Monday, April 26, 2010

Should Parents let Teens Drink?

Unlike many other countries especially in Europe, states in the U.S are prohibited by law, as a condition of recieving funds for highways, from buying or publicaly possessing alcohol before the age of 21. However, some states have exceptions, but now state allows adults to give alcohol to those under age 21 who is not thier child. Over a quarter of the population of those between 12-20 " drank at least once in a certain month's period in 2008, according to that year's National Survey on Drug Use and Health. drank at least once in a certain month's period in 2008, according to that year's National Survey on Drug Use and Health." More than 30% of underage drinkers said they paid for thier last drink, usually from an older person over 21.

Some parents are more leniant than others when it comes to under age drinking, as long as its in moderation and there is no drunk driving. They argue that it would be hypocritical to forbid thier children, when they drunk in high school as well.

However, those who have lost children who they thought were being safe now wish their message had been different.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

11 alleged pirates arrive in U.S. for prosecution

This article is from: http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/04/23/pirates.us.prosecution/index.html

On Friday, 11 suspected pirates arrived in the U.S to face criminal charges prosecution for attacks on U.S Navy ships near Somalia. The U.S flew the suspected pirates from East Asia to Norfolk, Virginia to face the prosecution in the federal courts.
So far, there has been 11 pirates that are charged with piracy under the laws of the nations, for "attack to plunder a vessel, assault with a dangerous weapon in the special maritime jurisdiction, conspiracy to use firearms during a crime of violence, and use of a firearm during a crime of violence, according to court filings."

The pirates have been indicted on a series of charges and the suspects are expected to appear before "federal magistrate in Norfolk on Friday."

What do you guys think about piracy? What do you think are appropriate punishments for piracy?

3 children among tornado victims

This article is from: http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/weather/04/25/mississippi.tornado/index.html?hpt=T2

On Sunday in Yazoo City, Mississippi, three children of the victims of a tornado were tore through central Mississippi. Two sisters of age 9 and 14 were killed inside a mobile home and separately, a 3 month old baby died from the twister. The tornado was almost a mile wide and it sadly killed at least 10 people and destroyed neighborhoods and families.
"The hardest-hit counties were Yazoo and Choctaw, Mississippi, where assessment and rescue crews continued operations Sunday."
"Outside of those two counties, authorities had recorded at least 188 homes destroyed and 33 injuries, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA)."

After the mass devastation, nearly 80 Mississippi National Guard troops including the 50 military police had been deployed to Choctaw and Yazoo counties.
"'You could just feel the glass and debris flying in and cutting you, said Stacy Walker, who took cover in a hair salon in Yazoo City where she worked. "It felt like minutes and minutes but I'm sure it was just seconds the time that it lasted.'"

What other ways do you think the government should provide to the victims of the tornado in order to help them back on track?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

China replaces party boss in region hit by unrest

This article is from: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100424/ap_on_re_as/as_china_xinjiang

Months after the ethnic riots that killed nearly 200 people, China replaced the unpopular Communist Party boss for a far-western region. There has been no media reports for the immediate removal of Wang Lequan, 65, who served as the party boss in Xiajiang since 1995.
Wang Lequan was in charge last July when there were bloody street riots in the regional capital of Urumqi against the ethnic majority Han Chinese. During that time, almost 200 people were killed who were mostly Han, and that was the country's worst communal violence in decades.

"'China must make fundamental changes in the way of ruling through suppression in Xinjiang and respect the political demands of the Uighur people,' said Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress."

After even more riots and unrest in September, thousands of people marched through the streets of Urumqi for the resignation of Wang and other local leaders.

Yemen cleric: fight draft law banning child brides

This article is from: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100424/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_yemen_child_brides

On Saturday, Yemen's most influential Islamic cleric vowed to gather millions of signatures to protest a draft law banning child brides. This is due to "an increasingly vocal showdown against the country's weak government which needs the support of powerful religious leaders to hold onto power." This issue has brought international attention because recently an 13-year old girl was bled to death because her 23-year old husband tied her down and forced her to have sex with him.

"The cleric, Sheik Adbul-Majid al-Zindani, said a ban on child brides 'threatens our culture and society and spreads immorality.' Al-Zindani is Yemen's most powerful Islamic scholar and believed by the U.S. to be a spiritual mentor of Osama Bin Laden."

Al-Zindani calls against the ban of child brides wants to raise the marriage age to 17. "The practice of marrying young girls is widespread in Yemen, where a quarter of all females marry before they turn 15, according to a 2009 report by the country's Ministry of Social Affairs."

It is expected that the government will raise the marriage age to deflect the international pressure, but that the government will not enforce legislation. How do you guys feel about this change and do you think that child brides will still continue after changes in law?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chilean priest allegedly abused 5 young men

This article is from: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100423/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/lt_chile_church_abuse

On Thursday, a Chilean prosecutor announced a criminal investigation that an extremely retired priest accused of sexually abusing five young men in his residence.
The allegations were just confirmed this week by the archbishop of Santiago as Chile's Roman Catholic leadership appealed publicly for forgiveness for abusing 20 clergy members; five of all of the clergy members were convicted and 15 others are under investigation.

Karadima, who is now 80 years old, is the accused man of sexually abusing people in this residence. However, he is still respected within Chile's church.
The conclusion is that Attorney Juan Pablo Hermosilla says that the men did not want to bring charges against the priest. "'He was their spiritual guide, the one they confessed to, and for this reason he has a very strong power over them,' Hermosilla said."

I think that the priest should still receive punishment for his wrongdoings. What do you guys think?

Lawsuit demands Vatican name priests accused of sex abuse

This article is from: http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/04/22/abuse.pope.lawsuit/index.html

On Thursday, an Illinois man sues the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI for covering up sexual abuse by a priest at a Catholic school in Wisconsin. The victim, who is now an adult says that he was molested by Catholic priests that according to the suit it states to have "'credible allegations of sexual misconduct'" against them.

"'The defendant, [the] Holy See, has known about the widespread problem of childhood sexual abuse committed by its clergy for centuries, but has covered up that abuse and thereby perpetuated the abuse,' the suit says."

"'There are a number of priests, brothers, and agents who defendant continued in ministry after defendant knew or suspected that those agents had molested children,' the suit says."

What do you guys think about this situation when people suspect the Vactican and Pope to cover up sexual abuse done by other priests?

Heterophobia?

Three members of the team D2 of the San Francisco Gay Softball league are suing the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance after having their second place status in the Gay Softball World Series revoked because their team was "not gay enough". Teams were allowed to have only two heterosexuals on the team and three of the members were determined to be "non-gay". Even though some of them claimed to be bisexual they were told that "This is the Gay World Series, not the Bisexual World Series". The suit brings to issue whether the gay sports alliance was in violation of Washington state's public accommodations laws by limiting the number of heterosexuals that can play on a team. Although D2 has disbanded, the plaintiffs want at least $75,000 in damages as well as their 2nd place status reinstated and a team trophy.

I thought this was an interesting reversal of events. What do you guys think about this situtation? Should the league be able to discriminate who plays in the league? Or is this a violation of freedom of association? And would allowing heterosexuals to play be against the spirit of the league?

Pedal power is fueling green awareness

At a homeless center in Michigan, residents who live there work out on these special outfitted bicycles that sends power back into the building as they are working out. Many of the people takes turns on a stationary bike to power their TV in order to watch their favorite shows. As a reward of using these bikes to provide electricity, Copenhagen hotel began to offer free dinners to guests who sweat it out on the power-generating exercise cycles.
A regular 30 minute workout creates about 50 watts. 50 watts is enough electricity to run a laptop for one hour or a phone charger for six full charges or one energy-efficient light bulb for 2.5 hours.
The human and solar power at the gym generated 36 percent of its electricity, which saves about 37,000 kilowatt-hours in 2009. The average annual electricity consumption for a US residential utility customer is about 11,000 kilowatt-hours. This idea is not that popular right now however will develop in the next few years.

I think this is such a great idea, even though it won't solve all the global warming problems it will somewhat help. Having the idea not be that big is not a great problem. Hybrids, when they first came out was not big at all. You could only see a few people on the streets with them. However now you see Prius hybrids everywhere.
Opinions?

Greece's budget deficit worse than first thought

Eurostat recently reported that Greece's budget deficit is far greater than the number that was expected last year: a gap of 13.6% GDP, a jump from the 12.7% first expected. However, Eurostat, the European Unions Statistics office, also said it could be far worse if these figures are off. This news has already had an effect on the value of the euro (which fell slightly against the value of the dollar) and stock markets, because people are now worried that Greece might default on its debts, and of course investors will be wary when Greece tries to borrow money.

