March 23, 2007

Couldn’t Help But Notice (032307)

Betcha didn’t hear the one about the European country that rejected a nationalized single-payer health insurance system at the ballot box by a 71-29 margin (HT Amy Ridenour’s able helper David Hogberg). Switzerland’s slap-down occurred almost two weeks ago. The fact that almost no one knows about this shows that the Formerly Mainstream “If it doesn’t fit the template, we ignore it” Media in the US snoozed through it.

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Earlier in the week, Drudge called this story about DC’s functional illiteracy rate (“about one-third“) a “shock.” Given how bad many of the schools are, perhaps the shock should be that it’s that LOW.

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Overbooking a flight is one thing. Overbooking a flight by 22 seats is another.

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Greedy company bosses enrich themselves — at the New York Times (HT Pundit Review via Don Luskin).

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Deal or no Deal? Congressman Paul Gillmor “of Tiffin” (my a**) has called for US Attorney General Gonzales’s resignation. Pain Dealer suggests that Gillmor might have the right to open his yap — when he moves back into the congressional district he “represents.”

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Implicitly campaigning against shopping, as two presidential candidates have done (HT Instapundit), doesn’t seem like a winning strategy.

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In the wake of the Enterprise, Alabama tornado earlier this month, President Bush got very high marks from the locals for his empathy, compassion, and genuine concern. The Formerly Mainstream Media, which fell all over itself relaying similar stories from the previous administration during the 1990s, virtually ignored it (the linked AP story was found in the China Post, because it ran in precious few places in the US). A local Alabama outlet noted the disconnect. Anchoress grasped the significance, and did a tremendous post on the situation last week. I think history will conclude that George Bush was the most heavily media-filtered president in at least the past 35 years.

Top Web Technologies of All Time

Filed under: Business Moves,Marvels — Tom @ 6:15 am

I’m a sucker for a good list (plus, it’s Friday), and this one certainly is an interesting retrospective look at the neat tools that were, and in most cases still are, available to web users and developers.

The eWeek slide show from a couple of weeks ago goes through the 30 that Jim Rapoze thinks are the most important, but apparently in no particular order:

XML
HTML
Netscape Navigator
HTTP
Apache

NCSA Mosaic
CERN httpd
Internet Explorer 3
NCSA httpd
Firefox

SSL
ViolaWWW
WAIS
CGI
Internet Information Server

Squid
Java
HotMetal
Flash
PHP

Dreamweaver
RSS
WebTrends
Blogger
PlaceWare

Lynx
Perl
Opera
Eclipse
Spyglass

It is probably a sign of excess geekdom that I actually understand what about 2/3 of these things are (but I wallow in total ignorance about those “httpd” thingies). That isn’t to say I know diddly about how to use them, mind you.

Hank Greenberg Routs Eliot Spitzer; Wall Street Journal Almost Alone in Noting

From a Friday subscription-only editorial:

Eliot Spitzer has moved to greener pastures, if that’s what you call Albany. But there are still a few messes to clean up from the New York Governor’s stint as Attorney General — such as the truth about some of his prosecutorial targets.

One of those is Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, whom Mr. Spitzer drove from his job as head of AIG while branding him a criminal. One of his smears accused Mr. Greenberg of bilking the Starr Foundation, a New York charity. A report released this month by an independent committee exonerates Mr. Greenberg of that charge, even as new facts have emerged about Mr. Spitzer’s nasty prosecutorial methods.

….. Mr. Spitzer’s Starr “report” claimed that Mr. Greenberg had benefited from “self dealing” in handling the estate of Cornelius Vander Starr, AIG’s founder. The accusations dealt with 37-year-old transactions that every relevant authority had approved at the time — including the then Attorney General, the IRS and a New York state court. Mr. Spitzer filed no official charges; he simply dumped his smears on the media, which gave them prominent play.

We now know this was merely one more hardball attempt to bludgeon Mr. Greenberg into settling the unrelated AIG charges. Sources who were part of the discussions at the time now say that Mr. Spitzer made clear that, unless Mr. Greenberg admitted guilt in the AIG case and personally wrote a check for north of $500 million, the AG would go public with the Starr allegations.

Mr. Greenberg refused, and the Starr smear was released. A spokesman for Mr. Spitzer says, “we categorically deny that Mr. Spitzer attempted to blackmail Mr. Greenberg or his legal team into a settlement.” We’ll let our readers decide whom they believe.

For its part, the Starr Foundation board asked a three-person committee, including two former judges not affiliated with the Foundation, to evaluate Mr. Spitzer’s charges. Its 179-page report, released earlier this month, concludes that “the allegations against [Mr. Greenberg and other executors] are unfounded.” In fact, thanks to the Starr Foundation’s investment in AIG stock, its assets have grown to more than $3 billion today from $1.3 million in 1968.

