And now “zombie guns”

Russia has developed weapons that disable to various degrees the central nervous system.  They have already been used in “crowd control,” suggesting that they are not just for military purposes but for internal policing and even, for political control.   But what I want to know as an American is whether  the Second Amendment applies to zombie guns too!

Vladimir Putin has confirmed Russia has been testing mind-bending psychotronic guns that can effectively turn people into zombies.

The futuristic weapons – which attack their victims’ central nervous system – are being developed by scientists and could be used against Russia’s enemies and even its own dissidents by the end of the decade.

Mr Putin has described the guns, which use electromagnetic radiation like that found in microwave ovens, as entirely new instruments for achieving political and strategic goals.

Plans to introduce the super-weapons were announced by Russian defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov.

While the technology has been around for some time, MrTsyganok said the guns were recently tested for crowd control purposes.

“When it was used for dispersing a crowd and it was focused on a man, his body temperature went up immediately as if he was thrown into a hot frying pan,” Mr Tsyganok said.

“Still, we know very little about this weapon and even special forces guys can hardly cope with it,” he said.

Research into electromagnetic weapons has been carried out in the US and Russia since the ’50s but it appears Putin has stolen a march on the US.

Precise details have not been revealed but previous research has shown that low-frequency waves or beams can affect brain cells, alter psychological states and make it possible to transmit suggestions and commands directly into someone’s thoughts.

Mr Putin said the technology is comparable in effect to nuclear weapons but “more acceptable in terms of political and military ideology”.

via Russia working on electromagnetic radiation guns | Space, Military and Medicine | Herald Sun.

Why Springsteen uses a teleprompter

A Washington Post critic chastized Bruce Springsteen for using a teleprompter at a recent concert, sparking this letter to the editor by E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren.  Not only does the letter explain the quite different-from-the-ordinary use of this technology, but it illuminates the spontaneity and “musical recklessness” of a Springsteen concert from the point of view of someone on the inside:

Your teleprompter article left out some important points. Last E Street tour, (”Working On A Dream”) we played 192 different songs on that tour alone. Dozens of those songs were from audience-request signs Bruce would collect and dump in front of the drum riser. He would then rifle through them, sailing them around him until he found a song to attempt — much like the college kid rummaging through the pile of dirty laundry in search of one clean shirt.

Many songs were covers we had never performed live. EVER! He would show us the sign and then immediately “frisbee” it down the stairs to the teleprompter crew to surf the net and find the lyrics while we all talked up a quick arrangement at his microphone, knowing he’d be counting it off in 20 seconds.

Many of those audibles were Bruce songs unrehearsed or played in years or decades. With our collective musical memory, hand signals and teleprompter, it allows for those ambitious, ad lib moments and an inspired, musical recklessness I believe is unique to our shows. These points might have brought some additional perspective to your article. In our case, the teleprompter has a much more ambitious use and purpose than your article indicates.

via Nils Lofgren defends Bruce Springsteen’s use of teleprompter – The Style Blog – The Washington Post.

E-books are increasing reading

E-books and e-readers are increasing the amount of reading that is going on.  People who get a Kindle are reading more than they used to, including reading books that aren’t electronic.

A fifth of American adults have read an electronic version of a book in the last year, a trend that is fueling a renewed love of reading, according to a new survey.

The portion of e-book readers among all American adults has increased to 21 percent from 17 percent between December and February, due in large part to a boom in tablet and e-reader sales this past holiday season.

All those devices are turning some consumers into super readers, according to a survey released Thursday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. E-book readers plowed through an average of 24 titles in the past year, compared with an average of 15 for readers of physical books.

“Those who have taken the plunge into reading e-books stand out in almost every way from other kinds of readers . . . They are avid readers of books in all formats,” said Lee Rainie, director of research at Pew.

Curiously, e-reading somehow sparks a love of books in any format. Even as e-readers are downloading books on computers, tablets and smartphones, they are also checking out more books at libraries and buying more at bookstores and online. About nine in 10 e-book readers said they have also read printed books in the past year, Pew reported in its survey of about 3,000 people 16 and older.

via Survey finds e-readers are spurring consumers of books in all formats – The Washington Post.

I find that happening with me.  I read a lot, of course, as a literature teacher and someone who wants to keep up with things.  But ever since my wife gave me a Kindle–which as an old-school print guy I was skeptical of at first– I find myself reading much more for fun (bringing back pleasures that got me into the literature profession in the first place).  I can crank up the type-size so that I can read on the treadmill (which re-enforces that good habit I’m trying to cultivate) and instead of aimless surfing on the computer or watching television, I am now reading novels. Also books don’t cost as much when you download them, further liberating my reading impulses.

What I’m enjoying is not novels of ambitious literary merit–that’s more like work–but books that give me an interesting imaginative experience.  They have to be well-written with a certain measure of complexity, otherwise they can’t hold my attention, so genre fiction and bestseller fare doesn’t always do it for me.  But I’ve found some gems that I think I’ll be blogging about.

