On that occasion, however, the IPK itself was found wanting. Despite all the protective protocols and delicate procedures, it had mysteriously changed. No one can say whether the IPK has lost weight (perhaps by the gradual escape of gases trapped inside it from the start) or if most of the prototypes have gained (possibly by accumulating atmospheric contaminants). The difference is approximately 30 micrograms —30 billionths of a kilogram—in a hundred years. (Imagine 30 cents out of a $10 million stack of pennies.)

This alarming show of instability is driving global efforts to redefine the kilogram, so that mass need not depend on the safety or stability of some manufactured item stored in a safe. In fact, more than mass hangs in the balance, for the kilogram is tied to three other base units of the International System of Units (SI), namely the ampere, the mole, and the candela. Several more quantities—including density, force, and pressure—are in turn derived from the kilogram.

I blame global warming.

What Will Vegetarians Do Now?

Slime Molds Show Surprising Degree of Intelligence

On The Issue of Foreign Law

“I frankly don’t understand all the brouhaha lately from Congress and even from some of my colleagues about referring to foreign law,” Justice Ginsburg said in her comments on Friday.

The court’s more conservative members — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — oppose the citation of foreign law in constitutional cases.

“If we’re relying on a decision from a German judge about what our Constitution means, no president accountable to the people appointed that judge and no Senate accountable to the people confirmed that judge,” Chief Justice Roberts said at his confirmation hearing. “And yet he’s playing a role in shaping the law that binds the people in this country.”

Justice Ginsburg said the controversy was based on the misunderstanding that citing a foreign precedent means the court considers itself bound by foreign law as opposed to merely being influenced by such power as its reasoning holds.

Why shouldn’t we look to the wisdom of a judge from abroad with at least as much ease as we would read a law review article written by a professor?” she asked.

Well, Justice Ginsburg, when it comes to interpreting the Constitution, which is the primary job of the Supreme Court of the United States, I fail to see how present-day rulings of a foreign jurisdiction should have much relevance (unless, of course, your intent is not to rule based on what the Constitution actually says, and what our founders meant when they wrote it, but rather based upon what you, and whatever foreign judges you favor, think it should say).

No Mas? New Yorkers Going Galt?

But who and where are all these millionaires to pluck? More than any other state, New York has been hurt by the financial meltdown, and its $132 billion budget is now $17.7 billion in deficit. The days of high-roller Wall Street bonuses that finance 20% of the New York budget are long gone. The richest 1% of New Yorkers already pay almost 40% of the income tax, and the top 0.5% pay 30%.

Mr. Silver thinks he can squeeze more from these folks without any economic harm, arguing that recent income tax hikes didn't hurt New Jersey. (Yes, the pols in New York actually hold up New Jersey, whose economy and budget are also in shambles, as their role model.) The tax hike lobby in Albany points to a paper by Princeton researchers reporting that the number of "half-millionaires," those with incomes above $500,000, increased by 60% from 2003-2006 after New Jersey taxes rose (the top rate is now 8.98%). But this was a boom time for the national economy, especially in the financial industry where many New Jerseyites work, or at least used to work.

The better comparison is how New Jersey compared to the rest of the nation. According to the study's own data, over the same period the U.S. saw an increase of 76% in half-millionaire households. E.J. McMahon, a budget expert at the Manhattan Institute, calculates that New Jersey lost more than 4,000 high-income taxpayers after the tax increase.

Mr. Silver says of the coming tax hikes: "We've done it before. There hasn't been a catastrophe." Oh, really? According to Census Bureau data, over the past decade 1.97 million New Yorkers left the state for greener pastures -- the biggest exodus of any state. New York City has lost more than 75,000 jobs since last August, and many industrial areas upstate are as rundown as Detroit. The American Legislative Exchange Council recently said New York had the worst economic outlook of all 50 states, including Michigan. And that analysis was done before these $4 billion in new taxes. How does Mr. Silver define "catastrophe"?

