I often say that when used intelligently a bit of humour can help enormously with making some news more readable and digestible, especially for those of us who consume a lot of news. Of course it requires sensitivity – to avoid an air of flippancy when writing about very serious or upsetting subjects, for example – but sometimes it is appropriate (and can in fact help the reader to visualise the subject more accurately), even to quite unexpected subjects, like in this example from a Daily Galaxy article about the discovery of an Earth-like planet

…A collaboration between the COROT and HARPS systems has detected a rocky exoplanet five hundred light years away, a small stone ball less than twice the diameter and about five times the mass of Earth – giving it the same density as our place. Don’t imagine any aliens just yet though (or if you do, make them pretty heat resistant) – it orbits only 2.5 million kilometers from its star, sixteen times closer than even Mercury gets. The exoplanet’s “year” is thus shorter than our day – meaning that even if there is an asbestos-based civilization their economy is utterly devastated by birthdays…

Nice…

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It freaks me out a bit how the author of this article about a terrifying test-flight managed to describe such a surreal experience in such a matter-of-fact way. It’s amazing what people get used to if it’s their daily work…

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Any person who is a blogger, freelancer, independent, and/or nonprofit journalist, and considers him/herself a “journalist”, should read this article about a new bill being pushed through the US Congress. Apparently it will improve journalists’ rights to privacy, but apparently there are two different versions of the bill – one of which sets some unusual criteria for who qualifies as a “journalist”.

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Terrorism is terrorism. Whether State-sanctioned or Rogue. It’s all terrorism, and all the “eye for an eye” nonsense is just blinding everyone, to paraphrase Gandhi. An extra point is that sadly it’s also bolstering an over-glamorised, uninformed cowboy mentality. I don’t mind if someone wants to take himself down in a “blaze of glory” (although it does make me sad). I really do mind when they happily take down a few hundred innocents (who don’t yet want to die) with them. Equally, any country’s “defense” must treat all citizens’ lives as sacred – not merely those living inside their own borders.

People must not mistake this situation with its various cultural and religious labels. It is a war, but not between nations (or for nations), as most people are led to believe. It is a war between a dangerously corrupt government and a few dangerously corrupt rogue organisations (of which one is presently much more potent). It is being manipulated from behind the scenes by very rich and ruthless men (from within the “warzone”, and from around the world) to increase their own power and wealth. The whole facade of “ideals” is just being cynically exploited by these men as tools of manipulation, to stir up the emotions of the masses and keep them at breaking point.

The Palestinian and Israeli citizens need to both rise in solidarity and have a full-blown two-nation revolution against their own dysfunctional and immoral tyrants (I say “tyrants” for both countries because even “democratic election” is such an easily subverted system these days, when the price is right). Only after such a revolution can they try to mutually build a sensible solution together, based on the needs of the people. And the added bonus would be that shady multinationals like the Carlyle Group won’t be able to make so much money from it.

Following are some links which make valid points about how people are being misled and manipulated in both directions. For what it’s worth, each of them also include things which I suspect are not entirely correct too:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=iD_niyudWyY

thesecretsofvancouver.com/wordpress/will-ap-and-reuters-be-the-hamas-propoganda-arm-again/activists

www.rumormillnews.com/cgi-bin/archive.cgi/noframes/read/91303

www.crimsonpolitics.com/cnn-shows-hamas-propaganda-fake-cpr

www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUTgIyOLLaw

www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-9mUZEN9-Y

To summarise my opinion about all of this I recommend these two xkcd comic strips:

xkcd.com/285

xkcd.com/381

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We are not cynical enough. At least, not in the right ways. It seems, we stubbornly refuse to learn from history – reading this wikipedia entry about Operation Mockingbird reminded me of that. Bummer.

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Having heard various things about the HAARP project, which has a home page and a wikipedia entry, I did a bit of digging myself. It seems to me that there are three distinct causes for concern, and for debate:

  1. is it really only being developed and used for the benevolent purposes (research & environmental/societal protection) that the authorities would like people to believe, as opposed to “weather-warfare”?
  2. might it have a dangerous capacity for malevolent use even if developed benevolently?
  3. even if used with purely benevolent intentions, can it potentially have dangerous side-effects (damaging/destroying the ionosphere’s capacity to protect us from cosmic rays)?

After much reading and cross-referencing I realised it is one of those rare subjects which is really quite split down the middle in terms of debate and facts. This is due to a deeply cynical and speculative post-Bush public clashing philosophically with a paranoid military who have surrounded certain aspects of this project with a veil of secrecy (cunningly cushioned by an apparently contrasting level of openness about the more innocent aspects of it). I won’t draw conclusions yet, I’ll wait and see. I only recommend following a trail of links about the subject though. The two links above are a good place to start. Regarding “debate”, the talk page for this entry on wikipedia makes for entertaining reading…

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It always amazes me how stories like this one (about a potential whistle-blower against Bush who died in mysterious circumstances in a plane-crash) seem to be so explosive, yet never seem to get any major exposure, but instead briefly visit approximately page 3 of a small paper and then disappear.

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Check out Earthrace, the so-called Coolest Boat In The World. It set a new world record to circumnavigate the globe on the 27th of June 2008 and broke the previous world record by 14 days.

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Finally I found somewhere to download (legally) a copy of the Bhagavad Gita. I’m happy. Check out the awesome powers of The Internet Archive. I found the book in the so-called Open Source Books section.

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Each time I watch this video I laugh out loud, even when alone. That doesn’t happen often…

I’m betting this will be another internet phenomenon, it’ll probably peak at about 5-million hits (…?).

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