Wednesday, June 29, 2005

constructive information on 'Flu pandemic possibilities 

For once a really constructive initiative on the nets. A collective effort to gather together and present in an accessible way information on influenza and the possibility of a global 'flu pandemic.

See the 'Flu Wiki and explore its resources. For starters the information already gathered on what 'flu sdi and is not shoudl help hard-pressed politicians avoid too much confusion should we be asked to make public statements.
The staement of aims for the site says:
"The purpose of the Flu Wiki is to help local communities prepare for and perhaps cope with a possible influenza pandemic. This is a task previously ceded to local, state and national governmental public health agencies. Communications technology has now become sufficiently available to allow a new form of collaborative problem-solving that harvests the rich fund of knowledge and experience that exists among those connected via the internet, allowing more talent to participate."

The organisational practicalities on this US-originating site are of course targetted to US circumstances but there is much to learn for other places.

As at the time of writing the UK Department of Health has a draft plan and is gathering in comments .

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Monday, June 27, 2005

The earth moving 

Just one thought (OK two) on Iran's determination to get 'civilan' nuclear power plants and without getting into the question of whether these could produce military quality nuclear material:

Is it really a good idea to build very prominent targets which if hit by conventional weapons could have nuclear-level consequences? Rather like painting 'press here' buttons around the country.

What on earth is a country that has had some of the most spectacular and devastating earthquakes recorded doing building nuclear power plants? It is stupid enough that Japan does this...

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

A crucible of integrity 

Moving memorial speech for Arthur Miller by Tony Kushner. An extract:

"Arthur Miller's was a great voice, one of the principal voices, raised in opposition, calling for resistance, offering critical scrutiny and lamentation--in other words, he was politically progressive, as politically progressive is best defined in these dark times. He demanded that we must be able to answer, on behalf of our plays, our endeavors, our lives, a really tough question, one that Arthur wrote was the chief and, in a sense, only reason for writing and speaking: "What is its relevancy," he asks, "to the survival of the race? Not," he stipulates, "the American race, or the Jewish race, or the German race, but the human race." He demanded that our work and our lives have some relevance to human survival. The question implies anxiety about that survival, a refusal of complacency, an acknowledgment that there is a human community for which each of us bears responsibility and a warning that we are in danger. Miller tells us that what we do, the things we choose to struggle with in art and elsewhere, can have some effect on the outcome. There is, in other words, reason to hope, and change is possible."

And more:
"He never became a cynic, or a nihilist, or an ego-anarchist, or a despoiler of humanist utopian dreams, or a neocon. His great personal courage and his graceful confidence in his stature and talents made it unnecessary for him to cuddle up to power elites, allowed him to retain his sympathy, his affinity for the disinherited, the marginal and the powerless. He never wanted us to forget that without economic justice, the concept of social justice is an absurdity and, worse, a lie. "

Read it all.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Commandments or whatever 

Actually I don't like the term 'Commandments' as in the 'Ten Commandments'. Too much of the 'Naughty Step' school of spiritual discipline in that, and I am much more at home with the Quaker Advices and Queries set out for 'the Comfort and Discomfort of Friends'.

However this 'First Nations*' Ten Commandments came across my cyberbrowsing screen today and I like it better than some.

Treat the Earth and all that dwell thereon with respect!
Remain close to the Great Spirit
Show great respect for your fellow beings
Work together for the benefit of all humanity!
Give assistance and kindness wherever needed
Do what you know to be right
Look after the well-being of mind and body
Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good
Be truthful and honest at all times
Take full responsiblity for your actions.....

*First nations otherwise known as 'Indians' in a North American context

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Saturday, June 04, 2005

Wear the mantle of these values proudly 

This quote from the recent commencement address by William Sculz, executive director of Amnesty International USA. Not a bad call to arms for a Liberal movement, even a Liberal party.

After telling a wonderful story about a painting of Faust playing Chess with the devil Schulz says:

"...no matter what orthodoxy may claim or ideology may bluster, history is not finished, the future is not fated, what comes next is in our hands, so that in the face of hardship and injustice, of suffering and of death, we say, The story is not over. The end is not here yet. For it is not just the King but the knight, not just the Queen but the rook, not just the Bishop but pawn, not just the wealthy but the pauper, not just the powerful but every starving, lonely, frightened person in the world, every single person, every single one of us, who has another move. We all have another move... We are engaged today in an enormous struggle... It is a struggle between those who would close down culture and those who would keep it open. Between those who welcome the preeminence of one nation and those who give their fealty to the common interests of the globe. It is, in short, a struggle between those with a parched vision and those with a generous heart. This institution has always pledged itself to one side of that equation and, to you who graduate today I leave you with one very simple message:

"Wear the mantle of these values proudly; then give no quarter; fear no shadows; and make the mountains tremble."

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Friday, June 03, 2005

Science problems again 

Once more a science story breaks and we struggle to keep it in fuller context. And the question of how to hanlde all of this responsibly in politics is areal challenge. No party hass it right as yet.

My first recation anger - I thought this tale about a connection between Childhood leukemia and power lines had been firmly countered over the past 20 years and that research into leukemia was now urgently targetted on more likely causes. But no, it seems we are still splashing money on this and coming up with the conclusion that 'more research is needed'. How about actually doing that research?

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Zappa emergent 

Frank Zappa in the news again with his sons going on tour to take his music to a new generation. Wonder if they will be going to Lithuania, since the first ever Frank Zappa statue went up there soon after his 1993 death. There was a real political motive or at least a countercultural theme behind this, exemplified by the later Uzupis Republic movement. But around the statue itself things seem to be getting less wierd according to Rolling Stone.

On Lenin statues a tale I cant resist (it might have appealed to Zappa as well). The biggest statue of Lenin stood in (of course) Lenin Square which is now not called that! Anyway after the re-establishment of independence the statue was of course removed. One complaint - from the manager of a bar on the square. The statue was good for business he said. Lenin was pointing directly at the door of the bar. Customers would come out, see Lenin pointing at them, clutch their heads and go back in muttering 'I need another drink!'.

Zappa said one couldn't be considered a proper country "unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer". And I guarantee Lithuania has beers! (and a Vodka more lethal than anything in Poland or Russia).

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Maps Away 

I am discontented with the new weather maps on BBC.

I do agree with the SNP on the visual distortions of 'tilted Britain'. Indeed I complained to the BBC about the equivalent 'Tilted Iraq' graphics during the recent invasion which showed Baghdad as almost the top of that country while in fact about half is to the north. But that's not my main complaint.

I object to the loss of the weather maps showing isobars and fronts. It so happens that I can interpret this data and make educated estimates of likely weather patterns independent of the official forecasts. Many other people can do so as well. Now as far as the BBC TV is concerned we are completely dependent on the abstracted information presented in the graphics and cannot exercise our own judgment.

Helping people to make their own judgments and supporting the ability to make informed evaluation of the performance of services like the Met Reports is a core principle of a Liberal society so for me there is a political dimension in all this. The BBC is making us more dependent and that is a less 'liberal' outcome. (Updated) Yes you can get the isobars and other information on the BBC webpage, hidden in a new slot. This only mitigates the loss of service on the TV.

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