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Feb. 10th, 2012

Okay, tomorrow is my birthday, and Livejournal will send you a note that tomorrow is my birthday, and so forth.

What should you do?

You should send Guiness. My glass is half-full.


Some will hail this as a positive development -- dirty, criminal-nuisance slackers ousted, public safe to walk the streets and do business again. Others will decry this as evidence of callousness and political spinelessness. Either way, consider previous dispersals of protesters, and the way conduct on either side aided the causes of that side -- for example:

Boston Massacre, 1769 (edited from Wikipedia) -- an incident that helped pave the way for the American Revolution.

Boston, capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was a major source of resistance to unpopular acts of taxation by the British Parliament in the 1760s. Particularly unpopular were the Townshend Acts of 1768, by which a variety of common items that were only manufactured in Britain and exported to the colonies were subjected to import tariffs. The Massachusetts House of Representatives began a campaign against the Townshend Acts by sending a petition to King George III asking for their repeal. The House also sent what became known as the Massachusetts Circular Letter to the other colonial assemblies, asking them to join the resistance movement, and called for a boycott of merchants importing the affected goods. In April 1768 Lord Hillsborough, recently appointed to the newly created office of Colonial Secretary, responded with a letter to the colonial governors in America, instructing them to dissolve the colonial assemblies if they acted according to the Massachusetts Circular Letter. Boston's chief customs officer, Charles Paxton, wrote to Hillsborough, asking for military support. Commodore Samuel Hood, commander in chief of the Royal navy’s north American Station, responded by sending the fifty-gun warship HMS Romney to Boston. Its captain soon began impressing local citizens into the Navy. In early June customs officials seized a sloop owned by leading Boston merchant John Hancock, on allegations that the ship had been involved in smuggling. Together these created conditions for a riot. Hillsborough called upon General Thomas Gage for further military support; four regiments of troops arrived in October 1768. Two regiments were removed in 1769.

Tensions rose again in 1770 after Christopher Seidler, "a young lad about eleven Years of Age", was killed by a customs employee in February of that year. The killing and subsequent propaganda inflamed tensions, with gangs of colonists looking for soldiers to harass, and soldiers also on occasion looking for confrontation.
On the evening of March 5, insults and a few blows were exchanged between a British sentry on duty outside Boston’s Custom-House and an apprentice and a few young men. As the evening progressed, a crowd grew around them. Church bells were rung, which usually signified a fire, bringing more people out. Over fifty of the Bostonian townspeople gathered, throwing things at the sentry and challenging him to fire his weapon. The sentry sought assistance from the troops in town; runners alerted the nearby barracks. Captain Preston, officer of the watch, dispatched a non-commissioned officer and seven or eight armed soldiers to the sentry’s aid. When they reached the Custom-House, the soldiers loaded their muskets, and arrayed themselves in a semicircular formation. Preston shouted at the crowd to disperse, but without success. The crowd pressed around the soldiers, taunting them by yelling "Fire", and by throwing snow balls and other small objects at them. An object struck one of the soldiers, knocking him down and causing him to drop his musket. He recovered his weapon, and, angrily shouting "Damn you, fire!", discharged it into the crowd. A scuffle broke out near Preston, and the soldiers fired on their own into the crowd. Eleven men were hit; three died instantly. The crowd moved away from the Custom-House, but continued to grow in nearby streets. Captain Preston called out one of his regiments, which adopted defensive positions in front of the nearby State House. Acting Governor Hutchinson was summoned to the scene, and was forced by the actions of the crowd into the council chamber of the State House. From its balcony he was able to minimally restore order, promising that there would be a fair inquiry into the shootings if the crowd dispersed.

Does anybody really know what time it is?

At last! Something cool to write about regarding government publications!

The BBC reported today that Britain's atomic clock is the world's most accurate. The clock is located at the UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in Teddington, London. "The clock would lose or gain less than a second in some 138 million years." It further reports: "The UK is among the handful of nations providing a 'standard second' that keeps the world on time."

But that achievement may soon fall; there is apparently a "time race" going on, with other nations attempting to build even more accurate timepieces.

Studies of the clock's performance, to be published in the journal _Metrologia_.

