Anti-colonial fighters found in Vietnam mass grave

Developers say they have discovered the remains of at least 50 anti-French resistance fighters and war victims at a site in central Hanoi.

Workmen found bones and skull fragments while clearing the site of a market. They also found handcuffs and leg irons, which suggested that some of the dead were prisoners. The grave dates from 1946-1947, when fighting between Vietnamese resistance and French troops reoccupying the country after World War II broke out.

Pham Van Toan, who was working at the site, said the digging began at the weekend. Workers had found human remains “everyday since”, he said.

The remains will be reburied outside the Vietnamese capital.

The former market was to be developed into a multi-storey shopping complex, but the plan was scrapped last week after historians, architects and the public voiced their concerns. Duong Trung Quoc, a well-known historian and MP, sent an open letter to Hanoi Chairman Nguyen The Thao asking city authorities to retain the “remembrance space that bears great historical significance”.

Westerners, especially Americans, seem to embrace their ignorance of VietNam’s history. This was the time when Ho Chi Minh was still known as the George Washington of IndoChina.

American military leaders in the Pacific Theatre were as grateful for his support and leadership as they were of the Burmese and Chinese who supported the campaign eastward into China against the Japanese invaders.

VietNam’s reward after World War 2? Uncle Sugar and the Brits stepped aside and waved the French back into their colonial empire – to die in despair and disgrace.

Bush tries to perpetuate a lie in the caption for his official portrait

The U.S. National Portrait Gallery says it has amended the caption accompanying the portrait of President George W. Bush at the request of a U.S. senator.

The revised biographical caption, requested by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., eliminated the wording, “the (terrorist) attacks on September 11, 2001, that led to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq…

The newspaper said Sanders objected to the phrasing in a letter to the National Portrait Gallery, writing, “When President Bush and Vice President Cheney misled our nation into the war in Iraq, they certainly cited the attacks on September 11, along with the equally specious claim that Iraq possessed vast arsenals of weapons of mass destruction.

“The notion, however, that 9/11 and Iraq were linked, or that one ‘led to’ the other, has been widely and authoritatively debunked,” he wrote.

Gallery director Martin Sullivan ordered that the caption be amended…

Of course, the lamebrains who believe his crap will keep right on swearing to his lies for decades to come.

Japan strikes gold from cremated ashes. And silver. And palladium.

Japanese cities are profiting from the sale of precious metals sifted from cremated ashes…as the country attempts to cash in on a potentially huge “urban mine” of gold, silver and palladium. Several cities, including Tokyo, have earned millions of yen from the sale of rare elements found in capped teeth and artificial bones.

The precious metals are being retrieved from ashes and bone fragments left behind after the family of the deceased have completed the ritual of packing some of the bones into an urn for burial.

While the practice has ugly historical precedents – the Nazis routinely searched for gold in the ashes of murdered concentration camp prisoners – the Japanese authorities have the law on their side.

In 1939, the supreme court ruled that any leftover ashes not taken away by bereaved relatives belonged to the municipality; any income they generate is considered part of the city’s miscellaneous income…

“There’s nothing illegal about it, so it’s not something we can condemn outright,” said Yuji Moriyama, of the Japan Society of Environmental Crematory. “But personally, I think it’s wrong. We’re talking about human beings, not mobile phones.

Frankly, I don’t worry more about recycling human beings and their artifacts than any other useful commodity.

Steve Jobs is sicker than he thought – or admitted – even to himself

Text of email sent to Apple staff:


I am sure all of you saw my letter last week sharing something very personal with the Apple community. Unfortunately, the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well. In addition, during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.

In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June.

I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for Apple’s day to day operations, and I know he and the rest of the executive management team will do a great job. As CEO, I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out. Our board of directors fully supports this plan.

I look forward to seeing all of you this summer.


Thanks, K B

AT&T spams customers’ phones with ‘Idol’ ads

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Some AT&T Wireless customers have voted an emphatic no on a promotion for “American Idol” that popped up on their phones this week.

AT&T, a sponsor of the show, said it sent text messages to a “significant number” of its 75 million customers, urging them to tune in to the season premiere on Tuesday night. But some recipients thought the message was a breach of cellphone etiquette, and gave it the kind of reaction that the “Idol” judge Simon Cowell might give an off-key crooner.

The online service Twitter had a steady stream of complaints. A user named Nick Dawson wrote: “Seriously AT&T? Did you just text me twice during a meeting to tell me about ‘American Idol?’ Very professional!”

Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T Wireless, said the message was meant as a friendly reminder. “We want people to watch the show and participate,” Siegel said. He added, “It makes perfect sense to use texting to tell people about a show built on texting.”

Because AT&T is a sponsor of “American Idol,” only its customers can use their cellphones to vote for their favorite singers via text message — so viewer participation means more revenue for AT&T…

Richard Cox, the chief information officer for Spamhaus, a nonprofit antispam organization based in Britain, countered: “It’s absolutely spam. It’s an unsolicited text message. People who received it didn’t ask for it. That’s the universal definition of spam.”

Anyone expect some higher purpose – or a better excuse – from AT&T?

A system developed for de-icing power lines during winter storms

Daylife/AP Photo by Mike Groll

Dartmouth engineering professor…Victor Petrenko, along with his colleagues at Dartmouth and at Ice Engineering LLC…have invented a way to cheaply and effectively keep ice off power lines.

The new proprietary technology is called a variable resistance cable (VRC) de-icing system. With only minor cable modifications plus some off-the-shelf electronics, the system switches the electrical resistance of a standard power line from low to high. The high resistance automatically creates heat to melt ice build-up or keep it from forming in the first place.

“The beauty of the VRC system is that it’s fully customizable and is an affordable addition to the current manufacturing and installation process,” said Gabriel Martinez, Ice Engineering’s Vice President. “And it works without causing any service interruption whatsoever,” he added.

Ice Engineering plans to install and test a full-scale VRC system prototype on a section of power line in Orenburg, Russia, in late January 2009. The company is also currently negotiating full-scale installations of VRC in other regions of Russia and in China.

Martinez says the changes in manufacturing and installation required to implement the VRC system would result in a less than 10 percent increase in overall cost. Since utility companies normally replace 3 percent of their cables every year, the system could be installed as part of the regularly scheduled maintenance process and still achieve a significant portion of the installation by the time the next major storm hits.

Furthermore, the life span of the de-icing system would match or exceed the life-span of the utility cable, approximately 30–50 years. The system would pay for itself during the next storm by practically eliminating the cost of fixing downed cables and power outages due to ice and snow.

Looks like a boon to regions with climates that have icing problems. I certainly recall – with no joy at all – those long spells after snow-and-ice storms in New England – when we had to make do without electricity.

Stroke-aversion device widely used though it lacks approval

David Dansereau decided to go for the procedure rather than wait

Every year, experts estimate, about 80,000 seemingly healthy people in this country under the age of 55 have a stroke for no apparent reason. Some researchers have long suspected that one culprit is a cardiac defect that 40 percent of those people share — a tiny congenital opening between the upper chambers of their hearts.

Based on that theory, doctors in recent years have implanted a small flexible seal in the hearts of thousands of stroke patients. The idea is that closing the hole will prevent future strokes by blocking a pathway for blood clots.

Such devices are not currently approved by federal regulators for that procedure, which can cost up to $30,000. And there is a bigger problem. It is not clear whether the implants actually help stroke victims — or might even harm some of them. Because the devices have been used so widely, it has been difficult to find enough untreated patients to mount a study to prove their effectiveness and safety.

It is not unusual for medical practice to run ahead of scientific findings. But the hole-closing heart device is a case study of how the actions of doctors, regulators, device makers and patients themselves can combine to undercut the gathering of reliable medical evidence…

Stroke experts are sharply split about the device’s value — which is why, regardless of their view, they agree it is urgent for such trials to be conducted, to prove or disprove the benefit to stroke patients…

“Even if the answers are not clear-cut, at least it will give doctors and patients a sense of what they are dealing with,” said Maisel, the cardiologist in Boston.

If I had the problem, I guess I’d read up on what study information already exists. Though I’m not convinced the FDA earns it’s role as health overseer – especially in recent years – it’s the only official game in town.

Turns out online danger to children is overblown. Surprised?

Mister Morality brags about forcing Craigslist to monitor hookers
Daylife/AP Photo by Bob Child

A task force created by 49 state attorneys general to look into the problem of sexual solicitation of children online has concluded that there really is not a significant problem.

Did they count the honey pots run by local coppers as dangerous sites?

The findings ran counter to popular perceptions of online dangers as reinforced by depictions in the news media like NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” series. One attorney general was quick to criticize the group’s report…

The report concluded that the problem of bullying among children, both online and offline, poses a far more serious challenge than the sexual solicitation of minors by adults.

