Monthly Archives: September 2012

81-Year Old Sweet Hearts

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Onion’s Obama-Ahmadinejad ‘poll’ cited as fact in Iran

News service copies article — except for part on Holocaust and executed political prisoners

Image: Fake article

TheOnion.com

This fake article appeared on TheOnion.com on Sept. 24.
By JASON KEYSER

CHICAGO — A joke by the satirical website The Onion appears to have gotten lost in translation.

An Iranian news agency picked up — as fact — a story from the paper about a supposed Gallup survey showing an overwhelming majority of rural white Americans would rather vote for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than President Barack Obama. But it was made up, like everything in the just-for-laughs newspaper, which is headquartered in Chicago.

The English-language service of Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency republished the story Friday, several days after it appeared in The Onion.

The Iranian version copied the original word-for-word, even including a made-up quote from a fictional West Virginia resident who says he’d rather go to a baseball game with Ahmadinejad because “he takes national defense seriously, and he’d never let some gay protesters tell him how to run his country like Obama does.”

Homosexual acts are punishable by death in Iran, and Ahmadinejad famously said during a 2007 appearance at Columbia University that “in Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country.”

The Iranian version of the article leaves out only The Onion’s description of Ahmadinejad as “a man who has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and has had numerous political prisoners executed.”

The article was featured prominently on the Fars website alongside its usual fare of stories about advances in Iranian military technology, condemnation of Israel and Iran’s nuclear program. The story appeared to have been taken down by about mid-day Friday, Chicago time.

Calls to Fars representatives were not answered Friday.

The Onion reveled in the fact that it had been taken seriously.

Onion editor Will Tracy put out a tongue-in-cheek statement that referred to Fars as “a subsidiary of The Onion” that has acted as the paper’s Middle Eastern bureau since it was founded in the mid-1980s by Onion publisher T. Herman Zweibel.

“The Onion freely shares content with Fars and commends the journalists at Iran’s Finest News Source on their superb reportage,” Tracy said in jest.

It’s not the first time a foreign news outlet has been duped by The Onion. In 2002, the Beijing Evening News, one of the Chinese capital’s biggest newspapers, picked up a story from The Onion that claimed members of Congress were threatening to leave Washington unless the building underwent a makeover that included more bathrooms and a retractable dome.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Do Americans Trust Politicians?

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There has always been a segment of the population that simply doesn’t trust government or the politicians that run the government. But it seems like in the last few years there have been a rash of politicians of both parties that don’t seem to mind lying to voters — whether it be about their own lives or the programs they support (or oppose). Hypocrisy has almost become a requirement for elected office.

The Hill decided that wanted to see just how big a percentage of the population thought politicians were dishonest, so they commissioned a poll by Pulse Opinion Research of 1,000 likely voters. The poll was conducted on June 9th. It seems that a significant majority of the population has a pretty low opinion of politicians — of both parties and sexes. Here are the results:

HAVE POLITICIANS’ ETHICAL STANDARDS DETERIORATED OR IMPROVED IN RECENT DECADES?
Deteriorated……………68%
Improved……………7%

ARE MOST CURRENT MEMBERS OF CONGRESS UNETHICAL OR PRINCIPLED?
Unethical……………58%
principled……………25%
Unsure……………17%

WHICH POLITICAL PARTY IS MORE TRUSTWORTHY?
(General Population)
Republicans……………29%
Democrats……………31%
Neither……………36%
(Independents)
Republicans……………20%
Democrats……………19%
Neither……………54%

ARE MEN OR WOMEN POLITICIANS MORE ETHICAL & HONEST?
Men……………5%
Women……………33%
Same……………60%

DO YOU APPROVE OF THE JOB THE CURRENT CONGRESS IS DOING?
Approve……………28%
Disapprove……………69%

Those are some pretty bad numbers — and it extends to both parties and sexes (although women are slightly more trusted than men). Frankly, if I was a politician I don’t think I’d admit it in public these days.

So Disturbing..

