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7 June 2008

Where To Now?



 
 

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via Online Public Relations Thoughts by Jim Horton on 6/3/08

The airline industry has now stated it is in collapse and sees no future under present circumstances. The industry will have to shrink, change its economic model -- i.e. higher airfares and fewer routes -- and make the public suffer more. It may turn into an industry that average families cannot afford and only the wealthy and businesspeople use.

How does one communicate this sour news to the public? Or, does one just let it happen because there is nothing else one can do? What is a PR strategy in this situation? Some airlines like American have come out and said they have no option but to charge more, charge for everything and raise ticket prices too. That is understandable, if not acceptable. However, the dilemma airlines face is this. Business won't accept higher fares either. There are now better videoconferencing systems that become affordable given airfares. Companies are using them.

PR strategy follows business strategy, but it is not clear, given the present situation, that there is a business strategy other than survival or merger. Should PR be communicating that?

 
 

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Melodic Construction: Pitch and Contour



 
 

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Listen NowPlayingdownload_now_button.gif

MelodicConstruction.jpeg Melody is so central to much of the music we love. This week, singer and composer Melody Parker stops by to describe how pitches can be strung together to form a melody, and the ways in which a melody can quickly burst out, slowly develop, or gradually expand over the course of a whole section. There's a delicate art at play in the placement of pitches, from the use of motives in a sequence to the deployment of broad leaps and arpeggi. (10 mins.)

On the next page, check out clips from brilliantly composed songs that employ different melodic techniques, and hear for yourself how scalar motion can increase catchiness, how a line can be monotonous without being boring, and how simple motives can sound rich and full.


 
 

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Markets in Everything: Pay to Stay



 
 

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via Marginal Revolution by Alex Tabarrok on 6/5/08

A small number of California jails have begun to offer pay to stay programs.  These programs allow inmates in for minor crimes to "upgrade" to a private or public jail with better facilities.  Evidently the fees are profitable to the jails.  Take a look at how Santa Ana county advertises it's hotel jail.

The Santa Ana Jail is pleased to host a full range of alternatives to traditional incarceration.  Our offerings include weekends in jail, non-linear jail sentences, and a variety of work release options.  Our philosophy is designed to allow our clients (!, AT) to serve their obligations to the court in a manner that respects them as human beings and permits them to continue to provide for themselves and their families....

  • Programs that include 2-day or 3-day weekends with minimal impact on the client's professional life.  Work on Saturday and Sunday?  No problem...
  • Programs that permit jail sentences to be served in multiple parts. Perfect for clients that live out of the area or clients with frequent business travel.
  • Programs that permit the client to leave jail for work everyday.  We have helped everyone from 9 to 5 business people to oil-rig workers, so no work schedule is out of the question.

The Santa Ana Jail is the most modern and comfortable facility in the region.  Our housing areas are a world away from cement and steel bars....

Most clients can be approved immediately, over the phone.  We can also provide same-day acceptance letters for the court.

I have mixed feelings about these programs.  On the one hand, someone has to pay for the jails and who better than the inmates?  And note that to make an inmate-pays program effective you have to give them an incentive to pay.

But on the other hand the profit-maximizing strategy for a monopolist with different quality levels of service is pretty scary in this context.  A profit maximizer will reduce the quality level of the lowest class service - perhaps even spending money (!) to make the quality level lower - in order to push people to pay for the higher quality.  (For more on the theory, see Hal Varian's elegant explanation.)

On the other hand (I know, I know, three hands) California's prison system is already so overcrowded, violent and dysfunctional that one federal judge referred to medical care in the CA system as "outright depravity," thus we may already be close to the lowest quality level.  See this classic MR post for an expert's take on the incentives of private and public prisons.

More on pay-to-stay at a Michigan Law Review Symposium.  Hat tip to Timothy Taylor at the Journal of Economic Perspectives.


 
 

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Brad and Willie's evangelism adventure



 
 

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via Church of the Customer Blog by Jackie Huba on 6/5/08

A coffee/smoothie shop called Lift opened in my neighborhood recently, and I was immediately impressed. Every person behind the counter has introduced his/herself and often asks for feedback on the stuff I've purchased.

