Saturday, February 28, 2004

Newsday.com: "A riskier-than-usual space walk outside the International Space Station was cut short last night because of a malfunction that left one of the two crewmen with a warm, damp space suit."

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

President Calls for Constitutional Amendment Protecting Marriage: "Eight years ago, Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage for purposes of federal law as the legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.

"The Act passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 342 to 67, and the Senate by a vote of 85 to 14. Those congressional votes and the passage of similar defensive marriage laws in 38 states express an overwhelming consensus in our country for protecting the institution of marriage.

"In recent months, however, some activist judges and local officials have made an aggressive attempt to redefine marriage. In Massachusetts, four judges on the highest court have indicated they will order the issuance of marriage licenses to applicants of the same gender in May of this year. In San Francisco, city officials have issued thousands of marriage licenses to people of the same gender, contrary to the California family code."

"After more than two centuries of American jurisprudence, and millennia of human experience, a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization."

"The Defense of Marriage requires a constitutional amendment."
Woman-Centered Campaigns Thought to be Final Argument to End Abortion: "When abortion [went unrestrained] in the United States over thirty years ago, proponents of the procedure argued that it was somehow good for women, that it would give them a greater freedom over their lives and their bodies. Though this argument is still made today, a wave of reports and groups are increasingly challenging that assertion. In fact, even reports from Planned Parenthood's Alan Gutmacher Institute are concluding that women choose abortion because they have no choice, that they are pressured by economic, familial, and emotion forces.

"These same women, now post-abortive, are then faced with emotional or health issues linked to abortion-in one study by the Elliot Institute, 89% of post abortive women had negative reactions, which include a wide variety of psychological problems.

"As a result, a growing number of groups are now persuasively arguing that the pro-abortion position does not equal pro-woman. A new campaign being run by Feminists for Life, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life (NOEL) are running a national campaign making these explicit points. Called 'Women Deserve Better than Abortion, campaigners say frankly that 'abortion is a reflection that we have not met the needs of women. This campaign is dedicated to promote women-centered solutions to significantly reduce abortion and protect women's health.'

"An even more dramatic campaign asserting that abortion hurts women is called 'Silent No More.' Sponsored by NOEL, this campaign actually brings post-abortive women into the public square to talk about how their abortions hurt them. These women, who began a year ago on the steps of the US Supreme Court, make a public witness about how their abortions led to depression, alcoholism, disease, and nightmares. Author and feminist writer Frederica Mathews-Green says the campaign 'gives a voice to women who have too long been ignored. Pro-life and pro-choice can agree: abortion is a tragedy, and women deserve better choices.'"
Wal-Mart a big giver to 2004 U.S. election: "Wal-Mart, the largest company in the U.S., looks set to pass a new milestone this year: It is well on its way to becoming the biggest business contributor to the 2004 election campaign.
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"After years of little involvement in federal politics, the Arkansas-based retail giant is currently the largest corporate donor through its political action committee (PAC), having doled out nearly $1.3 million to federal candidates until the end of January."

"As recently as the 2000 presidential election year, Wal-Mart ranked 771st in direct contributions to federal politicians."

"Jay Allen, senior vice-president of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart and treasurer for the company's PAC, says he began discussing with senior management five or six years ago the need for the retail giant to wield greater clout in Washington.

"'It was not like there was one company or event or issue [that influenced us],' he says, 'It became increasingly clear that we needed a presence there, to engage on legislative issues that arise in Washington—like taxes, health care, trade, food safety.

"'The second issue was a need that frankly still exists today, with everything that is going on, for people to understand us better,' he adds. 'When you are not there it creates a void that someone else is going to fill, and you may not like their definition of you.'"
Unprecedented space walk this week: "For the first time, the crew of the International Space Station will conduct a spacewalk without anyone inside to help them, officials in Houston say.

"Unlike the previous 26 excursions from the station, Thursday's 5-hour 45-minute spacewalk will not have a crew member inside tending the station."

Feb. 26, 2004 Spacewalk
Michael Foale, Alexander Kaleri
Time: 5 hours, 45 minutes
Start time: 4 p.m. EST
End time: 9:45 p.m. EST
Freedom for All in Iraq: "To the glee of Iraq's religious minorities and women alike, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer suggested on Monday that he would block any interim constitution that would make Islam the chief source of law, as some members of the Iraqi Governing Council have sought."

Monday, February 23, 2004

The Patriot Flawed?: "In the Pentagon's multi-billion dollar arsenal of weapons, one weapon the government has already spent more than $6 billion on has not only had trouble doing what it was designed to do—bring down enemy missiles—it also does something it was not designed to do.

"That weapon is the Patriot missile system. And the thing it's not supposed to do is bring down friendly aircraft."

"When the U.S. and its allies invaded Iraq again last year, the U.S. Army deployed Patriot crews across the battlefield. And it wasn't long before those crews knew they had a problem."

Sunday, February 22, 2004

How the Wi-Fi Future Might Look: "If you had told most people in the year 2000 that by the time George W. Bush ran for reelection they would be able to connect to the Net wirelessly, they would have called you naively optimistic. If you had predicted that they could do so at 100 times the speed of a dialup connection while sipping coffee at Starbucks or sitting on their luggage waiting for a plane, they would have called you nuts.

"So now that you can do all that, what's next for the hottest technology du jour?"

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Senator Zell Miller Speech, ‘A famine in the land’: “The Old Testament prophet Amos was a sheep herder who lived back in the Judean hills, away from the larger cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Compared to the intellectual urbanites like Isaiah and Jeremiah, he was just an unsophisticated country hick.

“But Amos had a unique grasp of political and social issues and his poetic literary skill was among the best of all the prophets. That familiar quote of Martin Luther King, Jr. about ‘Justice will rush down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream’ are Amos’s words."

