Saturday, May 03, 2003
"A horrific venereal disease is preying on baboons in eastern Africa. An estimated 200 animals have been infected and scientists are scrambling to identify the mystery microbe that is attacking them.
The disease targets the reproductive organs of the primate. The consequences for male baboons are particularly gruesome, says Elibariki Mtui, of the African Wildlife Foundation in Arusha, Tanzania. "The genitals kind of rot away, then they just drop off," he told New Scientist.
"If it's sexually transmitted then it could spread," agrees Dee Carey, head veterinarian at the Southwest National Primate Research Centre in San Antonio, Texas. Baboons live in troops of up to 100 animals and although the females stay put within each "family", the males wander between them. But with so little information on the disease, says Carey, it is difficult to evaluate the risks. "
Query - if it causes things to drop off, how's it sexually transmitted....
-- Personality Disorder Test - Take It! --
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
|Purgatory (Repenting Believers)||Very Low|
|Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)||Very Low|
|Level 2 (Lustful)||Very High|
|Level 3 (Gluttonous)||Very High|
|Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)||High|
|Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)||Extreme|
|Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)||Very High|
|Level 7 (Violent)||Very High|
|Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)||Very High|
|Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)||Low|
Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test
Fifth Level of Hell
The river Styx runs through this level of Hell, and in it are punished the wrathful and the gloomy. The former are forever lashing out at each other in anger, furious and naked, tearing each other piecemeal with their teeth. The latter are gurgling in the black mud, slothful and sullen, withdrawn from the world. Their lamentations bubble to the surface as they try to repeat a doleful hymn, though with unbroken words they cannot say it. Because you lived a cruel, vindictive and hateful life, you meet your fate in the Styx.
I can't believe I've only reached the fifth circle - when I checked my own copy of the Inferno, I was at circle 8...
Via Dr Weevil
1) The "Magneto twist" at the end doesn't fit with the opening scene of the first film (at least without a touch more character development).
2) The ending seems awfully like an allegory about the real world and, say, terrorism
3) There's a lot of fore-shadowing going on with a heavy hand, some of which doesn't fit given Bobby Drake was on the darn plane...
But go enjoy.
You are The Beginning Of Tom Baker. You are
intense, and at times slightly ponderous. One
day you will evolve into a beautiful butterfly
and rule us all.
Which Doctor Who Season Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
Via Iain Murray (who has some local election coverage...)
Thursday, May 01, 2003
""Do you think we could get Shania Twain to speak out against the president, too?""
"For the past week, 137,000 Swindon citizens have been able to vote in the council's elections through an internet site, an automated telephone system, the town's eight information web-kiosks and NTL's digital television service - the first time votes have been cast through television.
Swindon is one of 18 councils offering e-votes to 1.5 million people. The government has pledged to hold a fully e-enabled general election after 2006."
There are a number of linked issues. One is the integrity of electronic voting systems, another is the risks of remote electronic voting, and a third is the usual risks of voting by post etc. The risks of general remote voting are accepted in a number of countries, so perhaps need no more attention. But it's interesting to see how Swindon have tried to get round the obstacles to "knowing" the vote has been fair:
"Swindon's system records internet protocol addresses - which, through an ISP, can be traced back to the user - and the caller's number, for the automated phone system. "We probably have a more sophisticated audit trail than for the paper votes," says Winchcombe.
Swindon's e-votes are held in a data centre in Slough. The file is encrypted, and holds only the vote and a 10-digit personal identification number (Pin), randomly generated for this election - voters used it to log on to their chosen system. The file linking Pins to voters' names and addresses is held in Swindon.
Sheffield's votes and voter lists are similarly separated. Smart cards were sent to all voters, with a reference number (VRN): the cards can be used for access to local services such as the city's swimming pools and the new National Ice Centre. "We're not naïve enough to think they will keep it just to vote," Bellamy says.
As the VRN will be used repeatedly, the votes' database uses a separate voter identification number (VIN). In both Swindon and Sheffield, the two databases will only be linked under a court order, in an electoral fraud case. This is the same as a ballot-box vote, where votes and voters can be linked through the code stamped on each ballot paper.
E-voting's biggest problem, which is also unique to this method, is that of oversight. "There is a huge amount of public trust in the paper voting system, in part because people can see the ballot papers being counted and know that they can recount them if there is any doubt," says Richard Allan, MP for Sheffield Hallam and the Liberal Democrat IT spokesperson. How can they do likewise for e-votes? "The answer is, they can't," says Bellamy.
