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Computer beats humans at crosswords August 31, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Life, News, Technology.
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ANSA.it – News in English – Computer beats humans at crosswords
Computers won a points victory over human crossword puzzle enthusiasts at a contest organised during the European Conference on Artificial Intelligence here .

Webcrow, the first Italian software able to tackle a crossword, uses the Internet as a gigantic library. The man-versus-machine contest echoed events held in the 1980s where computers played chess against masters . (more…)

Google :Download the classics August 31, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Art, Cool Sites, Life, Technology.
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Official Google Blog: Download the classics
Starting today, you can go to Google Book Search and download full copies of out-of-copyright books to read at your own pace. You’re free to choose from a diverse collection of public domain titles — from well-known classics to obscure gems.

Before the rise of the public library -– a story chronicled in this 1897 edition of The Free Library – access to large collections of books was the privilege of a wealthy minority. Now, with the help of our wonderful library partners, we’re able to offer you the ability to download and read PDF versions of out-of-copyright books from some of the world’s greatest collections.

Starbucks Pulls Free Coffee Promotion August 31, 2006

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Starbucks Pulls Free Coffee Promotion – Forbes.com
There’s no such thing as a free iced coffee at Starbucks – at least not anymore.

The world’s largest specialty coffee chain has pulled the plug on what was supposed to be a nearly five-week promotion after an e-mail coupon spread farther and wider than the company anticipated. (more…)

Islamic “Pleasure Marriages” August 30, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, Life, Religion.
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MEMRI: Latest News

It seems reasonable to assume that much of the adolescent rage of the Arab Street was sexual frustration. So this debate about the legitimacy of this Islamic form of dating and polygamy is important. After all, why wait for the 72 virgins, when you can have it all now?
For over a decade, the phenomenon of marriage without commitment, called misyar marriage, has been spreading throughout the Sunni Muslim world, particularly in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries.(1) In such marriages, the woman relinquishes some of the rights that Islam grants her, such as the right to a home and to financial support from her husband, and, if he has other wives, the right to an equal part of his time and attention. In most cases, these marriages are secret, without the knowledge of the man’s other wives – even though a marriage contract is drawn up in the presence of witnesses, and although consent is commonly obtained from the woman’s guardian, and the marriage is registered and documented at the courthouse. Demand is high for misyar marriages on online matchmaking sites, as well as through services using text messages and email.(2) (more…)

What Next? August 30, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, News, Politics.
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What Next?
Perhaps the most tragic example of the problems created by large refugee flows occurred in the wake of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. After the Hutu-led genocide resulted in the death of 800,000 to 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus, the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front “invaded” the country from neighboring Uganda. The RPF was drawn from the 500,000 or so Tutsis who had already fled Rwanda from past pogroms. As the RPF swept through Rwanda, almost 1 million Hutus fled to neighboring Congo, fearing that the evil they did unto others would be done unto them.

For two years after 1994, Hutu bands continued to conduct raids in Rwanda and began to work with Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. The new RPF government of Rwanda responded by attacking not only the Hutu militia camps, but also its much larger neighbor, bolstering a formerly obscure Congolese opposition leader named Laurent Kabila and installing him in power in Kinshasa. A civil war in Congo ensued, killing perhaps 4 million people.

Afghanistan: 21 mil population, civil war 1989-2001, 76k dead and 6 mil displaced.
Bosnia: 4.4 mil pop, 1991-95, 250k dead and 2.3 mil displaced.
Congo: 60 mil popl, 1991-2006, 4.3 mil dead and 2.7 mil displaced.

Croatia: 4.5 mil popl, 1991-1995, 17k dead, 1 mil displaced.

Kosovo: 1.8 mil pop, 1998-99, 12k dead, 1.3 mil displaced.

Lebannon: 2.7 mil pop, 1975-90, 150k dead and 800k displaced.

Rwanda: 7.7 mil pop, 1994-95, 950k dead and 2 mil displaced.

Somalia: 8.9 mil pop, 1990-2006, 550k dead and 400k displaced.

Fed Chief Gives Seminar on History of Globalization August 30, 2006

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Fed Chief Gives Seminar on History of Globalization – New York Times

Mr. Bernanke said.

