Archive for May 2010

Is Peace Possible?

with 2 comments

“…we need not except that view [that peace is impossible, that mankind is doomed], our problems are man made, therefore they can be solved by man…no problem of human destiny, is beyond human beings…”

It occurred to me while listening to this that I have never heard a full speech by JFK.  Kennedy’s American University Commencement Address  was recommended to me by a friend and though I didn’t fully agree with everything, I found it powerful, moving, and as relevant as ever.

The following are some of the lines that jumped out at me:

“There is no single, simple key to this peace; no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process — a way of solving problems.”

“Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all people to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly towards it.”

it is also a warning, a warning to the American people not to fall into the same trap as the Soviets, not to see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats…No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue.”

“we are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combat ignorance, poverty, and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle, with suspicion on one side breeding suspicion on the other, and new weapons begetting counter-weapons.”

“So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.”

(This one I wish was true) “The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. We do not want a war. We do not now expect a war. This generation of Americans has already had enough — more than enough — of war and hate and oppression.”


Written by amynee

May 27, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

ID Laws – Israel Teaches Arizona A Lesson

with one comment

Thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank may soon be evicted or face criminal charges by Israeli authorities, the Israeli daily Haaretz has said.

An amendment to an Israeli military order on “preventing infiltration” could soon stipulate that residents of the West Bank without ID cards may now need one issued by the occupying authorities.

Anyone without such a document could either be expelled or jailed.

Haaretz said the new order would likely be used first against Palestinians in the West Bank with Gaza ID cards and the foreign spouses of Palestinians living in the territory.

Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland explains.

Written by Aaron Nee

May 26, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Why does the white man have so much cargo?

with 10 comments

Jared Diamond began his quest to discover the roots of inequality when an acquaintance, native to Papua New Guinea, asked why the white men had so much more “cargo” than the people of Papua New Guinea.  The theories that arose out of his study were published in the book “Guns, Germs and Steel”.

National Geographic did a documentary series based on Jared Diamonds book, which explores Diamond’s conclusions on why some civilizations have historically enjoyed tremendous prosperity and development while others languished.  The three part series is an intriguing study of Diamonds exploration – well worth watching.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Noam Chomsky’s Day Off

leave a comment »

The Onion’s account of Noam’s attempt to take a day and just kick back.  Spoiler alert: he doesn’t have as much fun as Ferris.

Written by amynee

May 10, 2010 at 11:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Millers and Bakers Want in on Engineering New Wheat

with 2 comments

In the past, U.S. bakers and millers have been resistant to genetically modified wheat.  That resistance appears to be turning into support, but under the condition that the bakers and millers can be more involved in the seed designing process.

Genetically modified wheat is now seen by many as inevitable and the leading baking and milling companies want to make sure the biotech wheat is something they can sell their customers on.   “We’re not one hundred percent convinced that our customers will go for a GMO wheat unless it has enhanced characteristics,” says Hayden Wands, director of procurement at Sara Lee Corp.  It is thought that if, in addition to yield improvements, nutritional improvements are built into the seed, then the GMO wheat will be an easier sell to a resistant market place.

The miller’s and baker’s shift from opposition to conditional support should be a big win for Monsanto who has been aiming to restart its effort to develop and sell GMO wheat.  Monsanto in the past has seen their efforts to expand their influence into wheat hampered by strong public opposition to their herbicide-tolerant, “Roundup Ready” GMO wheat.

For more on millers and bakers yielding to the push for genetically altered wheat, see the report at Reuters.

For more on Monsanto, see the documentary previously posted at Knosha.

Also of interest is Michael Specter making his case for GMO’s at a TED.

Written by Aaron Nee

May 10, 2010 at 10:29 am

Washing Away Sins – Whether You Know it or Not

leave a comment »

I am intrigued by the pervasive practice of baptism and ritual purity throughout religious history, around the world.

Before the Christian baptism that remains popular in Western culture there were ancient Babylonian and Egyptian baptism practices.  The Greek Mystery religions included baptismal rites.  For Judaism and Islam ritual cleansing has historically been of great importance as is the case with Hindu praxis as well.  A new study, however, appears to demonstrate that the psychological benefits of washing can effect an individual even when they are not consciously performing a ritual cleansing.

Spike W. S. Lee, a psychology researcher at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and his partner Norbert Schwarz devised a test in which they lead individuals participating in the study to make a decision the participant would not be happy with.  Following the decision some of the subjects washed their hands, while others did not.  The majority of those who washed their hands exhibited behavior that suggested they were at peace with having chosen something they did not like, whereas those who did not wash exhibited the expected behavior of justifying their negative choice.

The researchers admit that there are a lot of questions still to be explored in the study, but the initial results suggest that even when the cleansing is not done as a conscious act of washing away mistakes, people enjoy the psychological benefit of the ritual.

For more details on the study, check out  Nell Greenfieldboyce’s  report at

Written by Aaron Nee

May 7, 2010 at 9:57 am

The Cloud and Your Mind

leave a comment »

If you have played online games like ESP, you may be working for free .  Clever entrepreneurs have been finding ways to get the public to do menial jobs for little or no pay via online games, and game like programs.   The new strategy for soliciting people around the world to gather and sift through information has tremendous potential and raises a myriad of ethical questions.  All the participant knows is that they are identifying images or arranging shapes.  They don’t necessarily know who the work is being done for and what will be done with the information.

In his presentation “Minds For Sale”  Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet law at Harvard Law School and social theorist, illustrates the great potential of this new labor model, while also raising the extraordinary dangers and ethical concerns the model presents.  It seems that with every new bit of internet ingenuity comes a morass of ethical and philosophical concerns, that we cannot afford to ignore, but also emerging are surprising testaments to the good will and trustworthiness of the vast majority of internet users, which Zittrain is zealous to point out.   I strongly encourage taking time to listen to at least one of Zittrain’s talks.

I have embeded Zittrain’s short presentation at TED as a means of getting acquainted with him and the insights he has to offer.  If you find the talk of interest, then I highly recommend his longer presentation, outlined and embedded bellow.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Read the rest of this entry »