Worries about Iran’s space monkey

imgresLast week Worlding.org brought you the story of the Iranian monkey reportedly launched into outer space. Now we are worried about the little guy.

“The United States expressed doubt on Monday about Iran’s claim that it safely returned a monkey from space, saying it is questionable that the monkey survived — or if the flight happened at all,” reports today’s Salon.com.

“State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said a lot of questions remained ‘about whether the monkey that they reportedly sent up into space and reportedly came down was actually the same monkey, whether he survived.’

“’The Iranians said they sent a monkey, but the monkey that they showed later seemed to have different facial features,’Nuland told reporters. ‘He was missing a little wart.’ Tehran blames the confusion on Iranian media for initially using a photo of a backup monkey. It says the monkey orbited and returned safely, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad added Monday that he would consider being Iran’s first astronaut in space.Nuland described Ahmadinejad’s proclamation as an “interesting choice,” but was more diplomatic than Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who joked about Ahmadinejad’s ruminations earlier Monday. Continue reading “Worries about Iran’s space monkey”

Fidel’s revolution continues

Over 50 years ago the United States launched a comprehensive embargo against Cuba, aimed at isolating the country and bringing it to political and economic ruin.

But Cuba keeps chugging along, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and its other bigger friends.


And yesterday they just had another election, as reported by Al Jazeera:

“Ailing Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro has made a surprise appearance in Havana to vote in parliamentary polls, expressing confidence in the revolution despite a decades-long US trade embargo. Castro’s visit to the voting precinct in Havana’s El Vedado neighbourhood was the main event in Sunday’s elections, during which Cubans chose 612 members of the National Assembly as well as deputies of local legislatures.

“The 86-year-old is said to have spent up to an hour talking to other voters and the media after casting his vote. About 8.5 million Cubans took part in the polls that featured no opposition candidates. Continue reading “Fidel’s revolution continues”

Robots stole my life

“The robots are coming! Word is they want your job, your life and probably your little dog, too.” This is how a piece by Catherine Rampell begins in yesterday’s New York Times. This is hardly a new worry, as the piece continues to discuss:

“Robots have once again gripped the nation’s imagination, stoking fears of displaced jobs and perhaps even a displaced human race. An alarmist segment on “60 Minutes’ was only the most vivid of a recent series of pieces in respected magazines and newsoutlets warning about widespread worker displacement.Professors at Cambridge University and a co-founder of Skype


are creating a newCenter for the Study of Existential Risk, which would research a ‘Terminator’-like scenario in which supercomputers rise up and destroy their human overlords, presumably plotting the whole caper in zeros and ones.

“In New York alone, there are four plays running this month with themes of cybernetics run amok. One is a revival of ‘R.U.R.,’ a 1920 Czech play that was the granddaddy of the cybernetic revolt genre and that originated the current meaning of the word “robot.” Continue reading “Robots stole my life”

War and genocide today

imgres-2“Opposing genocide has become a sort of cottage industry in the United States,” writes Patricia Johnstone in a thoughtful essay in CounterPunch. The article then analyses how justified war has become a preferred solution to mass extermination . . .  but at what cost and in whose interests?

“Everywhere, “genocide studies” are cropping up in universities.  Five years ago, an unlikely “Genocide Prevention Task Force” was set up headed by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former defense secretary William Cohen, both veterans of the Clinton administration.

“The Bible of the campaign is Samantha Power’s book, ‘A Problem from Hell’.  Ms. Power’s thesis is that the U.S. Government, while well-intentioned, like all of us, is too slow to intervene to “stop genocide”.  It is a suggestion that the U.S. government embraces, even to taking on Ms. Power as White House advisor. Continue reading “War and genocide today”

How economy is hitting older people

Young graduates are in debt, out of work and on their parents’ couches.

