Monday, January 31, 2005

Freedom of what?: "The way many high school students see it, government censorship of newspapers may not be a bad thing, and flag burning is hardly protected free speech.

"It turns out the First Amendment is a second-rate issue to many of those nearing their own adult independence, according to a study of high school attitudes released Monday.

"Yet, when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes 'too far' in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories."

"The results reflected indifference, with almost three in four students saying they took the First Amendment for granted or didn't know how they felt about it."

"'Schools don't do enough to teach the First Amendment. Students often don't know the rights it protects,' Linda Puntney, executive director of the Journalism Education Association, said in the report. 'This all comes at a time when there is decreasing passion for much of anything. And, you have to be passionate about the First Amendment.'"

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Google's search for meaning: "Computers can learn the meaning of words simply by plugging into Google. The finding could bring forward the day that true artificial intelligence is developed."

"Paul Vitanyi and Rudi Cilibrasi of the National Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, realised that a Google search can be used to measure how closely two words relate to each other."

"To gauge just how closely, Vitanyi and Cilibrasi have developed a statistical indicator based on these hit counts that gives a measure of a logical distance separating a pair of words. They call this the normalised Google distance, or NGD. The lower the NGD, the more closely the words are related."

"The pair's results do not surprise Michael Witbrock of the Cyc project in Austin, Texas, a 20-year effort to create an encyclopaedic knowledge base for use by a future artificial intelligence. Cyc represents a vast quantity of fundamental human knowledge, including word meanings, facts and rules of thumb.

"Witbrock believes the web will ultimately make it possible for computers to acquire a very detailed knowledge base. Indeed, Cyc has already started to draw upon the web for its knowledge. 'The web might make all the difference in whether we make an artificial intelligence or not,' he says."

That the Web would be a source of artificial intelligence makes sense given that one could argue it is really a huge mass of collective intelligence.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Senate Doctors Share Interests, Not Styles: "As the Senate's only doctor, Bill Frist became the go-to guy on health care and was diagnosed as having the bedside manner needed in a majority leader. But now there's another doctor on the scene—newly elected Oklahoma obstetrician Tom Coburn—and while the two Republicans share a passion for medicine, they are far apart on how they approach politics."
Yahoo tool sends local info to cell phones: "Yahoo began offering on Thursday a new tool that allows users of its local search service to send restaurant or business information in the form of a text message from a computer to a mobile phone."

"Google in October rolled out a test service that allows people to use mobile phones or handheld devices to tap Google's Web search via SMS."

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Police Need Help Finding Radio Shack Bandits: "Five robberies at five different Radio Shack stores have police asking the public for help.

"Each crime is similar: Two men come in, pose as customers and wait for the clerk to help them. They pull handguns, demand money, force the employees and customers to the back of the store, and then restrain them with duct tape.

"The suspects began the crime spree in October of last year. The latest incident occurred last Friday at the Radio Shack on Race Track Road in Bowie."
Bryan College Honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Serving Community: "Everywhere you looked in Rhea County, you could find a Bryan College student or professor, cleaning, lifting, moving... It's the first time the college did not hold classes on Martin Luther King Day—so students and faculty could honor Dr. King's dream by serving their community."
Alphabet soup of Wi-Fi choices: "With three types of Wi-Fi '802.11' technology to choose from for wireless Internet access, and more on the way, which one is best for a new laptop?

"First there was 802.11b, the clunky technical name for the wireless technology which made Wi-Fi a must-have for laptops.

"Then came versions 802.11g and 802.11a. Letter 'n' is coming. And back in the lab, the Wi-Fi wizards are working on 'e,' 'r,' 's' and 't.'"

"The next generations of the Wi-Fi standard, starting with 802.11n, may not hit the market until after 2006."

"Most DSL and cable broadband connections aren't as fast as the slowest version of 802.11, so few users can take full advantage of Wi-Fi's speed.

"But DSL and cable broadband providers are starting to boost the bandwidth they offer with little or no price increase, and some local phone companies are installing fiber-optic cables that will deliver lightning-fast connections in the same $35-to-$40 price range.