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You won’t need a driver’s license by 2040

By Doug Newcomb, Wired
September 18, 2012 — Updated 2039 GMT (0439 HKT) | Filed under: Innovations
An engineering group says 75% of cars with be autonomous by 2040.
An engineering group says 75% of cars with be autonomous by 2040.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • IEEE: 75% of cars will be autonomous by 2040
  • The engineering group says traffic lights will go away
  • Driver’s licenses may also become relics of the past
  • Professor: ‘By 2040, driverless vehicles will be widely accepted’

(Wired) — The timeline for autonomous cars hitting the road en masse keeps getting closer. GM’s Cadillac division expects to produce partially autonomous cars at a large scale by 2015, and the automaker also predicts it will have fully autonomous cars available by the end of the decade. Audi and BMW have also shown self-driving car concepts, with the former working with Stanford to pilot a modified TT up Pikes Peak. Meanwhile, Google is ripping along at its own rapid pace with a fleet of fully autonomous Toyota Prius hybrids that have logged over 300,000 miles. And the company has pushed through legislation that legalizes self-driving cars in Nevada. California is close behind, and Google has also been busy lobbying joyriding lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

But while we know that robo-cars are coming, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) recently released predictions that autonomous cars will account for up to 75 percent of vehicles on the road by the year 2040. The organization went even further, forecasting how infrastructure, society and attitudes could change when self-driving cars become the norm around the middle of the century.

IEEE envisions an absence of traffic signs and lights since highly evolved, self-driving cars won’t need them, and it believes that full deployment could even eliminate the need for driver’s licenses.

Google gets license to operate driverless cars in Nevada

While this all sounds sci-fi, we’re already starting to see separate threads of this autonomous-car future being weaved in current real-world tests.

It’s been assumed that the largest hurdle for autonomous cars is building the infrastructure. Not so, says Dr. Alberto Broggi, IEEE senior member and professor of computer engineering at the University of Parma in Italy. Broggi, the director of a 2010 project that successfully piloted two driverless cars on an 8,000-mile road trip from Parma to Shanghai, points out that two current types of self-driving cars will need less infrastructure, not more.

“The Google cars are based on very precise maps and they have sensing primarily based on a LIDAR technology,” he told Wired. “The cars that we tested on the route from Parma to Shanghai had no maps, and had sensing primarily based on cameras. In both cases, the cars have no help from the infrastructure.”

When reached for comment, a Google spokesman declined to make a statement on this story and IEEE’s predictions on autonomous cars.

But Broggi also delineates between what he sees as different levels of self-driving technology as the features mature, and adds that infrastructure in the form of centralized communication once large numbers of autonomous cars are on the road will be crucial — and have the greatest impact. This could lead to traffic lights, speed limits and even driver licensing disappearing. “Autonomous cars alone will bring limited benefits,” he says. “They would be able to locate obstacles, avoid them and follow the road. But efficient autonomous operations would also require that vehicles coordinate with each other.”

A nascent form of vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) is currently being tested in a NHTSA field trial in Ann Arbor, allowing cars to share situational data to avoid crashing into each other. Meanwhile, Volvo is testing the concept of using “road trains” in Europe to allow for more efficient driving. “A train of vehicles moving very close to each other would reach a higher throughput — the number of cars per road unit — and have lower fuel consumption due to aerodynamic drift,” says Broggi.

Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication would also allow vehicles to share their position, destination and intended route with a central station, Broggi continues, that could coordinate and dispatch information about traffic and route vehicles accordingly. “Suppose all cars are connected and a central station knows precisely their position and destination,” Broggi says. “The central station can send speed adjustment commands to the vehicles that enter an intersection in such a way that they do not collide and they occupy the intersection area one at a time, optimizing their movements. In this case, traffic lights will not be required since coordination is reached at a higher level.” We’re already seeing a basic form of this in testing going on in Europe that combines V2V and V2I communication, collectively known as V2X.

IEEE also foresees autonomous vehicles accelerating car sharing and helping make it more widespread, especially for people within a wider range of ages and physical abilities. And driverless cars may even eliminate the need for driver’s licenses. “People do not need a license to sit on a train or a bus,” said Azim Eskandarian, director of the IEEE’s Center for Intelligent Systems Research, in a statement. “In a full-autonomy case in which no driver intervention will be allowed, the car will be operating. So there will not be any special requirements for drivers or occupants to use the vehicle as a form of transportation.”

