Top of the morning to you! Welcome to a new week. Let’s hope it’s a good one. After some seriously rough weather, we’re finally getting back to the 50′s this week here near Jefferson’s Monticello. Speaking of Tommy, I wonder what he would think of a wall street owned president following an oil owned president. He’d probably head back to France. Or perhaps he’d organize people to try to make some changes. I’d like to think the latter. Let’s see what’s in the news this fine morning. Something good I hope.
Apparently there are some Olympic Games going on. And like any good sports fan, I get all my news from BoingBoing via Cory Doctorow. The Olympic organization is up to its usual bullying:
Barry sez, “UVEX, the ski goggle maker, got a nastygram from an Olympics Committee IP lawyer, forbidding them from using any images — or even mentioning — that gold medal winner Lindsey Vonn uses their equipment.”
So UVEX turned to verse:
Blonde Who Uses Our Stuff Wins Downhill (Last Name Rhymes With “Bonn”)
There once was a lawyer from the IOC,
who called us to protect “intellectual property.”
“During the Olympics”, she said with a sneer
“your site can’t use an Olympian’s name even if they use your gear.”
“No pictures, no video, no blog posts can be used…”
Even if they are old? “No!”, she enthused.
While Olympians chase gold the IOC pursues green.
Cough up millions, or your logo cannot be seen . . .
Theoretically, a trademark claim is partly about protecting a company’s name from “tarnishment,” but it’s hard to imagine how one could tarnish the IOC’s reputation any further, between the naked greed, the unchecked bullying, the corruption and bribery, the doping, and the censorship. Oh, and the thousands of poor people inevitably evicted whenever the Olympics come to town. Is there any way the IOC’s reputation could sink lower?
And some people got some medals, some other people didn’t. The Georgians buried their Olympic luger. The Olympic uniforms are getting better reviews. Sad news and silliness aside, there have been some pretty fun events. I especially have been liking the short track skating. It’s intense, it’s scary, it’s rough and there’s a bit of cheating now and then. But it’s damn exciting.
In addition, the snowboarding has been pretty neat. Go here for the snowboarding results. And go here for all of the results so far. And don’t forget to have a read in the NYTimes Olympic section, and in Reuters Olympics Notebook. What events and particular athletes have you been following? And no, Tiger Woods doesn’t count.
Sort of related to RD’s discussion of bad network coverage of the Olympics, here’s some interesting news: Even though NBC and their partner Microsoft have been heavily promoting NBC’s Olympic website, Yahoo’s Olympic website has been eating them alive in ratings. Yet anther sign of the networks loosing their grip on the media and viewers perhaps.
Some news close to home, the Metro seems to be falling apart:
Washington’s Metro system, once a national model for urban transit systems, has deteriorated so badly that the National Transportation Safety Board plans to use a hearing this week into the June 22 crash that killed nine people and injured 80 as a case study for the adequacy of state and federal oversight at subways across the country.
The most sobering manifestation of Metro’s decline is a series of fatal accidents over the past seven months. Since the crash on the Red Line, four workers have been killed on the tracks and a subcontractor was electrocuted while working at a bus garage.
Metro, which opened in 1976, has earned an embarrassing distinction.
“No one can recall another time when the NTSB has had four open investigations involving a single transit system,” NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said. “When we see numerous accidents in a relatively short period of time, we want to determine what, if any, common elements there are that may need to be addressed.”
I go to DC quite often, and I usually ride the Metro when I’m there. I have been there twice when there were crashes. Luckily I haven’t been in one. But it’s making me worry. What does this say about the state of our country and its infrastructure if we can’t even keep the Metro running?
Three decades after Elvis Presley took his last bow on the Las Vegas Strip, where he once reigned as king, the magicians of Cirque du Soleil have tried to summon back the power of this supreme entertainer in a show titled, ”Viva Elvis.”
They have mixed a dizzying array of dance, acrobatics, live musicians, over-the-top stage sets, and glitzy costumes with gigantic videos of Elvis in his most legendary performances and memorable life events.