According to this BBC article, "Greece is swamped by 300bn euros of debt and needs to borrow about 54bn euros this year alone."

Greece is in negotiations for an emergency package from the EU.

According to CNN, the crisis in Greece started much like another current recession... a product of "Years of unrestrained spending, cheap lending and failure to implement financial reforms left Greece badly exposed when the global economic downturn struck."

Not sure if the emergency package is a good idea?But not sure if EU has a choice about it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Senate panel approves Wall Street Reform Bill

Today the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a Wall Street reform bill intended to protect the economy from future "meltdowns" and bailouts. The bill passed with 13-8 in favor, and will impose regulations on Wall Street derivatives (which is defined as "a security whose price is dependent upon or derived from one or more underlying assets. The derivative itself is merely a contract between two or more parties" by Dictionary.com)

Interestingly, only one Republican (from Iowa) voted with the Democrats. Senate leaders will not attempt to combine this bill with reforms outlined in a financial regulations reform bill that has already been passed by the Senate Banking Committee and is ready to be debated by the entire body. This bill seeks to set up financial oversight on Wall Street to prevent another breakdown. It also includes an "early warning" system to identify any signs of crisis before they have a chance to escalate into another recession, as well as a "$50 billion liquidation fund created with money from banks and other financial industry corporations to ensure an orderly process of closing down failing entities."

Last week Republicans represented a unanimous front against passage of the bill, but now are saying they are open for compromise. Clearly the Senator from Iowa thinks its a good idea, so what changed his mind?

Well the details of the bill seem a little blurry still and of course means more government regulation in the economy, given the impact Wall Street's failures have had widespread across the nation, I think the general idea of this bill in terms of keeping Wall Street in check is a good idea.

Oil rig explodes off La.; 11 missing, 17 hurt

This article is taken from: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100422/ap_on_bi_ge/us_louisiana_oil_rig_explosion;_ylt=AhIIQWM9PhzDrKBnS70qyspvzwcF;_ylu=X3oDMTJ2Z3N1anJnBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAwNDIyL3VzX2xvdWlzaWFuYV9vaWxfcmlnX2V4cGxvc2lvbgRjcG9zAzEEcG9zAzMEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yeQRzbGsDZnVsbG5ic3BzdG9y

The Coast Guard by sea and air is continuing to search for 11 workers missing since a thunderous explosion caused an oil drilling platform that continues to burn today. There has been more than a day since it caused a fireball into the night sky and so far 17 people are injured.

Luckily, nearly 100 other workers made it aboard on a supply boat and they were expected to arrive safely by shore by later today. The explosion Tuesday night near the Deepwater Horizon 50 miles off the Louisiana coast p;roved to be one of the nation's deadliest offshore drilling accidents since of the past half-century.

Sadly, "Authorities could not say when the flames might die out on the 400-by-250-foot rig, which is roughly twice the size of a football field, according the website of rig owner Transocean Ltd. A column of boiling black smoke rose hundreds of feet over the Gulf of Mexico as fireboats shot streams of water at the blaze."

So far, a total of 126 workers were about the rig when the whole explosion occurred. The Coast Guard also said that 17 were taken by air and sea to the hospital, four were reported in deadly conditions, and others suffered "burns, broken legs, and smoke inhalation."

How do you think the government should further the aid to help these injured people? Should there be money given to the families of workers who have suffered from this tragic event?

Obama seeks court nominee who backs women's rights

The article is from: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100422/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_obama_supreme_court

Obama says that he will be selecting a nominee who cares about the rights of women and the privacy of their bodies. But, he also stated that he won't enforce "any abortion rights 'litmus tests.'" Obama says that it is important to him that the decisions he's making on the court choice takes women's rights into account in the Constitution.

Obama rejects the idea of "litmus tests" is due to the standard presidential language, and is keeping him from being held in and is protecting his eventual nominee from charges of bringing preconceived decisions to the bench. Obama is currently considering 10 people including federal appeals court Judge Ann Williams of Chicago.

"When asked if he could nominate someone who did not support a woman's right to choose, Obama said: 'I am somebody who believes that women should have the ability to make often very difficult decisions about their own bodies and issues of reproduction.'"

Obama says that he would not judge candidates on a single-issue abortion test. "'But I will say that I want somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women's rights,' Obama said. 'And that's going to be something that's very important to me, because I think part of what our core constitutional values promote is the notion that individuals are protected in their privacy and their bodily integrity. And women are not exempt from that.'"

What do you guys think about Obama's ideas and how he's going to make his decision? Do you think Obama's ultimate decision will be supported by the majority of people?

Palin will most likely pursue 2012

In an interview Sarah Palin had with "100 Huntley Street" talk show in Canada, Palin ultimately admitted towards pursuing a "presidential bid" in 2012, if it is the best way to help people with everyday challenges.

This was a rare moment because it was one of the few times that Palin has openly talked about running for 2012. Only one another time in February did she mention to Fox News that it would be "absurd" to not consider running for the presidency. She also has explained that it has been an "exciting and full ride" since the election in 2008.

I do not know if I should be surprised with this story mostly because it is obvious that Palin loves the spotlight. But does she really believe she would be able to acquire the many votes needed to become the president? Even though we are still two and a half years away from 2012, it still sparks a question of whether there are many Republican front runners. I currently have not seen very many. The only that I can think of at the top of my head is Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Mark Sanford.

Well what do you guys think? Do you think for Palin this is mostly just a publicity stunt? I for sure believe that she will run and appear to take it seriously, but can she honestly think she will win? Even more, waste that much money? The fact that she even said that basically being president would help people with everyday issues, seems so juvenile and so simple. Obviously presidents and candidates want to help the people with everyday challenges, what else do you have to say? Maybe it is way too early to be talking about this, but Palin seems to be full charge ahead on this issue which is kind of scary...

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/?fbid=3L5fTk6esyK

New $100 bill unveiled to thwart high-tech counterfeits

The Treasury Department announced that it is revamping the $100 bill. The Associated Press said that the new design will employ a new moving microprint technology. There is a clock set up by the Treasury counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds to the bills unveiling. Officials are especially concerned with the $100 bill the favorite target of counterfeiters, who continually upgrade their tech arsenals with new color-copying and other softwares. Geithner says that this note incorporates the best technology available to ensure that they are staying ahead of the counterfeiters.

The new bill will go into circulation later this year and they are also coming out with new $5 bills.
I think this is a good idea to decrease counterfeiter. However I believe later in the future, someone will still find their way to make copies if they really wanted to.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

4/20 Marijuana Rallies Fire Up Across West Coast

Denverite Tiny Martinez defines April 20th as a holiday where marijuana users all over the world are taking part in a day like this as a day of protest and a day to stand up. It is a way of getting out there and showing the community that they are party of the community. As a part of the bay area majority of the people head to Hippie Hill.
In New Hampshire, about 100 people rallied Tuesday in the state capital of COncord on the eve of a senate vote to decriminalize small amounts of pot. Some people within the 100 lit up joints as state troopers watched from the inside of the statehouse. Gov. John Lynch said he would veto the bill if it reaches to him.
Marijuana use, medically and recreationally, is getting more attention these days with voters in California and possibly three other states set to decide in November whether to legalize adult use of the drug. South Dakota voters will consider in the fall whether to join California and the 13 other states that allow medical cannabis use.
A new cultivation equipment emporium in Oakland named iGrow decided to sponsor a 420 festival. Several hundred revelers lined up waiting for the chance to trumpet marijuana's rising commercial clout. At this event, they had booths stocked with pipe shaped lollipops and specialty fertilizers, and a raffle for an over sized joint and toured a 53 foot-long portable grow room with a starting price of $60,000.
I believe either way if marijuana isn't passed, marijuana users would still be able to access it and it wont stop users from using it. What do you guys think?

Threat of new, larger Icelandic eruption looms

Scientists fear tremors at the Eyjafjallajokull (...ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl) volcanco could trigger an even more dangerous eruption at the Katla volcano nearby. An eruption at Katla would be devastating for the airline industry and travelers, it would be 10 times stronger and shoot higher and larger plumes of ash into the air than its smaller neighbor, which has already brought European air travel to a standstill for five days and promises severe travel delays for days more. Katla showed no signs of activity Tuesday, according to scientists who monitor it with seismic sensors, but they were still wary. Pall Einarsson, professor of geophysics at the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland, said one volcanic eruption sometimes causes a nearby volcano to explode, and Katla and Eyjafjallajokull have been active in tandem in the past. The last three times Eyjafjallajokull erupted, Katla did also. Katla "awakens" every 80 years or so and the last explosion was 1918."Katla can start tomorrow or in 100 years, you don't know," said Svenn Palsson. "All we can do is be ready."

