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Month: April 2007

Free-range livestock on organic farm responsible for deadly spinach outbreak

by David Veksler David Veksler 1 Comment

Authorities for the first time said they had isolated the deadly E. coli strain on Paicines Ranch in San Benito County near a field the ranch leased to Mission Organics, a spinach grower.

They found E. coli “indistinguishable from the outbreak strain” in river water, cattle feces, and wild pig feces on the ranch within a mile a from the spinach fields…

Organic food is not necessarily more dangerous than plain food, but this is nevertheless a timely reminder of the productivity and safety benefits of technology.

How U.S. farm policy makes us fatter and sicker

by David Veksler David Veksler 1 Comment

“For most of history, after all, the poor have typically suffered from a shortage of calories, not a surfeit. So how is it that today the people with the least amount of money to spend on food are the ones most likely to be overweight?”

A good article, except:

“The devil is in the details, no doubt. Simply eliminating support for farmers won’t solve these problems; overproduction has afflicted agriculture since long before modern subsidies.”

I wonder why we don’t have a plague of “overproduction” of iPods, staplers, or cars? Perhaps it’s because their prices are set by the market, not bureaucrats.

read more | digg story

Sheryl Crow says "No TP for you!"

by David Veksler David Veksler 3 Comments

Famed singer Sheryl Crow has come up with the cure to “global warming”:

I have spent the better part of this tour trying to come up with easy ways for us all to become a part of the solution to global warming. Although my ideas are in the earliest stages of development, they are, in my mind, worth investigating. One of my favorites is in the area of forest conservation which we heavily rely on for oxygen. I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting. Now, I don’t want to rob any law-abiding American of his or her God-given rights, but I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where 2 to 3 could be required. [Emp mine]

Putin tightens up dictatorship

by David Veksler David Veksler No Comments

At their first meeting with journalists since taking over Russia’s largest independent radio news network, the managers had startling news of their own: from now on, they said, at least 50 percent of the reports about Russia must be “positive.”In addition, opposition leaders could not be mentioned on the air and the United States was to be portrayed as an enemy, journalists employed by the network, Russian News Service, say they were told by the new managers, who are allies of the Kremlin.

Is the Evil Empire back?

Chavez to Military: "Fatherland, Socialism, or Death!"

by David Veksler David Veksler No Comments

On the fifth anniversary of a coup that briefly toppled him, President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that soldiers who disagree with his government’s socialist leanings should leave the military. “Today every commander at every level is obliged to repeat, from the soul and raising the flag high, this slogan: ‘Fatherland, Socialism, or Death!'”

read more | digg story

NYT: in politically correct computer science programs, equality trumps ability

by David Veksler David Veksler 1 Comment

Now that women are starting to outnumber men on most college campuses, feminists are in the hunt for fresh opportunities to further their agenda.

The New York Times reports on their efforts in a field traditionally dominated by men: computer science. Apparently, programming is just not cool enough for girls:

“The nerd factor is huge,” Dr. Cuny said. According to a 2005 report by the National Center for Women and Information Technology, an academic-industry collaborative formed to address the issue, when high school girls think of computer scientists they think of geeks, pocket protectors, isolated cubicles and a lifetime of staring into a screen writing computer code.

This image discourages members of both sexes, but the problem seems to be more prevalent among women. “They think of it as programming,” Dr. Cuny said. “They don’t think of it as revolutionizing the way we are going to do medicine or create synthetic molecules or study our impact on the climate of the earth.”

Certainly, few people would study computer science if there weren’t useful things to be done with computers. But if your goal is to be an doctor, materials engineer, or climate scientist (why does the media feel the need to push global warming in every science article?), why would you spend four years studying the theoretical foundations of information technology? Virtually all scientific and engineering disciplines require working with computers, but only one specializes in transforming real-world problems into code.

If computer science is not about your programming skill, then what is it about?

