Thursday, June 30, 2011

Modern media questions

David Duchovny and Tea Leoni separate |

SEX-addicted actor David Duchovny has separated from his wife, fellow actor Tea Leoni, for at least the second time.

In 2008 the couple split briefly after Duchovny reportedly discovered explicit text messages on his wife's mobile phone sent by actor Billy Bob Thornton.

The pair spent several months apart while The X-Files and Californication star, now 50, entered rehab for sex addiction.

Don't the examples of Duchovny and Sheen indicate that, if you're a person with an addiction issue in your personal life, it's not exactly helpful to play a person who has the same habits on TV? Mind you, Sheen is mad enough to say he doesn't have a problem.


Experts warn epic weather ravaging US could worsen

Towards the end of this report about the extremes of recent US weather, we get this comment:

However, the intensity of future droughts, heat waves, storms and floods is expected to rise drastically if greenhouse gas emissions don't stabilize soon, said Michael Mann, a scientist at Penn State University.

"Even a couple degree warming can make a 100-year event a three-year event," Mann, the head of the university's earth systems science center, told AFP.

"It has to do with the tail of the bell curve. When you move the bell curve, that area changes dramatically."

Is that right? Because if it is, it's a handy retort to climate skeptics who, failing all else, will come up with "but is a 2 degree increase really going to be all that bad?"

And it also suggests that, if indeed formerly 1 in a 100 events do start piling on top of each other at much more rapid intervals over the next decade, this may well be the proof that the public seems to need that serious reduction of CO2 is needed.

More work needed?

Acer's Iconia tablet rivals iPad in price, but not much else

I've been noticing the Android tablets that have been turning up at JB Hi Fi, including this one by Acer. I was wondering if they a good alternative to an iPad, being slightly cheaper and all. (One obvious and fairly big difference is an ability to run Flash.)

But according to the review above, the Acer model has its problems.

I did see a Toshiba one yesterday too, but I had a really bad Toshiba notebook once, so I'm cautious about the brand.

Anyway, we'll see.

Mouse trouble

BBC News - Mickey Mouse tweet by Egypt's Sawiris angers conservatives

One of Egypt's richest men has been accused of mocking Islam after tweeting cartoons of Mickey and Minnie Mouse wearing conservative Muslim attire.

Telecoms mogul and Coptic Christian Naguib Sawiris apologised for re-posting the images on Twitter a few days ago, saying he meant no offence.

But several Islamic lawyers have filed a formal complaint and there are calls for a boycott of his businesses.

Sensitive bunch.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Whatd'ya know...

More on marathoning and heart disease : Science-Based Running

Interesting report on a recent study with some pretty convincing sounding evidence that too much marathon exercise is bad for the heart.

I am not at all surprised. I would have thought it hard to argue that from an evolutionary point of view, human bodies are made for such protracted and repeated bouts of exertion.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Man trouble

The idea is not new, I guess:
...a team of psychologists based in China and Hong Kong believe the ultimate cause of human war rests with the male libido. Historically, they argue that the lure of an attractive female primed the male brain for conflict with other males, an effect that persists in modern man even though its usefulness is largely outdated.
But the way this was tested does strike me as kind of funny:
Across four experiments Lei Chang and his team showed that pictures of attractive women or women's legs had a raft of war-relevant effects on heterosexual male participants, including: biasing their judgments to be more bellicose towards hostile countries; speeding their ability to locate an armed soldier on a computer screen; and speeding their ability to recognise and locate war-related words on a computer screen. Equivalent effects after looking at pictures of attractive men were not found for female participants.

The effects on the male participants of looking at attractive women were specific to war. For example, their ability to locate pictures of farmers, as opposed to soldiers, was not enhanced. Moreover, the war-priming effects of attractive women were greater than with other potentially provocative stimuli, such as the national flag. Finally, the men's faster performance after looking at women's legs versus flags was specific to war-related words, as opposed to merely aggressive words.

Given the huge disproportionate number of men in China, this is not encouraging research for them (or us, I guess), that's assuming you give any credence to this sort of research at all.

UPDATE: here's the link I forgot to insert.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Antarctic thoughts

I mentioned some weeks ago that I was reading Heather Rossiter’s biography of Herbert Dyce Murphy, who, after he stopped being a cross-dressing European spy for England, went on to join Mawson’s Australian Antarctic Expedition of 1911.

I’ve nearly finished the book, and have found it quite enjoyable, even though it clearly has its flaws as biography. (There’s too much of what I am sure must be imagined re-creation of conversations and thoughts that are not clearly acknowledged as such.) But, as I have never read any detailed account of the Mawson led expedition, I found this aspect of it - which is the largest part of the book - pretty fascinating.

Rossiter at one point makes the sardonic observation (after noting a disastrous early 19th century trip to Antarctica by Biscoe):

Thus the stage was set for glory in Antarctica. Glory could be obtained by death. The supreme glory would be attained by a leader’s death described in intimate detail.

Mawson came close to achieving that, but not quite. In fact, one of the most interesting things in the book is that it paints a pretty uncomplimentary picture of Mawson as an aloof, overly serious, and difficult to like leader, especially for an expedition in which he was to be confined for many months on end with his suffering crew in one small-ish hut.

There seem to be many biographies around about Mawson, but Googling terms like “Douglas Mawson’s personality” hasn’t really led me to anything to confirm whether or not he was unpopular with his expeditionary crew.

Rossiter does appear to have read many diaries and a lot of source material about the expedition; but again it’s hard to tell whether she is really just taking Murphy’s view on things, or if there was a more widespread disdain for Mawson’s leadership skills.

And Mawson certainly does have his fans. There’s an active “Friends of Mawson” in Adelaide. There is also going to be a museum sponsored Mawson Centenary 2012 Expedition (leaving Hobart on January 3) for which you can buy tickets. (That would be pretty interesting, actually.)

Murphy (obviously) did not accompany Mawson on the 3 man trip across the ice from which only Mawson returned. Mawson’s account is the only one we have of how the other two died. (You can download his book about the expedition – The Home of the Blizzard – for free from Project Gutenberg.) At the risk of upsetting Mawson fans and relatives, it did cross my mind that one would hope it did really happen as a series of tragic accidents, rather than an outbreak of shoving between men standing too close to the edge of a crevasse.