Uh oh. It appears that Katla is due to erupt any time soon, just like how the Bay Area is due for an earthquake any time soon. Seeing how much the original Icelandic volcano eruption has affected everyone, imagine Katla erupting which would be 10 times more devastating. This goes to show you how much the world depends on air travel and how difficult it is when flights are cancelled due to ash.

Black or biracial? Census forces a choice for some

There were 784,764 U.S. residents who described their race as white and black in the last census. But that number didn't include Laura Martin, whose father is black and mother is white. Friday was the deadline to mail 2010 census forms. The results are expected to show an increase in the number of multiracial people, some African-Americans with one white parent are deciding to "stay black." This is the only second census to allow people to identify themselves by more than one race. About 7 million people, or 2.4 percent of the United States population, chose that option in 2000. It's clear that the decision to check only one box, or more, on the census is based on history, culture, pride, and mentality. For example, President Barack Obama declined to check the box for "white" on his census form, despite having a white mother. "Being black in this country is a political construct," Leila McDowell (vice president of communications for NAACP) said. "Even though my father is white and I have half his genes, when I apply for a loan, when I walk into the car lot, when I apply for a job, they don't see me as half white, they see me as black. If you have any identifying characteristics, you're black." This also may represent a new twist on the "one drop" concept, which for centuries held that even one black ancestor made a person black. Now a brown-skinned man is president, and for many white people, one white parent means you are NOT black. "The system is breaking down, and I hope it continues to break down," Tony Spearman says, "Because when it fully breaks down, we'll start to measure people by the content of their hearts."

I agree with what Tony Spearman has to say. "It's what's inside that counts." Overall I thought this article was interesting. Prior to this, I never knew that most people don't choose to check more than one box when it comes to ethnicity. I guess there is actually a thinking process when it comes to filling out your ethnicity. Whenever I fill anything that asks for my ethnicity, I just check the box for "Asian" or "Chinese" without hesitation. It would be interesting if I were biracial and to see whether or not I would choose both ethnicities or just one. I can't even imagine what kind of questions would pop in to my head as I try to decide what boxes to check. Kind of makes you wonder.

Heavy Alternative Music Comes Back to Morocco

It has been seven years since Casablanca's Tremplin Festival occurred in Morocco. The festival is like American Idol, where winners go on to play for a larger festival in Morocco. Seven years ago 14 heavy musicians were arrested and sent to prison for practicing "satanism" and "endangering the Islamic faith". They had a court trial and were found guilty of having in possession things such as skulls, diabolic music, ripped posters. Most of the guys ended up staying in jailing for about a year.

But once the guys were arrested, an outpour of support occurred. There was tons of publicity, where stadiums were filled trying to bring back the alternative music.

Things have changed a lot though and for the better. Currently, the Tremplin Festival is back and running stronger than ever. Tons of new bands have formed and are now playing around the city. The trial that occurred seven years ago in itself allowed there to be an acceptance of alternative culture in the Moroccan society.

I think it is awesome how a very traditionalist and strict society with core Islamic values was able to allow for this festival to come back. It shows that they are slowly opening up their arms to different ideas and cultures and are not allowing ignorant assumptions to take the best of the music.

link : http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2010/04/morocco-draft-rock-music-fans-rejoice-in-newfound-freedom-.html

Coca-Cola's 1st Quarter Profit Climbs 19%

This article is from: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/CocaCola-1Q-profit-rises-19-apf-3982964402.html?x=0

Due to the booming markets such as in India and Brazil, the billions that Coca-Cola is investing overseas paid off in the first quarter as the world's largest soft drink maker reported. The overall case volume rose 3 percent because the international case volume is growing faster at 5 percent.

"One way for Coca-Cola Co. to sell even more overseas is to add more plants and also the branded coolers that get products in front of potential consumers. CEO Muhtar Kent said the billions the company has spent in countries like China, Brazil, and India is paying off."

In emerging markets like in India, in the first quarter the company decided to add 65,000 of its coolers in Indian retail locations and nearly 3,000 employees to sell the products. This caused India's unit volume to grow 29 percent; Turkey's grew 18 percent.

The article also states that "consumers in Egypt, Africa, Tunisia and Morocco each drink less than 150 8-ounce servings of soft drinks per year. That's less than half what Americans drink. In countries with comparatively low levels of consumption, unit case volume rose 10 percent over the past three months."

What do you guys think about this already booming industry overseas? How is this going to effect the people living in other countries compared to people living here in the U.S?

Goldman Sachs was top Obama donor

Securities and Exchange Commission recently filed 5 counts of fraud against Goldman Sachs, Wall Street's top investment bank, which was also the second-largest donor through a company PAC and company employees to Obama's campaign for presidency in 2008. Interestingly the only higher donor was the PAC and employees of University of California schools, with a whopping 1.5 million topping Goldamn Sach's $994,795. Goldman Sachs has in recent elections, consistently donated more for Democratic candidates then Republican's, and this held true in the 2008 presidential race. "Goldman Sachs contributions to the Obama campaign were more than four times larger than the $230,095 in donations to Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign".

I just find this totally ironic: both Obama and Goldman Sachs are under fire. As the article linked above says it: "For Goldman Sachs, a large financial investment in President Obama does not appear to be paying off."

Hotels in Bangkok Send Tourists Packing

The article is from : http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100420/ap_on_re_as/as_thailand_tourism_in_crisis

Recently, Thailand has been having political crisis which have been scaring away tourists for weeks. However, today some of the capital's finest hotels sent guests packing for fear of violence.

"The Grand Hyatt and InterContinental hotels in Bangkok told guests they would have to leave, while The Four Seasons remained open but closed all four of its restaurants and saw its cavernous lobby empty except for a few wilted orchids."

The dangers are due to the "Red Shirt" protesters who reinforced defenses at their urban encampment and prepare homemade weapons that included hundred of sharpened bamboo poles.

"'The situation is very tense. We are relocating guests to other hotels for their safety,' said Patty Lerdwittayaskul, a spokeswoman at the 380-room Grand Hyatt Erawan, which announced its closure until at least Saturday."

Do you guys think that other governments or countries should step in to prevent the tourists from receiving danger from the political crisis in Bangkok?

Man-3, Robot-0

In a competition between the 49er's placekicker, Joe (awesome name) Nedney, and Ziggy, a super-heavyweight pneumatic flipper robot, man came out on top. After Ziggy failed to hit a 45-yard field goal twice, Nedney was declared the winner.

Although this may initially seem overly lighthearted, man vs. machine has been a serious competition since the legend of John Henry. Although John Henry prevailed against the steam-powered drilling machine, most recently, humans have been losing this competition. In 1997, Deep Blue, a chess-playing supercomputer from IBM, beat the world champion at the time, Garry Kasparov. And in 2001, IBM researchers determined that robotic commodoties traders made more money than humans in a test. And most recently, the game of checkers was "solved", meaning that there is now a computer that is impossible to beat. No, not just computer-chess-impossible; it will actually beat a human every time. More and more, computers and robots are playing a huge role in our lives. Beyond board games and the like, computers and AI controlled robots are necessary for almost any industry. I think people remember in "Roger and Me" when that show at Autoworld had a factory worker singing "Me and My Buddy" to his robotic replacement.

In fact, humans themselves may be largely machine in the not so distant future. There is a movement in the science community that believes that there will be a "singularity" (named after the superdense center of a black hole) in the near future where, "we will transcend current intellectual and biological limitations and initiate an intelligence and information explosion beyond imagining."
The above quote comes from the Singularity Hub, a website founded by Mr. Kleiner of Aragon (and Google) fame. The Hub describes itself as "a blog and news network covering the latest in robots, genetics, longevity, artificial intelligence, aging, stem cells, and more."

I would recommend that you all check it out. It's really impressive what we are actually capable of. Eat your heart out, iPad.

School Bullying Prevention: Teach Empathy at Young Age

Since the January 14th death of Phoebe Prince, the 15-year-old in South Hadley, Massachusetts, who committed suicide after being bullied by fellow students, many onlookers have meditated on whether the circumstances that led to her death could have been avoided. Neuroscientists, psychologists, and educators believe that bullying and other kinds of violence can be reduced by encouraging empathy at an early age. Over the past decade, being able to empathize has suggested that it is key to human social interaction and morality. Without empathy, we would have no trust and no reason to not commit murder, cheat, steal, or lie. Nearly 90% of brain growth takes place in the first five years of life, and the minds of children who are neglected often are unable to make the connection between people and pleasure. It can be difficult for them to feel or demonstrate love later on. “You can enhance empathy by the way you treat children,” says Martin Hoffman, a professor of psychology at New York University.

