Have unhappy STD news? Break it with an e-card

Breaking up over e-mail is a social no-no. But sending an e-card telling someone to get tested for STDs may be a public health courtesy.

A California-based nonprofit allows users to send free e-cards notifying their sexual partners to get tested for STDs.

Since 2004, a free Web site, inSpot.org has allowed users to anonymously notify their partners to get tested for STDs such as HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis.

It may not be the most personal way of delivering the news, but researchers say it beats not saying anything at all.

I’ll bet some spammer will figure out how to make money from this. Somehow.

U.S. repeats Soviet mistakes in Afghanistan

“I know quite a lot about the past,” the Russian ambassador, Zamir Kabulov, said in polished English with a broad smile during an interview in Kabul one morning last week. “But almost nothing about the future.”

In fact, it is precisely because of a belief that the Soviet past may hold lessons for the American future that a talk with Kabulov is valued by many Western diplomats here. That is a perception that has drawn at least one NATO general to the Russian Embassy in Kabulov’s years as ambassador, though the officer involved, not an American, showed no sign of having been influenced by what he heard, Kabulov said.

They listen, but they do not hear,” he said with another wry smile.

“Their attitude is, ‘The past is the past,’ and that they know more than I do.” Perhaps, too, he said, “they think what I have to say is just part of a philosophy of revenge,” a diplomatic turning of the tables by a government in Moscow that is embittered by the Soviet failure here and eager for the United States to suffer a similar fate…

“They’ve already repeated all of our mistakes,” he said, speaking of what the United States has done, and failed to do, since the Taliban were toppled from power in November 2001 and U.S. troops began moving into old Soviet bases like the one at Bagram, north of Kabul.

“Now, they’re making mistakes of their own, ones for which we do not own the copyright.”

Truly informative article – as much for military analysis as political. I’m never certain how many Americans distinguish between an understanding of history and political ideology; but, obviously Kabulov does.

Bush won’t close Guantanamo – though he said he would. Surprised?

U.S. President George Bush has decided not to close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison and has never considered options to transfer its detainees.

Despite his stated desire to close the military prison camp where the United States houses suspected terrorists and “illegal enemy combatants,” Bush hasn’t given any consideration to options drawn up by State Department and U.S. Defense Department officials to do so, unnamed senior administration officials told The New York Times.

A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in June found that the 250 detainees at Guantanamo have the right to make habeas corpus appeals, undercutting a core rationale for keeping the prison off U.S. soil. The ruling raised hopes it would spur Bush to close the facility, where human rights advocates say the United States has engaged in torture and other prisoner abuses banned by the Geneva Conventions.

Simple as ever. As many times that Bush publicly stated his goal was to close Gitmo, he lied.

Anti-pot D.A.s used to inhale Satan’s weed

Decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana is a dangerous idea, say Massachusetts prosecutors who admit to trying pot themselves.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone and Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe, who are leading the charge against a state ballot initiative to keep small pot possession charges off criminal records, all say they smoked marijuana when younger. But that hasn’t stopped them from saying Question 2 on the Nov. 4 ballot, which would make possession of less than an ounce of marijuana punishable by a civil fine without placement on permanent criminal records, is wrong-headed, the newspaper said.

The prosecutors told the Boston Globe they have learned from their mistakes and say they worry that decriminalizing marijuana possession would lead to more drug use, benefit drug dealers, increase violence on the streets and create safety hazards on the roads.

I think they set a new record for hypocrisy. And ignorance.

Producing new U.S. energy crops by the barrel

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have produced oils of camelina, canola, Cuphea, lesquerella, milkweed and pennycress by the barrelful in their commercial-scale pilot plant. These alternative crops may be able to provide alternative domestic sources of industrial products ranging from soap to biofuels for cars, trucks and—in the case of Cuphea—even jet fuel.

Plant physiologist Russ Gesch and colleagues…have studied Cuphea since 1999. They work closely with companies such as Procter & Gamble of Cincinnati, Ohio. Procter & Gamble uses the type of fatty acids found in Cuphea to make laundry detergent and other products.

These crops all offer ways to sustainably grow fuel and industrial products without depleting either the U.S. food supply or soils. The Morris scientists also are beginning a long-term study of a corn-soybean crop rotation plan that includes grasses for making cellulosic ethanol: switchgrass, big bluestem, indiangrass, and a sorghum-Sudangrass hybrid. Their goal is to develop cropping systems for optimal biomass production while maintaining or enhancing soil productivity.