Murphy himself headed off with 2 men to see if they (with another team they met up with) could reach the South Magnetic Pole. The account in the book of how difficult and appalling the conditions were, even in Antarctic summer, makes for fascinating reading. They weren’t using dogs, but dragged sleds in that strange, stiff-upper-lip way the British seemed to think was the manly way to do Antarctica; although the expedition did have huskies which Mawson’s team took (and ended up eating.)

As for Murphy’s shorter and unsuccessful trip: snowblindness was a constant risk that was not (for reasons I don’t quite understand) solved by wearing tinted goggles; the wind was fierce most days; the ice surface was wavy and often tipped over the sleds they were pulling (maybe dogs would not have helped anyway?); and the scenery on a ice plateau can apparently be very dull. It’s a wonder it didn’t send the expeditioners mad, really.

One minor point of slight amusement to the modern reader: to save weight and share body warm, the 3 man teams took with them a single, 3 man sized reindeer fur sleeping bag. I wonder if Murphy would tell stories of his cross dressing spy days before they would fall asleep?

It’s also a bit wryly amusing to realise how, well, environmentally insensitive these early expeditions were to the modern eye. Seals, penguins and penguin eggs were all apparently key sources of food for the expedition, at least when they were holed up in the hut near the colonies. No one liked killing penguins, apparently, yet the number of meals which seemed to feature them was quite high. I wonder if their flesh tastes a bit fishy?* Penguin eggs rated quite highly, apparently. (Reading this also made me realise I don’t know anything about the rate of egg laying for different bird species. We all know chickens produce constantly; but is that special to them? Presumably, birds which are on the fly for protracted periods don’t need to lay all the time.)

Anyway, there might well be better accounts of the rigours of this expedition, but I think you could do worse than read this one. Anyone who wants to correct my possibly false impressions of Mawson as a crook leader is welcome to pay for me to listen to the lectures on the Mawson Centenary Expedition in January!

* Update: A description of the taste of penguin can be found here. Doesn't sound all that great:

'It is rather difficult to describe its taste and appearance; we have absolutely no meat with which to compare it. The penguin, as an animal, seems to be made up o fan equal proportion of a mammal, fish, and fowl. If it is possible to imagine a piece of beef, an odriferous codfish, and a canvas-back duck, roasted in a pot, with blood and cod-liver oil for sauce, the illustration will be complete.'

Friday, June 24, 2011

Small is better?

Small Nuclear Reactors Get a Customer - Technology Review

A short article here on another nuclear company in the States proposing to build a nuclear power station using small reactors.

The reactors themselves are not any particularly new design, though, and are not the "nuclear battery"type that Toshiba and Hyperion are developing. It remains unclear how much cheaper and quicker it could be to establish this modular nuke station.

The comments thread after the article is well worth a read too.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

End of financial year

I'm a tad busy, but a short video on the start of a universe is in preparation...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


It only came to my attention tonight, when I was trying (unsuccessfully) to find another Blogger's email address, that I couldn't find my own email address here.

I'm sure it used to be in my profile, but it's been turned off. I have a vague recollection that I may have done that deliberately, but I forget when.

Now I understand why the emails of offers of free holidays to Tromso, Norway, or other assorted gifts in cash or kind, have not been arriving. Ever.

Anyway, I've opened a new handily named Gmail account which I'll use just for here, and have a link to it at top right hand side.

Also, as I've noted before, the search function at the top of a Blogger page is very hit and miss. The search function that appears as a Gadget on the right below my email address is (I think) generally more reliable. I've moved that up so it's easier to find.

The skeptic glass 4/5 full

Readers might recall my annoyance that the project paper co-authored by Anthony Watts received so little attention. It had, after all, contradicted claims of a serious bias in the US mean temperature record when Watts had been spending years saying that it surely must account for some of warming trend.

Last year, Watts had appeared on ABC's Counterpoint making these claims (although he did not go as far as claiming the bias might be as much as .5 degree as he did to Andrew Bolt - a claim I am sure Watts would be more than happy to see disappear into the mists of time.) So I wrote to Counterpoint and noted that they said they would follow up on the project, and now they could. I suggested that some hard questions be put to Watts about how wrong some of his claims, particularly to Bolt, had been.

Counterpoint responded and said they would follow up.

Maybe I am therefore at least partly responsible for the interview they ran yesterday with John Neilsen-Gammon, the Texas State climatologist who is one of the co-authors of the paper. He's in Australia at the moment for a conference in Melbourne.

The interview is available to listen to here; perhaps a transcript will follow soon.

Don't, however, expect either the interviewer or interviewee to express any interest at all in co-relating what Watts used to say about his project, and what it actually found.

As one might expect from the soft-sceptic Counterpoint, they are interested in emphasising the finding relating to diurnal temperature range, the importance of which still seems fairly unclear, even according to Neilsen-Gammon.

The finding about mean temperature trends not being artificially inflated by siting issues gets the briefest of mentions. Surrounding it is a sea of words from Paul Comrie-Thomson emphasising that the paper did find something interesting, that it was a worthy project, that it would be good if more science of this type could be done, etc.

And you know what? The completely un-skeptical Neilsen-Gammon goes along with this.

It is a strange performance by him. As with a couple of comments he made when the paper came out, he appears completely uninterested in the political use which Watts made of premature claims about his project, and is keen to defend Watts in setting up it up. He seems to think it is most unfair that anyone should point out the major way in which Watts' disproved his own central claim.

In this interview, Neilsen-Gammon also speaks in a way which provides much for climate skeptics to cherry pick; such as when he talks about the complexity of working out the effect of all of the forcings other than greenhouse gases.

Sure, he does manage to slip in that he thinks the clearest thing about climate is greenhouse forcing, and the sensitivity range for CO2 is 2 - 4 degrees, but this is almost glossed over. In another part of the interview he talks about how climate research is not only about warming, and he seems to think too much time is devoted to talking about AGW.

He certainly therefore makes for a puzzling figure in the climate science community. He seems to not care about how his message will be interpreted (skeptics will probably interpret it as 4/5 full in their favour, whereas his attitude to climate change seems to actually be the other way round.) He gives the impression of not caring at all about the political issues around climate science. If he did you would think he would try to throw in the occasional comment to the effect "now don't think that I am in any way a climate change skeptic or 'lukewarmener'. I think it crucially important to limit the range of possible temperature increases that we start to seriously reduce CO2."

