India, Pakistan talks signal thaw – I hope


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The prime ministers of India and Pakistan agreed today to resume peace talks between their top diplomats and work toward rebuilding trust shattered by the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that New Delhi blamed on Pakistani militants.

Officials said India’s Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Yousuf Raza Gilani, agreed on the need to normalise relations dogged by more than six decades of hostility since both gained independence from Britain. They deputed their foreign ministers to meet at a later date to discuss the resumption of a wide-ranging formal dialogue that began in 2004, but was suspended after the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.

The two prime ministers met for more than an hour in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, on the sidelines of a summit of south Asian leaders. It was their first meeting in eight months…

The two prime ministers “agreed that relations between the two countries should be normalised and the channels of contact should work effectively to enlarge the constituency of peace in both countries,” Nirupama Rao told reporters…

India and Pakistan have been under pressure to resume their peace dialogue – which eased historic tensions although it made little headway on the key issue of Kashmir, which they both claim in entirety and have fought two of their three wars over since gaining independence in 1947.

Overdue. I always say that. I always mean it. RTFA.

Court says sneaking veggies into kid’s food ain’t copyrighted!

The author of a children’s cookbook cannot copyright ideas for slipping vegetables into children’s food, a federal appeals court said in upholding a ruling in favor of the wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld in a copyright infringement case.

Jessica Seinfeld wrote a cookbook, “Deceptively Delicious,” offering tips that were similar to those of author Missy Chase Lapine, author of “The Sneaky Chef.” Lapine sued, claiming that Seinfeld had stolen the ideas.

In a ruling announced Wednesday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s judgment there was no copyright infringement.

“Stockpiling vegetable purees for covert use in children’s food is an idea that cannot be copyrighted,” the court said in its decision.

Seinfeld’s attorney, Orin Snyder, called Lapine’s accusations “an abuse of the judicial system.”

“Two different courts have now seen through these false allegations, and that is why this case has been definitively thrown out of court,” he said in a statement.

Overdue.

Are you concerned enough about animals’ Right to Privacy?

Dr Brett Mills’ study ‘Television wildlife documentaries and animals’ right to privacy’ analyses the making of documentaries that accompanied the BBC wildlife series Nature’s Great Events (2009). Exploring the debates on ethics, animal welfare and rights and human rights, Dr Mills suggests that animals have a right to privacy but this is turned into a challenge for the production teams, who use newer forms of technology to overcome species’ desire not to be seen…

“This is an important debate for two reasons. Firstly, wildlife documentaries are usually seen as important pieces of public service broadcasting, and it’s therefore worth us thinking about the ethical contexts within which such productions exist. Secondly, such documentaries are the key way in which many people ‘encounter’ a range of species from all over the globe, and so they therefore contribute to how we think about other species and human/animal interactions. By exploring what wildlife documentaries do, and how they do it, I hope to contribute to environmental debates at a time when the global effects of human behaviour are rightly under scrutiny.”

At the heart of the documentary project is the necessity for animals to be seen. Dr Mills suggests that this necessity itself raises a series of ethical concerns, but these seem to be sidelined in the moral debates surrounding wildlife documentaries. The use of sophisticated aerial technology to film animals, for example, is justified because it does not disturb them, yet the question of whether it is appropriate to film animals in this way is not raised. Underpinning such action is an assumption that animals have no right to privacy, and that the camera crew have no need to determine whether those animals consent to being filmed.

Unlike human activities, a distinction of the public and the private is not made in the animal world. There are many activities which animals engage in which are common to wildlife documentary stories but which are rendered extremely private in the human realm; mating, giving birth, and dying are recurring characteristics in nature documentaries, but the human version of these activities remains largely absent from broadcasting.

Dr Mills said: “It might at first seem odd to claim that animals might have a right to privacy. Privacy, as it is commonly understood, is a culturally human concept. The key idea is to think about animals in terms of the public/private distinction. We can never really know if animals are giving consent, but they often do engage in forms of behaviour which suggest they’d rather not encounter humans, and we might want to think about equating this with a desire for privacy.

Anthropomorphism carried to a logically absurd extreme.

Christian counsellor loses court fight over homophobia

A marriage guidance counsellor’s bid to challenge his sacking for refusing to give sex therapy to homosexuals has led to a serious clash between the Christian lobby and the judiciary.

In a powerful dismissal of the application to appeal, Lord Justice Laws said legislation to protect views held purely on religious grounds could not be justified. He said it was an irrational idea “but it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary”…

Lord Justice Laws’s ruling said: “We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs. The precepts of any one religion – any belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic.

The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments. The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law, but the state, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself…”

Religious sectarians continue to battle against democracy and reason behind the presumption that their particular invisible entity gives them a specially-ordained right to discriminate against everyone else in society. Not unlike the losers who comprise so much of the American flavor of right-wing reactionaries.

Professional politicians in so many lands rely on grassroots fear and religious froth to prop up their careers. Along with the ever-popular mirror themes of patriotism and war, of course.

Noah’s Ark found in Turkey… yes, again.