I eventually met Brad and Willie, the owners of Lift. It's their first retail business. What they lack in experience they make up for in their zeal to please customers. They made it a point to read "Creating Customer Evangelists" and a week later presented me (unsolicited) with their plan, based on the six tenets of customer evangelism. I was so impressed that I had to share it.

Customer Plus Delta - gather feedback

  • Have counter staff track "How did you hear about us?"
  • Encourage on-line blogs, reviews (yelp.com)
  • Display corporate email address and encourage customers to send ideas and suggestions
  • Design a sandwich or a smoothie and we'll name it after you
  • Computer terminal near entry to encourage feedback, join email mailing list, etc.

Napsterize knowledge - share knowledge that will spread

  • Educate customers ??? display FAQs, online info
  • Display daily-changing coffee facts near register
  • In-store computer terminal

Build the buzz

  • Cool t-shirts with rotating logos
  • Network hubs utilizing store owners (bikes, shoes, kayaks), trainers and coaches ??? these people are influential in their business and among the participating consumers
  • Heavy Lifters Club ??? cool card with benefits for frequent use, try all 10 smoothies get 1 free, birthday gifts, etc.
  • Natural fruits, juices, locally roasted coffee, compostable cups made from corn syrup ??? these ideas all work well within the Austin fabric
  • Book cool bands to play Sat afternoons
  • Host charity events on site ??? Helping Hand Home, People's Community Clinic, Leukemia Foundation
  • Distribute coupons in goodie bags of races in the area
  • Get featured in Austin TidBits email newsletter ??? twice weekly, email advertising openings, events, specials, etc.

Create community

  • Email newsletter, blog, My Space/Facebook and other social media

Bite-size chunks

  • Distribute free samples at on-site charity events
  • Distribute free samples in front of store on weekends
  • Hand out "credit cards" to kids in elementary and middle schools in area during honor rolls and graduation events for free smoothie

Create a cause

  • Eat healthy, all natural, no preservatives, environmentally friendly/green ??? Austin values
  • Charity in the community -- partner with the Get Fit program at UT to take fitness classes to area schools, incorporating the idea of eating healthy (smoothies) within the curriculum

Brad and crew have already implemented a number of these ideas since sending me their plan.

Got any other feedback for Brad and Willie?


 
 

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Assorted links


1. A very long palindrome

2. Francisco Marroquin university in Guatemala

3. What percent of NBA athletes are broke five years after retirement?  Sixty.

"Most athletes play for four to ten years if they are lucky. After they pay taxes (can be 40 to 50%) and agent fees and buy their first homes, cars, outfits, jewelry (plus, cars, clothes and jewelry for friends and family), they are left with very little. When they first "strike it rich" all of their longtime friends and family expect help. Most athletes feel obligated to help everyone out at first then they wise up. They also want to keep up with their teammates. If someone buys a Bentley, they have to buy one; if someone buys a $75,000 watch, they have to buy one to keep up the appearance. Then, of course, when the career ends and they are still living in a multi million dollar house, driving 3 expensive cars (and insurance), traveling in private planes and taking Limo's when they go out on the town, reality sets in. The money dries up very quickly.

However, if athletes educate themselves, learn money management skills and make smart, safe investments along the way, they are usually in very good shape. After representing athletes for over 20 years, we call this our "life plan". We take out clients on working vacations in the off season to places like Las Vegas, Cancun and on a cruise to the Bahamas to learn business networking. We have people from industries such as real estate, oil and gas, financial planning, credit repair, asset protection/estate planning, etc come to educate the players and their wives so they can learn about these business and also determine if they are interested in any of these industries for life after sports. One of the financial planners who comes always says most people die coming down from Mt. Everest not going up. The goal is for these athletes to get to their Mt. Everest AND to get down safely.