“The emergence of China, India and the former Communist-bloc countries implies that the greater part of the earth’s population is now engaged, at least potentially, in the global economy,” “There are no historical antecedents for this development.”

Those expansions shared many common themes with trends of today, he said, including the role of new technologies in opening up trade opportunities as well as similar social and political backlashes from groups whose lives were disrupted by new competition. (Think of the Islamic return-to-roots backlash to Globalization). (more…)

Echo Boomers August 30, 2006

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From Thomas Barnett’s seminal book “Blueprint For Action”

As 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft put it in his profile of the cohort, “Echo boomers are the most watched-over generation in history. Most have never ridden a bike without a helmet, ridden in a car without a seat belt, or eaten in a cafeteria that serves peanut butter.” As a result, they are naturally team-oriented overachievers who, unlike previous recent generations, trust the government, hold traditional values, and emulate their parents instinctively.

The Echo Boomers, or the huge 80-million-plus generation of Americans born between 1980 and 1995 (the largest generation this country has ever known), … come the year 2025, they’ll be the cohort (age thirty to forty-five) that’s doing the most moving and shaking in our economy and political scene. (more…)

Acronym and abbreviation dictionary August 30, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Cool Sites, Life.
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Acronym and abbreviation dictionary: Find out what over 3,008,000 abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms stand for
With more than 500,000 human-edited entries, Acronym Finder is the world’s largest and most comprehensive dictionary of acronyms, abbreviations, and initialisms. Combined with the Acronym Attic, Acronym Finder contains more than 3 million acronyms and abbreviations. (Thanks to Natalia for this link).

‘God spot’ researchers see the light in MRI study August 30, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Life, Religion, Technology.
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Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | ‘God spot’ researchers see the light in MRI study
Brain scans of nuns have revealed intricate neural circuits that flicker into life when they feel the presence of God.

The images suggest that feelings of profound joy and union with a higher being that accompany religious experiences are the culmination of ramped-up electrical activity in parts of the brain. (more…)

Which Sports Car Are You? August 28, 2006

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Which Sports Car Are You?

Thanks to Jeff for this on-line quiz to help find the true sports car inside of all of us.

Palm Oil vs. Crude Oil August 27, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Business, Enviroment, Technology.
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Bloomberg.com: Worldwide
Supplies of diesel fuel from vegetable oils soared 80 percent in 2005, the agency said in July. That outpaced a 14 percent increase in production of ethanol, a fuel derived from corn and sugar that’s used as an alternative to gasoline.

Crude oil reached a record $78.40 a barrel last month and has driven up the cost of diesel and gasoline, making biofuels more competitive. Palm oil costs $507.50 a ton in Europe, less than about $680 for a ton of crude oil-derived diesel. Governments are subsidizing biodiesel to diversify energy supply and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Vegetable oil-based diesel is made through a chemical process where the glycerin is separated from the fat, or vegetable oil. The process leaves behind two products — methyl esters, the chemical name for biodiesel, and glycerin, a byproduct usually sold for manufacturing in soaps and antifreeze.

Palm oil comes from bunches of plum-sized fruit on the tree, which becomes productive from about 30 months after planting.

Web Guitar Wizard Revealed at Last August 27, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Life, Music, News, Streamingvideo, Video.
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Web Guitar Wizard Revealed at Last – New York Times
One of the most popular hits on this blog , since it was posted on Jan. 18th, has been this guitar video. Now the NY Times reveals “Who is this guy?” Turns out we had posted the original version, which later popularized with a version by a guy that called himself funtwo, who had added a drum track.

Eight months ago a mysterious image showed up on YouTube, the video-sharing site that now shows more than 100 million videos a day. A sinewy figure in a swimming-pool-blue T-shirt, his eyes obscured by a beige baseball cap, was playing electric guitar. Sun poured through the window behind him; he played in a yellow haze. The video was called simply “guitar.” A black-and-white title card gave the performer’s name as funtwo.
The piece that funtwo played with mounting dexterity was an exceedingly difficult rock arrangement of Pachelbel’s Canon, the composition from the turn of the 18th century known for its solemn chord progressions and its overexposure at weddings. But this arrangement, attributed on another title card to JerryC, was anything but plodding: it required high-level mastery of a singularly demanding maneuver called sweep-picking. (Click on the pictures to see each video).

