Archive for August, 2004

SEVIS : Success or Disaster?

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Despite repeated pleas from all of America’s
major universities, despite continuing declines in foreign graduate students
coming to the United States, despite lengthy delays and difficulties
in obtaining student visas, and despite repeated breakdowns and glitches
in implementation of SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information
System, an electronic tracking system designed to make sure Foreign Students
actually study, and leave the country when they finish, the Department
of Homeland Security is declaring the program a success.

Homeland Security officials are touting the success of
the 1-year-old Web-based system that tracks foreign students at U.S.
universities and colleges and has led to 187 arrests for various violations.

A total of 8,737 colleges and exchange visitor programs,
representing more than 9,500 campuses, are certified to participate in
the program.
Information on more than 770,000 students and exchange visitors is
maintained in the database. The system also maintains records on more
than 100,000 dependents of students and exchange visitors.

from the Federal Computer Weekly

Lets Declare Victory and All Go Home

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Jim Moore has an interesting take on the old adage that Generals are always fighting the last war. He speculates that the “War on Terrorism” might be the last war, and already over…

Maybe the war on terrorism–where a network of international terrorists attack the west–culminagted in 9/11.

Running Out of Things to Invent

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A German company has invented a pair of glasses that come apart to
double as chopsticks.
The ‘sushi specs’ have detachable arms that can be used to eat traditional
Japanese food.
Those who aren’t adept at using chopsticks can have forks attached as an
alternative.

Designer of the glasses Ralph Anderl says he came up with the idea after
noticing that eating on the go was becoming increasingly popular.

"The idea came from the common need for cutlery at any time. Nowadays
people don’t have time to stop and eat lunch in a restaurant, they want
to eat
while they’re walking to their next job," said Mr Anderl.

And we thought we were supposed to eat sushi with our FINGERS. We
are tempted to try the fork variety, but are worried about stabbing
ourselves
repeatedly
in
the
ear….

article from Ananova

Platform Diving

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Hammering
together the poarty platform used to be one of the main jobs of the nominating
convention, but led to unsightly rows and delays; nowadays it is written
and approved months in advance. While covering the Democratic convention
we never actually saw a copy of the platform, and only heard it refered
to once, by a Congressman objecting to a plank on Water Rights. However,
we are sure that each party is closely parsing the OTHER side’s platform,
looking for weak points or evidence of "extremism."

Republicans approved
a platform yesterday that puts the party firmly on the record
against legalized abortion, gay marriage and other forms
of legal recognition for same-sex couples, reflecting the political
clout of social conservatives and setting up a stark contrast with the
Democrats
for the fall campaign.

article from the New York Times

pdf of the Republican platform

Something’s Happening Here

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Occasionally,
we get a sense of disconnect between what is happening on the ground
and the world as seen through
Fox and CNN.  Such was the case with the peaceful, "massive" protest
march in NYC yesterday at the kickoff for the Republican National convention.

Today there was scant mention of the march, other than
to note that it was peaceful and that it was anti-GOP. Estimates of it’s
size vary. Many
reports
speak only in general terms, like "large crowd"
and "stretching miles", while a number of others refer
to a crowd in the "tens of thousands," which to our ear anyway means
less than 100,000.

The New York police estimated the crowd at 120,000.  The
Boston Globe reported 400,000.  Organizers peg the total participation
at half a million.  If any of the latter estimates are correct,
it would make this the largest anti-war demonstration in US history.  The
largest single demonstration against the war in Vietnam was 250,000,
in a November
15, 1969 march in Washington, D.C
.

Should this not be historic? These are Woodstock numbers.
Something’s happening here; what it is aint exactly clear. There is a
movement afoot in the land, and it is not anything the Democrats have
come up
with to
gain
an edge
in
the
election.

The methodology of
modern democracy seems to be to lull about half of the potential voters
(most young or poor or both) into a distracted complacency in which they
feel no need or obligation to vote.  Then the two Ruling Parties
each take 40% of the remaining half, composed mostly of deluded fools
following
the
herd
instinct, and
play political games for the precious 20% of the voters, 10% of emancipated
adults, who actually think about it, listen to the candidates, and make
a decision based on what they hear and see.

