Archive for January, 2009

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At least some international politician has the guts to stand up to the nazi-like Israeli government. This BBC video clip shows the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan leaving a Davos meeting under protest after having not having been given the same time the President of Israel had to defend his county’s barbaric actions against defenseless Palestinian civilians.

This is only the second time I am aware of that a politician actually took a clear stand against Israel’s fascist behaviour towards another Semitic people – the first one was Hugo Chavez who broke diplomatic ties with Israel after its recent war against Palestine. Erdogan, whose country has had friendly relations with Israel so far, also seems to be the only Islamic leader (apart from Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of course) who publicly accuses Israel of murder.

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AdSweep

Enjoy an ad-free web browsing with AdSweep

Introduction

AdSweep is a small addon that aims to hide advertising from the web pages you visit like Adblock. In technical terms, AdSweep is a user javascript that defines CSS rules based on the web site you are visiting to hide elements of the page that show advertisements.

AdSweep is mainly designed for the Opera web browser, but works also with Google Chrome. It is a work in progress, more and more web sites are added over time, and if you have basic CSS skills, you can take part and help make the web a cleaner place. To help me out, you can get in touch with me by email.

Download AdSweep v.0.4

AdSweep currently supports a few web sites fully, it hides many advertisement patterns but can still leave ads here and there. You can download it and use it.

Installation

To install AdSweep extract AdSweep.zip and place the AdSweep.user.js file in a directory of your choice.

  • If you use Opera, open your web browser, hit Alt-P, click the “Advanced” tab on top, click the “Content” menu item on the left-hand side, click the “Javascript Options…” button on the right-hand side. In the “Javascript Options” dialog, click the “Choose” button, select the directory where you saved the AdSweep.jsfile. Click “OK” to save.
  • If you use Chrome, create the C:\scripts directory, extract AdSweep.zip, place the AdSweep.js file intoC:\scripts , rename the file to AdSweep.user.js (important!). Then right-click the shortcut icon of Google Chrome, either on your desktop or in your Start menu, and click “Properties”. Select the second tab named “Shortcut”, and in the “Target” field, append --enable-greasemonkey with a space inbetween. For instance:
    Before: C:\Users\Charles\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe
    After: C:\Users\Charles\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe --enable-greasemonkey
    Don’t forget the space inbetween, and the command flag --enable-greasemonkey has to be outside the double quotes, if any. Click “OK” to save changes. If you use the developer version of Chrome (Chrome 2.0), the steps to enable user scripts is different. In this case you’ll have to put the AdSweep.user.js file into a different directory, and the command flag to activate user scripts is different, as explained on theChromium web site.
  • If you use Mozilla Firefox, install the Greasemonkey extension, restart your browser. Then extractAdSweep.zip, rename AdSweep.js to AdSweep.user.js and drag and drop it into Mozilla Firefox. The Greasemonkey dialog will ask you if you want to install AdSweep. Click ok. You’re done.
  • If you use Safari, you can use AdSweep, you just have to install Greasekit and install AdSweep as a user script.
  • If you use Internet Explorer you need GreasemonkIE or IEPro and just install AdSweep as a user script (not tested, though).

When you’re done, close your browser, reopen it and access http://www.adsweep.org, you should see a red notification in the upper-right corner of the page (only displayed on http://www.adsweep.org), saying AdSweep is installed. 

 

[Thanks to harry and Lifehacker]

 

one-horsepower-car

The measure of power under the hood of a car was established by Scottish engineer James Watt, often credited with inventing the steam engine. To convince potential buyers of the value of his steam engine, he devised a way to rate its power by comparing it to the work done by horses — the usual source of industrial muscle in his day.

Watt watched horses at work, although there’s some disagreement about his actual methods. He may have observed ponies lifting coal in a coal mine or horses working in a mill. He concluded that a horse could lift 550 pounds at the rate of one foot per second. In other words, it could lift 33,000 pounds one foot per minute. And that’s the figure we use today: one unit of horsepower equals 33,000 foot-pounds per minute.