4. The Japanese put bar codes on tombstones.  Guess why?

Marginal Revolution 6/7/08 7:25 AM Tyler Cowen Web/Tech

6 June 2008

FEMA Park Closures Test Promise of Recovery


Trailer park closings are testing the oft-repeated promise that the recovery from Hurricane Katrina would offer the opportunity to rectify the social ills the storm exposed.

NYT > Home Page 6/6/08 6:03 PM By SHAILA DEWAN Hurricane Katrina Housing Louisiana

Japanese DVD Program Teaches Confidence By Staring At Women For 96 Minutes [Japan]


Continuing our weirdness from Japan theme, a company called Avex has just released a DVD that teaches men to be more confident by staring at 50 different women for an hour and a half. Most Japanese men do this already, but instead of the women being in various states of undress, these women are just plain staring back at you, right in the eye, in a sort of glowering manner.

This method seems like it'd work in theory. Being able to withstand a woman staring at you angrily for minutes at a time is a skill you have to work on developing. 96 minutes is a long time, however, and Mark Wilson says he only needs about 4 minutes. [Crunchinatrix]

Gizmodo 6/6/08 3:45 PM Jason Chen Clips confidence Confidence builder DVD Girls Japanese dvd Ladies Video Women

wow


In a brief period working on Wall Street many years ago I liked to go over and talk to the energy option traders who worked on my floor. It was a small group and the funny thing is that the group went out of business while I was there. This was the early 1990's and oil prices were low and not volatile enough to really justify a trading desk that only made money off of energy price volatility. It came to mind because I was just watching the change in oil prices today and as I was watching it the daily increase jumped to over +$10.75/bbl. Ten years ago next week the price of oil was under $12/barrel in total. They would typically measure the daily change in cents, not dollars, and certainly not tens of dollars. It's a little hard to get your head around.

but some back of the envelope math. 42 gallons of oil in a barrel. So today's price increase alone translates into at least +26 cents per gallon. It has to be more than that of course. A gallon of oil does not get refined into a full gallon of gasoline so right there you need to divide by something smaller than 42. Then it takes oil to get oil to market, by ship, rail, truck or whatever... eventually that gets translated into a price at the pump. So it compounds a bit. So unless it retracts quickly today's oil spike alone will translate to +30 cents? +40 cents per gallon?


***


Follow that story: CNN has a short video piece on the bankruptcy filing in the City of Vallejo, CA.

Downturn forces more in US to rely on free food


In the richest nation on earth, a rising number of people line up for free food because they are struggling to put meals on the table at home. Demand at food banks in the United States is up 15% to 20% over last year and many food banks are having difficulty coping.
Mail & Guardian Online 6/6/08 2:48 PM Matthew Bigg and Tim Gaynor International

Thousands of Darfur's child refugees being sold to militias


Thousands of child refugees from Darfur, some as young as nine, are being abducted and sold to warring militias as child soldiers, a British human rights group reports on Friday. The report singles out the Darfur rebel group fighting the Khartoum government, the Justice and Equality Movement, as the main offender.
Mail & Guardian Online 6/6/08 2:48 PM Africa

Operation Silhouette: delegating governance


cardboard.jpg

The Vancouver Sun reports that the city's police are now using cardboard cops with radar guns to get drivers to slow down:

'There may or may not be a police officer behind one of these cut-outs,' Vancouver police traffic Staff Sgt. Ralph Pauw said at a news conference. Police will erect several on poles at the start of their shifts 'and will stand behind one, two or all three of them,' then take them down at the end of shifts, he said. The fake officers were relatively inexpensive to make, Pauw said. 'We got the city sign shop to put them together, so it's really only the cost of the plastic,' he said, adding the cardboard is covered in rainproof plastic, so any graffiti just wipes off. The cut-outs were tested on the street for a few hours earlier this week and 'a tow-truck driver pulled up and started talking to it,' Pauw said.

Sender-in Jason says it reminds him of Latour's sleeping policeman. Indeed.