IEEE also predicts that the biggest barrier to pervasive adoption of driverless cars may have nothing to do with technology, but will be general public acceptance. While the average driver may grasp the basic benefits of autonomous cars — increased fuel efficiency and safety, along with a reduction in traffic — it may not be enough to get them to let go of the steering wheel. Jeffrey Miller, IEEE member and associate professor of computer systems engineering at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, believes that baby steps in the form of driver assist systems may help. “As more vehicular controls begin being automated, such as parallel parking and automatic braking, people will become more accepting of autonomous technologies,” Miller told Wired. “So by 2040, driverless vehicles will be widely accepted and possibly be the dominant vehicles on the road.”

Overheard on CNN.com: Autonomous cars reduce ‘crashes’? Press any key to continue

Science Confirms The Obvious: Science Faculty Think Female Students Are Less Competent

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Science Confirms The Obvious: Science Faculty Think Female Students Are Less Competent

When the only variable is gender, male students are more likely to be hired for a job, and offered more money, too.
By Colin Lecher Posted 09.21.2012 at 9:00 am 9 Comments

Sarah T. Stewart John B. Carnett

There’s a canyon-sized gender gap in the academic science world. Officials keep pushing to move women into the field, and the number of degrees granted to them has increased, but those degrees don’t necessarily result in more women working in the sciences. A new study shows that science faculty see female students as less competent than their male counterparts, and it could cost them jobs, a fair salary, and mentoring opportunities.

To find this out, researchers sent job application materials from a potential student eyeing a lab manager position to biology, chemistry, and physics professors at six (anonymous) universities across the country. They only changed one variable in the materials: the gender of the applicant. That was enough for the faculty to say, on average, that the female applicant wasn’t as hirable or as competent, and was less deserving of mentoring and even the same salary as male students. It didn’t matter if you considered only the male or female faculty members; they both favored the male student at about the same rate.

Ratings For Competence, Hireability, And Mentoring:  Corinne A. Moss-Racusina, John F. Dovidiob, Victoria L. Brescollc, Mark J. Grahama, and Jo Handelsmana

Cultural stereotypes about “what makes a good woman”–friendliness, warmth, less competence–might subtly contribute to a bias, says Corinne Moss-Racusin, lead author of the study. That doesn’t mean faculty members consciously dismiss female students, or want to prevent them from succeeding. But the consequences can be pernicious, as the study suggests.

Ratings For Salary:  Corinne A. Moss-Racusina, John F. Dovidiob, Victoria L. Brescollc, Mark J. Grahama, and Jo Handelsmana

There are ways to intervene and address the problem, Moss-Racusin says. Which is good, since it’s a problem we as a country really want to address. A government report referenced in the study predicts a one million-worker deficit if we keep training engineers and scientists at current rates. Hiring more women into the field could help ease that.

The first step would be changing academic policies, Moss-Racusin says, such as adding oversight to mentoring programs to ensure they’re fair between genders. And, of course, “educating the faculty members and students on the possible impact of bias would be critical.” All work then needs to be done under “very clear, very transparent evaluation criteria.”

We’ll see if any changes are made based on the study, but at least anecdotally, Moss-Racusin says, the research has stirred up reactions from those who claim it “mirrors their experiences” in the science academia field.

[PNAS via Discover Magazine]

Italy Convicts 23 Americans

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This was not in the news…

Italy upholds rendition convictions for 23 Americans

Ruling is world’s first judicial review of CIA practice of abducting terror suspects and transferring them to third countries

 

Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, claims he was tortured in prison in Egypt after being kidnapped in Milan.
Photograph: EPA

 

Italy‘s highest criminal court on Wednesday upheld the convictions of 23 Americans found guilty of kidnapping a Muslim cleric from a Milanese street and transferring him to a country where torture was permitted. The court of cassation’s ruling is the final appeal in the world’s first judicial review of the CIA practice of abducting terror suspects and transferring them to third countries, a practice also known as extraordinary rendition.

The 23 Americans were all convicted in absentia following a trial that lasted over three years. The verdict paves the way for the Italian government to seek redress and could put the Americans at risk of arrest if they travel to Europe.

