So, one-third of the world consist of closet barbarians

BBC NEWS | World | One-third support ‘some torture’:

Nearly a third of people worldwide back the use of torture in prisons in some circumstances, a BBC survey suggests.

Although 59% were opposed to torture, 29% thought it acceptable to use some degree of torture to combat terrorism.

While most polled in the US are against torture, opposition there is less robust than in Europe and elsewhere.

Here’s the thing: It’s in countries where the population doesn’t expect to be tortured that support for torture is strongest. When those atavistic feelings, untested by reality, prevail, the people usually end up in a nightmare of their own making.

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Ms. Dewey does dismally; Google v. Yahoo

Over at ZD Net today, October 18, 2006:

Ms. Dewey: Taking cute too far

If you haven’t seen Ms. Dewey, you will probably be hearing about her. She’s tkill the memory of Jeevesof Jeeves, who you formerly asked. She’s also a disaster as far as UI goes.

Built in Flash, Ms. Dewey is an antropomorphized search page that features an actress who apparently spent about 20 minutes in front of a green screen making chit-chat that loops as you contemplate your search and the results. She gets impatient, calls “Type something here,” taps the screen and asks if anyone is out there, pouts (she’s hot, so she can get away with it like Jeeves never could, a conceit that is sexist on innumerable levels), but mostly proves, as Google Blogoscoped put it, that she—the search interface—is “inhumanly dumb.”

(It’s a Microsoft gimmick: Get it, MS Dewey? Aren’t they a riot in Redmond?) Continue reading Ms. Dewey.

Is Yahoo’s glut Google’s opportunity?

The dismal is on Yahoo after it announced a 20 percent increase in revenue compared to the previous year’s quarter. Google, expected to grab as much as 25 percent of the online ad market in the quarter is succeeding by doing one thing that Yahoo hasn’t on its “on-network” properties: Treating individual ad placements differently through its auction-based ad inventory system.

Yahoo’s business is increasingly like that of a television network. It invests in content and community offerings that can be sold to advertisers on the basis of what still looks a lot like a newspaper or network rate card. This means advertisers are constantly comparing their costs at Yahoo properties to other placements, and with a growing tide of social networks where people are spending vast amounts of time and viewing hundreds of pages and messages a day Yahoo’s properties look expensive… continue reading Yahoo’s Glut.

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$33 more a month for typical retirees

Social Security Checks to Rise, Inflation Slows – washingtonpost.com:

Social Security payments will increase 3.3 percent next year, a smaller cost of living hike than last year for the more than 53 million Americans who receive monthly retirement or disability checks, the government announced today.For retirees, the cost of living adjustment will mean an extra $33 a month beginning in January, with the typical payment jumping from $1,011 to $1,044.

Imagine the leisure opportunities that extra $33 opens wide before the American senior…. Just imagine.

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Could you cover your personal debts?

Apparently, three in ten mortgage holders who signed new loans last year could not…

Not so down and out | Economist.com :

A report from First American Real Estate Solutions, a financial-services provider, suggests almost 30% of those who took out mortgages last year could not now sell their houses for enough to cover the loan and the cost of selling. If rising rates force them to sell, they could well end up bankrupt. Their forced sales could also weaken the housing market further, putting other people into the same unhappy boat. And those who have taken loans on their homes to pay off high-interest debt, like credit cards, may see that option disappear if the value of homes stops rising.

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More than emergence, leadership

How ants find their way:

On a wood ant’s first trip to a food site it follows a chemical trail left by earlier ants. This is a slow way of travelling as the ant needs to walk with its antennae to the ground. However, this initial route forms the basis of an efficient learning strategy. On the first trip ants store images of the route as they travel and on later trips to the food site will navigate using a combination of landmarks and memories of the whole landscape. The scientists found the ants even used different sets of landmark memories depending on whether they were on their way to food, or whether they were full and heading back to the nest. Ants store many memories and have mechanisms to activate the right ones.

This demonstrates that individual ants exercise extensive volition, making multiple trips that lay down the scents that others follow. In other words, leadership, not just “emergent behavior.”

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Pick out your Guantanamo orange jumpsuit early….

John Robb’s Weblog: I’ll see you in Guantanomo…:

I’ll see you in Guantanomo…

Referring to this post by Pat Lang:

The republic effectively ended today with the signing of the “Military Commissions Act.” This law made into a farce the “Great Republic” as Winston Churchill described the United States. The forms continue but the substance is gone…. With this new law the country became a place in which the president/commander in chief can classify whomever he likes as an enemy combatant beyond the reach of habeas corpus.

Here’s what the President had to say:

One of the terrorists believed to have planned the 9/11 attacks said he hoped the attacks would be the beginning of the end of America. He didn’t get his wish. We are as determined today as we were on the morning of September the 12th, 2001. We’ll meet our obligation to protect our people, and no matter how long it takes, justice will be done…. The bill I’m about to sign also provides a way to deliver justice to the terrorists we have captured.

