Tag Archives: government

Links for May 19th

Unpleasant Medicine

I think it’s significant that there’s no consensus on the larger-scale significance of environmental threats; indeed, our responses are severely polarized, as if these are debatable matters of opinion rather than ones with quantifiable facts attached.

Eyjafjallajoekull can potentially continue to erupt for years, massively disrupting long haul travel across the North Atlantic (especially if Katla follows its historic behaviour pattern and blows up after the smaller Eyjafjallajoekull eruption).

But there’s a tension between the two available responses — look for alternatives to lots of people and cargo flying through the affected air corridors, or change the tolerated level of atmospheric particles through which flight is permitted — and partisans of one approach or the other seem loath to discuss compromise.

Ronnie James Dio: An Appreciation | EW.com

As a teenage metal head I may have spent more time listening to Ronnie James Dio, who died today from cancer, than any other singer. This is partly because he was in so many darn bands—including Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and Dio—but mostly due to the fact that he was just a terrific frontman with an operatic control of his vocal instrument that few have ever matched. There are many people who only know the man from his fondness for flashing “the Devil’s horns” or his cameo in the 2006 Tenacious D movie The Pick of Destiny. However, to a certain section of the metal-loving fraternity, Ronnie James Dio really is a legend.

How Britannia came to rule the waves – Science, News – The Independent

Hero worship at the expense of historical accuracy? Surely not. It has been portrayed as the story of the lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his day despite the hindering efforts of those ranged against him, saving thousands of lives.

On the one side was John Harrison, the self-taught clockmaker from a humble Yorkshire background. On the other, the 18th Century’s wealthy elite charged with the task of presiding over the problem of longitude – the knotty task of working out how far west or east a ship has sailed.

Harrison’s story has been the subject of a best-selling book and an award-winning film but science historians believe that the true account of how the problem of longitude was solved has yet to be told.

Roger Scruton – Gloom merchant

The belief that humanity makes moral progress depends upon a wilful ignorance of history. It also depends upon a wilful ignorance of oneself – a refusal to recognise the extent to which selfishness and calculation reside in the heart even of our most generous emotions, awaiting their chance. Those who invest their hopes in the moral improvement of humankind are therefore in a precarious position: at any moment the veil of illusion might be swept away, revealing the bare truth of the human condition. Either they defend themselves against this possibility with artful intellectual ploys, or they give way, in the moment of truth, to a paroxysm of disappointment and misanthropy. Both of these do violence to our nature. The first condemns us to the life of unreason; the second to the life of contempt. Human beings may not be as good as the shallow optimists pretend; but nor are they as bad as the prophets and curmudgeons have painted them.

Johann Hari: Welcome to Cameron land – Johann Hari, Commentators – The Independent

David Cameron cites Hammersmith and Fulham council as a ‘model’ of compassionate conservatism. So what can the actions of Tory councillors here tell us about how the party would behave in government?

The real reason why Steve Jobs hates Flash

I’ve got a theory, and it’s this: Steve Jobs believes he’s gambling Apple’s future — the future of a corporation with a market cap well over US $200Bn — on an all-or-nothing push into a new market. HP have woken up and smelled the forest fire, two or three years late; Microsoft are mired in a tar pit, unable to grasp that the inferno heading towards them is going to burn down the entire ecosystem in which they exist. There is the smell of panic in the air, and here’s why …

Why Cory Doctorow is wrong about the iPad

BLOGGING IN RESPONSE to somebody else’s blog is not usually my style, but Cory Doctorow’s anti-iPad rant on BoingBoing is so well written that it demands active disagreement.

Essentially, Cory doesn’t like the iPad because it’s a closed platform. He takes several different common objections and twists them (in an intelligent way, not a stupid Peter Mandelson way) to support this view. But it is, ultimately, just a view, not an argument.

Sunday Sacrilege: The silliest story ever told

It’s Easter. Once again, the masses will gawp in awe at a bizarre and unbelievable story…because it is such a good example of how religion will piggy-back on our cognitive biases.

You all know the Easter story: a god turns into a man, gets tortured and killed, rises from the dead, and somehow this act makes us all better. It’s a tale best left unexamined, because it makes no sense. We are supposed to wallow in an emotional thrill that taps deep into our social consciousness, not think about what the story actually says.