But occasionally, in key moments of tectonic shift in the
social firmament, the great mass of sleeping non-voters stirs. Something
penetrates their stupor or cynicism, and they feel the need to change
the course of the ship of state and the state of society. The last time
this happened was 35 years ago, during the Vietnam War and America’s
Cultural Revolution. It is not coincidental that this period has become
the focus of the current election.

Luckily for the class of professional politicians, the
massive monster that is The People eventually go back to sleep, the most
vital and charismatic among them institutionalized or co-opted into the
ruling
class. And so
we have
slept
these past 35 years. But we are starting to feel the stirring of the
beast in stories like those on yesterday’s march.

However, it is premature to declare the return of the spirit
of the 60’s. For such a movement to have a real and lasting effect on
the American experience
it must
become national, and self-sustaining, and much broader than a single-issue
crusade.

The movement in the 60’s was much more than a protest of
the war in Vietnam. It was about rock and roll, and recreational drugs,
and
the Pill, and the application of the Bill of Rights to a wider range
of Americans. It
was a period that also saw the birth of Globalization and the emergence
of the three axes of the 21st century; America, a unified Europe and
a China-led Asia.

To reawaken the subterranean fires of cultural renovation
in America the War
in
Iraq
must be combined with a gamut of other issues; America’s role in the
world, gay rights (the final frontier of Bill of Rights extension?),
America’s promises to the Baby Boomers as we approach our just and
unjust rewards, and most of all, in the admittedly distorted mind of
the Dowbrigade,
the development and democratization of the Internet and Cyberspace,

Will it happen? Like a terrorist attack, it is a given
that the sleeping half of the electorate will be roused at some point
in the future.  This is the saving grace of our system.  When,
however, is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, according to recent polls President Bush is
sitting pretty. The guy is a magician. Suddenly, without really doing
anything, he is standing tall and looking trustworthy and decisive. When
media magic works right its almost impossible to detect.

Poor John Kerry, after keeping it together and putting
on a pretty good show in his hometown last month, got NO BUMP in the
polls after the convention, not even the customary and almost automatic
3-5 points from increased media exposure. Somehow, that tricky rascal
George Bush has managed to get a 10 POINT BUMP BEFORE the convention!
What a brilliant reversal!

In early July, just before the Democratic Convention, the
President’s approval rating was in the mid 40’s, and the Democrats were
trumpeting the statistic that no sitting president up for reelection
had ever won with mid-summer numbers that low.

Now, with some recent polls putting Bush’s  overall
approval rating in the low 60’s, the Republicans are running around saying
that no sitting President running for reelection has ever LOST with ratings
that high going into the convention.

The convention seems designed to sway that mythical 10$
of the population who will actually vote but haven’t made up their minds
yet for whom. As Republican demographers have clearly figured out most
of these voters are independent-minded social liberals who like the idea
of a strong decisive leader. They are looking for undecided independents
and "soft" Democrats.

For that reason the line-up of prime time speakers at the
convention reads like "Rebels Without a Cause." Cult figure John McCain,
the man who turned down the Vice Presidency of the OTHER party to join
the Bush bandwagon, kicks things off tonight. Hew will be followed by
American Hero Rudolf Guiliani and tomorrow night the Terminator, Arnold
Schwarzenegger, a man with Presidential aspirations himself.

None of these featured speakers is in accord with the core
principles of the Republican Party on issues like Gay Rights, Stem Cell
research, or abortion. Never mind, they are stars and have proven public
appeal.  The real heavies, the guys who are going to be laying down
the law for the next four years if Bush wins, are nowhere to be seen,
or shunted into dead air slots, like Dennis Hastert and Bill Frist, who
spoke early this afternoon as a sort of Conservative Sound Test.

Meanwhile, the Flying Bush family Traveling Show is seemingly
everywhere. Presidential brother and heir apparent Jeb is hosting all
sorts of power meetups around town. Darling daughters and residential
Bad Girls Barbara and Jenna are wooing the X-generation. Latin heartthrob
George Prescott Bush is trying to overcome his own bad boy past and play
a role wooing the hispanic vote. All will be appearing at the convention,
along with ex-President George Bush and the wonderful Babs, everybody’s
favorite ex-first lady.

With a lineup like that, and a deep bench including Colin
Powell, Conde Rice, Dick Cheney and Tom Ridge, the Republicans are set
to put on a stellar show.  Democratic power circles are beginning
to take on an edge of desperate dementia.  After losing the White
House four short years ago on a brilliantly played winner-take-all endgame,
the Shock Troops are determined not to get out-Foxed again.

