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Thursday, December 29, 2005

The 'I' Word - Newsweek Politics - "We are entering a dark time in which the central argument advanced by each party is going to involve accusing the other party of committing what amounts to treason. Democrats will accuse the Bush administration of destroying the Constitution; Republicans will accuse the Dems of destroying our security"
Don Monkerud: "The recent shooting of seven people in a church in Wisconsin has gun supporters frothing at the mouth. Similar to the dog and pony show after Columbine High School - where the National Rifle Association (NRA) defended American's right to own guns - the church shooting prompted a Wisconsin Republican candidate for attorney general to declare that the shooting could have been prevented if only the parishioners were armed."

Once we start down this road, more opportunities pop up like ducks in a shooting gallery. How much money could the Catholic Church have saved if all those boys molested by Catholic priests were armed? Firearms could help solve many common everyday problems such as the driver who cuts you off on the freeway, or the woman who crowded in front of you at the grocery store line. The prospects for instant problem solving with firearms offers a fine solution for a nation that loves simple solutions to complex problems.
We are a peaceful, law-abiding nation until someone crosses our path then we reach for our guns.
Robotic Nation Evidence: The End of Moore's Law?: "consciousness is basically a state in which the behavior of the self and another is understood,' said Takeno"
Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone From Yahoo! News#comments#commentsI'm a vietnam veteran. In that situation you had the rich trying to get the populance to defend itself against the violent. It was not successful then. It won't be now. How many times do we have to go through this? Forever?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Motorized Bicycle That Works Off Fuel CellsCidetec Technology Centre’s Energy Department has designed a prototype for a motorized bicycle that works off fuel cells. The project, financed by the Gipuzkoa Provincial Government, involved using a bicycle kindly provided by the ORBEA bicycle manufacturing company and the pedalling action of which is assisted by a motor. The novelty lies in that the battery power source for the motor is substituted by a fuel cell which, for its operation, only needs oxygen from the air and hydrogen contained under pressure in a small tank.

Related News Stories
Future Car Receives Fuel Cell (November 17, 1998) -- Texas Tech University's FutureCar Research is receiving an energy boost from Energy Partners, Inc. of West Palm Beach, Fla. The company is donating a hydrogen-powered fuel cell that Texas Tech ... > full story

Fuel Cell Reaches Milestone (March 3, 2004) -- A five-kilowatt solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) undergoing testing in Fairbanks has reached the 5,000-hour milestone since its start-up eight months ... > full story

University Of Florida Engineer, Students Create Glow-In-The-Dark Bicycle (October 19, 2001) -- Nighttime cyclists may soon have a dramatic safety improvement that's sure to get glowing reviews: a bike that glows from stem to stern, wheels included. ... > full story

Case Western Reserve University Researchers Develop Prototype Of Miniature Fuel Cell (May 2, 2000) -- Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have developed a prototype of a miniature fuel cell with a volume of only five cubic millimeters, or the size of a pencil eraser. The new cell was ... > full story

> more related stories

Related section: Matter & Energy

The fuel cell employed is of the PEMFC (polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell) type, a technology considered to be cutting edge in this field. The fuel cell is, in reality, a series of numerous MEAs (membrane-electrode assembly) layered one on top of each other in order to reach useful power values, given that the voltage generated by each MEA is less than 1 V.

Each MEA is made up of an anodic electrode, where hydrogen molecules break up into protons and electrons. The membrane used enables the passage of protons, but not electrons, thus obliging the latter to travel around an exterior electric circuit made up of the equipment itself that is being supplied with power. Finally, at the cathodic electrode, the electrons recombine with oxygen from air, thus producing water. This involves an electrochemical reaction that does not generate any contaminating waste; there is, thus, no combustion.

At Cidetec, Centre for Electrochemical Technologies, intensive work on the development of home-grown fuel cell technology, energy sources that, in the not too distant future, will power cars, mobile phones, telecommunication centres, etc.

Editor's Note: The original news release can be found here.