I'll update this post when the transcript is available.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Coalition and science

I didn't realise this:
While the scientists won't meet Opposition Leader Tony Abbott - who is on record as having questioned the science of climate change - they will meet with opposition science spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella.
Sophie was amongst the first to bail out on Turnbull because she just couldn't vote for Labor's ETS. Now she's attending the No Carbon Tax rallies along with Barnaby Joyce.

I'm trying to find some direct quotes she has made about the science, but they are hard to turn up. They must be there somewhere.

Somehow, I can't envisage the science community being happy working with a future Minister Mirabella.

Why do they do it?

London to New York in 90 minutes: is this the Concorde of the future? - Science, News - The Independent

Why is it that, about every 12 - 24 months, there is always some airline manufacturer, aerospace company, or university research group, that comes out with some vision for a super-super sonic (OK, hypersonic) jet rocket thingee of the future that will get people across the world in the space of a few hours?

No one seems to consider that these are at all very likely with current or near term technology, do they? This latest one, linked above, says that one stage of the process will involve liquid oxygen/hydrogen rockets, just like that remarkably (un) reliable space shuttle did.

As much as I like high technology, I find these announcements vaguely ludicrous.

For the moment, I would be much more impressed if they were devoting much more time to planes that have as high a fuel efficiency as you can achieve, even if they are a bit slower than current ones.

Bougainvillea, and choosing sides

I spent much of yesterday battling bougainvillea.

What an evil plant it is.

Not much blogworthy material came to my attention over the weekend, except I did briefly note two NYT Magazine articles that show some unusual takes on gay identity. The first, about a young man who was so far into the gay lifestyle that he worked for a gay youth magazine and lived in a 3 way relationship, decided suddenly that he was straight. Stories of married men deciding they really are gay or transexual late in life are rife, but people tend to forget that it can happen the other way too. (Maybe not often, but still.) As in this case of this American guy, though, if the conversion has a religious aspect to it, people tend not to believe it's genuine. Still, the article was interesting for some of the observations his gay friends make about him. Here the writer and "Ben" talk about ex-gay Michael:

As Ben and I reminisced, I couldn’t help wondering if Michael’s new philosophy might, in a strange way, be a logical extension of what he believed back then — that “gay” is a limiting category and that sexual identities can change. Ben nodded. “A radical queer activist and a fundamentalist Christian aren’t always as different as they might seem,” he said, adding that they’re ideologues who can railroad over nuance and claim a monopoly on the truth.

Ben went on. “To me, Michael is a victim of this insane society we live in, where we grow up with all these conflicting messages and pressures around sexuality and religion, and where we divide into these camps where we’re always right and the other side is always wrong. Some people are susceptible to buying into that, and I think Michael is one of them.”

Is that what "radical queer activists" believe? I also suspect that magazines for gay youth don't do much other than re-enforce the binary thinking of "gay or not gay" for nearly all readers (although I have not made a study of the source material!) so it's a little odd to hear "Ben" talk about how this is something to be regretted.

The other story, which I haven't even read past the first page, is about therapists who help gay people stay in the closet as being the most appropriate thing for them.

How helpful of them. As I'm sure I've alluded to before, the whole thing about modern treatment of sexuality which is to be regretted is that it has devalued all sense of privacy. Frankly, it just seems that people treat sexual identity and practices as worthy of attention in a way that they don't really deserve. Can't we go back to the likes of Noel Coward, who famously would claim he did not want to come out "Because there are still three old ladies in Brighton who don't know?" In the Australian context, I feel similarly well disposed towards John Michael Howson, who, apart from being pretty right wing politically, has always seemed to be homosexual while at the same time not wanting to be defined by his sexuality. (He is still a practising Roman Catholic, and refuses to believe he is sinning by having a stable gay relationship.) Of course, Gore Vidal is strongly against sexual identity politics; although I suppose people might say that it's easier for a genuine bisexual like him to take that line.

Look, I know this is a not a simple issue, and it's not as if the way homosexuality was treated in the West 50 years ago is something worth re-implementing. I'm just making the point that I certainly find it easier to like those who display the somewhat more stoic and privacy valuing attitude of men like them, compared to the bare cheeked exhibitionism of Gay MardiGras.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Nazi night was very good last night

Will SBS ever run out of World War Two documentaries to run on Friday nights, I wonder?

It's not like it's watchable every week, but last night I happened to catch episode 3 of The Last Nazis - Children of the Master Race, and found it very moving.

It was about Himmler's Lebensborn program, designed to help breed and propagate the so-called Aryan race, but concentrated on 3 adults who were children of the program and their sense of guilt and/or displacement because of what their parents did.

Although I had vaguely heard of Lebensborn before, I was not aware of the kidnapping of "right" type of blond/blue kid from the rest of Europe was carried out with casual and callous ruthlessness.

The whole show is still available for viewing on SBS, but it also appears to be permanently available here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Do not discuss at the dinner table

A new study should finally convince parents to get their boys vaccinated against HPV

Slate talks about evidence regarding the connection between HPV and increasing oral cancers in men.

Although the idea sounds convincing, when they find HPV in the tumours, the second page of the article makes a good point about another puzzle:

It's easy to see why the notion that oral sex can give you cancer is so attractive. It makes for an irresistibly lurid headline, of course, and it appeals to the secret Victorian hidden less or more deeply in all of us. (Everything fun has a price—everything!) And to be fair, the circumstantial evidence is compelling. It's well understood that HPV is transmitted through other kinds of intimate contact, such as vaginal sex. HPV seems to grow quite well on mucous membranes, those nonskin tissues that line the mouth, nose, vagina, anus, and a few other anatomic areas, and which may touch quite a bit during oral sex.

As an explanation for the uptick in oropharyngeal cancers, though, oral sex has one glaring problem: HPV-positive head and neck cancer is, inexplicably, a guy's disease. If oral sex were driving the issue, wouldn't we see a commensurate rise in HPV-positive tumors among women?
Even if the explanation was an upswing in bisexual behaviour in men in the last few decades, you would think the rate should be higher in women than men if only one form of oral was the cause.

All a bit of a mystery.

Libertarian utopians

Free State Project: What happens if 20,000 libertarians move to New Hampshire? - Slate Magazine

Here's a slightly amusing article about some Ron Paul libertarian/voluntaryist (?) twits who have a grand idea of living free in strange kind of do-whatever-they-like utopia in New Hampshire.

They sound rather like right wing hippies, and is a very strange, peculiarly American, movement.