"'You're starting to see broadband speeds that exceed what 802.11b can deliver, so there is some utility for what 802.11g can deliver, especially if you'll have the machine for five years,' said Fleishman."
R 2 many txt msgs bad 4 U?: "Excessive text messaging may be bad for you, or at least for your fingers.

"That's what some Italian doctors think. They are telling people, particularly the young, that furious typing on mobile phones could lead to acute tendonitis."

"A 13-year-old girl in the northern Italian city of Savona needed treatment from an orthopaedic specialist after typing at least 100 short message services (SMSs) a day."
Survey: Thousands leave laptops, mobiles in cabs: "An estimated 11,300 laptop computers, 31,400 handheld computers and 200,000 mobile telephones were left in taxis around the world during the last six months, a survey found on Monday.

"Taxi drivers in nine cities also said they had found a range of other items left by passengers, including a harp, 37 milk bottles, dentures and artificial limbs. One driver said he even found a baby in his taxi."

"Most of the items were returned to their owners, cab drivers said. Four out of five mobile phones and 19 out of every 20 computers found their way back, they said."

That means 565 laptops and 40,000 mobile phones never found their way home—in six months!
'Flammable' Titan covered in liquid gas: "Saturn's moon Titan is covered by 'dirty' ice ridges and seas of liquid natural gas, a team of scientists said on Friday after a week of research into data from the space probe Huygens."

"The methane can exist in liquid form on Titan's surface because it is so cold, -290 degrees Fahrenheit (-179 degrees Celsius). Methane is also a key component in Titan's atmosphere, along with nitrogen. But as opposed to the Earth, the atmosphere of Titan lacks oxygen, which is essential to fire.

"'There's no source of oxygen available, which is a good thing or Titan would have exploded a long time ago,' Owen said."
SOHO offers comet contest: "The most prolific comet-hunter in history recently made its 900 discovery of a frozen visitor to the inner solar system, a chunk of ice and rock hurtling precariously close to the Sun.

"To celebrate this achievement of the SOHO spacecraft, its operators have begun a contest for the public to pick the timing of the discovery of No. 1,000, officials told SPACE.com."
Information Wants to be Liquid: "The web as we know it was invented by a British academic working in Switzerland. Is a Nordic academic working in Britain about to redefine it forever?

"Frode Hegland, a researcher at University College London, wants to change the basic structure of information on the net.

"Hegland's project, Liquid Information, is kinda like Wikipedia meets hypertext. In Hegland's web, all documents are editable, and every word is a potential hyperlink."
Site Chosen for Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitors Center: "In about five years, people visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall will also be able to stop at a new visitors center.

"The new center will be constructed at the corner of 23 Street and Constitution Avenue, but it will be underground. The National Park Service will run the center."

This will be the third major underground visitor's center constructed on the Mall in recent years. Currently in progress are centers at the U.S. Capitol, and at the Washington Monument.
Study: Most Identity Theft Occurs Offline: "Most often, a lost or stolen wallet or checkbook gives thieves information to commit fraud. Computer crimes made up just 12 percent of all identity fraud cases in which the cause is known; and of those half are attributed to spyware, the software that sneaks onto computers and can send back private information."

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Hillary in the middle on values issues: "Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is staking out centrist positions on values issues that helped decide last year's presidential election, positioning herself to the right of her party's base on abortion, faith-based initiatives and immigration."

Hillary Clinton Claims Abortions Increasing Under President Bush: "Senator Hillary Clinton on Monday accused President Bush of causing abortions to increase in parts of the country because he is not fully funding family planning programs that she alleges cut the number of abortions."

"But, those numbers come from a flawed study conducted by a researcher who used faulty data to survey the rise or fall of abortions during the Bush administration."

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Google to Branch Into Television: "Google Inc. is using its popular Internet search technology to find information and images broadcast on television, continuing a recent effort to extend its reach beyond the Web.

