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The daily irrelevant

Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 18:26 by John Sinteur in category: News

iPhone users should now see a fully iPhone-optimized version of the site…

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  1. Pretty cool how it preloads it all – images too! Now I can read on the subway without an RSS reader. Thanks!

    p.s.- Where can I find the “search” function in the new layout (non-iPhone)? Maybe it’s right in front of me, but I seem to be missing it.

  2. I forgot to put in a search box – it’s now at the bottom of the page (except on iPhones)

  3. Yay! My search for search is over!
    hurrr.. 8-|

    Thanks again!

  4. When someone begin to optimize websites for a single kind of mobile phones, you can realize this is a really fucked up world, or a really fucked up mobile phone.

  5. or both.

Giant US air travel data suck fails own privacy tests

Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 17:17 by John Sinteur in category: Privacy


A US Department of Homeland Security privacy report published earlier this month reveals that the DHS remains in violation of both US law and the DHS-EU agreement on the handling of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data. The report itself claims that the DHS is in compliance on both counts, but according to the Identity Project, it “contains multiple admissions that support exactly the opposite conclusion.”

For several years now the DHS has forced airlines carrying passengers to the US to collect and hand over PNR data for screening purposes prior to flights. Data collected within the EU is subject to EU data protection legislation, and its handover is permitted – subject to “safeguards” – under the DHS-EU agreement of 2007. The operation of this is subject to joint reviews of compliance, although none has so far been conducted, while the US end of the deal (covering PNR data in general) is subject to US review, where the US Privacy Act applies.

The outcome of this, paradoxically, is that the supposedly tougher EU privacy regime is in this case more relaxed than the US one. The DHS-EU agreement allows the DHS to retain EU passenger data for a period, while the Identity Project doubts that there is any legal basis for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to retain the Automated Targeting System Passenger (ATS-P) database which contains the PNR data at all.

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Microsoft Certified Professional examination passed by nine year old

Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 17:10 by John Sinteur in category: Microsoft


It might come as a surprise to many of us but a nine year old girl has been able to pass a Microsoft Certified Professional examination, and has become the youngest person to ever pass this test.

M. Lavinashree, who belongs to the rural Tamil Nadu, cleared the exam, taken by techies for better job prospects, with very good marks. The exam measures problem-solving skills.

She even broke the record held by Arfa Karim, a ten-year-old Pakistani girl.

The nine year old Lavinashree has a photographic memory and she made news when she was just three as she recited 1,330 couplets of Universal Thirukural, a Tamil classical poem composed by a Tamil sage, Thiruvalluvar, 2000 years ago.

The basic versions of these tests don’t test any problem solving skills at all – they measure how well you remember the instructions on how to fix a certain problem, so a 9 year old with photographic memory passing the test is no surprise at all.

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Amateur crimefighters are surging in the US

Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 15:48 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ


There are, according to the recently launched World Superhero Registry, more than 200 men and a few women who are willing to dress up as comic book heroes and patrol the urban streets in search of, if not super-villains, then pickpockets and bullies.

They may look wacky, but the superhero community was born in the embers of the 9/11 terrorist attacks when ordinary people wanted to do something short of enlisting. They were boosted by a glut of Hollywood superhero movies.

In recent weeks, prompted by heady buzz words such as “active citizenry” during the Barack Obama campaign, the pace of enrolment has speeded up.

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  1. Well, militias and self proclaimed crime fighters are always welcome. I mean, it’s your god give right to beat up a bully. Or a pickpocket. And if you made a mistake, well, you can always say ‘Sorry’.

Study: ‘Virginity pledges’ are ineffective

Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 15:28 by John Sinteur in category: News


Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a “virginity pledge,” but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.

“Taking a pledge doesn’t seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior,” said Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. “But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking.”

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Outgoing Secretary Of State Shares Thoughts With Sunday Morning

Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 15:10 by John Sinteur in category: News


“You and the president have both described your relationship as almost family – brother and sister and cousin – like that… What do you think that the public doesn’t know about him – what don’t we understand?” Braver asked.

“I think how much he gets into the detail,” [Condoleezza] Rice said. “I have seen many an aide and myself I’ve been in that position or a cabinet secretary, go in with a very fine presentation and the president just takes it apart. People would be amazed.”

Yes, I would be very, very amazed.