Regardless of his methods, the term “horsepower” stuck. Two hundred years after Watt coined the word, it’s used to sell everything from lawnmowers to garbage disposals.

aedes_aegypti

Another piece of trivia I gonna delete from my archive: in terms of human blood types, mosquitoes don’t seem to care. But the little buggers do prefer the blood of some animals to others. In fact, each species of mosquito seems to have a definite animal preference. Surprisingly, humans aren’t the preferred blood bank for many mosquitoes, apart from the Anopheles gambiae variety.

It may be small consolation, but mosquitoes do have their reasons for sucking blood — blood proteins help the females lay eggs. The insects have sensors that help them find food and blood and detect carbon dioxide, which they are naturally drawn to. Mammals and birds exhale carbon dioxide, and mosquitoes can sense it from up to 100 feet away. The bugs see movement and detect visual contrast, and can also sense heat, which helps them find warm-blooded creatures like us.

Combined with carbon dioxide, certain odors like sweat and perfume can be a strong lure for mosquitoes. Curiously enough, scientists have found that drinking beer or eating Limburger cheese will make a person more attractive to mosquitoes (although probably less attractive to fellow humans).

 

clockI’m in the process of backing up some data, and I thought it’s a good opportunity to get rid of a lot of stuff I’ll never look at again. In the process I’ve come across this bit of trivia – I didn’t even know there is a 9-minute interval (which is not too surprising given that I never use the snooze function 😉 ).

 

Well, one might think that nine minutes are the approximate length of time it takes to fall back asleep before being roused by the piercing beep of the infernal alarm clock. But as it turns out, it’s partially a matter of mechanics. Back in 1956 when the snooze button was first introduced, alarm clocks had standardised gears. The snooze gear had to mesh with the teeth of the other gears. Due to the configuration of the gears, a nice, round 10-minute snooze cycle was out of the question, so the engineers had to choose between 9 minutes or 10-plus minutes. As we all know, punctuality is a virtue, so the engineers went with 9 minutes.

Apparently there’s another explanation too for modern digital alarm clocks. Being set to 9 minutes, the clock only needs to watch the last digit of the time. So, if you hit snooze at 6:45, the alarm goes off again when the last digit hits 4 – at 7:54. They couldn’t make the snooze period 10 minutes, or the alarm would go off right away – alternatively the clock would take more circuitry.

Various attempts have been made to change the 9-minute snooze cycle — manufacturers have tried 5, 7, and 10 minutes, but a 9-minute snooze has become the unofficial standard.

Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute

overpopulation3Some 43 countries around the world now have populations that are either essentially stable or declining slowly. In countries with the lowest fertility rates, including Japan, Russia, Germany, and Italy, populations will likely decline somewhat over the next half-century. A larger group of countries has reduced fertility to the replacement level or just below. They are headed for population stability after large numbers of young people move through their reproductive years. Included in this group are China and the United States. A third group of countries is projected to more than double their populations by 2050, including Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda.

United Nations projections show world population growth under three different assumptions about fertility levels. The medium projection, the one most commonly used, has world population reaching 9.2 billion by 2050. The high one reaches 10.8 billion. The low projection, which assumes that the world will quickly move below replacement-level fertility to 1.6 children per couple, has population peaking at just under 8 billion in 2041 and then declining. If the goal is to eradicate poverty, hunger, and illiteracy, and lessen pressures on already strained natural resources, we have little choice but to strive for the lower projection.

Slowing world population growth means that all women who want to plan their families should have access to the family planning services they need. Unfortunately, at present 201 million couples cannot obtain the services they need. Former U.S. Agency for International Development official J. Joseph Speidel notes that “if you ask anthropologists who live and work with poor people at the village level…they often say that women live in fear of their next pregnancy. They just do not want to get pregnant.” Filling the family planning gap may be the most urgent item on the global agenda. The benefits are enormous and the costs are minimal.