I think this is a great idea to teach children how to empathize. The more they are exposed to it, the better they will be able to stand in someone's shoes and see what it's like. If more and more people are empathetic, perhaps there will be less people who are bullied. Phoebe Prince's tragic death certainly shows us how much bullying can affect someone.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Microsoft's Skinput turns hands, arms into buttons

A graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University (former intern at Microsoft Research) named Harrison has developed a working prototype of a system called Skinput. Skinput allows a person's hand and forearm to turn into a keyboard and screen. This system is Harrison's ideal world for mobile phones. Using this skinput a person could tap their thumb and middle finger together to answer a call; touch their forearm to go tot he next track on a music player; or flick the center of their palm to select a menu. These movements are customizable and is transferred through a Bluetooth connection that is placed in person's pocket. Also with a pico-projector, the Skinput system could also display an image of a digital keyboard on a person's forearm so they will be allowed to send out text messages by tapping his or her arm in certain places without pulling out the phone from ones purse/pocket. Harrison believes it is just like an iPhone right in your palm. This system is still under development and will not be completely on the market until 2-7 years, and will have to go under lots of accuracy tests.

I think the idea of this is very cool, however personally i do not think it will be that convenient. Many movements made in everyday life could be mixed in with the Skinput. People that uses it will take awhile to adjust to it, and lets just hope they don't look stupid using it.

Strict Immigration Bill Passes in Arizona

Today, an extensive Immigration Bill passed in Arizonas Senate. It is considered to be one of the strictest immigration bills ever passed. It passed on a 17-11 vote.

The measure would require immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times. It also requires police to question people if there's reason to suspect they're undocumented and targets those who hire illegal immigrant day laborers or knowingly transport them.

But many critics fear the racial profiling that will inevitably come along with this new bill. It was greatly supported by Senator John McCain and heavily influenced by the Republican Senator Russel Pierce who wrote the law. It has presented a huge debate on whether this will cause other states to join in with a similar legislation simply because the U.S has put this issue on the backburner.

If you read the articles I have here, it explains more in depth what this bill does, and personally it can be really intimidating and daunting the type of scrutiny and severity this bill has upon immigration. I believe that this is just going to ostracize immigrants even more and I feel that this will have a deep backlash causing there to be a major increase in racial tensions. I definitely do not think this is the proper route to be handling this situation What do you guys think?

link:
http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/04/19/arizona.immigration.bill/index.html?hpt=T2
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/20/us/20immig.html

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Pa. district took 56,000 images on student laptops

In Philadelphia there is a school district that secretly captured about 56,000 webcam photos and screen shots from the laptops that were given out to high school students. Blake Robbins, sophomore, was one of the students who were being tracked by this "tracking program" every 15 minutes. Within the 56,000 photos that were taken about 400 times during a 15-day period. Many of the photos would consist of students daily lifestyle which includes sleeping/dressing, screen shots of instant messages/video chats amongst one and another. As part of the lawsuit, a federal judge is set to begin a confidential process of showing parents the images that were captured of their children. Then within weeks the school district will release a written report on an internal investigation.

Having a tracking program on each individual's laptop provides students with no privacy at all. No only do the student himself feel insecure, but also the people that he is associating with over instant messaging/video chat. I find it outrageous that a school district would do such thing, and i dont really think this is much different from spying on your own students in the gym locker rooms. Are there any positive sides of this "tracking program"?!

Airline makes passengers pay for carryon luggage

A few weeks ago, the company Spirit Airlines was the first airline in the country to make passengers pay for a carry on baggage. They charge $45 for each carry on item that is too small to fit beneath a seat but that can fit in the over compartment. So basically if you can fit the luggage under your seat(with little to no room for your feet!) you can have the luggage there for free. The CEO of Spirit Airlines, Ben Baldanza has defended the fees, saying fewer carry-on bags will help empty the plane faster and that the cost of most tickets would be reduced by $40.

But yesterday, a report from the democratic senator Charles E. Schumer explains that five airlines will not allow the same fee to occur in their flights. The airlines are american airlines, U.S airways, united airlines, delta airlines and jet blue airways.

Thankfully these five major airlines did not allow one airline to pressure them into copping out some more fees for passengers to pay. In general, I believe this fee for carry on luggages is completely ridiculous and I feel that it is a cheap way to make some money. Especially the fact that the luggage would be considered free if you can fit it under your seat. Are you serious? Will there be any room for your feet? How would storing it under your feet be any different then storing it in a storage compartment? What if some one trips over the bag supposedly under the seat? I am really glad that the biggest and most popular airlines did not buy these lame tactics, and I am guessing that there is a reason why no one has really ever heard of Spirit Airlines, and will continue not to know about it.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20002468-503544.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/19/business/19bags.html?scp=1&sq=Spirit%20Airlines&st=cse

10-year-old's pregnancy fuels Mexican abortion debate

A 1o year old in Mexico is 17 and a half weeks pregnant, a product of being raped by her own stepfather. While abortions are legal in Mexico City, the state in which the girl lives only allows abortions in cases of rape in the first 90 days following the incident, which means it is too late for her to have this baby aborted. However, advocacy groups are even calling the UN to help navigate the issue, arguing that the girl was not aware of her abortion rights. As of now, the victim and the fetus are fine, but at such a young age it has been deemed a "high risk pregnancy". As a largely Catholic country, 17 states of Mexico have passed laws "protecting life beginning at conception".

Perhaps its my own religious ambiguity, but I think especially in this scenario, what the Roman Catholic Church believes is of less importance than the health and safety of the mother, who would be a mother by no fault of her own and is indisputably far too young! Whatever comes of this (whether she has the child or not) this girl does not deserve to be under fire for it no matter what. The person who should be feeling more of the heat in this situation is her sick stepfather.

Air Travel Despite Volcano in Europe

This article is from: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100420/ap_on_bi_ge/eu_iceland_volcano;_ylt=AnRGc1cXttzQkRPSP9nPU6VvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTJqN2d2YXV2BGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAwNDIwL2V1X2ljZWxhbmRfdm9sY2FubwRjcG9zAzEEcG9zAzIEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yeQRzbGsDZXVyb3BlcmVzdW1l

From the beginning of today, the clouds began to emerge from Europe which allowed limited air traffic and thus gave hopes to millions of travelers stuck around the world. However, the eruption from the Icelandic volcano was said to be strengthening and improving and sending more ash towards Britain, which is making it very unlikely that the London airports will be reopened back on Tuesday.

"Starting Tuesday morning, 'we should see progressively more planes start to fly,' said EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas."

Ever since the volcanic explosion, Europe's aviation industry has faced more than $1 billion losses.

The visual flight rules states that a pilot is allowed "to fly without reference to instruments, if weather conditions are good enough so the pilot can see landmarks and avoid any other aircraft. Those flights need to be under 18,000 feet, lower than usual altitude for commercial traffic."

What do you guys think about allowing limited air traffic to resume in Europe even though there will be more ash heading towards Britain?

Addicted to Tanning Beds???

This article is from: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100419/hl_nm/us_addicted_tanning

There has been a recent study done by Catherine Mosher and Sharon Danoff-Burg to students at a northeastern university to experiment if whether people who lie in tanning beds too much have addictive behavior or not. The two researchers asked 229 students about alcohol and substance abuse behaviors; all of the students said that they have used indoor tanning beds in the previous year. Just under 22 percent of the study participants met the criteria for addiction. These people who met the criteria for addiction had indeed used tanning facilities more frequently in the previous years than those who are were not addicted.
The articles claims, "This is not the first study suggesting that tanning - whether outdoors or on tanning beds -- can be addicting. Others have found that as many as half young adults and beachgoers meet some criteria for a 'substance-related disorder' when it comes to tanning. Previous research has also linked tanning and cigarette smoking."
Mosher says, "From a public health perspective, the findings suggest that there may be a subgroup of individuals who are addicted to indoor tanning and have an underlying mood disturbance."
Of course, John Overstreet, a spokesperson for the Indoor Tanning Association rejects the idea that people who excessivly tan have an addiction. "According to the Association, 30 million people in the United States use indoor tanning facilities, making it a $5 billion industry."
What do you guys think about indoor tanning? Do you think that people will stop tanning if studies do confirm that indoor tanning is linked to addictive behavior and mood disorders?