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  1. She means the ones where they used ‘words.’ He gets into the detail of the words, trying to work out what each one means. If people would just use more pictures in their presentations, then they’d find it a lot easier to explain things to him 😉

  2. I agree with John. “And Condi, that comma with a dot over it, what does it mean there?”

Dumb money and dull diligence

Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 15:08 by John Sinteur in category: Robber Barons


WRITING about one of the great swindles of the 1930s, J.K. Galbraith pointed to three traits of any financial community that he believed put it at risk of fraud. There was the tendency, he wrote in 1961, to confuse good manners and good tailoring with integrity and intelligence. There was the sometimes “disastrous interdependence” between the honest man and the crook. And there was the “dangerous cliché that in the financial world everything depends on confidence. One could better argue the importance of unremitting suspicion.”

The case of Bernard Madoff, a New York financier who has allegedly confessed to running a pyramid scheme that destroyed up to $50 billion of his clients’ money, has all three traits (see article). The former chairman of NASDAQ was as well known to insiders on Wall Street as he was in the posh Palm Beach Country Club in Florida, where he was a pillar of Jewish philanthropy. His clients were fiercely loyal; they had to be or he would cut them out of his hallowed investment circle and month-after-month returns of metronomic regularity. And he thrived in an era of cheap credit, when greed and gullibility became far more powerful than fear and suspicion.

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As if Things Weren’t Bad Enough, Russian Professor Predicts End of U.S.

Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 8:56 by John Sinteur in category: News


For a decade, Russian academic Igor Panarin has been predicting the U.S. will fall apart in 2010. For most of that time, he admits, few took his argument — that an economic and moral collapse will trigger a civil war and the eventual breakup of the U.S. — very seriously. Now he’s found an eager audience: Russian state media.

In recent weeks, he’s been interviewed as much as twice a day about his predictions. “It’s a record,” says Prof. Panarin. “But I think the attention is going to grow even stronger.”

Prof. Panarin, 50 years old, is not a fringe figure. A former KGB analyst, he is dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s academy for future diplomats. He is invited to Kremlin receptions, lectures students, publishes books, and appears in the media as an expert on U.S.-Russia relations.

But it’s his bleak forecast for the U.S. that is music to the ears of the Kremlin, which in recent years has blamed Washington for everything from instability in the Middle East to the global financial crisis. Mr. Panarin’s views also fit neatly with the Kremlin’s narrative that Russia is returning to its rightful place on the world stage after the weakness of the 1990s, when many feared that the country would go economically and politically bankrupt and break into separate territories.


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  1. Thanks for the laugh. I always thought the WSJ was a bit dull. Not sure if this kind of levity is worth their outrageous subscription price but it’s worth a thought.

  2. The thesis isn’t all that outrageous, although the 2010 prediction’s probably a bit premature.

    Probably my biggest beef with it is the map itself. I mean, I can accept Maryland and north possibly aligning with the EU, but…

    I can’t imagine Kentucky, Tennessee, or the Carolinas aligning with Europse like that. The southern states would be all right but not as being under Mexican influence. The central north probably isn’t that clearly divided, and I’d be more likely to think Michigan and Minnesota would fit in with Europe. And I REALLY can’t imagine Utah and California being part of the same country.

    Giving Alaska to the Russians and/or Hawaii to Japan sounds more like wishful thinking on the part of the receiving countries than anything.

RIAA Case May Be Televised On Internet

Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 8:38 by John Sinteur in category: Intellectual Property


In SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, the defendant has moved for all court proceedings to be televised over the internet through Courtroom View Network. The motion argues:

Information is the currency of democracy, sunshine laws open government. The federal court is open not only as a court of justice but a forum of civic education. WE the PEOPLE are the ultimate check in our constitutional system of checks and balances, we the people of the integrated media space opened and connected by the net in a public domain. Net access will allow an intelligent public domain to shape itself by attending and engaging in a public trial of issues conflicting our society.

Net access to this litigation will allow an interested and growingly sophisticated public to understand the RIAA’s education campaign. Surely education is the purpose of the Digital Deterrence Act of 1999, the constitutionality of which we are challenging. How can RIAA object? Yet they do, fear of sunlight shone upon them.

Net access will allow demonstration by the parties to the jury of the nature and context of the copyright infringement with which Joel Tenenbaum is charged.

Net access will allow an intelligent public domain to shape itself by attending and engaging a public trial prosecuted by a dying CD industry against a defendant who did what comes naturally to digital kids.

Net access will allow educational and public media institutions to build a digital archive and resource for understanding law akin to Jonathan Harr’s A Civil Action reconceived in execution for legal pedagogy in a digital age, Another Civil Action. The immediacy of net-based access to court opinions already allows lawyers, professors, students, and reporters to better keep abreast of the most recent legal developments, but none with the immediacy the Net allows.

Finally, we could extract soundbites from the RIAA’s lawyers…

… and then digitally mix them over various backing tracks chosen from a wide selection of RIAA-pimped artists.

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