Friday, February 25, 2011

Union vote elicits shouts of "Shame!" from Wisconsin Democrats

A highly contested bill was passed early Friday by the Wisconsin Assembly. The budget plan by Gov. Scott Walker (R), which would strip most public unions of nearly all of their rights to collectively bargain, has drawn thousands of unions supporters who have gathered in protest at the State Capital in Madison over the past two weeks. State Senate Democrats refused to return to the Capitol to join the Republican Senate majority for a vote on the bill.
After more than 60 hours of debate, shortly after 1:00 AM, the Republicans called for the vote. The vote happened quickly, with Republicans passing the bill in a matter of seconds, while Democrats were yelling "No, No, you can't do this!"

Apparently they can, and did. The bill passed 51-17

Thursday, February 24, 2011

UFOs and Such

What do you think, really? Do you believe close encounters of the alien kind have been happening here on our home planet, as some media are reporting

There have always been those super out-there believers, and the web now allows them to build many amazing websites. There are those intended to serve as "welcome home" landing pages for our intergalactic brethren, and those that warn of interplanetary threats, cautioning we will make great pets or become super tasty meals if we do not wise up and get ready to resist impending alien invasions. Warnings don't just come from tin-foil hat wearing types; Stephen Hawking recently put in his two cents regarding "don't talk to strangers (from other planets.)"The Royal Society in London recently hosted a conference on the topic of alien encounters, "Is There Anybody Out There?" 

Meanwhile, in several areas around the world there are media reports that pop up citing close encounters sourced by supposedly highly reliable military personnel, confirmed by corroborating data such as radar reports or concurrent civilian sightings. 

The latest of these reports, on the AOL home page today, references some "evidence" of UFOs tampering with military nukes. Yikes.

Okay, I am familiar with the "dog ate my homework"-sort of excuses for screwing up; I've used that on occasion myself. But if these military guys are the ones actually turning the nukes on and off for kicks (or by accident) and then blaming it on the aliens--well, that may be more scary than aliens. 

All scoffing and skepticism aside, what do you think? Have you ever had an actual, impossible-to-dismiss-as-something-else UFO sighting?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Right to Freedom of Association

Lawyers Seek to Shield Twitter Accounts From WikiLeaks Investigation

On Monday 14th February 2011,  said:
Mon Feb 14 18:28:37 2011 GMT

Tomorrow (Tuesday morning), a federal magistrates court in Virginia's national security heartland will be the scene of the first round in the US government's legal battle against Julian Assange. The US Attorney-General has brought an action against Twitter, demanding that it disclose the names, dates and locations of all persons who have used its services to receive messages from Wikileaks or Mr Assange. It is understood that Twitter will resist the order, so as to protect the privacy of its customers.

Assange said today "This is an outrageous attack by the Obama administration on the privacy and free speech rights of Twitter's customers - many of them American citizens. More shocking, at this time, is that it amounts to an attack on the right to freedom of association, a freedom that the people of Tunisia and Egypt, for example, spurred on by the information released by Wikileaks, have found so valuable".

On December 14, 2010, the US Department of Justice obtained an Order requiring Twitter turn over records of all communications between Wikileaks and its followers. This Order was acquired through the use of the "Patriot Act", which establishes procedures whereby the Government can acquire information about users of electronic communication networks without a Search Warrant, without Probable Cause, without particularizing the records that relate to a proper investigatory objective—and with without any public scrutiny. The basis for the Order remains sealed and secret.

Whilst happy that Twitter plans to resist the subpoena, Wikileaks said it was confirmed that other service providers like Google and Facebook and Yahoo may also have been served with a production order back in December, at the same time as Twitter, and may already have provided information to the government by way of a deal under the secrecy provisions introduced by the Patriot Act. "We are all asking all service providers to explain whether they too have been served with a similar order, and whether, they have caved into it" said Mr Assange.

Tuesday’s case in Virginia, involves the United States government seeking to obtain vast amounts of private information that would jeopardize and chill First Amendment rights of association, of expression, of political assembly, of speech. At its essence it seeks information that can be converted into a list of individuals, across the globe, who have followed, communicated with, and received messages from WikiLeaks – the very sort of government intrusion into basic freedoms that the Supreme Court ruled was prohibited by the First Amendment. WikiLeaks will not participate directly in that proceeding because it believes that the US lacks jurisdiction over expressive activities beyond its borders, but it strongly supports the associational rights of its followers and all who work toward a more open society.