With
a bare-knuckle Yalie at the helm and extensive access to world-class
political
tricksters,
expect some nasty surprises from the Democratic camp after the dust settles
from the Republican convention. Who knows what they could come up with,
but some of that old black magic will definitely be needed to pull this
one out. 

Maybe they could get Ralph Nader to disappear. They will
clearly try to pressure the Repubs into a series of televised debates
(Kerry was a champion debater at Yale, Bush debated changing
his major to sports marketing). They will constantly be on the lookout
for Bushisms and verbal faux pas. And expect a little digging into Bush’s
"irresponsible youth".  What a remarkable contrast it
will provide if they can show that the very same day Kerry was turning
his Swift Boat directly into enemy fire somewhere near the Cambodian
border, Bush was in the midst of a 5-day booze and dope binge to celebrate
the
quality of that year’s Beaujolais.

Let’s hope John Kerry and the boys have a trick or two
up their sleeves. So what are their options? Unless his team can come
up with some surprising and effective underhanded tactics, be will we
swept
under
the rug with history’s other
losers, like Al Gore before him, and good riddance. Americans always
root for the underdog, but they hate a lkoser. It’s a put up or shut
up world, and the chips are on the table. Let’s hope
we
get
some
classic examples of creative chicanery on both sides before this show
is over.

 

All In the Family

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Plots in the Barnstable Community Garden in Marstons Mills cost $25
apiece for the full year, most of which pays for water. Although all but one
of the 48 garden plots are already taken this year, the garden, located inside
the
Long Pond Conservation Area, verges on an unplowed
wildgrass meadow that’s available for cultivation.

Maggie Anzola’s zucchini recently took first place at the Barnstable
County Fair. So did her zinnias.

"I only entered the ‘Z’ category," she joked.

Her kids, Katherine, 9, and Henry, 5, entered the ‘P’ category. Or should that
be ‘G’? In any case, their greenpeas also took a prize.

(Full disclosure: the multi-talented Maggie Anzola is the Dowbrigade’s
little sister. Everything she does well, she learned from us.)

article from the
Cape Cod Times

Four More Years

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After
two weeks of pageantry and drama the Olympics are over, and we are sorry
to see them go.  Our hat is
off to the genius who decided to stage the Games every four years on
the same timetable as the American Presidential elections. He or she certainly deserves a medal. Lord
knows we need the reminder, example and escape of good, clean, above-the-board
competition in the midst of the crass and craven cutthroat display of
political cynicism and savagery which our quadrennial election cycle
has become.

The US took home 103 medals in all, more than any other
nation, and an improvement on our results from four years ago in Sydney.  However,
there are a couple of notes of caution in that rousing result, which
may not bode well for future events.  First of all, for the first
time since the reinitiation of the Olympics in 1896 the US men did not
win a single team competition, a category that includes baseball, basketball,
volleyball, gymnastics, tennis doubles, handball, soccer, water polo,
badminton and table tennis.

In sports like soccer and baseball, the US men’s team didn’t
even QUALIFY, let alone medal.  And what’s up with Basketball, eh? We owned
that sport, since the day Dr. Naismith nailed a peach basket to
the side of a barn, and this time had to struggle to win a bronze?
Not a good sign.

Of course, it is not surprising that we would win so many
medals in individual sports.  The concept of rugged individualism
is under US copyright. Individualism is ingrained in our society, and
our ethos and economic system allow for individual athletes to strive
and suffer in well-supported solitude, with state-of-the-art individual coaching, nutrition
and motivation to hone their skills into World Champion range.

However, the last time we looked, teamwork was also a quintessential
American quality and part of the secret of our success. In fact, it was
perhaps our unique and novel national synthesis of individualism and
teamwork, qualities which can easily work to weaken each other, which
delivered us to global preeminence in the 21st century. Is it time to
wonder if the pendulum has swung too far towards rampant individualism,
team-be-damned, and as a result we have lost our edge in group activities?
Is individualism out of control?

Another note of caution is to be seen in the results of
the Chinese team. Once an awkward giant, a nation of peasants and agricultural
communes, happily content with obscure oriental sports like mahjong and
morning calisthenics, China has rapidly climbed the rankings and in Athens
earned a strong number two ranking, only three gold medals behind the
US.