- Anne

Space & Culture 6/6/08 10:53 AM admin Cities & urbanism Embodiment & performance Material culture Mobilities North America Comments

Evocación de los bolos


matriochka.jpg

La lectura del libro "El séptimo secretario" de Michel Heller me ha traído un montón de recuerdos de la "etapa soviética" de esta islita. En ese entonces, yo no pasaba de los quince años y tengo evocaciones muy sensoriales de aquel coloniaje. Rememoro los caramelos y vituallas adquiridos a través del mercado informal que regentaban las esposas de los técnicos soviéticos. Es curioso que no los llamábamos por el gentilicio de la URSS y mucho menos como "camaradas", sino que usábamos un sustantivo cuya fonética no permitía los detalles. Ellos eran "los bolos": informes, toscos, un trozo de barro sin trabajar; macizos y sin gracia; capaces de fabricar una lavadora que gastaba la electricidad destinada a toda una casa, pero que -todavía hoy- funciona en no pocos hogares cubanos.

Muchos de nuestros padres habían estudiado o trabajado en la URSS, pero nosotros no conocíamos la sopa borsht ni nos gustaba el vodka, así que todo lo "soviético" nos parecía pasado de moda, rígido y cheo. Lo que nos paralizaba de ellos era el poder osuno que emanaba de sus gestos, la advertencia velada de que ellos sostenían nuestro "paraíso" caribeño.

Aquella mezcla de temor y burla que nos generaban los bolos todavía se mantiene. Si ahora mismo un turista que pasea por la ciudad no quiere ser molestado por los continuos vendedores de tabacos, sexo y ron, sólo debe musitar algo como "Tavarich", "Niet ponimayo" y el asustado mercader se esfumará.

Generación Y 6/6/08 12:44 AM Yoani Sanchez Generación Y Comments

ピアノ・スクールを開業



三ヶ月前に英会話を復活させたが、あいにくもう潰れてしまった。「あんた全く教える気ないわね」と年増の生徒たちがいきなり激怒し、全員でやめた。「授業中にあくびするなんて、ありえないわねぇ。。」と云々。

だから新しいバイトを求めて、先日、環境問題の会社との面接に行ってみた。地球温暖化に取り組んでいる社長と副社長と対面して、二時間前後話した結果、「基本的に外人が嫌いだけども、あんたは普通の外人と違って嫌いじゃないから、お勤めください」と言われ、結局来週から勤めることになった。問題は、科学はそもそも苦手で、地球温暖化や環境問題などに関する知識は皆無であり、それがいつまでもバレないわけは無いから、すぐ首になるにきまっていると思う。

なので、バックアップ計画としてピアノ・スクールを開業してみることにした。せっかく子供のころから20才まではずっと稽古を受けていたし、教えていた時期もあった。教えるのはバッハのみだから、ショパンを習いたいなら別のところに行ってください。(偏見かもしれないが、どうかお許しを。)

それで、去年、和敬塾で撮影してもらったビデオが、バッハ専門サイトに写された(無許可で!)のをきょう発見したが、見たければここをクリックしてください。それでは、お待ちしております!

Two Unions are Finding Deals at Wal-Mart


"After waging an aggressive public relations campaign against Wal-Mart for three years, the company's full-time, union-backed critics, who once vowed never to let up, are putting down their cudgels," writes Michael Barbaro. The article examines Wal-Mart Watch, sponsored by Andy Stern and his Service Employees International Union, and WakeUpWalmart which is financed by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. It notes that the friendlier relationship between the unions and Wal-Mart led to the company disbanding its front group called Working Families for Wal-Mart "Shrill condemnations and embarrassing leaked documents are giving way to acknowledgments of progress — and, in the case of Wal-Mart Watch, free advice." Through targeted (but inadequate) labor and environmental initiatives, the company has left its critics "navigating a complex situation in which they have to decide, issue by issue, whether to shake hands with the company or to slap it."