People in their 30s and 40s can’t afford to buy homes or have children.Retirees are earning nea

r-zero interest on their savings. Today’s New York times carries a sobering story about the way the economy is hitting people just under retirement age:


“In the current listless economy, every generation has a claim to having been most injured. But the Labor Department’s latest jobs snapshot and other recent data reports present a strong case for crowning baby boomers as the greatest victims of the recession and its grim aftermath. Continue reading “How economy is hitting older people”

Human flesh searches explained

A recent article published on Tea Leaf Nation, and tweeted by Tricia Wang, explains what the flesh searches are


and how they change China. SmartMods reports that “Despite their ghoulish resonance, they refer to grassroots, collaborative efforts to share and probe personal information online with the goals of romance, kinship, justice, or vindication.They are netizen initiatives to solve cases of injustice and cruelty left unbalanced by a society that is not democratic and has no rule of law, where the government officials show innefficiency, detachment, or even smugness in the face of public tragedies or social injustices.

“Which was the case of Yang Dacai, a government official, who’s grinning face while watching the burning bus that killed 36 people in August was tweeted via Sina Weibo, the China’s Tweeter. His dispassionate smile, contrasting the tragedy he was witnessing, and his expensive tastes in watches, belts, and eyeglasses that didn’t match the his meager wage as a government employee triggered the “cyber vigilatism” of the netizens (as Rebecca MacKinnon called it in her article) and prompted a flesh search. Yang was eventually dismissed from his position as chief of Shaanxi Safety Supervision Bureau. Continue reading “Human flesh searches explained”

How Netflix tracks you

I hit the pause button roughly one-third of the way through the first episode of “House of Cards,” the political drama premiering on Netflix Feb. 1, say a piece in today’s Salon.

“By doing so, I created what is known in the world of Big Data as an ‘event’ — a discrete action that could be logged, recorded and analyzed.


“Every single day, Netflix, by far the largest provider of commercial streaming video programming in the United States, registers hundreds of millions of such events. As a consequence, the company knows more about our viewing habits than many of us realize. Netflix doesn’t know merely what we’re watching, but when, where and with what kind of device we’re watching. It keeps a record of every time we pause the action — or rewind, or fast-forward — and how many of us abandon a show entirely after watching for a few minutes.

“Netflix might not know exactly why I personally hit the pause button — I was checking on my sick son, home from school with the flu — but if enough people pause or rewind or fast-forward at the same place during the same show, the data crunchers can start to make some inferences. Continue reading “How Netflix tracks you”

The question of the border fence

imgresAs immigration has moved to the center of political debate, the fate of possible citizenship for millions of people hinges on a bolstered southern border.

“We put more boots on the ground on the southern border than at any time in our history,” President Obama exclaimed this week, adding that illegal crossings are down 80% since their peak in 2000.

The president committed a small army to the southwestern states–over 21,000 border patrol agents–racking up an almost $11.7 billion price tag in 2012, up $362 million allotted for the year before, reports MCNBC.  “According to the Migration Policy Institute, the federal government spent a total of $18 billion on immigration enforcement agencies, which accounted for an astounding 24% more in federal spending than what was given for the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, and ATF–combined.

“And as the number of agents and resources allocated to the border rose, the number of arrests and apprehensions along the country lines plummeted. Continue reading “The question of the border fence”

Do red lights reduce accidents?

Last week, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published findings that red-light-running violations had declined at intersections with the cameras in Arlington, Va, reports a story in today’s Wall Street Journal.

The study is consistent with other studiesshowing that the cameras make intersections safer, said Anne T. McCartt, co-author of the report and senior vice president for research at IIHS, which is funded by the insurance industry.

“But other researchers question the use of violations as a measure of safety. ‘As soon as you hear them talk about violation rates, these people are trying to obfuscate the fact that accidents don’t go down,’ said Declan O’Scanlon, a New Jersey state assemblyman and an opponent of the cameras.imgres-1

“’It is meaningless to study violations,’ Barbara Langland Orban, an associate professor of health policy and management at the University of South Florida, wrote in an email. Continue reading “Do red lights reduce accidents?”

Straight, married southerners most likely to own guns

This may not shock anyone, but “married” male southerners own guns at higher rates than anyone else.