If they demand a recount, says Winchcombe, "they will press a button, and it will come up with exactly the same result".
For this reason, Allan thinks e-voting systems will need to produce detailed statistics by polling district, allowing checks for anomalies.
To build confidence, Sheffield has given its politicians the chance to test the e-voting system, and in Swindon, the council will be contacting 10% of voters, partly to check that they voted through the channel the system thinks they did.
Like most government IT, e-voting systems are built and operated by private companies, and this, too, could cause concern. In the US, Republican senator Chuck Hagel was recently re-elected by a system operated by Election Systems & Software - a company in which he is a major shareholder and former chief executive, although there is no suggestion of wrongdoing.
Here, suppliers were chosen through the standard public-sector procurement process by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the participating councils. Sheffield is using US e-voting firm Election.com, US software firm Oracle and British Telecom. Swindon is using a consortium including Election.com's main rival Votehere and Telewest.
Coleman says that the source code of e-voting systems should be open to inspection. Both Swindon and Sheffield say they have had the opportunity to see it. "
Additionally, GCHQ have done various system integrity tests to address the web side of the system.
The most interesting thing is that the authorities have seen (or at least say that they've been allowed to inspect) the source code of the system. That matters, as one of the concerns in the States has been with replacement "on site" electronic voting machines where the source code is commercially confidential. I'd hope that anyone allowed to see the source would also be allowed to check it...
"The Rugby Football Union has announced a new initiative aimed at reducing the number of tickets reaching the black market for international matches at Twickenham Stadium
The aim of reducing the number of black market tickets was set out in the RFU’s eight year Strategic Plan, launched in 2001. A task group, chaired by the RFU Commercial Director, Paul Vaughan, has developed a number of ideas, all of which were approved by the RFU Management Board in March and the RFU Council last Friday.
Paul Vaughan said “The primary aim of the Task Group was to reduce the number of tickets available on the black market for international matches but also to ensure that more revenue could then be driven from their sale from official, rather than unofficial hospitality providers, which would financially benefit ‘the game’. More importantly the central revenues from the scheme will be ring fenced for redistribution directly back to the clubs. The terms and conditions have also been revamped to give the RFU more power to take action against those parties who abuse their allocation.
“Around 5,000 tickets end up on the black market for an international match at Twickenham and obviously that figure is far too high.
“Our scheme means that clubs and other recipients of match tickets will be able to sell their tickets to official hospitality providers. The price of the tickets can be above face value and the final figure will be a matter for the two parties to agree and resolve. Clubs will, however, be able to continue their practice of including the tickets in their benefits to their sponsors on the strict condition that they are not ‘sold on’ to another party.
“We have reached an agreement with Twickenham Experience Ltd, who to date have had the exclusive rights to hospitality at Twickenham Stadium on match days to extend this programme to other operators, who will pay a license fee to the RFU. The RFU will now go to open tender so that any party who wishes to apply to become an official hospitality company can do so.
The new scheme ensures that clubs can deliver higher revenues, through official channels and help to reduce the impact of the black market on the game. The RFU has also been mindful of the legal implications of any new scheme, and have taken legal advice throughout the process regarding competition law and the potential position of the Office of Fair Trading.
Paul Vaughan added “The vast majority of clubs maintain excellent records of the recipients of their tickets and we expect this to continue as we increase our policing of ticket misuse. In future we will expect completed returns within seven days of each international to ensure that there is an even closer monitoring of the allocation.
“We will be working with the police and the local council to introduce a more co-ordinated approach to dealing with touts, black market and counterfeit tickets on match days and any sources found misusing their allocation will have it withdrawn for a fixed term, the length of which will be decided further to an enquiry."
Chief Inspector Chris Phillips, Operations Manager Twickenham Police said, “The police will provide the RFU with all the help and advice required to tackle black market tickets to ensure that the whole Twickenham experience is a success for visitors to the stadium.”
The scheme will be introduced for the first time for the RBS Six Nations Championship in 2004."
""Why don't you explain more of your job," the teacher told him.
"Alright. I have to keep the world from imploding, since the rest of the countries are a bunch of idiots. The worst is France. How can I describe this to you... France is kinda like that kid in class everyone hates who reminds the teacher to give out homework." He then pointed to a geeky looking kid wearing glasses. "Probably that kid; he's France."
"But without homework," the kid responded, "how are we going..."
"Quiet, France. I'm tired of dealing with you."
"I think it's now Donald Rumsfeld's turn," the teacher said, "So what is your job."
"I am the Secretary of War."