“This shows that social networks are not these horribly bad neighborhoods on the Internet,” said John Cardillo, chief executive of Sentinel Tech Holding, which maintains a sex offender database and was part of the task force. “Social networks are very much like real-world communities that are comprised mostly of good people who are there for the right reasons.”

Not everyone was happy with the conclusions. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney general, who has forcefully pursued the issue and helped to create the task force, said he disagreed with the report. Mr. Blumenthal said it “downplayed the predator threat,” relied on outdated research and failed to provide a specific plan for improving the safety of social networking.

And it may get in the way of Blumenthal’s plans to run for the Senate and, eventually, president.

Then, there’s all the crap legislation already trundling around the political dance floor. Congress and state legislators waste an incredible amount of time patting themselves on the back for corrosive attempts to oversee speech and thought on the Web – in the name of “we’re protecting the children”. What a crock!

Have you been talking (or pressing ‘send’) in your sleep?

E-mailing now comes so naturally to us that we can do it in our sleep — at least in the exceptional case. An article soon appearing in the journal Sleep Medicine, details the experience of a sleepwalker, showing we can send messages even when we seem to be sound asleep.

Such e-mailing interests neurologists who specialize in sleep science. After all, it poses a challenge to the accepted notion that sleepwalking is confined to activities involving gross motor movements, with minimal cognitive activity. Until now, we have been able to take comfort in our understanding of our own sleepwalking as an impersonal phenomenon. Whether it is eating junk food, rearranging furniture or even driving a car, the body carries out the action, seemingly on its own, while the mind slumbers, blissfully unaware.

Legal doctrine is based on this same notion. Sleepwalkers have been acquitted of criminal felony charges by basing their defense on the concept of “noninsane automatism.”

E-mailing while sleeping, however, upturns the previous understanding of the mind as essentially quiescent, absolved of a participating role. The Sleep Medicine article describes one woman’s e-mailing while sleeping as the first reported case of “complex nonviolent cognitive behavior.” It involved not just composing messages, but also navigating past two separate levels of password security to reach the e-mail software.

The patient suffered from severe insomnia and was taking zolpidem, which is marketed under various brand names, the best known of which is Ambien. She decided on her own to increase her daily dose to 15 milligrams, from the 10 milligrams prescribed by her doctor, to counteract what she perceived as diminished efficacy of the drug over time.

Later, she received a call from a friend, asking about a strange e-mail message that the patient had sent the caller the previous night. She had no memory of having done so. When the patient checked the computer and looked at a folder containing her sent messages, she discovered that three that had gone out within eight minutes the previous night while she was asleep, all with unusual capitalization, punctuation and language. “!HELP ME P-LEEEEESE” was the subject of one message, an invitation for “dinner & drinks,” and the message also implored the recipient to “come TOMORROW AND SORT THIS HELL HOLE Out!!!!!!”

Are they certain she wasn’t sleeping in her office. I get emails like that every day.

Rats: Manhattan Rules!

If you leave it up to the rats, New York City beats New Orleans any day. This surprising finding comes from new research by Tel Aviv University zoologists and geographers, who are working together to invent a novel way to test urban designers’ city plans. Instead of using humans as guinea pigs, the scientists went to their nearby zoo and enlisted lab rats to determine the functionality of theoretical and existing plans…

“We’ve found that routes taken by rats and other members of the animal kingdom tend to converge at attractive landmarks, the same way people are attracted, for example, to the Arc de Triumph in Paris,” says Prof. David Eilam from TAU’s Department of Zoology. “Our research takes the art used by humans to create their towns and cities and turns it back to the animal world for testing. We can look at how rats will react to a city’s geography to come up with an optimal urban plan.”

By building mini-models of city layouts at the Tel Aviv University Research Zoo, Prof. Eilam and his colleagues found that grid-like city layouts ― like that of Manhattan ― are much more rat- and people-friendly than cities with unstructured and winding streets, like those in New Orleans…

“We put rats in relatively large areas with objects and routes resembling those in Manhattan,” explains Prof. Eilam. The rats, he found, do the same things humans do: They establish a grid system to orient themselves. Using the grid, the rats covered a vast amount of territory, “seeing the sights” quickly. In contrast, rats in an irregular plan resembling New Orleans’ failed to move far from where they started and didn’t cover much territory, despite travelling the same distances as the “Manhattan rats.”

True. I’ve known a number of humans who aren’t any brighter than lab rats. I’m not convinced this is the way to go about planning a living, growing, dynamic city. Maybe it works in Manhattan or Tel Aviv. That’s not saying a lot for the future of humanity.