In the words of an Elvis song, the result is ”Too Much.”
The Dalai Lama visited Obama. He didn’t care about the low key treatment. And of course, what did the press ask him when they got the chance to talk, why they asked him about Tiger Woods of course, wouldn’t you? (that was a snark):
The Tibetan spiritual leader also briefly addressed the Tiger Woods scandal and the golf star’s public comments Friday about straying from his Buddhist faith. Woods said he was raised Buddhist but needed to focus anew on finding balance between his faith and professional life.
The Dalai Lama said he did not know who Woods was, but said self-discipline is among Buddhism’s highest values.
When it comes to adultery, he said, “all religions have the same idea.”
“I think mainly whether you call it Buddhism or another religion, self-discipline, that’s important,” he said. “Self-discipline with awareness of consequences.”
And what do you know, the Conservative Political Action Conference, that has been in the news during the week, had a straw poll. You’ll never guess who won. No, you’re wrong. It was Ron Paul. I think they’re positively batty.
Representative Ron Paul of Texas won a straw poll for the 2012 Republican U.S. presidential nomination conducted among activists at the Conservative Action Political Conference.
Paul, a former Libertarian Party presidential candidate, received 31 percent of the vote, followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney with 22 percent, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin with 7 percent and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty with 6 percent.
Less than 25 percent of the more than 10,000 people attending the conference voted, according to poll results released by the event’s organizers. Students accounted for 48 percent of those voting. Young people were among Paul’s supporters when he sought the 2008 Republican nomination, with more than 200 Students for Ron Paul chapters formed at U.S. colleges.
The usual nutjobs gave nutty speeches. Beck apparently outdid himself for even more craziness. I was going to quote some of his ramblings, but I think I would hurt something in my head. Interestingly Palin did not attend. Probably smart. Politico has a bit more about it too.
Amazingly, we have a bit of snark from the NYTimes on Obamacare:
Coming soon to daytime television: America’s long-running civic drama over how to provide better health care to more of its people without breaking the bank.
President Barack Obama summons anxious Democrats and aloof Republicans to a White House summit Thursday — live on C-SPAN and perhaps cable — and gambles that he can save his embattled health care overhaul by the power of persuasion. Adversaries and allies alike were surprised by Obama’s invitation to reason together at an open forum, as risky as it is unusual.
”It’s a high-stakes situation for him more than anybody else,” said Gerald Shea, the top health care adviser for the AFL-CIO. ”If the judgment is either that it’s a political farce, or if it fails to move the ball forward significantly … that would be very damaging to the issue and to him.”
That will be fun to watch. Not. I think I’ll go ride the Metro instead and take my chances.
There are some promising results reported showing that singing “rewires” damaged brains of stroke patients:
By singing, patients use a different area of the brain from the area involved in speech.
If a person’s “speech centre” is damaged by a stroke, they can learn to use their “singing centre” instead.
Researchers presented these findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego.
If you’re going to sing, might as well make it as silly as possible:
Too silly. Now back to the news. Alexander Haig died yesterday. Of course he’s most famous for saying he was in charge when he wasn’t.
Politico has their usual Sunday talk show tip sheet. Handy to know what to avoid. Frankly I think I’ll avoid them all, bypassing the middle man, and just stick something in my eye myself.
Across the pond, the Labor, oops, I mean the Labour election campaign is going to adopt Obama’s blueprint including yes we can:
In 1992 and 1996 Tony Blair and Gordon Brown came back from the Clinton Democrats with a suitcase of tools – the soundbite, the war room and rapid rebuttal – tools that helped them deliver an election landslide in 1997. Now Labour, facing a most difficult election, has returned to the Democrats for inspiration and insight.
In January 2009 Douglas Alexander, Labour’s election coordinator, went to speak to the Obama team expecting them to tell him “modern campaigning begins and ends with the internet”.
