Upper class Brits as dumb about Street View as California politician

After a recent spate of burglaries, residents of Broughton, a village in Buckinghamshire, UK, formed a human chain around, and hurling insults at, a Google Street View car, refusing to allow it inside the hamlet.

A spate of burglaries in the Buckinghamshire village of Broughton caused residents to spring into action when the Google Street View car puttered towards Broughton with a 360-degree camera on its roof. The villagers formed a human chain to stop it, haranguing the driver about “invasion of privacy” fears, claiming a belief that the images Google planned to put online could be used by burglars.

Meanwhile, in Lala-land…

Joel Anderson, a Republican California state assemblyman from San Diego County, wants to make sure that the terrorists can’t win. Because obviously, the only thing that’s allowing them to commit heinous acts is having access to the Internet. Specifically, to services like Google Earth.

About a month ago, Anderson introduced Assembly Bill 255, which would fine Web sites and other online services up to $250,000 per day for not blurring out schools, places of worship, medical facilities, or government sites on satellite or aerial imagery. The same restriction would apply to street-level shots like Google Maps’s Street View feature. Knowingly violating this law could also result in jail time of up to 3 years for the operator.

In an interview with CNET, Anderson said: “Well, I looked at where we’ve had security issues in the past and potentially, might have issues in the future. Churches and synagogues have been bombed. So have federal buildings and then, of course, 9/11. So, the threats are out there and as a state legislator, public safety is my No. 1 job. To ignore that fact would be irresponsible.”Anderson said:

Knowing WTF you’re talking about might also be too much a stretch for this dumbass politician.

I know. That’s redundant. Dumbass and politician.

It’s just that this sort of absurdity has been hollering in my ears all my life. It trails its stink back into recorded history to the edicts of Nero – and probably will afflict thoughtful humans ten centuries from now. Time doesn’t make it any more bearable.

Israeli newspapers photoshop women out of cabinet

Two ultra-Orthodox Jewish newspapers have altered a photo of Israel’s new cabinet, removing two female ministers.

Limor Livnat and Sofa Landver were grouped with the rest of the 30-member cabinet for their inaugural photo.

But Yated Neeman newspaper digitally changed the picture by replacing them with two men. The Shaa Tova newspaper blacked the women out.

Publishing pictures of women is viewed by many ultra-orthodox Jews as a violation of female modesty.

Other Israeli papers reprinted the altered images next to the original photos, with one headlining it “Find the lady”.

I don’t know if these newspapers are run by opportunists or cowards. Probably the former. That seems to be what the breed has become.

They bend over for foolish, religious idiots. No thought whatsoever for the premise of journalism being a check on the truth of those in power. And these clowns doctor a PR photo because it would offend their readers?

Toronto airport responds to lax security charges – by blaming Mounties who accompanied investigators!


Introducing one of the dinosaurs in charge of the airport
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Toronto’s airport authority has responded to an alleged security breach at Pearson Airport by pulling escort privileges from four airport Mounties and has urged Transport Canada to investigate the activities involving its own Minister.

The Globe and Mail reported Tuesday that Transportation Minister John Baird and Senator Colin Kenny visited the Toronto airport this past weekend to check on security measures. While doing so, they entered the airport tarmac from a public roadway outside the perimeter without having their credentials checked…

At the time the politicians were accompanied by four plainclothes RCMP minders.

Baird said, “What I saw simply is unacceptable. And if the Toronto Airport Authority doesn’t share that view, that causes me even more concern. I’ll be meeting with them next week but their reaction today is unacceptable…”

“I’m astonished that their first reaction is to want to shoot the messenger.”

He’s astonished. I’m not.

Nothing uncommon about petty, incompetent bureaucrats attacking anyone who points out their inability to perform.

The most laughable example was the delegation finding an X-Ray machine, still unpacked, that was purchased three years ago to check for contraband. Maybe not laughable. Just stupid and lazy.