Apple’s iPad is a touch of genius

It strikes you when you first touch an iPad. The form just feels good, not too lightweight or heavy, nor too thin or thick. It’s sensual. It’s tactile. And that moment is a good way to spot a first-timer, too, as I observed with a few test subjects. The dead giveaway for an iPad n00b is a pause, a few breaths before hitting the “on” switch, just letting it rest against the skin.

Flick the switch and the novelty hits. Just as the iPhone, Palm Pré and Android phones scratched an itch we didn’t know we had—somewhere between cellphone and notebook—the iPad hits a completely new pleasure spot. The display is large enough to make the experience of apps and games on smaller screens stale. Typography is crisp, images gem-like, and the speed brisk thanks to Apple’s A4 chip and solid state storage. [...]this is a greater leap into a new user experience than the sum of its parts suggests.

Lifesaving, safe vaccines

WHILE THERE are many debatable issues in the autism world, vaccines are no longer among them. This is a blessing for parents, children, and pediatricians. The real tragedy of the suggestion that vaccines cause autism is that millions of research dollars have been diverted to disprove a relationship that never existed to begin with

A number of large studies, in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Scandinavia, have failed to find a link between vaccines and autism. But this is an issue that doesn’t want to die, so pediatricians like me end up spending time reassuring parents that we truly have their children’s best interests at heart when we immunize them, that we are not in the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry, and we read the literature with a healthy dose of skepticism.

I’m not the messiah, says food activist – but his many worshippers do not believe him

The trouble started when Raj Patel appeared on American TV to plug his latest book, an analysis of the financial crisis called The Value of Nothing.

The London-born author, 37, thought his slot on comedy talkshow The Colbert Report went well enough: the host made a few jokes, Patel talked a little about his work and then, job done, he went back to his home in San Francisco.

Shortly afterwards, however, things took a strange turn. Over the course of a couple of days, cryptic messages started filling his inbox.

Links for September 8th

Cory Doctorow: Special Pleading

Six years ago, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom couldn’t be counted as a real success for open publishing because I was too obscure to feel the cost of the lost sales. Now, I’m too successful, someone whose name is so widely known that I am uniquely situated to benefit from open publishing, since the micro net-fame I enjoy provides the vital push necessary to wrest sales from freebies. Hilariously, some of the people who say this go back in time and revise history, claiming that I was only able to sell as many copies of Down and Out as I have over the years (nine printings and still selling great!) because I was such a big shot famous writer in 2003, on the strength of a dozen short story sales.

There’s a name for this rhetorical tactic: “special pleading.” Special pleading is when you claim that some example doesn’t merit consideration because it lacks, or contains, some special characteristic that makes it unique, not part of the general discussion.

How UK Government spun 136 people into 7m illegal file sharers

The British Government’s official figures on the level of illegal file sharing in the UK come from questionable research commissioned by the music industry, the BBC has revealed.

The Radio 4 show More or Less – which is devoted to the “often abused but ever ubiquitous world of numbers” – decided to examine the Government’s claim that 7m people in Britain are engaged in illegal file sharing.

The 7m figure comes from the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property, a Government advisory body.

Thinking about downloads

A few weeks ago, Peter Mandelson announced his intention to push forward on stringent measures to deal with “illegal” filesharing and downloading. The measures went much further than what had been envisaged in the Digital Britain report, with responsibility for the decisions and implementation passing from Ofcom to Mandelson.

[...]

It now appears that “internet suspension of illegal downloaders could become law”. Before that happens, I thought it would be worth while to share some of my thoughts about this.

I was in Hitler’s suicide bunker

At his living room table, 92-year-old Rochus Misch shows me some of his old photo albums. Private pictures he had taken more than 60 years ago. There are colour images of Mr Misch in an SS uniform at Adolf Hitler’s home in the Alps, snapshots of Hitler staring at rabbits, and photos of Hitler’s mistress and future wife Eva Braun.

For five years, SS Oberscharfuehrer Rochus Misch had been part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle, as a bodyguard, a courier and telephone operator to the Fuehrer.