Mr Assange will not himself be intervening in the action against Twitter because as an Australian who has committed no criminal act on US territory, he claims that the American courts have no jurisdiction over him. The head of his UK legal team, Geoffrey Robertson QC, has brought in Alan Dershowitz, the distinguished Harvard Law Professor, as part of the team to advise on the US Attorney General's actions.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction

"Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones, and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning."
Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Your Brain on Computers

Articles in this series examine how a deluge of data can affect the way people think and behave.

Fast Times at Woodside High

How Technology is Distracting Students

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Egyptian Music and Social Change

Dr. Ramzi Salti, professor of Arabic Language and Literature at Stanford University, is this week's guest on "Stanford Spotlight." Dr. Salti discusses and plays old and new Arabic music from Egypt, including music that is fueling the current uprising in that country:

Ramzi Salti's blog: "Pop Culture in the Arab World."

The Kids Are Alright

     Today's tween and teen consumers have been surrounded by electronic technology since birth. They take their media as for granted as the previous generation took whatever it was they experienced: Walkman? Desktop PC? Video camera? Contemporary kids are unimpressed--Got iPad?--though expectant their access to electronic gadgets will continue, unimpeded by parents. Parents, who once did without the gadgets they now dish out to their offspring, are more aware of costs and assume there should at least be some appreciation. Meanwhile, entitled children shrug unimpressed shoulders and upgrade with their own money or nag until they are provided with all the latest and--for awhile, anyway--greatest devices.
     Parents worry about the consequences their pioneering children may face, using the devices they provide. Their children's young minds are dispersing at warp speed to wander paths where parents not only cannot lead--in many cases they don't even know how to follow. Are the children of this generation at risk in a digital "Lord of the Flies?" Are they being led away by the shiny, high-tech, multi-media Pied Piper, where, alone in an electronic forest, they make easy prey?
     Perhaps the predators do "come out at midnight," but parents have ways of keeping them at bay. This new technology may have its sharp edge, but we don't need to entirely take it away. Instead we need to teach children how to use it in age appropriate ways, without harm to themselves or others. This might require a quick education for the parents, to bring them up to speed.By strengthening their own understanding of new media and making sure their kids know how to resist attractions that pose harm, parents will know for sure: "The kids are alright."
     They won't always seem so shallow, either. Young kids used to yak away on the phone; now they text away, thumbs flying. But in time the conversations change, regardless of the medium facilitating them. Children's interests and the topics they discuss will mature. When  it does, the skills and tools these children have mastered will allow them a whole new level of connection, new ideas launching from broad mind-bases with a reach their parents could not have conceived of.
     And in no time at all these kids will be grown and getting their turn to generate their versions of new technology. Eventually they will have their own kids, who will likewise be born into a new set of technological advances and advantages; and then their parents--today's digital generation--may find themselves shaking their heads at the audacity and entitlement.

Webcast: What Kids Learn When They Create with Digital Media

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

North Central College: Snow Day!!!

 I have received official notice:
"North Central College will be closed beginning at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 1, 2011 through Wednesday, February 2, 2011. All classes and regularly scheduled activities are canceled, and only employees designated "essential" are required to report to work. A Blizzard Warning remains in effect from 3:00 p.m. today through 3:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 2, 2011. You are encouraged to get safely to your final destination for the evening and remain off the roads. A decision regarding classes for Thursday, February 3, 2011 will be made no later than 6:00 a.m. Thursday."

Egyptian President Mubarak Says He Won't Run for New Term


Link: Google Real Time Updates

Live From Egypt: Millions Against Mubarak

Democracy Now!’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous 

 Live from Tahrir Amid Massive Protest:



Police Attack Praying Egyptians

What do you think about this?

Journalist Arrested and Beaten Alongside Protesters in Egypt

In Egypt, police have arrested up to 1,200 people, including a number of journalists. Among them was Guardian reporter, Jack Shenker. He was arrested and beaten by plainclothes police on Tuesday night and shoved into a truck with dozens of other people. He managed to keep his phone with him and recorded what was happening as the truck carried them outside of Cairo.

Democracy Now! broadcasts some of the dramatic audio recording:

Where are the Egyptian Women?

As the Egyptian anti-government uprising unfolds the question of what role the Egyptian women are playing is in many people's minds. According to reports, the number of women taking part in the protests is "unprecendented." Slate rounds up various estimates of women in the crowds:
Ghada Shahbandar, an activist with the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, estimated the crowd downtown to be 20 percent female. Other estimates were as high as 50 percent. In past protests, the female presence would rarely rise to 10 percent. Protests have a reputation for being dangerous for Egyptian women, whose common struggle as objects of sexual harassment is exacerbated in the congested, male-dominated crowd.