Masters of distraction

Only In It For The Gold: Two Empty Kerfuffles

Michael Tobis is right. Climate change "sceptics" are all about distraction.

Watts Up With That is positively gleeful that the sun is not exacting behaving in a very predictable way, and more evidence suggesting the equivalent of a Maunder Minimum is coming out.

What WUWT and it's followers don't know, or remember, or ignore, is that this possibility has been considered by climate scientist years ago and has been dismissed as reason to ignore CO2.

Skeptical Science provides an update on this issue, noting the conclusion:
For both the A1B and A2 emission scenario, the effect of a Maunder Minimum on global temperature is minimal. The most likely impact of a Maunder Minimum by 2100 would be a decrease in global temperature of 0.1°C with a maximum reduction of warming by 0.3°C. Compare this to global warming between 3.7°C (A1B scenario) to 4.5°C (A2 scenario).
However, Barry Brooks blog had dealt with it in a post in 2008, as I am sure did other places.

It would seem that magnetic effects of a solar minimum could also make European winters colder, but again this would not mask global warming.

So sorry skeptics, it's been dealt with as an issue.

UPDATE: Richard Black at the BBC makes the same points, although he does quote someone as saying that the biggest effect of a really major minimum could be 1 degree of global cooling. This still doesn't offset 2 -4 degrees by the end of the century (by which time any minimum may well be over anyway.)

Black notes the political use to which this is being put:

All the studies I'm referring to above are out there in the public domain - which immediately raises a question over why some accounts claim big things for the new research but fail to take into account the context afforded by the larger body of published work.

The battle for public opinion on climate change is largely fought with memes; and solar changes leading to a cooling planet is one of them.

On this battleground, where the bigger picture can be conveniently forgotten, it has proven remarkably persistent.

Part of its appeal is that it has some scientific grounding; but it melts away in the light of the bigger research picture, and that's why it has little credence in mainstream scientific circles as a major factor in modern-day temperature fluctuations.

Could it be that the professional disseminators of climate scepticism are actually dishonest in the way they promote their case? Surely not....

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Keeping up with the designers

Libertarian types, being interested in preserving people's right to do themselves harm in any innovative way possible, seem to have a problem with governments making new designer drugs illegal, such as the recent fate of the "legal high" cannabis substitute Kronic. (Well, correct me if I wrong, libertarian inclined readers.) Never mind that no one knows quite what they are getting when they buy this product, and that we get statements from people who know such as this:
Professor Jon Currie, who directs the Department of Addiction Medicine at Melbourne's St Vincent's Hospital, says he is now seeing one or two cases each week in emergency from people seeking help because of Kronic.
Presumably, libertarian types think it reasonable that food manufacturers have to list ingredients and thereby warn of possible side effects, particularly for those unfortunate enough to have peanut allergies. If so, I wonder what grounds they use to justify a legal recreational drug manufacturer being able to sell its mystery ingredient product that seemingly has a good chance of sending a fair few of its users to the emergency department of the hospital.

The other argument I am guessing they would run against banning is to argue for legalisation for all recreational drugs that it is a substitute for, and then the market for Kronic would fall apart anyway. However, given that I have read somewhere that Kronic and its ilk are popular with outback miners, one has to bear in mind that there is a significant group of employers who have legitimate reason not to have their employees doing things like turn up for work to drive their (I'm guessing) 30 tonne trucks while still having last night's THC at high levels in their bloodstream. In other words, there is reason to suspect that there would still be a market for a legal alternative to cannabis, at least for one which would not test positive for cannabinoids.

Anyway, this is all a bit of a preamble to an interesting short article at Nature by a UK forensic scientist arguing that other designer drugs - ones related to amphetamines - also deserve legal banning, simply because they are too dangerous.

He acknowledges that this is not without complications. As he notes, making a drug illegal often makes it more dangerous, because illegal drug manufacturers tend not to worry too much about quality control (to put it mildly.)

Of course, you could argue that the market for new dangerous drugs eventually sorts itself out. If enough users end up in hospital, eventually it will become unpopular within the drug taking community anyway. But do we really want such Darwinian free market methods be the guide for such matters? Certainly, the parents or other close relatives of victims of a new drug would find it hard to accept, unless they are libertarian purists.

What bothers me most about libertarian arguments along these lines (including their attitude to tobacco) is not so much their defence of people to self harm, but that they blithely also condone the effective exploitation of such people by manufacturers of dangerous products for profit. This is particularly objectionable when the product carries a high degree of addictivity, such as tobacco, and is one that is known to be particularly attractive to teenagers, who tend not to have the best developed set of skills for anything, let along starting addictions.

I mean, if the argument was only ever about, say, the wisdom of making illegal the consumption of a magic mushroom that everyone could pick out of their garden, then this aspect of the libertarian argument would not be such an issue. You could say the same about the right of people to grown their own marijuana, I suppose. Yet I bet that in those places that do have very relaxed attitudes to small amount of cultivation for personal use, the illegal trade of larger quantities does not magically fall away.

So the argument about relaxing drug laws is never simply about what people want to do for themselves; it's about the broader questions of how it affects society overall, including safety at work, on the roads and economic productivity generally, and how do you treat the manufacturers of dangerous compounds who are happy to take money with no regard for the health consequences of consuming their product.*

* What about alcohol, I hear you say. Well, it certainly has no parallel with Kronic manufacturers: you know exactly what you are getting and at what strength when you buy any legally sold alcohol. Alcohol is tightly regulated, and governments do discourage its overuse. But you always have the argument that is a product capable of safe consumption. Yes, so is cannabis for most people, I know; yet the evidence of the danger it does represent even for moderate use at some strengths, particularly for young users, continues to accumulate.

Clear and convincing

Speaking science to climate policy

There's been a lot of talk around about The Conversation's effort to bring calm science to the climate change debate. The article above is from there, and is very good.

I see the rest of The Conversation website looks very good too.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The never ending crisis

News Ltd papers, and Andrew Bolt in particular, have been in quite a frenzy over bad opinion polls for the Gillard government for some months. It's like it's a veritable crisis every day in terrible mismanagement by this the Federal government.