Center for Media and Democracy - Publishers of PR Watch 6/5/08 1:19 PM Sheldon Rampton corporate social responsibility corporations environment labor Comments

Do Subscriptions Really Save You Money? [Ask The Readers]


netflix_drop.jpgPersonal finance blogger Ramit Sethi calls out what he sees as the expensive self-delusion of subscriptions at his I Will Teach You To Be Rich blog. Sethi says we over-estimate how much we really get from monthly memberships, so he suggests, among other ideas:

  • Instead of paying for a ton of channels you never watch on cable, buy only the episodes you watch for $1.99 each off iTunes.
  • Buy a day pass for the gym each time you go (around $5-$10).
  • Buy songs as you want them for $0.99 each from Amazon or iTunes
His basic point is that you'll often pay less per use, or you'll think more about the worth of something if you have to physically make a transaction. How do you decide which subscriptions are more valuable than a la carte purchases? Which subscriptions have you happily dropped, and which make the cut? Let's hear your own take on managing monthly payments in the comments. Photo by thebluedino.
Lifehacker 6/5/08 10:00 AM Kevin Purdy Money NetFlix Personal Finance Saving Money Subscription Top

5 June 2008

Sergeant Cafe - Boot camp in Akihabara


Do any of you scumbags fantasize about going to USMC boot camp and being treated like grabastic pieces of amphibian shit? If so, you might want to take a trip down to Akihabara, where a special event called "Sergeant Cafe" apparently hired former US Marines to verbally abuse customers while they ate Takeshima omu-rice.

Here's some information/video from Akiba blog:

When you entered the "Sergeant Café," there were questionnaire and warnings: "once you join the army (enter the café), you must obey whatever sergeants (waitresses) say," "when you order food or drink, you order to a senior officer, so you have to say 'Sir!' first". There were 2 courses: Hard Course (1F) and Soft Course (2F).

On the 1st floor (Hard Course), former U.S. Marine Corps scolded trainees (customers), let them do push-ups or jump. The former officer said "this is nothing- you have to do such things every single day in the real Boot Camp."

The event was held for only one day, but its organizers have not ruled out the possibility of starting a full-time military cafe.

For more photos of the event, check out Akiba blog.

Japan Probe 6/5/08 1:06 AM James Odd / Strange Otaku & Anime akihabara japan otaku takeshima Comments

World Accents


Want to hear the difference between English as spoken in Chicago and Liverpool, or Delhi and Alabama? The University of Edinburgh's Sound Comparisons lets you listen to a variety of English accents from around the Anglophone world. It's an eye-opening trip through the diversity of World English.
Visual Thesaurus : Online Edition 6/5/08 12:00 AM Blog Excerpts

Israel's Ethiopians Forced to Give Up Traditional Bread


image

Teff grain now costs nearly three times what it did a year ago, forcing expat Jews in Israel to abandon the injera bread they typically eat with meals. Part of Global Food Crisis: A Special News Series.

National Geographic News 6/4/08 8:00 PM food_crisis

[Japan] Baby-Daddy Drama


In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court on Wednesday declared unconstitutional a Nationality Law clause that denies Japanese nationality to a child born out of wedlock to a foreign woman and Japanese man even if the man recognizes his paternity following the birth.
It thus granted Japanese nationality to 10 children who were born out of wedlock to Filipino women and Japanese men. The ruling deserves praise for clearly stating that the clause violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law. The government should immediately revise the law.

Aliens vs. Predators


Undocumented high school students are routinely denied access to higher education while the military positions itself as the only alternative.
WireTap Magazine 6/4/08 2:00 PM Global Action Project

Checked-Bag Fee Could Be Tip of the Iceberg


We've heard all about airlines assessing new fees on everything from checked baggage to exit-row seats to skycap service. But if you think things are bad now, you should prepare yourself. They could get worse. Much worse.

"U.S. airlines are definitely moving in the direction of charging for as much as they can get away with," says Henry Harteveldt of Forrester Research. "Charging for services that used to be included in the price of a ticket is a profit center for airlines." He's not lying. These charges, known within the industry as ancillary revenue, netted American Airlines $350 million last year.

If you want to see ancillary revenue taken to the extreme, look across the pond at European airline Ryanair. Since its founding in 1985, Ryanair has grown into an industry giant by flying into secondary airports and offering in-flight service that makes U.S. airlines look downright opulent. Ryanair fills its planes with fares that give new meaning to the term "dirt cheap," sometimes offering promotions where tickets are free, leaving passengers to pay for only taxes and fees.
Make sure you read that last part again. The part about the fees.