For those interested, the NPL is administered by the UK ministerial Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. It produces numerous government publications, including an Annual Review, guides, reports, and papers.

The NPL's website has a slew of information about time and time measurement, and a list of FAQ's, which include how to receive singals that provide the time.

BUT NOWHERE DO THEY ACTUALLY TELL YOU WHAT TIME IT IS! (Don't be fooled by the "What is the time?" section under "TIME," it doesn't tell you).

The BBC website - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14657002
The journal _Metrologia_ - http://iopscience.iop.org/0026-1394/
The National Physical Laboratory - http://www.npl.co.uk/about/

"Adding value to clients business"

"Learn how our employees are working today on answers for the questions of tomorrow."

There's so much to be angry about in this report on a German insurance firm -- Munich Re, one of the top insurance firms in the world -- who rewarded their high-performing employees with prostitutes for a night (color-coded according to your performance!)

Frankly, I'd rather be rewarded with a better health insurance plan.

BBC -- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13454160

Munich Re -- http://www.munichre.com/en/homepage/default.aspx

To sum up yesterday's post: The Obama administration has finally asked Hawaii for some help (because only a waiver to the state ordinance prohibiting the release of original birth certificates can get you one), and Donald Trump is taking credit for having gotten big government to move on an "issue."

Today's post is closely related: how tsunamis and vampires are helping an Indian tribe get new land (because only an act of Congress can re-adjust reservation borders as recognized in a treaty).

I love popular culture.

From NPR -- http://www.npr.org/2011/04/26/135446505/u-s-tribe-cites-tsunami-twilight-in-bid-to-expand?ft=1&f=1001

And the Quileute Nation -- http://www.quileutenation.org/

And some lore: The Wolf Ritual of the Northwest Coast, by Alice Henson Ernst, available (sort of) from Google --

He's Fired

I've never posted twice in one day, but I thought this deserved it.

Some people have been questioning whether President Obama was born in the United States (some saying Hawaii was still a territory, some saying he was born in Kenya). If not born here, he would be ineligible to serve as president.

Obama provided an "official certificate of birth" during his campaign -- not the original, but containing the necessary facts and regarded as official by the state of Hawaii for all legal purposes (the state has an ordinance forbidding use of original birth certificates). But some people were not satisfied and thought they smelled a conspiracy. The movement growing from this has been called "the Birthers." The group claimed a victory earlier this year when the Arizona state legislature passed a bill requiring presidential candidates to submit birth certificates in order to get on the state's election ballot. The bill was vetoed by Arizona governor Jan Brewer, a Republican; Republicans have tried to distance themselves from the Birthers, claiming there are more serious issues to bring up.

But nonetheless Donald Trump has made the issue part of his campaign to gain a Republican following as a presidential candidate. Recently he produced (on his second try) his own birth certificate, and called on Obama to do the same, claiming further that Obama's did not really exist.

Today Obama produced the original certificate, but was angry with what he considered a distraction from serious issues. "We do not have time for this kind of silliness," he said, saying there were more serious issues to bring up.

But Trump is treating this as a campaign victory: "I've accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish." And no surprise, Joseph Farah, chief executive of birther-oriented website WorldNetDaily.com, is still not satisfied: "It is important to remember there are still dozens of other questions [...] concerning [...] why [Obama] continues to cultivate a culture of secrecy around his life," he responded on his site.

I want to be clear: as vigilant citizens, we ought to be at least a bit concerned if there's evidence a candidate or office-holder is not being straight with us. But Obama has not been forced by Trump to admit that he lied; he's been compelled to give added proof that he told the truth. Playing with someone this way shows a lack of character. He's fired. (Before he was ever hired).

BBC story -- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13212230

WorldNetDaily.com (birther-oriented website) -- http://www.wnd.com/

Roma and Far-Right in the News

I report this because it is a slice of the new Europe, where struggle continues between state and citizenry over the definition of "criminals" and the right to determine who is a criminal. Note: Roma and Romani are two preferred terms for "Gypsies" (which is a common term they view as insulting).