Cuphea is one of the few sources of oils in the United States that contain the type of fatty acids needed to make soaps, cosmetics, motor oils and industrial lubricants. These oils currently are produced commercially only in the tropics, from palm kernel and coconut oils.

Interesting research. And discovering the Agricultural Research Service website from the USDA has been rewarding. I’ll be making this a regular stop.

Climb aboard the Atheist Bus Campaign

As you read this, a new advertising campaign for Alpha Courses is running on London buses. If you attend an Alpha Course, you will again be told that failing to believe in Jesus will condemn you to hell. There’s no doubt that advertising can be effective, and religious advertising works particularly well on those who are vulnerable, frightening them into believing. Religious organisations’ jobs are made easier because there’s no publicly visible counter-view to refute their threats of eternal damnation.

The atheist bus campaign aims to change this. In addition to the slogan, the adverts will feature the URLs of secular, humanist and atheist websites, so that readers can find out more about atheism as a positive and liberating alternative to religion. We’ve also set up an interactive campaign website and Facebook group, so that questions raised by the adverts can be publicly debated.

I wonder how much of a hassle – and how costly – something like this would be here in Santa Fe.

Keyboard sniffers steal data without touching your computer

Computer criminals could soon be eavesdropping on what you type by analysing the electromagnetic signals produced by every key press.

By analysing the signals produced by keystrokes, Swiss researchers have reproduced what a target typed. They have developed four attacks that work on a wide variety of computer keyboards.

The results led the researchers to declare keyboards were “not safe to transmit sensitive information”.

In their work the researchers used a radio antenna to “fully or partially recover keystrokes” by spotting the electromagnetic radiation emitted when keys were pressed.

Details of the attacks are scant but the work is expected to be reported in a peer-reviewed journal soon.

That last link takes you to their website.

Looks like the really paranoid will have to work from inside a Faraday Cage. Come to think of it, doesn’t the U.S. military already do that?

How NOT to pay for your vacation

More than £1 million-worth of cocaine has allegedly been found strapped to the bodies of four cruise ship passengers after a raid on the vessel as it docked at Southampton.

Dozens of officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the UK Border Agency boarded the P&O ship Arcadia early Monday morning.

Officers recovered 30 kilos of cocaine, worth $2.4 million, officials said.

The ship had just returned from a 23-day cruise around the Caribbean where it stopped at places including Antigua, St Lucia, Grenada and Barbados.

A spokeswoman for P&O said this was the first time she had known passengers to be arrested for allegedly smuggling cocaine.


Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama – the whole statement

Like a lot of bloggers, I noted, yesterday, General Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama.

I didn’t watch Meet the Press and catch the endorsement live. Those of you who’ve read my blog for a while know exactly what I was doing at the time – watching proper football, the English Premier League.

Since then, I’ve watched snippets and statements about the snippets – and feel it worthwhile to offer up the complete statement about the endorsement. And here it is.

At least 21 die in Mexico jail riot

Federal police pass by relatives of inmates waiting for word from inside
Daylife photo from Reuters Pictures

At least 21 prisoners died in a jail riot in Mexico near the Texas border on Monday when inmates from rival gangs staged a gun battle and set fire to the building.

The riot started in the early hours in the prison in Reynosa, a rundown manufacturing city in northeastern Mexico where the powerful Gulf drug cartel is active.

The inmates attacked each other with knives and guns for about three hours, then resorted to setting fires with matches and gasoline taken from prison workshops.

“There was a shootout and then a fire. There are charred bodies among the dead,” said a spokesman at the local attorney general’s office who declined to be named.

While ambulances waited for police to bring out victims and military helicopters flew overhead, Jose Ives Soberon, police chief for the local Tamaulipas state, told Mexican radio the death toll had risen to 21 men…

Heavily armed soldiers quelled the fight and surrounded the prison and anti-riot police with body armor patrolled the prison rooftops to prevent further disturbances.

I’ve known a few folks who’ve done hard time. The tale always goes – the first people the cons set out to maim and kill are each other.

Folks I know who worked on the admin side of slammers say the same. I’m not surprised.