"The Mountain View-based company planned to introduce the new video search service Tuesday in an index that will be operated separately from the market-leading search engine offered on its home page. The feature pinpoints content previously aired on a variety of television networks by scanning through the closed caption text that many programmers offer.

"Google's index, which began storing information last month, includes programming from ABC, PBS, Fox News and C-SPAN."

Monday, January 24, 2005

Pro-Life Rally Draws Thousands in D.C.: "Thousands of abortion opponents on Monday marked the 32nd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion with a day of rallies, protests and other activities as the issue takes on new urgency with the likelihood of a high court vacancy during President Bush's term."

"Every anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision, prompts demonstrations by opponents and proponents of abortion rights. Activists on both sides of the abortion issue marched in demonstrations across the country Saturday, the actual anniversary of the Jan. 23 decision."

"Last week, Norma McCorvey, the woman known as 'Jane Roe' in Roe v. Wade, asked the Supreme Court to overturn its 1973 decision. McCorvey now opposes abortion and said the case should be heard again in light of evidence that the procedure may harm women."

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Lessons from 216 years of history online: "The 54 inaugurations prior to this one share a lot in common, as outlined by … Ted Widmer in 'So Help Me God,' a delightful article in the Winter 2005 issue of the American Scholar. Widmer distills the typical inaugural address to 10 bullet points:"
  1. I am not worthy of this great honor.
  2. But I congratulate the people that they elected me.
  3. Now we must all come together, even those of us who really hate each other.
  4. I love the Constitution, the Union, and George Washington.
  5. I will work against bad threats.
  6. I will work for good things.
  7. We must avoid entangling alliances.
  8. America's strength=democracy.
  9. Democracy's strength=America.
  10. Thanks, God.
Army Prepares 'Robo-Soldier' for Iraq: "Made by a small Massachusetts company, the SWORDS, short for Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems, will be the first armed robotic vehicles to see combat, years ahead of the larger Future Combat System vehicles currently under development by big defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics Corp."

"Military officials like to compare the roughly three-foot-high robots favorably to human soldiers: They don't need to be trained, fed or clothed. They can be boxed up and warehoused between wars. They never complain. And there are no letters to write home if they meet their demise in battle.

"But officials are quick to point out that these are not the autonomous killer robots of science fiction. A SWORDS robot shoots only when its human operator presses a button after identifying a target on video shot by the robot's cameras.

"'The only difference is that his weapon is not at his shoulder, it's up to half a mile a way,' said Bob Quinn, general manager of Talon robots for Foster-Miller Inc., the Waltham, Mass., company that makes the SWORDS. As one Marine fresh out of boot camp told Quinn upon seeing the robot: 'This is my invisibility cloak.'"

"Running on lithium ion batteries, it can operate for 1 to 4 hours at a time, depending on the mission. Operators work the robot using a 30-pound control unit which has two joysticks, a handful of buttons and a video screen. Quinn says that may eventually be replaced by a 'Gameboy' type of controller hooked up to virtual reality goggles.

"The Army has been testing it over the past year at Picatinny and the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland to ensure it won't malfunction and can stand up to radio jammers and other countermeasures. (Sebasto wouldn't comment on what happens if the robot and its controller fall into enemy hands.)"

"The Pentagon's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, also recently awarded contracts to aid research of robots that one day could be dropped into combat from airplanes and others meant to scale walls using electrostatic energy—also known as 'static cling.'"
Full Moon Names for 2005

Next up: January 25, 5:32 a.m. EST, "The Full Wolf Moon"
ISS Crew Prepares for First Spacewalk: "The two astronauts living aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are preparing for the first spacewalk of their mission with a combination of experience and enthusiasm, NASA flight controllers said today.

"ISS Expedition 10 commander Leroy Chiao, a spacewalking veteran, and flight engineer Salizhan Sharipov plan to exit the orbiting facility on Jan. 26 for a 5.5-hour job of installing new hardware on the station's exterior."
Astronomers Surprised by White House Plan to Scuttle Hubble: "The prospect of the White House cutting off funding for any possible mission to service and save the Hubble Space Telescope caught the astronomy community largely by surprise Friday.