By the way, with my Kindle I’ve signed up for Amazon Prime, giving me the ability to “check out” books from Amazon’s virtual library for free.  Unfortunately, the pickings seem pretty slim.  I did find a couple of excellent reads:  Moneyball and Hunger Games.   (More on the latter later.)  If anyone has found other good books in that library–ones that meet my criteria–I’d be glad to learn about them.

Anyway, if you have broken down and bought an e-reader, has this “kindled” your reading?

Lying to tell the truth?

Mike Daisey has been performing a one-man-show entitled “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” in which he exposes the unsafe working condition in Apple factories in China.  NPR picked up the story and interviewed Daisey on “This American Life” about what he found out during a visit to one of these Chinese factories.  It turned out that Daisey made up the more dramatic details.  When this information came out, NPR retracted the interview.

Consider this defense of Daisey from tech reporter Joshua Topolsky:

Mike Daisey was lying.

No, he didn’t lie about all of it. He did go to southern China and meet with workers from Foxconn. He was there, all right, but he wasn’t honest about what he’d seen. There were no underage workers he’d spoken with, there was no man with a maimed hand. In one passage of his show, ­Daisey talks about workers who had been poisoned by a gas called n-hexane. That part was true — there had been workers poisoned by this gas at an Apple contractor somewhere in China. But Daisey never spoke to them. Like many of the most upsetting moments in his show, Daisey simply fabricated the encounter.

The lies were so clear and so egregious that after learning the truth, “This American Life” issued a retraction of its report by way of a new show — a show in which host Ira Glass confronted Daisey over the deception.

It’s an uncomfortable listen. As Daisey is called out by Glass, you can hear the hesitation, the panic, and the fear in his voice. He doesn’t offer much in the way of excuses. The main point he drives home is that he felt it was necessary to embellish his story in order to retain the “truth” of the message of his show. He lied to tell the truth, basically.

In some immediate way, this defense rings true. There are many documented cases of worker mistreatment and injuries in Foxconn factories. There have been reports of underage workers. There have been suicides. Some of the most important and honest revelations of these issues have come from Apple itself, which issues a supplier responsibility statement every year detailing both the improvements and problems it’s having with international partners.

But until the radio broadcast Daisey took part in — and many of the follow-up interviews he gave — this problem was never discussed in a such a big, public way. Daisey’s lies inspired honest questions about the gadgets in our pockets. Did he betray the trust of the public and journalists by lying? The answer to this question is easy: Yes. But were the lies necessary?

We have a tendency to tune out the things we don’t like hearing. That is doubly true when money is involved. I’m not suggesting that we didn’t listen when Apple issued its report, and that we didn’t pay attention when the Times published its findings. What I’m saying is that sad songs have a way of sticking with us long after we’ve heard them — and Daisey found a way to tell the sad, human part of this story. To make it catchy enough to stick, even if it was a lie.

via Why Mike Daisey had to lie to tell the truth about Apple – The Washington Post.

So in order to expose abuse of workers he had to make up cases of the abuse of workers.  In order to tell the truth, he had to lie.   Does this make any sense?

It’s true that fiction can tell the truth–a novel can express truths about the human heart, even though its incidents never happened–but, as Sir Philip Sydney has shown, fiction isn’t a lie because it presents itself as imaginary.  A lie, on the other hand, presents itself as truth.  Which is what Mike Daisey did.

Pepsi’s use of aborted fetal cells

I had assumed this was just a wild rumor, but Pepsi really is using the bodies of aborted children to make its products–not for cannibalism but in product testing.   And the Obama administration has given its approval.   From Lifesite:

PepsiCo has come under fire from pro-life advocates because it has been contracting with a research firm that uses fetal cells from babies victimized by abortions to test and produce artificial flavor enhancers.

Now, the Obama administration is set to face more criticism because an agency has declared that Pepsi’s use of the company and its controversial flavor testing process constitutes “ordinary business.”

In a decision delivered February 28, the Security and Exchange Commission ruled that PepsiCo’s use of aborted fetal remains in their research and development agreement with Senomyx to produce flavor enhancers falls under “ordinary business operations.”

Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director of Children of God for Life, the organization that exposed the PepsiCo- Senomyx collaboration last year, informed LifeNews today that a letter signed by Attorney Brian Pitko of the SEC Office of Chief Counsel was sent in response to a 36-page document submitted by PepsiCo attorneys in January 2012. In that filing, PepsiCo pleaded with the SEC to reject a Shareholder’s Resolution filed in October 2011 that the company “adopt a corporate policy that recognizes human rights and employs ethical standards which do not involve using the remains of aborted human beings in both private and collaborative research and development agreements.”

PepsiCo lead attorney George A. Schieren noted that the resolution should be excluded because it “deals with matters related to the company’s ordinary business operations” and that “certain tasks are so fundamental to run a company on a day-to-day basis that they could not be subject to stockholder oversight.”

Vinnedge said she is appalled by the apathy and insensitivity of both PepsiCo executives and the Obama administration.