Shooting at Tennessee Hospital; gunman kills 1 and self

While many people are marking the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombings, another act of terror took place at the Parkwest Medical Center in Knoxville Tennessee. The shooting occurred at about 4:30 today and the gunman killed 1 woman and injured 2 others before committing suicide. All the victims were currently or formerly employed by Parkwest although there seems to be no relationship linking them nor, police suspect, did the gunman ever work there. No names have been released.

There seems to be a recent increase in shooting deaths, recently. With the Fort Hood shootings only a few months in the past and several shootings around schools in the East Bay, especially Richmond, if I remember correctly. I hope this isn't a trend and more of a symptom of heightened access to the news. Either way, it's tragic.

America's costliest condo

The most expensive condo is now on sale. Pièce de résistance, which is located in Mark Hotel, is selling for $60 million. Each square foot costs $6,600. If there was a 2,200 square foot house being built today at that price, it would cost $14 million. This condo is 9,037-square-foot with "five-bedroom, eight-bath, duplex penthouse, with a huge terrace."Along with these great features, the condo has great views in every room.

If there was a more expensive condo, I would like to know. This condo comes at an expensive cost, but I am sure there are buyers, such as CEOs. For CEOs who work in Manhattan, I think it would be worth the price to buy this condo because it is in the heart of the financial center, and it may be relatively close to their office. However, others might think at such a price in this economy, would it be really worth the price?

Oklahoma City marks 15 years since bombing

April 19, 2010 marked the 15 year anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. United States Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told survivors and victims’ relatives that the city’s spirit in the wake of the tragedy served as an example to that nation. Napolitano also warned of the need for continued vigilance against terrorists. 168 lives were lost during the destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995 and more than 600 others were in injured in the blast, which at the time was the deadliest terrorist attack on United States soil. People observed 168 seconds of silence to honor the dead. "What defines us as a nation, as a people and as communities is not what we have suffered, but how we have risen above it, how we've overcome," Napolitano said. Shortly before 9:02 a.m. — when the bombing occurred — bells tolled in downtown Oklahoma City. Some family members visited the site of the federal building razed in the attack and left ribbons, wreaths and other objects on chairs that stand on the site to honor the dead. Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said the city remembered the day of the bombing with reverence, "not because we can't forget but because we choose to remember. Napolitano said the bombing anniversary was a reminder of "the continued need for vigilance against the violent ideologies that led to this attack, so that we can recognize their signs in our communities and stand together to defeat them.” As you may or may not know, the person responsible for the Oklahoma City bombings was Timothy McVeigh. Prosecutors said McVeigh’s plot was an attempt to avenge the death of about 80 people in the government siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex, exactly two years earlier. McVeigh was convicted on federal murder charges and executed in 2001. His accomplice, Terry Nichols, was convicted on federal and state bombing-related charged and is serving multiple life sentences at a federal prison in Colorado.

I can't even imagine what kind of day this might have been for the victims and families of the Oklahoma City bombing. Most of us were only 3 years old when this happened, but because of 9/11 we have a sense of what this act of terrorism was like for America. Like Napolitano said, the anniversary is a reminder to be aware of what is going on and how to recognize signs before it's too late. Like 9/11, America has learned from its mistakes and that is why security has become so tight at airports. Oklahoma City was one of the most deadliest attacks on American soil. It is tragic to see how many lives were greatly affected by this.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

White Supremacist Rally in L.A

On Saturday morning, about 40 white supremacists gathered on the lawn of L.A's city hall to protest against immigration and to enforce stricter immigration laws. They gathered with signs that read "Sieg Heil", shouted out anti-immigration tirades and waved swastika flags. The rally was conducted by the National Socialist Movement and closely monitored by the Los Angeles Police Department.

They were responded by huge amounts of counter protest groups which included a wide variety of African American, Jewish, Latino, immigrants-rights and anarchist groups. The counter protest groups ended up being 10 to 1 to the supremacists, basically overwhelming the supremacist's group of only 40.

But ironically, it was the counter protest groups that ended up being in trouble. Dozens of protesters punched and kicked the supremacists, throwing rocks and bottles not only at the supremacists but also at the neighboring police. A few members of the protesters were arrested due to the violence.

I still cannot understand how this country allows for groups such as these to continue to rally. I understand that it is a part of freedom of speech to access a permit and to rally, but a neo nazi group, really? If there is a high chance that a group that professes racist ideals will rally and bring about an out-pour of violence, then why allow such a rally? It is even scarier that this occurred in one of the most popular cities of the U.S.

Link http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/04/white-supremacist-rally-at-los-angeles-city-hall-draw-hundreds-of-counter-protestors.html

Polish President Laid to Rest

Today, the Polish president Lech Kaczynski and his wife were laid to rest after their terrible plane crash in Russia. 50,000 mourners gathered the outskirts of the St. Mary's Basilica in Krakow, Poland to witness the entrance of the coffins. 61 people died in the plane crash such as major military leaders, but some of the relatives and family members of those who died were not able to attend the funeral due to the volcanic ash in the sky.

President Obama and other world leaders such as Prince Charles, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also had to miss the funeral due to the volcanic ash.

I find it crazy that many relatives were not able to attend the funeral of their loved ones. I know that it is extremely difficult to postpone a funeral, but it is also extremely depressing that the relatives of those who also died in the plane crash were not able to bid their final goodbyes.

It is also crazy how an occurence in Iceland could possibly be affecting people all over the world. Its a little bizarre how even the president of the united states with the best technology cannot fly over to Europe. Experts were not messing around when they said that they believe it is unsafe to fly in these conditions.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Military docs pluck live shell from soldier's head

On April 15, 2010, an injured Afghani soldier at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan was taking a CT scan. As Lt. Col. Anthony Terreri was reading the CT scan, he noticed something unusual. Instead of a shrapnel lodged into the injured soldier's head, it was actually an unexploded ordnance, which is "a live round of ammunition that could detonate at any time." The cause of the unexploded ordnance in the soldier's head was due to an IED, a bomb, that released shards of metal that happened to strike the soldier's head. John Bini, the trauma care advisor, states that, "People will pack just about anything in to these things: rocks, nails, screws, explosives."

Just after looking over a second CT scan, Bini and his team discussed the risk of surgery. In order to conduct surgery without exploding the ordnance, Bini, who was the surgeon, had to take safety precautions such as turning off all volatile anesthetics and electricity. While Bini was the surgeon, Rengel monitored the "soldier's vital signs" with a "blood pressure cuff, a battery-operated heart rate monitor and some good old-fashioned arithmetic." Other personnel in the surrounding area were told to evacuate.

Bini reports that the ordnance did not penetrate the patient's brain. However, there was a signification fracture. As the surgery took place, Bini abandoned metal tools for the procedure, so he actually used his bare hands to pull the bomb out due to a fear that it would increase the chances of the bomb exploding,

This is a great story about a person who crosses the line to help another person of a different race. Even though he argues the real heroes are the soldiers, Bini risked his life for another person. I respect him for taking the necessary steps, under intensive pressure, to extract the unexploded ordnance.
By reading this article, I have realized that there are life-threatening risks for surgeons behind the scenes. We are fortunate to have soldiers and surgeons who dedicate their lives for our country.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On to Mars: Obama declares, 'I expect to see it'

On Thursday, President Barack Obama predicted that his new plans for space exploration would lead American astronauts on history, almost fantastic journeys to an asteroid and then to Mars - and in his lifetime - relying on rockets and propulsion still to be imagined and built. "I expect to be around to see it... we want to leap into the future," Obama said. Sound familiar? President John F. Kennedy's declared in 1961, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth." That goal was fulfilled in 1969. President Obama has said that by 2025, the nation will have a new spacecraft "designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space." "We'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history," he said. "By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it." The biggest criticisms of Obama's plans have been that they have lacked details and goals. Several Republicans, including Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana and Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, assailed Obama's plan and speech, calling his plans "job-killing." White House science adviser John Holdren summed up Obama's program as "a faster pace in space, more missions to more destinations sooner at lower cost."

If NASA can do it, then why not? Another achievement for mankind sounds nice to me. I just hope that Obama is not biting off more than he can chew. If they can accomplish this then that's great. I just hope it's accomplished eventually in our lifetime.

South Korea uses a crane to raise the naval ship

On Thursday, South Korea used a crane to raise the naval ship from the Yellow Sea. On March 26, the same ship broke off in two near the border of North Korea. 25 out of 45 missing bodies of the crew were found in the hull of the navy corvette. South Korea hopes there will be evidence to what caused the sinking of the ship. For now, the ship will be at a naval base.