"Scientists who have studied Hubble's science value and the safety and practicality of servicing missions have concluded it is well worth saving. Congressional hearings in coming weeks were expected to discuss the options to extend Hubble's life.

"Many astronomers deem such a mission crucial to the ongoing work of studying the origin and evolution of the universe, while some analysts view the $1 billion or more mission as too costly to be practical."
China's next manned space mission in 2005: "China has said its second manned space mission will take place in September or October 2005, and will involve two astronauts orbiting for up to five days.

"The official Xinhua News Agency said on Thursday Shenzhou 6 will have a four- or five-day flight with two astronauts aboard, citing Sun Laiyan, director of China National Space Administration."

"If it occurs, it will come two years after China became the third nation to launch a human into space on its own, firing Yang Liwei into orbit. In October 2003, Yang circled the Earth 14 times and landed by parachute in China's northern grasslands after a 21 1/2-hour flight."
Cell phone market could reach 2 billion users in 2005: "The global mobile phone market is set to grow to 2 billion subscribers by the end of 2005, fuelled by strong demand from developing economies in Asia and Latin America, Deloitte & Touche said on Tuesday.

"The consulting firm said it expected voice calls to continue to be the primary driver of profits and revenues for mobile phone companies, with volumes continuing to grow steadily on the back of falling prices and rising ease of use.

"Mobile penetration would surpass 100 percent in some markets as users take a second connection for data or for personal use. The mobile industry had 1.5 billion users in June last year."
Psalm 51: "The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise."
'Handshake Man' arrested: "U.S. Capitol Police on Thursday arrested the man who sneaked into George W. Bush's first inauguration and was photographed shaking his hand.

"Hours before Bush took the oath of office for a second time, Richard Weaver was taken into custody on the Capitol's west front on an outstanding warrant, police spokesman Michael Lauer said."

The 2003 report on Rich Weaver's penetrating (pardon the pun) message about America and Iraq.

A copy of the 2001 report on the "unscheduled handshake" by the non-threatening "nuissance approacher."

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Blazing Speed: The Fastest Stuff in the Universe: "If you're light, it's fairly easy to travel at your own speed—that is to say 186,282 miles per second or 299,800 kilometers per second. But if you are matter, then it's another matter altogether."

"Among thee speed demons of the universe are Jupiter-sized blobs of hot gas embedded in streams of material ejected from hyperactive galaxies known as blazars. Last week at a meeting here of the American Astronomical Society, scientists announced they had measured blobs in blazar jets screaming through space at 99.9 percent of light-speed."
Philly's Wi-Fi Hot Spot Due by Mid-2006: "The nation's largest municipal Wi-Fi cloud will blanket Philadelphia by the summer of 2006—with Internet access free in public parks and steeply discounted for low-income residents."

Monday, January 17, 2005

Democrats Turn to Leader of Religious Left: "Democrats, reeling from the Republicans' success at courting churchgoers, are focusing new attention on a religious and political anomaly: Jim Wallis, one of the few prominent left-leaning leaders among evangelical Protestants.

"At the start of the Congressional session, Senate Democrats invited Mr. Wallis to address their members at a private session to discuss issues. A group of about 15 House Democrats invited him to a breakfast discussion about dispelling their party's secular image. And NBC News has enlisted him to appear as a guest during its inauguration coverage opposite Dr. James C. Dobson, one of the most prominent evangelical conservatives."

"Mr. Wallis, a registered Democrat, told the senators that the Bible contains more than 3,000 references to alleviating poverty. He said Democrats needed to do a better job of explaining the moral and religious foundations of policies intended to help the poor, protect the environment and reduce violence.

"He also urged the Democrats to look for middle ground on the social issues most troubling to religious traditionalists, like obscenity and abortion. Whatever their stance on abortion rights, he argued, Democrats need to treat its occurrence as a moral problem and propose ways to reduce it."