The odds of a man owning a gun are five times greater than the odds of a woman owning a gun, reports the Gallup organization today, once the influence of other factors related to gun ownership is taken into account.


“Being from the South and being married are the next-most influential predictors; each is associated with 1.7 times greater odds of owning a gun than among those who are not married and among those who do not live in the South.”Given that no “southern” states have endorsed marriage equality, “marriage” means heterosexual.

“Being Hispanic and being from the East are associated with lower gun ownership, but on a relative basis, these are the next strongest predictors of gun ownership, followed by race, ideology, and age. Continue reading “Straight, married southerners most likely to own guns”

Another reason not to watch the Super Bowl

imgres-3Many of us could care less about football  –  the hyper-violent, overly commercialized mainstay of outdated masculinity in American culture.

What if we just said: no thanks, no more willful glorification of a sport seductive enough for our nation’s young males to risk damaging their brains on the field, under the Friday night lights? This is the question posed by a piece today on NPR.org, which continues:

“The grim headlines just keep coming. This week it’s former NFL kicker Tom Dempsey. Age 66, Dempsey suffers from dementia. During his football career he endured three diagnosed concussions and, almost certainly, several undiagnosed ones. As The New York Timesnotes, his neurologist was ‘astonished by the amount of damage’ visible on Dempsey’s brain scans. Continue reading “Another reason not to watch the Super Bowl”

Unhappy kids more at risk for heart disease

A study found being prone to distress at the age of seven was associated with a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease in later life.

Conversely children who were better at paying attention and staying focused had reduced heart risk when older, reports the BBC. “The US researchers said more work was needed to understand the link.

“Their study looked at 377 adults who had taken part in research as children. At seven they had undergone several tests to look at emotional behaviour.They compared the results from this with a commonly used risk score for cardiovascular disease of participants now in their early 40s.imgres-4

“After controlling for other factors which might influence heart disease risk, they found that high levels of distress at age seven were associated with a 31% increased risk of cardiovascular disease in middle-aged women. Continue reading “Unhappy kids more at risk for heart disease”

Most think government threatens their rights

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 9-13 among 1,502 adults, finds that 53% think that the federal government threatens their own personal rights and freedoms while 43% disagree. According to Pew,

“In March 2010, opinions were divided over whether the government


represented a threat to personal freedom; 47% said it did while 50% disagreed. In surveys between 1995 and 2003, majorities rejected the idea that the government threatened people’s rights and freedoms.

“The growing view that the federal government threatens personal rights and freedoms has been led by conservative Republicans. Continue reading “Most think government threatens their rights”

Job hunting not easy with an arrest record

imgres-4Lots of people get into trouble with the law, casually or seriously, at some point in their lives. But not everyone knows how much that changes their prospects, especially when it comes to future job hunting.

While it’s generally illegal for employers to indiscriminately deny all applicants with criminal records, many still do. A quick look at New York job postings on Craigslist, for example, reveals common caveats: ‘absolutely no felony convictions’ or ‘must have clean criminal record.’

“’This is blatantly illegal hiring practice,’says Sally Friedman, a lawyer at the Legal Action Center. It’s not that it’s against the law to consider a job applicant’s past convictions. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. The no-criminal-records-allowed policy rule, Friedman explains, may lead employers to throw out solid candidates. Continue reading “Job hunting not easy with an arrest record”

Game maker contests worries over violence

The boss of Electronic Arts (EA) has denied there is any link between video game content and “actual violence,” reports the BBC.

“John Riccitiello spoke out on the subject during a conference call with bank analysts following his firm’s latest earnings forecast. But he acknowledged that his industry did face a ‘perception issue’.

“The topic has become the focus of political debate in the US following shootings in a Connecticut school and a Colorado cinema. imgresAfter the incidents, the National Rifle Association (NRA) – which itself had been accused of culpability – said the video game industry sowed ‘violence against its own people’.  Continue reading “Game maker contests worries over violence”