Except that, well, I haven't noticed many immediate crises to be mismanaged. As I've suggested before, the problem is one of stasis, not crisis. That is, there are various important policy initiatives waiting to be finalised and knocked into final shape with a Parliament that is more like a herd of cats than any other Parliament in living memory. But these are mainly longer term initiatives - climate change and mineral taxes most particularly - and even the social ones of plain packaging for tobacco and poker machine regulation have longer term effects. My point being that it is more than a tad hyperbolic to be talking up a daily sense of immediate crisis due to the slow negotiation and implementation of these policies.

It's no surprise that polling is bad for the government until they actually get something implemented.

I am particularly amused at Janet Albrechtsen's column this morning, also extracted by Andrew Bolt, with this key section:

Her public positions lack private convictions. From opposing a big Australia, gay marriage and a republic to supporting the flag and the importance of religion, Gillard so obviously echoes voters for no other reason than political gain. Her statements on everything from immigration to population are knee-jerk populism, aimed at dominating the media cycle and putting out potential policy bushfires, rather than presenting a genuine narrative about her political beliefs. Gillard darts all over the place depending on what she wants...

Funnily enough, Janet and Bolt don't seem to realise that this description works even better for Tony Abbott. OK, I'll concede, we all knew he would never be for gay marriage. But consistency with his own party's (theoretical) principles and his past views, as opposed to populism:

* "direct action" on climate change as better than a tax or an ETS? He has to pretend this works as a market, but we all know it is simply a case of him needing product differentiation after holding half a dozen or so different positions on an ETS before his rise to leadership. About half of Coalition supporters don't believe he is being honest about believing there is a need to take action on CO2 at all.

* a nasty big tax scare campaign on a carbon tax. No populism in that, no sir-ee.

* a parental leave plan more generous and expensive than the Labor one. Let's unnecessarily out-Labor at their own game, hey Tony?

* a promise of not touching IR laws, even though this used to be an item of clear product differentiation between Coalition and Labor.

* Back to Nauru; the place where you house boat people for 2 - 3 years and let them build a full case of depression before letting them into Australia anyway. No, that doesn't have a touch of populism about it at all!

Let's face it, Janet and Andrew, if you want inconsistency and leaps to populism, there is no better example in the Australian polity at the moment that Mr T Abbott.

Bee on extra dimensions

Backreaction: Extra Dimensions at the LHC: Status Update

It's rather technical in detail, but Bee Hossenfelder has a look at the early results from the LHC and what they mean for black hole production and theories involving large extra dimensions. The conclusion:

While it is in many cases not possible to falsify a model, but just to implausify it, large extra dimensions are becoming less plausible by the day. Nevertheless, one should exert scientific caution and not jump to conclusions. The relevance of CMS constraints on multi-jets depends partly on assumptions about the black holes' final decay that are not theoretically justified.
The last bit seems to be about her earlier comment that any LHC black hole would be "a quantum gravitational object and it is not correctly described by Hawking's semi-classical calculation. How to correctly describe it, nobody really knows."

Good to know they don't know what to look for, then!

This'll really make your cake rise...

Baking powder for environmentally friendly hydrogen storage

Boom tish.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Handy figures to keep in mind

Beyond Condoms: The Long Quest for a Better Male Contraceptive: Scientific American

This article gives a pretty comprehensive coverage of the never ending quest to find a decent male contraceptive. I was most impressed with this line, though:
Compared with the one-egg-per-month output of the female reproductive system, the roughly 1,000-sperm-per-heartbeat output of the male reproductive system is "a quantitatively challenging problem" for contraceptive research, Amory says.
Young single men: feel free to incorporate this factoid during your next venture in a singles bar. Married men: impress your wife by offering this new found knowledge during a dinner party with that nice new couple you recently met.

There's one other quote that I thought interesting from the article:
In animal models the compound bisdichloroacetyldiamine safely and reversibly induces infertility by inhibiting an enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase 1a2, required for retinoic acid synthesis in the testes. Unfortunately, bisdichloroacetyldiamine also inhibits a similar enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase 2, required for alcohol metabolism in the liver—meaning that animals on bisdichloroacetyldiamine were unable to process alcohol. "And some would say that if it weren't for alcohol no one would need a contraceptive anyway," jokes Amory
What happens if you "can't process alcohol"? Would five drinks keep you drunk for a week? (I guess it takes a while to for it to get out of you via the lungs.) Would 12 drinks in a day pickle your insides?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Things achieved on a long weekend

* Unblocked the Vacumaid via the application of the old (normal) vacuum cleaner to the inlet that was not sucking. My handyman (handyperson?) credentials have soared, but from a very low base.

* Went to Lifeline Bookfest, and about the first thing I spotted, sitting in a face up position, was volume 1 of the famous multi-volume biography of Graham Greene by Norman Sherry. Purchased for $3, I doubt I will venture past this volume, but having read Greene's short autobiography of the first part of his life last year, I'm curious to see what he left out. See, I told you that the Bookfest was great.

* Saw Super 8. I'm surely not the first to say it, but it's "ET with teeth and a bad temper." I thought it was not bad, but not likely to linger long in memory; still, it's probably the best JJ Abrams movie I have seen. You see, long time readers know I have a problem with him, and dammit, he's still doing it.

He's the Director of the Giant Faces, who seems to think you need to be able to see skin pores to understand the emotion of a scene.

I get tired of pointing this out. Someone - Spielberg, his wife, his dog - I don't care who it is - tell him to frame a shot and then pull back half way and re-compose it. It is just the Abrams rule of thumb that will never let you down - "you are too close."

Anyway, as many reviewers noted, the young teenage(?) actors are really good, and the script as a homage to early Spielberg is quite good too. I liked the ideas better than the execution; but that always seems to be my fate with JJ Abrams.

* Taught the children how to play poker, as well as Pig. (I only found Pig as an adult in a Hoyles book, but it is a remarkably good party game for kids and adults.)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

By nuclear power to the Pole

Last night, quite by accident, I saw the second half of Charlie Bird Explores the Arctic, in which the Irish journalist joins a Soviet nuclear powered icebreaker that takes passengers to the North Pole every summer.

The fact that this is now a quite routine tourist event that has been running for years had escaped my attention.

It costs about $20,000 per person, and the ship is quite well appointed, as far as nuclear powered icebreakers go. Once at the pole, everyone gets off and stands around a temporary North Pole pole stuck in the ice, a bar-b-q takes place on the ice, and several made people go for a dip in the water that is exposed around the ship.

Unfortunately, I can find no Youtube clip of this, but you can currently watch the show on the SBS TV website. The first half is spent with some Inuit, and there is a fair bit of discussion about how they definitely know the climate is changing.