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Supreme Court to decide to rule on Schiavo: "The long legal saga pitting the parents of a severely brain-damaged woman against her husband may be winding down—if, as widely expected, the U.S. Supreme Court refuses this week to consider an appeal filed by Gov. Jeb Bush.

It is risky to predict what the high court will decide Friday, when the justices are scheduled to accept or reject the governor's appeal in the case involving Terri Schiavo. No one knows what they will do, only that they could release some decision the following Monday."

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Mission: Bless my master, marry off his son!

Abraham was now a very old man, and the LORD had blessed him in every way.

One day Abraham said to the man in charge of his household, who was his oldest servant, "Swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not let my son marry one of these local Canaanite women. Go instead to my homeland, to my relatives, and find a wife there for my son Isaac."

The servant asked, "But suppose I can't find a young woman who will travel so far from home? May I then take Isaac there to live among your relatives?"

"No!" Abraham warned. "Be careful never to take my son there. For the LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father's house and my native land, solemnly promised to give this land to my offspring. He will send his angel ahead of you, and he will see to it that you find a young woman there to be my son's wife. If she is unwilling to come back with you, then you are free from this oath. But under no circumstances are you to take my son there."

So the servant took a solemn oath that he would follow Abraham's instructions.

He loaded ten of Abraham's camels with gifts and set out, taking with him the best of everything his master owned. He traveled to Aram-naharaim and went to the village where Abraham's brother Nahor had settled.

There the servant made the camels kneel down beside a well just outside the village. It was evening, and the women were coming out to draw water.

"O LORD, God of my master," he prayed. "Give me success and show kindness to my master, Abraham. Help me to accomplish the purpose of my journey. See, here I am, standing beside this spring, and the young women of the village are coming out to draw water.

"This is my request. I will ask one of them for a drink. If she says, 'Yes, certainly, and I will water your camels, too!'—let her be the one you have appointed as Isaac's wife. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master."

As he was still praying, a young woman named Rebekah arrived with a water jug on her shoulder. Her father was Bethuel, who was the son of Abraham's brother Nahor and his wife, Milcah. Now Rebekah was very beautiful, and she was a virgin; no man had ever slept with her.

She went down to the spring, filled her jug, and came up again. Running over to her, the servant asked, "Please give me a drink."

"Certainly, sir," she said, and she quickly lowered the jug for him to drink. When he had finished, she said, "I'll draw water for your camels, too, until they have had enough!"

So she quickly emptied the jug into the watering trough and ran down to the well again. She kept carrying water to the camels until they had finished drinking.

The servant watched her in silence, wondering whether or not she was the one the LORD intended him to meet. Then at last, when the camels had finished drinking, he gave her a gold ring for her nose and two large gold bracelets for her wrists.

"Whose daughter are you?" he asked. "Would your father have any room to put us up for the night?"

"My father is Bethuel," she replied. "My grandparents are Nahor and Milcah. Yes, we have plenty of straw and food for the camels, and we have a room for guests."

The man fell down to the ground and worshiped the LORD.

"Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master, Abraham," he said. "The LORD has been so kind and faithful to Abraham, for he has led me straight to my master's relatives."

The young woman ran home to tell her family about all that had happened.

Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban. When he saw the nose-ring and the bracelets on his sister's wrists, and when he heard her story, he rushed out to the spring, where the man was still standing beside his camels.

Laban said to him, "Come and stay with us, you who are blessed by the LORD. Why do you stand here outside the village when we have a room all ready for you and a place prepared for the camels!"

So the man went home with Laban, and Laban unloaded the camels, gave him straw to bed them down, fed them, and provided water for the camel drivers to wash their feet. Then supper was served.

But Abraham's servant said, "I don't want to eat until I have told you why I have come."

"All right," Laban said, "tell us your mission."

"I am Abraham's servant," he explained. "And the LORD has blessed my master richly; he has become a great man. The LORD has given him flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, a fortune in silver and gold, and many servants and camels and donkeys.