10 things to know about the new Nintendo DSi


Click on the box!
Daylife/AP Photo

Nintendo’s new DSi handheld console launched in the UK and Europe on Friday, April 3. The new console builds on the success of the DS brand by adding a host of multimedia functions. [Launch in the U.S. is this Sunday]

For the moment, the DSi is available in black or white. The white is shiny and sleek to the touch, the matt black has a slightly rougher finish, which makes it more pleasingly tactile.

Owners of the existing DS Lite may be momentarily thrown by the changes to the volume and power buttons, but otherwise the DSi is pretty much business as usual. So, should you buy one? Here are [some of the] ten facts that may help influence your decision.

2. Although it looks remarkably similar to the existing DS Lite, the DSi represents a bigger jump forward than that from the chunky original DS to the DS Lite. The new machine is slimmer, with slightly bigger screens and a faster processor, and is packed with new features.

3. New feature one: the DSi has its own built-in operating system, modelled on the Wii system. The OS is stored on the DSi’s built-in memory. One of the practical upshots of this is that games are now “hot-swappable”, meaning you no longer need to power off and on your console when changing game cartridges.

4. New feature two: the DSi comes with two low-resolution cameras, one facing inwards and one outwards. The cameras are complemented by a built-in application that allows you to distort the photos you take for humorous effect. They can also be used for video-chatting.

5. New feature three: the DSi comes with an SD card slot, where photos, music and digital media can be stored. Don’t get too excited by the music playback. The DSi only plays AAC files, not the more popular MP3. Why? Read our interview with Nintendo’s UK boss to find out.

RTFA to get the whole analysis. Get in line for Sunday’s U.S. launch. 🙂

Gene-related heart disease on the rise in India


Daylife/AP Photo

Hindu priest Pandjitee is not overweight, does not smoke or drink and follows a strict vegetarian diet. Yet three years ago he was suddenly struck by a heart attack.

Pandjitee is among a growing number of Indians who are at risk of heart disease because of a genetic mutation that affects one in 25 people in India. The mutation almost guarantees the development of the disease and Indians suffer heart attacks at an earlier age, often without prior symptoms or warning.

Now researchers say India, a country with more than one billion people, will likely account for 60 per cent of heart disease patients worldwide, by 2010.

A study among Asian Indian men showed that half of all heart attacks in this population occur under the age of 50 years and 25 percent under the age of 40, according to the Indian organization, Medwin Heart Foundation…

The major causes of heart disease are tobacco use, physical inactivity, and an unhealthy diet often linked to the developed world.

So in a country that traditionally frowns upon smoking and embraces the idea of a vegetarian diet, it was unexpected to find such a high percentage of the disease.

Fair amount of detail in the article. Enough to get you thinking about extra caution if you are Indian.

Presses me to reflect upon the number of illnesses our species experiences now that we live longer. In prehistory, or even before the advent of modern medicine and medical technology increasing lifespan – many illnesses weren’t significant in how they affected the whole population.

Iowa upholds gay marriage rights


Nancy Robinson and Laura Fefchak, Gay advocates in Urbandale, Iowa, celebrate
Daylife/AP Photo

Iowa has become the first state in the Midwest to approve same-sex marriage after the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously decided that a 1998 law limiting marriage to a man and a woman was unconstitutional. The decision was the culmination of a four-year legal battle that began in the lower courts. The Supreme Court said same-sex marriages could begin in Iowa in as soon as 21 days.

The case here was being closely followed by advocates on both sides of the issue. While the same-sex marriage debate has played out on both coasts, the Midwest — where no states had permitted same-sex marriage — was seen as entirely different. In the past, at least six states in the Midwest were among those around the country that adopted amendments to their state constitutions banning same-sex marriage.

“The Iowa statute limiting civil marriage to a union between a man and a woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution,” the justices said in a summary of their decision.

And later in the ruling, they said: “Equal protection under the Iowa Constitution is essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike. Since territorial times, Iowa has given meaning to this constitutional provision, striking blows to slavery and segregation, and recognizing women’s rights. The court found the issue of same-sex marriage comes to it with the same importance as the landmark cases of the past…”

Iowa has no residency requirement for getting a marriage license, which some suggest may mean a flurry of people from other states.

Bravo! Great to hear that Iowa meets 21st-Century standards for jurisprudence. Perhaps Americans will see more of the country follow suit?