I see that there is an old Youtube of an English woman making this trip in 2001, which gives you the general idea.

I must try and keep up more with fantasy ways to spend spare money I don't have.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Barr explains

Roseanne Barr: 'Fame's a bitch. It's hard to handle and drives you nuts' | Culture | The Guardian

I really did like Roseanne for the first 3 or 4 seasons. Like most sitcoms, it grew tired and was pretty much unwatchable (and unwatched) in its last season, but the first few years were pretty innovative in the way Barr describes in the article above.

In fact, in the first few paragraphs, Ms Barr sounds quite sensible, but then we get a long recount of how and why she felt abused soon after her famous sitcom started. I have read much of this before; it certainly sounds like it must have been a nightmare on the set for the rest of the cast while Roseanne and the producers/writers fought bitterly and openly. And who really know who's right here? Barr can swing wildly from sounding credible, to sounding half nutty.

But towards the end, she criticises Hollywood for tolerating the likes of Charlie Sheen, and here she is on the money again:

Based on Two And A Half Men's success, it seems viewers now prefer their comedy dumb and sexist. Charlie Sheen was the world's most famous john, and a sitcom was written around him. That just says it all. Doing tons of drugs, smacking prostitutes around, holding a knife up to the head of your wife – sure, that sounds like a dream come true for so many guys out there, but that doesn't make it right. People do what they can get away with (or figure they can), and Sheen is, in fact, a product of what we call politely the "culture".
But when it comes to his abusing his producers, she does relate:
Where I can relate to the Charlie stuff is his undisguised contempt for certain people in his work environment and his unwillingness to play a role that's expected of him on his own time.
Well, it seems to me Sheen has a lot less to complain about, given that (unlike Barr) he didn't get a comedy show by developing a character in years of tough stand up comedy. It seems he only had to lead a dissolute life, and a comedy based on that fell into his lap. (I'm assuming that's how it happened anyway.)

Finally, I note that The Middle - a very solid, enjoyable sitcom that is underappreciated - is a pretty clear successor to Roseanne. Maybe it's my own working class family background that makes me like these comedies.

A free plug

Brisbane Bookfest | Lifeline Community Care Queensland

Any South East Queensland reader is reminded that the Lifeline Bookfest is on at the Southbank Convention Centre this long weekend.

As their January one had to be cancelled because of the floods, I assume they will have a lot of books to sell.

You really should go; it's great.

And turning now to international hamster news...

France caught in a legal trap over rare rodent

The story feature as very good portrait of a hamster too.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Today's bit of curious medical research

Magnetic fields reduce blood viscosity -

In their experiment, Tao and Huang showed that applying a 1.3 T magnetic pulse to a small sample of blood can significantly reduce it's viscosity. About 8 ml of blood with a viscosity of 7 centipoises (cp) – above healthy limits – was contained at body temperature (37 °C) in a test tube. The tube formed part of a device called a capillary viscometer used to measure viscosities. The sample was then exposed to a magnetic field applied parallel to the direction of flow of blood via a coil around the edge of the test tube. After one minute of exposure to the field, the blood's viscosity had been reduced by 33% to 4.75 cp. With no further exposure to the field, the viscosity had only risen slightly to 5.4 cp after 200 min, which is still within healthy limits.
I guess it would be good to know how long the effect does usefully last for. Still, it's all very interesting.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Not exactly a night at the opera

Spat at by a naked dancer: St-Pierre's Un Peu de Tendresse

A Guardian reviewer gets more than he bargained for during a night at the dance theatre.

Really, it's just a case of the avant garde dance movement, such that it is, running out of ways to shock its audience. Pretty pathetic, really.

Finding dark matter in the dark

The Dark Matter Data Bonanza - Technology Review

An interesting account here of some (apparently) successful attempts to detect dark matter via experiments at the bottom of mines.

If confirmed, this would be a major step towards understanding the universe. I think.

Julia has a cow

Julia Gillard can't take a trick at the moment, that's for sure. The latest one being on the Indonesian cattle issue. Of course no one was happy seeing the conditions in some Indonesian slaughterhouses, but stopping the whole export industry for six months when thousands of cattle are about to get on ships?

This was also a rare occasion when Bob Katter also came close to making sense. On Lateline last night, he made the point that I have not seen much of in the media reporting: how the hell did the Australians involved in setting up that box system that is designed to get cattle on their side in about the clumsiest way possible ever think that was going to look good to Australian animal rights people?

As Katter said:
I mean, when I saw that box I just couldn't believe that anyone could have been so stupid as to design that thing. ...

This person tonight admitted that they knew what was going on, that they'd sent people in to have look at this, they knew what was going on and they've known for years and years and years about it and they've done absolutely nothing about it except to provide a stupid box.
If you're going to but the animal in a box anyway, why not make it one which properly holds the beast while you have access to slit its throat while thus constrained? Surely this is possible.

There was also a decent bit of commentary about the issue in an article in the Australian this morning too.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Speaking of Hitler...

Hitler's first draft of the Holocaust: unique letter goes on show | World news | The Guardian

Hitler apparently was writing of his anti-Semitic plans in a letter in 1919:

... Hitler spouted an antisemitic diatribe, in which he said Jews were "pure materialists in thought and aspirations" and that their effect was "racial tuberculosis on the nation".

Crucially, he went on to set out his vision for a calculated antisemitism that would operate through strong governments rather than the emotion of the people. Emotional antisemitism, he wrote, merely ended in pogroms.

"The antisemitism of reason must lead to a struggle for the legal battle to abrogate laws giving [Jews] favoured positions, differentiating the Jew from other foreigners. The final goal must be the uncompromising removal of Jews altogether. To accomplish these goals, only a government of national power is capable, and never a government of national weakness."

Sort of encouraging

Older age does not cause testosterone levels to decline in healthy men

A bit of a surprise finding from this study:

"Some researchers believe that an age-related testosterone deficiency contributes to the deteriorating health of older men and causes nonspecific symptoms, such as tiredness and loss of libido," he said.

Handelsman and his team, however, found that serum (blood) testosterone levels did not decline with increasing in older men who reported being in excellent health with no symptoms to complain of.

"We had originally expected age to have an effect on serum testosterone, so the findings were a bit of a surprise," Handelsman said....