“It went badly. It went very badly,” lawyer Alessia Sorgato told the Associated Press. “Now they will ask for extradition.”

Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was kidnapped while walking to noon prayers at a Milan mosque on 17 February 2003. He had been under investigation in Italy for allegedly recruiting jihadi fighters. Prosecutors claimed CIA operatives snatched him with the help of two Italian intelligence officers, drove him to Aviano Air Force base, and then flew him to a Nato base in Germany en route to Cairo, Egypt. When Nasr emerged from an Egyptian prison four years later, he claimed he had been tortured.

Among those whose conviction was upheld Wednesday was US Air Force Colonel Joseph Romano, who was in charge of Aviano AF base security. His lawyers said they intend to appeal to the EU human rights court in Strasbourg.

The court confirmed the seven-year sentences for 22 Americans (all but one of whom prosecutors identified as CIA agents, who are likely now in the US) and a 9-year sentence for former Milan station chief Robert Seldon Lady. The two Italian accomplices, former SISMI military intelligence officers Nicolo Pollari and Marco Mancini, were ordered to be retried in the Milan court of appeals. They had previously been acquitted on appeal citing a state-secrecy injunction.

The court also ordered €1m in damages to be paid to Nasr and €500,000 to his wife. The justice ministry plans to request extraditions, Ansa news agency reported

The Milan anti-terrorism magistrate who guided the prosecution, Armando Spataro, lauded the decision, telling the Associated Press it was the equivalent of finding extraordinary rendition “incompatible with democracy”.

Successive Italian governments denied all knowledge of the case and consistently ruled out extradition,and the judges appeared intent on holding US authorities accountable.

Some agents decried being made into international fugitives for following orders from more senior CIA and state department officials in Washington, who called for the extradition while an anti-terror investigation in Italy was underway. Mark Zaid, a US lawyer representing one of the prosecuted women, said the court ruling damages the integrity of the system of diplomatic immunity.

“Diplomats around the world should consider themselves at greater risk today,” Zaid said.

Sex with a Fake Hymen

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Just thinking about the implications of this in a developing country…

Sex With a Fake Hymen

The Artificial Hymen Kit is exactly what it sounds like: Sealed in silver packages and nestled in a bed of pink satin in a small wooden box, the kit contains two “prosthetic membranes.” They will “restore your virginity in five minutes with this new technologically advanced product. Kiss your deep dark secret goodbye and marry in confidence,” says the advertisement at HymenShop.com. For 30 dollars, Hymen Shop ships from Hong Kong to just about anywhere in the world. Simply click, buy, insert, and voilà: virginity restored.

In nations where virginity can be a literal issue of life and death, the Artificial Hymen Kit is controversial: Egyptian lawmakers attempted to restrict access after a blogger imported a kit from China. But its origin is less dire. Invented in the early nineties by a Japanese kinesiologist, distributors say the kits are popular in the fetish, porn, and sex industries. (The manufacturer credits “prostitutes in nightclubs on the gulf of Thailand” for popularizing it.) Among the first to market the product internationally, Hymen Shop now sells thousands of units each year, primarily to the United States.

When I broke my first, real hymen in my teens — during an over-the-jeans dry-humping session with Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King playing in the background — I wasn’t even aware it was happening. So test-driving the Artificial Hymen Kit was an opportunity to lose my virginity all over again.

After sacrificing one hymen to The Cut’s photo lab, I arrive at my boyfriend’s house with three “prosthetic membranes” in my purse. Despite a request that I wine and dine him in exchange for participation, I find he has cooked dinner and is drinking wine while playing video games with intense focus. He can do whatever he wants tonight because he’s lending his penis to science, journalism, and, worst of all, to the Internet, where his mother and seventh grade math teacher will have access to it.

The directions on my Artificial Hymen Kit (color: “Joan of Arc Red”) are printed in Chinese on the inside lid of the box. Translated into English for my benefit, they explain there is a fifteen-minute window after the fake hymen has been inserted to have sex. This vagina will self-destruct in fifteen minutes. After a brief bedroom warm-up session with my boyfriend, I excuse myself to the bathroom, kit and instructions in hand.

