Cleric says women should only expose one eye

Way too seductive says the sheik

Women in Muslim societies should be required to wear a full veil that only reveals one eye to the outside world, a cleric in Saudi Arabia says. Sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan said Muslim women should begin wearing full veils, known as niqabs, to prevent them from attempting to look more seductive.

The cleric said by allowing women to show both eyes to the public, they would be more prone to wear make-up that would give them a seductive appearance.

I wonder if the sheikh cares about women falling down stairs from lack of perspective?

U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is “destined to fail”

A coded French diplomatic cable leaked to a French newspaper quotes the British ambassador in Afghanistan as predicting that the NATO-led military campaign against the Taliban will fail. Not only that, but the best solution for the country will be the installation of an “acceptable dictator.”

“The current situation is bad, the security situation is getting worse, so is corruption, and the government has lost all trust,” Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British envoy is quoted by Jean-François Fitou, the author of the cable, .

The two-page cable – which was sent to the Élysée Palace and the French Foreign Ministry on Sept. 2, and was leaked to the investigative and satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné, which printed excerpts in its Wednesday edition – said that the NATO-led military presence was making it harder to stabilize the country.

The presence of the coalition, in particular its military presence, is part of the problem, not part of its solution,” Cowper-Coles was quoted as saying. “Foreign forces are the lifeline of a regime that would rapidly collapse without them. As such, they slow down and complicate a possible emergence from the crisis.”

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Is Skype’s complicity part of the cost of playing in China?

If you’ve ever seen a Mafia movie, you know that playing nice with the mob is like having the tiger by the tail. It is no different for companies who do business in China, whether on their own or through partnerships. The latest one to experience the downside of this is eBay’s Skype, which has been taking some flack for privacy breaches in the region.

Citizen Lab, an Internet research group at the University of Toronto, released a report that shows text messages of Chinese Skype users were monitored and their messages blocked if they included political words such as the Chinese Communist Party, the Falun Gong, Tibet, and the great milk scandal. As a quick background, Skype and TOM teamed up in 2004 and in 2005 released a special software version, TOM-Skype. Since then Chinese users — some 69 million of them — have become a major part, roughly 20 percent, of Skype’s total install base of 338 million.

The report got so much attention that last evening Skype decided to respond. In a blog post, Josh Silverman (Check out my interview with Josh) tries to defend Skype and downplay its role in the China fracas:

Read the details of Om’s analysis. It ain’t long. It is cogent.

Seriously guys, these compromises are routine and will likely be commonplace. For for-profit entities (despite their slogans), China is a big, growth market and the promise of millions in future profits keeps them from making the right decisions for their shareholders. Sad, but true!

As political as I am, commerce is part of a whole equation involving nations and governments. History is another factor that I’m certain is automatic on Om’s part – as it is mine. Some cultures, many individuals, grow and learn to account for every reason why policies are what they are – and will change.

Whining isn’t good enough.

The Golden Parachute Survives

For supporters of the Bush administration’s $700-billion Wall Street bailout, it stands as a key selling point: a provision that limits pay packages for the heads of companies helped by the taxpayer-funded rescue program. There’s just one problem: It would do little to cap executive pay or rein in the enormous retirement packages — the golden parachutes — that have come to symbolize corporate excess.

Not only is the compensation provision vague, it is punched full of loopholes and leaves many issues of executive pay for the White House to decide later. Legal and political experts say the bill will do almost nothing to limit CEO compensation — even for companies that benefit handsomely from the taxpayers’ generosity.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

All eyes were on the House Friday when it passed the Senate-passed bill, by a vote of 263-171. The legislation was then quickly sent to President George W. Bush, who signed it.

Much has been made of the changes to that proposal — including $150 billion in tax benefits to businesses and families. Yet aside from one provision raising the upper limit on federal deposit insurance from $100,000 to $250,000, nothing substantial has changed within the financial rescue plan that the House rejected.

Keeping an eye on the thieves in Congress is a full-time job. One that should be ruled by voters who – often enough – don’t take the time to find out what it is the clown they elected really is doing in DC.

There are a few NGO’s that work their butts off trying to keep track of the tomfoolery. Thing is – this isn’t what government is supposed to be about. Strict, realistic laws limiting lobbying, conflict-of-interest, and a justice department and Supreme Court that aren’t structured according to ideology might be qualitative additions to the list of government reforms needed.

Thanks, Cinaedh

Whining over Tata decision to relocate factory site

Burning the car in effigy tells me you don’t want the jobs

Thousands of people have been protesting in the Indian state of West Bengal after the Tata group abandoned its plans to manufacture cars there.

Tata, one of India’s leading industrial groups, had planned to make what it said would be the world’s cheapest car, the Nano, at a factory in Singur. But the project was disrupted by a row over land on which the plant was built.

After months of sustained and sometimes violent protests, Tata has announced that it would scrap the venture and shift production of the Nano elsewhere.

