Pro-democracy protests keep spreading

Now that the Egyptians have thrown off their authoritarian ruler, pro-democracy uprisings are threatening one of the worst dictators of all, Libya’s
Muammar Gaddafi. He is reportedly responding with machine guns. The king of Bahrain is in trouble. Meanwhile, mass protests have also broken out in Iran, Algeria, Yemen, and Morocco. Also in China, with protesters calling for a “jasmine revolution.”

via Anger on the streets: unrest in Iran, Algeria, Yemen, Morocco and China | World news | The Guardian.

This is surely reminiscent of the fall of Communism, isn’t it?

UPDATE: Gaddafi has reportedly fled from the capital city of Tripoli, as protesters are burning government buildings!

A new definition of religious discrimination

The University of California-Davis has a new religious discrimination policy, according to which ONLY Christians can be accused of discriminating against other religions, and discrimination AGAINST Christians does not count:

The UC-Davis policy defines “Religious/Spiritual Discrimination” as “the loss of power and privilege to those who do not practice the dominant culture’s religion. In the United States, this is institutionalized oppressions toward those who are not Christian.”

“Christians deserve the same protections against religious discrimination as any other students on a public university campus,” says Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) Senior Counsel David French. “It’s ridiculously absurd to single out Christians as oppressors and non-Christians as the only oppressed people on campus when the facts show that public universities are more hostile to Christians than anyone else.”

A from ADF-allied attorney Tim Swickard to UC-Davis explains, “It is patently clear that UC Davis’s definition of religious discrimination is blatantly unconstitutional under both the Federal and California State Constitutions. The policy singles out some faiths for official school protection while denying the same protection to others solely on the basis of their particular religious views…Moreover, the UC-Davis policy is simply nonsensical given the environment on most University campuses where Christian students, if anything, are among the most likely to be subjected to discrimination because of their faith.”

The letter cites a recent study of more than 1,200 faculty at public universities that showed that professors admitted to having a significant bias against Christian students, particularly evangelicals. Fifty-three percent admitted to having negative feelings about evangelical students solely because of their religious beliefs.

via UC-Davis Students Object to Religious Discrimination Policy.

This is a good example of what postmodernism–note the jargon: “privilege, power, dominant culture, institutionalized oppression”–can do to civil and legal rights.   Opposing religious discrimination as a way to discriminate against religion.

UPDATE: The university has now rescinded the definition and taken it off its website. HT: Steve Billingsley

HT:  Jackie

Fun with Wikipedia

In light of the radioactive banana post, what are some other weird facts that can be found on Wikipedia?

Egypt in Wisconsin

25,000 protesters are in the streets in Madison and 40% of Wisconsin teachers have called in sick, forcing cancellation of schools, as  new Republican governor Scott Walker is getting pushback for his proposal to limit collective bargaining by unions for public employees and to cut back on the cost of their benefits.

Walker’s plan would allow collective bargaining for wages only and force state workers to pay 5.8% of their salaries for pensions, up from 0.2%, and 12.6% for health insurance, up from  4% – 6% percent.

And now, to prevent a vote on the measure, the Democrats in the state legislature have boarded a bus and left the state, preventing a quorum so that the bill cannot be voted on!

Meanwhile Ohio is also threatening to cut back expensive benefits for state employees, and other states facing huge budget problems are wanting to do the same.

See State Democrats absent for vote as Wisconsin budget protests swell –

I’m very curious about what your average Wisconsinite–as I was a few years ago–things of all of this.

CliffsNotes of CliffsNotes

As a literature professor, I just hate CliffsNotes and their ilk.  Reading isolated facts about a book is not the same thing as reading a book.   I consider using CliffsNotes instead of reading the assignment as cheating.  But now CliffsNotes are evidently considered too long for today’s students to handle.

According to various news reports, that company is now producing brief internet videos of its famous crib notes which will be shown initially on AOL, since “everything in today’s world seems to be headed towards speedier and shorter ways to get information.”

Twain and Dickens are information you see; not art. . . .

Anyway, these new “study aides” won’t be dry, talking-head videos either; no sir. They will be “humorous shorts.” And not just humorous, but “irreverent,” too. Yet CliffsNotes says these humorous, irreverent shorts will “still manage to present the plot, characters, and themes” of the assignments — I mean books. . . .

The best news is, as it should be, saved for last. Mark Burnett, a “reality-show producer” (Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?), is charged with making the videos, which will run a full five minutes. But five minutes is an eternity in our go-go, busy-busy, click-swipe world! Thus, for each video of such interminable length, a “shorter one-minute version will also be made available on mobile telephones, as an emergency refresher before a test.”

via Pajamas Media » CliffsNotes for CliffsNotes? Yeah, Pretty Much..

So there will also be a Cliffs Notes version of the Cliff Notes version of Cliff Notes.

Radioactive bananas

Thanks to Webmonk for alerting me to this interesting fact cited at the blog Watts Up With That, which quotes from Wikipedia:

A banana equivalent dose is a concept occasionally used by nuclear power proponents[1][2] to place in scale the dangers of radiation by comparing exposures to the radiation generated by a common banana.

Many foods are naturally radioactive, and bananas are particularly so, due to the radioactive potassium-40 they contain. The banana equivalent dose is the radiation exposure received by eating a single banana. Radiation leaks from nuclear plants are often measured in extraordinarily small units (the picocurie, a millionth of a millionth of a curie, is typical). By comparing the exposure from these events to a banana equivalent dose, a more intuitive assessment of the actual risk can sometimes be obtained.

The average radiologic profile of bananas is 3520 picocuries per kg, or roughly 520 picocuries per 150g banana.[3] The equivalent dose for 365 bananas (one per day for a year) is 3.6 millirems (36 μSv).

Bananas are radioactive enough to regularly cause false alarms on radiation sensors used to detect possible illegal smuggling of nuclear material at US ports.[4]

Another way to consider the concept is by comparing the risk from radiation-induced cancer to that from cancer from other sources. For instance, a radiation exposure of 10 mrems (10,000,000,000 picorems) increases your risk of death by about one in one million—the same risk as eating 40 tablespoons of peanut butter, or of smoking 1.4 cigarettes.[5]

After the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, the NRC detected radioactive iodine in local milk at levels of 20 picocuries/liter,[6] a dose much less than one would receive from ingesting a single banana. Thus a 12 fl oz glass of the slightly radioactive milk would have about 1/75th BED (banana equivalent dose).

Nearly all foods are slightly radioactive. All food sources combined expose a person to around 40 millirems per year on average, or more than 10% of the total dose from all natural and man-made sources.[7]

Some other foods that have above-average levels are potatoes, kidney beans, nuts, and sunflower seeds.[8] Among the most naturally radioactive food known are brazil nuts, with activity levels that can exceed 12,000 picocuries per kg.[9][10]

I knew about electrical bananas–name that source! Watson, do you know that kind of trivia?–but not radioactive bananas.