I open the first packet and take out what looks like a clear plastic Listerine strip folded into eighths. There is a gruesome amount of bright red liquid inside the folds. I “completely unfold the hymen,” as step No. 4 in the instructions indicates. Some dried-up flakes of red fall from the plastic. I don’t remember red dust at my original hymen-loss, but maybe every hymen-loss is a snowflake unto itself: a tiny and unique horror story floating in the wintertime of our innocence.

“Using an index finger, insert the artificial hymen into the vagina.” Before I can decipher whether the hymen should go in blood-side up or blood-side down— rolled up like a joint? crumpled into a ball?— the film dissolves in my hands. I am covered in bright red dye. I am down one hymen. There is red on every surface of the sink. CSI: New York will need the whole hour to solve this one.

I tear open the next packet, panicked that the clamminess of my hands will ruin my second fake hymen. Dissolve once, shame on me. Dissolve twice, and — oh God, what am I doing with my life?

With some prodding, I stuff it in my vagina like decorative tissue paper in a fancy gift bag, blood-side down. The film clings to my finger, now the color of a red-velvet cupcake. As I Lady Macbeth my hands in the sink, I start to laugh maniacally. Nothing is funny. Fearing laughter will shake my hymen loose, I sprint back to the bedroom in search of a horizontal position.

I discover my boyfriend has spread a red and white beach towel beside him on the bed. It says PUERTO RICO. He got it on vacation with his family, he tells me.

Missionary is the only option here. During the delicate deflowering process there is no need for the Funny Business. As soon as he’s in, I shriek-yodel question after question: Can you feel it? Is it gross? Does it hurt? Should we stop? Are we breaking up? Are you mad at me? What are you thinking about? What about now? Can you feel it? What about now? I sound like a squawking turkey.

My boyfriend answers all of the questions in the order they are received: He can’t feel it. Everything feels normal. He’s not mad. We’re not breaking up. Mostly he’s just thinking about sex. Still can’t feel it. No, not even now.

I can’t feel that slimy piece of plastic, either. I worry it has been pushed further inside me, but after seeing how quickly the first one melted, I know it must be gone.

Soon our banter has dissolved like the fake hymen in my vagina, and we are quiet. Me because I am imagining the Magic School Bus journey my liquefied hymen is making through my body, and him because he is just having regular sex with me, and we generally don’t “riff” when we’re doing that.

Then we are done. Our crotches look like the inside of a lava lamp.

Red Medical Food Dye (the official term, according to Hymen Shop Support staff) is smeared everywhere: his genitals, my genitals, the towel, our hands, and somehow on a T-shirt on the floor. He tells me there is a red thumbprint on my butt. We go to the bathroom to clean ourselves. While scrubbing, we discuss and process what just happened.

First, we conclude, the “hymen” part of this device is besides the point. What’s to break? It dissolved instantly. But does that matter? I don’t know anyone who’s actually felt a hymen break mid-intercourse, and suspect that those utilizing the artificial hymen in earnest don’t, either. (Except for the fetish stars, maybe. But I doubt they mind illusion.) My e-mail buddy at Hymen Shop explains, “The first and foremost purpose of the artificial hymen kit is to provide the visual effect human being blood coming out of the vagina as a proof of virginity. The ‘breaking’ sensation in the intercourse is a second priority, and it’s an elusive one since it is very subjective with the individual man and the construct of the female hymen.”

My boyfriend and I agree, however, that enjoyable sex is still possible, even when both parties are covered in fake blood the color of cherry Kool-Aid.

The next morning, other than the fact that I am still peeing bioluminescent cake dye, nothing unusual is going on. (Except, yikes, that is extremely unusual. I vow to drink a lot of water.) In a fit of curiosity, I load myself with the final remaining hymen and ride a bike. Kool-Aid for everywhere. I can only assume the same is true for horseback riding, pogo sticks, and every other hymen-breaking activity from the Judy Blume canon.

Later that afternoon, I get a text with the following: “My bathroom is covered in red dye. It’s all over the floor and the rug and shower. There must have been a huge blob of it somewhere that we smeared everywhere.”

I respond, “New phone, who is this?”