“We’re not talking about what kind of pencils PepsiCo wants to use – we are talking about exploiting the remains of an aborted child for profit,” she said. “Using human embryonic kidney (HEK-293) to produce flavor enhancers for their beverages is a far cry from routine operations.” . . . .

“The company’s key flavor programs focus on the discovery and development of savory, sweet and salt flavor ingredients that are intended to allow for the reduction of MSG, sugar and salt in food and beverage products,” the Senomyx web site says. “Using isolated human taste receptors, we created proprietary taste receptor-based assay systems that provide a biochemical or electronic readout when a flavor ingredient interacts with the receptor.”Vinnedge explained, “What they don’t tell the public is that they are using HEK 293 – human embryonic kidney cells taken from an electively aborted baby to produce those receptors. They could have easily chosen animal, insect, or other morally obtained human cells expressing the G protein for taste receptors.”

via Obama Agency: Pepsi Using Aborted Fetal Cells is Ordinary Business | LifeNews.com.

Comments from a source that isn’t pro-life, as such, focused instead on environmental and food issues:

To be clear, the aborted fetal tissue used to make Pepsi’s flavor chemicals does not end up in the final product sold to customers, according to reports — it is used, instead, to evaluate how actual human taste receptors respond to these chemical flavorings. But the fact that Pepsi uses them at all when viable, non-human alternatives are available illustrates the company’s blatant disregard for ethical and moral concerns in the matter.

Pepsi is not the only corporation doing this sort of thing.  Senomyx’s other customers include the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Merck.

So it has come to this:  the commodification of aborted babies.

Will Republicans go along with this, since it’s a matter of corporate practice and they are committed to being pro-business?  Will Libertarians defend this practice, since it’s all free enterprise?  Will Democrats who are normally critical of big business support these corporations, with pro-choicers not seeing a problem since they think fetuses are not human beings and since using fetuses as commodities reinforces a woman’s right to choose?

UPDATE:  Read the comments for some facts that might put Pepsi and federal regulators (not the Obama administration as such) in a more positive light.  But they also might not.  You tell me.

HT:  Trey

Posthumous conception

The Supreme Court heard a case (Astrue v. Capato) on Monday that hinged on determining the inheritance rights of children conceived by artificial insemination after their father’s death.

Robert and Karen Capato’s twins were born in 2003 — 18 months after Robert Capato’s death. And in its first review of “posthumous conception,” the ­Supreme Court on Monday struggled to align modern reproductive techniques to a federal law written in 1939.

In the end, the justices generally sounded disinclined to award Social Security survivor benefits to the Capato children. Theirs is among about 100 cases brought by children of artificial insemination born after the death of a father that the Social Security Administration has turned down.

But it was a tough slog through the details of a law that was written at a time when, as Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said, “they never had any inkling about the situation that has arisen in this case.”

The Capatos married in 1999, and shortly thereafter he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Because they feared that his treatments might leave him sterile, Robert Capato began depositing sperm at a sperm bank in Florida.

He rallied at one point, and the couple had a naturally conceived son in 2001. But as his condition worsened, the Capatos began to talk about in vitro fertilization to give their son siblings. They signed a notarized statement that any children “born to us, who were conceived by the use of our embryos” shall in all aspects be their children and entitled to their property.

But the provision was not included in Robert Capato’s will at his death in March 2002.

After the twins were born, Karen Capato applied for Social Security survivor benefits. The Capatos’ naturally conceived son received the benefits; the twins did not. The administrative-law judge said the 1939 federal law looked to state laws to determine whether the benefit seeker is eligible to inherit property, and under Florida law, the twins were not eligible.

An appeals court reversed that decision, saying that the twins only had to meet the definition in another part of the law, which defined an eligible child simply as “the child or legally adopted child of an individual.”

But other appeals courts have found just the opposite, that the state laws are the places to look for determination of eligibility.

Assistant Solicitor General Eric Miller acknowledged that the law was ambiguous, because it seemed to provide two different definitions of a “child.” But he said the Social Security Administration had made the reasonable ­decision to require that a person seeking survivor benefits “must show that he or she would have been able to inherit personal property” under applicable state laws.

Alito seemed most skeptical of the government’s position, saying that perhaps Congress in 1939 did not think there was need to define the meaning of child. “They knew what a child was,” he said.

Charles A. Rothfeld, representing Capato, said the law was clearly meant to cover “the biological child of married parents” and the twins fit that definition.

What about a child born into a marriage but not a biological child, asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She wondered what would be the outcome if Karen Capato remarried but used her deceased husband’s frozen sperm to conceive.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pressed Rothfeld on whether the marriage between the Capatos ended with his death.

Justice Antonin Scalia wondered how children could be “survivors” if they were not conceived before their father’s death.

“What is at issue here is not whether children that have been born through artificial insemination get benefits,” Scalia said. “It’s whether children who are born after the father’s death get benefits.” . . .

“It’s a mess,” piped in Justice Elena Kagan.

via Today’s paper.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X