Ryanair assesses fees that read like something out of The Onion. They'd be hilarious, if they weren't all real. It's a long, long list, with highlights that include:
  • Ticket change fee - $140
  • Fee to check in at a ticket counter - $8
  • Credit card processing fee - $12
  • Fee for flying with an infant on your lap - $40
  • Unaccompanied minor priority preboarding fee - $8
  • Fee to speak with a Ryanair rep by phone - $2 per minute
  • Mandatory "aviation insurance levy" - $6.25
This doesn't even take into account the on-board experience. Ryanair planes have no seat-back pockets or window shades, and seats don't recline. In flight, passengers are treated to a virtual flea market, with flight attendants hawking water, soda, cocktails, snacks, sandwiches, toys, jewelry, liquor, perfume, lottery tickets, travel insurance and cellphone minutes.

The airline needs to be given credit, though: it's opened Europe to a whole group of vacationers who previously couldn't afford to fly. That's a good thing.
And it's not a given that U.S. carriers will follow Ryanair down the fee-for-everything road, though Harteveldt says more ancillary revenue charges are coming. American Airlines now charges passengers five dollars to redeem frequent flier miles online, and other carriers are toying with the idea of flight attendants selling retail products on-board. With airlines desperate to boost revenue, you can't help wondering if American's checked-bag fee is just the tip of the iceberg.
Wired News 6/5/08 4:00 PM Autopia

[United Kingdom] Law.


Anyone over 16 who carries a knife can be taken to court, under new guidelines for police in England and Wales.
BBC News 6/5/08 12:24 PM UK

Diseased Ballast Water


As a cargo ship empties or takes on load, its ballast tanks fill or release water in order to balance the boat properly. Ballast is generally needed to increase the draft of a vessel (how deeply it sits in the water) so that its propellers are adequately submerged. The consequence of taking on these huge quantities of water is that they are most frequently released in environments thousands of miles from where they originated, when a ship reaches its destination.

read more

Popular Science - 6/5/08 7:04 AM Matt Ransford The Environment bacteria Matt Ransford oceans ships water

Pig's head nailed to Asian centre


A pig's head is nailed to the door of a former church which is being converted into an Asian community centre.
BBC News 6/4/08 8:54 AM Cornwall

Americans Favor Career and Technical Colleges Over Community Colleges, Report Says


Many Americans believe that career and technical colleges are better than community colleges at preparing students for a competitive work force, according to survey results to be released today by the Career College Association.

The New York Times on “The Great Immigration Panic”



One of yesterday's editorials in the New York Times laments that U.S. immigration policy has been turning towards a view "that illegal immigrants deserve no rights, mercy or hope:"

Immigrants in detention languish without lawyers and decent medical care even when they are mortally ill. Lawmakers are struggling to impose standards and oversight on a system deficient in both. Counties and towns with spare jail cells are lining up for federal contracts as prosecutions fill the system to bursting. Unbothered by the sight of blameless children in prison scrubs, the government plans to build up to three new family detention centers. Police all over are checking papers, empowered by politicians itching to enlist in the federal crusade.

The editors' feeling is that "the true cost is to the national identity: the sense of who we are and what we value. It will hit us once the enforcement fever breaks, when we look at what has been done and no longer recognize the country that did it." Of course, this is precisely an opposite to Samuel Huntington's sense of who we are: in Who Are We?  he talks about the urgency to stop illegal immigration so as to preserve America's sense of self.

This article made me reflect once again on the different standards, in many ways, that immigration opponents and supporters operate with in the U.S. compared to almost everywhere else. In Australia, immigration raids are so uncontroversial that they are the weekly subject of the most popular non-fiction TV show, Border Security. I confess that this show puzzles me. I don't think Australia is a xenophobic country; and I think Australian public television is fairly good and careful in its reporting (there is even a TV watchdog programme that runs in prime time). And yet here is this show, where cameras follow immigration agents who take people out of the queue at the airport because they "look suspicious." They offer comments like "This guy is clearly very uncomfortable." Then the narrator behind the camera says things like "Absence of cash and presence of a bank account number is often indication that the individual plans to work illegally. But the officers must also ensure they are not carrying drugs." Then these two frightened Asians are filmed as they are searched.

