Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was ordered to spend 28 years behind bars -

Disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was ordered to spend 28 years behind bars - 

Once a popular young politician, disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was ordered to spend 28 years behind bars on his convictions for racketeering, bribery, extortion and tax crimes.

“I think everyone here understands Mr. Kilpatrick was convicted of running a criminal enterprise,” Judge Nancy Edmunds said, adding the enterprise started while he was still in the state House of Representatives and continued through all six years he was in the mayor’s office. Edmunds said the scheme to steer contracts to pal Bobby Ferguson made projects more costly for a city that couldn’t afford it and drove contractors out of business.

The judge laid bare the accusations against Kilpatrick of fake jobs for family and friends, lavish parties, pay to play schemes, and secret affairs, saying he “has generally shown little remorse” for a bevy of infractions. She said it was sad he chose to “waste his talent on personal enrichment and aggrandizement,” when he had so many talents that could have helped the city.

Edmunds called it “devastating corruption” that bred a corrosive environment, cynicism and apathy among people who could have been convinced to boost Detroit. “We lost transparency, we lost accountability,” Edmunds said, adding her sentence was meant to show the public demands both.

“That way of doing government is over, it’s done,” she said.

Kilpatrick spoke eloquently in his own defense immediately before the sentence was handed down, giving a lengthy talk full of apologies and self-reflection in a subdued voice that riveted the packed courtroom and overflow room.

“I just humbly and respectfully ask for a fair sentence … I respect the jury’s verdict. I think your honor knows I have disagreed in terms of the specific things I was found guilty on, but I respect the verdict and I also respect the American justice system,” he said.

He added: “We’ve  been stuck in this town for a very long time over me, and I’m ready to let go so the city can move on. People here are suffering, they’re hurting and a great deal of that hurt I accept full responsibility for. I apologized to everyone who will listen, but it never seems to get heard.”

Kilpatrick went on to say “men, especially in the African American community” know they’re not supposed to cry or “bow down,” describing what he projected as “false confidence” that was misread as “arrogance.”

“I really, really, really messed up,” he said, adding he takes full responsibility for all his actions, including lying about the affair with former chief of staff Christine Beatty. He said he initially felt his actions were private, but finally “got it,” saying he knows he broke the trust of the public. When he finally “got it,” he said he started enjoying life for the first time while in Texas with his wife and three sons.

And then he said he felt bad about how happy he was while Detroit was mired in economic misery.

“I apologize to the citizens of this city for abandoning you and to leave you like I did,” Kilpatrick said.

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Britain: Blackpool Considering Adding Fluoride to Milk for School Children -

Britain: Blackpool Considering Adding Fluoride to Milk for School Children - 

Special plans to introduce fluoridised milk into Blackpool’s primary schools moved one step closer after the scheme was backed by health chiefs.
At a meeting of Blackpool Council’s Health and Wellbeing board yesterday it was resoundingly agreed to push forward plans to provide milk to 77 primary schools in the town.
Dr Arif Rajpura, Blackpool’s director of public health said: “Ideally we would like fluoridised water to be provided so that everyone has access to it, but that seems to be off the cards at the moment, with cost being an issue.
“The next best thing is milk fluoridisation.
“Fluoride is found in toothpaste and works to a degree on the teeth, but is soon washed off.
“But fluoride which is ingested can be continually secreted in the mouth through saliva.
“Some people have raised concerns about fluorosis, which leads to a mottling of the teeth, but the fluoridisation of milk is very safe.
“This is a no brainer from my perspective.
“We have an opportunity to give kids the best chance in life, through the free breakfasts, free milk and now fluoridised milk.”


Federal official: Half of U.S. nuclear power comes from disarmed Russian warheads -

Federal official: Half of U.S. nuclear power comes from disarmed Russian warheads - 

Uranium fuel from 20,000 disarmed Russian warheads are generating about half of US nuclear power in a spinoff from a landmark disarmament accord, a top US official said Wednesday.

But the deal under which 500 tonnes of Russian weapons-grade uranium has been used to light and heat American homes will end next month because Russia believes its former Cold War rival has been getting energy on the cheap.

Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. under secretary of state for arms control, told a UN committee the 1993 accord was a disarmament success.

Arms control experts call it the “megatons-to-megawatts” deal and hail the accord as a little known but important example of the United States and Russia pressing disarmament.

Gottemoeller called the Highly Enriched Uranium Purchase Accord a “significant non-proliferation accomplishment”.

Signed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the deal was concluded as the two countries sought ways to get rid of warheads under their 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

The weapons level uranium is downgraded in Russia and the low enriched product “is delivered to the United States, fabricated into nuclear fuel and used by nearly all US nuclear power plants to generate half of the nuclear energy in the United States,” Gottemoeller said.

“Approximately 20,000 nuclear warheads have been eliminated under this unique government-industry partnership,” Gottemoeller told the UN committee.


Foxconn Using Forced Student Labor to Build Sony’s PS4 -

Foxconn Using Forced Student Labor to Build Sony’s PS4 - 

If reports in the Chinese press are to be believed, Sony’s next-gen games console may be being assembled using some very outdated labor practices. According to Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily, thousands of students from an IT engineering program at the Xi’an Institute of Technology are being forced to work at Foxconn’s Yantai plant assembling the Sony Playstation 4. Students have been told if they refuse to participate, they lose six course credits, which effectively means they will not be able to graduate.

Officially, the program is considered an “internship” and it is publicly recognized and promoted by the school. But students have said that once they got to Foxconn, they were assigned to jobs that had no relation whatsoever to their fields of study, including grunt work like distribution and shipping. One student, for example, majored in finance and accounting but has been assigned to a job that entails glueing together parts of Sony’s Playstation 4. Another was assigned to a job that entails peeling of the PS4′s protective plastic and putting stickers on it. Still another, a computer science major, puts the PS4′s various cords and the instruction manual into the console’s box. Moreover, students say that their working hours are exactly the same as regular workers. The only difference is that unlike the workers, the students aren’t being paid.