"The modest decline in blood testosterone among older men, usually coupled with nonspecific symptoms, such as easy fatigue and low sexual desire, may be due to symptomatic disorders that accumulate during aging, including obesity and heart disease," he said. "It does not appear to be a hormone deficiency state."
The message for patients and their doctors, Handelsman said, is " with low do not need therapy unless they have diseases of their pituitary or testes."

Quick, send this information to Strauss-Kahn's defence team: maybe they can make some use of it. (Actually, it may be worth their while getting his testosterone levels checked; if they are ridiculously high, it might be useful in the plea in mitigation.)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Jung the spy?

Carl Jung, part 2: A troubled relationship with Freud – and the Nazis | Mark Vernon

This is interesting.

The Guardian is running a series on Jung, as a way of noting the 50th anniversary of his death.

In this second part, I knew about the conflict with Freud before (from Jung's autobiography), but I didn't know about his WWII activities:

Jung is also accused of complying with the Nazi authorities, in particular with Matthias Göring, the man who became the leader of organised psychotherapy in Germany, not least because he was the cousin of Hermann Göring. In fact, Matthias put Jung's name to pro-Nazi statements without Jung's knowledge.

Jung was furious, not least because he was actually fighting to keep German psychotherapy open to Jewish individuals. And that was not all. Bair reveals that Jung was involved in two plots to oust Hitler, essentially by having a leading physician declare the Führer mad. Both came to nothing.

It has also come to light that Jung operated as a spy for the OSS (the predecessor to the CIA). He was called "Agent 488" and his handler, Allen W. Dulles, later remarked: "Nobody will probably ever know how much Prof Jung contributed to the allied cause during the war."

This could well form the basis of some fanciful fictionalised movie, I think. (It'd be good to see a fictional psychotherapy session between Jung and Hitler!) I like that genre of film.

How very generous...

Iran court quashes death sentence in 'porn' case | World news | The Guardian

A pretty amazing story of how dangerous a place Iran is:
Iran's supreme court has quashed the death sentence for Saeed Malekpour, a web programmer who was facing execution on charges of developing and promoting porn websites.

The 35-year-old was convicted of designing and moderating adult materials online although his family said he was a web programmer whose photo uploading software was used by a porn website without his knowledge.

Defence lawyers said the conviction was quashed after they provided the court with expert evidence. Malekpour, a Canadian resident who was arrested in October 2008 on arrival in Tehran, will remain in jail while a judicial review into his case is held.

Speaking from Toronto, his wife, Fatima Eftekhari, said: "This a sigh of relief for me, I'm very pleased that his life is finally saved.

"It's unbelievable that someone in this world has spent three years of his life in jail for merely designing software and was until now facing execution for that."

Beautiful light

Here's a new video by a guy who seems to be getting a fair bit of attention for his time lapse videos; and it's from Norway, my current dream holiday destination. It's very beautiful:

The Arctic Light from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

Monday, June 06, 2011

You too can hear music that's not there

Caffeine brings hallucinations (Science Alert)

A somewhat interesting study suggests that drinking a lot of coffee will make you more susceptible to auditory hallucinations.

Actually, I'm not entirely sure that's a safe conclusion, when you read how the experiment was done:

Five coffees a day or more was found to be enough to increase the participant’s tendency to hallucinate says Professor Crowe.

‘High caffeine levels in association with high levels of stressful life events interacted to produce higher levels of ‘hallucination’ in non-clinical participants, indication that further caution needs to be exercised with the use of this overtly “safe” drug,’ he says.

The participants were assigned to either a high or a low stress condition and a high or a low caffeine condition on the basis of self-report. The participants were then asked to listen to white noise and to report each time they heard Bing Crosby’s rendition of “White Christmas” during the white noise.

The song was never played. The results indicated that the interaction of stress and caffeine had a significant effect on the reported frequency of hearing “White Christmas”. The participants with high levels of stress or consumed high levels of caffeine were more likely to hear the song.

Does a tendency to think you can detect a pattern like a song mean that you're actually hallucinating it? Debatable, I would have thought.

Poor IPA

I see that the IPA and its pet blog Catallaxy celebrated World Environment Day with a flurry of posts, like this one, to continue its argument against carbon pricing via posts encouraging disbelief in the existence of climate change requiring any response at all.

It's therefore encouraging to see that the IPA is disappointed that it can't find a politician who wants to meet Vaclav Klaus, the Czech President who likes to make profound, Lubos Motl approved, statements like this:
Global warming is a myth and I think that every serious person and scientist says so.
Julie Bishop says that Julia Gillard should not refuse to meet him just because he is a AGW sceptic. (I don't think "sceptic" is quite the right word for someone who makes silly statements such as the one I just quoted.) But the trip to Australia would seem not to be an official visit. It sounds as if he is coming here specifically for the seminars. Certainly the cost of attending one of the seminars ($235 for the general public!) makes it seem like the IPA has paid his first class ticket and have a lot of money to recoup. Presumably the host, Alan Jones (the IPA and Alan Jones - what a team) is donating his time.

What a pity it would be if the IPA makes a loss on this.

The thing is, they have ruled themselves out of participating in any serious discussion of the details of a carbon pricing, because everyone knows they are simply climate change denying polemicists.

The rate matters

New study indicates carbon release to atmosphere ten times faster than in the past

I think we already knew this, but this latest study estimates that the rate of CO2 release now is about ten times faster than the big release during the PETM event of 60 odd million years ago.

This is particularly important for the issue of ocean acidification, as the natural chemical buffering of the additional acid in the ocean from dissolved CO2 takes time.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Detecting primordial black holes

If A Primordial Black Hole Hits The Sun...� - Technology Review

Apparently, primordial black holes would pass through the sun and just cause it to wobble a bit; this may be detectable.

I think I have previously mentioned somewhere in this blog what might happen if a small black hole passed through the Earth.

Pirates, etc

I took the kids to see On Stranger Tides today. I would say it's a very solid "quite OK", but I don't really mean that to sound disparaging. The kids enjoyed it; I enjoyed it with them - it's one of the pleasures of parenthood to enjoy a film together with growing kids and be able to talk about it afterwards.

A few quibbles: too much of it is set at night or in gloom - I was missing the brightness of (I think) the second movie. I am also not sure that I prefer the direction of Rob Marshall over Gore Verbinski during action sequences. (I always find myself thinking "that's not how Spielberg would do it" during chases and action sequences that not done quite as well as they should.) But on the other hand, the script is pretty witty throughout - it certainly had more laughs in it than At World's End - and Penelope Cruz is good in her role.