Plinth debut for Marillion songs

Marillion are allowing a fan to play tracks from their new album on the fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square on Tuesday evening.

Richard Loveridge, 38, will spend his hour on the plinth talking about his 26-year love of the prog-rock veterans.

“My longest adult relationship has been with these five men, so I wanted to frame the story of my life with the story of Marillion,” he said.

Snow Leopard reveals new spots

Apple’s latest operating system – Snow Leopard – is a strange beast.

It’s curious because there are few new features to shout about.

Snow Leopard’s major changes are under the hood; Apple has been spending time changing the stuff that you do not usually see – or care about.

Why? Because spending time there should mean a faster, more stable operating system tuned to today’s hardware. Also, the changes should mean that in the future third-party application developers will have more to work with, allowing a richer, faster system.

Links for July 6th

Coffee ‘may reverse Alzheimer’s’

Drinking five cups of coffee a day could reverse memory problems seen in Alzheimer’s disease, US scientists say.

The Florida research, carried out on mice, also suggested caffeine hampered the production of the protein plaques which are the hallmark of the disease.

Previous research has also suggested a protective effect from caffeine.

Historic Bible pages put online

About 800 pages of the earliest surviving Christian Bible have been recovered and put on the internet.

Visitors to the website http://www.codexsinaiticus.org can now see images of more than half of the 1,600-year-old Codex Sinaiticus manuscript.

Fragments of the 4th Century document – written in Greek on parchment leaves – have been worked on by institutions in the UK, Germany, Egypt and Russia.

Experts say it is “a window into the development of early Christianity”.

The truth at Last, in which Paul Carr is reminded that, while comment is free, facts can be a real pain in the arse

It all started on Friday when a story appeared on Techcrunch concerning music recommendation service Last.fm. Back in February, Techcrunch ran a story alleging that Last.fm had passed listening (or “scrobbling”) data to the RIAA, the trade body representing American music labels. The story came from an anonymous source close to CBS who, apparently, was subsequently fired (leaving them slightly less close to CBS).

Love at no sight

In a looks-obsessed world, are blind people immune to appearances when they fall in love? As a new film looks at how sight-impaired people find romance, Damon Rose who is blind, says you don’t have to be sighted to be shallow

Couple’s 81st wedding anniversary

Britain’s longest living married couple have celebrated their 81st wedding anniversary.

Frank and Anita Milford, who live together in a nursing home in Plymouth, Devon, exchanged vows on 26 May, 1928.

Frank is 101 and Anita will be 101 next month.

I’m an atheist, OK?

Disagreement over the definition of atheist and agnostic has cluttered up various threads here, scattering confusion in its wake like a muckspreader in autumn.

The cause of the confusion is that atheists and theists have different definitions of the words agnostic and atheist, and adamantly refuse to accept the validity of each other’s definitions.

Here is a short form of the definitions from the two separate points of view.

Theist version: An atheist is certain there is no God, an agnostic is not certain.

Atheist version: An atheist believes there is no God, an agnostic doesn’t know.

The two versions are only subtly different, but a great deal of hot air has been expended on this difference.

When the new becomes old

Even the new gets old – and that includes the Internet, says regular columnist Bill Thompson

Irish church knew abuse ‘endemic’

An inquiry into child abuse at Catholic institutions in Ireland has found church leaders knew that sexual abuse was “endemic” in boys’ institutions.

It also found physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of institutions.

Schools were run “in a severe, regimented manner that imposed unreasonable and oppressive discipline on children and even on staff”.

Reznor takes a byte out of Apple

Apple has reversed a decision blocking a Nine Inch Nails (NIN) iPhone app.

The application – nin: access – was rejected last week on the grounds it had “offensive or obscene content”.

Nin: access allows users to access streamed music and video content from the NIN homepage, including a song called The Downward Spiral.

The band’s frontman, Trent Reznor, accused Apple of double standards – the song could be bought on iTunes – and a few days later Apple relented.

Web tool ‘as important as Google’

A web tool that “could be as important as Google”, according to some experts, has been shown off to the public.

Wolfram Alpha is the brainchild of British-born physicist Stephen Wolfram.

The free program aims to answer questions directly, rather than display web pages in response to a query like a search engine.

