Just received the following email from iTunes. Not sure what it means.
Thank you for purchasing the Season Pass for Battlestar Galactica - Season 3. Due to a change in the number of episodes the network plans to air, the Season Pass price for Battlestar Galactica - Season 3 has been reduced.
If you're one of the many people who while away hours playing FreeCell, that heinously addictive and complicated version of Solitaire, you may be interested to hear that some researchers think your performance in this computerized card game might reveal early signs of dementia.
read more | digg story|
Producing biofuels such as ethanol from food crops isn't worth the effort a new and painstaking study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers should instead concentrate either on producing ethanol from indigestible plant material such as cellulose, or on synthetic hydrocarbon fuels.
read more | digg story
The New York Times describes Shanghai where workers are aging as a result of China's one-child policy in 1976.
"Twenty percent of this city's people are at least 60, the common retirement age for men in China, and retirees are easily the fastest growing segment of the population, with 100,000 new seniors added to the rolls each year."
read more | digg story
Yesterday, the episcopal church passed a resolution that supposedly was a compromise between its beliefs concerning the rights of gays and lesbians and the concerns of the greater Anglican Communion for fidelity to Scripture and Apostolic tradition. You would think that I as a moderate Evangelical would be pleased -- and you would be dead wrong. As for the content of the "compromise" I will leave that critique to the eloquent statements on both the left and right. I did notice something, though, in the critique on the left by Bishop Chane that caught my eye:
The process that brought about the reconsideration of this matter failed to honor the integrity of the House of Deputies by bringing undue pressure to bear on that body.
I would like to expand on this. The whole point of this exercise was to respond to the Windsor Report of the Anglican Communion. When V. Gene Robinson became a bishop in 2003, it created a firestorm that threatened to rip the Anglican Communion apart. The Archbishop of Canterbury asked for a compromise and got it in the form of the Windsor Report. This report requested that the Episcopal Church show regret for this action and place moratoria on both blessing same-sex unions and having practicing homosexuals become bishops (but not priests). If the Episcopal church did not accede to the request they would in effect chose not to participate as a representative to the Anglican Communion. There was no response for three years. Why? Because according to the church, only the General Convention can do this.
Fast forward three years. Before I start I need to explain some process. There are two houses in the Episcopal Church, Bishops and Deputies. Different legislation comes from different houses. If it passes one house it needs to be approved by the other. If it fails to pass one house it is dead. Furthermore, any similar legislation cannot be taken up unless there is a 2/3 vote for reconsideration. Canon law allows for a joint session to be called by the Presiding Bishop under extreme circumstances. The response to Windsor was in A161 which originated from Deputies. It read as follows:
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church regrets the extent to which we have, by action and inaction, contributed to strains on communion and caused deep offense to many faithful Anglican Christians as we consented to the consecration of a bishop living openly in a same-gender union. Accordingly, we are obliged to urge nominating committees, electing conventions, Standing Committees, and bishops with jurisdiction to refrain from the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion; and be it further
Resolved that this General Convention not proceed to develop or authorize Rites for the Blessing of same-sex unions at this time, thereby concurring with the Windsor Report in its exhortation to bishops of the Anglican Communion to honor the Primates’ Pastoral Letter of May 2003; and be it further
Resolved that this General Convention affirm the need to maintain a breadth of responses to situations of pastoral care for gay and lesbian Christians in this Church.
Resolved that this General Convention apologize to those gay and lesbian Episcopalians and their supporters hurt by these decisions.
This failed to realize that Windsor was already a compromise. Even so, there truly existed no middle ground here and it went down to defeat and was condemned by both the left and the right. A substitute to effect a moratorium was ruled unconstitutional. Motion to reconsider failed. At this point, it should have been dead. But then something happened. PB Griswold panicked. He said:
"If we don't have something substantial, it will be very difficult for the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite the Presiding Bishop to the Lambeth Conference. I do know the complexity of what the Archbishop dealing with, in communion terms, and he needs for something clear to come from the Episcopal Church."Well, duh! So, he engineered a joint session and proposed and got passed this:
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report's invitation to engage in a process of heaing and reconcilation; and be it further
Resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecreation of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.