Maybe we’ll live up to the freedom intended by our Constitution?

Robot makes scientific discovery all by himself – erm, itself

For the first time, a robotic system has made a novel scientific discovery with virtually no human intellectual input.

Scientists designed “Adam” to carry out the entire scientific process on its own: formulating hypotheses, designing and running experiments, analyzing data, and deciding which experiments to run next…

The demonstration of autonomous science breaks major ground. Researchers have been automating portions of the scientific process for decades, using robotic laboratory instruments to screen for drugs and sequence genomes, but humans are usually responsible for forming the hypotheses and designing the experiments themselves. After the experiments are complete, the humans must exert themselves again to draw conclusions.

Adam’s British designers, led by Ross King at Aberystwyth University in Wales, acknowledge that the robot’s discoveries have been “of a modest kind” thus far. Its proving ground as a scientist has been the genome of baker’s yeast, a popular laboratory species. Baker’s yeast is one of the best understood organisms, but 10 to 15 percent of its roughly 6,000 genes have unknown functions. The scientists hoped Adam could shed light on some of these mystery genes.

After analyzing the data and running follow-up experiments — it can design and initiate over a thousand new experiments each day — Adam had uncovered three genes that together coded for an orphan enzyme. King’s group confirmed the novel findings by hand.

Waltz thinks Adam will inspire other scientists. “They’ll realize they can automate more of the process than they currently have. They can explore a wider range of possibilities without doing it all by hand.”

King looks forward to teams of humans and robots. Makes good sense to me – especially as the raw power available for computational analysis is teamed with improving AI software. The only thing that stands still is peoples’ fear of the future.

Suncor slapped with environmental fines in Alberta

A Canadian court slapped Suncor Energy and a contractor it hired with more than C$1 million in fines for environmental infractions at the company’s northern Alberta oil sands operations.

Suncor, Canada’s No. 2 oil sands producer, will pay C$675,000 for failing to install pollution control equipment at its Firebag steam-driven oil sands operation near Fort McMurray, Alberta, and then keeping that information from provincial environmental authorities.

The violation, which dates back to 2006 and 2007, resulted in hydrogen sulfide, which can be deadly in high enough concentrations, being released into the atmosphere, the Alberta environment ministry said.

The company had committed to installing the equipment in its application to develop the Firebag project, where steam is pumped into the ground to loosen up tar-like bitumen, allowing it to be pumped to the surface in wells.

In another case at provincial court in Fort McMurray on Thursday, Suncor and its work camp operator, Compass Group Canada Ltd, were fined a combined C$400,000 after investigators found a subcontractor released partially treated wastewater into the Athabasca River between 2005 and 2007.

The subcontractor pleaded guilty to falsifying information and mismanaging the facility.

The ministry said Suncor and Compass were unaware of the falsification, but Suncor was fined C$175,000 for failing to supervise Compass and Compass was fined C$225,000 for failing to report the subcontractor’s violations.

The whole operation smells like Halliburton North. Not exactly the sort of standard you want representing Canada.

Texas says, “We don’t need no stinking Vista!”

hinojosa

The Texas Senate has overwhelmingly passed a budget that includes a provision that bans Vista being used by the Texas government.

The Texas Senate voted 26-5 to pass the two-year $182.2 billion budget, which included a rider that would ban government agencies from upgrading to Vista unless the agencies get written consent from the legislature.

According to Computerworld, the rider was tacked on by Senator Juan Hinojosa, a Democrat from Allen, who proposed it because “of the many problems reported with Vista.” Computerworld quotes him as adding: “We are not in any way, shape or form trying to pick on Microsoft, but the problems with this particular [operating] system are known nationwide.”

Hinojosa apparently hasn’t even used Vista, according to PC World, but that didn’t stop him from managing to get the rider into the budget. Ignorance, after all, is no hindrance to political fortune — given recent past experience with a certain well-known former Texas governor, it may even be an asset.

If the rider stays – and this becomes Texas law – Microsoft probably isn’t too worried. After all, they’re already working feverishly to replace Vista on the computers of the world on their own. Windows 7.