The “computational knowledge engine”, as the technology is known, will be available to the public from the middle of May this year.

Surveillance fears for the UK

The UK is risking sliding unwittingly into a police state because of the growing use of surveillance technology, says security guru Phil Zimmerman.

“When you live in that society and it changes incrementally over time you are less likely to notice the changes,” he told the BBC. “But if you come from outside the picture as it stands is more abruptly visible as something wrong.”

Agency denies internet spy plans

The UK’s electronic intelligence agency has taken the unusual step of issuing a statement to deny it will track all UK internet and online phone use.

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) said it was developing tracking technology but “only acts when it is necessary” and “does not spy at will”.

The denial follows the home secretary scrapping plans for a single government database for all communications.

Links for April 27th

Giving It Away

The thing about an e-book is that it's a social object. It wants to be copied from friend to friend, beamed from a Palm (nasdaq: PALM – news – people ) device, pasted into a mailing list. It begs to be converted to witty signatures at the bottom of e-mails. It is so fluid and intangible that it can spread itself over your whole life. Nothing sells books like a personal recommendation–when I worked in a bookstore, the sweetest words we could hear were "My friend suggested I pick up…." The friend had made the sale for us, we just had to consummate it. In an age of online friendship, e-books trump dead trees for word of mouth.

Plan to monitor all internet use

Communications firms are being asked to record all internet contacts between people as part of a modernisation in UK police surveillance tactics.

The home secretary scrapped plans for a database but wants details to be held and organised for security services.

The new system would track all e-mails, phone calls and internet use, including visits to social network sites.

Speculative Microeconomics for Tomorrow’s Economy

An interesting article about the Information Economy. Related to my latest OU assignment

50 Incredible Photography Techniques and Tutorials

In this post we present useful photographic techniques, tutorials and resources for various kinds of photography. You’ll learn how to set up the perfect environment and what techniques, principles and rules of thumbs you should consider when shooting your next perfect photo.

Book Review: Questions of Truth: God, Science and Belief

John Polkinghorne's former student Nicholas Beale runs a website on behalf of his mentor, on which questions about religion, and the relation of religion to science, can be posted. This apparently self-published book is a compilation of 51 of these website questions with Beale's and sometimes Polkinghorne's answers. The questions range over creation, the existence of evil, evolution, intelligent design and most of the other familiar old debating points, plus "How does the death of Jesus save the world?", "Why believe Jesus rose from the dead?" and "How much do you need to believe to be a Christian?"

Since these latter questions premise membership of the asylum already, I shall focus just on the various questions that touch on the relation of science and religion

Owning a camera doesn’t make you a criminal

When George Bush pronounced the war on terrorism as the "war on tourism", we thought it was because he was an idiot.

Maybe not, because it seems that tourism and terrorism are the same thing – or at least, they are to some police officers. How else can we explain the harassment of tourists who took photographs of a bus station?

Study finds pirates 10 times more likely to buy music

Piracy may be the bane of the music industry but according to a new study, it may also be its engine. A report from the BI Norwegian School of Management has found that those who download music illegally are also 10 times more likely to pay for songs than those who don't.

40 Amazing Online Photography Magazines

Whatever country we live in, we’re probably all familiar with the well-known photography magazines available in our newsagents and bookstores. The UK has Practical Photography, France has Photo, the Italians have Zoom and the Americans have American Photo. What you may not know is that there are many more photography magazines that are only available online. And some of them are good, very good.

Free data sharing is here to stay

Since the 1970s, pundits have predicted a transition to an "information economy". The vision of an economy based on information seized the imaginations of the world's governments. For decades now, they have been creating policies to "protect" information — stronger copyright laws, international treaties on patents and trademarks, treaties to protect anti-copying technology.

The thinking is simple: an information economy must be based on buying and selling information. Therefore, we need policies to make it harder to get access to information unless you've paid for it.

That means that we have to make it harder for you to share information, even after you've paid for it.

Links for April 16th

UK ‘has the worst copyright laws’

UK copyright laws “needlessly criminalise” music fans and need to be updated, a consumer watchdog says.

UK laws that make it a copyright violation to copy a CD that you own onto a computer or iPod should be changed, says Consumer Focus.