"Defense," Laura corrected him.
"Whatever they now call it," he said with annoyance, "My job is to make sure America strikes fear into the heart of all other nations. It was through my lobbying that I made sure we had this Iraq war."
"I want to thank you for that," Buck said.
"Glad you enjoyed the war," Rumsfeld answered, "There will be more to come."
"My parents say you're an evil warmonger," said a little girl.
Rumsfeld stared at her for a few seconds. "After this, I'm going to follow you home and murder your family."
"Donald!" Laura yelled, "I told you no threatening the children!"
"Why don't you tell us more about what your job requires?" the teacher urged.
"Certainly. A Secretary of Defense must thirst for blood. He must love nothing more than to see the enemy cower before him, begging for mercy. But you must not be merciful. The enemy will see that as weakness, and we must never show weakness, for we are the United States of America."
"Hoo-rah!" Buck added.
"Are you going to kill and eat us?" asked a scared little child.
Rumsfeld considered this for a little while. "Not at this time," he finally answered."
"The demonstration on May 25 is against the US invasion of Europe in 1944-1945, against the presence of US troops in Europe, and to demand the withdrawal of those troops. It is also directed against the American soldiers buried at Margraten: they fought as conquerors, to subject Europe to American values and American interests. They deserve no honour, and certainly no gratitude. They should be reburied in the US.
The demonstration is against the Europe of the Nation States - supported by the US - and for the formation of a continental state. It is against nationalism and liberalism, and against Atlanticism - which combines both these ideologies with uncritical admiration for American society. It is also directed against the slavish attitude of the national elites in western Europe, who kneel before the American flag, and unjustly honour the American dead."
Via Junkyard Blog
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
But they have a wonderful analysis up there of the problems with Euro entry. Basically, the tests set out by Brown are far from being met, and if you look at the charts of the UK economy vs part of the Euro-zone that becomes rapidly apparent.
For example, consumer spending has been rising at 1-4% aboveve that of Germany and the Eurozone for three years and looks set to continue that way. UK long-term unemployed are, reportedly, about 1.5% of the working population -- in Germany and France, 4%, in Italy 6%. The UK economy is far more deregulated, and state aid is less than half that in the other major Euro nations.
The list of obstacles seems pretty large, and only serious reform within the Eurozone could tilt the analysis. That allegedly would be possible if we committed, but otherwise may never happen (otherwise?). And even if things changed drastically, there would still be the long-term risks over pension funding*, the exchange rate at entry being appropriate, and the differential reaction of the UK and European economies to interest rate movements. Big problems, and ones that need to be addressed by a serious argument for Euro entry.
* The UK pension system, even now, is relatively well-funded compared to a number of continental systems. At present, we don't have a liability to meet their future commitments, and wouldn't if we joined the Euro. However, if full economic union occurred, we'd be committed to paying bills they're running up now, and without necessarily getting the same benefits. Not good.
Gene Expression: SARS & Genetic Bombs
To respond to "Genetic Weapons"
Note - though there are lots of articles, apparently many referencing back to the same source unsubstantiated story a few years ago, there's no evidence anyone's trying for these weapons (yet) or that they could be practical. Remember - the essential for a genetic weapon even a madman would use is that you need to be able to discriminate between the people you want to kill and those you don't on genetic grounds.
(Really unhelpful thought - an Asimov short story, IIRC, had genetically discriminatory toxins which weren't indicated by racial markers. They discriminated based on one of those bit of biology that basically is randomly distributed globally. The toxins were delivered by tainting aid shipments (and some deliberate planting in the first world). Only a proportion of those eating the food would die, the random deaths in your own population provided the cover, and by varying the toxins used you continued to massacre those "surplus" to requirements on "Lifeboat Earth". A regime intent on mass-murder would stand a better chance with this approach (where those you definitely don't want to die can be protected in various ways). The short story had the scientist responsible take his own life and that of an unknown number of conspirators using the toxins. Who knows if a similar sequence of events is possible in reality?)
"Prince’s 'goo' fears are nonsense, say experts
THE Prince of Wales was ridiculed by Nobel prize-winning scientists yesterday for raising fears that miniature robots could turn the world into “grey goo”.
Sir Harry Kroto, Professor of Chemistry at Sussex University, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996, said: “Someone’s had this ridiculous idea about nanoscale robots that can replicate themselves, and it’s so far-fetched as to be utterly preposterous.”
“It shows a complete disconnection from reality. He should take a degree in chemistry, or at least talk to someone who understands it, rather than reading silly books.”