58 crew members were rescued. However, after a week of searching with no success, South Korea focused on raising the ship in hopes of finding more survivors. One of their unsuccessful rescue missions involved navy divers during the few hours after the naval ship sank. Due to "exceeding recommended times and depths under water," one navy diver died while others were hospitalized. Some argue that the public pressure placed on these divers were the cause of their excessive risks.

With only 58 members rescued, family members of the navy criticize that there was not enough action taken to rescue the crew members.

In the mean time, South Korea is not sure about the sinking of the naval ship. One theory is a mine, from the Korean War, struck the boat. However, South Korea has "backed away from casting blame on North Korea."

An unexpected loss of navy crew members is a tragedy for the South Korean people. Even though 58 crew members were rescued, there absolutely was not enough urgency in the beginning to rescue the other crew members that might have been still alive in the ship. However, I still applaud South Korea for their efforts to find the missing crew members, especially the navy divers who risked their lives.
I honestly think South Korea will find clues about why the ship sank. If not, lets hope a catastrophe like this does not happen in the near future.

Northern Europe Plagued with Ash

In Iceland, a huge volcanic eruption from the, wait for it, Eyjafjallajokull volcano has produced clouds of ash thousands of feet into the sky. It is the second time this month that this volcano has erupted, but it has been over 200 years since this month that it has been silent.

Northern Europe became the brunt of this massive destruction where the ash in the air has caused flight cancelations in the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Holland, France and Spain. All these airports will remain closed until midday Friday. It is reported that it is the first time in aviation history that all aircraft have been canceled across North Europe. People have been claiming the impact on travelers as "worse than 9/11" which I personally believe is a little drastic to say considering 9/11 was a manmade destruction and this was not.

Apparently the sky appears like a dusty haze and it smells of sulphur and rotten eggs.
The reason why the planes can't fly with these ash particles is not entirely because of visibiltiy, but rather if the ash gets into the engine, it blocks up all of the ventilation holes that bleed in cooling air. The engines just end up shutting down.

Wow, that is really crazy, considering people consider the effects worse than 9/11. There is a picture of the link of the cloud of ash from Iceland in the link, check it out!


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dk-matai/volcanic-fury-suspends-ai_b_539811.html

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Toyota Suspends Sales of Lexus GX 460

Toyota is suspending the sales of the 2010 Lexus GX 460 worldwide. Consumer Reports labeled the Lexus GX 460 as unsafe ("Don't Buy: Safety Risk"), which prompted Toyota to ask Lexus dealers to suspend sales of the SUV. One of the problems Toyota is determined to fix is the increased risk of rollover during a turn.

Mark Templin, Lexus Group vice president and general manager, stated that, "We are taking the situation with the GX 460 very seriously and are determined to identify and correct the issue Consumer Reports identified."

Since the sale of the 2010 Lexus GX 460, which was 3 months ago, there have been 5,000 sold. Consumer Reports warn owners to drive with caution on exit ramps and call Toyota demanding repairs. In addition, they suggest car buyers to not purchase the Lexus GX 460 until the problems are corrected.

This is unfortunate Toyota is facing another car problem. Toyota held a reputation for safety, but it seems that there is no trust for their cars anymore. Toyota met or exceeded all federal government testing requirements for consecutive years, but they have gone downward ever since the recall. However, I don't blame public opinion. New Toyota cars have caused car accidents and killed some people with their sticking gas pedals and acceleration issues. Hopefully Toyota will find a resolution for this ongoing problem soon. Maybe the source of the problem is inventing new technology too quickly without sufficient routine tests.

Library of Congress to permanently archive Twitter posts

The Library of Congress announced Wednesday on its Twitter account that it will acquire the full history of Twitter messages dating back to March 2006. People are wondering what the Library and its users might do with the information. The creation of a Twitter archive will become useful for academic purposes. People will be able to do research about how news is broken, how quickly information spreads durig major world events, and how public sentiment on various topics change over time. As the Library of Congress' blogger says, "I'm no Ph.D., but it boggles my mind to think what we might be able to learn about ourselves and the world around us from this wealth of data. And I'm certain we'll learn things that none of us now can even possibly conceive."

...Great. Does this mean I have to watch what I tweet from now on? I think it's cool that the Library of Congress is interested in gathering all the Twitter "messages" which I can only assume that they are talking about tweets. Who knew Twitter would become so popular. Twitter is actually a useful website ...if you know how to use it correctly, that is. News is leaked faster on Twitter than any other website. I find out more information on Twitter than I could from reading a newspaper. Twitter accounts such as @BreakingNews make it easier to know what is going on with the world in short and simple tweets. Because you can access Twitter from your phone as well, it makes reading the news a whole lot easier. If you don't know what Twitter is, think Facebook but only status updates (with 140 characters or less).

Mississippi school district ordered to end racial segregation

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered a Mississippi school district to halt local policies that had allowed some of the district's schools and classes to become racially segregated. US District Judge Tom Lee gave the Walthall Country School District thirty days to amend its student transfer policy and ordered an immediate halt to the "clustering" of white students into certain classes in Tylertown, Mississippi elementary schools. Judge Lee has said that "the district shall cease using race in the assignment of students to classrooms in a manner that results in the racial segregation of students... the district shall randomly assin students to classrooms... through the use of a student management software program." Prior to Tuesday, the district had allowed more than 300 students, most of them white, to transfer from their assigned schools to schools that have a majority of white students. The second alleged violation involved grouping white students into a few designated classes at three other schools in Tylertown. The action created a significant number of all-black classrooms at each elementary grade level. Judge Lee ordered the district to take all necessary steps prior to the beginning of the 2010-2011 academic year to “accommodate the shifting enrollment patterns in the district expected to result” from the judicial ruling.

Someone tell Mississippi that it's 2010 and not 1954. I find it incredibly appalling that a school district would allow students to transfer to a school just because there is a significant amount of white students there. I'm surprised that they've been allowed to keep doing this for so long. I'm also surprised that there haven't been any parental complaints about the current situation. Clearly people don't realize that segregation is wrong. Why does it matter if people are black or white? I thought the country put that behind already.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Russian child returned by adopted parents

Apparently a family that adopted a young Russian child put the little 8 year old on a flight by himself and then hired a driver to drive him to the Russian Ministry of Education to return the child. As if this isn't nutty enough they gave him a note saying that he is mentally disturbed and a danger to everyone around him despite people around him saying he is completely normal.

The article went on to talk about foreign adoptions and whether they truly are a good idea and then gave some numbers about the huge amount of Russian orphans a large amount because their parents were deemed unfit by the Russian government. I'm all in favor of foreign adoption and have no problem with that but I'm just really confused about how deranged these former parents are. Seems like there should be some kind of investigation or something. Not government related but I thought this deserved some attention.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/04/13/russia.adopted.boy.returned.reaction/index.html?npt=NP1

Western Chinese province struck by 6.9 earthquake

The USGS reported on their website that a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck an area in southern Qinghai, near Tibet, on Wednesday morning and was followed by two quakes in the same region. There were no immediate reports of casualties in the remote rural area, but witnesses have described houses quickly crumbled. Ten minutes following the first earthquake, the area was hit by a magnitude 5.3 quake, and a 5.2 two minutes later. The death toll is now at 67 (updated at 8:23pm PST via @BreakingNews)

Another earthquake... pretty scary. It's a good thing that the death toll is not as high, mainly because not many people live in that region. Hopefully the death toll doesn't keep rising and damage is minimal. Seems like 2010 is truly the year of earthquakes.

Edit 04/14/10: Death toll has risen to 589 and over 10,000 are injured.

Facebook's New Safety Center


Today, Facebook has added a new "Safety Center." Some new features on this launch allow users to find more information about how to report cyber-bullying and pictures of yourself you do not like. There are also new safety resources "for parents, educators, teens and members of the law enforcement community." In addition, Facebook has added more explanations about frequently asked questions, changing privacy settings, how to block users, report users anonymously, and remove unwanted content on your profile page.

According to Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan of Facebook, he reports that, "We've quadrupled the safety content available, and we've created cleaner, more navigable interfaces to help you find answers to safety questions fast."

Facebook hopes 400 million users will network safely as it is their top priority.

I am glad Facebook is adding more safety features. Recently, Phoebe Prince, who brought national attention, was cyber-bullied on Facebook continuously, which eventually was one of the causes of her death. Hopefully users will be able to navigate Facebook more safely with new safety content available. However, Facebook's recent update for safety had some errors, such as exposing users' profiles which were once private. But, I think Facebook got it right this time.