Japan's humanoid robots | Better than people | "Most Japanese take an eclectic approach to religious beliefs, and the native religion, Shintoism, is infused with animism: it does not make clear distinctions between inanimate things and organic beings. A popular Japanese theory about robots, therefore, is that there is no need to explain why Japanese are fond of them: what needs explaining, rather, is why westerners allow their Christian hang-ups to get in the way of a good technology. When Honda started making real progress with its humanoid-robot project, it consulted the Vatican on whether westerners would object to a robot made in man's image.
Getty ImagesJapanese popular culture has also consistently portrayed robots in a positive light, ever since Japan created its first famous cartoon robot, Tetsuwan Atomu, in 1951. Its name in Japanese refers to its atomic heart. Putting a nuclear core into a cartoon robot less than a decade after Hiroshima and Nagasaki might seem an odd way to endear people to the new character. But Tetsuwan Atom�being a robot, rather than a human�was able to use the technology for good. "

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Doctors' Delicate Balance in Keeping Hope Alive - New York Times: "The language of hope - whether, when and how to invoke it - has become an excruciatingly difficult issue in the modern relationship between doctor and patient.
For centuries, doctors followed Hippocrates' injunction to hold out hope to patients, even when it meant withholding the truth. But that canon has been blasted apart by modern patients' demands for honesty and more involvement in their care. Now, patients may be told more than they need or want to know. Yet they still also need and want hope.
In response, some doctors are beginning to think about hope in new ways. In certain cases, that means tempering a too-bleak prognosis. In others, it means resisting the allure of cutting-edge treatments with questionable benefits.
Already vulnerable when they learn they have a life-threatening disease or chronic illness, patients can feel bewildered, trapped between reality and possibility. They, as well as doctors, are discovering that in the modern medical world, hope itself cannot be monolithic. It can be defined in many ways, depending on the patient's medical condition and station in life. A dying woman can find hope by selecting wedding gifts for her toddlers. An infertile couple moves on toward adoption.
The power of a doctor's pronouncements is profound. When a doctor takes a blunt-is-best approach, enumerating side effects and dim statistics, in essence offering a hopeless prognosis, patients experience despair."

Candid exchanges about diagnosis and prognosis, especially when the answers are grim, are a relatively recent phenomenon. Hippocrates taught that physicians should "comfort with solicitude and attention, revealing nothing of the patient's present or future condition." A dose of reality, doctors believed, could poison a patient's hope, the will to live.

Until the 1960's, that approach was largely embraced by physicians. Dr. Eric Cassell, who lectured about hope in November to doctors in the Boston area, recalled the days when a woman would wake from surgery, asking if she had cancer:

" 'No,' we'd say, 'you had suspicious cells so we took the breast, so you wouldn't get cancer.' We were all liars." Treatments were very limited. "Now when we're truthful," Dr. Cassell added, "it's in an era in which we believe we can do something."

Doctors in many third world countries and modernized nations, including Italy and Japan, still believe in withholding a bad prognosis. But the United States, Britain and other countries were revolutionized in the late 60's by the patients' rights movement, which established that patients had a legal right to be fully informed about their medical condition and treatment options.

Now, whether a patient comes in complaining of a backache, a rash or a lump in the armpit, many doctors interpret informed consent as the obligation to rattle off all possibilities, from best-case to worst-case situations. Honesty is imperative. But what benefit is served by Dr. Dour?

"There are doctors who paint a bleaker picture than necessary so they can turn out to be heroes if things turn out well," said Dr. David Spiegel, a psychiatrist at Stanford medical school, "and it also relieves doctors of responsibility if bad things happen."

The fear of malpractice litigation after a bad outcome, he said,

Hope," wrote Emily Dickinson, "is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul."

Imprecise and evanescent, hope is almost universally considered essential to the business of being human.

Few can define hope: Self-delusion? Optimism? Expectation? Faith?

And that, say experts from across a wide spectrum, is the point: hope means different things to different people. When someone's medical condition changes, that person's definition of hope changes. A hope for a cure can morph into a hope that a relationship can be mended. Or that one's organs will be eligible for donation.

For so many, hope and faith are inextricably linked. "Truly spiritual people are amazing, " said Ms. Murphy of University Hospital. "Until the moment of death, families pray for a mira

The fear of malpractice litigation after a bad outcome, he said, also drives doctors to be stunningly explicit from the outset.

The medical community has nicknames for this bluntness: truth-dumping, terminal candor, hanging crepe. But some social workers call it false hopelessness.

Given a time-tied prognosis, many patients become withdrawn and depressed, said Roz Kleban, a supervising social worker with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "Telling someone they have two years to live isn't useful knowledge," she said. "It's noise. Whether or not that prediction is true, they lose their ability to live well in the present."

Health care providers debate the wisdom of giving patients a precise prognosis: "There's an ethical obligation to tell people their prognosis," said Dr. Barron Lerner, an internist and bioethicist at Columbia University medical school, "but no reason to pound it into their heads."

Others say that doctors should make sure they can explain the numbers in context, with the pluses and minuses of treatment options, including the implications of choosing not to have treatment.