The call came after global umbrella group Consumers International put the UK in last place in a survey of 16 countries’ copyright laws.

Secret filming nurse struck off

A nurse who secretly filmed for the BBC to reveal the neglect of elderly patients at a hospital has been struck off for misconduct.

Margaret Haywood, 58, filmed at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton for a BBC Panorama programme in July 2005.

She was struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council which said she failed to “follow her obligations as a nurse”.

EC starts legal action over Phorm

The European Commission has started legal action against Britain over the online advertising technology Phorm.

It follows complaints to the EC over how the behavioural advertising service was tested on BT’s broadband network without the consent of users.

Last year Britain had said it was happy Phorm conformed to European data laws.

But the commission has said Phorm “intercepted” user data without clear consent and the UK need to look again at its online privacy laws.

Fool disclosure

What we have seen in these past few days is another rattle in the slow, but eventually complete, death of privacy. In the developed world, whenever there are at least two people in a room, it’s a statistical near-certainty that one of them will have a camera, and the means to instantly upload photos to the web. Increasingly, it’s becoming likely that they’ll also be able to upload sound and video too.

Saudis ‘to regulate’ child brides

Saudi Arabia says it plans to start regulating the marriage of young girls, amid controversy over a union between a 60-year-old man and a girl of eight.

A court in Unaiza upheld the marriage on condition the groom does not have sex with her until she reaches puberty.

The power of the child within

Under pressure or on our own, we often hear songs or poems we’ve learnt by heart as a child. Remembering helps us cope in extreme and dangerous situations, but why?

“It was all in my head – my father would play the piano and I would have a mental party in the hole in the ground.”

That hole was where Peter Shaw was held captive for five months in 2002, after being kidnapped while working in Georgia for the European Commission. The businessman from South Wales was chained around the neck and kept in the dark almost constantly.

It’s hard to imagine how people survive in such extreme conditions, but those who’ve been through such stressful situations say reciting a childhood song or poem helps.

I’ll tell you what really offends me

I was deeply offended by something on the BBC recently. It wasn’t Clare Balding laying into a jockey’s teeth, but this time with a cricket bat, or Frankie Boyle’s 10 best jokes about the Queen’s genitals, or even a repeat of Diana’s funeral with an added laugh track. No, it was a new low.

It was Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, eliciting a round of applause on Any Questions for suggesting that Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand should pay the BBC’s “Sachsgate” Ofcom fine. The rest of the panel bravely agreed with her.

David Mitchell talking a lot of sense. Sometimes government – any government, not just ours – makes me despair

Venezuela’s giant rodent cuisine

While in many countries the Easter dish may be lamb, in Venezuela a traditional delicacy around this time of the year is the capybara, the world’s biggest rodent.

The capybara is a distant cousin to the common guinea pig but bigger and river-based like a beaver.

Many Venezuelans regard the semi-aquatic creature as more fish than meat – a useful description during Lent when it is eaten as a replacement for red meat in this largely Roman Catholic country.

Links for April 7th

The amorality of the faithful

Rabbi Avi Shafran is a columnist who, to my mind, represents the very worst of religious dogma. He often writes about “morality”, bemoaning the horrid state of godlessness, but his morality is little more than the rote obedience of the dogmatically orthodox. His usual complaint is that atheism removes the moral compass provided by a god — that one can believe that any arbitrary thing is good if you’re an atheist.

Handy Tweaks To Make GIMP Replace Photoshop

GIMP was never designed to replace Photoshop, yet with every release, it comes a little closer to being able to do so. It can be used to author graphics, create logos and edit photos, as well as make short animations (using GAP). Despite these features, the open-source app is a foreign world for many users switching from Photoshop. Familiar tools are missing, menus are laid out differently and tasks must be accomplished in unknown ways.

In this article, we list eight tweaks to make GIMP a more serious Photoshop replacement option.