"When Sarah, my master's wife, was very old, she gave birth to my master's son, and my master has given him everything he owns. And my master made me swear that I would not let Isaac marry one of the local Canaanite women. Instead, I was to come to his relatives here in this far-off land, to his father's home. I was told to bring back a young woman from here to marry his son.

"'But suppose I can't find a young woman willing to come back with me?' I asked him. 'You will,' he told me, 'for the LORD, in whose presence I have walked, will send his angel with you and will make your mission successful. Yes, you must get a wife for my son from among my relatives, from my father's family. But if you go to my relatives and they refuse to let her come, you will be free from your oath.'

"So this afternoon when I came to the spring I prayed this prayer: 'O LORD, the God of my master, Abraham, if you are planning to make my mission a success, please guide me in a special way. Here I am, standing beside this spring. I will say to some young woman who comes to draw water, "Please give me a drink of water!" And she will reply, "Certainly! And I'll water your camels, too!" LORD, let her be the one you have selected to be the wife of my master's son.'

"Before I had finished praying these words, I saw Rebekah coming along with her water jug on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water and filled the jug. So I said to her, 'Please give me a drink.' She quickly lowered the jug from her shoulder so I could drink, and she said, 'Certainly, sir, and I will water your camels, too!' And she did.

"When I asked her whose daughter she was, she told me, 'My father is Bethuel, the son of Nahor and his wife, Milcah.' So I gave her the ring and the bracelets. "Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD. I praised the LORD, the God of my master, Abraham, because he had led me along the right path to find a wife from the family of my master's relatives.

"So tell me—will you or won't you show true kindness to my master? When you tell me, then I'll know what my next step should be, whether to move this way or that."

Then Laban and Bethuel replied, "The LORD has obviously brought you here, so what can we say? Here is Rebekah; take her and go. Yes, let her be the wife of your master's son, as the LORD has directed."
Inherit The Sticker: "The story of the 'evolution stickers' and how they got placed into public school textbooks in Cobb County, Georgia, is really just a story about a group of beleaguered school officials who got caught in the push-and-pull of religion, science and politics. The local educators tried to compromise their way through the emotional fight between evolution and creationism and they ended up instead in the middle of a high-strung battle that could end up before the Justices of the United States Supreme Court.

"A federal judge ruled Thursday that the county acted improperly when it ordered placed into new science textbooks a sticker that declared: 'This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.' Specifically, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper found (2.45 MB PDF) that the first sentence of that sticker had the effect of endorsing religion in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment."
New Photos Show Titan Has Orange Surface: "New, refined pictures from Saturn's moon Titan released Saturday show a pale orange surface covered by a thin haze of methane and what appears to be a methane sea complete with islands and a mist-shrouded coastline."

"The $3.3 billion Cassini-Huygens mission to explore Saturn and its moons was launched in 1997 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in a joint effort by NASA, the ESA and the Italian space agency. Huygens was spun off from the Cassini mother ship Dec. 24."

"Titan is the first moon other than the Earth's to be explored."

"Titan's images came streaking across the cosmos Friday, and scientists grew increasingly ecstatic with the scenes from the probe, named after Titan's discoverer, the 17th-century Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens."

"'I think all of us continue to be amazed as we watch our solar system unveil,' NASA science administrator Alphonso Diaz said Friday as the extraordinary images were displayed on screens at mission control in Darmstadt.

"'It challenges all our preconceptions that all these planets are static places.'"

Friday, January 14, 2005

Coburn ready to take on Congress—again: "Tom Coburn is ready for the Senate, but is the Senate ready for him?

"The former congressman who single-handedly derailed the appropriations process in the House in 1999 kept his pledge to serve only three terms and, in 2001, retired to his obstetrics practice in Muskogee, Okla. He then wrote a book about how Washington turns good people into bad career politicians, but he has returned to the Capitol—only this time as a senator.

"'Get ready, Senate,' says former Rep. J.C. Watts, who like Mr. Coburn was an Oklahoma Republican elected as part of the Republican class of 1994.

