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Current Topic: Society

Snopes: 'Hunting for Bambi' confirmed as hoax
Topic: Society 6:53 pm EDT, Jul 25, 2003

] The game was up on 25 July, as the Las Vegas
] Review-Journal finally reported what we'd been telling
] readers all along:
] The Hunting for Bambi video that has been sweeping the
] media in the past week or so is a hoax, city of Las Vegas
] officials said Thursday.

I have to admit, I changed my mind about things when I saw the site. Though the original idea of "nude paintball" sounded intriguing, that site is coming from a very different mindset. Frankly, it's appalling.

Snopes: 'Hunting for Bambi' confirmed as hoax

Bruce Schneier: 'How to Fight'
Topic: Society 12:33 am EDT, Jul 25, 2003

] I landed in Los Angeles at 11:30 PM, and it took me
] another hour to get to my hotel. The city was booked, and
] I was lucky to get a reservation where I did. When I
] checked in, the clerk insisted on making a photocopy of
] my driver's license. I tried fighting, but it was no use.
] I needed the hotel room. There was nowhere else I could
] go. The night clerk didn't really care if he rented the
] room to me or not. He had rules to follow, and he was
] going to follow them.

] The only way to change security is to step outside the system
] and negotiate with the people in charge. It's only outside the
] system that each of us has power: sometimes as an asset owner,
] but more often as another player. And it is outside the system
] that we will do our best negotiating.

Excellent essay by Schneier in this month's "Crypto-Gram" newsletter, about how to fight the system.

Bruce Schneier: 'How to Fight'

USAID: U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants [Greenbook] 2000
Topic: Society 5:54 pm EDT, May  6, 2003

] The Greenbook shows a complete historical record of
] United States (U.S.) foreign aid to the rest of the
] world. The Greenbook reports all loans and grants
] authorized by the U.S. Government for each fiscal year
] from 1945 to 2000, and reports the assistance by purpose
] and by country.

Curious about how much money that the U.S. has given to which country, and when? Here's an online database to check.

USAID: U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants [Greenbook] 2000

CIA -- The World Factbook -- Iraq
Topic: Society 11:57 am EDT, May  6, 2003

I found this page amusing. In some parts, it's possible to see the usual demographic/ethnic statistics, for example I went there to look up the following info:

] Ethnic groups: Arab 75%-80%, Kurdish 15%-20%, Turkoman, Assyrian or other 5%
] Religions: Muslim 97% (Shi'a 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%), Christian or other 3%

But then in the sections under "Government type", "Constitution", "Legal System", "Political Parties" and several other categories, they're all toggled to simply, "in transition following April 2003 defeat of SADDAM Husayn regime by US-led coalition".

CIA -- The World Factbook -- Iraq

Jared Diamond: Why Do Some Societies Make Disastrous Decisions?
Topic: Society 4:20 pm EDT, Apr 28, 2003

Author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Guns, Germs and Steel" (and he's also coincidentally my cousin), Jared has an essay here on the failures of group decision making:

] . . . a sequence of four somewhat fuzzily
] delineated categories. First of all, a group may fail to
] anticipate a problem before the problem actually arrives.
] Secondly, when the problem arrives, the group may fail to
] perceive the problem. Then, after they perceive the
] problem, they may fail even to try to solve the problem.
] Finally, they may try to solve it but may fail in their
] attempts to do so. While all this talking about reasons
] for failure and collapses of society may seem
] pessimistic, the flip side is optimistic: namely,
] successful decision-making. Perhaps if we understand the
] reasons why groups make bad decisions, we can use that
] knowledge as a check list to help groups make good
] decisions.

This essay also made Slashdot today. That discussion is here:

Jared Diamond: Why Do Some Societies Make Disastrous Decisions?

Nielsen TV Ratings
Topic: Society 11:09 am EDT, Apr 28, 2003

] There are an estimated 105.5 million television
] households in the USA. A single ratings point represents
] 1%, or 1,055,000 households for the 2001-02 season

Weekly listing of the top 20 TV shows, by title, network, timeshot, and rating share. For this particular week, that meant a range of ratings from 7.9 to 12.4, or between roughly 8.5 and 13 million viewing households per show.