Moving emphasis away from programming proficiency was a key to the success of programs Dr. Blum and her colleagues at Carnegie Mellon instituted to draw more women into computer science. At one time, she said, admission to the program depended on high overall achievement and programming experience. The criteria now, she said, are high overall achievement and broad interests, diverse perspectives and whether applicants seem to have potential to be future leaders. [Emp. mine]

“Broad interests,” “diverse perspectives” and “leadership skills” are politically-correct code words for affirmative action. Once skills are thrown out, what exactly is left? Imagine if airlines and hospitals announced that they were changing hiring criteria from flying ability and medical skill to “diverse perspectives?” Whom would you prefer to have written the software running your airport’s radar – someone with programming experience or “broad interests?”

The NYT implies that computer science is about more than “a lifetime of staring into a screen writing computer code.” That’s certainly true, but ultimately, programming is about sitting on front of a computer screen for years on end and solving highly abstract problems. Whether due to social or genetic factors, more men happen to be suited to that environment than women. (As an application developer in a corporate environment, I can attest to this.) Denying that reality carries a cost: aspiring students who become victims of political correctness because they are found guilty of having the wrong chromosome.

Time to reconsider "gun-free" zones?

by David Veksler David Veksler 3 Comments

Once again, Americans are faced with the counter-productive consequences of gun control. At least 33 students were killed today in a rampage on the Virginia Tech campus. The shootings were reportedly committed with two 9mm handguns. The killer chained shut the dormitory doors, and went door-to-door slaughtering students. The usual police procedure in such situations is to wait outside until for a SWAT team to arrive and access the situation before taking action, which usually gives the perpetrator plenty of time to run out of ammo.

Students, teachers, and security guards who want to protect themselves on campus face severe criminal penalties for violating federal and state “gun free” zones.

How many victims have to die before people realize that “gun free zones” are not such a good idea?

Do politicians know more about space exploration than rocket scientists?

by David Veksler David Veksler 1 Comment

Are politicians more knowledgeable than rocket scientists when it comes to planning the next U.S. moon shot?

House and Senate appropriators have pushed back against NASA’s proposed termination of a planned 2011 robotic lunar lander mission, directing the agency to spend $20 million this year to continue work on a follow-on to the 2008 Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

…we do not agree with your decision to terminate the LPRP program at this time pending a further examination of program requirements, design, cost and viability,” the letter reads. “Therefore we direct that $20 million be provided to continue planning for a potential LPRP mission during the remainder of [2007].”

“I do not need a robotic lander to reduce risks for the human landings,” [NASA Administrator Mike] Griffin said. “Everybody who has carefully looked at that has said you don’t need it.”

Politicians may have a number of reasons for preserving missions that teams of NASA specialists deem unnecessary: the media from moon rovers is a cheap thrill, it preserves funds promised to constituents ($105.8m in ’07), and it competes with similar missions from half a dozen other nations, which will “end up with lots of pictures of the same place.

Good publicity, certainly, but not an efficient way to run a space program.  But what else can you expect when you mix science and government?

Mexican magnate becomes world's second richest man

by David Veksler David Veksler No Comments

… and unlike the world’s richest man, his insight may extend beyond business:

 Slim, 67, has added a staggering 23 billion dollars to his personal fortune over the last 14 months, thanks largely to a strong Mexican economy and a stock market that jumped nearly 50 percent last year.

He accrued four billion dollars of that just since Forbes unveiled its annual rich list in early March, giving Slim the equivalent of roughly seven percent of Mexico’s annual economic output, according to Forbes.

The tycoon has brushed off criticism that his Telmex company is effectively a monopoly, saying earlier this year: “When you live for others’ opinions, you are dead. I don’t want to live thinking about how I’ll be remembered.

He has derided Gates and Buffett for giving away so much of their wealth, reportedly saying: “Poverty isn’t solved with donations,” according to Forbes.

Building businesses, he reportedly said, did more for society than “going around like Santa Claus.