The scariest part is that they left many of their best
athletes at home. Chinese authorities decided to bring a team of teenagers
to
Athens, trying to get them invaluable world-level competition as they
prepared for the 2008 Beijing games, eschewing more medals now for world
dominance four years down the road.

The Chinese Olympic surge is logical and inevitable.  After
all, the have the largest talent pool on the planet, with, statistically
speaking, four or five Paul Hamms and Mia Hams for each one we can field.  And
with a regimented and disciplined population and government support,
they have been combing the ranks of five and six-year-old kids for the
specific athletic talent and drive needed to reach the medals stand.
Add science, nutrition and state-of-the-art training methods to natural
talent like that, and it becomes unstoppable.

The next Olympics, like the Munich Olympics of 1936, are
set to serve as the coming out party for a rising world power bent on
asserting what it sees as a historical imperative – world dominance.
Whether that desired dominance will be entirely in the sports, political, cultural
and economic spheres, or like the Nazis will bleed over into the military,
remains to be seen.

However, let the Dowbrigade go on the record here and
now as predicting that in Beijing in 2008, the Chinese will displace
the Americans from the top of the medals charts.  Whether that
will be a wakeup call or the death knell of the American century is
an open question. Between China vs. the US at the Olympics, and Hilary
vs. Jeb on the home front, 2008 is shaping up as a watershed year.

story from the Boston Globe

Liberate Central Park

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Right
about now, according to Fox, the mass of anti-war protesters in New York
City are
finishing their march and filling up Union Square. First of all, let
us say that it is depressing to have to rely on Fox News for a 30-second
sound-bite snapshot to know what is going on in Union Square right now.
Google news
search turns up a few articles at the top about protesters plans, but
no current updates from the front. Technorati is
even worse – all blog entries about the bicycle protest – yesterday!
Even the story at the
top of the CNN
web site
are about protesters plans and what is going
to happen – not about what is happening right now, in their own back
yard.

We want to know what is going on NOW! We  want to BE THERE, via
the Blogosphere. We want a site where we can read what people who are
in that crowd are writing or saying, blogging via Wi-Fi or cellular modem,
alongside a feed from a webcam in Union Sq.  There MUST be a webcam
in Union Sq, somewhere, probably several! Lord knows the authorities
have their cameras monitoring the crowd. What we don’t want is a 30-second
synopsis of what is going on provided by a Rupert Mrudock minion, but
that’s all we’ve got.

The question is where the crowd will go now that the parade is over.
There are rumors that thousands are expected to gather in Central Park.
March organizers, denied a permit to hold a rally in the park, maintains
that if marchers go to the part it would be simply as law-abiding citizens
off to enjoy the beautiful weather in a day at the park. Check out this NYT
interactive ma
p of the area.

If they want to get a lot of press, take a stand, challenge the authorities
and have the makings of a hell of a party, they should ALL go to Central
Park – and refuse to leave.  Declare it "Liberated Territory", out
of the control of the illegal Bush regime. They could all camp out in
the park, which has the bathrooms, drinking water and food outlets to
make it a feasible proposition. By creating a liberated "Tent City" in
the heart of Manhattan, they would instantly create a focus and a headquarters
for what is increasingly appearing to be a disunited and capricious
coalition of protestors.

Their success at getting away with this tactic will depend in how many
people they can get on-board before the NYC Police take them as a serious
enough threat to hold the requisite meetings to authorize the use of
force to move the protestors out.

Somewhere there is a magic number, probably between a hundred and a
thousand, beyond which the political and police authorities would decline
to act on the simple reasoning that the benefits of rousting them would
be outweighed by the images of pitched battles between police and hundreds
of protesters.  They would probably let them stay until the end
of the week, and just keep them surrounded.

The authorities would probably at some point have to cut them off, like
the naval embargo of Cuba, because as the press commences with live broadcasts
from the liberated territory, Sam Donnaldson doing interviews with the
sounds of wild partying obviously off-screen, jungle drums beating around
a bonfire in the background, bare breasts hoisted on sturdy shoulders,
people would start to head down to the park, to join in the fun or just
to gawk, looking for love, or action, or trouble.

Soon, people from all up and down the East Coast would be heading for
Central Park.  It would be this generations Woodstock. Bands would
set up in the acoustic shell, Of course, at some point the Powers-that-be
would order the part cut off from the rest of the city, nobody in or
out, which they could do without the kind of violent confrontation necessary
to clear the area entirely.