Singularity Hub Lists It's Nine Best Stories Over the Last Quarter

Science is progressing astoundingly quickly, at least for those who bother to pay attention.

"We're with the government, and we're here to help you... for childcare."

Those Amazing Stem Cells (cont.)

Researchers in China say they have managed to generate new eggs using stem cells from the ovaries of young and adult female mice, taking a step towards addressing problems of female infertility.

It is presently accepted in scientific circles that the production of eggs, known as oocytes, stops before birth for most species of mammals, including humans.

The Gospel of Judas...


Written sometime in the second century, many will dismiss this so-called Gnostic text as heresy. For historians, however, it suggests an ongoing debate among followers of Jesus over the nature of resurrection. Paul, whose letters represent the earliest surviving Christian sources, already confronts followers who deny the resurrection of the body. And while he affirms bodily resurrection, he asserts that it will be spiritual. ''Flesh and blood,'' he writes, ''cannot inherit the kingdom of God'' (1 Corinthians 15:50).

Paul knew Jesus only through a vision, and he reveals in his letters no knowledge of an empty tomb. It would seem in fact that both strands, the resurrection of Jesus as a spirit or as a body go back to the earliest stages of the new religion emerging in Jesus' name. As the early followers and converts struggled to understand what had happened, they earnestly sought and found diverse ways of expressing their faith in the significance of Jesus for their salvation.

Identifying Longevity "Blue Zones"

A Blue Zone, according to Dan Buettner, is a location where people live the longest, healthiest lives. Buettner is an explorer and writer for National Geographic, and he and his team of researchers have identified five such zones around the world – so far.

The Fatest Generation

The numbers shocked some people: Almost 40 percent of Knox County schoolchildren overweight or obese. A 40 percent decline over the last three decades in children drinking milk, even as their soft drink consumption rose by 137 percent. Less physical activity. More junk food. Kindergartners entering school already obese.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Google v. AP

News agency AP and the Wall Street Journal on Monday warned search engines and portals like Google that no more free-riding will be tolerated.

In a press release, AP urged websites to obtain prior permission to use its news content under any circumstances. It said AP would "take all actions necessary to protect the content of the Associated Press and the AP Digital Cooperative from misappropriation on the Internet."

My money's on google.

Medical Group Advises Genetic Testing

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists (SGO) recommend routine assessment of a woman’s risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, in order to identify those who may benefit from a more thorough hereditary cancer risk assessment. Women who eventually undergo genetic testing and are found to carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have options available to manage their increased risk of cancer. These guidelines were published in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The wife and I are currently doing this through 23andMe. Can't wait to get the results.

It's In The Genes

Scientists at the University of Michigan have developed a method of gene delivery that appears safe for regenerating tooth-supporting gum tissue—a discovery that assuages one of the biggest safety concerns surrounding gene therapy research and tissue engineering.

Off the Grid

The U.S. has uncovered evidence that cyberspies, most likely from China and Russia, have penetrated the U.S. power grid and left behind software that could be activated to disrupt American infrastructure, FOX News confirms.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bill Whilttle as John Galt:

As an American and a patriot, I implore you – I go to my knees and beg you – LEAVE NOW.

Leave. Just go away. Retire to the Cayman Islands or Bermuda or wherever, but do it now, please, while you still have some love for this country. Close your companies, fire your employees, shutter your factories and offices, sell your property, and take all of that somewhere else… better yet: somewhere scenic but poverty-stricken. Somewhere that could use some wealth creation. Somewhere that people simply are grateful to have a job in the first place. Somewhere where you will be appreciated.

You are not welcome in America any more. Take your wealth and prosperity and inventiveness and hard work and vision and insight and bold risk-taking and joy in seeing growth and wealth creation and just go away – right now, before it’s too late. Because if you stay, Joel Berg and Barack Obama and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank and Chris Dodd will continue to come after you for more and more and more and they will not ever stop – not ever – until you are forced to flee. And when that day comes, you will go with not with fond remembrances and a desire to return home, but rather a black heart and hard and bitter memories.