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Musicians use both sides of their brains – at once

Supporting what many of us who are not musically talented have often felt, new research reveals that trained musicians really do think differently than the rest of us. Vanderbilt University psychologists have found that professionally trained musicians more effectively use a creative technique called divergent thinking, and also use both the left and the right sides of their frontal cortex more heavily than the average person.

“We were interested in how individuals who are naturally creative look at problems that are best solved by thinking ‘out of the box’,” Folley said. “We studied musicians because creative thinking is part of their daily experience, and we found that there were qualitative differences in the types of answers they gave to problems and in their associated brain activity.”

One possible explanation the researchers offer for the musicians’ elevated use of both brain hemispheres is that many musicians must be able to use both hands independently to play their instruments.

“Musicians may be particularly good at efficiently accessing and integrating competing information from both hemispheres,” Bradley Folley said. “Instrumental musicians often integrate different melodic lines with both hands into a single musical piece, and they have to be very good at simultaneously reading the musical symbols, which are like left-hemisphere-based language, and integrating the written music with their own interpretation, which has been linked to the right hemisphere…”

“When we measured subjects’ prefrontal cortical activity while completing the alternate uses task, we found that trained musicians had greater activity in both sides of their frontal lobes. Because we equated musicians and non-musicians in terms of their performance, this finding was not simply due to the musicians inventing more uses; there seems to be a qualitative difference in how they think about this information,” Folley said.

Another great reason – probably – to support music training starting from earliest school days. It certainly ain’t going to be a hindrance and we humans need all the help we can get.

Witnesses say the light was green…

Three observers who say they were at the Chatsworth Metrolink station before last month’s deadly train crash have asserted in interviews that a final, crucial railroad signal was green as the commuter line’s engineer headed toward the collision point.

The accounts, including one from a station security guard and another from a retiree who says he was interviewed by a federal investigator, contradict a key preliminary finding by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The safety agency has said its evidence shows the signal was red when the Metrolink train, driven by engineer Robert M. Sanchez, barreled over a switch that merges two tracks into one and slammed into a Union Pacific train, leaving 25 dead and 135 injured.

Experts say it is common for investigators to get sharply differing witnesses’ accounts during inquiries into catastrophic accidents. But the three witnesses were insistent.

“I saw the light was green. Everything seemed all right,” said Chris Watson, 20, the station security guard. Watson said he was standing midway down the platform on Sept. 12 as Metrolink 111 pulled out of the station.

There’s no possibility the NTSB got it wrong. Right?

Phony Steve Jobs story could get jail time for ‘Citizen Journalist’

The gutsy (and stupid) “citizen journalist” who posted an erroneous story that said CEO Steve Jobs had a heart attack has the hallmarks of a short seller, and it’s likely that he (or she) could face criminal charges and possibly prison time, according to one attorney.

The erroneous story, which appeared on CNN’s iReport — a citizen journalism site pitched as “unedited” and “unfiltered” — prompted a sell-off of Apple shares, which dropped to $95.41 from $105.27, between 9:40 a.m. and 9:52 a.m. EST, before Apple denied the report and the stock recovered.

CNN says the story was removed after it was flagged by the community, and the user’s account has been disabled, so at least that part of the system worked.

But since information seeded on the internet (to say nothing of one of the internet’s premiere news brands) can seep into the markets virtually instantaneously, 12 minutes is an eternity during which time anybody with certain knowledge of the truth or falsity of the report could, you will pardon the expression, make a killing.

“These sorts of financial crimes or attempts to defraud investors carry criminal penalties and the possibility of imprisonment,” says Vernick.

In a 2000 case, a community college student published a fake press release suggesting Emulex would have to restate its earnings. The stock tanked and the student netted roughly $240,000 by shorting it. He got busted, though, and had to give up his gains and was sentenced to 44 months in prison.

Cripes! Trying to make a few pennies in the market is difficult enough without creeps artificially distorting the process. That’s aside from the professional creeps.

Solar-powered wi-fi comes to Brazil

While many net users in developed nations can get online pretty much anywhere thanks to reliable electricity and telecoms networks, the same is not true in developing nations where power sockets and fixed line links can be few and far between.

A project at the University of Sao Paulo aims to overcome one of these hurdles by using the sun to power a self-contained wi-fi access point.

The project is the creation of Professor Marcelo Zuffo, Interactive Electronics Coordinator at the University of Sao Paulo, and prototypes are being tested on lamp posts dotted around the institution’s campus. “It was designed to work in an open environment, like a forest, a park or a low-income neighbourhood.”

“We have a solar panel, a cheap motorcycle battery and a circuit that is responsible for energy management.

Rather than rely on dedicated connections to make a link back to the core of the net, the self-contained units form an ad hoc network and pass data between each other to connect to the larger internet.

“We can have up to two days of full internet coverage and our goal is to increase that to 10 days – so that in the rainy season and the winter – you can have the internet for free,” said Prof Zuffo.

Your own neighborhood cloud. 🙂

I can think of a number of community situations where this might work really well. The design premise of affordability and using off-the-shelf components – regardless of original design intent – is a plus that any engineer will appreciate.