Though many patients ask how long they have to live, thinking that amid the chaos of bad news, a number offers something concrete, studies show that they do not understand statistical nuances and tend to misconstrue them. Moreover, though statistics may be indicative, they are inherently imperfect.

Many doctors prefer not to give a prognosis. And, studies show, their prognoses are often wrong, one way or the other.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Letterman Lawyers Fight Restraining Order - Yahoo! News: "SANTA FE, N.M. - Lawyers for David Letterman want a judge to quash a restraining order granted to a Santa Fe woman who contends the CBS late-night host used code words to show he wanted to marry her and train her as his co-host.
A state judge granted a temporary restraining order to Colleen Nestler, who alleged in a request filed last Thursday that Letterman has forced her to go bankrupt and caused her 'mental cruelty' and 'sleep deprivation' since May 1994.
Nestler requested that Letterman, who tapes his show in New York, stay at least 3 yards away and not 'think of me, and release me from his mental harassment and hammering.'
Lawyers for Letterman, in a motion filed Tuesday, contend the order is without merit and asked state District Judge Daniel Sanchez to quash it.
'Celebrities deserve protection of their reputation and legal rights when the occasional fan becomes dangerous or deluded,' Albuquerque lawyer Pat Rogers wrote in the motion.
Nestler told The Associated Press by telephone Wednesday that she had no comment pending her request for a permanent restraining order 'and I pray to God I get it.'"

Nestler's application for a restraining order was accompanied by a six-page typed letter in which she said Letterman used code words, gestures and "eye expressions" to convey his desires for her.

She wrote that she began sending Letterman "thoughts of love" after his "Late Show" began in 1993, and that he responded in code words and gestures, asking her to come East.

She said he asked her to be his wife during a televised "teaser" for his show by saying, "Marry me, Oprah." Her letter said Oprah was the first of many code names for her and that the coded vocabulary increased and changed with time.

Her letter does not say why she recently sought a restraining order.

Rogers' motion to quash the order contends the court lacks jurisdiction over Letterman, that Nestler never served him with restraining order papers, and that she didn't meet other procedural requirements.

Wired News: Scientists Meditate on Happiness: "Generally people with happy temperaments exhibit a high ratio of activity in the left prefrontal cortex, an area associated with happiness, joy and enthusiasm. Those who are prone to anxiety, fear and depression exhibit a higher ratio of activity in the right prefrontal cortex. "
Wired News: Think Away the Pain: "The researchers asked people in pain to try to control a pain-regulating region of the brain by watching activity in that area from inside a real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, machine. Initial results showed subjects could reduce their pain, some quite dramatically.
It's the first evidence that humans can take control of a specific region of the brain, and thereby decrease pain, said Stanford professor Sean Mackey, who co-wrote the paper, which was published last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

Monday, December 19, 2005

Happiness Buys Success - Yahoo! News: "Scientists reviewed 225 studies involving 275,000 people and found that chronically happy people are in general more successful in their personal and professional lives. Importantly, their happiness tends to be a consequence of positive emotions, the researchers conclude.
'When people feel happy, they tend to feel confident, optimistic, and energetic and others find them likable and sociable,' said Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California, Riverside. 'Happy people are thus able to benefit from these perceptions.'
The results are detailed in the current issue of the Psychological Bulletin, published by the American Psychological Association. "

Previous research has often assumed that success and accomplishments bring happiness, Lyubomirsky and her colleagues write.

"We found that this isn't always true," Lyubomirsky said. "Positive affect is one attribute among several that can lead to success-oriented behaviors. Other resources, such as intelligence, family, expertise and physical fitness, can also play a role in peoples' successes."

Among the good things that come from happiness: positive perceptions of self and others, sociability, creativity, a strong immune system, and effective coping skills.

"Happy people are more likely than their less happy peers to have fulfilling marriages and relationships, high incomes, superior work performance, community involvement, robust health and even a long life," Lyubomirsky said.

Slashdot | Testing Drugs on India's Poor: "Sometimes it makes me wish we'd let the South win the civil war. They could live in backward redneck-land and the rest of the country could get on with evolving the species"
The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Business: "If all goes well, researchers say this bionic hand could be implanted on human arms two years from now, its wired joints discreetly covered by a synthetic glove.
Cyberhand would allow the maimed to have 'the feeling of touching things,' says Paolo Dario, the project's coordinator at the Polo Sant'Anna Valdera institute in this central Italian town.
The hand is the fruit of cooperation between six teams working in four European countries -- Italy, Germany, Spain and Denmark. For Dario, it is also an example of Europe's enormous -- but still relatively underfunded -- potential in the fast-expanding field of robotics.
'We have a network, we know how to work together. We are ready to make a leap ahead,' he said.
Financed with $1.8 million from a special European Union fund for emerging technologies, Cyberhand was cited as a success by European Commission officials in October when they appealed to governments and industry to give robotics more financial backing"

Patton said it represents "the first prosthetic hand that really is fully integrated into the nervous system." Linked to the nerves by tiny electrodes and biomimetic sensors, it would let patients sense the position and movement of the hand as well as stimuli from the outside environment.