While this was debated in the house of deputies PB-elect Schori made a statement that the church wasn't really of two minds but conjoined twins. Deputies was forced to suspend its rules to not reconsider like matters. So, in four hours the bishops were able to act in what constitutes a non-binding promise (at least that what dissenting bishops Chane says). PB-elect Schori apparently concurs.
The resolution that stands before you is far from adequate but it is the best we are going to do. I am fully committed to the full inclusion of gays and lesbians. I do not understand this resolution as slamming the door.
Furthermore, the "promise" was not able to be kept during the GC itself. The bishop-elect of the diocese of Northern California who was married three times and divorced twice was approved. This would seem to "consecrating someone whose manner of life present a challenge to the wider church"
Everybody waited three long years for this because the bishops need approval from the representatives of the people. What we saw was the bishops acting unilaterally when it became apparent that they would get kicked out of their club because the people on the left and right rejected the phony compromise based on principle. So, against the rules they reintroduced an even phonier compromise that consisted something that was always in their power to do. I can think of nothing else than to call this ecclesiastical tyranny.
I have a son who is autistic and a number of my engineering friends are autistic. Digg.com is commenting on a Wired article that encourages techies to take an autism test.
My comments on digg follow.
While it is true that technical people have latent autistic tendencies, tests like this promote over diagnosis of the problem. Here's a recent news article from the journal Science:
If cases of autism are on the increase, as some believe, here's one provocative explanation: Blame the rise on marriages between like-minded people, whom psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge University in the U.K. calls "systemizers."
Baron-Cohen argues that autism and related conditions like Asperger's are manifestations of what he calls the "extreme male brain": one with weak social skills and a strong tendency to "systemize," or think according to rules and laws. In a study of 1000 U.K. families, he has reported that the fathers as well as the grandfathers of children with autism spectrum conditions are more likely to work in professions such as engineering. And the mothers are also likely to be systemizers "with male-typical interests," he says.
Baron-Cohen, whose theory is in press at the journal Progress in Neuropsycho-pharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, says he and colleagues are performing genetic studies, collecting subjects, and conducting population surveys in systemizer-heavy areas, such as Silicon Valley, to test the idea that techies marrying each other is raising autism rates.
Some balk at the idea. Psychologist Elizabeth Spelke of Massachusetts Institute of Technology says there's no good evidence for an "inborn, male predisposition for systemizing." But psychiatrist Herbert Schreier of Children's Hospital in Oakland, California, believes the intermarriage of techies "probably does account for why you have pockets of high autism around Stanford and MIT." Drawing on his own practice, he adds that fathers of children with learning disabilities have a disproportionate tendency to be engineers or computer scientists.
My son and a number of my technical friends' children do have autism spectrum disorders. BTW, here's the real test from DSM-IV which was the criteria for my son's diagnosis:
DSM-IV Criteria, Pervasive Developmental Disorders 299.00 Autistic Disorder
A. A total of six (or more) items from (1), (2), and (3), with at least two from (1), and one each from (2) and (3):
(1) qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
(a) marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors, such as eye-to- eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
(b) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
(c) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest)
(d) lack of social or emotional reciprocity
(2) qualitative impairments in communication, as manifested by at least one of the following:
(a) delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime)
(b) in individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
(c) stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language
(d) lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level
(3) restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities as manifested by at least one of the following:
(a) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
(b) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
(c) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting or complex whole-body movements)
(d) persistent precoccupation with parts of objects
B. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years: (1) social interaction, (2) language as used in social communication, or (3) symbolic or imaginative play.