Gay Themes In Alameda Books Stir Parental Concern

An East Bay School district is trying to decide whether or not to approve of books that are meant to stop bullying, but parents are becoming concerned by some of the material that is presented in the books. The books are set to be approved Tuesday for use in the Alameda Unified School Disctrict's elementary schools. The books add lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to the "don't bully" list. One example that concerns parents is that the book promotes a family with two mothers. Some parents said that they would rather see a book promote all types of families, which include single parents and a family with a mother and a father." The LGBT community is part of our community, and all groups need to be respected," School Board President Ron Mooney said. He also says, "I don't think that anyone would complain that we teach about Martin Luther King making demands about civil rights." On the other hand, Karen Cook (a parent) says, "It's telling people to ome out, and 'you need to be proud and you identify with this lifestyle,' that's not something the schools should be telling children." This program has been in the works for more than a year now. The original list of book was decreased from 100 to 20 per classroom.

I think it's sad that it seems like people are still living in the dark. Parents should realize that if children learn that it's wrong to bully people based on their sexual preferences, they'll be less likely to bully people when they're older. I think it's a great program that the school district is trying to introduce. Honestly, there should be more programs like this. It's parents like Karen Cook that are still holding the country back. I can somewhat understand where she's coming from, but I don't agree with her.

Al Qaeda trying to find nuclear materials

Al Qaeda over the past 15 years have been actively attempting to create or buy a nuclear device in any way they can. A US official said they are monitoring extremely carefully and says they are making little to no progress because of the enormous difficulty of making a nuclear device. Al Qaeda has been trying to buy nuclear materials perhaps to fashion into a "dirty" bomb which is a combination of traditional explosives and nuclear materials. The danger involved if Al Qaeda were ever to possess a nuke would be absolutely catastrophic and US forces are carefully monitoring to try and know if they make any progress.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/04/13/nuclear.terrorists/index.html?hpt=T2

The article I read seemed relatively calm about this and that definitely threw me off as this seems like huge news and incredibly troublesome. I can only imagine it's because of their lack of success that this isn't a much higher priority but this still comes as quite a shock even though I should have suspected Al Qaeda of this sort of terrorist action. Apparently there has even been 18 robberies or losses of the 2 key ingredients of nuclear bombs which is just absolutely preposterous that you can "lose" or have someone steal something so incredibly dangerous. I'm definitely hoping that the US can figure out some way to shut down this attempt at making nuclear bombs as the cost of not acting could be far greater than anyone could imagine.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Roethlisberger will not be charged with sexual assault

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not face charges after he was accused of sexual assault. During that evening on March 5, 2010, the women, who accused Roethlisberger of sexual assault, left her friends for the bathroom while they were still mingling with Roethlisberger's friends. Roethlisberger, she reports, followed her into the same bathroom where she was sexually assaulted. She reported the incident to the police soon after, but she did not want to press charges.

However, even though there is a claim that she was sexually assaulted, there is not enough evidence to prosecute successfully. The doctor who examined the victim "could not tell whether bruising on her genitals was from sexual assault." In addition, a rape-evidence kit "found a small amount of male DNA but not enough to create a profile." Other reports argue no one else was there to witness the crime.

Even though Roethlisberger will not be charged due to a lack of evidence, he will face league or team discipline, which is a small price to pay for the crime that he might have committed.

In my opinion, I dislike the fact that some professional athletes who commit crimes do not face the same severity of punishments as an average citizen. With a past history of an act related to sexual assault, there should have been a deeper investigation for this crime.

I wonder how this will affect his NFL career and social life, especially his role as a team leader.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Arsenic: The Solution to Blood Cancer

In China, scientists have discovered that arsenic ,which was previously used as a murder weapon during the Middle Ages, can get rid of blood cancer. Arsenic destroys the specific proteins that prolongs the cancer's life. Contrary to chemotherapy, arsenic's side effects are not as dangerous and risky. When treated with chemotherapy, patients often come back with negative results such as hair loss or suppression of bone marrow function. Arsenic is known as a toxic poison because its symptoms are undetected. However, China has discovered medicinal uses for arsenic different from Chinese traditional medicine. During 1992, Chinese doctors explained the application of arsenic in the treatment for acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). APL is a blood and bone marrow cancer and has over 90 percent cure rates in China. Zhang Xiaowei, the lead researcher at the State Key Laboratory of Medical Genomics in Shanghai, demonstrated how Chinese doctors use modern equipment and arsenic to destroy specific proteins that would expand the cancer's life.


I am personally surprised that arsenic, a murder weapon in the middle ages, can be used to save cancer patients. I hope that in the future scientists will find more odd uses of poisons to improve human health.

Bangkok protest violence worsens

In Bangkok, Thailand there are huge anti-government rallies going on at the moment and over the weekend 20 people have been killed on both sides. Apparently 16 civilians and 4 soldiers have been killed along with 825 wounded. The United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship or "Red Shirts" are demanding that the lower house of the parliamentary body be dissolved and new elections called. Thailand earlier ordered a state of emergency to allow the military to break up large gatherings and search people without court orders. The fighting broke out when protestors attempted to break into military barracks and were fired upon by rubber bullets and tear gas. The protestors are largely supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was taken out of power by a bloodless coup in 2006.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/04/11/thailand.protests/index.html?hpt=T2

I actually hadn't heard anything about this before I read this article but looking at the pictures and reading the reports this looks to be a huge issue going on in Thailand. Whenever there is a coup there are obviously those who supported the person taken out of power and in this case large protests have broken out over Bangkok. With the protestors firing real bullets at the security forces who are returning fire with tear gas and rubber bullets this will quickly escalate into the kind of civil war that could tear the country apart. With 20 dead just over the weekend we have to hope that the temporary truce that was established can hold until leaders from both sides are able to sit down and negotiate. I'd like to see some international involvement from the United Nations if it could help to facilitate discussions and prevent further bloodshed. I think all there is to do now is wait for the coming week and see how negotiations pan out and whether some kind of lasting truce can be reached or if further protests will occur.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Polish President's Plane Crashes

Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife were killed today (April 10th) when their plane crashed over Russia. 87 people were aboard and there were no survivors as the plane crashed when attempting to land. The Polish President was in Russia to attend the anniversary of when Polish officers were killed at the beginning of World War 2 by the Soviet Union.

Obviously this is a horrible tragedy and the people of Poland must truly be taking this hard. Losing the President of your country must be incredibly difficult for the health of the country as a whole and the political issues that crop up. At this point there is nothing to do but hope that everything remains stable and calm in Poland and that the victims of the plane crash did not suffer in any way.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/world/europe/11poland.html

Bullying Leads to Student's Death

On September 1, Phoebe Prince, who moved from Ireland to Massachusetts, walked into South Hadley High School. In the beginning of the year, Prince was pretty popular among her classmates. Prince had a boyfriend, Renaud, but they broke up in December. After they broke up, Renaud went back to his ex-girlfriend, Mullins. During this time, Mullins and her friends would bully Prince in different ways. In one situation, one of Mullins' friends, Velasquez, threatened Prince by saying that she'd "punch her in the face". In addition, they would call her names such as "whore" and "Irish slut". Even though Mullins and her friends bullied Prince, Prince didn't fight back. A witness stated, "She definitely didn't want to fight with the girls in the school. ....She wanted people to stop picking on her, to stop being bullied. She wanted people to leave her alone..." After a great amount of torture, Prince committed suicide.

Now, six of Prince's classmates are charged with felonies including violation of rights and stalking. Some of the classmates stated that they are innocent and have pleaded not guilty. Velasquez's lawyer said, "My client has been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion. I will remind you that we are dealing with a young adult, a child really, who is being swept up in circumstances that are beyond normal experiences."

This article reminded me that many students in the world are bullied daily for various reasons. Some bully individuals for their sexual orientation or for revenge. As I was researching information about this issue, I came across bullying statistics. These shocking statistics demonstrated that 1 in 4 kids is bullied and 1 in 5 kids admit to being a bully. In schools, teachers or students need to report bullying in order to prevent future student deaths.

Friday, April 9, 2010

University of Wisconsin cuts ties with Nike Inc. over Labor concerns in Honduras

Today, Univeristy of Wisconsin became the first university to cancel its licensing agreement with Nike Inc. over concerns about the company's treatment of workers in Honduras. Chancellor Biddy Martin says, "Nike has not developed, and does not intend to develop, meaningful ways of addressing the plight of displaced workers and their families in Honduras,...It has not presented clear long-range plans to prevent or respond to similar problems in the future. For this combination of reasons, we have decided to end our relationship for now." Nike released their statement Friday night saying that the factories were run by subcontractors who have the duty of compensating their employees. University of Wisconsin believed that the company was responsible for the subcontractor's actions but Nike refuted that no Wisconsin branded products were made in Honduras.