Microsoft’s recession-era ploy to get you to buy a PC instead of a Mac

One surefire way of inciting violence among techies is to wonder idly whether Apple computers are really worth their inflated price tags. Mac devotees are sensitive about this subject: Tell a Mac-head that you can’t understand why anyone would pay $1,300 for a MacBook when a comparable Dell sells for $900 and you might as well be calling him a vain fool. Who wants to be regarded as paying for style over substance? Then try suggesting to your Windows-loving pal that there’s more to choosing a computer than looking for the lowest price. What about ease of use, long-term value, and the sheer pleasure of using a Mac? Now you’re calling your Windows friend a cheapskate. Either way, you’re asking for a black eye—or, at least, a three-hour earful about why price should or shouldn’t matter in your next computer purchase.

Dave Gorman: Re: Cycling…

Since announcing the tour I’ve been inundated with questions and advice. All of which is lovely… but I’m really not very well equipped to deal with much, if any of it.

A lot of people don’t seem to believe me when I say that there’s no real plan in place. It was an idea for a bike ride. Then I added in the idea of doing a gig every night. Then the gigs were booked. Then we announced the tour. But that’s it. That’s all I know. I haven’t mapped out any particular routes.

Robo-scientist’s first findings

Scientists have created an ideal colleague – a robot that performs hundreds of repetitive experiments.

The robot, called Adam, is the first machine to have independently “discovered new scientific knowledge”.

It has already identified the role of several genes in yeast cells, and is able to plan further experiments to test its own hypotheses.

The creeping fungus of religion in government

A recent court decision went against the Bush administration, and also reveals some of the contemptible influence peddling that went on in that gathering of scoundrels. The subject was birth control, in particular Plan B and other forms of emergency contraception, and as many of you know, the Bushite regime dragged its feet with ridiculous deliberation in allowing the FDA to approve these forms of contraception, and effectively blocked them from public access. By hook and crook, by cheating and deception, and by lying to the people, as this court decision affirms. This is why we fight the inclusion of religion in government: it poisons everything.

Links for March 26th

”Hello America, I’m a British Muslim’

When British businessman Imran Ahmad was made redundant in January, instead of hitting the Job Centre he decided to arrange a one-man speaking tour of the United States to spread his message of peace and Muslim moderateness.

God ‘will not give happy ending’

God will not intervene to prevent humanity from wreaking disastrous damage to the environment, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned.

In a lecture, Dr Rowan Williams urged a “radical change of heart” to prevent runaway climate change.

At York Minster he said humanity should turn away from the selfishness and greed that leads it to ignore its interdependence with the natural world.

And God would not guarantee a “happy ending”, he warned.

Mythical beings can’t really intervene – considering their mythicalness (is that even a word?)

Call to scrap ‘illegal databases’

A quarter of all government databases are illegal and should be scrapped or redesigned, according to a report.

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust says storing information leads to vulnerable people, such as young black men, single parents and children, being victimised.

It says the UK’s “database state” wastes billions from the public purse and often breaches human rights laws.

Big websites urged to avoid Phorm

Seven of the UK’s biggest web firms have been urged to opt out of a controversial ad-serving system.

Phorm – aka Webwise – profiles users’ browsing habits and serves up adverts based on which sites they visit.

In an open letter, the Open Rights Group (ORG) has asked the firms to block Phorm’s attempts to profile their sites, to thwart the profiling system.

Last.fm to charge for streaming

Internet radio and social music site Last.fm is to start charging listeners outside the UK, US, and Germany.

Users outside those three countries will pay 3 euros per month to listen to Last.fm Radio, the site’s streaming music service.

The other content on the site, such as biographies, videos, charts, and “scrobbling” – the site’s musical profiling – will remain free for all.

Police to probe UK torture claims

Police are to investigate whether an MI5 officer was complicit in the torture of ex-Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed.

The Attorney General, Baroness Scotland QC, said the probe would be “the appropriate course of action”.

Mr Mohamed, 30, a UK resident, said MI5 had prolonged his detention and torture while he was being held in Morocco.

EU ready to screw up European Internet with Telcoms Package

Glyn sez, “The EU’s Telecoms Package is back for its second reading. The French are attempting to push through their ‘three strikes and you’re out’ approach again, the UK are attempting to get rid of net neutrality and get rid of peoples right to privacy. The ITRE/IMCO committee are meeting on the 31 March 2009 to dicuss these and other alarming amendments. The Open Rights Group have more details

A Conversation with John Scalzi

John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War took me by surprise. I picked up the book because I’d heard a lot of good things about him and decided I’d give it a one-page tryout. Either he’d grip me right away or I’d drop it. Twenty pages later I realized I hadn’t moved from the spot. OK, John. Grip achieved.