C. The disturbance is not better accounted for by Rett's disorder or childhood disintegrative disorder.
299.80 Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified
This category should be used when there is a severe and pervasive impairment in the development of reciprocal social interaction or verbal and nonverbal communication skills, or when stereotyped behavior, interests, and activities are present, but the criteria are not met for a specific pervasive developmental disorder, schizophrenia, schizotypal personality disorder, or avoidant personality disorder. For example, this category includes "atypical autism" --presentations that do not meet the criteria for autistic disorder because of late age of onset, atypical symptomatology, or subthreshold symptomatology, or all of these.
299.80 Asperger's Disorder
A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
(1) marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors, such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
(2) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
(3) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
(4) lack of social or emotional reciprocity
B. Restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
(1) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
(2) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
(3) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
(4) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
C. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
D. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years).
E. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood.
F. Criteria are not met for another specific pervasive developmental disorder or schizophrenia.
The Supreme court has ruled that parents carry burden of proof in school cases.
WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 - The Supreme Court ruled in a closely watched education case on Monday that parents who disagree with a school system's special-education plan for their child have the legal burden of proving that the plan will not provide the "appropriate" education to which federal law entitles all children with disabilities.
The 6-to-2 decision, in a case from a Washington suburb, Montgomery County, Md., affirmed a ruling last year by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. did not take part in the case, which was argued on Oct. 5, because his former law firm represented the school district.
What's involved here is what is known as IEP (individualized education plan) for disabled children under a law known as IDEA. When things go well this plan is negotiated between the parents and the school. When things don't go well it goes before an administrative law judge. The court ruled the burden of proof that the IEP is deficient is on the complaining party which almost always is the parents. In this particular case the state of the evidence was in legalese, evidentiary equipose, meaning a complete tie. In civil cases the normal rule is what the Supreme Court applied. However there are exceptions and the question before the court was whether this was an exceptional case.
Something happened that I thought would never occur in my life: I agree with Justice Ginsberg's dissent. Here's a salient quote:
Understandably, school districts striving to balance their budgets, if "[l]eft to [their] own devices," will favor educational options that enable them to conserve resources. Deal v. Hamilton County Bd. of Ed., 392 F. 3d 840, 864-865 (CA6 2004). Saddled with a proof burden in administrative "due process" hearings, parents are likely to find a district-proposed IEP "resistant to challenge." 377 F. 3d, at 459 (Luttig, J., dissenting). Placing the burden on the district to show that its plan measures up to the statutorily mandated "free appropriate public education," 20 U. S. C. §1400(d)(1)(A), will strengthen school officials' resolve to choose a course genuinely tailored to the child's individual needs. [emphasis mine]
What Justice Ginsberg noticed here my wife and I have experience in practice. The school district will do the least expensive option it can get away with. My wife noted it is very much like dealing with an insurance company. We should note that the teachers and paraprofessionals are caught in the middle here between parents who want the best education for their children and pressure from the school district to keep it cheap. Justice Ginsberg correctly identifies the economic pressures here:
The Court acknowledges that "[a]ssigning the burden of persuasion to school districts might encourage schools to put more resources into preparing IEPs." Ante, at 9. Curiously, the Court next suggests that resources spent on developing IEPs rank as "administrative expenditures" not as expenditures for "educational services." Ibid. Costs entailed in the preparation of suitable IEPs, however, are the very expenditures necessary to ensure each child covered by IDEA access to a free appropriate education. These outlays surely relate to "educational services." Indeed, a carefully designed IEP may ward off disputes productive of large administrative or litigation expenses. [RDB note: No kidding. Note the large expenses incurred when Berthoud Colorado failed to live up to their responsibilities.]
This case is illustrative. Not until the District Court ruled that the school district had the burden of persuasion did the school design an IEP that met Brian Schaffer's special educational needs. See ante, at 5; Tr. of Oral Arg. 21-22 (Counsel for the Schaffers observed that "Montgomery County ... gave [Brian] the kind of services he had sought from the beginning ... once [the school district was] given the burden of proof."). Had the school district, in the first instance, offered Brian a public or private school placement equivalent to the one the district ultimately provided, this entire litigation and its attendant costs could have been avoided.
