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Friday, April 15, 2011

In the News: April 15, 2011

Some other news besides that budget thing that's been going on...

Boston to ban sugary drinks on city property
How about you control your own diet first, before speaking for everyone else...

"Saying that sugary drinks have caused rising obesity among city residents and driven up health care costs, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino today moved to ban the sale, advertising, and promotion of the drinks on all city property.

"I want to create a civic environment that makes the healthier choice the easier choice in people's lives, whether it's schools, worksites, or other places in the community," Menino said in a statement.

This just makes me angry all over...
When will politicians stop trying to control every aspect of our lives?
Why don't they just dictate what we eat everyday? They started with public school cafeterias, now they're moving on to the adults.

Sorry for all the negativity, but when you start messing with my ability to find a Coke, it gets personal.
And I'm very glad the guys over on Barstool agree. (Boston. Philly.) It's reassuring to know that I'm not the only one who thinks this is ridiculous.

Speaking of fat people...

Study: Weight-loss combo pill shows promise

"Two existing drugs, in combination, have shown significant promise in promoting weight loss, according to a new report.

The drugs, phentermine and Topamax, in combination with lifestyle and weight-loss counseling were associated with a 18-22 pound weight loss in trial participants, compared with a three-pound weight loss in patients who received counseling alone.

The drug also appears to have reduced other obesity-related indicators, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation levels.

By comparison, the only approved long-term prescription weight loss medication available on the market today, Xenical, is associated with a seven-pound weight loss when combined with diet and exercise.

[I do like their definition of a safe drug though:]

"Among the 2,487 study participants, nine became pregnant, and none of their children were born with cleft palates, the report said."

Yay! No birth defects! Safe to use!

Shale gas 'worse than coal' for climate

"The new kid on the energy block, shale gas, may be worse in climate change terms than coal, a study concludes.

Drawn from rock through a controversial "fracking" process, some hail the gas as a "stepping stone" to a low-carbon future and a route to energy security.

But US researchers found that shale gas wells leak substantial amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

This makes its climate impact worse than conventional gas, they say - and probably worse than coal as well.

"Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon, and is comparable over 100 years," they write in a paper to be published shortly in the journal Climatic Change.


It's not all bad news...

Kid Uses WoW Skills to Save Sister

(via dorkly)

Women in face veils detained as France enforces ban
Really interesting issue...
A person's freedom of expression (and religion) vs. the argument that face-coverings are symbolic of a woman's submission to man (also an indirect attack on the Muslim community?)

"At least two women have been briefly detained in France while wearing Islamic veils, after a law banning the garment in public came into force.

Police said they were held not because of their veils but for joining an unauthorised protest, and they were later released.

France is the first country in Europe to publicly ban a form of dress some Muslims regard as a religious duty.

Offenders face a fine of 150 euros (£133; $217) and a citizenship course.

People forcing women to wear the veil face a much larger fine and a prison sentence of up to two years.

The two women detained had taken part in a demonstration outside Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. Police said the protest had not been authorised and so people were asked to move on. When they did not, they were arrested.

Another part about the article I found interesting was in the last paragraph: Not being "authorized" to protest. While the true purpose of a protest is to be able to get a message out, isn't it in the nature of a protest to create disruption and be unauthorized?
Reminds me of the "protest zones" set up in Boston, the last time the DNC was held here... 10x10 foot cages, surrounded by chain-linked fences and barbed wire. You know, so protesters wouldn't bother anyone.

I need some cheering up. I think a weaponized laser will help:
In Roiling Seas, Navy Laser Sets a Ship On Fire

"A Navy laser set fire to a small ship bobbing in unruly seas this week, the first at-sea demonstration of one of the Navy’s ray guns."

"The solid-state, high-energy laser was mounted onto the deck of a self-defense test ship, the former USS Paul Foster, and integrated with the ship’s radar and navigation systems. It fired a 15 kW beam across a mile of open water, but it’s designed to be scaled up to 100 kW, according to builder Northrop Grumman, which has a $98 million laser contract through June 2014.

So far, it’s not powerful enough to take out an incoming missile or warship — that’s up to its larger brethren like the FEL. But it proves lasers can be effective weapons against small ships at relatively close range — like pirate ships, perhaps.

More self-loathing, anyone?
Is Britain to blame for many of the world's problems?

"David Cameron has suggested that Britain and the legacy of its empire was responsible for many of the world's historic problems. But is that view fair?

Answering questions from students in Pakistan on Tuesday, the prime minister said: "As with so many of the problems of the world, we are responsible for their creation in the first place."
(BBC for two opposing views on the subject)

The dark side of chocolate
Interesting story, but I rather like my chocolate with a hint of child-labor sweat. (Mmm... bittersweet!)

"...before you bite into a chocolate bar or take a sip of hot cocoa, consider, where did it come from?

It may be that the treat is the product of someone else's hard labor. The person who may have sold it or who may have made it may not even be an adult.

The International Labour Organization estimates between 56 and 72 million African children work in agriculture, many in their own family farms. The seven largest cocoa-producing countries are Indonesia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Brazil, Ecuador, the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Those last two together account for nearly 60 percent of global cocoa production.