I see from Wikipedia that a script for a 5th movie has already been finished. It did occur to me today, though, that as with the Indiana Jones movies, this series is fast running out of mythological ideas suitable to its period to be incorporated in the plot. The Flying Dutchman, kraken, voodoo, sea goddesses, zombies, mermaids and the fountain of youth have now all been covered. Oh well, I guess I'll find out in a couple of years time if there is something else mythological that has thus far been overlooked.

Speaking of the Flying Dutchman, I see that the Wikipedia entry about it is quite informative, and includes this interesting item which I think I may read years ago, but forgotten about:

There have been many reported sightings in the 19th and 20th centuries. One was by Prince George of Wales (b. 1865) (later King George V). During his late adolescence, in 1880, with his elder brother Prince Albert Victor of Wales (b. 1864) (sons of the future King Edward VII), he was on a three-year voyage with their tutor Dalton aboard the 4,000-tonne corvette Bacchante. Off the coast of Australia, between Melbourne and Sydney, Dalton records:

At 4 a.m. the Flying Dutchman crossed our bows. A strange red light as of a phantom ship all aglow, in the midst of which light the masts, spars, and sails of a brig 200 yards distant stood out in strong relief as she came up on the port bow, where also the officer of the watch from the bridge clearly saw her, as did the quarterdeck midshipman, who was sent forward at once to the forecastle; but on arriving there was no vestige nor any sign whatever of any material ship was to be seen either near or right away to the horizon, the night being clear and the sea calm. Thirteen persons altogether saw her ... At 10.45 a.m. the ordinary seaman who had this morning reported the Flying Dutchman fell from the foretopmast crosstrees on to the topgallant forecastle and was smashed to atoms.[6]
Cool story, though not for the ordinary seaman.

Friday, June 03, 2011

For adults only - very silly adults

Californian porn industry's 'perfect storm' of troubles

A BBC report on the troubled porn industry in California notes:

Like the music industry, pornographers are struggling to persuade their audience to pay for what they watch.

DVD sales have collapsed. Online, a great deal of porn can be accessed for free.

And the economic downturn does not help.

"What with the recession and piracy, we call it the perfect storm," one leading producer observed wistfully
Yet, otherwise sensible, educated people still get into the business:
A college graduate, a former national standard swimmer and professional oboist, she seems to have packed a lot into her 27 years.

She turned to porn, she said, out of a sense of sexual adventure.

"It's just fun," she said, "and when everyone around you is having fun too, what's not to love?"

But what's really amazing is her attitude to the unprotected sex that is still the industry norm, despite government attempts to stop it due to HIV:

"And what about the health risks," I asked. "Have you had many infections?"

"Well, just chlamydia a couple of times, gonorrhoea - nothing much. Anyway, we test each month so, when you're diagnosed, you just take your medication and you're good to go. No problem."

In fact, the article goes on to note that some in the industry are attempting to argue that the right not to use a condom in the industry is a matter of free speech protected by the First Amendment!
"How can I express myself as an artist," one producer said to me, "if you're going to clothe my performers in rubber?"
Good grief. What a shame the industry is having hard times, hey?

Economic guesswork

'Discounting' The Future Cost Of Climate Change - Science News

Given that the economics of climate change are hot in the news again, I thought this explanation of discount rates was pretty good.

But still, my general attitude to all this is that it seems an absurd idea that economic modelling of the effects of climate change out to a century or so is anything other than pure guesswork.

The obvious reason is because of the uncertainties within climate science, even allowing that is basically right in its current estimate of likely global temperature increases. As the disruptive weather of the last 18 months is showing, it's not just heat waves to worry about, but floods, droughts, and possibly even unusually snowy winters at lower levels of the Northern Hemisphere. Everyone agrees that predicting regional effects is much less certain than the big picture, but this means we don't really know which population centres of particular economic importance are likely to be hit hard, and which get off relatively easily.

One of the largest consequences which I would have thought could be most important economically - sea level rise - is still very uncertain. If rate of sea level rise increases and it becomes clear that it will be at the top of the worst scenario forecasts, and thereby cause abandonment of major land areas and parts of some cities, how do you factor that into your economic forecasts now?

I guess this economic modelling is worth the exercise (and only attempted at all) as a way of trying to politically justify a certain level of current economic pain to offset future problems; but really, I find it hard to believe it can really be taken seriously as prediction if the actual effects of climate change are so difficult to predict.

It seems to me that using economics to work out the least costly method of getting to lower emissions is another matter, as that's comparing something that is relatively "here and now" and has aims which are in a more realistic time scale.

But the key point is, I think, average citizens wanting to see action on climate change should just be interested in serious movement to lower emissions done in a way that does not cripple the economy. Serious leadership on technological innovation that seems to be needed to achieve this will need to come as well.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

All it took was an earthquake

LEDs make it cheaper to blind family and friends | Yen for Living

The price of LED bulbs has come down in Japan, just in time for the lower electricity use the government wants to see happen as a result of Fukushima.

What did you expect?

BBC News - Global war on drugs has 'failed' say former leaders

The Global Commission on Drug Policy report calls for the legalisation of some drugs and an end to the criminalisation of drug users.

The panel includes former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the former leaders of Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, and the entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.

Why not throw in Keith Richards for good measure?

Speaking of Branson, I quite like the new Virgin Australia ads where the flight crew are just walking around purposefully to a groovy beat. Maybe because it reminds me of the end credits of Buckaroo Banzai.

Great moments in engineering

Fukushima was certified tsunami-proof

TEPCO, the plant's operator, ruled out the possibility of tsunami damage in a one-page memo filed to the Japanese regulator a decade ago, the Associated Press has discovered.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

What a way to treat women

Egyptians protest over 'virginity tests' on Tahrir Square women

From the report in The Guardian:

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had previously denied claims by Amnesty International that 18 women detained in March were subjected to virginity checks and threatened with prostitution charges.

But an Egyptian general told an American television network on Monday that tests were in fact conducted, and defended the practice.

"The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine," the general, who requested anonymity, told CNN. "These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found … molotov cocktails and [drugs]."

He said the tests were conducted so that the women would not be able to claim that they had been sexually abused while in custody.

"We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the first place," the general said. "None of them were [virgins]."