Notably, nine States, as friends of the Court, have urged that placement of the burden of persuasion on the school district best comports with IDEA's aim. See Brief for Virginia et al. as Amici Curiae. If allocating the burden to school districts would saddle school systems with inordinate costs, it is doubtful that these States would have filed in favor of petitioners. Cf. Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae Supporting Appellees Urging Affirmance in 00-1471 (CA4), p. 12 ("Having to carry the burden of proof regarding the adequacy of its proposed IEP ... should not substantially increase the workload for the school.").3
One can demur to the Fourth Circuit's observation that courts "do not automatically assign the burden of proof to the side with the bigger guns," 377 F. 3d, at 453, for no such reflexive action is at issue here. It bears emphasis that "the vast majority of parents whose children require the benefits and protections provided in the IDEA" lack "knowledg[e] about the educational resources available to their [child]" and the "sophisticat[ion]" to mount an effective case against a district-proposed IEP. Id., at 458 (Luttig, J., dissenting) [RDB note: I think this is Supreme Court wannabe Luttig dissenting here so this is not just liberal reasoning.] ; cf. 20 U. S. C. §1400(c)(7)-(10). See generally M. Wagner, C. Marder, J. Blackorby, & D. Cardoso, The Children We Serve: The Demographic Characteristics of Elementary and Middle School Students with Disabilities and their Households (Sept. 2002), available at https://www.seels.net/designdocs/SEELS_Children_We_
Serve_Report.pdf (as visited Nov. 8, 2005, and available in Clerk of Court's case file). In this setting, "the party with the 'bigger guns' also has better access to information, greater expertise, and an affirmative obligation to provide the contested services." 377 F. 3d, at 458 (Luttig, J., dissenting). Policy considerations, convenience, and fairness, I think it plain, point in the same direction. Their collective weight warrants a rule requiring a school district, in "due process" hearings, to explain persuasively why its proposed IEP satisfies IDEA's standards. Ibid. I would therefore reverse the judgment of the Fourth Circuit.
The source of the Niger yellowcake documents has now been officially identified in a story by the New York Times.
ROME, Nov. 3 - Italy's spymaster identified an Italian occasional spy named Rocco Martino on Thursday as the disseminator of forged documents that described efforts by Iraq to buy uranium ore from Niger for a nuclear weapons program, three lawmakers said Thursday.
The spymaster, Gen. Nicolò Pollari, director of the Italian military intelligence agency known as Sismi, disclosed that Mr. Martino was the source of the forged documents in closed-door testimony to a parliamentary committee that oversees secret services, the lawmakers said.
The interesting part is here buried in the middle of the story.
Senator Luigi Malabarba, who also attended Thursday's hearing, said in a telephone interview that General Pollari had told the committee that Mr. Martino was "offering the documents not on behalf of Sismi but on behalf of the French" and that Mr. Martino had told prosecutors in Rome that he was in the service of French intelligence.
A senior French intelligence official interviewed Wednesday in Paris declined to say whether Mr. Martino had been a paid agent of France, but he called General Pollari's assertions about France's responsibility "scandalous."
Even this is old news. The Daily Telegraph reported the following a year ago:
Italian diplomats have claimed that, by disseminating bogus documents stating that Iraq was trying to buy low-grade "yellowcake" uranium from Niger, France was trying to "set up" Britain and America in the hope that when the mistake was revealed it would undermine the case for war, which it wanted to prevent.
Italian judicial officials confirmed yesterday that Mr Martino had previously been sought for questioning by Rome. Investigating magistrates in the city have opened an inquiry into claims he made previously in the international press that Italy's secret services had been behind the dissemination of false documents, to bolster the US case for war.
According to Ansa, the Italian news agency, which said privately that it had obtained its information from "judicial and other sources", Mr Martino was questioned by an investigating magistrate, Franco Ionta, for two hours. Ansa said Mr Martino told the magistrate that Italy's military intelligence, Sismi, had no role in the procuring or dissemination of the Niger documents.