The good news is that countries that want to help couples reduce family size can do so quickly. In just one decade Iran dropped its near-record population growth rate to one of the lowest in the developing world. When Ayatollah Khomeini assumed leadership in Iran in 1979, he immediately dismantled the well-established family planning programs and instead advocated large families. In response to his pleas, fertility levels climbed, pushing Iran’s annual population growth to a peak of 4.2 percent in the early 1980s, a level approaching the biological maximum. As this enormous growth began to burden the economy and the environment, the country’s leaders realized that overcrowding, environmental degradation, and unemployment were undermining Iran’s future. (See www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/Update4ss.htm for more information.)

overpopulation1In 1989 the government did an about-face and restored its family planning program. In May 1993, a national family planning law was passed. The resources of several government ministries, including education, culture, and health, were mobilized to encourage smaller families. Iran Broadcasting was given responsibility for raising awareness of population issues and of the availability of family planning services. Some 15,000 “health houses” or clinics were established to provide rural populations with health and family planning services. 

Religious leaders were directly involved in what amounted to a crusade for smaller families. Iran introduced a full panoply of contraceptive measures, including the option of male sterilization—a first among Muslim countries. All forms of birth control, including contraceptives such as the pill and sterilization, were free of charge. In fact, Iran became a pioneer—the only country to require couples to take a class on modern contraception before receiving a marriage license.

In addition to the direct health care interventions, a broad-based effort was launched to raise female literacy, boosting it from 25 percent in 1970 to more than 70 percent in 2000. Female school enrollment increased from 60 to 90 percent. Television was used to disseminate information on family planning throughout the country, taking advantage of the 70 percent of rural households with TV sets. As a result of this initiative, family size in Iran dropped from seven children to fewer than three. From 1987 to 1994, Iran cut its population growth rate by half. Its population growth rate of 1.3 percent in 2006 is only slightly higher than that in the United States.

While the attention of researchers has focused on the role of formal education in reducing fertility, soap operas on radio and television can even more quickly change people’s attitudes about reproductive health, gender equity, family size, and environmental protection. A well-written soap opera can have a profound short-term effect on population growth. It costs relatively little and can proceed even while formal educational systems are being expanded.

The power of this approach was pioneered by Miguel Sabido, a vice president of Televisa, Mexico’s national television network, with a series of soap opera segments on illiteracy. The day after one of his soap opera characters visited a literacy office wanting to learn how to read and write, a quarter-million people showed up at these offices in Mexico City. Eventually 840,000 Mexicans enrolled in literacy courses after watching the series. Sabido dealt with contraception in another soap opera, and within a decade this drama series helped reduce Mexico’s birth rate by 34 percent.

Other groups quickly picked up this approach. The U.S.-based Population Media Center has initiated projects in some 15 countries and is planning launches in several others. Their radio dramas in Ethiopia, for example, address issues of health and gender equity, such as HIV/AIDS, family planning, and the education of girls. A survey two years after the broadcasts began in 2002 found that 63 percent of new clients seeking reproductive health care at Ethiopia’s 48 service centers reported listening to one of the dramas. Demand for contraceptives increased 157 percent.

The costs of providing reproductive health and family planning services are small compared with their benefits. Expanding these services to reach all women in the developing countries would take close to $17 billion in additional funding from both industrial and developing countries.

overpopulation2Shifting to smaller families brings generous economic dividends. For Bangladesh, analysts concluded that $62 spent by the government to prevent an unwanted birth saved $615 in expenditures on other social services. Investing in reproductive health and family planning services leaves more fiscal resources per child for education and health care, thus accelerating the escape from poverty. 

Helping countries that want to slow their population growth to do so quickly brings with it what economists call the demographic bonus. When countries move quickly to smaller families, growth in the number of young dependents—those who need nurturing and educating—declines relative to the number of working adults. In this situation, productivity surges, savings and investment climb, and economic growth accelerates. This effect lasts for only a few decades, but it is usually enough to launch a country into the modern era. Indeed, except for a few oil-rich countries, no developing country has successfully modernized without slowing population growth. 

The United Nations estimates that meeting the needs of the 201 million women who do not have access to effective contraception could each year prevent 52 million unwanted pregnancies, 22 million induced abortions, and 1.4 million infant deaths. Put simply, the costs to society of not filling the family planning gap may be greater than we can afford.