This report and other legal fees cost Starr $4 million, which is more than the philanthropy’s annual administrative expenses, and millions less than it spends on grants to improve New York City. Few of our readers will be surprised to learn that the committee’s exoneration of Mr. Greenberg received far less publicity than the original accusations.

Mr. Greenberg is fortunate in that he is wealthy enough to defend himself ….. Mr. Spitzer and his former gang of bully boys in the AG’s office owe Mr. Greenberg and the Starr Foundation an apology.

Dream on. Being Eliot Spitzer means never having to say you’re sorry — and never having to worry about whether the Formerly Mainstream Media will cover your setbacks. After all, how many people besides the faithful Wall Street Journal editorial readers have any idea that Greenbergy just whipped Spitzer bigtime — over a week ago?

Six Stem Cell Facts That We ‘Should’ Be Able to Agree On

Filed under: Business Moves,Life-Based News,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:05 am

From a subscription-only Wall Street Journal op-ed a little over a week ago by Robert P. George and REV. Thomas V. Berg, L.C.:

We propose six facts on which people on either side of the moral debate should be able to agree:

  1. There is no “ban” on human embryonic stem cell research in the United States. ….. ESC research goes on at labs throughout the country, with no legal barriers to prohibit such research or the private financing of it.
  2. We are a long way away from therapies derived from embryonic stem cells. ….. There are currently no controlled human clinical trials underway for ESC-derived therapies.
  3. The human embryo has at least some degree of special moral status. “We believe most would agree that human embryos deserve respect as a form of human life. . . .” So said President Clinton’s National Bioethics Advisory Committee, speaking of ESC research.
  4. There are non-controversial alternatives worth exploring. ….. Such alternatives include, among others, the reprogramming of ordinary somatic (body) cells, the derivation of stem cells from amniotic fluid, and ….. altered nuclear transfer.
  5. Concerns about embryo destruction are not only religious. Charles Krauthammer, a former member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, lucidly articulated this point in a Washington Post column: “I don’t believe that life — meaning the attributes and protections of personhood — begins at conception. Yet many secularly inclined people such as myself have great trepidation about the inherent dangers of wanton and unrestricted manipulation — to the point of dismemberment — of human embryos.”
  6. While the search for cures is an important motive behind ESC research, it is clearly not the only motive. Most scientists acknowledge that ESCs will not provide therapies for many years, if ever. Their therapeutic potential is, at best, speculative. They cannot be used now, even in clinical trials, because of their tendency to produce tumors. So it comes as no surprise that many scientists now admit that their primary interest in pursuing ESC research lies not in the hope for direct cell transplant therapies, but in the desire to enhance basic scientific knowledge of such things as cell signaling, tissue growth and early human development.

Though these seem pretty obvious to me, there is a big vested interest in denying the validity of many of the six items listed.

Mr. George is a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University. Good thing he’s there, as at least a partial offset to this guy.

Positivity: Flight attendant marries her work and passion

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

A seemingly simple insight has led to the use of otherwise empty space for charity:

How one idea led to a worldwide effort to help people in need
By Kerry Sanders, Correspondent
Updated: 12:31 p.m. CT Feb 17, 2007

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – “I’d just like to give you a warm welcome on American Airlines Flight 925 with nonstop service to San Salvador,” says veteran flight attendant Nancy Rivard just before takeoff.

It was 10 years ago when Nancy asked a simple question.

“I’m working on these flights every day, and I would see empty space in the overhead bin, empty space underneath in freight, empty seats, and I thought, why can’t we use this to help others?” she says.

Initially, the airline answer was no, but Nancy would not give up. Eventually, she convinced executives any additional costs were outweighed by the greater good.

Today, her Airline Ambassadors International, mostly flight attendants from 12 airlines, travel the world with donated supplies and have helped:

- Tsunami victims in Thailand.
- The needy in Africa.
- Transform a junkyard in Central America into a village.
- Connect orphans in El Salvador with Americans.

For orphans like 9-year-old Caitlin Koppenhaver and her classmates, growing up without a family is a horrible pain.

Elaine Osbourne came to comfort hundreds of orphans.

“I used to think maybe I was supposed to take care of many instead of one,” she says.

But one changed her life.

Sometimes, just showing up is what matters, and which is why the Airline Ambassadors now welcome anyone who wants to help.

“They don’t have enough human interaction,” says Nancy as she holds an infant orphan in her arms. “We come here every month and just hold these babies.”

What do the ambassadors mean to the people here?

“They’re angels,” says San Salvador Orphanage Director Matilde de Quintana, “on this very difficult path we take in life.”

All because one flight attendant saw a need, wanted to help, and wouldn’t take no for an answer.