"'I do believe his only special interest is the United States of America. But let me tell you, he will make the Senate an even more interesting body,' Mr. Watts said."

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Kansan has spot on elite GOP list: "A dozen years ago Sam Brownback was orbiting Topeka as the Kansas secretary of agriculture. These days he's showing up on political radar screens for an office at a somewhat higher altitude: the presidency."

"If Brownback runs, it will be on the strength of his close ties to religious conservatives, who are riding a wave of electoral success; his ability to work with Democrats; and his association with a host of global humanitarian issues."

"The senator himself isn't saying anything about a White House run. In fact, few hopefuls are. So at this way-early stage of the game, observers are reading lots of tea leaves."

"When asked about his interest in a presidential run shortly after trouncing his Democratic opponent in November, Brownback politely demurred. 'I'm focused on Kansas and tonight,' he said. In political speak, that hardly qualified as a denial.

"Then there are those repeated trips to Iowa. That's always a clue, because that state traditionally holds the first major presidential test every four years. In addition to his quiet forays into Iowa, Brownback also has made stops in South Carolina, which holds a key early primary."

"One opportunity to raise his profile might come as a result of Brownback's new seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. If a Supreme Court vacancy opens up, followed by committee hearings on a nominee, Brownback, an outspoken opponent of abortion, could gain some national attention.

"From his perch as a chairman of Senate foreign relations subcommittees dealing with Asia and the Middle East, Brownback has been a frequent traveler to global hotspots, often before they hit the headlines.

"Long before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he was involved in political developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He sounded the alarm about genocide in Darfur long before it became general knowledge. His international experience, particularly his familiarity with the Muslim world, might provide a boost when the operating view of American foreign policy is the spread of democracy."

"Brownback has enjoyed an unusually fast rise in politics.

"Following his stint as agriculture secretary, he won a seat in the U.S. House in the GOP revolution year of 1994. In 1996, he bucked the moderate Republican political establishment and ran against Sen. Sheila Frahm, who was Gov. Bill Graves' hand-picked successor to Sen. Bob Dole. Brownback easily won the primary and defeated Democrat Jill Docking in the general election.

"Since then, he's faced only token opposition in ringing up two re-election victories."
Blog News Round Up: "FeedBurner analyzed RSS reader market share by looking at how several hundred of its most popular feeds are accessed. Bloglines blew all others away by a significant margin. To me, this demonstrates the 'quiet power' Bloglines has. It's an emerging giant. If you're a Bloglines subscriber, pay attention to the number of readers a blog feed has. It's a fair indicator of a blog's relative reach."
A Real Life Story: "When I was a teenager, I took to creative writing. I wrote fanciful Science Fiction stories and did a lot of daydreaming about adventurous deeds done by heroic people. My father always told me that real life was more exciting than fiction. It must have been my youth, but I never really believed him at the time.

"My father was a very practical man. He always fixed things himself and worked hard in his career to teach himself what was needed to get his job done. He never liked to sit around and watch TV or go to the movies but he loved to play the piano and expressed his creativity by inventing new things out in the garage.

"When I was five or six years old, he built a remote control car from scratch. It took him several tries but he wound up with a battery powered radio controlled car well before you could buy such toys in the stores."
Nonprofit offers inaugural wireless: "A local nonprofit has installed an outdoor wireless fidelity, or wi-fi, system along Pennsylvania Avenue and will provide the wireless Internet connections free.

"The Open Park Project, a group that's working to bring wi-fi services to the National Mall, says it has installed a carrier grade hot spot for wi-fi services that cover Pershing Park on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th streets. Some service is also available at Freedom Plaza and the northeastern corner of the Ellipse.

"The free service will remain up and running through Jan. 22."

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A Morse code for human cells: "Morse code is a simple, effective and clear method of communication and now scientists believe that cells in our body may also be using patterns of signals to switch genes on and off. The discovery may have major implications for the pharmaceutical industry as the signalling molecules that are targeted by drugs may have more than one purpose. The number of 'dots and dashes' being used by each signal could have different purposes, all of which could be modified by a drug."
Inaugural security will stretch from sky to underground: "When President Bush raises his right hand to be sworn in to a second term at noon Jan. 20, he will be standing at the center of the most elaborate, expensive, visible—and invisible—security shroud ever put in place for a presidential inauguration.