Nielsen TV Ratings

Topic: Society 11:02 am EDT, Apr 28, 2003

] Nielsen//NetRatings, the global standard in Internet
] audience measurement and analysis, reports that the
] active Internet population at work grew 17 percent in
] August as compared to a year ago. Nearly 46 million
] American office workers logged onto the Web, the highest
] peak since Nielsen//NetRatings began measuring the
] at-work audience in January 2000.

This is the website for the Nielsen Net Ratings. Several times a month, they post statistics on different aspects of internet usage.


FindLaw - Secrets and Lies: How Secret Bidding and the Shut-Out of Foreign Corporations in Iraqi Reconstruction Violates International Trade Principles
Topic: Society 12:40 pm EDT, Apr 25, 2003

] The lack of competition harms the U.S.'s claim to be Iraq's
] liberator. Rather than championing justice, the U.S. appears to
] be engaged in the colonial enterprise of propping up domestic
] industry through foreign engagements.
 . . .
] In addition, the United States Agency for International
] Development (USAID) awarded what will probably be the largest
] contract of all - the main Iraqi reconstruction contract - to the
] San Francisco firm Bechtel, a company with deep Republican ties.
] The award was the result of secret bidding among only a few
] American companies that had been invited to participate. Many
] (perhaps all) of the bidders had given significant campaign
] contributions in recent years, the bulk of which went to
] Republican candidates. The contract was for an initial
] $34.6 million, but could grow up to $680 million over the
] next 18 months.
] The result of these compromised processes is likely that U.S.
] taxpayers paid too much, and Iraqis will not receive the best
] reconstruction services possible. After all, firms with extensive
] experience in Iraqi construction (including European and Egyptian
] firms) were shut out of the process. And it will appear to many
] that cronyism, rather than ability, seems to have been the
] decisive factor when it comes to the Halliburton and Bechtel
] contracts.

It is my hope that the current "selective bidding" process is temporary, with the main advantage of speed in getting the ball rolling rather than requiring a lengthy review process with a large number of bids from different countries -- In other words, I believe it's more important to go in there and get things started rapidly, since many services are currently in a shambles and we just don't have the luxury of sifting through for the "perfect" contract while people are suffering in the short-term. As things stabilize though, I do believe it would be prudent to allow more international involvement in the Iraqi reconstruction process, and especially to ensure that the longterm (or permanent) contracts are not all exclusively American.

FindLaw - Secrets and Lies: How Secret Bidding and the Shut-Out of Foreign Corporations in Iraqi Reconstruction Violates International Trade Principles

Bush, and Yale's 'Skull & Bones' Secret Society
Topic: Society 7:59 pm EDT, Apr 23, 2003

] By his senior year, Bush had found a port of refuge, a
] place where at least some of the outside world could be
] shut out. Skull and Bones was Yale's most elite secret
] society, priding itself on tapping 15 of the college's
] best and brightest in everything from academics to sports
] to music. Bush, by all accounts, was one of the "legacy"
] slots, a recruit whose father had been a Bonesman.
] In his Bones class was the head of the Whiffenpoofs, Yale's noted
] choral group; a Rhodes scholar; an Olympic gold medal swimmer;
] the black captain of the soccer team; and a Jordanian and an
] Orthodox Jew who would generate lively discussions about the
] Mideast just months after the Six-Day War between Israel and its
] neighbors.

For anyone who's interested in more biographical information on our current president. Note: I am not implying that the "S&B" society is good or bad... Just passing along an interesting link.

Bush, and Yale's 'Skull & Bones' Secret Society

Statistics on Who Does (and Especially Who Doesn't) Log On
Topic: Society 4:15 pm EDT, Apr 18, 2003

] A new sense of the shifting Internet population
] The online population is fluid and shifting. While 42% of
] Americans say they don’t use the Internet, many of them either
] have been Internet users at one time or have a once-removed
] relationship with the Internet through family or household
] members. This report focuses on several new findings about those
] who say they do not use the Internet

Fascinating data.

Statistics on Who Does (and Especially Who Doesn't) Log On

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