Though researchers in the United States have covered similar ground, they have not addressed the problems of electrodes, prosthesis, sensory feedback, control, and processing of commands all together, said Silvestro Micera, a Cyberhand researcher.

What remains to be seen, Patton said, is whether the materials used for Cyberhand will be compatible with the human body, how a patient's brain will adapt and how the hand can be powered

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Honda�s ASIMO robot gets an upgrade and a new job - Robots - "Honda�s new version of their ASIMO humanoid robot is selling out and going to work for the man. After pulling crossing guard duty and being a general bohemian, ASIMO has been upgraded to handle office work with his new �total control system� that allows him to pull receptionist duty, act as an information guide, or do delivery service. They�ve also improved his walking abilities, allowing him to walk in sync with someone hand in hand, run in a circle, and reach the crazy speed of 3.7MPH. But if things don�t work out for him with these new levels of responsibility, ASIMO can always go back to being a bum, and is now even capable of pushing a cart full of his belongings, allowing him to really embrace the lifestyle we know he was made for."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Keeping Up With the Gateses - Newsweek Society - "It helps to have $30 billion in assets, of course, but enormity isn't the only thing that distinguishes this enterprise. As anyone shadowing the Gateses quickly discovers, the foundation is no less a business than the corporation that spawned it. 'The benefactors,' as they're known in the 'MBM' (the traveling staff's minute-by-minute itinerary) see themselves not as donors but as entrepreneurs in search of good investments. 'We're not giving money away,' Gates says. 'We're working on world health, and we're working with an incredible bank account. The science we're pursuing is just as fun, and just as fascinating, as software development.'"

Dec. 19, 2005 issue - Next time you visit Dhaka, Bangladesh, consider having Bill and Melinda Gates along. When the couple arrived in the city last week, its traffic-choked streets became 60mph thoroughfares lined by curious masses and secured by rooftop sharpshooters. The airport operated at the convenience of the entourage, and the government arranged to have the tarmac festooned with huge portraits and a welcome sign reading LONG LIVE BILL AND MELINDA GATES!
IR // News // Think we�ve got it bad? Historians say past eras were worseThink we’ve got it bad? Historians say past eras were worse
By The Associated Press - 12/11/05
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Terrorist attacks, a war in Iraq and natural disasters aren’t so bad compared to other tough times in America’s past, from the Revolutionary War to the Cold War, history professors say.

Asked to compare eight difficult periods of the nation’s history, 46 percent of the 354 professors who responded to a nationwide survey agreed the current era was the least trying. The Civil War, 55 percent said, was the toughest.

Researchers at the Siena Research Institute of Siena College came up with the survey after hearing students comment they felt today’s era was one of the most trying in America’s history.

‘‘It’s an issue of perspective,’’ said Thomas Kelly, a professor emeritus of history and American studies at Siena who helped conduct the survey, which was released Thursday.

‘‘With very few exceptions most generations have confronted enormous kinds of problems and have to greater or lesser degrees coped,’’ he said.

Next to the Civil War — which threatened the nation’s very existence and cost the lives of more than 600,000 people — the poll found the Revolutionary War and the Great Depression to be the most trying, followed by Vietnam and the Cultural Revolution, World War II, the Cold War, World War I and today.

Kristina Hicks, 20, a Siena junior, said that while it’s true most of today’s Americans have not had to sacrifice like previous generations did, she disagrees with the poll’s findings.

‘‘I definitely think today is one of most trying times,’’ she said. ‘‘When I read about things like 9/11 and the war in Iraq in textbooks, it doesn’t actually portray the whole picture of what happened.’’

The survey was mailed to each of the roughly 2,500 American colleges and universities with a history department, Kelly said.