He was also said to have claimed that he had obtained the documents from an employee at the Niger embassy in Rome, before passing these to French intelligence, on whose payroll he had been since at least 2000.
However, he reportedly also added that he had believed that the documents in question were genuine, and to have never suspected that they had been forged. "Martino has clarified his position and offered to deliver to the magistrates the documents which confirm his declarations," his lawyer, Giuseppe Placidi, told Ansa.
It was not possible to contact Mr Martino through his lawyer yesterday. Contacted by The Telegraph, Mr Ionta politely declined to comment, but did not deny that the questioning had taken place. The Interior Ministry in Rome, which had also expressed keen interest in the Telegraph article, refused to comment on the matter.
Mr Martino is said by diplomats to have come forward of his own accord and contacted authorities in the Italian capital following the earlier article in the Telegraph. They said he had written a letter of resignation to the French DGSE intelligence service last week.
According to an Italian newspaper report yesterday, members of the Digos, Italy's anti-terrorist police, removed documents from Mr Martino's home in a northern suburb of Rome on Friday afternoon.
"After being exposed in the international press, French intelligence can hardly be amused or happy with him," one western diplomat said. "Martino may have thought the safest thing was to hand himself over to the Italians." Investigators in Rome suspect that Mr Martino was first engaged by the French secret services five years ago, when he was asked to investigate rumours of illicit trafficking in uranium from Niger. He is thought to have then been retained the following year to collect more information. It was then that he is suspected of having assembled a dossier containing both real and bogus documents from Niger, the latter apparently forged by a diplomat.
The New York Times on the other hand only cares about whether Italian intelligence was complicit in this and apparently had no curiosity about French intelligence. Nevertheless, Italian intelligence gets acquitted in the process.
General Pollari also said that no Italian intelligence agency officials were involved in either forging or distributing the documents, according to both Senator Brutti and the committee chairman, Enzo Bianco.
Committee members said they were shown documents defending General Pollari, including a copy of a classified letter from Robert S. Muller III, the director of the F.B.I., dated July 20, which praised Italy's cooperation with the bureau.
In Washington, an official at the bureau confirmed the substance of the letter, whose contents were first reported Tuesday in the leftist newspaper L'Unità. The letter stated that Italy's cooperation proved the bureau's theory that the false documents were produced and disseminated by one or more people for personal profit, and ruled out the possibility that the Italian service had intended to influence American policy, the newspaper said.
As a result, the letter said, according to both the F.B.I. official and L'Unità, the bureau had closed its investigation into the origin of the documents.
Finally, The New York Times states as fact something that is not so:
The documents were the basis for sending a former diplomat, Joseph C. Wilson IV, on a fact-finding mission to Niger that eventually exploded into an inquiry that led to the indictment and resignation last week of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby. [emphasis mine]
Note the following conclusions that the Democrats didn't allow to be published as part of the SSCI report:
Conclusion: The plan to send the former ambassador to Niger was suggested by the former ambassador's wife, a CIA employee.
The former ambassador's wife suggested her husband for the trip to Niger in February 2002. The former ambassador had traveled previously to Niger on behalf of the CIA, also at the suggestion of his wife, to look into another matter not related to Iraq. On February 12, 2002, the former ambassador's wife sent a memorandum to a Deputy Chief of a division in the CIA's Directorate of Operations which said, "[m]y husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity." This was just one day before the same Directorate of Operations division sent a cable to one of its overseas stations requesting concurrence with the division's idea to send the former ambassador to Niger. [emphasis mine]
Two things should be noted. First, that Ambassador Wilson was sent on a matter not related to Iraq and thus was not evaluating the forged documents. Second, that according to his wife he had "lots of French contacts".
There should be an investigation on the role of French intelligence in this whole mess to determine if they deliberately planted these documents in order to discredit the Iraq war effort given that there were many French companies up to their eyeballs in the Oil for Food scandal.