Hell, the Dowbrigade would even play hooky from work, just for the opportunity
to blog from "liberated territory." This story defines what we consider
"news" and contrasts vividly with what is expected to transpire inside
Madison Square Garden.  Inside, the drama will be carefully scripted
and designed by experts for a desired impression.  Outside, on the
mean streets of Manhattan, nobody has any idea what is going to happen.

article from the NY Times

Planning A Head

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Amsterdam is in the running for the 2016
Olympics, and Dutch bloggers are all over the case. Check
out these proposals for Olympic posters.

 

from Retecool.com via Adam Curry

Blame it on the Day Job

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Unfortunately, we will not be able to get down to New York for the big demonstration tomorrow. We need to deliver their weekly T passes to our Japanese wards in their Theater District hotel in time for them to get to campus for lunch. The damn things don’t go on sale until 9 am Sunday – we tried to buy them today so we could leave town, but couldn’t.

So we will be reduced to following the action on Cable TV and the internet, like most of our readers. It is shaping up to be a much more interesting story than the demonstrations at the Democratic Conventions. There have already been more arrests than during the entire week in Boston, and the damn things is still two days from the opening gavel. Stay tuned…

(CNN) — Thousands of protesters will face thousands of security officials at the Republican National Convention even before the event begins Monday at Madison Square Garden in New York.

While no one knows how many protesters will descend on the city, officials expect their numbers to dwarf the crowds seen a month ago at the Democratic event in Boston.

More than 215,000 people are expected to take part in a march Sunday that will kick into gear a week of anti-GOP meetings and events.

from CNN

Post Mortem Matrimony

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A South African
man who shot his pregnant fiancee dead before killing himself will be
posthumously married to her at
the weekend.

Police Captain Mohale Ramatseba said David Masenta shot 25-year-old Mgwanini
Molomo after a quarrel before turning the gun on himself. But Johannesburg’s
Sowetan newspaper said family and friends wanted to remember them as a
happy couple destined for a happy life together.

The groom’s corpse would be dressed in a cream suit and his bride’s in
a gown for the ceremony, at which a priest in the rural village of Ceres
in Limpopo will bless the union before the two are buried, the Sowetan
said.

"In African culture, there is no death — there is merely the separation
of body and soul," said cultural expert Mathole Motshekga. "It
is also important because the families are married together."

"This does not mean the relationship has irretrievably broken down."

Face it guys, there’s no escape….

from Reuters

Weighty Motivation

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – A man who once weighed
more than half a ton has lost 321 pounds under the care of a team of
doctors and hopes to lose 450 pounds more.

Patrick Deuel, 42, of Valentine, Neb., weighed 1,072 pounds when he was admitted
to Sioux Falls’ Avera McKennan Hospital eight weeks ago. Deuel, who is just under
6 feet tall, is on a 1,200 calorie-a-day diet.

"If we hadn’t gotten him here, he’d be dead now,” said Fred Harris, Deuel’s
lead doctor.

The former restaurant manager has been bedridden since last fall. He has battled
heart failure, thyroid problems, diabetes, pulmonary hypertension and arthritis,
and needed help just to roll over in bed.

"Until recently, I wasn’t able to
see any light at the end of the tunnel,” he said Monday from his hospital
bed. A group known as the League of Human Dignity helped arrange for
Deuel to be driven
to a local livestock scale, where he could be weighed. According to the Guinness
World Records Web site, the record for heaviest man in the world is 1,397 pounds,
held by Jon Brower Minnoch of Bainbridge, Wash., who died in 1983.

Deuel, who
has battled weight problems all his life and blames his condition in part
on genetics, said it took months to find a hospital. Hospitals closer
to his home
balked at admitting him, he said.

"I got scared because I couldn’t help
him anymore, and I didn’t know who would help him,” said his wife,
Edith. Harris
said Deuel’s care could cost millions of dollars, much of which the hospital
may have to cover. Officials found a special ambulance, and hospital workers
joined two beds to accommodate Deuel. One of Deuel’s goals is to walk out
of the hospital.

He also wants to go to a Nebraska Cornhuskers football
game,
and just take a walk with his wife. "Even though he’s faced negativity
all these
years, he’s not a negative person,” Edith Deuel said. "He’s almost always
been able to stay bubbly and make jokes and be happy.”

from AP