Sir Aaron Klug, of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1992 and is a former President of the Royal Society, said: “He’s been reading too much science-fiction. “I’m surprised that the Prince’s advisers cannot distinguish between science-fiction fantasy and what’s actually going on in the scientific world.” "
They haven't yet gotten round to mentioning concepts such as the Foresight Institute Guidelines for developing nanotech (via Instapundit). That's a pity, as it would be very reasonable for the proposed government funding to come with this sort of set of strings attached. Grey goo might be a very long time away, but nano-tech problems could be ten to fifteen years away without sensible regulation.
To be honest, the UK science funding regime would probably cover a lot of bases. But the specific guidelines seem like something that we should be getting on board with. A shame that Charles isn't (reported to be) aware of plausible approaches other than a ban, such as:
"Any self-replicating device which has sufficient onboard information to describe its own manufacture should encrypt it such that any replication error will randomize its blueprint.
Encrypted MNT* device instruction sets should be utilized to discourage irresponsible proliferation and piracy.
Mutation (autonomous and otherwise) outside of sealed laboratory conditions, should be discouraged.
Replication systems should generate audit trails.
MNT device designs should incorporate provisions for built-in safety mechanisms, such as: 1) absolute dependence on a single artificial fuel source or artificial "vitamins" that don't exist in any natural environment; 2) making devices that are dependent on broadcast transmissions for replication or in some cases operation; 3) routing control signal paths throughout a device, so that subassemblies do not function independently; 4) programming termination dates into devices, and 5) other innovations in laboratory or device safety technology developed specifically to address the potential dangers of MNT.
MNT developers should adopt systematic security measures to avoid unplanned distribution of their designs and technical capabilities. "
It seems the Times haven't read up on it either. It's right there on the web! But only number six on a google search for nanotech, so that's OK. But linked to by the number one nano link. Does anyone do research?
At least, lack of research seems to be why the recycle an article from the Ecologist magazine decrying the future. Sure, the article isn't about "grey goo". And it does name-check Neal Stephenson. But it mentions "Snow Crash" on a technological Tower of Babel (not the topic of the book), rather than "The Diamond Age" on nano-tech. And it's main concerns are about the possibility that the rich might buy deliverance from death, or that (shock) dissent may be crushed**:
"What is chilling about the possibilit[ies]..., and what society must debate, is the possibility of an ever-widening gulf between the improved and the unimproved. Whatever benefits [technological advances] may bring, they will neither be cheap nor equitably distributed.
What will happen to those who remain unimproved? Will physical enhancement become a legally enforceable social imperative? A recent US court decision, allowing prison officials to medicate a death-row inmate forcibly to make him sane enough to execute, underlines the complex issues involved in the notion of “enhancement”. And US Supreme Court rulings claiming that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply to persons with correctable impairments suggest that the rights of the disabled will be further eroded as disability becomes further marginalised as a social concern.
So, how long before democratic dissent is viewed as a correctable impairment as well? After singularity makes possible the construction of an even higher Tower of Babel, what happens to diversity?"
These may be relevant issues, but they're rather higher level than the debate the Times has had so far. Summary:
1) we may all become grey goo - ban everything
2) that can't happen - learn some science
3) perpetual oligarchs will stifle dissent with tiny storm-troopers
It's doesn't exactly hang together. And a quick reminisce about public consultation and GM foods, though tangentally relevant, is only worthwhile if you start to lay the groundwork for an informed debate. The ideas for regulating MNT development that have been put forward probably aren't perfect, and would need enforcement mechanisms. But unless you tell the public that there are proposals, and let them assess their merits, the whole discussion is pointless.
* Molecular NanoTechnology
** admit it, you saw that coming
"Welsh rugby clubs face threat of £5m legal bill
By Christine Seib
ABOUT 239 Welsh rugby clubs face severe financial constraints as the latest casualties of the collapse of Independent Insurance.
The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) faces a £5 million loss after being abandoned by the now liquidated insurer Independent Insurance, raising fears that grassroots rugby clubs will be left without funds.
The collapse of the insurer in 2001 leaves the cash-strapped WRU without financial back-up if it loses a high-profile legal battle in the House of Lords.
Richard Vowles, a former Commonwealth Games boxer, last year successfully sued the referee David Evans and the WRU after his back was broken in a 1997 rugby match.
The WRU is awaiting permission to appeal against the decision in the House of Lords. If permission is refused, the WRU could face a damages bill of up to £6 million, plus huge legal fees. "