Friday, December 09, 2005

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Muslim leaders warn of 'crisis': "The Mecca Declaration, read out at the end of the summit's final session, warned of the dangers of Islamic extremism.
'The Islamic nation is in a crisis. This crisis does not reflect on the present alone, but also on its future and the future of humanity at large,' it said.
'We need decisive action to fight deviant ideas because they are the justification of terrorism. We are determined to fight terrorism in all its forms.'
The member states promised to change laws to criminalise the financing and incitement of terrorism.
'Islam is the religion of moderation. It rejects extremism and isolation. There is a need to confront deviant ideology where it appears, including in school curricula. Islam is the religion of diversity and tolerance,' the statement added.
'Irreversible' pledges "

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference statement urges decisive action to fight "deviant ideas".

The meeting in the holy Muslim city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia called for changes in national laws to criminalise financing and incitement of terrorism.

It also called for new school curricula to purge extremist ideas.

The declaration also said that fatwas, or Islamic religious edicts, must only be issued by those who are authorised to do so.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ukraine considers storing foreign nuclear waste at Chernobyl - Yahoo! News: "KIEV (AFP) - Ukraine will consider storing nuclear waste from abroad at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, the site of the world's worst civilian nuclear disaster, President Viktor Yushchenko said.

'Politically, we have to study this question,' Yushchenko was quoted as saying after visiting the plant in the north of the country.
'Undoubtedly, there can be economic feasibility... so we have to think hard before making a political decision,' Interfax quoted him as saying.
Chernobyl's number-four reactor, in what was then the Soviet Union and is now Ukraine, exploded on April 26, 1986, sending a radioactive cloud across Europe.
Following the disaster, a concrete sarcophagus was built over the stricken reactor and a new 20,000-tonne steel case to cover the whole plant is planned on being constructed between 2008 and 2009.
The power station was eventually shut down on December 15, 2000."
Why the Screwball Gets the Girl - And other news from science and technology. By William�Saletan: "Schizophrenic genes may be sexually advantageous. A study indicates that creative people and unconventional thinkers get more sex partners. Previous studies showed that creative people are more likely than others to be schizophrenic or have schizophrenic relatives. Authors' hypothesis: Schizophrenia is disadvantageous to passing on your genes, but if you don't get the full-blown disease, schizophrenia-related genes that cause unconventional thinking make you more attractive, and that's why the genes and the disease persist."

Monday, December 05, 2005
Instant Millions Can't Halt Winners' Grim Slide - New York Times: "In 2003, just three years after cashing in his winning ticket, Mr. Metcalf died of complications relating to alcoholism at the age of 45. Then on the day before Thanksgiving, Ms. Merida's partly decomposed body was found in her bed. Authorities said they have found no evidence of foul play and are looking into the possibility of a drug overdose. She was 51.
Ms. Merida's death remains under investigation, and large parts of both her and Mr. Metcalf's lives remain wrapped in mystery. But some of their friends and relatives said they thought the moral of their stories was clear.
'Any problems people have, money magnifies it so much, it's unbelievable,' said Robert Merida, one of Ms. Merida's three brothers.
Mr. Metcalf's first wife, Marilyn Collins, said: 'If he hadn't won, he would have worked like regular people and maybe had 20 years left. But when you put that kind of money in the hands of somebody with problems, it just helps them kill themselves.'"
This Season's War Cry: Commercialize Christmas, or Else - New York Times: "By the 1920's, the retail industry had adopted Christmas as its own, sponsoring annual ceremonies to kick off the 'Christmas shopping season.'
Religious leaders objected strongly. The Christmas that emerged had an inherent tension: merchants tried to make it about buying, while clergymen tried to keep commerce out. A 1931 Times roundup of Christmas sermons reported a common theme: 'the suggestion that Christmas could not survive if Christ were thrust into the background by materialism.' A 1953 Methodist sermon broadcast on NBC - typical of countless such sermons - lamented that Christmas had become a 'profit-seeking period.' This ethic found popular expression in 'A Charlie Brown Christmas.' In the 1965 TV special, Charlie Brown ignores Lucy's advice to 'get the biggest aluminum tree you can find' and her assertion that Christmas is 'a big commercial racket,' and finds a more spiritual way to observe the day.
This year's Christmas 'defenders' are not just tolerating commercialization - they're insisting on it. They are also rewriting Christmas history on another key point: non-Christians' objection to having the holiday forced on them.
The campaign's leaders insist this is a new phenomenon - a 'liberal plot,' in Mr. Gibson's words. But as early as 1906, the Committee on Elementary Schools in New York City urged that Christmas hymns be banned from the classroom, after a boycott by more than 20,000 Jewish students. In 1946, the Rabbinical Assembly of America declared that calling on Jewish children to sing Christmas carols was 'an infringement on their rights as Americans.'"

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eureka, California, United States
As Popeye once said,"I ams what I am." But then again maybe I'm not