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calendar   Monday - December 01, 2008

The Truth Behind Thanksgiving

Back online after the long holiday weekend.  Brother-in-Law was down from maryland, so lots of lead went downrange (much to the chagrin of our aging mutt, who decided to run halfway across the county as a result) and much good conversation was had.

Whilst catching up on the news this morning, I found a link to this little article.

For What Do We Give Thanks?

As our modern gladiators chase a pigskin down the field in Dallas or Detroit, we settle into our living rooms, loosen our belts and remind the little ones this is the day we echo the thanks of the Pilgrims, who gathered in the autumn of 1621 to celebrate the first bountiful harvest in a new land.

The Pilgrims’ first winter in the New World had been a harsh one. The wheat the Pilgrims had brought with them to plant would not grow in the rocky New England soil. Nearly half the colonists died.

But the survivors were hard-working and tenacious, and — with the help of an English-speaking Wampanoag named Tisquantum (starting a long tradition of refusing to learn three-syllable words, the Pilgrims dubbed him “Squanto”) — they learned how to cultivate corn by using fish for fertilizer, how to dig and cook clams, how to tap the maples for sap. And so they were able to thank the Creator for an abundant harvest that second autumn in a new land.

The only problem with the tale, unfortunately, is that it’s not true.

Fascinating history lesson there, very relevent for today.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 12/01/2008 at 04:52 PM   
Filed Under: • PhilosophyPolitics •  
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JUST WHAT MAKES THE BRAIN WORK, AND WHY IS IT DIFFERENT IN VARIOUS PEOPLE? WHAT MAKES US TICK?

This will take a bit of explaining and it’s all Drew’s fault because he got me to thinking about the subject.  In fact, this started out originally as a note to Drew
but as I wrote it I got to thinking more about THE BRAIN.

How it all started was getting tons of help with tech related things.  One or two may not have even had to do with BMEWS. Just tech in general.
So there was a flurry of emails from me to Drew asking how to do something, or else an email from me asking him to please translate into my language, just what he was talking about.  One does really need to be careful asking questions of those who are quite savvy when it comes to things tech.
They always understand exactly what they’re talking about.  People like me listen carefully and come away thinking, nah.  He’s kidding.  I know how it’s really done.  It all done with mirrors and magic and these tech folks just don’t want me to know the secret.  Cause then it wouldn’t be magic anymore.

I’m still amazed, truly I am, by what comes over that copper wire connected to our house. And now there’s some new miracle called fiber optic that’s supposed to be even better and it’s said faster.  More amazing to someone like me, there are actually people out there in the world who do really understand how it all works.  How do they do that?  Why do some take to something and suss it out, using a Brit expression, and others are left behind?
The Brain.

Well I’m glad I have that worked out now.

So, Drew dropped something in my lap for which I’m very grateful, and I feel a bit like a first grader being given an assignment at college level.

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IT’S A QUESTION OF BRAINS

December 1st. ‘08

Look forward to the newest adventure in my life. BUT, ya know it really is true that the brain works in different ways with regard to subject matter.  Like, what makes some people math geniuses?  What makes some people really great wordsmiths?  There are those folks who are way, way out there and not at all in a bad way.  But they somehow comprehend the most incomprehensible to most of us mortals.


Einstein is a good example and of course there are others.  Something about how the brain works.
Why are some people chess masters and the rest of us hardly adequate?  My wife used to play chess on more then one board. And was a winner.  I was damn lucky to play on one.  I taught a cousin to play and was never able to beat her after that.  Something in the brain.  Something that works with some puzzles while others try to puzzle out the solution.  Many fail while a few succeed. 

It’s the very same with computers.  If I had another lifetime I still would never be able to do the wiz bang stuff Drew and Rancino do.  And btw, not all 13 year olds are computer whizzes.  It’s what each individual brain is easily receptive to that counts. 


When I was in the Navy we had a fellow in our division whose name I never learned because everyone just used his nickname.  Which was Moose. Really.  Very nice guy.  He was fairly big but so damned trusting and good natured that people got away with taking advantage of him.  But he was strong as an ox and if anything needed lifting and you were two men short, you’d call Moose cause he could generally pick it and you up all by himself.

Well, Moose it turns out liked Chess. Oh boy. Did he like that game.  The problem was, he didn’t really understand it.
See, Moose would read Chess books and Chess plays and then memorize the moves he read.  Moose could read a page in the phone book, hand it to you and tell you what he saw on the page.  Man what a gift.  But he could not play Chess.

What he did was memorize moves and no matter what you did to counter what he had done, he would continue to play out the moves he memorized right up to and including, CHECK MATE!  Game to you.  He just never cottoned on to the idea that unless you were playing the losing side in a book he was playing from, he didn’t stand a chance.

Ok so now you guys might think what jerk. He’s dumb.  Maybe.  But there were things he could work out that some others couldn’t.  True, Moose wasn’t a rocket scientist.  He could probably read a science book and memorize it without understanding a word.  I guess my long winded point is, there is something in one part of our brain that allows some to do things that others either find impossible or at least extremely difficult. 