Now, I don't think this programme is outright racist (the immigration crews filmed have non-white members as well) but it is certainly suggests that we must be careful, we must be worried about who we let in — especially if they are Asian or African (there are notably few white "suspects"). But what is far worse is the intolerable offence to human dignity that these images present. The officers do not nearly always find the "suspects" guilty; but paradoxically, this seems not to lead to the conclusion that perhaps these efforts to protect the nation are overblown, but on the contrary, that we must be even more alert because — as Comrade Virag famously said in the Hungarian film The Witness about the show trials of the 1950s — "those who don't look suspicious are the most suspicious."

Culture Matters 6/4/08 12:30 AM Third Tone Devil Uncategorized Comments

Ga. to Invalidate Results On Social Studies Tests


Georgia education officials have decided to invalidate "implausibly low" results from state social studies tests that a majority of 6th and 7th graders failed.

4 June 2008

Japanese gadget of the day


No, it's not the glasses-cleaning machine or for that matter the Tenga.  Rather, if it is raining, and you enter one of the fancier department stores, they put out a machine which allows you to very rapidly shrink wrap your umbrella.  You just plunge your umbrella in and it takes about two seconds.  The point is that you don't drip water from your umbrella across the whole department store.  Simple, no?

And if that doesn't convince you to visit Japan, maybe Human Tetris will.

Marginal Revolution 6/4/08 10:40 AM Tyler Cowen Travels

"I Wanna Break The Current Shooting Record"


A teenage boy charged with plotting a Columbine-like massacre at his Indiana high school wrote that he wanted to "break the current shooting record" and could "kill anyone without feeling sorry because society sucks!!!"
The Smoking Gun 6/3/08 1:00 PM

NY Times Editorial: A Court for Veterans


June 4, 2008
Editorial, NY Times
A Court for Veterans

There is a small bright spot on the normally bleak terrain for military veterans who return home and fall into addiction, mental illness and crime. Buffalo has established a specialized court to give veterans and their family members, mainly those accused of nonviolent crimes, a chance to avoid jail and rebuild their lives.

The program — the only one in the country, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs — operates on the same principles of temperate justice and guided rehabilitation that govern "drug courts" and "mental-health courts," which have been strikingly successful around the country in reducing crime, saving money and repairing lives.


Buffalo's experiment, profiled in USA Today, began after a city court judge, Robert Russell, and his office noticed more veterans, many with drug and psychiatric problems, coming through the system. It offers defendants a chance to stay out of jail or avoid more serious charges in return for entering addiction or mental health treatment and taking other steps to right their lives.

The court also puts the sturdy bonds of military service to good use. It enlists other veterans as volunteer mentors to help overcome participants' resistance to treatment and "to point them in the right direction," as one mentor told the newspaper.

Other cities would do well to study and learn from Buffalo's experiment, and the federal government should do more to help, with grants for programs that direct troubled people out of the prison stream and into life-saving treatment. The effectiveness of alternative-sentencing programs is no longer in question, and the nation's responsibility to its veterans and their families is undeniable.

For soldiers, mental trauma and debilitating stress are part of the job description. When former soldiers go astray, they deserve all the creativity and support the system can muster to get them back where they began: clean, sober and on the right the side of the law.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/04/opinion/04wed4.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&ref=opinion&pagewanted=print


Mexico's Poor Seek Relief From Tortilla Shortage


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Mexico's iconic flatbreads have become a rallying cry for needy Mexicans angry at the country's biofuels and trade policies. Part of Global Food Crisis: A Special News Series.

National Geographic News 6/3/08 8:00 PM food_crisis

3 June 2008

Zohan for president?


zohan

No one would ever claim Adam Sandler to be an elder statesmen of understanding and tolerance, but hidden behind the cooky, character-driven marketing strategy Columbia is using for You Don't Mess With The Zohan is some surprisingly strong satire.