And right now, you can still find children working in the cocoa fields as Romano and his crew did to film "The Dark Side of Chocolate."

Mass. jail chaplain pleads not guilty to smuggling
Nice try deacon.

It's ok though. Absolution.

"A Roman Catholic deacon and chaplain at a jail accused of smuggling drugs and other contraband to inmates told authorities he did so because he was being blackmailed.

According to court documents, William Emerson, deacon at St. William Church in Tewksbury, told investigators he smuggled drugs into jails in Billerica and Cambridge because two pretrial detainees threatened to tell authorities he had pornography on his home computer.

A spokeswoman for the Middlesex district attorney tells The Sun of Lowell that investigators checked Emerson’s computer and the pornography was legal.

Speaking of religion...

My Take: Jesus would believe in evolution and so should you

"Christianity at its best embodies this provocative idea and has long been committed to preserving, expanding and sharing truth. Most of the great universities of the world were founded by Christians committed to the truth—in all its forms—and to training new generations to carry it forward.

When science began in the 17th century, Christians eagerly applied the new knowledge to alleviate suffering and improve living conditions.

But when it comes to the truth of evolution, many Christians feel compelled to look the other way. They hold on to a particular interpretation of an ancient story in Genesis that they have fashioned into a modern account of origins - a story that began as an oral tradition for a wandering tribe of Jews thousands of years ago.

This is the view on display in a $27 million dollar Creation Museum in Kentucky. It inspired the Institute for Creation Research, which purports to offer scientific support for creationism.

And it’s hardly a fringe view. A 2010 Gallup poll indicated that 4 in 10 Americans think that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.” (http://www.gallup.com/poll/145286/four-americans-believe-strict-creationism.aspx)

"For more than two centuries, careful scientific research, much of it done by Christians, has demonstrated clearly that the earth is billions years old, not mere thousands, as many creationists argue. We now know that the human race began millions of years ago in Africa - not thousands of years ago in the Middle East, as the story in Genesis suggests.

And all life forms are related to each other though evolution. These are important truths that science has discovered through careful research. They are not “opinions” that can be set aside if you don’t like them.

Anyone who values truth must take these ideas seriously, for they have been established as true beyond any reasonable doubt.

"In the 17th century, Galileo used the metaphor of the “two books” to help Christians of his generation understand the sacred truth that the earth moves about the sun. “The Bible,” he liked to say, “tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens ago.”

To understand how the heavens go we must read the book of Nature, not the Bible.

The Book of nature reveals the truth that God created the world through gradual processes over billions of years, rather than over the course of six days, as many creationists believe.

Speaking of another book...

Leading atheist publishes secular Bible

"The question arose early in British academic A.C. Grayling’s career: What if those ancient compilers who’d made Bibles, the collected religious texts that were translated, edited, arranged and published en masse, had focused instead on assembling the non-religious teachings of civilization’s greatest thinkers?

What if the book that billions have turned to for ethical guidance wasn’t tied to commandments from God or any one particular tradition but instead included the writings of Aristotle, the reflections of Confucius, the poetry of Baudelaire? What would that book look like, and what would it mean?

Decades after he started asking such questions, what Grayling calls “a lifetime’s work” has hit bookshelves. “The Good Book: A Humanist Bible,” subtitled “A Secular Bible” in the United Kingdom, was published this month. Grayling crafted it by using more than a thousand texts representing several hundred authors, collections and traditions.

The Bible would have been “a very different book and may have produced a very different history for mankind,” had it drawn on the work of philosophers and writers as opposed to prophets and apostles, says Grayling, a philosopher and professor at Birkbeck College, University of London, who is an atheist.

“Humanist ethics didn’t claim to be derived from a deity," he says. "(They) tended to start from a sympathetic understanding of human nature and accept that there’s a responsibility that each individual has to work out the values they live by and especially to recognize that the best of our good lives revolve around having good relationships with people.”

Humanists rely on human reason as an alternative to religion or belief in God in attempting to find meaning and purpose in life.

Determined to make his material accessible, Grayling arranged his nearly 600-page "Good Book" much like the Bible, with double columns, chapters (the first is even called Genesis) and short verses. And much like the best-selling King James Bible, which is celebrating its 400th year, his book is written in a type of English that transcends time.

Like the Bible, "The Good Book," opens with a garden scene. But instead of Adam and Eve, Grayling's Genesis invokes Isaac Newton, the British scientist who pioneered the study of gravity.

Another book to add to the queue? ($21 on Amazon)

And finally:
See What Yuri Saw in "First Orbit," a Minute-by-Minute Recreation of His Historic Mission Shot From the ISS Window

"Every six weeks or so, the International Space Station's orbit matches the same arc around the world traced originally by Yuri Gagarin's Vostok capsule, 50 years ago today. A few weeks ago we told you about the British film maker Christopher Riley who, working with an astronaut aboard the ISS, set out to film exactly what Yuri Gagarin saw out of the porthole. Today, the fruits of their labor, First Orbit has been released."


"The footage, shot by astronaut Pablo Nespoli, is synced in real time with mission control radio communications. So when Gagarin marvels at seeing the Earth from space for the first time, seeing green forest fading into white snow, so do you."


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