Methinks the President is blind to the meaning of the word justice, thinking of it in the context of punishment and vindictiveness, not how it relates to liberty and the U.S. Constitution. It’s going to be pretty crowded in that little Cuban peninsula. Look for new detention centers opening nearer you….

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Healthcare math that doesn’t work

A Lesson From Europe on Health Care – New York Times:

In Greece, the government and individuals combine to spend about $2,300 per capita on health care each year, and the average life expectancy is 79 years. Canada, where the hospitals are probably cleaner, spends about $3,300, and people live to about 80. Here in the United States, we spend more than $6,000, yet life expectancy is just below 78.

There has got to be a better way.

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Porn, Warcraft, Girls Gone Wild, A-Rod and AOL

Here’s today’s postings over at ZD Net for Tuesday, October 17, 2006, covering online porn, World of Warcraft, Girls Gone Wild, AOL’s political blog as further evidence of how badly media companies understand political coverage….

Pick your poison: Porn or World of Warcraft

A couple of threads of the “bad” or “dark side” of technology stories are running their course this week. On the one hand, CNN is doing a series on online porn addiction, claiming that the porn business makes more than all professional sports combined and is, therefore, an insidious threat to all that is good and right in the world. On the other, there is a fascinating confessional over at SoulKerfuffle about one man’s having gone way, way overboard with World of Warcraft. (UPDATE: And, by the way, we, that is the U.S., is just “full of Internet addicts.” Quick, everyone out the back door while the addicts aren’t looking.)

Let’s dispatch with the porn thing first. The Glenn Beck series on CNN, Porn: America’s Addiction, is reported in a grinding baritone and is cut like, well, a porn film or CSI: Miami. He says the porn industry makes $12 billion… continue reading.

On big media not getting election coverage

As Elinor Mills points out over at CNET, AOL, a division of Time Warner, has just launched an election blog. Talk about not getting the point of political coverage, the idea that an election blog should be launched less than a month before the general election is the height of editorial calendaring hubris—apparently Sam Donaldson and other of ABC’s “savvy political insiders” are available just these three weeks to answer your questions.

What about all the primaries? The initiatives? Instead, AOL doles out pablum like “Ted Kennedy Compared to Jeb Bush,” as though one of those guys was the dreamier pol. After all, you can’t compare the two directly, since they have held no offices where they have comparable records. Bush is still a state-level politician in the executive branch and Kennedy a U.S. Senator for decades—what’s to compare, since they deal with entirely different aspects of the issues. It’s like comparing Alex Rodriguez and Sebastian Janikowski. Yes, both are… continue reading.

Meanwhile, over at the BuzzLogic Blog…

Distinct markets at 70,000 feet and 5’6″

Nathan Gilliatt followed up on a recent posting of his, Reputation monitoring – macro and micro, with a great case study of Hasbro’s discovery that one of its products, the Playskool Team Talkin’ Tool Bench, had been the cause of two children’s deaths. Hasbro did the right thing, pulling the product from the market.

The discovery of the hazard happened when individual Hasbro employees read Amazon.com reviews of the product that linked the Team Talkin’ Tool Bench to the deaths. As Nathan puts it: “This is micro monitoring. It didn’t matter how many people wrote about it, or whether they influenced others,” which makes a critical distinction between what is influential and what is important to know… continue reading.

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Space, the final frontier of fear for President Bush

Bush Sets Defense As Space Priority – washingtonpost.com:

President Bush has signed a new National Space Policy that rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space and asserts a right to deny access to space to anyone “hostile to U.S. interests.”

The document, the first full revision of overall space policy in 10 years, emphasizes security issues, encourages private enterprise in space, and characterizes the role of U.S. space diplomacy largely in terms of persuading other nations to support U.S. policy.

I don’t know if President Bush actually pays attention to the space program, but it isn’t a race in the conventional sense anymore. Instead, it is a model of international cooperation and collaboration, with astronauts of all nationalities working together in a station built of parts from all over the world. But he just can’t resist the fear card, turning it again to make space another place where we need to be prepared to fight rather than cooperate. Dumb.

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Bush’s new low in Iraq: Saddam calling for an end to sectarian violence

Barney and Baghdad – New York Times:

Total U.S. troop deaths in Iraq this month have reached at least 53, putting October on a path to be the third deadliest month of the entire war for the U.S. military. Iraqis are being killed at a rate of 100 per day now. The country has descended into such a Hobbesian state that even Saddam called on Iraqis from his prison cell to stop killing each other. He told insurgents, “Remember you are God’s soldiers and, therefore, you must show genuine forgiveness and put aside revenge over the spilled blood of your sons and brothers.” When Saddam is urging calm, you know things have hit a new low.

Friedman makes the point that the current situation in Iraq is like the Tet Offensive, but that, this time, the enemy is media-savvy and fighting through information networks of its own.

But, you have to admit that when Bush and Saddam are calling for the same thing—the last time that happened was when both wanted some “diplomacy” before the war—things are about to go very bad, indeed.

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