From a New York Times article on the film:

To the extent that "Zohan" deals with the intractable cycle of violence in the Middle East, it is careful not to take sides, and mocks itself for making such perilous source material a subject for comedy. In the midst of elaborate fight sequences, its characters debate the region's complex history of aggression and retribution, even as they continue to act it out. ("I'm just saying, it's not so cut and dried!" an assailant shouts as he falls off a balcony.)

The movie does not dare to suggest solutions to these conflicts, or to offer false hope that they will soon be resolved: in one scene, three Arab New Yorkers attempting to take down Zohan call the "Hezbollah Phone Line" for instructions on how to make a bomb. In a recorded message, they are told the information is not currently available during peace talks with Israel, and are instructed to call back "as soon as negotiations break down."

The article discusses how filmmakers wanted real Arabs and Israelis to play the parts in the film.  Casting on the Israeli side was a piece of cake, but Arabs were reluctant to be in a movie  starring Sandler, who is Jewish and has donated to Jewish charities.

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Pop + Politics 6/3/08 5:48 AM Pop and Politics The Daily Feed adam sandler arab israeli conflict satire you dont mess with the zohan Comments

Wars Against Women


AMSTERDAM – Truth is often said to be the first casualty in wartime.  But if the real truth is told, it is women who are the first casualties. In conflict zones, the United Nations children's agency UNICEF recently observed, sexual violence usually spreads like an epidemic. Whether it is civil war, pogroms, or other armed conflicts, all too often women's bodies become part of the battlefield. The victims of large-scale sexual atrocities range from baby girls to old women.
Project Syndicate 6/3/08 7:52 PM

House OKs bill to open juvenile trials


The House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday revising the Juvenile Law to allow people victimized by juvenile crimes to observe the basically closed-door trials of minors. The bill cleared the plenary session via a majority vote by the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling camp and the Democratic Party of Japan.

[ i know i promised to stop, but... ] Beef, Wonderful Beef


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The Marmot's Hole 6/3/08 12:04 AM Robert Koehler ROK-US Issues Comments

1 June 2008

Student-Loan Rescue Plan Has Hidden Costs and Benefits

After months of promoting doomsday scenarios for the federal student-lending system, loan companies appear to have won terms that could help both the lenders and the student borrowers.

Fund a Lifestraw for Mumbai for $25/ Please consider a donation!

Lifestraw Family, Vestergaard Frandsen, Project H Design, water filters, water filtration, water issues Mumbai

Building off the success of the Lifestraw Personal water filtration device, Vestergaard Frandsen's new Lifestraw Family system provides 15,000 liters of clean drinking water to one household. And now, you can fund the delivery of one Lifestraw Family system to a slum community in Mumbai for $25 through Project H Design, an organization founded by Emily Pilloton that promotes and delivers life improving product designs to global communities (we've funded 100 already and still going!). Project H will deliver the systems later this year, in collaboration with Berkeley-based Haath Mein Sehat as the first step in a bigger examination of local water sanitation issues. With more than a billion people lacking access to safe drinking water and five million people dying of water-related disease every year, here's an opportunity to make a small but very real difference.

Donate via Paypal at Project H here.

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INHABITAT 5/31/08 12:00 PM Emily Pilloton Design for Health global development water Comments

Woman Found Living in Man’s Closet


Japanese man finds woman living in his closet

A Japanese man puzzled by food mysteriously disappearing from his refrigerator got a shock when he found out a woman had been living in his home for months without permission, police said Friday.

The 57-year-old man living alone — or so he thought — in the western city of Fukuoka installed a security camera and called the police when he saw images of someone walking around his home while he was out.

"We searched the house in the man's presence. We found the woman in the closet," said a local police spokesman.

The woman, named as 58-year-old Tatsuko Horikawa, was found in a flat storage space only just big enough for a person to squeeze into lying down.

Japan Probe 5/30/08 7:37 AM Deas Odd / Strange homeless in Japan news Comments

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