I loved Old Man’s War and I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of the books set in that universe. John Scalzi is a clever, funny author and I recommend reading his books

Therapists offer gay ‘treatment’

Therapists are still offering treatments for homosexuality despite there being no evidence that such methods work, research suggests.

A significant minority of mental health professionals had agreed to help at least one patient “reduce” their gay or lesbian feelings when asked to do so.

Links for March 12th

Iron Maiden speak out over riot

Heavy metal group Iron Maiden’s tour manager has criticised the people who were arrested for trying to gatecrash a concert in Bogota.

Colombian police arrested more than 100 people after stones were thrown hours before the group were due to perform.

In a statement posted on the band’s website, Rod Smallwood said: “We abhor the inane behaviour of a small minority of people outside.”

Product placement on TV ruled-out

The government has rejected proposals to allow broadcasters to use product placement in programmes, despite collapsing advertising revenues.

The practice of brands paying to have their products featured on television shows and movies is common in the US.

But Culture Minister Andy Burnham said a UK ban would be maintained and that he would “consider all other avenues before allowing product placement.”

Stephen Fry: The internet and Me

Stephen Fry – wit, writer, raconteur, actor and quiz show host – is also a self-confessed dweeb and meistergeek. As he confesses “If I added up all the hours I’ve sat watching a progress bar fill up, I could live another life.”

His Twitter feed is the world’s second most popular, pipped at the post by one Barack Obama. He spoke to BBC Radio 4’s Analysis programme about why he believes the web is such a wondrous thing.

Last.FM joins Google’s rights row

Online music service Last.fm has waded into the row between YouTube and the Performing Right Society.

Founder Martin Stiksel said he hoped a resolution could be found to avoid illegal services from taking over.

He urged both parties to find a “workable solution, which he hoped would include cheaper and “less complicated” licences.

Tech shifts cultural boundaries

Digital technologies challenge the cultural industries, says Bill Thompson.

Web founder’s ‘snooping’ warning

The integrity of the internet is under threat if online “snooping” goes unchecked, one of the web’s most respected figures has told Parliament.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, said browsing habits could now be monitored as if someone had put a “TV camera in one’s room”.

Laws must be better enforced to ensure such “sensitive” data was not misused for commercial gain, he added.

Italian bloggers call for support from around the world to fight blogger-licensing in Italy

Senator D’Alia comes along wanting to black out the Internet. He has proposed an amendment, that has been approved in the Senate, to a draft law put forward by Minister Brunetta, that will oblige the ISPs to black out a site, a blog or a social media like YouTube or Facebook (the whole site) at the request of the Minister of the Interior for crimes of opinion, for example a film clip or a group that invites people not to observe a law that is considered to be unjust. Without any verdict from a magistrate. Today, this only happens in China. In a dictatorship.

Now Carlucci, ex show girl now member of Parliament for the right wing, is proposing to a law to forbid to publish any content in any form on line anonymously.

Homosexuality does for UK blue duck population

A couple of male blue ducks have pretty well done for hopes that the species might propagate in the UK after eschewing the advances of a female in favour of some light boy-on-boy, the Telegraph reports.

The pair of gay drakes – named Ben and Jerry – resisted the advances of female Cherry at Arundel Wetland Centre in West Sussex and came out of the avine closet to form a close partnership.

Dr Who Dalek found in pond

A Dalek from Dr Who was found submerged in a pond by volunteers enlisted to clear it of rubbish.

Bookmarks for March 5th through March 10th

  • YouTube vs PRS: whoever wins, it’s bad news for musicians -

    You’ve got to hand it to Google: when it threw its toys out of the pram over its dispute with PRS For Music, it immediately won the PR war. On blogs, boards and Twitter the consensus is: hurrah for Google! It’s sticking it to The Man!

    Is it really?

  • One-eyed man creates prosthetic ‘surveillance’ eye -

    A one-eyed man has taken advantage of some of the world’s smallest imaging and data transmission technologies to help him create documentaries filmed from the first-person perspective.