Adapted from Chapter 7, “Eradicating Poverty, Stabilizing Population,” in Lester R. Brown, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008), available for free downloading and purchase at www.earthpolicy.org/Books/PB3/index.htm.

Released January 21, 2008 

I’ve found this letter on YNetNews. The Israeli-American film director, writer, visual artist and activist Udi Aloni, creator of the 2006 film Forgiveness (Mechilot, winner of the Woodstock Film Festival Audience Award), replies to  an open letter by Israeli singer Noa (Achinoam Nini), in which she asked Palestinians in Gaza and the diaspora to relinquish ‘fanaticism’. If the majority of blinded Israeli’s could see the world through Aloni’s rather than Noa’s, their government’s or military’s eyes, there probably would be no war between them and the Palestinians.

Dear Achinoam Nini, 

udi-aloniI chose to answer you, and not the entire raging Right, because I believe that the betrayal of the peace camp, at this of all times, exceeds the damage caused by the Right a thousand fold. The ease with which the peace camp gives itself over to the roars of war hinders the creation of a meaningful movement that could a true resistance to occupation.

You roll your eyes, use your loving words in the service of your conquering people and call upon the Palestinians to surrender in a tender voice. You bestow upon Israel the role of liberator. Upon Israel – that for over 60 years, has been occupying and humiliating them. “I know where your heart is! It is just where mine is, with my children, with the earth, with the heavens, with music, with HOPE!!” you write; but Achinoam, we took their land and imprisoned them in the ghetto called Gaza. 

We have covered their skies with fighter jets, soaring like the angels from hell and scattering random death. What hope are you talking about? We destroyed any chance for moderation and mutual life the moment we plundered their land while sitting with them at the negotiation table. We may have spoken of peace, but we were robbing them blind. They wanted the land given to them by international law, and we spoke in the name of Jehovah. 

Who are the secular people of Gaza supposed to turn to, when we trample on international law, and when the rest of the enlightened world ignores their cry? When enlightenment fails and moderation is seen as a weakness, religious fanaticism gives a sense of empowerment. Maybe, if you think about the mental situation of the people under siege in Masada, you could get a better sense of what’s happening in Gaza.  

The seculars in Gaza find it hard to speak against Hamas when their ghetto is being bombarded all day and all night. You would probably say that ‘we would not need to shell them if they held their fire,’ but they fire because they are fighting for more that the right to live in the prison called Gaza. They are fighting for the right to live as free citizens in an independent country – just as we do.  

“I know that deep in your hearts YOU WISH for the demise of this beast called Hamas who has terrorized and murdered you, who has turned Gaza into a trash heap of poverty, disease and misery,” you write. But Hamas is not the monster, my dear Achinoam. It is the monster’s son. 

The Israeli occupation is the monster. It and only it is responsible for the poverty and the sickness and the horror. We were so frightened of their secular leadership, which undermined our fantasy of the Land of Israel, that we chose to fund and support Hamas, hoping that by a policy of divide and conquer were could go on with the occupation forever; but when the tables have turned, you choose to blame the effect instead of the cause. 

You write, “I can only wish for you that Israel will do the job we all know needs to be done, and finally RID YOU of this cancer, this virus, this monster called fanaticism, today, called Hamas. And that these killers will find what little compassion may still exist in their hearts and STOP using you and your children as human shields for their cowardice and crimes.” It is the same as if your Palestinian sister would write: “Let us hope that Hamas does the job for you, and rids you of the Jewish Right.” 

So maybe, instead of ordering around a people whose every glimmer of hope we have surgically eliminated, you could help your brothers and sisters in Palestine rid themselves of the
occupation,
oppression and
the arrogant
colonialism inflicted by your country. Only then can you urge them to fight democratically and return Palestine to the mental state it was in before we pushed it into the corner of the wall that we built. 

And if your brethren in Palestine choose Hamas, you have to respect their choice, just as the world’s nations respected Israel when it chose the murderous (Ariel) Sharon. Hamas is theirs to fight, just like you fought him. That is what democracy is about. Only then can you and your brethren in both Palestine and Israel share – as equals – the joy of the land, the sky and the music; only then can we fight for equality together, for every man and woman living living in our holy land. Amen.