From the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13206261

The context: Romani have been living in Europe since medieval times. They have never been accepted into European society, in part because of their tendency to live as nomads and not settling down. As a result they have typically earned their livings on society's margins, as part-time laborers or as musicians ("Gypsy" music has a well-deserved reputation). In some parts of Europe they were legally slaves. The differences became more accute in the 20th century as nations began supporting health, education, and social welfare programs for citizens. Many Romani tried to assimilate, taking full-time jobs and buying houses; but many Europeans believed (and still do) that Roman and Sinti prefer to be beggars, and prefer criminal activity. For these reasons, Romani were targeted during the Holocaust; between 220,000 and 1,500,000 perished. In post-1989 Eastern Europe, Romani are again becoming more obvious targets. Hungary has a large Romani population, which are targets for the growing number of Hungarian far-right-wing groups.

Hungary now has a group called Vedero ("Defensive Strength"), who have set themselves up in the town of Gyongyospata as "public order patrols" with the goal of reducing crime (caused, they say by Romani). Local police have prevented them from setting up a training camp too.

The Romani there were duly intimidated, and over Easter weekend they sent 277 people -- mostly wives and children -- out of town on a special holiday trip. Hungary's government accused them of staging this "evacuation" with the aid of the opposition political party.

Last night (Tuesday) Vedero members began throwing stones at a Roma house (I suppose they didn't think they were actually increasing crime by doing so). A fight ensued, involving dozens, and four people were injured. No word on arrests, though police reinforcements have been called in.

"The government has passed new legislation aimed at preventing paramilitary or other uniformed groups from acting like self-appointed police."

While Wikipedia is celebrating John James Audubon today, in the Ukraine they are commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, the world's worst nuclear catastrophe.


Because of the extreme desire for secrecy on the part of all officials in Soviet Russia, details necessary for the effectiveness and safety of rescue and disaster control workers were withheld. Only after radiation levels at Chernobyl set off alarms at a nuclear plant in Sweden, 1000 km from Chernobyl, did the Soviet Union admit that an accident had occurred. The population of the city of Pripyat (location of the plant) were only told days later that they must evacuate; the rest of the Soviet Union (including the huge city of Kiev, only 100 miles south of Chernobyl) were only told on April 29. Thousands of people were contaminated with radiation through exposure or consumption of ground water and contaminated food. Public and environmental cleanup in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia continues today, and the total health and cleanup costs are somewhere in the hundreds of millions.

It is interesting to note some similarities between it and the recent accidents at the Japanese nuclear plants in the wake of the tsunami. In both cases, initial explosions debilitated the reactor cooling mechanisms, and the nuclear fuel began overheating even after the reactors were shut down. In Japan, various means were tried to keep the reactor fuel cool, notably adding fresh water and dumping old radioactive water into the sea. At Chernobyl, the reactor core itself was exposed to the open air, and the graphite rods inside caught fire, spreading radioactive smoke; crews in helicopters were sent in to dump sand directly onto the burning fuel rods.

237 pilots, emergency workers ("liquidators"), medical personnel and power plant workers died during the weeks following. Their names can be accessed through the Chernobyl entry on Wikipedia, below.


Yuri Gagarin
For the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight, I'm posting here the pictures of two men -- Sergei Korolyov and Yuri Gagarin -- who got us into space. Korolyov was a rocket scientist and developed the rockets which launched the Sputnik satelite and the Vostok manned capsule. Korolyov has a fascinating story, his Wiki bio is well worth a glance. Gagarin was the first human in space, and by all accounts (Western included) he was a thoroughly nice guy as well as a talented pilot.
Korolyov, suffering from heart trouble since 1960, died after an operation in 1966; Gagarin died in a plane crash in 1968.

Sergei Korolyov

Not only is it not a rumor -- Russia's President Medvedev is pissed about it (or so he says):

The BBC reports: "Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has condemned as "outrageous and illegal" a cyber-attack on a popular social networking website that hosts his blog. The LiveJournal site was hit by a denial-of-service attack on Wednesday. The site crashed after being bombarded with messages from thousands of infected computers, an expert from the Kaspersky Labs computer company said. Russian media say a similar attack has now hit Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper often critical of official policies."

BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13011540

Medvedev's Livejournal blog http://community.livejournal.com/blog_medvedev/