Foxconn told the Oriental Daily that its workers are all voluntary and that it has no interest in preventing them from leaving work if they choose to. The Xi’an Institute of Technology declined to comment on whether the university had received an agent’s fee for providing what is essentially free labor to the Foxconn plant and did not directly answer questions about whether or not the internship program was forced, but stressed that it was legal and that it was “mainly about making students learn about society and experience life.”


STUDY: Anti-Bullying Programs In Schools Causing Students To Bully More... -

STUDY: Anti-Bullying Programs In Schools Causing Students To Bully More... - 

A lot of schools spend countless hours trying to stop bullying. But some question if they are sending the right message.

It started as a simple look at bullying. University of Texas at Arlington criminologist Seokjin Jeong analyzed data collected from 7,000 students from all 50 states.

He thought the results would be predictable and would show that anti-bullying programs curb bullying. Instead — he found the opposite.

Jeong said it was, “A very disappointing and a very surprising thing. Our anti-bullying programs, either intervention or prevention does not work.”

The study concluded that students at schools with anti-bullying programs might actually be more likely to become a victim of bullying. It also found that students at schools with no bullying programs were less likely to become victims.

The results were stunning for Jeong. “Usually people expect an anti-bullying program to have some impact — some positive impact.”

The student videos used in many campaigns show examples of bullying and how to intervene. But Jeong says they may actually teach students different bullying techniques — and even educate about new ways to bully through social media and texting.

Jeong said students with ill intentions “…are able to learn, there are new techniques [and gain] new skills.” He says students might see examples in videos and then want to try it.

According to Jeong, some programs even teach students how to bully without leaving evidence behind. “This study raises an alarm,” he said. “There is a possibility of negative impact from anti-bullying programs.”

Jeong and others like him believe that until the message delivered by anti-bullying programs improves — some programs may be doing more harm than good.

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Is the internet making you (think you're) ill? You're a cyberchondriac -

Is the internet making you (think you're) ill? You're a cyberchondriac - 

Ever lost yourself for a few hours, dreamily browsing through the endless incarnations of brain cancer? Ever sat at your laptop, doggedly convinced that you could prove your tiredness after a day at the office was something way trendier than stress, like anaemia? Then congratulations: I diagnose you with cyberchondria. That's hypochondria for the digital age, FYI, and according to a study in the Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking journal (in case you hadn't quite got round to reading your copy this month), it's on the rise. And you thought you only had brain cancer to worry about.

I'm going to safely assume that most people reading this have indulged in a bit of disease tourism at some point in their lives. Paraneoplastic pemphigus? Sure, I'll take that. Oppositional defiant disorder? Sounds plausible. SARS? Juvenile arthritis? Asperger's? Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency? All realistic contenders for what's incubating in your sinuses, once the internet's involved: it's a veritable sweetshop of syndromes out there on the worldwide web. Purely for research purposes, I just typed my own Wednesday symptoms of a runny nose, a slight headache and "dry hair" (it asked, so why not?) into a diagnostic search engine (WebMD, if you're interested) and was given a myriad of exciting possibilities in return, including cocaine addiction and epilepsy.

Considering how ridiculous this sounds, why exactly do we find cyberchondria so seductive? Partly, of course, because lying in bed with your laptop is a hell of a lot less strenuous than making and attending a doctor's appointment. Partly because of embarrassment about conditions one might not feel comfortable bringing up with another human being (despite the fact that most of us have now become completely desensitised to such things after eating our dinners in front of a routine close-up of an infected scrotum on the weirdly captivating Embarrassing Bodies). And partly because the culture of cyber self-diagnosis involves more money than you'd think.

The internet – that shady character – hasn't only made diagnostic material dangerously accessible, but some of its most prominent contributors (cough, Mail Online) make an astounding amount of money from eroding people's trust in medical professionals. So well-known is this culture that there are websites collating everything the Mail has claimed gives you cancer, despite what doctors say (everything from artificial light, babies and bras to talcum powder, teen sex and Worcestershire sauce.) Almost every leading feature on DM's Health section documents a sensationalist story of a "doctor's failure" (example from this week: a girl who died after "doctors failed to talk to each other".) Further proving my point for me, the Mail actually ran a story about the dangers of cyberchondria this week and linked halfway down the page to an article entitled "Why did it take doctors 20 years to spot the faulty thyroid that drove Ian to the very brink? Especially when it's a problem that can affect one in 20 people." IF ONLY HE'D HAD THE SENSE TO CHECK GOOGLE!

What the astronomical success of the Mail over the years has proven is that scaremongering sells as much as sex. Paranoia about your own health (because you stupidly indulged in that well-known carcinogen Worcestershire sauce with your probably-radioactive fried breakfast) mixed with scepticism about the professionals supposed to treat it (because "feckless doctors fail everyone" nowadays, don'tcha know) is a dangerous mix. And even though most of us might readily admit to Googling our sore throats, the cyberpsychology study points out that some so-called cyberchondriacs get trapped in a cycle of anxiety. In America, where the study was conducted, a number of people who had diagnosed themselves ended up obsessing about medical bills and job loss to the point where they became too worried to see a real doctor at all.

There are a number of reasons why people become hypochondriacs: because of a close family member having been extremely ill throughout their childhood, for instance, or from the worry of not being able to afford medical insurance. And while it's easy to speak flippantly about hypochondria's 21st century cousin, the propagation of cyberchondria is a business and we shouldn't forget it.

Ultimately, a lot of people on the internet want you to think that you're ill. Don't make yourself ill over it.

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