OK .. enough of this.  With all that said:  Drew, I have this question.....?




-30-

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Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 12/01/2008 at 02:52 PM   
Filed Under: • Blog Stuff •  
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Pentagon hires British scientist to help build robot soldiers that ‘won’t commit war crimes’

Oh come on.  Is this article making any news in the USA?  It just seems so odd. 
What’s with the Geneva Conventions thing anyway.  The ppl we generally end up fighting don’t use those rules and frankly if from time to time our guys turn a blind eye, hey.  That’s life.  And death.  That’s war.


The American military is planning to build robot soldiers that will not be able to commit war crimes like their human comrades in arms.

By Tim Shipman in Washington
Last Updated: 7:36AM GMT 01 Dec 2008

The US Army and Navy have both hired experts in the ethics of building machines to prevent the creation of an amoral Terminator-style killing machine that murders indiscriminately.

By 2010 the US will have invested $4 billion in a research programme into “autonomous systems”, the military jargon for robots, on the basis that they would not succumb to fear or the desire for vengeance that afflicts frontline soldiers.

A British robotics expert has been recruited by the US Navy to advise them on building robots that do not violate the Geneva Conventions.

Colin Allen, a scientific philosopher at Indiana University’s has just published a book summarising his views entitled Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right From Wrong.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “The question they want answered is whether we can build automated weapons that would conform to the laws of war. Can we use ethical theory to help design these machines?”

Pentagon chiefs are concerned by studies of combat stress in Iraq that show high proportions of frontline troops supporting torture and retribution against enemy combatants.

Ronald Arkin, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech university, who is working on software for the US Army has written a report which concludes robots, while not “perfectly ethical in the battlefield” can “perform more ethically than human soldiers.”

He says that robots “do not need to protect themselves” and “they can be designed without emotions that cloud their judgment or result in anger and frustration with ongoing battlefield events”.

Airborne drones are already used in Iraq and Afghanistan to launch air strikes against militant targets and robotic vehicles are used to disable roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices.

Last month the US Army took delivery of a new robot built by an American subsidiary of the British defence company QinetiQ, which can fire everything from bean bags and pepper spray to high-explosive grenades and a 7.62mm machine gun.

But this generation of robots are all remotely operated by humans. Researchers are now working on “soldier bots” which would be able to identify targets, weapons and distinguish between enemy forces like tanks or armed men and soft targets like ambulances or civilians.

Their software would be embedded with rules of engagement conforming with the Geneva Conventions to tell the robot when to open fire.

Dr Allen applauded the decision to tackle the ethical dilemmas at an early stage. “It’s time we started thinking about the issues of how to take ethical theory and build it into the software that will ensure robots act correctly rather than wait until it’s too late,” he said.

“We already have computers out there that are making decisions that affect people’s lives but they do it in an ethically blind way. Computers decide on credit card approvals without any human involvement and we’re seeing it in some situations regarding medical care for the elderly,” a reference to hospitals in the US that use computer programmes to help decide which patients should not be resuscitated if they fall unconscious.

Dr Allen said the US military wants fully autonomous robots because they currently use highly trained manpower to operate them. “The really expensive robots are under the most human control because they can’t afford to lose them,” he said.

“It takes six people to operate a Predator drone round the clock. I know the Air Force has developed software, which they claim is to train Predator operators. But if the computer can train the human it could also ultimately fly the drone itself.”

Some are concerned that it will be impossible to devise robots that avoid mistakes, conjuring up visions of machines killing indiscriminately when they malfunction, like the robot in the film Robocop. 

(Hey there, WESTWORLD?)

Noel Sharkey, a computer scientist at Sheffield University, best known for his involvement with the cult television show Robot Wars, is the leading critic of the US plans.

He says: “It sends a cold shiver down my spine. I have worked in artificial intelligence for decades, and the idea of a robot making decisions about human termination is terrifying.”

ROBOTS


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Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 12/01/2008 at 01:32 PM   
Filed Under: • Science-Technology •  
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India:Fears five more terrorists are on the loose after their toothbrushes are found in attack boat.

Another headline story today has reported that Mrs. Clinton is going to make India a priority of her new post.
Oh good.  That should make the Indians feel warm and cozy.  But hey come to think of it.  Maybe she and Obama can find answers and solve this awful problem.  You never know.  Lets be honest now gang.

We have not yet actually tried all holding hands and forming a circle and singing Kum-By -Ya, have we?  It’s been talked about.  But nobody has actually done it.  Oh Boy.  I think we’re gonna have some further problems.

Massacre in Mumbai: Fears five more terrorists are on the loose after their toothbrushes are found in attack boat

By David Williams

Last updated at 12:30 PM on 01st December 2008

* Zardari: Militants may drag India and Pakistan into war
* Third Indian minister offers resignation
* Intelligence warning of attacks was ‘lost in system’
* Condoleezza Rice to fly to India on Wednesday
* Defiant Cafe Leopold reopens after horrific attacks

Five more terrorists may be on the loose in Mumbai and could be planning a second wave of attacks, it is feared.