If you look very carefully, you can make it out…. It’s
right above the Virgin Mary’s left eyebrow.

A team of evangelical Christian explorers claim they’ve found the remains of Noah’s ark beneath snow and volcanic debris on Turkey’s Mount Ararat.

But some archaeologists and historians are taking the latest claim that Noah’s ark has been found about as seriously as they have past ones—which is to say not very.

“I don’t know of any expedition that ever went looking for the ark and didn’t find it,” said Paul Zimansky, an archaeologist specializing in the Middle East at Stony Brook University in New York State.

Turkish and Chinese explorers from a group called Noah’s Ark Ministries International made the latest discovery claim Monday in Hong Kong, where the group is based.

“It’s not 100 percent that it is Noah’s ark, but we think it is 99.9 percent that this is it,” [said] Yeung Wing-cheung, a filmmaker accompanying the explorers.


Blasphemer Professor Paul Zimansky

Brown demonstrates barrier between politicians and people


Gillian Duffy talking to whatsis’name
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Labour’s election campaign was in disarray tonight after Gordon Brown was forced to apologise to a pensioner and lifelong party supporter whom he had described as “a bigoted woman” for questioning him over the scale of immigration from eastern Europe.

His contemptuous dismissal of Gillian Duffy, made in private but caught by a live broadcast feed, again raised questions about his volatile character and, more importantly, whether the Labour core vote would be repelled by his apparent indifference to their concerns.

Morale in the Labour campaign slumped as even some of Brown’s closest aides vented their fury at him, with one describing him as “a pathetic blame shifter”. Others voiced concern that it would appear that he was two-faced…

Brown had met Duffy, 65, on the streets of Rochdale when she accosted him over a range of issues including the scale of debt, taxes and tuition fees. At one point during the discussion she referred to eastern Europeans “flocking” to Britain.

After an apparently pleasant conclusion to the conversation and closing his car door, Brown turned to his director of strategic communications, Justin Forsyth, declaring the event a “disaster” and demanding to know who was responsible for him meeting Duffy. He appeared to blame his longstanding aide Sue Nye.

Asked by Forsyth what Duffy had said he replied: “Oh everything, she was just a sort of bigoted woman. She said she used to be Labour. I mean it’s just ridiculous.”

The separation between professional politicians and the rest of us isn’t limited to any particular creed. It’s the rare individual politician who seeks and maintains contact with the lives of ordinary working people.

I could launch into praise for the few who are capable, the small number of pols who stay in touch with the life most of us lead. The fact is that most of the lawyers, beancounters, others who make politics a lifetime career are climbers. They seek power and position. And questions of leadership on solutions to human questions soon become nothing more than campaign slogans.

I may be a cynic; but, I doubt I am very far from describing the core principles of those representing real power in most nations.

Beginning sailor takes a round trip – sort of


The Isle has an interesting history

A man who thought he was sailing along the coast of southern England had to be rescued by emergency services after his motor boat ran out of fuel while repeatedly circling a small island in the River Thames estuary.

The man, who had no nautical guides and only had a roadmap to navigate by, had been trying to sail from Gillingham, about 35 miles east of London, to Southampton on April 19 by following the southern coast of England.

But he ended simply doing laps of the 36-square mile Isle of Sheppey a short distance away in the mouth of the Thames.

Eventually a lifeboat and coastguard were sent to rescue him after he used up all his fuel and ran aground, officials said on Wednesday. He told them he had been trying to navigate by keeping the coastline to his right.

“He was attempting to travel around the UK from Medway to Southampton and had somehow lost his bearings and ended up traveling around the Isle of Sheppey,” said Robin Castle, a member of the local lifeboat station.

“It seems he didn’t have the usual maritime charts or navigational equipment.”

Someone buy this guy a GPS. A very good, talking GPS.

Doctor fixes heart with remote-controlled robot


Kenneth Crocker, 70 – most important part of the operation

Doctors at a British hospital have carried out the first heart rhythm operation using a remote -controlled robot and say its success means patients could be treated by doctors in other cities, or even other countries.

Andre Ng, who performed the procedure on Wednesday from outside the operating theater, told Reuters it went very well and the patient’s irregular heart rhythm was restored to normal within an hour.

It exceeded our expectations and we achieved what we set out to in very good time,” said Ng, a consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist at Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital…

Ng said he was the first doctor in the world to carry out this type of remote-controlled operation on a human patient using a system called a Remote Catheter Manipulation System…

The procedure carried out by Ng involved inserting thin wires called catheters into blood vessels at the top of the groin and then threading them up into the chambers of the heart…

Despite being outside the operating theater during the procedure, Ng said he felt in “complete control” and could see and speak to other medical staff who were beside the patient.

The main advantage is that the doctor doesn’t have to wear heavy radiation shields such as lead aprons, which are normally required in the operating room because X-rays are used to show what is going on inside the patient.

Doctor Ng made the useful point already obvious to geeks in the crowd: “If there is a reliable enough link, then you could do it from any location in the world.”