  • Outdated music industry deserves no Govt help -

    When Napster came along in 1999, one big record company – BMG – wanted to find a way to harness the power of the internet. The other major record companies sued Napster – and eventually, sued BMG, too – starting an unwinnable war with dodgy downloads that continues to this day.

    Now, like General Motors, the record companies are hurting – and like General Motors, they want the government to save them. GM wants cash; the record companies want ISPs to act as their policemen, while the Digital Britain report suggests a broadband tax to create a new organisation to fight piracy and find new and exciting ways for DRM to annoy us.

    Why doesn’t the government tell them to get stuffed?

  • User info stolen from music site -

    The music streaming service Spotify has been targeted by hackers.

    The Swedish company says people’s personal details, including e-mail addresses, dates of birth and addresses, were all stolen.

    However, it is thought credit-card details, which were handled by a third party, have remained secure.

  • Digital politics is different -

    Online coverage gives events enduring significance, says Bill Thompson

  • Nepal’s ‘confined women’ want change -

    In the darkness, a 10-day-old baby boy wails. It is midday, but the infant has not been allowed out of this special room, separate from the rest of the house, since being brought home after birth.

    Only his young mother, Basanti Devi Bhul, can touch him.

    She goes out a little but cannot touch anybody else because until the 11th day after the birth, society considers her to be unclean.

  • The Answer to classic rock’s future -

    It is gigging the old-fashioned way, but then there is a retro feel to The Answer’s brand of blues-rock.

    The 1970s influence of bands like Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy is there to hear, but their youthful energy and sound have led some music critics to hail them as “the future of classic rock”.

    That means they are unlikely to ever find themselves on the cover of the NME, although they were inadvertently “discovered” by Radio 1 and 6 Music’s new music champion, Steve Lamacq.

  • The Return of Reefer Madness -

    “Alcohol is evil. We know this because it is True. And it’s especially bad for women because, well, women shouldn’t drink. If you run a study to confirm this belief and the facts don’t back you up, the facts are wrong. So tell the public the Truth (alcohol is always evil) and bury the facts; the press won’t be able to tell the difference because they’re (a) lazy (or overworked, take your pick) and (b) statistically innumerate.”

Bookmarks for February 25th through February 27th

  • A false sense of security -

    The real danger of social networks is complacency, not cancer, says Bill Thompson

  • Ryanair mulls charge for toilets -

    Irish budget airline Ryanair has said it is considering charging passengers for using the toilet while flying.

    Chief executive Michael O’Leary told the BBC that the Dublin-based carrier was looking at maybe installing a “coin slot on the toilet door”.

  • Leeds Carnegie: Beware the Bees’ sting -

    Leeds Carnegie will be aiming to avoid a giant-slaying in the second city this weekend – and it won’t be a place for the faint-hearted, according to Brummie Leigh Hinton.

    All-conquering Carnegie visit the parochial surroundings of Sharmans Cross Road to face National Two title chasers Birmingham and Solihull in the last eight of the EDF Energy National Trophy on Saturday (kick-off 2pm).

  • UK government backs open source -

    The UK government has said it will accelerate the use of open source software in public services.

    Tom Watson MP, minister for digital engagement, said open source software would be on a level playing field with proprietary software such as Windows.

    Open source software will be adopted “when it delivers best value for money”, the government said.

  • ”Rents down’ amid flooded market -

    The cost of renting a home has dropped as frustrated property sellers have been flooding the market, according to two separate surveys.

    Owners were choosing to let rather than sell, having accepted that property prices were likely to stay low for some time, said property website Globrix.

  • Sounds of Brass hits top 10 -

    Phillip Hunt’s weekly hour long ‘Sounds of Brass’ radio programme, which is broadcast on nine BBC Local Radio Stations throughout the West of England, has entered the BBC IPlayer Top Ten.

  • Ryanair and the ‘idiot bloggers’ -

    Ryanair has confirmed that one its staff abused a blogger who questionned the airline site’s credentials.

    But far from apologising for the volley of abuse, Ryanair today dismissed bloggers as “lunatics” and “idiots.”