So on behalf of those few of us who still believe in the Land of Opportunity, I beg you and implore you, in the name of our common patriot ancestors who worked so hard and sacrificed so much so that we could become so spoiled and ungrateful: take your 60% of the total income taxes and just go away.

I doubt many will take Bill up on his suggestion, but he does have a point: Few are willing to take the grand step of abandoning America for foreign lands, but many, millions in fact, will make hundreds of much smaller decisions that will have a similar effect. They will delay bonuses, postpone investments, forgo acquisitions, and work just a few less hours each week, all because they get to keep a smaller and smaller percentage of what they create.

Markets Work

The government's official view that toxic assets are incorrectly priced due to illiquidity "fire sales" is wrong, a new study by Harvard and Princeton finance professors suggests.

You can read the whole paper by Harvard's Joshua Coval and Erik Stafford and Princeton's Jakub Jurek below. The striking conclusion is that the low prices of toxic assets actually reflect the fundamentals, rather than being driven by an illiquidity discount.

(via Instapundit)

Paying Their "Fair Share?"

In 2006, the highest quintile earned 55.7% of pretax income and paid 69.3% of federal taxes, while the top 1% of households earned 18.8% of income and paid 28.3% of taxes. In all other quintiles, the share of federal taxes was less than the income share. The bottom quintile earned 3.9% of income and paid 0.8% of taxes, while the middle quintile earned 13.2% of income and paid 9.1% of taxes.

And nearly half of all "taxpayers" pay no federal income tax at all. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothing.


It’s as if they’re really more concerned with power than with rights . . . .

Yah, as if.


I'm not naive.


Among 4-year-olds, nearly 1 in 5 is obese.

Courtney Banks Reviews Google Voice

The verdict? A Dutiful but Klutzy Secretary.

The Oldest Person in the World

..turns 115.

UPDATE:> Or, er, maybe not.

GM's Next Electric Car be a Segway?

Forbes Studies Billionaires:

We analyzed everything from the billionaires' parents' professions to where they went to school, their track records in the early stages of their careers and other experiences that may have put them on the path to extreme wealth.

Our admittedly unscientific study of the 657 self-made billionaires we counted in February for our list of the World's Billionaires yielded some interesting results.

Yes, very interesting. Read the whole thing.

Monday, April 6, 2009

More Evidence of Negative Feedback

A study by the University of Leeds, published in the science journal Nature, measured the girth of 70,000 trees across 10 African countries and compared them with similar records made four decades ago.

On average, the trees were getting bigger faster and researchers found that each hectare of African forest was trapping an extra 0.6 tons of CO2 a year compared with the 1960s.

If this is replicated across the world's tropical rainforests they would be removing nearly 5 billion tons of CO2 a year from the atmosphere.
Scientists have been looking for a similar impact on crop yields and the experiments generally suggest that raised CO2 levels would boost the yields of mainstream crops, such as maize, rice and soy, by about 13 per cent.

Professor Martin Parry, head of plant science at Rothamsted Research, Britain's leading crop institute, said: "There is no doubt that the enrichment of the air with CO2 is increasing plant growth rates in many areas.

Those Amazing Stem Cells

Doctors may soon be able to patch up damaged bones and joints anywhere in the body with a simple shot in the arm.

A team at Keele University is testing injectible stem cells that they say they can control with a magnet.

It's In The Genes

Up to 70 percent of melanoma skin cancers may be triggered by a gene mutation that causes cells to become cancerous after excessive exposure to the sun, researchers said on Monday.

The discovery could lead to better treatments for the most deadly form of skin cancer after scientists at Britain's Institute of Cancer Research established the BRAF gene mutation is often the first event in the cascade of genetic changes leading to melanoma.

"We're with the government, and we're here to help you... your house:"

A growing number of states are moving to require home builders to offer solar electricity and hot-water systems in new homes, right alongside more traditional options such as fancy kitchen countertops and special window treatments.