Police sources were quoted today revealing the hijacked Indian fishing boat used by the gunmen to approach Mumbai had equipment for 15 men on board – suggesting that several gunmen could still be at large.

‘Fifteen jackets were found, 15 toothbrushes even,’ one police source was quoted as saying in The Times. ‘That more men were involved is possible.’

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Haul: Weapons recovered from the terrorists involved in the Taj Mahal hotel siege

In an effort to ease tension between the two states, The White House said that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would travel to India on Wednesday.

Pakistan is already struggling to contain Islamic militants within its borders. Earlier today eight people were killed in a suicide bomb attack in the country, with both Al Qaeda and Taliban militants stepping up their attacks against Pakistani security forces.

Pakistan’s position as Afghanistan’s neighbour has made it a key flashpoint, with Osama bin Laden fleeing there in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and militants training in camps there before fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mumbai residents returned to schools and offices today for the first time since the attacks.

The fears came as Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari appealed to India not to punish his country for last week’s attacks, saying militants could precipitate a regional war.

Mr Zardari, whose wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated by Islamist militants last year, warned that provocation by rogue ‘non-state actors’ posed the danger of a return to war between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

‘Even if the militants are linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba, who do you think we are fighting?’ asked Mr Zardari in an interview with the Financial Times today.

In total, 172 people, including a British millionaire, died in last week’s attacks. Almost 400 were injured.

Analysts say last week’s Mumbai assaults by Islamist militants bore the hallmarks of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based group blamed for attacks in India including a 2001 parliament blast that almost plunged the two countries into a fourth war.

‘We live in troubled times where non-state actors have taken us to war before, whether it is the case of those who perpetrated [the] 9/11 [attacks on the United States] or contributed to the escalation of the situation in Iraq,’ said Mr Zardari.

‘Now, events in Mumbai tell us that there are ongoing efforts to carry out copycat attacks by militants. We must all stand together to fight out this menace.’

Indian officials have said the 10 attackers who held Mumbai hostage came from Pakistan, a Muslim nation carved out of Hindu-majority India in 1947.

Yesterday India said it had proof linking its nuclear rival Pakistan to the massacre – and warned it would raise security to a ‘war level’.

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Flashpoint: Pakistan president Ali Zardari has warned militants could push nuclear neighbours Pakistan and India into war

MORE TO SEE HERE


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Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 12/01/2008 at 12:50 PM   
Filed Under: • TerroristsWar On Terror •  
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Welcome to Soviet Britain:where figures reveal that half the population relies on the state for jobs

I had wondered for awhile, why so many people seem to be voting Labor while also complaining about the turn England has taken.  Wife told me about this a very long time ago, but I didn’t really take it all in until I saw this in today’s Daily Mail.

Anyone know what the stats are for the USA?

I didn’t post the entire story here, don’t know how much interest you have in this. BUT ... I guess it answers the question some of you have asked, and I know LyndonB made mention as well, when asked how the Labor Party stays in office so long.  This could be a reason. But as Lyndon has also pointed out, it doesn’t let the conservatives off the hook because they haven’t been very encouraging either. 

Welcome to Soviet Britain: The Labour heartlands where figures reveal that half the population relies on the state for a job

By Andy Dolan
Last updated at 7:39 AM on 01st December 2008

Labour’s public sector spending has created a wave of ‘Soviet’ boroughs where around half the population depends on the state for work, figures revealed yesterday.

An analysis of council statistics showed that in ten areas more than 40 per cent of the workforce is employed in the public sector.

Many are deprived areas where the true dependency on the state will be far greater once benefit payments to those out of work are taken into account.
Castle Morpeth

All but two have Labour MPs - the others are Liberal Democrat.

Top of the list compiled by the Centre for Economics and Business Research is Castle Morpeth, Northumberland, where - in an echo of the Soviet system where everyone was employed by the state and therefore owed their loyalty to the communist party - 57.1 per cent of jobs are in the public sector.

Morpeth, a medieval market town in the heart of the borough, is one of the most desirable places to live in the North East, with surrounding villages home to Premier League footballers.

But the town is also the administrative centre of the borough council and Northumberland county council, which accounts for much of its state sector employment.

Even accounting for this, the public sector dominance in Morpeth is actually understated.

STATS AND MORE HERE


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Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 12/01/2008 at 12:26 PM   
Filed Under: • EconomicsGovernmentUK •  
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Not that very many people ever read this far down, but this blog was the creation of Allan Kelly and his friend Vilmar. Vilmar moved on to his own blog some time ago, and Allan ran this place alone until his sudden and unexpected death partway through 2006. We all miss him. A lot. Even though he is gone this site will always still be more than a little bit his. We who are left to carry on the BMEWS tradition owe him a great debt of gratitude, and we hope to be able to pay that back by following his last advice to us all:
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Oh, and here's some kind of visitor flag counter thingy. Hey, all the cool blogs have one, so I should too. The Visitors Online thingy up at the top doesn't count anything, but it looks neat. It had better, since I paid actual money for it.
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