Wisconsin Sophomore, Jonah Zinn, 19,says. ""It's a major, major victory nationally..."We're hoping that our victory here really propels them forward and pushes those universities to make the right decision."

I find this really interesting and hopeful that more and more colleges will start to become more aware of how Nike treats their workers in offshore countries. I'm glad Wisconsin took this very seriously and took the step to end their terms with Nike. It makes me really happy that they care about how workers are treated in sweatshops and their willingness to stop buying from Nike.

US-Russia START Treaty

President Obama and Russian president Medvedev yesterday (the 8th) signed the START Treaty dealing with reducing the number of nuclear weapons held by Russia and the United States by 1/3rd. Since Obama has signed this treaty it will now go to the senate floor where it must be approved by a 2/3 majority or 67 senators. The article I read dealt specifically with the Republican response and Senator McConnell had this to say.

"The Senate will assess whether or not the agreement is verifiable, whether it reduces our Nation's ability to defend itself and our allies from the threat of nuclear armed missiles, and whether or not this administration is committed to preserving our own nuclear triad," McConnell said in a statement.

Senator Reid responded, "Strategic arms control treaties similar to this one have historically passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support, and I am confident that this agreement will receive the 67 votes from both sides of the aisle needed for passage," Reid said in a press release. "There is no need to play politics with something as important as this is to our national security."


I largely agree with Senator Reid on this in that there really is a need to reduce, not eliminate, nuclear stockpiles. As it stands now nuclear weapons are too powerful a force to have as many at our disposal as we currently do. To be honest I'd like to see them all gotten rid of except perhaps a few only at the disposal of a joint union of countries who could control them only in the case of some major catastrophe where we could conceivably need them but not for warfare.

While this happy dream world doesn't exist taking steps to reduce nuclear arms can only be considered a good thing and a positive step for all countries with nuclear weapons. As for the partisan issue I really doubt Republicans would make any fuss over this because everyone can see the good in reduction and only reducing by 1/3rd will not leave us with too few to defend ourselves.

Climate Change

It seems like Gore's polar bears, whether or not their plight is real, are being heard. When Hillary Clinton got to speak at a meeting to decide what to do about conditions in the Arctic, her main point was not whether to take action but, rather, who was to take action. Hillary Clinton felt that Canada, the host of the conference, should have invited all those "who have legitimate interests in the region", referring to Sweden, Finland and Iceland, who were left out of the deliberations.

"We need all hands on deck because there is a huge amount to do, and not much time to do it. What happens in the Arctic will have broad consequences for the Earth and its climate."




Thursday, April 8, 2010

Boston man gets Punished for Crossing into North Korea

Aijalon Mahli Gomes, 30, was sentenced, by North Korea, to eight years of hard labor and commanded him to pay $700,000 as a fine for illegally crossing into North Korea. Gomes, who had been teaching English in South Korea, was the fourth American to be arrested by North Korea for illegal crossing in less than a year. Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were held in North Korea for five months before being released last August, and activist Robert Park was expelled after crossing sometime around Christmas. At Pyongyang's Central Court, Gomes admited his wrongdoing for illegally crossing. Nonetheless, he was sentenced to eight years of hard labor and was fined 70 million North Korean won. North Korea's official exchange rate is 100 won to the U.S. dollar. It was foggy as to why Gomes risked going into communist North Korea illegally. Gomes, being a devoted Christian, attended rallies in Seoul in support of Park. Park purposely went into North Korea in December to call attention to the nation's rights record. A Seoul-based activist close to Gomes, said Gomes may have been inspired by Park to make a similar trip.

Although it was expected for those people to be punished for illegally crossing, I really admire how strong their beliefs were and how brave they were to do such a thing. A couple from my church are now spending their second year in China teaching English. I really admire them being able to step out of their comfort zone to a complete foreign country where there are ridiculous restrictions. When my church wants to send letters to them, we are not allowed to have anything like bible verses, "God Bless you...", or any phrases of that sort because the Chinese government enforces mail to be looked through.

It is ridiculous how harsh North Korean restrictions are and how ruthless their punishments are for such a petty crime.

-Emily Niemann

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Doctor Shopping" an Increasing Problem

As some may know, celebrity Corey Haim, recently died from abusing drugs. Haim had prescriptions for various harmful drugs during the final year of his life. These prescriptions were the outcomes of "doctor shopping". Doctor shopping is when an individual asks different doctors to obtain prescription drugs. This issue is worsening and has affected numerous celebrities such as Health Ledger and Anna Nicole Smith. The medical director of Addiction Psychiatry at Aurora Behavioral Health Services in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dr. Lance Longo, stated, "We're trained to relieve pain and suffering. Unfortnately, with the widespread misuse of controlled substances and diversion risks, we're often taken advantage of." There are different ways that individuals get their prescription drugs. One of them is by going to new facilities so the medical professionals don't know them. Another way is to call the facilities and say an excuse to get prescription refills.

Doctor shopping is a significant issue because many individuals abuse the prescription drugs which can lead to death. A recent study estimated from 1999 to 2006 that the hospitalizations for poisoning from sedatives and tranquilzers expanded 65 percent.

States have tried to prevent future drug abusers by having prescription monitoring programs. Each of these programs have different requirements and some are more effective than others. After the individual buys the prescription drug, the record is then transmitted to the state agency that watches over the monitoring programs. In addition, doctors are able to request reports online to see the kinds of medications that the patient has purchased. Another way that states have tried to prevent future drug abusers is by performing addiction screening in clinics. If an individual is at a high risk for addiction, the clinic tries to find them and will have a pain psychologist examine them. The clinics can also test the patient's urine to see if it matches the patient's medication history.

Even though the states have created this programs, many individuals are still able to obtain the drugs in other ways. The individual can give a different name and identification number or purchase the drugs in an another state. Since the majority of state laws don't demand the doctors to look at the patient's drug history, it is fairly easy for individuals to get the drugs in a different state. In addition, many health professionals do not prefer to use the monitoring system because they think it is unnecessary and too time consuming.

I'm glad that the states are taking action to prevent future drug abusers. There have been many individuals who have died from abusing prescription drugs. Although the states have monitoring programs, it's still not that efficient because many individuals have found other ways to get the drugs. Therefore, the states need to find more efficient ways to solve this issue.

Toyota Warns Europe Before U.S.

As many of you know, the Japanese automaker Toyota has been held responsible for thousands of car accidents due to the sticking gas pedals and acceleration issues in their cars. Sticking gas pedal complaints in the U.S. increased by the end of 2009, while the European division had similar complaints weeks earlier. Ray La Hood, Transportation Secretary, said Toyota made a "huge mistake" by not disclosing the safety problems sooner. Toyota is now faced with a fine of $16.4 million for failing to alert the U.S. government to the safety issues earlier. "The Japanese automaker was still weighing its options Tuesday about whether to accept or contest the fine. It has also been named in 138 potential class-action lawsuits over falling vehicle values and nearly 100 personal injury and wrongful death cases in federal courts."More than 8 million cars have been recalled worldwide, more than half of them being from the U.S.

"Toyota, in a statement Tuesday, said it "has and will continue to practice its philosophy of satisfying consumers with high quality vehicles that are safe and reliable, and responding to consumer feedback with honesty and integrity.."

Too bad, the Toyota customers that have been killed due to these problems will not be in any way affected by what they promise. Although Toyota has been very successful with their sales, because of this outsourcing issue they encountered, their production has come to a halt and millions of dollars are at stake because of the bad quality and design of the cars that have been distributed all over the world.

I think outsourcing is a very productive technique, however, when the design of cars (something that has to be designed very carefully because if they are not..they malfunction and cause BAD accidents to happen...) has been poorly taken into consideration and the drawbacks of owing money is more significant than the money made in the first place when they sold the automobile.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April Fools Gone Wrong

A mayor in Jordan read a news article on April 1st regarding aliens landing in Jafr, eastern Jordan. Thinking it was a legitimate article, he dispatched local security to scour the area for the so called aliens. After not finding a sign of these aliens, he considered evacuating the city as a precaution before he was told it was a prank. Now he's up for suing the newspaper company. Apparently, someone's idea of a joke just didn't make it with the mayor.