"Fighter jets will be protecting the airspace over his head. Chemical, biological and radiological sensors will be set up in the subway system and in other, secret locations. Coast Guard boats will be running up and down the rivers.

"And at least 6,000 police officers—some of them heavily and conspicuously armed—will be patrolling the streets, searching ticket holders and onlookers and looking out for trouble from perches high and low."

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Street Closures on Inauguration Day: "The Secret Service released a list of roads (Map PDF) that will be closed for Inauguration Day Thursday, Jan. 20. Drivers should expect a huge chunk of downtown Washington to be closed for cars and trucks."
Nickles to start consulting firm: "Sen. Don Nickles is about to become The Nickles Group.

"The Oklahoma Republican and Budget Committee chairman said yesterday that he will start his own political consulting and business venture company after he ends his 24-year Senate career next month.

"Declaring that he wants to be 'not only successful but also significant,' Nickles told The Hill that he will take his experience and several top staffers with him to K Street.

"Nickles, who was elected to the Senate at age 31 and turned 54 on Monday, said he is looking forward to the challenge of starting his own business. It will be 'fun to see how it takes off,' he said."

Friday, January 7, 2005

Geneva Convention Overhaul Considered: "White House officials considered trying to rewrite the international treaties signed more than half a century ago protecting certain wartime prisoners from mistreatment, senators were told Thursday.

"That revelation came during testimony by Alberto R. Gonzales, President Bush's choice as attorney general, whose conclusion as White House counsel that the Geneva Convention did not apply to suspected terrorists has prompted Democrats and human rights advocates to question his suitability as head of the Justice Department."

Thursday, January 6, 2005

U.S. Attorney General Nominee Alberto Gonzales' Senate Confirmation Hearings: "When the executive branch believes, as it often does, that a law or a portion of a law that Congress passed is unconstitutional, what does it do?

"What Mr. Gonzales was asked quite pointedly today was, 'Does the president have the power to authorize people to violate a law that Congress has passed?'

"And he refused to reject that theory of presidential power. He refused. And that's extremely troubling."

It is also interesting to note that the president did not veto a single bill in either the 107th or 108th Congresses. Throughout the history of presidential vetoes the only other two-term president not to veto a single bill was Thomas Jefferson—and it's unlikely President Jefferson was signing legislation and then issuing statements declaring Acts of Congress unconstitutional and reconstruing them.
Gov. Bush, Powell shocked by devastation: "Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed horror Wednesday after viewing the devastation left by the tsunami on the island of Sumatra, and said the miles of flattened houses and ruined rice fields were the most shocking scenes of disaster he had seen during his four-decade career in the military and government.

"'I've been in war, and I've have been through a number of hurricanes, tornados and other relief operations, but I have never seen anything like this,' the former general said. 'The power of the wave to destroy bridges, to destroy factories, to destroy homes, to destroy crops, to destroy everything in its path is amazing.'

"Powell was accompanied by Gov. Jeb Bush and other U.S. officials in a helicopter tour of areas hit hard in the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. At least 94,000 were killed in Indonesia and more than 140,000 died in 12 countries overall."

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Jeb Bush Enters the World Stage: "Florida Gov. Jeb Bush spent Monday in Thailand as part of a U.S. entourage touring areas devastated by the tsunamis—a role freighted with political and personal overtones for the president's younger brother."
"The Top 10 Economic & Policy Highlights for Entrepreneurs in 2004 have been compiled by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council."
Brownback sees 'culture of life' prevailing in '05: "As conservative Christians ascend on Capitol Hill, thorny questions of how religion and politics relate seem inevitable in the 109th Congress.

"Sen. Sam Brownback sees a chance for long-sought victories on embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, abortion, gay marriage, federal judges and other issues dear to social conservatives."

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