Poll: Most Muslims don’t believe that Arabs did 9/11 August 27, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, Politics, Religion.
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France about-turns into a bigger military mess August 27, 2006

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France about-turns into a bigger military mess – Sunday Times – Times Online
The French believe that what they say is at least as important as what they do. They spin grandiloquent phrases and strike postures. Rhetoric is away of life and if you point out it is divorced from all strategic reality that is thought to be nitpicking.

The British, on the other hand, get engrossed in tedious detail like: “Is this practical? Who is going to supply the troops? What will be their rules of engagement?” With Lebanon the French have discovered phrase-making is not enough. In recent days they have become very practical, bleating that there are no established rules of engagement (governing what the soldiers can do and when they can fire) almost as though they were British.

If any country could have settled such important details in advance it is France. It took the kudos for working up the UN resolution. It acted as spokesman for the Arab world within the permanent five members of the council. It insisted that the resolution should not be made under chapter 7 of the UN charter, which would have given the troops the right to impose their will by force.

When France was invited to provide leadership over Lebanon, it vacillated. Its offer of 2,000 soldiers remains underwhelming. Chirac’s pro-Arab policies have not even bought off Muslim discontent at home, as the urban riots showed.

National oil companies | Oil’s dark secret August 26, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Business, Geopolitics, Politics.
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National oil companies | Oil’s dark secret | Economist.com
Iran, which has more oil and gas than all other countries save Saudi Arabia and Russia, pumps less today than it did in 1979, when the new Islamic government threw foreigners out. The current expansion of Russia’s NOCs is proving equally ill fated: costs have risen and output has grown more slowly at Yuganskneftegaz, the former production arm of Yukos, a Russian oil company, since its takeover by state-controlled Rosneft, according to Andrei Illarionov, a former adviser to the Russian government. Over the past 20 years, he points out, income per head has grown in countries with private oil industries, but has shrunk in those with nationalised ones.

Saad Rahim, of PFC Energy, argues that weak institutions lie at the root of this disappointing performance. Most countries with national firms used their oil wealth to develop the authority of the state, rather than the other way around. So NOCs sprang up before their countries had institutions strong enough to regulate them, or to manage the money they generate—a recipe for inefficiency and corruption.

Go west, young Chinese! August 25, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, Geopolitics, Politics.
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Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog: Go west, young Chinese!
ARTICLE: “China’s Big Push To Stoke Economy Rattles Rural Tibet: Meatpacking Modernization Threatens Beloved Yaks; New Train Brings Suspicion,” by James T. Areddy, Wall Street Journal, 24 August 2006, p. A1.

I know, I know. I seem to be harping on a theme here. And it’s certainly easy to paint the Chinese as the white man and the Tibetans and other inland peoples as the Indians, but you’re always left with this weird argument that says it’s better to leave populations largely disconnected and largely undeveloped in order to preserve the “purity” of their culture, which to me is a sort of strange, reverse racism–even a proto-fascist sentiment.

I know, I know. It’s an impossible dream to the environmental doom-and-gloomers. I just don’t think you can keep those 2-3 billion in the Gap and the Core’s mini-Gaps off grid from the better life forever, and I have an undying faith in the ingenuity of mankind (Forgive me Father, for I am an optimist).

Plus, I look at the history of economic development and I see that the cleanest states (Yale’s environmental sustainability index, for example) are Core states, while the next dirtiest are the Gap, and the most pollution-creating tend to be those transitioning from Gap to Core (as always–the transition states experience the most change). That tells me that if you want a cleaner planet, you want states to move from Gap to Core. That’s the best way to get a handle on local pollution problems (which decline, historically, everywhere with development) and the best way to force global responses to global pollution issues (which tend to increase with development).

August 25, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Humor, News, Science & Technology.
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Hezbollah Didn’t Win August 25, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, News, Politics.
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WSJ.com – Hezbollah Didn’t Win
By controlling the flow of information from Lebanon throughout the conflict, and help from all those who disagree with U.S. policies for different reasons, Hezbollah may have won the information war in the West. In Lebanon, the Middle East and the broader Muslim space, however, the picture is rather different.