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Viking Boat May Be Buried in England: "The discovery of a handful of ancient iron nails, a belt buckle and some silver coins in northeast England has sent a thrill through the world of Viking scholarship, hinting strongly that a Norse boat burial site may lie beneath the Yorkshire soil."

"The site, which is being kept secret, was found in December by amateur metal detector enthusiasts who reported their discoveries to antiquities experts at the museum in January."

Thursday, February 12, 2004

RadioShack to sell satellite radios: "RadioShack Corp. Thursday said it will start selling radios for Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. at its 7,000 stores this summer, prompting the satellite broadcaster to raise its subscriber forecast."

"RadioShack, Dish Network and Sirius plan to work together to provide advertising support for their alliance, the companies said."

"New York-based Sirius now expects to have 1 million subscribers at the end of the year. It previously expected 860,000 subscribers. It had 261,000 at the beginning of the year, far behind rival XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., which had 1.36 million."

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Kerry and Gore on WMDs: Memory Lapse or Mendacity?: "Banking on the collective memory loss of the American people or the fact that no one outside the beltway generally cares what politicians think or say, they each made shameless attempts—consciously or unconsciously—to distance themselves from some of their own statements made in recent years on the issue of Iraq and its leader's threat to the international community."

Sunday, February 8, 2004

Most Believe Abortion Makes Women's Lives Worse: "According to the poll, only 16 percent believe abortion generally makes women's lives better. Even among those who describe themselves as 'pro-choice,' less than 30 percent believe abortion generally improves women's lives. In addition, 67 percent of pro-choice women stated they would be 'more likely to vote for a candidate who calls for government support for grief counseling programs to assist women who experience emotional problems after an abortion.'

"David C. Reardon, Ph.D., director of the Elliot Institute, believes the poll results reflect a reality that has long been misunderstood by politicians on both sides of the abortion debate. 'At least one of every four women voters has had an abortion, and most of these women consider it to be an ugly, painful memory,' he said. 'Most have many regrets about their abortions, even if they believe it to have been their "only choice." This is why they don't support the radical agenda of pro-abortion special interest groups. They've been there, done that, and hated it.'

"Based on his studies of post-abortive women and the national polling data, Reardon believes that most post-abortive women would be glad to see abortion go away—but only if it can be done in a way that helps women."
LEDs may shine new light in homes: "It started innocently enough. Marcel Jean Vos, an interior and commercial designer in London, bought some light-emitting diodes to create a small lighting system in the kitchen of his apartment. Now, four years later, Vos has transformed a neighboring one-bedroom apartment into a space lighted entirely with LEDs, the solid-state technology more commonly associated with the tiny lights on electronic gadgets.

"The apartment has 360 LED arrays, and about 20 yards of plastic ribbons embedded with the glowing semiconductors. The lighting effects include a kitchen counter that changes color, an illuminated shower stall, a candle that has chips instead of a wick, and a light sculpture."

"Despite its enormous number of light fixtures, Vos' apartment uses no more electricity than four 100-watt incandescent bulbs would, he said. … But offsetting the frugality is the staggering cost of the installation. Vos estimated that he spent $50,000 to create the apartment's lighting system."

"About 20 percent of all electricity in the United States is used for lighting. A shift from bulbs to LEDs and other more efficient kinds of lighting could cut that percentage in half, easing the strain on power systems and reducing the chances of a blackout like the one that affected the northeastern United States and Canada last August."

"The incandescent bulb, which works by heating a thin metal filament so that it emits light, is also inefficient. About 90 percent to 95 percent of the electricity that goes into most incandescent bulbs is converted to heat rather than light."

Monday, February 2, 2004

The father of fractals: "Benoit Mandelbrot's unusual multidisciplinary approach led him to an extraordinary discovery. He worries that modern science is now becoming too specialised."

"Science, he says, has become like a professional sport, where an athlete's worth is assessed solely within a narrowly defined event. While the tendency to form guilds is natural, he says, a few mavericks are essential, or the guild-based nature of science could lead to a loss of public interest and trust. Science requires the approval of society, which depends in turn on the availability of credible and articulate interlocutors."

An interdisciplinary mathematician! It only takes a few to keep life (and math, and science) interesting.
Hard disks go home: "Hard disks are starting to appear in household devices, from televisions to stereos, adding novel features and making possible new products."

This marks an interesting contrast to Google which stores the entire Internet in its Linux cluster memory because "DRAM is 200,000 times more efficient when it comes to storing seekable data" as Google CEO Eric Schmidt said.
Timothy Noah of Slate has a fascinating history of Groundhog Day!
Satellite radio soars: "Whatever it is, satellite radio has taken off. Over the holidays, an unprecedented number of subscribers signed with XM and Sirius, the Coke and Pepsi of orbital radio, for programming that plays through special car or indoor receivers and can be heard coast-to-coast. The services have entered into partnerships with NASCAR, NPR, Fox, … and others to create content that has regular broadcasters feeling earthbound.

"It is a moment like the arrival of cable television, a novelty 30 years ago, and now a drain on traditional broadcasters' audience and ad revenue."

"XM signed up 23,000 people on Christmas Day alone, and ended the year with 1.4 million subscribers. Sirius had its biggest month ever in December, nearly matching the 75,000 subscribers it signed in the entire first half of last year. It ended 2003 with 261,000 customers."

"It took four years to sell a million VCRs, and three years to sell that many CD players. DVD caught on faster—a million units sold in just over two years.

"Satellite radio has beaten them all, signing a million subscribers within 23 months. Only small satellite dishes reached critical mass faster, says [Sirius CEO Joe] Clayton, former head of DirecTV. He estimates the market for satellite radio to be 31/2 times larger, considering all the cars, trucks and boats out there."