Genetically Modified Viruses Power Batteries

Researchers at the MIT have managed to develop a new technology that could go a long way on solving the battery related woes that plague us currently.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Thank Heavens We Got This One Figured Out

Scientific navel-gazing has been taken to new heights by a chemist who claims he has solved one of the great mysteries of human biology: why men produce navel fluff, but women do not.

Progress On Google's Plan to Digitize the World

THERE'S a hitch in Google's plan to digitise the world's books and make them searchable online: scanning them is taking too long.

That's because character recognition software needs a neat 2D image of the text. But book bindings cause pages to arch up either side of the spine - bending text and making it hard to interpret.

However, last week Google was granted a patent (US 7508978) on an answer to this problem.

Poker Isn't Gambling?

New Scientist: IS POKER a game of skill or luck? For regular players that's a no-brainer, but showing that skill wins out has proven surprisingly difficult for mathematicians. Now two studies that tapped the vast amounts of data available from online casinos have provided some of the best evidence yet that poker is skill-based. Many hope that the results will help to roll back laws and court decisions that consider poker gambling, and therefore illegal in certain contexts.

Thank Heavens for DNA Testing

This happens far too often:

Miguel Roman served 20 years of a 60 year sentence for killing his girlfriend. Recent DNA tests proved him innocent and charges have been dismissed.

Why Police and Criminals Shouldn't Be The Only One's With Guns

AP: Police said they arrived within two minutes.
Police heard no gunfire after they arrived but waited for about an hour before entering the building to make sure it was safe for officers. They then spent two hours searching the building.

Related topic here.

Michelle Malkin:

Earn as they say, not as they earn.

Palestinians Threatened Not to Trade with Jews

UPI: The Palestinian Authority has again warned its people that selling homes and other properties to Jews would be a death-penalty offense.
Those who violate the religious order banning such activity would be accused of "high treason," said Sheik Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, chief judge of the PA, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Hearts Renew Themselves

In a finding that may open new approaches to treating heart disease, Swedish scientists have succeeded in measuring a highly controversial property of the human heart: the rate at which its muscle cells are renewed during a person’s lifetime.

Thankfully I Don't Have to Worry About This

A German woman has divorced her husband because she was fed up with him cleaning all the time.

Unbelievable Statistics on Unwed Mothers

Janell Ross: In Tennessee, about 9 percent of white mothers delivered out of wedlock in 1980, compared with 34 percent in 2007, the new state Department of Health data show. In the same period, unmarried black women went from representing a narrow majority of black mothers to 77 percent.

The state began collecting data on Hispanic births in 1982, when 11 percent were to unwed mothers. It was 53 percent in 2007.

Has no one heard of birth control?

"I'm with the government, and I'm here to help...

...protect you from the pitchforks."

Because, you know, only the government should be allowed to "fork" anyone.

Deep Solar Minimum

Solar physicist Dean Pensell of the Goddard space Flight Centre of NASA, said, "We are experiencing a very deep solar minimum." Marshall Space Flight Center sunspot expert David Hathaway said, “This is the quietest sun we've seen in almost a century. Since the Space Age began in the 1950s, solar activity has been generally high. Five of the ten most intense solar cycles on record have occurred in the last 50 years. We're just not used to this kind of deep calm.”

Robot Scientist

A laboratory robot called Adam has been hailed as the first machine in history to have discovered new scientific knowledge independently of its human creators.

Adam formed a hypothesis on the genetics of bakers’ yeast and carried out experiments to test its predictions, without intervention from its makers at Aberystwyth University.

The result was a series of “simple but useful” discoveries, confirmed by human scientists, about the gene coding for yeast enzymes. The research is published in the journal Science.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Challenging Kurzweil...

...on the singularity.

Respectfully, I think Aamodt and Wang miss the point. Kurzweil doesn't suggest that his vision will be achieved using supersized versions of today's computers, but rather through the development of radical new computational technologies.