DIY Nuke Detector Patrols SF Bay August 24, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in News, Technology.
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Wired News: DIY Nuke Detector Patrols SF Bay

With just $12,000 worth of gear, this inventor patrols San Fransisco in this Wired article, for a lot less than the scanners DHS is buying.

While Glaros’ homemade detector can be mounted practically anywhere, the team’s preferred platform is one or more of the pilot boats that meet container ships offshore. A pilot boat will typically meet a ship up to 12 miles out, giving the detector ample opportunity to gather data, and law enforcement a chance to respond.

For his part, Glaros has no doubt the United States will be attacked. “I’ve been in this business since SALT I. It’s gonna happen; it’s just a question of when…. I have a young daughter in San Francisco. That’s the main reason I got into this project.”

Iran’s Diplomacy August 23, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, News, Politics.
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Iran [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
BTW, Michael Rubin’s take on Iran’s response in e-mail conversation last night:

They did not agree to suspend enrichment, but they’ve obfuscated the issue enough that they’ll get away with it.In short, they’ve decided to talk about what rewards we’ll give them, but have refused the conditions under which those rewards were to be granted.

1938 All Over Again August 23, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, News, Politics.
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Richard Cohen from Washington Post
When George Bush used the term “Islamic fascists,” he had a point. But it’s futile to use colorful language when, in reality, you’re out of the conversation altogether. This is another baleful consequence of the Iraq War. The U.S. is not only preoccupied, it is loathed. The leadership it once was able to exert — especially in the Middle East — is a thing of the past. If it is going to have its credibility restored, another president will have to do so. In the meantime, as we always learn, Europe without American leadership is a mere tourist destination.

2010 College Freshman Mindset August 23, 2006

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Beloit College
Members of the class of 2010, entering college this fall, were mostly born in 1988. For them: Billy Carter, Lucille Ball, Gilda Radner, Billy Martin, Andy Gibb, and Secretariat have always been dead.
1. The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
2. They have known only two presidents.
3. For most of their lives, major U.S. airlines have been bankrupt.
4. Manuel Noriega has always been in jail in the U.S.
5. They have grown up getting lost in “big boxes.”
6. There has always been only one Germany.
They have never heard anyone actually “ring it up” on a cash register.
8. They are wireless, yet always connected.
9. A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents’.
10. Thanks to pervasive headphones in the back seat, parents have always been able to speak freely in the front.
11. A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.
Smoking has never been permitted on U.S. airlines. (more…)

Rats & GoldFish Smarter than Scientists? August 22, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, Science & Technology.
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Miami – Scientists may have big brains, but a Miami-based marine mammal pecialist and author says lab rats and even goldfish can outwit them.

Richard O’Barry of the Dolphin Project says the super-sized brains of human cientists are a function of being cold hearted and living in their cientific environment and not a sign of intelligence.

“We equate our big brain with intelligence. Over the years we have looked t these kinds of things and said the scientists must be intelligent,” he said “The real flaw in this logic is that it suggests all brains are built the ame … When you look at the structure of the human scientists brain you
see it is not built for complex – open minded – information processing,” he told Animal People Magazine in an interview.

Greenland’s glaciers have been shrinking for 100 years: study August 21, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, News, Science & Technology.
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Greenland’s glaciers have been shrinking for 100 years: study
This study, which covers 247 of 350 glaciers on Disko, is the most comprehensive ever conducted on the movements of Greenland’s glaciers,” glaciologist Jacob Clement Yde, who carried out the study with Niels Tvis Knudsen, told AFP.

Using maps from the 19th century and current satellite observations, the scientists were able to conclude that “70 percent of the glaciers have been shrinking regularly since the end of the 1880s at a rate of around eight meters per year,” Yde said.

“We studied 95 percent of the area covered by glaciers in Disko and everything indicates that our results are also valid for the glaciers along the coasts of the rest of Greenland,” he said.

The biggest reduction was observed between 1964 and 1985. (more…)

Hezbelloah, Coming Soon to Your Hometown August 21, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in News, Politics, Religion, Streamingvideo, Video.
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Randy’s comment on the next Post about the lack of Iriny in Islam, bears recognition, Click to see the Video from this Headline

Hezbelloah, Coming Soon to Your Hometown

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