One of the great students of American politics, Alexander recalls: “Actually they said this is about to peer-to-peer communication – the internet just gives you new ways of having that conversation.”
Alexander quotes David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager arguing: “What people on the ground said to one another was just as important, if not more important, than what Obama said himself. We could not put a price on it — regular people briefing Obama’s message to their neighbours, serving as our ambassadors, block by block, throughout the battleground states.”
Oh dear. Does that mean they want a corrupt corporatist in their supposedly left party too?
Dean Baker has the bad news about unemployment:
The Labor Department reported an increase of 31,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance last week. The weekly data are always erratic, but there has been a clear upward movement since December numbers. The four-week average was 467,500, which is considerably higher than a level consistent with job growth (@400,000).
Also, last week’s numbers were almost certainly depressed by bad weather on the East Coast. Many people who would have otherwise filed claims were unable to get to unemployment offices as a result of snow storms. Therefore, we may expect a jump in the current week. The number of claims deserved far more attention than it received.
I thought I was going to find some good news out there. It might be time to stick my head in the sand.
Oh, no, just in time, here’s something fun. So a Chinese factory in Mexico forced the workers to work overtime. And so of course the workers burned the factory down:
Apparently at the end of the work day on Friday, supervisors at the Foxconn factory in Juarez, Mexico weren’t quite ready to wrap up for the weekend, so they told the workers that the transportation trucks that take them home everyday were being held up at a military checkpoint. In the meantime, the workers were forced to keep toiling away without any extra compensation.
Well, that bit about the military checkpoint wasn’t entirely true, and when the workers found out that the trucks were just being blocked-in in the parking lot, they expressed their anger by setting fire to the gymnasium, the area of the building in which the factory’s finished computers and cell phones are stored.
This reportedly isn’t the first time the slimy managers at the Juarez plant had tried to strong arm their employees into staying overtime without extra pay, so the explosive reaction is not entirely surprising. Sometimes you just gotta fight fire with arson.
In slightly more fun news, students at CalPoly made a car that gets 2752MPG:
Engineering students at the California Polytechnic State University are showing off the updated Black Widow, their entry for the upcoming Shell Eco-Marathon contest, and it involves some unusual numbers: 3 (wheels); 3 (horsepower engine); and 2,752 (miles per gallon).
Happiness, a study finds, is found in looking forward to your vacation:
…The author assessed how vacations impact happiness among 1,530 Dutch adults, 974 of whom took a vacation during the study period. In particular, Nawijn looked at differences in happiness levels between vacationers and those not going on vacation, as well as whether a trip away boosts post-trip happiness. Jeroen Nawijn found that those planning a vacation were happier than those not going away, and suggests that this may be due to their anticipation of the break.
Following a trip, there was no difference between vacationers’ and non-vacationers’ happiness, unless the time off was very relaxing, in which case the slightly increased happiness was particularly noticeable in the first two weeks back. The effect wore off completely after eight weeks. The author explains that it is not surprising that trips do not have a prolonged effect on happiness, since most vacationers return to work or other daily tasks and therefore fall straight back into their normal routine fairly quickly.
Jeroen Nawijn concludes by looking at possible implications from three points of view. From an individual point of view, he suggests that people are likely to derive more happiness from two or more short breaks spread throughout the year, rather than having just a single longer vacation once a year. From a policy perspective, in order for families to be able to stagger their trips throughout the year, the school system would need to become more flexible. And lastly, from a managerial point of view, the author would advise tourism managers to provide vacation products which are as stress-free as possible.
So a number of smaller vacations so you can spend more and more time planning and anticipating your vacation is better than one big vacation. This all predisposes you have a job and can take vacations.
In some more fun science news, flexible working arrangements improve blood pressure, sleep, and mental health. Salt reduction my offer cardioprotective effects beyond blood pressure reduction. Sleep disturbances improve after retirement. Duh. But retiring early is not linked to longer life.
That’s a bit of what’s been happening. What’s new in your neck of the woods?