Religious nutballs’ call for censorship guarantees good sales

Philip Pullman has revealed he was delighted to discover his novel Northern Lights was one of the most “challenged” titles of the year in America, with numerous calls made to have it removed from libraries.

Pullman’s children’s novel, which is sold as The Golden Compass in the US, was the fourth most challenged book in 2007, according to the American Library Association, which received 420 formally submitted complaints to libraries or schools over “inappropriate content and subject matter” last year.

Pullman said his immediate response on hearing the latest figures from the ALA was “glee”.

“Firstly, I had obviously annoyed a lot of censorious people, and secondly, any ban would provoke interested readers to move from the library, where they couldn’t get hold of my novel, to the bookshops, where they could,” Pullman said, pointing to previous objections to the film of The Golden Compass, which he said resulted in soaring book sales.

Pullman said that banning a book on religious grounds was “the worst reason of the lot”.

“Religion grants its adherents malign, intoxicating and morally corrosive sensations. Destroying intellectual freedom is always evil, but only religion makes doing evil feel quite so good,” he said.

BTW, Borders is currently promoting a festival celebrating banned books.

Is a new Nintendo DS coming?

Nintendo is no stranger to updating its hardware in order to drum up new enthusiasm and sales, even if it simply means adding a new color and pack-in game and calling the bundle a limited edition. Updates of note—those that add functionality or change the design of a system—are much more rare. If a report in Japan’s business daily Nikkei is correct, we’re going to see one such update of the Nintendo DS before the end of the year, with some significant new features.

While there are no images of the updated system, the details are pretty significant: the system will now come with a camera, the ability to play music, feature a larger screen, and include an improved antenna for wireless communications. It’s also reported that the system will be able to share data with the Nintendo Wii via SD cards, leading us to believe the system may have an SD slot built-in. Given Nintendo’s feelings on piracy, however, that seems somewhat unlikely.

There are no pictures of this new device, and while the source is a solid one, this should still be treated as rumor or speculation until we have some more solid information. Nintendo won’t make that easy, as the company won’t confirm or deny the report. “We are always developing new products,” the company commented. “However, since nothing has been announced officially, we are unable to comment at this time.”

Now, that’s a non-denial denial worthy of Richard Nixon.

Popular COPD treatment increases cardiac risk 50% or more

New research out of Wake Forest University School of Medicine shows that use of the most commonly prescribed once-a-day treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for longer than one month increases the risk of cardiovascular death, heart attack or stroke by more than 50 percent.

Researchers…conducted a meta-analysis of 17 double-blind, randomized trials involving a total of 14,783 patients with COPD. Participants received treatment with inhaled anticholinergics, another form of active therapy or a placebo inhaler.

An analysis of the data showed that use of inhaled anticholinergics for more than one month significantly increased the risk of cardiovascular death, heart attacks, or strokes in COPD patients by 58 percent.

The two most commonly used inhalers from the anticholinergic class are tiotropium bromide, marketed by Pfizer as Spiriva™, and ipratropium bromide, made and marketed by Boehringer Ingelheim as Atrovent™.

“Patients with COPD who use these inhalers are at a high risk of excess serious cardiovascular events due to their use,” said Singh, an assistant professor of internal medicine. “In absolute terms, if these inhalers are used for one year, nearly one in 40 patients using these inhalers may develop cardiac death related to the drug, and nearly one in 174 patients may develop a heart attack associated with these inhalers.”

Uh, if you’re using these inhalers – please see your doctor. Bring a copy of this post.

Perve priest jailed for molesting girls 30 years ago

A Catholic priest whose sexual abuse of seven schoolgirls was uncovered 30 years later by two victims who met on the Friends Reunited website has been jailed for a year.

Father Peter Carr, 73, was exposed when the two women now in their 40s – one a solicitor, the other a singer – swapped online recollections about how he rubbed paint on their naked bodies before school plays.

They complained to police who found that other girls invited to join productions at the boys’ school in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, were subjected to similar abuse.

Gloucester crown court judge Martin Picton told Carr that he had done the church “much damage. What you did was not minor. They [the girls] have had to face life with a sense of being degraded and humiliated,” he said…

One woman who went on to become a singer said after the sentencing that she had not expected Carr to be jailed. “I didn’t think a prison sentence would necessarily change anything because he doesn’t think he has done anything wrong,” she said.

“If you had asked me in my 20s, I might have wanted revenge, but now I am just satisfied that he isn’t going to die with everyone saying what a fantastic priest he is.”

The most demented never think they’ve ever done anything wrong.

No matter who wins election, our troops will be in Iraq “for years”

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The United States will not likely launch another regime-changing war “anytime soon,” but American troops will remain in Iraq and Afghanistan for years, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday.

Robert Gates says U.S. troops in Iraq will serve in advisory or counterterrorism capacities “for years to come.” Failure in either nation “would be a disastrous blow to our credibility, both among our friends and allies and among potential adversaries,” Gates said…

Gates said not to expect troops to leave Iraq after the upcoming U.S. election.
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Holocaust letters survive Nazi death camps

The faded papers hint at stark details in the lives of Nazi concentration camp inmates. This undated photo shows the only recorded example of the censor mark of the International Military Tribunal.

Letters secretly carried by children through the sewers of Warsaw, Poland, during the 1944 uprising. A 1933 card from a Dachau camp commander outlining strict rules for prisoner mail. A 1943 letter from a young man, who spent time in Auschwitz, to his parents.

The more than 250 World War II postal documents — cards, letters and stamps — have been acquired by an Illinois foundation from a private collector and will soon be on permanent display in the Skokie-based Illinois Holocaust Museum.

Some of the exhibit is available online.

Sniper kills inmate in French prison exercise yard

Prison de Varces

An inmate in a French prison has been shot dead by a sniper from outside the jail, officials say. They say another prisoner was injured in the same shooting in the south-eastern town of Varces.

The suspected gunman was arrested shortly afterwards with his gun still hot, French Justice Minister Rachida Dati says. It is the first time in France that a prisoner has been killed from outside the jail, Ms Dati says.

Five shots were fired at the exercise yard of the jail, officials say.

The prisoner who was killed was about to be questioned in a murder case, Ms Dati says. The man…also had links to organised crime.

Ms Dati says the suspected gunman is being held in custody.

Phew! You can’t even be safe from violence when you’re in prison.

But, seriously – must have been some serious time pressures to result in such an impetuous assassination. Like the imminent questioning.

SpaceX commercial rocket launches into orbit

An Internet entrepreneur’s latest effort to make space launch more affordable paid off Sunday when his commercial rocket, carrying a dummy payload, was lofted into orbit from the South Pacific.

It was the fourth attempt by Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, to launch its two-stage Falcon 1 rocket into orbit.

Fourth time’s a charm,” said Elon Musk, the multimillionaire who started up SpaceX after making his fortune as the co-founder of PayPal, the electronic payment system.

The rocket carried a 364-pound dummy payload designed and built by SpaceX for the launch.

Musk pledged to continue getting rockets into orbit, saying the company has resolved design issues that plagued previous attempts.

Besides the Falcon 1, SpaceX is developing for NASA a larger launch vehicle, Falcon 9, capable of flying to the international space station when the current space shuttle fleet retires in 2010.

Musk is probably doing better than some countries have at achieving orbital flight. Though, like anyone who enters a developed field, he has the advantage of the work accomplished by those who preceded him.